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Posts published in March 2015

Three groups of truths

carlson CHRIS


The counter-attack by the Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce boosters of the Idaho National Lab, orchestrated by the Department of Energy, against former Idaho governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus for blowing the whistle on current Governor Butch Otter’s attempt to give a waiver from the 1995 Batt Agreement on the importation of two shipments of commercial spent fuel rods for research purposes is missing some key points.

For those still trying to understand objectively what this is all about, there are three phrases they should keep uppermost in mind. Phrase one comes from the Tom Cruise movie a few years back, A Few Good Men. Cruise plays a young Navy JAG officer and he is grilling on the witness stand in a trial a tough Marine colonel played by Jack Nicholson.

At a key moment he challenges the colonel to tell the truth. Nicholson rears back and with the meanest demeanor of total disdain snarls back at Cruise, “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Phrase one.

Phrase two is one of the best statements ever uttered by former President Ronald Reagan: Trust but verify!

Phrase three is a political truism: Politics most often is about dealing with perceptions which are based on emotions which often trump facts.

Critics of Andrus and Batt are busy engaging in raising “straw dog” arguments that play with words and semantics, all designed to divert attention from the real issues. Or, they’ll find one nit that may be incorrect and immediately conclude that invalidates their entire thesis.

So one can read that spent fuel rods are not waste and that research on the commercial spent fuel rods is all part of an expanding research role for the site that will generate a couple hundred million dollars over ten years, and, oh yes, more jobs And don’t those former governors know that the spent rods are solid materials, so they can’t possibly migrate to the aquifer and pollute it?

Here are some truths that the INL booster types cannot handle: (more…)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Redfish Lake marina docks need replacement (Boise Statesman)
More solar power ahead for Idaho Power (Boise Statesman)
Extra $92 million appears in Idaho revenues (Lewiston Tribune)
Sea changes may impact salmon diets (Lewiston Tribune)
Administration head Luna may resign (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow police consider diversity training (Moscow News)
County officials look at Syringa park (Moscow News)
Concealed carry bill goes through more changes (Nampa Press Tribune)
Major snow geese die-off in east Idaho (Pocatello Journal)
Contractors often not bound by public records law (TF Times News)

Judge looks at release of hatchery fish (Eugene Register Guard)
Large investor in UO apartment complex (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath area hit with 'extreme' drought (KF Herald & News)
Massive Medford police, gunman standoff (Medford Tribune)
Drought is on, but so is E Oregon planting (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton okays $1.7m for airport (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Attorney plans Oregon right to work initiative (Portland Oregonian)
United Streetcar falls short of expectations (Portland Oregonian)
Unemployment in Oregon falls to 5.8% (Salem Statesman Journal)

Part of Bellingham port area may be rebuilt (Bellingham Herald)
Bremerton plans heavy work on thoroughfare (Bremerton Sun)
Plans call for raising Narrows tolls two times (Bremerton Sun)
Water committee in Longview considers options (Longview News)
Study finds $15 wages not hurting restaurants (Seattle Times)
UW study finds breast biopsy results often wrong (Seattle Times)
Hotel finances raise questions at Spokane (Spokane Spokesman)
Clark area seeks $9.3m for capital efforts (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima asks review of city districts decision (Yakima Herald Republic)

Dangers of ignorance

rainey BARRETT


February, 1865, emissaries from the North and South were meeting secretly, trying to set terms for ending America’s Civil War. Killing continued on the battlefields. But talks continued in private meeting places. And it was the results of those talks that brought an end to the killing in April, 1865.

Imagine this alternate scenario. Imagine that 47 members of the then-U.S. Congress wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in February, 1865, warning him any deal he cut with President Lincoln to end the war would not be binding - that Lincoln would not be president forever - that the next Congress could (and likely would) void any agreement arrived at in the current negotiations.

That didn’t happen to Lincoln. But it has to Barack Obama. In an effort almost perfectly defined in the word “sedition,” 47 Republican senators very publically wrote the leaders of Iran that any agreement reached in current multi-nation efforts to keep Iran from owning nuclear weapons could - and might - be ended by Congress. Further, such agreement negotiated would not likely last beyond the Obama presidency.

Reaction - nearly all of it surprise, anger, disgust and negative for what those 47 did - is raining down in this country and in many abroad. The action was unprecedented, dangerous, unnecessarily divisive, wrong, just plain stupid. And it might’ve been illegal.

Ironically named for a Republican, the Logan Act, created in 1799, has seldom been used. In sum, it prohibits U.S. citizens from negotiating directly with other nations on behalf of the American government. It specifically prohibits “correspondence ... with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government ... in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.” Whether the Act would apply in this case depends on which lawyer you’ve talked to last. Some “yes.” Some “no.”

Several incidents where Logan could’ve been applied have occured in recent years though no one was charged. One was when Rev. Jesse Jackson went to Cuba and Nicaragua in 1984, while President Reagan was involved in his secret deal with Iran to trade American prisoners for military hardware. Jackson was threatened, but that was it.

The second was Idaho’s own international publicity seeker and professional interloper - the late former Republican Cong. George Hansen. He trotted off to Iran in the ‘80's to be a one man negotiating team. He got lots of publicity but - like most everything he did - the effort was mostly for self-aggrandizement. No charges.

This most recent attempt to kneecap the President also touches Idaho in a direct way. Both U.S. Senators signed on. I’ve known each for more than 40 years. The participation of James Risch doesn’t surprise except his name is out there on this and his usual modus operandi is to do his deeds behind your back. This time - 3rd name, right column, second page.

Mike Crapo’s participation is also not surprising though, a few years ago when he seemed to be thinking more clearly, he likely would’ve kept a lower profile and not publically signed such an odorous document. This is another personal disappointment in how far to the right he’s drifted since his more effective earlier days as a Senator and - previously - in the Idaho Legislature. This time, 4th name, right column, second page.

Though real damage to our international credibility and trustworthiness has been done, it’s unlikely there’ll be legal action against the 47 miscreants. Some should. But it won’t. They’ve undercut efforts of this president and others to follow him. Their arrogance has publically demonstrated how little they really know about our U.S. Constitution - to say nothing about the totality of their own job descriptions and the balance of powers of American government.

Perhaps there was a fitting irony when one of Iran’s leaders - with a proper American university pHd in government - had to publically correct the 47 and accurately define for them the limitations members of Congress have in such international affairs. In fact, of the two dozen or so at the top of Iran’s political system, about half have attended U.S. educational institutions. More of them speak and understand English than any of the 47 speak or understand things Iranian. (more…)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Telemedicine/abortion bill moves ahead (Boise Statesman)
New bonds will fund a number of school projects (Boise Statesman)
'Constitutional carry' bill stopped (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
State, county officials urge Lowell plan change (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon P&Z looks at beekeeping rules (Nampa Press Tribune)
Might this be an early fire season? (Pocatello Journal)

Oregon starts new motor-voter effort (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News, Pendleton E Oregonian)
UO trustee questions sexualized cheer dances (Eugene Register Guard)
Another business joins in Lakeview biofuels (KF Herald & News)
Medford pot halt hasn't stopped dispensary (Medford Tribune)
Judge orders another look at Roseburg forest plan (Medford Tribune)
Another firearm background check bill surfaces (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Looking at Portland-area dog bites (Portland Oregonian)
Amanda Marshall under investigation (Portland Oregonian)
Naughton named administrative services chief (Salem Statesman Journal)

Many school bills still float in legislature (Bremerton Sun)
Federal case finds fire department discriminated (Bremerton Sun)
Snohomish jail reforms generating savings (Everett Herald)
Woodland struggles with pot issue (Longview News)
I-405 tolls could hit $10 (Longview News)
President of Whitman College will lead Evergreen (Olympian)
Inslee bill seeks to tax and regulate e-cigs (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Olympic peninsula seeing snow, flood, harbor sewage (Port Angeles News)
How one Seattle school is growing grad rates (Seattle Times)
Spokane sees 43 construction projects (Spokane Spokesman)
Vancouver push for safety with oil trains (Vancouver Columbian)
Bill would seek to preserve DNA (Vancouver Columbian)
Decision time coming on how Yakima clerk operates (Yakima Herald Republic)


idaho RANDY

Two years in a row this has happened: Oregon Republicans meeting informally, in two places, in recognition of two distinct views of what their party is about.

One of these is a long-standing Oregon tradition: The Dorchester Conference, founded in part by former Senator Robert Packwood, held each year (for many years) at Seaside. It is an informal event in that it isn’t a state Republican Party event; it is rather a gathering of Republicans who come together to talk about the future of their party, and the state. It dates back decades, and regularly has featured the state’s top Republican candidates and office holders. It typically attracts around 500 people, sometimes a little more.

The other event, held deliberately at the same time, is in only its second year: A “Freedom Rally” held in the Portland metro area (this year in Portland). It seems to be attracting more people – an estimated 1,500 this year – but its message is more narrow on the political band: Social conservatism on order, what’s often shorthanded as God, guns and gays. They are a specific reaction to Dorchester, where the attending majority has been moving in more socially moderate directions; abortion rights and same-sex marriage have found support there. And the group was more than just issue activists. The state’s one Republican in higher office, Representative Greg Walden, spoke there, and about 10 Republican legislators showed up as well.

(Since the two events were just about an hour and a half apart by road, some people likely tried to hit both of them.)

Read the news reports on the two events and you’ll get two very different perspectives on what the Republican Party is about, and why this party in Oregon’s minority is having such a difficult time. A number of speakers at Dorchester underlined it: As long as the Republicans in Oregon are more deeply split than the Democrats are (and they are), they’re going to have a hard time winning much.
And if you hear the same thing at the two events in 2016, they’ll likely prove prescient.

In the Briefings

Friday Harbor
Measurements were collected from the dock at Friday Harbor Labs, which also is used for experiments that simulate future ocean acidification levels. Water was also collected from the pumphouse, the small brown building in the background on the left. (photo/J. Meyer, University of Washington)


The Washington legislature is reaching its cutoff points; by the end of this week, Washingtonians should have a clearer idea of what will be up for final action and what won’t. In Oregon, the legislature has slowed its pace a little, and may cool a little more this week as Republicans return from their pair of unofficial annual gatherings.

Idaho legislators have been hoping to aim for session shutdown by the end of next week, but that's looking increasing unlikely amid battles over highway funding and teacher pay.

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Legislators debate over new gambling options (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, Moscow News)
Oil, other hazards on trains in Canyon Co (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho gas prices rise suddenly (TF Times News)

Some downtown businesses moving out (Eugene Register Guard)
TriMet looking at some fare raises (Portland Oregonian)
Republicans consider future at Dorchester (Salem Statesman Journal)
Massive storms cut power (Salem Statesman Journal)

Shortfall in Kitsap logging funds (Bremerton Sun)
Repairs ordered for leaking oil trains (Longview News)
Federal lawsuit covers jailing mentally ill (Olympian)
Tolls may go variable to $10 on north I-405 (Seattle Times)
Transit centers considered for I-90 at Spokane (Spokane Spokesman)
Mass of exec retirements at Washougal schools (Vancouver Columbian)
Reviewing pluses, minuses of cop body cams (Yakima Herald Republic)

Tsunami redux

rainey BARRETT


Couple of weeks ago, I wrote about we folk living with the tsunami “Sword of Damocles” off our Pacific shores here on the far west edge of Oregon. A reader/friend accused me of making light of the daily threat and said – given the 9.0 Fukushima quake – there had to be major facts I was omitting.

He’s right. I did omit. I was “making light.” So, here’s tsunami redux – the “story-behind-the-story.”

Should we get hit with a 9-point shaker, it’ll likely be because the Cascadia Subduction Plate on the ocean floor about 50 miles out and the San Juan Plate from the north either collide or one suddenly moves atop the other. The same deadly results will probably occur either way. At the moment, Oregon State University geologists and others have evidence those plates may’ve already met and are locked. They believe that likely means pressure is building up which has no apparent means of escape short of a real blast when it can no longer be contained. Underwater seismograph evidence.

Which means, we could have a real “barn burner” of a blast – possibly that 9.0. Or more. And what would that mean?

Well, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) surmises all bridges along the coast … ALL bridges … will fail! Further, most of the bridges for 50-70 miles inland between us and Interstate 5 – which runs north and south between Washington and California – will go, too. Hundreds of major landslides. Most – if not all roads from I-5 to the coast – would be impassable. ODOT believes we on the coast would be isolated for up to three years!

We coastal folk couldn’t go north or south. We couldn’t go inland, either. Again, ODOT predicting we’d be completely cut off for three years or so.

Want more? Bonneville Power estimates all coastal communities – from Astoria to Brookings – could be without power for three to five years before the electrical infrastructure could be rebuilt. How would that affect your daily lives?

More? Well, water, sewer and other necessary services would be destroyed within the first few minutes of a major quake. No public entity is willing to even hazzard a guess about how long it would take to replace all that, too.

So, yes, I was underplaying the effects of a tsunami a couple of weeks ago. Truth is, it would be Hell! But there’s one thing that keeps most coastal dwellers calm. Most – yes. MOST – don’t know what you do now. I’ve talked to many – in church – at service clubs – socially – and the projections from ODOT and Bonneville and other agencies don’t come up in the conversations. Even when you ask. Sort of “What-I-don’t-know-can’t-hurt-me,” I guess. Or, “Que Sara.” (more…)

Oregon Republicans: Next . . .

jorgensen W. SCOTT

In the Capitol

From a speech delivered at this weekend's Oregon Republican Dorchester conference at Seaside.

Once upon a time, there was a political party in a state that was so far out of power for so long, it was literally lost in the wilderness. Let me elaborate.

Out of 90 total legislative seats, this party and its members held only 15. It had not controlled the Legislature for 75 years. Some counties in this state hadn’t sent a member of that party to the Legislature in almost 85 years. That’s most peoples’ entire lifetimes.
This party didn’t have much luck with statewide offices, either — out of the state’s past 10 governors, eight had been from the opposite party. They didn’t fare any better with federal offices, as the party hadn’t elected a U.S. Senator in almost 40 years.

The party I’m talking about is the Democrats, and the state I’m talking about is Oregon.

That’s right, folks — Oregon was once a one-party state, as it arguably is now, but with Republicans completely in charge of everything.

We get so caught up in the here and now that we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture and the long-term historical perspective. But the fact is, Democrats in Oregon were much further out of power, and for much longer, than Republicans are now.

This was the political landscape approximately 62 years ago, at the start of the 1953 legislative session.
It’s hard to imagine what must have happened between then and now. It begs the question: How did the Democrats turn it around? What did they do?

Well, for starters, they recognized that they had a problem and decided to do things differently. They placed greater emphasis on things like candidate recruitment, succession planning and crafting a message that resonates with the average Oregonian.

The results were almost instantaneous.

In the 1954 elections, Oregon Democrats went from 11 seats in the House to 24. They picked up some seats in the Senate.

At the federal level, they gained a Congressional seat when Edith Green defeated a young newscaster by the name of Tom McCall.

The next cycle, in 1956, could very well be remembered as the year that they turned it all around.

They took control of the House and forced a 15-15 split in the Senate. At the statewide level, they elected their first governor in almost 20 years, Robert Holmes.

The federal level proved equally successful, as they took two more Congressional seats, giving them three out of four. They also held both of Oregon’s U.S. Senate seats after that election.

The sole Republican exception to this route? Mark O. Hatfield, 34-year-old state legislator who was elected Secretary of State.

The truth is, Oregon Republicans have a strong and proud tradition of leadership. It’s a tremendous legacy, to say the least.

We follow in the footsteps of many great men. They include Charles McNary, a longtime U.S. Senator who ran for Vice President in 1940.

There’s also Doug McKay, who served as governor and was later Secretary of the Interior under my favorite president, Dwight Eisenhower. He was our last governor to resign, and did so to take that position. That’s quite a contrast from recent events. (more…)