Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in August 2013

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…)

Oregonian: Change your mind

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

Elected officials don't often give public advice to private businesses on how they should do business. Portland City Council member Steve Novick however, did just that in a recent blog post.

On August 7, the Oregonian had a very nice editorial commending me for changing my mind about something I was planning to do. It occurred to me that the Oregonian itself, and its parent company, Advance Publications, could gain a lot of good will if they changed their minds about some things they are planning to do. So I figured I might as well give them my two cents:

Don’t eliminate seven-day delivery.

Eliminating a seven-day-a-week paper is bad for democracy; as Mayor Hales said, online we look only for the things we know we're interested in, but when we see a front page, we can wind up reading about something we should care about but never thought about before. Advance (owned by the Newhouse family) is the only national chain that is doing this; are they really sure they’re smarter than everyone else? And the Oregonian is, according to the publisher, making money; they don’t have to do this to survive.

Don’t fire Scott Learn.

Scott covers environmental issues, and does it very well. He tells complicated stories in an accessible way. And he hasn't always only done environmental stories; I remember a fine piece he did on the inequities in our screwed-up property tax system in, I think, 2005. He's one of the best reporters the Oregonian has ever had. And a really nice guy, too.

Don’t fire Ryan White.

Ryan is now the music critic, but he's mostly just a fantastic all-around writer. He created one of the funniest things I've ever seen, back in 2008, when he had a sports blog - the Best Thing in the World Competition, an NCAA-tournament style competition to determine, simply, the Best Thing In the World, through fan voting. The competition featured terrific, gripping matchups like Mike Ditka vs. Fire, Keith Jackson vs. The Wheel, and, if I recall correctly. Las Vegas vs. Sliced Bread. How could the guy who came up with that idea be out of a job?
But he’s also a very good music critic. A couple weeks back, I attended a Randy Newman concert, and Newman thanked “Mr. White from the paper” for his article previewing the concert. I’ve never, ever heard an artist do that before. Randy Newman is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don’t think the Oregonian is likely to find another music critic who gets shout-outs from Hall of Famers.

Don’t fire David Sarasohn.

Just as a business decision I think it's insane; I am quite confident that thousands of Oregonians mostly get the paper to read David Sarasohn. David is a fine, gentle, funny writer. He has (among other things) waged a fierce single-handed battle against childhood hunger in Oregon. And here are just a couple personal memories: He had a piece on Lewis and Clark some years ago, in which he noted how many things in Oregon are named after Lewis and Clark, and said that if weren't for them we'd have lots of Oregon places and institutions with names like "Fred." I emailed him and said I thought "Fred" would be a fine place name, and suggested (I hope this doesn't offend anyone in Gresham) that I don't see why people in Gresham would object to living in Fred instead. David immediately fired back with a soliloquy on the historical importance of Postmaster General Walter Gresham. Another time, the O had a headline on Amtrak cuts titled "Blood on the Tracks," So I emailed David saying I'd always hoped the O would have more headlines based on Bob Dylan album titles, and was glad they were finally coming around. He immediately responded, "Don't you remember our headline on the Barbara Roberts - Norma Paulus budget battle, "Blonde on Blonde”?” I doubt any paper in America has an editorial writer with a more refined sense of culture, history and wit than that.

The Oregonian wrote, “Switching course … can take even more courage than sticking to a controversial position.” So show your courage, Oregonian! Switch your course. A lot of people would be very proud of you.

Missing the melting pot

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A long, long time ago … when I was just a pup … kids were told this country was a “melting pot;” that all sorts of people from all sorts of places had come here seeking a new and better life.

We were told that was “good.” It meant different religions, different skills, different beliefs and – most distinct of all – possibly different skin colors. We were assured America was supposed to be that way; that was what made us strong. Many contributing, unique histories, skills and talents while creating a “racial tapestry.”

I wish it were still true. If it ever was. But it isn’t. Now we bunch up and keep our distances. Race and religion can often determine what part of the city we live in. And next to whom. Even small Northwest communities have Black, Asian, Hispanic or other racial neighborhoods. Assimilation used to mean coming together to share talents, treasure and even our differences for the advancement of all. It didn’t mean losing your heritage or racial identity by becoming someone else. Somewhere along the way, we lost that ability to be similar but not identical.

I come at this issue like a mongrel dog. My genealogical background is Heinz 57; a mixture of half a dozen European countries. That’s OK. But I truly envy those who have a clear racial or ethnic identity. They have language, music, culture and history to celebrate. They have a straight line to their roots. But when they close ranks, separate and apart from the rest of a community, we are the poorer for not being able to share all that.

There is a culture in the West that does not divide itself from others: the Basques of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. Whatever community they’re in, they are fully integrated into its life. And most do so while preserving the Basque language and heritage of who they are and where they came from.

As a non-Basque, I find the language impossible and haven’t figured out the often repetitive music. But both are fascinating when they have festivals and other celebrations and the rest of us can get involved. They love to share Basque foods, games, dance and stories of how ancestors came to America, most often to herd sheep. (more…)

Hagadone’s legacy

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

UPDATE NOTE: Corrections to this column: Col. Warner Gardner was killed when the Eagle Electric crashed 100 yards from the finish line and victory in the Diamond Cup: It was NOT Dallas Sartz. Also, legendary driver Bill Muncey never drove the Thriftway Too, just the Miss Thriftway.

Most north Idahoans have strong opinions about multi-millionaire resort developer and newspaper mogul Duane Hagadone’s commitment to the well-being of Coeur d’Alene and north Idaho - indeed all of Idaho. Some see him as a generous philanthropist who gives both anonymously and publicly to many worthy causes.

Others see him as one who gives only when it serves pure self-interest.

To his partisan supporters, Hagadone is a gutsy hero who, at considerable risk, invested in the Coeur d’Alene Resort and its fine golf course, gambling that “build it” and they will come. There were no guarantees, but he built it and they did come.

Regardless of one’s views, of particular interest to many was the recent business decision to contribute $100,000 to the committee running the upcoming Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup Unlimited Hydroplane races over Labor Day.

For unlimited hydro fans, there is nothing in all of sports quite like the sound of five or six unlimited hydros, engines at full throttle, roaring down the straight stretch for the running start of a heat.The sport has always had drama because of competition between teams like Bernie Little’s Miss Budweiser and Olie Bardahl’s Miss Bardahl; and, because of colorful drivers like the Maverick’s Mira Slovak, an airline pilot from the Czech Republic who flew his plane to freedom during the Iron Curtain days. Or a driver like Billy Schumacher, who won the last Diamond cup in 1968 driving the Bardahl. Then there was the legendary Bill Muncey, who won over 50 of the races, usually driving Miss Thriftway and Thriftway Too. And there were the community owned boats, the Miss Spokane, the Miss Burien, and the longest lasting one, the Miss Madison.

That the sport was dangerous can be testified to the number of fine drivers, like Dallas Sartz, who died in the crash of Spokane’s Eagle Electric, Rex Manchester who once had piloted the Miss Spokane, and Muncey himself died in an accident in Mexico.

Now, unlimited hydro fans in the inland northwest, who usually have to travel to the Tri-Cities for the Atomic Cup or to Seattle for the Seafair race to get their annual fix, can stay close to home. Hagadone is betting that the youth riots which turned the community against the races some 40 years ago will not reoccur. Instead, it will be a fun-filled and enjoyable experience for all.

Before one heaps new huzzah’s on this complex yet extraordinarily successful businessman, one should best remember that like many of the super-rich, Hagdone’s actions reflect his apparent belief there are two sets of laws: one for him and one the rest of us. (more…)

Murray-McGinn

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

Yeah, there were plenty of people saying incumbent Seattle Mike McGinn might not even make the runoff in today's primary election. You can understand why, given the history: Four years ago, incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels, who was a much more experienced and seemingly stronger candidate, ran in third place behind McGinn (who came in a narrow first) and Joe Mallahan (second).

McGinn just hasn't seemed like a strong, dominant leader. the narrative since before he took office was that this guy was running the city. When Governor Chris Gregoire had to meet with a Seattle leader on transportation issues, she met with people from the Council. Nickels, at least, had been a forceful presence.

But maybe that matter of personality shouldn't be read, as a matter of popularity with the voters, quite so simplistically. McGinn has been underestimated over and over.

Okay. Some context, then.

Political calculus is that an incumbent forced into a runoff - in other words, an incumbent (whether that's Mayor of Seattle or a council member at Baker City) who fails to get 50% of the vote in the primary, is in trouble for the general election. Incumbents usually pull their full weight first time around; they don't usually pick up many votes from voters who already have opted to change the occupant of the office. That's true even if you come in first, but under 50%, in the primary. And McGinn came in second, with only 27% of the vote, to Ed Murray's 30%.

The odds have to favor Murray for the November faceoff.

But don't be too quick to write this off. A great deal will depend on what kind of face Murray presents to the Seattle electorate. As he puts that effort together, he may want to reflect on the particular personal qualities that voters have found appealing so far in McGinn. There are reasons, after all, why he's the mayor and, say, Greg Nickels is not. Even under these conditions, he should be underestimated at risk.

Problem? What problem?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In every recovery program, the first step is always to admit you have a problem, then proceed. Without that admission, any improvement will be temporary. No use continuing. First recognition. Then work can begin.

While both national political parties can fairly shoulder blame for the mess in Congress, Republicans have far longer to go to “recovery.” Neither party is willing to admit blame, but GOP minions keep adding to the stalemate with constant attacks. The political chattering class has repeatedly used the word “gridlock” to describe the stalemate. I beg to differ. It’s not gridlock.

Rather than seeking to tie things up – gridlock as it were – about 60 cretins in the two houses are waging direct assaults on government, trying to seriously cripple it – gut it – to tear down every thing they find onerous. To some of them, that means almost everything governmental. A friend noted recently that, if this were wartime, what some of these people are doing would be considered treasonous. And Limbaugh, Beck and cohorts would be nothing more than Tokyo Roses with male plumbing. Propagandists.

Recent polling repeatedly shows most Americans – way most – are looking at 2014 elections to change things. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll even shows six in ten want to replace every member of Congress. But that – despite media claims of “proof of voter anger” – is very, very misleading.

Further down in the numbers, you’ll find 44% of Democrats want their party running Congress – 44% of Republicans want their party in charge. In Democrat districts, 56% approve what the President is doing – 58% of Republicans disapprove. Throw in successful 2011 GOP gerrymandering in many large states to protect incumbents and you have a recipe for what? No change. Now, THAT’S gridlock.

I call it the “good guy – bad guy” syndrome. “My guy in Congress is the good guy,” sez I. “Your guy’s the bad guy.” While I’d like to erase the entire Texas delegation, near total domination in their home state obviously means they’re thought of as “good guys” down there. I’d throw out John Boehner and Harry Reid. But Boehner’s been in the House for 22 years: Reid in House and Senate since 1987. So a voting majority back home(s) considers both guys “good guys.”

Americans are mad at Congress. Damned mad! That NBC/WSJ poll found 83% – 83% – disapprove of what’s going on there. But, while those same respondents hold the absolute power to change things at the ballot box, change they won’t. Not as long as those other numbers show each side sees the blame for our political mess as the fault of the other side. No admission like “I’ve got a problem.” So no “recovery.” (more…)

Really strange bedfellows

weatherby JAMES
WEATHERBY
 

Pity the state’s poor majority party fighting to keep its nominating process free from intruders: independents and unfriendly partisans. Never mind that this highly successful party has dominated state politics for decades and that its opposition struggles to field credible candidates willing to run. Despite their seemingly powerful positions, party leaders often have limited say over who will be their general election candidates, that’s left to the primary election voters who may or may not be well intentioned.

In an open primary system, voters choose a party ballot without having to register a party affiliation. There is much speculation concerning the motivations of crossover primary voters (independents and members of another party). Some seek to nominate the weakest candidate, easy prey for their preferred general election candidate. Others vote for a candidate who is more compatible with their more centrist views. Either choice cancels out the vote of many of the hard-line party faithful.

Though it took a lawsuit in federal court against the state’s chief election official to overrule legislation passed by a Republican legislature, GOP party activists won the day and successfully closed the Republican primary reversing the open system in place since the 1970s. Forcing Republican stalwarts to affiliate with primary voters who refuse to affiliate with them is a violation of the U. S. Constitution’s First Amendment right of association or, more relevantly, freedom of non-association according to U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s 2011 ruling. So why rehash the battle already won by Rod Beck and other Idaho GOP activists? Well, I’m not only writing about Beck and his allies but also about his like-minded strange bedfellows: liberal Hawaii Democrats.

Just as the GOP activists in Idaho want bad intentioned Democrats and freethinking independents out of “their” nominating process, so do Democratic Party leaders in Hawaii, complaining about the rascal Republicans and fickle independents. Mirroring Idaho Republicans, Hawaii Democrats recently filed suit in US District Court to keep the crossover undesirables from voting in their primary. And again as in Idaho, many elected officials, Democrats in this case, opposed the lawsuit. According to Governor Neil Abercrombie (D), “the Democrats have been inclusive, drawing strength from bringing together a diversity of people and perspectives.” But those in support of the lawsuit thought a closed primary would “ensure Democrats are elected at the primary stage by their fellow Democrats” and that the potential for crossover voting in the open primary weakened the party and made it more difficult for its views to be seriously considered. Sound familiar? Different set of actors, same dialogue, and same play!

In Idaho there’s fear that the radical right, empowered by a closed primary, will overreach and in Hawaii there are similar fears of the excesses of the radical left.

Closed primaries in states with a one-party system typically produce more extreme candidates – and it appears that’s the goal of hard core activists in both Idaho and Hawaii. (more…)

A splintering off?

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Idaho and Montana, said Chuck Baldwin, co-author of the book "To Keep or Not to Keep: Why Christians Should not Give up their guns", are “the tip of the spear of the freedom fight” because that is where you find lots of “liberty loving, constitutionally oriented people."

Quite a few self-described conservatives would be nodding their heads to that. Where, in Baldwin's half-hour discussion following that statement, they might stop nodding and start shaking their heads, is a matter for serious consideration and could be a story of things to come in Idaho.

Baldwin is a Montana minister, chaplain of the group called Oathkeepers, and he was a main speaker at last week's “Self Reliance” rally sponsored by that organization, held at Farragut State Park in northern Idaho. The event reasonably could be called a survivalist gathering, and it attracted a significant number of people, hundreds at least or possibly several thousand, depending on whose numbers you accept. They are more than a tiny fringe, though, as measured by the elected officials present, including Idaho state Representative Vito Barbieri (one of the speakers).

Much of the weekend was basic survivalist fare, talk of stocking up food and ammunition for the coming apocalypse, self-defense, and such favorite topics as the long-discredited Agenda 21 conspiracy. And there were the usual frequent references to “patriots” and "supporters of the constitution," both of which were meant to include, of course, only people who agree with the speakers' interpretations. (They didn't quite go so far as to call everyone else “traitors”, but the implication seemed in the air.)

Baldwin's speech, available on YouTube, exemplified some of this, but it also featured a challenge aimed more at other stripes of conservative than at liberals.

"It'll come as a shock to many of you," he said, that “government is not God.” Lots and lots of people maintain that it is, he said. (Specifics, naturally, were lacking.) That point in place, he then took aim at fellow pastors, a whole lot of whom, he argued, may be well-meaning but tell their congregations that government should be strictly obeyed “no matter what.” (Again, no names were specified.) He told the audience they need to “find a patriot pastor who will tell you the truth.” He helpfully pointed to an online list. (more…)