rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Lots of folks have told me through the years “the only things certain in life are death and taxes.” As an official senior now, I know they forgot about Social Security and Medicare.

Several years ago, I reached the age when those two “certain” government programs became part of life. We had no choice. Happened rather seamlessly and both have provided the support they were governmentally supposed to. Adding a Medigap insurance policy – for those always necessary senior health needs excluded from Medicare – has about covered our situation. We’d really hate to be without ‘em.

I realize the wisdom necessary to authoritatively discuss Medicare and Social Security is supposed to come from our “experts” at the top – in Congress. Only “they” have the depth of understanding to conduct a thoughtful discussion of how these major programs should be redesigned and/or nearly eliminated. So any suggestions that might come from the ground up our here in the woods are likely not welcome. Ignoring that “wisdom” here are a couple of ideas from a satisfied senior experienced in both programs.

Without being armed – read “burdened” – by thousands of pages of statistics and ancillary reports from all sorts of government agencies, insurance companies, AARP and other outside sources – and the baggage of either political party – it seems to me there are really just two major things that need to be done to put both programs on a better financial footing. And both can be accomplished in one meeting lasting less than 30 minutes.

First, stop using a mortality table developed in 1964 to determine Social Security eligibility. We’re 49 years down the road from then and two major societal changes have taken place. We live longer and we work longer.

Today’s national insurance mortality numbers have Americans living closer to age 80 than 60-70 as was the case in 1964. No insurance company showing a profit today is using 49 year old data. Only our government.

It should be politically acceptable – meaning a no-brainer – to increase the beginning eligibility age to 70 over a period of 10 years or so starting in 2014. One year up in age each two calendar years or some such. Just cold, hard fiscal reasoning equitable for Republicans and Democrats alike. Us Independents, too.

The other change that must be made is to “means test” Social Security eligibility i.e. the more you make in later years, the less the monthly government payment. For example, make full eligibility for those with a joint retirement income of $150,000 a year or less. Maybe $80,000 single income. Then use a sliding scale of eligibility for reductions in increments of $50,000 joint income up to a point when there’s a cutoff. Maybe $500,000 or so.

The idea that Warren Buffett or Bill Clinton or Jay Leno and their multi-millionaire peers draw the same Social Security amount I do is ludicrous. Under a “means tested” plan, they might not get a cent. So? Where’s the hardship?

Swift adoption of both these ideas is doable. Get rid of all the useless discussions and bickering of what services to cut or who’s not eligible for what. Bickering – pardon me – discussions and amendments can always be made incrementally over the life of both programs. The immediate need is to assure solvency in both. Just adopting these two approaches could provide some stability before we hit the wall.

Those two changes are absolutely necessary. And one moer. Stop Congress from using Social Security trust funds as a private piggy bank to pay the bills members run up! STOP! Both parties! The bandits in Washington have been taking out dollars and writing IOU’s for years. I’ve often wondered why there haven’t been some class actions or other legal challenges for using lawfully dedicated funds for other purposes. Any other purposes. This prostitution of Social Security funding has been an open secret for years. Why hasn’t it been challenged? Damned if I know.

While these suggestions may contain too much common sense and come from the unwashed, non-elected, my guess is both will eventually be on the discussion table in some form. There’s too much at stake for too many of us not to solve the Social Security and Medicare issues.

I’m not convinced the current Congress will do anything. And it’s beginning to look like the makeup of the next Congress won’t be a whole lot different. Voters over the age of about 45 need to look at who we send there. These two issues need answers. It’s up to us to send folks who’ll find ‘em.

So far, we haven’t. And they haven’t.

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Rainey

Let’s get our terminology straight here.

New Republican Chair Susan Hutchison, a former TV news figure who ran a while back for the non-partisan office of King County executive, was doing some splashing of cold water at one of her figure public talks since the election. Of her party’s status in Washington, she said:

“What we have now is a one-party system: We don’t get push back.”

Um, no.

If you want to see a one-party state, look across the border to Idaho. There you will find Republicans only, and some years now, in statewide offices, in congressional offices, in more than four-fifths of the legislature, and in nearly all of the courthouses. And very few of the general elections are close.

Washington does have one Republican left among the statewides, though some of the races (such as for governor) often have been close. But it also has four of the 10 U.S. House seats, and enough seats in the legislature that Republicans were able to win functional control this term of the state Senate. And there are plenty of Republicans in local office.

In Washington, Republicans are in the minority, and Democrats are dominant. But if you want see some one-party places, you need to look elsewhere.

She’s right to point out that Republicans have the tougher hand to play in Washington. But is it hopeless? No. Depending, of course, on how the party and its candidate play the cards they do have.

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Washington

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

During two stops in Idaho Falls on Friday, Aug. 23, Idaho U.S. Sen. Jim Risch criticized what he perceives as the U.S. federal government’s mismanagement of nuclear waste, spiking health care costs, intrusive surveillance of Americans and increasingly onerous business regulations.

On a return visit to Idaho during the August congressional break, Risch addressed a large auditorium crowd at a City Club of Idaho Falls function and discussed financial concerns with small business owners and operators during a more intimate roundtable session.

Asked if he would support Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 that would create a new federal agency for overseeing the nation’s nuclear waste in place of the U.S. Department of Energy and initiate a pilot spent fuel storage site, Risch said it is more likely the large bill’s details would be voted on in committee rather than on the U.S. Senate floor.

The Idaho Republican who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee stressed that Yucca Mountain’s use as a repository for high level nuclear waste has been authorized by Congress. “It is not an idea. … It is the law of the land,” Risch said, stressing that $96 billion has been invested to develop it in Nevada.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., however, “convinced the president of the United States they should ignore the law of the land. It has not been repealed,” Risch said, noting the executive and legislative branches of government are blocking that law. Congress officially selected Yucca Mountain as a repository in 2002, but the Obama administration halted its development in 2009.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, however, this month ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume legally mandated licensing for Yucca Mountain. In its 2-1 ruling, the court – which Risch said is one of the nation’s most liberal – said the NRC acted improperly when it shelved licensing hearings for the repository.

Risch said it remains to be seen whether President Obama will obey the appellate court‘s ruling. The Supreme Court does not need to take the case, he mentioned.

Risch noted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” also is the law of the land, but President Obama has decided to delay provisions with the stroke of a pen. In fact, Obamacare’s Medicare cuts and the law’s employer mandate have been delayed until after the 2014 congressional elections.

It was mentioned in the Federal Register that the administration would delay enforcement of a number of key eligibility requirements for the law’s health insurance subsidies. Another costly provision of the health law — its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs — also will be delayed for one more year.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Obama administration had missed as many as one-third of the deadlines specified by law under the Affordable Care Act as of November 2011.

Risch and Idaho U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo have asked for a full delay of all Obamacare components to avoid the economic harm they say it would inflict on American families. They criticized Obama’s decision to waive provisions without the consent of Congress. Risch said he is a co-sponsor of legislation to repeal Obamacare.

He called Obamacare “an absolute abhorrence to the free market system” and said he would not vote for a continuing resolution to fund it.

While supporting repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which he said nationalizes one-sixth of the entire U.S. economy, Risch denied that he supports shutting down government to do so as some Republicans have advocated.

“It’s a dumb idea to talk about shutting down the federal government,” Risch said. “You don’t govern by shutting down the entity you’re running.”

Risch predicted that Reid would not allow any budget bill to be introduced to the Senate floor without inclusion of funding for the Affordable Care Act, a 3,000-page bill enacted without a single Republican vote. He also said he expected a continuing resolution would be enacted before the government would shut down even though he and 30 others would vote against such a resolution.

Republicans are focused on controlling skyrocketing health care costs, said Risch, who defended the use of filibusters, which he said give both sides the opportunity to debate and vote on a bill’s amendments.

“If it wasn’t for the filibuster, we would get zero amendments,” he said, referring to his Republican colleagues, adding the nation’s founders designed the federal government with checks and balances to prevent passage of poor legislation.

The former Idaho governor and legislator said he views his greatest challenges as dealing with the federal government’s regulatory structure and reversing the nation’s worsening financial condition.

The federal bureaucracy churns out 70,000 pages of rules and regulations for every 2,000 pages of legislation enacted by Congress, Risch said, noting when he took office in 2009, the national debt was $10 trillion. It now stands at $17 trillion. The federal government also is twice the size of what it was in 2000, he said.

Asked about National Security Agency surveillance of Americans’ telephone calls, e-mail messages and Internet activity, Risch said it’s crystal clear that the nation’s intelligence agencies can conduct surveillance on non-Americans without securing warrants from judges, but that’s not the case for U.S. citizens. Risch sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Questioned about his stance on the Senate’s role in opposing or condoning a declaration of war against Syria after it was disclosed that hundreds of Syrians were victims of a chemical attack, Risch said he is absolutely opposed to American boots on the ground there.

“Syria is an absolute mess,” he said, pointing out that 14 of the 19 anti-Assad government forces are linked to al-Qaeda or terrorism. “When Assad goes, there will be civil war to decide who will run the government,” he said, predicting a horrible bloodbath.

No-fly zones would be difficult to enforce because Syria has one of the most sophisticated anti-aircraft systems in the world, and Iran is closely watching the U.S. response in regards to Syria, Risch warned.

Following his City Club question and answer session, small business representatives complained to Risch about the negative impact Obamacare, taxation and other government regulations are having on their operations, including trucking, ranching and aircraft. Risch is the ranking minority member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Idaho Falls City Councilwoman Sharon Parry, a mayoral candidate, and Linda Martin, Grow Idaho Falls Inc. chief executive officer, both lamented red tape hindering airline service in the region.

Agreeing with one roundtable participant about government agencies “changing goal posts,” Risch said the Environmental Protection Agency is notorious for altering its requirements after businesses spend large sums of money to comply.

“One of the big differences between the private sector and government is a sense of urgency,” Risch told the business proprietors. “I think this administration is regulators on steroids.”

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Idaho Mendiola

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Idaho’s first Congressional District is the only Idaho congressional district to have twice selected women to represent its interests in the Congress of the United States. The first was Democrat Gracie Pfost (pronounced Post) from Nampa who served five terms from 1950 to 1960. The second was Republican Helen Chenoweth from Orofino who served three terms from 1994 to 2000.

As Republican and conservative as the district is, there is a long shot possibility they may just send another woman, and a Democrat at that, to represent their interests in the Halls of Congress.

Last week long-time educator and veteran state legislator Rep. Shirley Ringo from Moscow announced her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the right to challenge Congressman Raul Labrador in November of 2014.

No one gives her much of a chance to win the most Republican district in the nation.

Even though a little over five years ago the district was represented by conservative Democrat Walt Minnick, and even though the district has sent women to Congress before. Additionally, a little known historical footnote:

Idaho’s First Congressional District has the distinction of being the first in the nation ever where both major political parties had women candidates as their standard bearers.

Ringo, a former school teacher, makes it clear she is in the race to win, and does not consider herself to just be a sacrificial lamb. She has an excellent knowledge of the education issue and can patiently explain the most arcane elements of Common Core or other education testing.

Although education is primarily a local and state issue, much funding comes from the federal level as well as direction regarding Common Core testing standards. Rep. Ringo knows this issue cold and will appeal to many voters and parents concerned about their children’s future.

Unlike many former teachers, she neither lectures, nor pontificates. She has a preference that teachers lead by example. No one will ever accuse her, either, of being feisty and combative, like her two predecessors. She speaks softly but her knowledge and passion, as well as politeness speak loudly.

Undaunted by the task of challenging an incumbent who is smooth, articulate, and charming, she believes that if district voters are educated about Labrador’s affiliation with the Tea Party element of the GOP and some of their downright wacko beliefs they will begin to view Labrador differently.

She can point out that Labrador has neither denounced nor distanced himself from such nonsense as repeal of the 17th amendment that provides for direct election of U.S. senators, a return to the gold standard, shutting down government unless ObamaCare is defunded and a host other wing-nut beliefs.

At 72 years of age, some may believe she is too old to accumulate much seniority in Congress, but she can point out that Labrador, by alienating House Speaker John Boehner, will have little to show for his seniority. She can also question his judgment for participating in the ill-conceived, poorly executed coup against Boehner.

She also may be the beneficial recipient of some financial support from supporters of Labrador’s second district colleague, Congressman Mike Simpson. Labrador’s playing footsie with the Tea Party and Club for Growth folks supporting Simpson’s primary challenger, Idaho Falls attorney

Bryan Smith, has angered many Simpson supporters.

Labrador denied speculation in a previous column that he had anything to do with recruiting Smith or connecting him to the Club for Growth, but five days after rebuking your esteemed correspondent, he told the D.C. based publication Politico that he would neither affirm nor deny any speculation on the subject.

And he admitted to Lewiston Tribune editorial writer Marty Trillhause that since Smith announced he had talked to him by phone a few times. This messing in a colleague’s backyard has angered moderate and progressive Republicans, many of whom may find it more attractive to contribute to Ringo’s campaign than to the hopeless primary challenge to Labrador being mounted by a college student.

Idaho’s First Congressional district just may have a quieter but still effective version of Gracie Pfost in Shirley Ringo. She may surprise. Time will tell.

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Carlson

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

After the results settled from the Seattle mayoral primary – or is it pre-runoff? – Seattle political consultant Benjamin Anderstone mapped the results by precinct. You can see the results via the PubliCola site.

Publicola carried Anderstone’s summing up:

Here’s the results for the 2013 Primary for Seattle mayor. Mike McGinn (green) performed well in young, highly urban areas. Bruce Harrell (yellow) did very strongly in ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Peter Steinbrueck (blue) won a few precincts, mostly ones with lots of long-time voters. Ed Murray (red) basically cleaned up the rest of the Democratic vote, doing especially well in wealthier zones.

That seems about right, looking at the precincts and their coloration, but is there might we might draw?

First, it seems that McGinn’s base from four years ago stayed with him. He had a young, somewhat idealistic, base back then, and he seems to have retained it – but he also seems not to have expanded a lot beyond it. Young idealists aren’t an operating majority.

In the runoff, he faces legislator Ed Murray, who seemed to do notably well in all the precincts not dominated by specific ethnic minorities, the elderly, and the notably young. But there’s a catch: It’s a little easier in saying that to define what Murray’s base isn’t, than what it is.

A little more definition will be needed, and may be unavoidable, between here and November.

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Washington Washington column

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In eight states, governors and legislatures are putting new laws on the books that are – no other words for it – damned scary! People’s guaranteed rights being abridged – especially women and ethnic minorities – specific religious tenets being written into law, minority voters being hamstrung with new state-sponsored roadblocks to keep them from the polls and political oversight is being injected into matters of pregnancy . All of this by majority Republicans as minority Democrats watch.

North Carolina is at the front of current right wing purging. Poor ol’ GOP has been in the swamps there so long this new flush of absolute power – controlling both statehouse and governor’s office – has created a tidal wave of guaranteed court cases. Long, drawn-out court cases. Expensive, taxpayer-paid-for court cases.

Here, in our Northwest neighborhood, we have a state that’s cost taxpayers millions doing similar dumb things. It started doing so long before North Carolina’s legislature wandered off into nutcase lawmaking. As it says in the old state song “Here We Have Idaho.”

This is brought to mind by the latest – and yet another – legal slap in the face for those insisting on making bad law when told by competent legal authority not to do so. It’s happened so often in the Gem State most of us watching from the sidelines have lost count.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has now ordered Idaho taxpayers to pony up for yet another – excuse the term – abortive Republican lawmaking foray. Against the advice of a very competent attorney general, the ol’ Republican legislature – assisted by the ol’ Republican governor – put a new anti-abortion law on the books. With the judge’s rejection of the ill-conceived effort (sorry, just couldn’t help myself) came an order to pay $376 thousand in attorney’s fees to the plaintiff. Just this time around.

What’ s notable here is it’s the fourth attempt by the Idaho Legislature to legislate matters of abortion and the fourth time they’ve been blown out in court. The fourth time the narrow-minded handiwork has been thrown into the legal garbage dump. Total bill to the taxpayer: just over $1 million.

Idaho has been blessed with a long, unbroken string of very good attorneys general. Both parties. Several went on to become supreme court justices. The current occupant – Republican Lawrence Wasden – is no newcomer and has superb credentials up to here! He’s no hack. It was he who advised fellow Republicans on the third floor of the Statehouse not to do what they went ahead and did.

Since 2000, Idaho has run up about $365 thousand for its own in-house legal bills defending bad abortion laws the legislature was warned against. Add to that, $446 thousand for plaintiffs in three other cases. Throw this new court-ordered payment on top and you’ve got more than the million.

This is just for abortion cases. There are others. Ignoring competent in-house legal advice, previous Republican-dominated Idaho legislatures have tried to challenge Indian supremacy in various cases – tried to levy special taxes on non-resident commercial user’s of the state’s highways – tampered with various water issues and just generally run amok. The tab – all of it coming from Idaho taxpayers – has to be in the millions. Loss after loss.

Oh, yes. One other note about this latest fetal pain law. Even before first hearings on the bill, the A.G.’s office told fellow Republicans it was not consistent with national, legally-accepted viability standards and what they were trying to do would likely be unconstitutional. That didn’t stop ‘em.

So, when the promised court challenge came, the A.G. didn’t even try to defend what the legislature had done against competent legal advice. He simply tried to attack whether the plaintiff had legal standing to fight the law. The judge said she did. Pay up. The unconstitutionality of the law in question was so obvious it wasn’t even discussed.

One can only hope some of the equally bogus law making in North Carolina will suffer the same fate. Fact is, Attorney General Holder tackled a Texas voting rights case last week and made it quite clear there would be more in the pipeline. I’d bet on it. Especially in North Carolina.

If ignorance of the law is no excuse for we who must live by them, it would seem obvious ignorance of the law by those who create them would be equally unjustifiable. In Idaho – and probably North Carolina – zealots are costing taxpayers millions. With more to come.

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Idaho Rainey

manning TRAVIS
MANNING

 
Opinion

I am proud to be an Idaho Mormon Democrat.

Not an oxymoron, there are thousands of Idaho Democrats all across this great state who are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I was raised in a Republican house hold by dedicated parents who happened to be devout Mormons.

For years, I esteemed the tenets of the Republican Party as part and parcel to my own moral compass, aligning my political feelings and the political platform of the Republican Party with my firmly held sentiments on social justice and Constitutional protections.

For years, I was a dedicated Republican and happy with a party perhaps best epitomized by President Ronald Reagan. Pragmatic, Reagan was willing to compromise when necessary because he understood that he was president of the United States of America – not just for those in his own party – but for everyone who was a citizen of this great country.

Having worked on George W. Bush’s campaign in Washington State over a decade ago, and traveled the world and seen many different cultures and peoples, I became troubled in recent years with an Idaho political system hell bent on ignoring hundreds of thousands of Idaho citizens, be they Hispanic, poor, Democrat, or otherwise moderate in their viewpoints.

Most recently, I became disenchanted with an Idaho legislature that publicly and unabashedly devalued the funding of Idaho’s public schools. Using an economic downturn as a calculated excuse, the legislature tried to ignore its Idaho Constitutional duty to “establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” This same legislature continues to damage public schools today, flying radically in the face of two-thirds of Idahoans who voted down their extreme measures last year in Props 1, 2 & 3.

In recent years, I didn’t leave the Republican Party – the Republican Party left me.

The Republican Party is quick to talk about the notion of competition in business, even education, but is slow to recognize the value of competition in the political playing field, which ideological blind spot is disturbing because it – intentionally or not – devalues rigorous public discourse. When policymakers are not fully accountable to its people, how can public policy be adequately vetted?

It’s ironic that the Idaho GOP platform is quick to want “unequivocal, thorough scientific research” when it comes to managing water flows for fish conservation, but somehow forgets to require the same demands for solid research for drastic, punitive, so called education reforms.

A healthy state government in Idaho needs a healthy Idaho Democratic Party.

While campaigning last year for the legislature, I was appalled to talk to hundreds of Idaho citizens who reluctantly, casually, often quietly admitted they were Democrats, with a quick eye glance to see who might be listening nearby. I was told by dozens that they feared retribution from a boss at work if they revealed their political affiliation. Reprisals for political affiliation have absolutely zero place in a democratic republic like the United States of America and are entirely illegal.

LDS scholar Eugene England, himself a devout Republican, gave insight into the early political issues of the Latter-day Saints. Quoting President Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith in a May 1891 letter to John W. Young, Woodruff feared one-party domination in the state of Utah: “The more evenly balanced the parties become the safer it will be for us in the security of our liberties; and … our influence for good will be far greater than it possibly could be were either party overwhelmingly in the majority.”

Perhaps there is wisdom here.

Travis Manning is executive director of The Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho and can be reached at [email protected].

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Idaho Manning

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

If you’ve traveled much of the West, you’ve seen the aftermath of wildfire. It’s easy to spot, even long after the ground has turned from black to brown and then sprouts new green.

Many of the effects are less obvious, and we could see some of those in the months and years ahead in the parts of Idaho hard hit by this season’s fires.

The biggest – not the only – may be the Beaver Creek fire, around the Wood River Valley, an area where thousands of people were told to evacuate. Some may have snarked at the news reports of wealthy homeowners shouting bitterly at sheriff’s deputies from their Lexuses, but the wealthy weren’t the only people affected.

August is usually a busy time at the stores and restaurants of Ketchum and Hailey, but not last week. Many businesses remained open, but traffic was light at best. A public radio news report last week quoted Sarah Hedrick, owner of Iconoclast Books at Ketchum, who said she hasn’t yet paid off a large disaster loan from 2007, and now watches business drop. She said, “If I lose my bookstores – and I don’t mean to a fire, I felt very confident my store was going to be safe – I then lose my house, I then lose my livelihood, and I have four children to support. You know, the reality of a fire has a completely different impact.”

And that’s in the case of a fire stopped before it gets to town. Idaho hasn’t for decades seen a wildfire actually destroy all or even a significant part of a town, but this season is showing it could happen. Some Beaver Creek fire fighters said this is the first time they have seen a fire come so close to a substantial-sized town.
A year ago the University of Oregon released a study from the Joint Fire Science Program finding that overall, the economic effect of wildfires is – surprise – mixed.

Cassandra Moseley, who worked on the project, said, “The increased spending on services related to fire suppression efforts certainly does not undo the social and economic damage caused by a wildfire. But that initial burst of money does offset some of the immediate economic damage. How the Forest Service spends its suppression money greatly influences how a community experiences a fire.”

A summary also suggested that, “…employment and wages in a county tend to increase during large wildfires. But those same fires often lead to longer-term instability in local labor markets, by amplifying seasonal “ups and downs” in employment over the subsequent year. Among the sectors most affected in the months following a fire are tourism and natural resources, which are often vital to the well-being of rural communities.”

It said that, “Local capture of suppression spending is important because it helps mediate labor market impacts. For every $1 million spent in the county, local employment increased 1 percent during the quarter of the fire.” The catch: Many counties, especially those small and rural, often lack the kinds of businesses that would “capture” the spending and cycle the money back into the local economy.

Of course, all of that is a separate issue from the loss of tourism in places that look not quite as pretty as they did before. Not to mention homes and businesses that are actually, you know, burned, or people injured or killed. All of which has to be factored in as Idaho plans ahead in a time of fire.

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Idaho Idaho column

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

You can get the point behind the decision by the Eugene Police to quit running their radio transmissions over open air, available to all – including, of course, available to the transgressors they’re trying to catch.

Presumably, though, you would think there are ways around the real issues without going totally silent.

There are legitimate concerns. Cops would understandably not want to broadcast (literally) their moves when they’re trying to accomplish something by stealth. Private information, including such data as Social Security numbers, sometimes go out over those signals, as well as the names of people who may be guilty of nothing but become involved in something the police are doing.

And the Eugene Police apparently are providing a mechanism for news organizations to continue to track their signals.

Still. Putting aside the hobbyists, the people who simply enjoy being plugged in to whatever the police do, there are other reasons for allowing open air here. Foremost among them is allowing the public to keep tabs on their employees, employees who are given license to use force and violence on occasion. (That’s one reason among others why the growth in police video has some real merit.) What are these enforcers doing out there? Tune in and you can find out.

It may make a difference too for the officers themselves. People tend to act a little differently when they know they’re, as it were, on stage.

This circle should be squarable. There ought to be ways to allow much of the transmission to go public – surely most of it can be heard any anyone with no harm done – and then encrypt whenever there’s good reason to do that.

Technology should allow this to be not entirely an either-or situation.

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Oregon Oregon column

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

When you live in the forest surrounding a small, rural town in a somewhat isolated area – in a semi-retired status – you don’t feel the push and rush of everyday urban living. Absent the daily interruptions most people take for granted – and often ignore – you ponder a lot. About all kinds of things.

Here’s one. Reading new instructions from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to advocate – from the pulpit – for immigration reform, I flash back on previous religious tampering with issues political. Things like abortion and gay rights and voting for specific church-chosen candidates. I found it wrong then and, while agreeing we urgently need a well-thought-out overhaul of our immigration laws and policies, I take strong issue with the mixing of religion and politics even on a subject I support.

True separation of church and state is an ethereal matter that sounds good but will never be realized. Just as issues of politics sometimes influence our choice of a religious affiliation, our church affiliations often slop over into our political thinking. We’re not a compartmentalized society in either area. But to allow religion to influence national policy – or national policy to affect our religious choices – is unacceptable. And wrong.

Because Hispanics are our largest immigration segment at the moment – and because many Hispanics are Catholics – such instructions from Catholic leadership are not unexpected. But would immigration policy advocated by – and acceptable to Catholics – serve Jews, Asians, Europeans, Africans, Muslims and other groups as well? Maybe. Maybe not. Each group is distinct. Each is motivated to seek citizenship for different reasons – often for distinctly different religious reasons. Whatever policy is ultimately created, it’ll have to be impartially authored and evenhandedly enforced.

Then there’s what to do with Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. How do we deal with their kind? Despite unfounded political charges that both men have committed treason, it appears – at least legally – they have not. Treason is usually defined as attempting to overthrow a government or administration. Neither man did. What can be proven is each violated an oath of secrecy they swore to when accepting clearances to handle classified information. Makes no difference why. They did.

The point I ponder in this matter is, how does a government that must conduct some of its affairs in secret, guarantee its ability to do so? Literally millions of Americans have security clearances at some level, handling information classified from confidential to top secret. Some – for matters of conscience or money or fame – will violate the oaths they swore to when given classified access. You can bet the farm on that.

A sub-issue here is the proliferation of civilian – rather than military or government – employees handling the nation’s top secrets. That’s troubling. In the military, I had a top secret clearance . If I violated that responsibility – willfully or accidentally – it was dead certain the rest if my life would have been lived behind bars. Such direct – not to mention swift – reaction to some contractor’s nephew spilling the beans at a local bar likely can’t be guaranteed under the new civilian arrangements. It just can’t. The numbers are too large. There are other young, troubled Snowdens and Mannings out there. Whether for supposed conscious-clearing, patriotic or monetary reasons, we’ll see this violation of our national security again. And again. What do we do about it?

A third “ponder-ment” here in the deep woods: neither of the above concerns are on the radar of a lot of folks. A lot! And not just these two matters. From time to time, as I converse with people, I drop in a subject of current national discussion. Most of the time – far too much of the time – the other person either has no knowledge of it or says something like “Politics turn me off so I just ignore the whole thing.” It’s just that kind of willful ignorance that gave us the Bachman’s, Walsh’s, Gohmert’s, Broun’s, Rohrabacher’s, et al. And look what they’ve given us.

Lest you think I’m overstating, ask some of your friends questions like these: how many justices on the U.S. Supreme Court – how many rights in the Bill of Rights – what’s the current U.S. population to the nearest 10 million – the population of your state – who’s third in line to the presidency – how many members in Congress – which political party controls the House and/or Senate. Things any ninth grader should know. The answers will be both humorous and wrong in way too many instances.

What ties all these things together is a fast-changing society and far too many of us not keeping up. There are many more topics than these not being understood. How about our technology that can keep people alive long after they have no productive life but we haven’t dealt with the ethics of what to do when faced with life-ending decisions? We can create life in a petri dish but should we? Using a 3-D printer, we can “print” weapons that can kill us so how do we control that? If people can “print” objects on demand – including body replacement parts – how do we deal with copyrights and patents? We can “print” new body parts but should we? If we’re a nation under constant surveillance, who’s doing it and what’re the rules? And whose rules – if any – are they?

The speed at which these and other issues hit our society these days is mind-blowing. Just look at the last 15 years and gay rights and gay marriage. Has any other fundamental social change ever been dispatched so quickly? In the long history of social issues affecting an entire nation – if not the entire world – this one was settled almost “instantly” when compared to race and other challenges. And there are many, many more such life-changing and society-changing examples out there.

These are things for pondering by old men living in the forest. But they’re also part of the fabric of this nation we love. In your view, what shape is our fabric in these days? Ponder on that.

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Rainey

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

A few minutes before writing this I was reading a column by conservative Myra Adams in the Daily Beast, inquiring about whether a Republican can win the 270 electoral votes needed to become president in 2016, and concluding that as matters sit, probably not.

She started with this: “As I was chatting with a man in his mid-30s, the conversation turned to the 2016 presidential race. When I asked him who he was supporting as the Republican nominee, his answer was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Then I was prompted to ask the question I ask every Republican after they tell me their preferred candidate: “Do you think Rand Paul can win 270 electoral votes?” The man immediately replied, “I never thought about that.” … let me state that the concept of nominating someone more conservative than ever in 2016 is a foregone conclusion among the Republican base.”

But, she suggested, a general election win by a Republican is extremely unlikely under those conditions.

In a somewhat different context, Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times makes a similar point in a column today, in considering the prospective candidates for state Republican Party chair.

He quoted one: “American before partisan, conservative before republican, dead before liberal.”

Another: “Will the Jews face another Holocaust? We know that babies have been facing their Holocaust. Abortions and infanticides.”

A third: “Social Security: The Statist Fraud that Undermines Everything Else.”

And then there’s state Senator Pam Roach who, he notes, may be running “to lead a party that has tried to bar her in the past for bad behavior.”

And sundry others who argue that the party’s big mistake has been trying to cave to the political center.

Odds are that the Republican Party will make a political recovery one day. But that day does not seem to be soon.

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Washington column

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

There’s lots of craziness going on these days in states where the Republican Party is the dominant – really dominant – political game. No place worse than North Carolina where the governor and legislature are trampling civil rights, voting rights, personal rights, privacy rights, medical rights and about every other right you can think of to play to a diminishing crowd of white, nut-ball conservative, angry voters. Much of what the North Carolina legislature has done this year will wind up in the nation’s various courts. And a lot of it will likely be undone.

But Idaho and Utah are trying not to be forgotten in all the GOP excess with yet another run at a crazy idea wing-nut Republicans in those states have nourished for many a year – a takeover of federal land. They’re promoting it again with a new cast of characters hellbent on throwing the feds off the property. Every thinking resident of those states – of ANY party – should actively work to see this completely irresponsible idea fails yet again.

There are many, many reasons to keep such irresponsible efforts from being successful. But just concentrate on one – today’s terrible wildfires. Most western states have been badly burned this year. California, Oregon, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington and Idaho. Much destruction has been on federal lands – grazing, ranching, recreational and timber.

Let’s just concentrate on one state – Idaho. Suppose Idaho owned all the federal land within its borders. All of it. Whatever was done with those lands – whatever happened on those lands – it would be up to Idaho taxpayers to take care of it and pay all the bills.

Now, focus on just one of the issues all Idahoans would have to contend with – wildfire. If the State owned all of the property on which our August fires have raged, every dollar – every dime – every penny to fight those fires would come out of the state treasury. Millions – tens of millions – would be the responsibility of the good folks of Idaho. The feds could sit on their considerable resources and roast marshmallows on the glowing coals.

“Go for it, Idaho,” they’d say. “You wanted to own it. You got it. And keep your damned flames away from our federal trees!”

So, Idaho taxpayers would be faced with a double-edged sword. One sharp edge would be the money lost in millions and millions of federal dollars now paid to Idaho coffers in lieu of taxes and from resource sales. The other edge would be the nearly impossible-to-cover costs of fighting massive blazes, then repairing all the damage.

And this. About half of all dollars spent on Idaho K-12 education comes from federal lands; whether it be timber bucks, in-lieu monies, recreation or tourist dollars. Now, if Idaho owned the land and increased timber cutting, you could make up that amount and probably more. And you might do that for a number of years. Then what? While you’re waiting many, many years for replacement trees to grow, where does the lost K-12 money come from? Rather, whom would it come from?

Year ago, Idaho had a U.S. Senator known for colorful – if not intellectual – quotes. One of them was: “It makes no sense to sell the farm to buy a sports car.” Not deep thinking. But accurate.

Even ignoring the economics and overall saneness of the fire argument, there are the hundreds of millions of dollars the feds pour into Idaho for maintenance of all that land. Throw ‘em out of Idaho and Utah – along with all federal dollars – and you’ll have either huge state tax increases or forests, lakes, rivers and range lands in worse shape than they already are.

Legislatures in both states currently have committees meeting with “experts” of this, that and the other. Some “experts” claim it’s not only possible to kick the feds out but the world – inside Utah and Idaho – would be a better place. Other “experts” say you can’t and shouldn’t.

At the moment, most of the supporters of this “out damned feds” effort are Republicans who believe timber companies and other privately owned resource extractors would be better caretakers of all those lands. While it’s possible there could be some improvements, private companies operate on the sound business principle of cost-versus-benefit. While that’s an old, well- proven and quite workable rule for business, it can seldom be applied to tasks the government undertakes for which profit is not possible.

You can argue there should be income to the states from federally owned lands within their borders. But operating and maintaining those lands is not a profit-making situation.

Before these GOP legislators get all heated up to tell the feds to take a hike, there needs to be a sound economic reason to do so. And – so far – nobody has made one.

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Rainey

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

We launched our drift boat for a day of fly fishing on Idaho’s Teton River at a site within what was for a brief period of time the reservoir behind the Bureau of Reclamation constructed Teton Dam which catastrophically collapsed on June 5

Eleven lives were lost, as well as 13,000 head of cattle. The government paid out $300 million in damages though the total value of the destruction wrought by the cascading wave of water was more like $2 billion.

To stand at what was once the bottom of the 17 mile long reservoir, and imagine the surface of the stored 288,000 acre/feet some 240 feet above one’s head, and then look downstream at the remaining evidence of the 310 foot high and .6 of a mile long earthen dam was weird to say the least.

Having seen video of the collapse many times though (Still easily seen on YouTube), it was easy to envision the massive power of the pent-up water bursting forth at an incredible 2,000,000 cubic feet per second rate, roaring down the remaining six miles of the canyon before starting to fan out over Snake River plain farmland and flooding a number of communities from Wilford to Rexburg.

My fly fishing bud, Father Steve Dublinski, pastor of Spokane’s St. Augustine Catholic parish, and I were concluding a week-long fly fishing jaunt around Idaho that had seen us fish some of Idaho’s finest waters including the Big Wood River, the north and east forks of the Big Lost, and several selected spots on the main Salmon.

Since the collapse of the dam the Teton had become well-known as a fine cutthroat, rainbow and cutbow fishery with anglers coming to the area from all over the world.

Our guide and host this fine July morning was Idaho native Doug Siddoway, a member of the large sheep ranching family in southeastern Idaho. Doug’s cousin is State Senator Jeff Siddoway, from Terreton, who represents the sprawling 35th district. Doug though is considered the “black sheep” in the family because he is an outspoken Democrat.

Doug graduated from St. Anthony’s South Fremont High School and went onto Notre Dame where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. He then attended and graduated with a law degree from the University of Utah’s law school.

While he and his wife, Lauri, reside in Spokane, they maintain a farm with a lovely, modern-designed home outside of Ashton. Doug is and Lauri was a member of the Randall, Danskin law firm before Washington Governor Christine Gregoire appointed Lauri to the Washington Court of Appeals in March of 2010.

As we drifted down the river past where the dam had stood we discussed the hubris that must have existed within the Bureau of Reclamation that allowed them to believe they could safely build an earthen structure in the basaltic and rhylotic rock and soil that constituted the edge of the dam.

Even today, fissures can be seen which the Bureau felt could easily be filled by an influx of grouting to minimize leaking. They tragically guessed wrong.

Drifting by where the dam had stood brought a flood of memories. I recalled the day when Leo Krulitz, the Interior Department’s Solicitor, called to ask whether the Department should sue the dam’s primary contractor – the Boise firm of Morrison-Knudsen.

I didn’t think much of the idea since M-K’s first witness would be the former Idaho governor and current Interior secretary, his boss and mine, Cecil D. Andrus. I told Krulitz the governor had ordered an immediate review by the Department of Water Resources, which exonerated the contractor finding they had followed the design specifications put forth by the Bureau of Reclamation. Krulitz wisely dropped the idea.

I also recalled the governor arriving at Ricks College by helicopter following
our first overflight inspection of the devastated area. As we disembarked a thundering herd of journalists descended and a tv reporter from Salt Lake thrust a microphone into the governor’s face and shouted, “Governor, are you going to rebuild the dam?”

The normally unflappable Andrus, coldly looked at the guy and said (with curse words omitted) that was the dumbest question one could ask when the focus was providing relief to people in need of help, and that if the guy didn’t get the mic out of his face he was going to jam it down his throat.

Siddoway loved the story. However, he said that sadly there were some in the area with short memories who incredibly were once again talking about rebuilding the dam.

It makes no sense from either an environmental point of view or an economic point of view, he said. “Why destroy a thriving fishery for a questionable project that would primarily provide more water to grow more crops that would only further depress prices?” Doug asked. Why, indeed.

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Carlson Idaho

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

The last time an Idaho governor faced a serious primary re-election challenge, he won easily, but not because of massive across-the-board popularity: He proceeded to lose the general election. The last time it happened before that, the same man successfully defeated the then-incumbent governor, who had been elected three times before.

A lot depends on the mood of the party.

This bit of history involves Sandpoint rock dealer Don Samuelson, the conservative Republican who in 1966 beat three-term Governor Robert Smylie in the Republican primary, and won the office in that year’s general election. In 1970 he was challenged, fairly seriously, by former Board of Education member Dick Smith, but easily won the primary. However, he lost in the fall to Democrat Cecil Andrus. He lost in part because some Republicans had become disaffected: The tenor of the party had shifted in ways that made them feel unwelcome and they voted across party lines.

That bit of history came to mind last week when Representative Raul Labrador, who has been much discussed as a possible gubernatorial candidate, said he would run for re-election to Congress instead.

The decision to stay put surely was the safer move. Ask politically connected Idahoans how they think a primary race between Labrador and incumbent Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter would play out, and you get a widely scattered opinions. Party registration for Republican primaries would have been a boon to Labrador, and he would have had a corps of enthusiastic backers, including much of the party structure – an unusual case when a two-term governor is talking about a third term. Labrador would have been a strong contender.

At the same time, Otter has a well-established network, a campaign structure in place, all the financing he could want, and eight years of identification with the office. Those are strong advantages, but they’re also the kinds of advantages Robert Smylie had.

That’s where we get into the mood of the party, and into one other important point about Samuelson: Until he ran for governor, few people in Idaho had ever heard of him. He was a three-term state senator, but not notably prominent, and not the first choice of many of the conservatives who wanted to take on Governor Smylie (who was much closer to, say, Nelson Rockefeller than to Ronald Reagan). Those Republican activists weren’t following a charismatic leader who arose to launch a movement; instead, the movement drafted its leader.

This is why the Labrador decision is both significant and, well, not so much. If a movement to go full Tea Party activist really is strong enough, it doesn’t need Labrador. It will find its own candidate, who need not be a prominent name.

That’s the dynamic to watch in the second congressional district primary, where veteran Republican Mike Simpson is being challenged by a political unknown, Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith. If the movement for changing incumbents is strong enough, no more prominent name is needed to run: Smith will have been in the right place at the correct moment. If the movement is not strong enough, no better-known name would likely be enough to beat Simpson anyway.

The same applies to the governor’s race. The next question is: Are enough activist Republicans interested in ousting Otter to generate and support an alternative candidacy? If there are, that person may do about as well as Labrador might have, or – as a fresh face – maybe even better. If not … then Labrador likely made the correct call.

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Idaho Idaho column

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

The port of Prince Rupert, way up on the coast in Canada, is a growing proposition, a modern and expanding port. But you have to wonder if $109 in savings – over ports to the south in, say, Seattle or Tacoma – is the big reason why.

Here, for example, is the lead of a Tacoma News Tribune story on the subject: “Every big metal container of imported cargo delivered by ship from the growing port of Prince Rupert, B.C., to the American Midwest now enjoys an instant $109 shipping cost advantage over containers imported through U.S. ports such as Tacoma and Seattle, courtesy of the U.S. Government.”

It makes sense for people in Washington to ask the question, and the state’s senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, have. And answered it in their new legislation to eliminate the long-standing Harbor Maintenance Tax, which apparently “is not being fully collected” but nonetheless is driving shippers to unload their Pacific goods in either Canada or Mexico, at points far from their ultimate destinations in the United States. They would replace it with a Maritime Goods Movement User Fee, which would, they say, encourage commerce and at the same time generate twice as much revenue.

Would calling it a fee rather than a tax have something to do with it?

Maybe those pieces fit together somehow, but it doesn’t seem intuitive.

And there’s also this,

You may r may not even have heard of Price Rupert, even if you live in the Northwest – that’s how far away it is. It’s a smallish city of about 12,500. Services are limited. There’s also this: It is approaching as far north of Seattle (about 640 miles) as San Francisco is to its south (about 800). And you can;t get there in anything approaching a straight line – you have to go deep into interior BC to get from the Seattle area to PR.

It’s a long way, a very long way, to get product shipped by road from Price Rupert to the population centers of the United States.
A very long way. And the cost of shipping over that distance would surely be a lot more than $109.

Of course, Prince Rupert would seem to make perfect sense as a delivery point for equipment to the Alberta oil fields, equipment shipping and delivery causing so much heartburn in the U.S northwest.

You might think.

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