Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in October 2013

My friend, Tom Foley

peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

I first arrived in Washington, D.C. near the end of 1968 as a newly hired member of Senator Frank Church’s staff. I soon became friends with several members of Congressman Tom Foley’s staff and was invited to begin joining them for after hours gatherings in Foley’s office.

Sometimes events of the day on the Hill were discussed. Other times Foley would use his encyclopedic knowledge of U.S. history and government to explain how the founding fathers intended government to work.

Foley was first elected to the House in 1964. Before that he had served for several years on Senator Henry M. Jackson’s staff. Because of that staff experience, I think he felt a special kinship to congressional staffers. Others have suggested that because he and his wife Heather had no children, these sessions were in fact gatherings of the Foley family. Regardless of the reason, Foley took me under his wing and until I left Washington in 1971, we maintained a close relationship.

One time I was co-hosting a group of young political leaders from the Soviet Union as part of an exchange program. They arrived in Washington in the midst of a major anti-war protest with accordion wire and armed military personnel in wide use. Kennedy Stadium had been converted into an open air jail. I asked Foley if he would host a luncheon in the Capitol for the group and try to explain to them that the U.S. wasn’t trying to emulate to Soviet Union in controlling its citizenry. He did a terrific job of working his way through a difficult situation. Years later it came as no surprise to me that he became U.S. ambassador to Japan.

After Cecil Andrus was elected Governor in 1970, I asked Foley if he would join Frank Church in co-hosting a reception honoring Andrus at the Capitol. He did and the result was a reception filled with many of the best known Senators and Congressmen of the era.

In 1971 I decided to leave Washington and return to Idaho. On my last day in the office, I received a midafternoon phone call. Picking up the phone, a voice said, “Marty, this is Tom. You aren’t really planning on leaving Washington without getting together for a couple of beers are you.” So I spent the rest of my last day as a Senate staff member drinking beer with Tom Foley.

A former Foley staffer, Todd Woodard, was quoted in the Spokesman Review as saying that “He taught us that public service really was a higher calling and an honorable profession.” I would certainly second that. (more…)

Let ’em eat

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

More than one in every five households in Oregon depends on food stamps.

Just so you don’t miss the point here, I repeat: MORE than ONE in EVERY FIVE households in Oregon depends on food stamps. Depends. That is more than any other state and nearly double what it was in 2008. Double.

Are we clear?

Think of 10 families you know. The Census Bureau figures, statistically, two of them are getting outside government assistance to keep eating. We’re talking “families” here. Suppose each family is five people. Now we’re talking 10 individuals. Ten out of every 50 of us. And if you don’t think that applies to anyone you know, then someone else knows even more folks using food stamps just to get by. So the ratio in your neighborhood could be even higher.

Dig further down in those numbers and you’ll find the large majority of assistance went to people in rural areas. Maybe in your small county, it was more like two of every five families. Or three.

I am sick of the blatant ignorance that says the majority of food stamp go to (1) lazy Democrats or (2) lazy blacks or Hispanics who won’t work or (3) deadbeats or (4) anyone who doesn’t look like the speaker or live in his neighborhood! Pick one. Pure B.S.! It’s on the I-net daily – spread by “dittoheads” who won’t do their homework. Well, here’s the homework!

When all but three Republican members of the House of Representatives vote to cut $40 billion out of the food stamp budget, chances are you knew a few families who’d have an even harder time trying to buy necessary basics.

And here’s something else to consider about that shameful vote. In all the history of the annual farm bill vote – 50 years more or less – its always been a total package. Always. Billions of dollars in subsidies to farmers or corporations – even a few members of Congress – AND the food stamp assistance program. It’s always been that way. Until this year.

With their majority in the House – and driven by a suicide-like urge to appease their old, white political base in the farm states – Republicans split the bill. Kept the billions rolling out to the farmers – private and corporate – killed the billions to feed people needing help. The rich get richer and the poor go hungry. The vote in the House was so blatantly purely political that even newspaper editorialists in a number of farm states pounded Republicans they traditionally praise. (more…)

Airing a treaty

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

When all the media “air” is used on the story of the day, even if major, just as government shutdown or health insurance websites, we tend to miss a lot of other things. In Idaho right now, a lot of people probably are missing something important to their future: The Columbia River Treaty.

This is a story still in development, and it won't come to fruition until next year at the earliest, and maybe later. But it will have a good deal to do with how much water Idaho will have in years to come.

You may not have heard of the treaty, which would be testimony to its long-running quiet usefulness. The United States and Canada began discussions about the Columbia – its main stem originates in Canada – in the early 40s, after the New Deal construction of massive dams along the river on the south side of the border, and in a time when flooding was still a significant problem. In 1948 the then-second-largest community in Oregon, called Vanport (located near Portland), was wiped out by a Columbia River flood. Canada had river issues too, including requests by the United States to build dams in that country for flood control purposes, and negotiations began.

They were not easy. The treaty was not written and ratified until 1964, Since then, various developments agreed to (including more dam construction) has been undertaken. The treaty doesn't have an expiration date, but it does say it can be renegotiated after 50 years. Early talks are underway, led on each side by an organizational combine called the Entity (sorry if this is sounding like a sci-fi movie). The U.S. Entity includes executives of the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Entity has been seeking public comments, and has held public meetings around the region, including one in Boise on October 3. That round of hearings is over, though more may be held. Or not; the last requests for comments drew (as of October 18) only 20 from the whole region. (There's a web site at http://www.crt2014-2024review.gov/.) The Entity is scheduled to deliver a proposal for the United States position on the treaty to the U.S. Department of State before the end of this year. (more…)

Transition: excerpt 5

transition

December 2011

A few weeks of being at my new job helped me realize something very important.

I had been fortunate enough to spend most of my adult life doing something that I loved. The continued crappiness of 2011 had caused me to lose sight of this. But it became clearer the longer I stayed at my rather menial position.

When I was a reporter, I always enjoyed answering the basic question of, “How was your day?” It was an invitation to share some of the inside information I had picked up during the day's research and interviews. I now responded to the same question with little more than a grunt, as there wasn’t really anything interesting to share.

What was also obvious to me was that this was not what I’d had in mind when upending my whole life to move to Portland. This was the job I had to settle for to make some desperately needed money to get caught up on bills. It was certainly nowhere near the happy ending I had longed for.

It was nice having a little bit of money to my name. I spoiled myself slightly by finishing the long-delayed process of replacing the last of the music I had on cassette tape with its digital equivalent. This consisted of the albums Anthrax put out in the early and mid-90s, Sounds of White Noise and Stomp 442. I was especially glad to have re-obtained a copy of their song “American Pompeii.” Although it was already 15 years old, it came across as utter prophecy.

My in-laws had suggested to me that we download a free audio recording program so we could make a demo. Ian rearranged his computer configuration and borrowed a recording mic from a friend, which enabled us to start recording our practices.

I used my audio editing experience from my broadcasting career to produce individual tracks. I was then able to put those songs on my iPod and listen to them whenever I felt like it.

The best part was that Not Sure came directly between Nirvana and the Offspring on my iPod. Our songs began to replace everything else I used to listen to, which also allowed me to make mental notes of what needed to be improved in them.

Meanwhile, interesting things continued to take place in our old stomping grounds of Josephine County. Although he had been on the job for just over a year, Simon became chairman of the board of county commissioners. A replacement had been selected for another commissioner who had resigned. But the third commissioner was recalled by a large margin, and Simon took over as chairman the next day.

Life muddled along throughout the rest of November, and I felt decently enough about the state of my existence. But all of that was in danger of being quickly unraveled by mid-December.

I got laid off from my job, which actually turned out to be a partial blessing. I had worked there just long enough to be able to collect unemployment benefits. One day, I received a letter from the employment department informing me that I may be eligible to return to school. I concluded that in two terms, I could finish getting the MBA I had already started, if that’s all I had to do.

This would be my chance to allow 2011 the chance to redeem itself in some way. The realization had hit me months before that this was shaping up to be one of the worst years I’d ever had.

I headed off to Washington State University’s Vancouver campus to inquire about returning to school. Perhaps this was one of the open doors I had so desperately sought for so long. It turned out not to be the case, as a counselor informed me that none of my credits would transfer. None. But I was more than welcome to take out student loans to pay for classes I had already passed with A’s.

Further souring my mood that morning was a message I had received from Chad on Facebook. He had sent it very late the previous evening, and all indications were that he was completely done with the band. (more…)

Wasden and the stresses of law

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

The rule of law is the basis of freedom and security in the United States, binds Americans together as a society and distinguishes the U.S. from many nations, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says.

It also is the guideline he says he uses as Idaho’s top law enforcer when he must render difficult decisions on controversial legal issues such as Idaho nullifying the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), managing federal lands, funding public education or regulating the influx of nuclear spent fuel.

Elected Idaho’s 32nd attorney general in 2002, Wasden is the longest serving attorney general in the state’s history and was president of the National Association of Attorneys General from 2006-2007. He earned a political science degree from Brigham Young University and a law degree from the University of Idaho.

wasden
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, center, converses with attorney Timothy Hopkins, right, and Areva Vice President Robert Poyser in Idaho Falls. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

“Sometimes public service can be a challenging experience,” Wasden told City Club of Idaho Falls members before answering questions during a Q&A session following a recent luncheon, noting his office processes 5,000 to 6,000 legal matters at any given moment.

Wasden was asked about the Idaho Tax Commission’s ruling that same-sex couples recognized as legally married in other states must recalculate their Internal Revenue Service filings before filing their state returns. Idaho is among 35 states that forbid same-sex unions following a constitutional amendment approved in 2006 by voters.

The IRS has ruled that same-sex couples will be recognized as married for federal tax purposes. Wasden said he would defend Idaho’s constitutional amendment, adding he was disappointed and critical of his counterpart in California who refused to represent citizens in that state who had voted against recognizing same-sex marriages.

Wasden was one of the nation’s first attorneys general to file a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law’s constitutionality, but when the Idaho Legislature tried to nullify the federal law by enacting a state statute, he told the legislators what they were trying to do was unconstitutional. (more…)

Gentle giant

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Towards the end of his fine novel, Citizen Vince, Spokane journalist turned best selling novelist Jess Walter describes Vince’s encounter with an Irish politician in a bar on Sprague Avenue inside a well-known downtown Spokane hotel.

It is the day before the 1980 election and Vince, a felon placed in the Federal Witness Protection Program, has been debating for a week whether to vote given his new identity and a clean slate. He strides into the lounge, sits at the bar and asks the bartender if he can switch the tv above the booze to the news for just ten minutes even though Monday Night Football is about to begin.

The bartender politely points out that the five other patrons at the bar want the football game, but tells Vince if he can get one other patron to second his request he’ll switch for ten minutes. Vince surveys the lounge recognizing that none of those at the bar will give him a second. However, there are two gray suits sitting at a table having highballs and eating a steak.

Anyone familiar with Spokane immediately recognizes the Ridpath Hotel. The Irish politician is also recognizable - it is Tom Foley, the only person to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from the vast area west of Texas.

Vince recognizes that the larger of the two suits, a bearish but friendly looking guy, is the local congressman---he knows his name begins with F. Vince asks if the Congressman will be the second. As only a writer with a novelist’s eye can, Walter captures the puckish humor of the late Speaker:

He stands, raises a draft beer, and covers his heart. “Esteemed colleagues, the representative from Table Six in the great state of Washington - home of glorious wheat fields and aluminum plants, cool, clear rivers and snow-
capped mountains, and the finest bar patrons in this great country, proudly casts his vote in favor of ten minutes of misery and heartache courtesy of the national news.”

The guys at the bar raise their glasses in confused reverie as the bartender reaches up to turn the channel.

Anyone who ever knew Speaker Foley can easily envision this fictional scene. It captures the quintessential Foley - his humor, wit, intelligence, compassion, perspicacity, all in one brief vignette. The Ridpath, once the hotel of choice for Labor as the only “union” hotel in Spokane, has been shuttered for years. And Tom Foley passed away at the age of 84 this past week. (more…)

Go get ’em, Ted!

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Were I a thinking, moderate Republican – which I’m not- but if I were, I’d not only embrace Ted Cruz, I’d be an advocate for everything he stands for. I’d do anything I could to help him get his venomous message out. Seldom has a national political party had such a quick and ready answer to solve what ails it. And how to fix it. Cruz is “da man!”

At this point, some of my more independent, moderate – and especially liberal – friends are reaching for their heart meds and asking for water. But hear me out.

Interviewed by CNN in San Antonio last weekend, Cruz flat out said Republicans “are the single most damaging thing” for the GOP in 2014. The exact quote: “The single most damaging thing that has happened to Republicans for 2014 is all of the Senate Republicans coming out attacking the House Republicans – attacking those pushing the effort to defund Obamacare and lining up opposite the American people.”

Wow! Right on, Teddy! Let the good times – and the divisive rhetoric – roll, baby! Give ‘em Hell! Pure B.S. but go for it!

O.K. Let’s check out some facts. Republicans are going to have tough sledding in the 2014 national election. There are lots of very valid indicators around – all with bad news for Republicans – enough to make professional GOP campaign folks consider taking the year off.

The latest from Public Policy Polling – taken during the height of the budget-debt ceiling fracas – was in 25 GOP held districts. Remember – the questions were asked of folks who already had a Republican member in Congress. In 15 of the 25, respondents preferred a “generic Democrat” to their own representative by name. Just “any old Democrat” to whoever was there now. Ouch!

But it gets worse. Combined with other surveys by the same pollster in the last three weeks, those old “generic Democrats” win 37 of 61 Republican-held districts! Ouch again!

And when told their Republican office holder supported the government shutdown, 11 more districts flipped to”generic Democrat” and one race was a tie. OUCH big time!

Democrats need 17 seats to retake the House. These results show they could get as many as 49! Doubt it’ll happen but some will flip. Maybe 17.

Here’s another sampling – CNN/ORC International polling during the same time. Folks questioned – 54% – said it’s a bad thing the GOP controls the House. 54%! That’s up 11 points since December. Just 38% say it’s a good thing and that is a 13 point dive during the period. (more…)

Bonamici at Yamhill

Bonamici
Representative Suzanne Bonamici (left) fielding a question from a constituent at her town hall meeting at Yamhill on October 20. (photo/Randy Stapilus)

   

The period after a federal government shutdown and near-default, both fomented by extremists, might seem to be a time when cooler heads might dominate the discussion and raise the questions. The situation seems to be more mixed at congressional town hall meetings, however: tin foil was amply in appearance.

At this afternoon's, hosted by Representative Suzanne Bonamici at the high school at Yamhill, there were conspiracy theory audience questions about trade agreements, the Affordable Care Act, Sharia Law, child sterilization and concerns from one woman who could not understand why President Obama has not been impeached, given all the high crimes and misdemeanors he's committed. She thought.

Bonamici, who has been getting increasingly adept at handling the town halls, had to comfort at one point: "Nobody's trying to take your guns away from you."

She's gotten more diplomatic but also maybe a little more direct in dealing with nonsense. And after one long such stream from one Newberg man on Obamacare (well, the country really would be a terrifying place if half of what he contended really was true), she coolly remarked, "There's a lot of misinformation about the Affordable Care Act."

Bonamici's approach seems lawyerly (understandable, given her profession), but also determined to keep the heat turned down. Given plenty of opportunity to blast the House Republicans over the shutdown, she passed, and said she's trying to stay civil and not encourage conflict. She acknowledged the circumstances don't allow for that in any easy way. Often on the floor, she said, "I've heard, 'We need to stand and fight. This is an epic battle. We must not surrender.' ... To set it up like a battlefield is really counterproductive to working together."

She acknowledged being an optimist, predicting in earlier town halls several months back that the talked-about shutdown wouldn't actually happen. She said she doesn't think they'll happen again early next year ... but she wrapped that more in the sense of hoping it wouldn't.

We'll know by the time her spring round of town halls comes around.

The setup

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

The setup to Idaho politics 2014, on the congressional level, hardly could be clearer after the October 16 round of votes ending (for now) the federal government shutdown and the threat of federal debt default, not just because the congressional votes but because of the markers it set.

Both of Idaho's senators were in the small group of about one-fifth of the Senate who voted against the measure who opposed the bill taking that step, but in their chamber they were part of too small a group to much affect the outcome. Most Senate Republicans voted in favor.

The House was different. There, the crisis-over bill passed with only a minority of Republicans plus all the Democrats; most House Republicans voted against. And unlike the Republicans in the delegations of Washington (all voting in favor) or Oregon (voting against), Idaho's two House members split their votes. Raul Labrador of the first district voted against, and Mike Simpson of the second in favor.

This sets up and expands the gap between the two (Labrador has declined to back Simpson in his primary contest), and could point up contrasting types of races.

Simpson's press release immediately after the vote got right into that, acknowledging explicitly (this is actually unusual) the politics of the vote. The second paragraph said, “While acknowledging his vote in favor of the bill might be unpopular with some of his constituents, Simpson said the potential economic consequences of continued stalemate outweighed any political consideration.”

In the next paragraph: “The easiest, most politically expedient thing for me to do would have been to vote NO and protect my political right flank,” said Simpson. “Doing so, however, would have been the wrong thing to do for my constituents and our economy. My vote today was about the thousands of people facing layoffs at INL, the multitude of businesses across Idaho that have told me their livelihoods are at stake, and the millions of folks across the country who can’t afford the devastating impacts of default on their investments and retirements. There has to be a way to address our nation’s fiscal problems without making them worse in the process.”

There's his campaign argument for next year.

It's gutsier than it first seems, because here's what Simpson is implicitly saying about the other three members of the Idaho delegation: That they did the wrong thing for their constituents, that they cast aside the people whose lives and livelihoods were at stake, that they would make the nation's future worse by their actions. It's quite a critique, but implicit in any self-defense Simpson would offer. (more…)

Transition: excerpt 4

transition

July 2011

Before long, I found myself overcome with nervousness.

I called to follow up about the temporary position at Oregon Capitol News, and was told I would find out about it by the end of the day. Much to my relief, I heard back later that I did, indeed, get that job. This meant we would have some money coming in and I would have something to do for a couple of weeks.

A few days later, I headed off to Salem to have lunch with Wally. I decided to bring Maddie, and thought it would be nice to show her around the state capitol. We walked with Wally to a nearby café. He was happy with how the session had gone, but said it was getting harder and harder to leave his family every weekend to come back to Salem.

A couple of days later, I got together with Justin and Ian. Justin had apparently found a drummer, named Chad, for us to play with. I took Annaka’s van over to Justin’s place to load up his bass stack. We then made our way over to Chad’s house.

Because I had parked on the other side of the very busy 60th Street, we had to dart across it with our instruments and equipment. Luckily, Justin’s stack had wheels, so he could just roll it through traffic. We headed up to the attic, where Chad’s drum set was located. He said he liked our songs, and seemed like a cool guy who understood where we were coming from.

Chad had a microphone and a guitar amp we could attempt to use for PA, but we couldn’t quite get it to work. That was all right, though, because the lyrics for most of the songs weren’t fully figured out yet. I started to suggest to Ian that we go over the lyrics during our usual chess/coffee/anger management sessions. But it dawned on me that I would actually be working the next few weeks, for the first time in over eight months.

Our jam session was very productive, and all indications were that Evil Homers had a complete lineup. We scheduled a follow-up for the Fourth of July, which fell on a Monday.

After dropping Justin and Ian off, I headed home to pack for our trip to Grants Pass. We woke up early the next morning and hit the road.
Along the way to Grants Pass, we passed by Golden, the old, abandoned mining town where Annaka and I had gotten married nearly four years prior.

A historic reenactment was taking place back then, complete with people renewing their wedding vows. Annaka and I had just gotten our marriage certificate and rings a couple of days before that, and were able to get married in a spontaneous ceremony held inside a church.

Wally was already at the Powderhorn by the time we arrived. I called Simon at the courthouse and urged him to come and meet us. Simon ordered a slice of strawberry pie, which inspired me to do the same. The biggest perk of working at the Powderhorn was that I would often end up with whatever slices of pies they couldn’t sell during the day. (more…)