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Posts published in August 2013

A rightward drift

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.

Out, damned fed!

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? (more…)

Remembering Teton Dam

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. (more…)

The movement, not the candidate

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. (more…)

Way up in Prince Rupert

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.

Art Robinson. Really?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Leadership of Oregon’s Republican Party has finally taken the fatal leap off the edge of its own square world, guaranteeing itself a place in obscurity for the foreseeable future. The inmates are in charge of the asylum.

Folks overseeing what’s left of our old Oregon GOP have put a knife to their own throats. That instrument is a guy totally unqualified to make the Party a viable choice for most voters. A stunning decision!

Art Robinson not only has failed multiple times as a candidate for office in our little piece of heaven – he’s also become synonymous with whacko philosophies and nut case ideas. He may have a PhD in some scientific field. But he’s repeatedly demonstrated – when it comes to politics and political philosophy – he’s totally uneducated.

From his little compound in the Oregon woods, Robinson has made a living selling home school materials containing many ideas sure to pollute the normal educational growth of the unsuspecting. He’s also challenged – without facts – two Oregon institutions of higher learning in more than one fit of perceived persecution of himself or his family. He twice failed miserably in his own runs to beat Rep. Pete DeFazio. He backed a ludicrous attempt to use one of his sons as a hand puppet to defeat DeFazio in a “Democrat” primary. “Lipstick on a pig” as has famously been stated by another Republican nut case.

Robinson’s made a fool of himself locally, statewide and nationally in various public appearances. Trying to trace his illogical thinking is akin to trying to follow strands of spaghetti on a full plate. He’s infamously written down some of his nuttier philosophy. Then, when challenged, falsely accused more than one inquisitor of quoting him out of context.

At risk to your personal comfort zone, here are a few of his most oft-expressed square world philosophies which can be found in his writings or on his website:

## Public education should be abolished.
## Public schools are no more than jails.
## Public education is a form of child abuse.
## Nuclear waste should be diluted and sprinkled over the ocean.
## Nuclear waste should be diluted and used in home building.
## Humans are not the root cause of global warming.
## HIV does not cause AIDS and AIDS was a “false crisis.”

There are more – many more – but you get the idea. (more…)

Life and death in wild Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Given what a strong Democrat Dr. Justin StormoGipson is and his spouse and life-partner, Dr. Maj StormoGipson was, I was surprised over the years I had not met either of them. She was a respected pediatrician, and he is an equally respected ophthalmologist, residing and practicing in Kootenai County.

They are the kind of people who help make Idaho special. They care about others and they love the wild aspects of Idaho - its wilderness, mountains, and rivers. Upon graduating from Dartmouth Medical School with their medical degrees, but before selecting their specialties, both spent two years as general practitioners working with the poor and needy in Central America.

Every year since finishing their residencies in 1991 they worked with Doctors without Borders volunteering time in third world countries helping the needy. Tellingly, both would speak eloquently not about what they were doing, but what they were receiving from those they assisted.

There is a special Grace in recognizing that in giving of time, talent and treasure to others one receives so much more in return.

On August 1 Idaho’s Selway River to hear the tragic news that Maj, the matriarch of a remarkable family, had drowned in a rubber kayak that became entrapped on a fallen tree across Idaho’s other truly outstanding river rafting experience, the Middle Fork of the Salmon.

According to a moving account written by her children and husband*, all of whom were on a trip that had been her Christmas gift to the family, she came around a blind curve with little chance to move to the far right quickly enough to avoid a recently fallen tree burned in a fire that had toppled most of the way across the Middle Fork.

Rafting guides will tell a client this is their worst nightmare. Depending n the volume of water even a raft can easily be flipped, let alone a rubber kayak, and the chances of instantly being trapped by branches under water is high.

The wilderness can be unforgiving of any mistake, whether of choice or chance. There is an inherent risk many are willing to take for the opportunity to be in and a part of wild Idaho that is what most of America was before the first European explorers arrived. (more…)

A hotter frying pan?

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

The tenor of articles in the Oregonian after the Oregon Republican Party's change in leadership, which was made last weekend, was that the action was "putting an end to a months-long controversy over party leadership."

That an extent at least, it did that. Suzanne Gallagher's tenure as chair was much criticized (money management seemed to be a core issue), and she backed away from the job in the face of a recall effort that looked likely to succeed, So there's that.

But you can't help thinking that, over the months to come into the tenure of newly-elected Chair Art Robinson, a lot of Republicans will be pining for the good old days.

It's worth noting here what a party chair, in any state or even on the national level, does and doesn't do. Often they get too much blame or credit (depending on how the elections go) for whatever the voters do, when in fact they have relatively little to do with it. Party chairs oversee their party's organization, watch how its money is spent and how people are hired and fired. It's partly grunt work organizational, keeping the county operations running and the state organization active and at least somewhat visible. The chair is the party's face to the world. The chair is also expected to help out with fundraising, the unglamorous but essential work of persuading people to fork over.

The skill set you want for a party chair becomes clear when you look at that job description: Someone who's a good manager, skilled at public relations and smooth, diplomatic, cooperative and persuasive on a personal level. Perhaps above all, you want someone who won't damage the organization by dividing it or by saying or doing things that damage its image with the voters.

Art Robinson, even his strongest supporters would have to admit if they're being honest, ain't that kind of guy.

You could say of him that there's a certain fearlessness in saying what he thinks, and anyone willing to put themselves out there to run for Congress - as he did, twice - has shown a level of civic commitment.

But this is a guy who has mostly pulled away from society, and probably as a logical reaction to his own nature (and that of other people). He is known as fierce (in a public context), undiplomatic, uncompromising. And he likes to say his piece. If he turns out to be a quiet behind the scenes party mechanic, he would surprise a lot of people. (more…)

Questions for Idaho Ed News

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

An opinion from Travis Manning on the Idaho Education News organization. a Note: The Nampa Idaho Press Tribune notes that "Since July 19, the Idaho Press-Tribune has published a funding disclaimer
with Idaho Education News stories."

Sen. Branden Durst’s recent op-ed critiquing Superintendent Luna’s “end around” the Idaho legislature, and his subsequent analysis of GOP political genealogy, has merit, especially as it relates to a newly minted news organization called Idaho Education News (IEN).

Funded by The Albertson Foundation, IEN started seven months ago in order to advance the school privatization agenda of Chairman Joe Scott. They bought the Boise State University name, where IEN is housed, simply by donating millions of dollars. Strategically, Albertson hired away established reporters Kevin Richert, Jennifer Swindell and Clark Corbin to do its messaging work, under the auspices of their new identity. Albertson uses the B.S.U. trademark as a PR gimmick to expedite credibility within Idaho.

Albertson and IEN blur the arena of ethical journalism, which situation is different from Boise State’s relationship with National Public Radio, where Boise State Public Radio, an NPR affiliate, is housed. In this case, NPR is an already-established news entity with decades-long experience and an international reputation for quality and unbiased reporting. IEN is far from achieving NPR’s status.

While I wouldn’t say IEN produces “pseudo journalism,” as Sen. Durst suggests, I will say they have work to do. If IEN is not careful, they will be seen as the propaganda arm of Scott and Albertson, much like IdahoReporter.com is seen as the propaganda machine of The Idaho Freedom Foundation and Executive Director Wayne Hoffman (and whomever else funds the IFF, as Hoffman refuses to publicly disclose its corporate master).

I queried Betsy Russell, president of the Capitol Correspondents Association, as to why IEN received full press credentials as an upstart news organization and IdahoReporter has not. Her response, that “All three of their reporters are B.S.U. employees. The grant from the Albertson Foundation went to B.S.U. No one involved with the operation is involved in lobbying, which is key to credentialing. That is why IdahoReporter.com doesn’t qualify; it is a lobbying organization headed by a registered lobbyist.”

In a recent IEN article, cross-published by the Idaho Press-Tribune on July 19 titled, “Nampa, Vallivue among districts chosen for Idaho Leads program,” such a disclosure was not placed. Whenever IEN reports on projects associated with The Albertson Foundation it is, essentially, reporting on itself. Not to disclose such a conflict of interest is entirely unethical. The Idaho Press-Tribune, and news outlets statewide, need to be cognizant. (more…)

Down the highway

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

U.S. Highway 12 begins in downtown Detroit and from there runs 2,491 miles generally northwest largely along the old Yellowstone Trail, ending at its intersection with U.S. 101 in the port and industrial town of Aberdeen, Washington. Those two ends, and pieces of what lie between, reflect one of the reasons for building the road: To move not only passengers but also industrial commerce.

The Idaho portion from Lewiston to the Lolo Pass at the Montana line, was the last of this road to be built, and the last major highway project in Idaho in the early 60s, reflecting how challenging a piece of road this is. Drive it – if you haven't, you really should – and you'll see some of Idaho's most spectacular country, twisting along the banks of the Clearwater River, then by the Lochsa River as the road spirals upward into the rugged Bitterroot Mountains. It is truly one of Idaho's great rides.

But drive it carefully and defensively. This is not like most highways in southern Idaho, and not even much like U.S. 95 running north and south in Idaho. There are few straight lines on U.S. 12, and it is not a wide road. Accidents are common. Even drivers of small cars may find it challenging; wrecks involving larger trucks are the stuff of periodic local lore.

Tension between commercial and industrial elements of the road's purpose, alongside its driving qualities and environmental concerns, drives the megaload conflict.

Which is accelerating. The current round started after the Hillsboro, Oregon firm Omega Morgan applied for permits to move up the rpad a massive water purification unit, destined for Alberta's oil fields. It is a road-occupier, 21 feet wide, weighing about 644,000 pounds. Area residents are concerned about damage to the road and environment, about road blockage (if an emergency vehicle had to get past?), and more. And not just about this load: In recent years, there's been talk of possibly hundreds of megaloads coming through; Omega Morgan suggestd it wants to make 10 such shipments down Highway 12 before 2014. Protesters include a group called The Rural People of Highway 12 Fighting Goliath, the Nez Perce Tribe and possibly the Forest Service. (more…)