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Posts published in “Day: January 7, 2014”

Snowden and pornography

rainey BARRETT


Dealing with my feelings about the Edward Snowden story creates some of the same thoughts I have about pornography. As an issue, I’m opposed to porn. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take a quick look if it pops up unexpectedly on a web site I’ve happened across.

What Snowden did – stealing and distributing U.S. government secrets – is abhorrent – a clear violation of oaths he took when granted a security clearance to work with classified documents. He’s no hero. He’s a criminal and should be punished as such. He betrayed the trust granted by his civilian employer – and the entire nation by implication – and he may be a source of lasting damage to our national security. So far, that’s doubtful but not all the information he purloined has been published.

With that said – like porn – we’ll all take a look at what stolen details come out of the electronic stash of documents. And they’re coming. Some boring – some interesting – some downright scary and unsettling. It’s certain there will be more revelations, like the ever-present surveillance of the National Security Agency in all our lives. It’s likely to be an even bumpier ride.

Like it or not, what we’re learning about “big brother” and the gaze on us all by the “eye that never sleeps,” is alarming – yet fascinating – stuff. Kind of like that brief, occasional glimpse of porn. Those doing the surveillance are pissed because we now know. But – as the surveilled – we need to know. We have a constitutionally guaranteed right to know.

I hear many people say, “Well, so what? I’m not doing anything wrong. Go ahead and look. They won’t find anything.” Two things scare me about people who say that. First, they’re probably licensed to drive on the same highways I use. Second, the issue is not what we’re doing but rather why should our government be watching us?

This is not a political issue for which this administration or the previous one – or the one previous to that – can be solely criticized. If it’s true the neo-cons of the first Bush years started this, it’s equally true all subsequent administrations have approved it.

In the days after 9/11, there may have been sufficient reasons for ramping up surveillance of electronic traffic. Or, it may have been an overreaction to fears raised by that terrible attack. Makes no difference now. What does make a difference is we’ve had a dozen years to see if such government snooping on its citizens is warranted or is simply being continued because it “may” be effective to identify terrorists. Operative word there is “may.”

There’s been plenty of time to assess the value of such surveillance. The question is, has anyone done such an assessment? If so, what were the results? If not, why the Hell not? One agency says, “Well, we don’t look at these messages from those sources” and another says “We only look at these people.” Is there any coordination here? Who’s in and who’s out? We need to know. (more…)

Three strikes and –

carlson CHRIS


No holder of high public office in Idaho could have been happier to see 2013 end than U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, the senior member of the state’s four-member, all Republican delegation.

Counting Christmas of 2012, in slightly more than 365 days the normally quiet workhorse (as opposed to a show horse) made the headlines on three occasions that can only be described as embarrassing and mortifying to a senator long known for his probity and sense of propriety.

First there was his arrest for driving while impaired in northern Virginia just before Christmas of 2012. Few reporters bought his story about deciding to go for a late night drive. The rumor mill churned into over-drive but the senator is justifiably held in such high regard that no one in the media chose to pursue speculation regarding where he may have been headed or where he was coming from.

His years of good conduct and solid, stolid work got him a “move along” card. Strike one, however.

A few months later another story hit the headlines regarding the mishandling of $250,000 in campaign money that appeared to have been loaned to one of the Senator’s campaign staffers. This brought a rebuke from the Federal Election Commission. Strike two.

And just a few weeks ago the Senator appeared on the Senate floor with what looked to most observers like a “shiner” below his right eye more commonly associated with a left hook. Why he chose to display the black eye, allegedly the result of a fall while moving furniture, instead of stopping by the Senate’s television studio to have a little make-up applied to cover up the shiner, is a complete mystery.

The shiner led to the kind of jokes and one liners that no politician likes to be the butt of and no Idaho politician had been the recipient of since former Senator Larry Craig’s toe-tapping incident in one of the restrooms in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Strike three, Senator Crapo.

In baseball, three strikes and you’re out of the game. The same should also prevail in the political arena. Unfortunately, that is not the case and when one comes to the Senate from the most Republican state in the nation, Senators Crapo and Risch can pretty much count on staying in the Senate as long as they wish including right up to their dying day.

There is just one answer left to the Idaho voters: pass an initiative limiting service in all the statewide offices and the federal offices to a maximum of 12 years. Thus, a U.S. Senator could only serve two 6-year terms, a member of the House could only serve six 2-year terms, and a governor could only serve three 4-year terms.

Something seems to happen to even the best of office-holders after 12 years. For lack of a better phrase it can be called the “been there, done that” syndrome. Yes, it is a form of arrogance but the person starts thinking he or she has seen it all, know it all and they stop listening. (more…)

A look ahead in Indian country

trahant MARK


It’s a new year -- and a new story. There is nothing more important to political discourse than a good story. It shapes our thinking, sets the rules for the debate, and, sometimes, warps reality. Stories matter. We humans think in terms of story. We dream, tell, and remember stories. We live stories.

So what’s Indian Country’s “story” for 2014?

Before I answer that question, let’s look back at recent narratives.

The first story goes like this: Congress broke promises made to Indian Country by cutting federal budgets beyond all reason, especially through the sequester. This made reservation life far more difficult, removing children from Head Start, scaling back educational opportunities, severe funding for healthcare delivery, and basic government infrastructure.

The New York Times, in a July editorial, captured this storyline. “It’s an old American story: malign policies hatched in Washington leading to pain and death in Indian country. It was true in the 19th century. It is true now, at a time when Congress, heedless of its solemn treaty obligations to Indian tribes, is allowing the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester to threaten the health, safety and education of Indians across the nation.”

This is an important story to know. And to tell. But it’s also important to know that the story already has its ending. There are only two ways to change what happens next, vote out Congress or limit the damage. (More about both of those scenarios in future columns.) The second alternative is remote, but possible in 2014, with measures such as Montana Senator Jon Tester’s bill to fund Indian health programs a year in advance.

Another story told this year is about changing the name of the Washington NFL team. This story is important because it’s a success story (I know, the issue isn’t resolved. Yet. But it’s inevitable. The question is how long the team owner will fight on, not the outcome.) Forget the merits of the mascot debate for a minute and just think about the storytelling aspect.

This story is all about the long view. Suzan Shown Harjo, Raymond D. Apodaca, Vine Deloria, Jr.; Norbert S. Hill, Jr.; Mateo Romero; William A. Means; and Manley A. Begay, pressed a case calling for the cancellation of the team’s trademark protections. It’s step-by-step litigation that’s built a through record about “pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for a Native American person.”

The velocity of change picked up in February when the National Museum of the American Indian held a public symposium on the mascot issue. This was a story told in the heart of Washington, challenging and burying status quo.

So much so that Harjo and her allies have already won the tides of history and public opinion. The NFL doesn’t see it that way. Yet. But it will will. And if not, the litigation continues in a new form, the case now known as Blackhorse et al v. Pro-Football Inc. This is a story that’s ready for an ending.

A third story -- another one about success -- is the signing into law of reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, including provisions that recognize tribal jurisdiction. This law is a tribute to the power of story. It probably would not have become law until Deborah Parker, Vice Chairman of the Tulalip Tribes, told her story to Sen. Patty Murray and then in a Senate news conference. Parker’s narrative changed the politics. The law’s supporters built a successful coalition that trumped the politics of the ordinary, especially in the House of the Representatives. This Violence Against Women Act story, though, needs an ending. It’s not enough to pass a law, there has to accounts about how this law has really made a difference in the lives of women are abused. (more…)