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Posts published in April 2015

Leave this cheap oil in the ground

trahant MARK


Could we be nearing the moment to really address climate change?

A quick answer is “no.” Of course not.

The Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on pretending that climate change does not exist let along agree to any shifts in policy. So they continue to fight for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. As the House Energy and Commerce Committee tells the story, the pipeline expansion “would carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day 875 miles from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. From there, the oil would go to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. The new pipeline would also transport some of the rapidly-increasing oil production from the Bakken formation in North Dakota and Montana.”

But here is the thing: There is already a glut of oil and the idea of adding more makes no sense.

As National Public Radio reported last week “there has been some concern that the U.S. will run out of places to put it all. Some analysts speculate that could spark another dramatic crash in oil prices.” How big a decline is an unknown. NPR quotes a Citigroup analyst saying $20 a barrel is possible. Others predict a continued fall in oil, to, say, $35 a barrel. Oil is a commodity and traded on public markets. So the price depends on perception about its supply and scarcity.

One reason why there is so much oil out there is that people are using less. The Nation recently wrote that the Energy Information Administration “projected that global oil demand would reach 103.2 million barrels per day in 2015; now, it's lowered that figure for this year to only 93.1 million barrels. Those 10 million "lost" barrels per day in expected consumption may not seem like a lot, given the total figure, but keep in mind that Big Oil's multibillion-dollar investments in tough energy were predicated on all that added demand materializing, thereby generating the kind of high prices needed to offset the increasing costs of extraction. With so much anticipated demand vanishing, however, prices were bound to collapse.”

I happen to think the decline in consumption is a long-term trend. There are a couple of reasons for that. The first is that people drive less after 40 years old — and the Baby Boom is long past that. A New Direction Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future, a 2013 report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund found that “Americans drive no more miles in total today than we did in 2004 and no more per person than we did in 1996.”

And, while Baby Boomers are less inclined to drive, the Millennial generation is thinking about transportation differently, “driving significantly less than previous generations of young Americans. Millennials are already the largest generation in the United States and their choices will play a crucial role in determining future transportation infrastructure needs.”

Even if gas prices stay low these trends are not likely to reverse. As the New Direction report points out: “If the Millennial-led decline in per capita driving continues for another dozen years, even at half the annual rate … total vehicle travel in the United States could remain well below its 2007 peak through at least 2040—despite a 21 percent increase in population.” (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)

Slower rise in Idaho college tuition (Boise Statesman)
Nearing end of legislature (Boise Statesman)
Legislative discussion of who pays for mental health (IF Post Register)
Debate over pay raises at Idaho Falls Power (IF Post Register)
Reviewing the region's mental health system (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon County crime continues to diminish (Nampa Press Tribune)
Stalemate over legislative transportation action (Nampa Press Tribune)
Possible Pocatello, Chubbuck fire department merger (Pocatello Journal)

How the Civic Stadium buy came together (Eugene Register Guard)
Sardine fishing may close on coast (KF Herald & News)
Redband surveys by state underway at Spring Creek (KF Herald & News)
Building more routes for walking and biking (Medford Tribune)
More about the 94k Hayes email release (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Wyden and firefighting funding legislation (Salem Statesman Journal)

Details of Inslee's climate proposal (Bellingham Herald)
WA clinic will need 18 months to open (Bremerton Sun)
Inslee opposing new state cleanup plan (Bremerton Sun)
Timber sale near Index will continue (Everett Herald)
Green gorge electricity carrying local costs (Longview News)
Sardine fishing may close on west coast (Longview News)
Financial trouble on mobile home financing (Seattle Times)
Washington hopes to collect online taxes (Spokane Spokesman)
179th St in east Vancouver may be developed (Vancouver Columbian)

So how does this work?

idaho RANDY

Let’s take last week’s Bonneville County Muslin newsletter article – that took Idaho national once again on the subject of fear and loathing of an “other” - from a slightly different angle.

The article in question, “Islam in Idaho,” went out over the name of Doyle Beck, chair of the Bonneville County Republicans, though it apparently was written by another member of the group, Becky Prestwich. An apology to Idaho Muslims reportedly is in the works.

It consisted mainly of four paragraphs. One referred to “Political Correctness [which] is code speak for the ability to silence your critics. I don't believe in it . . . I will vociferously attack egregious political issues and endeavor to let the people I serve know what is happening.”

What that is, came in paragraph two: “It is no secret that the "islamatization" of America is a wide spread fear. . . . And make no mistake; if you are not a Muslim, you are an infidel. Period. Even in Muslim nations there is constant murder of Muslims not of the same flavor. So you have to be the right kind of Muslim, but even that depends on what kind of Muslim attacker you encounter.”

The third paragraph suggests that depictions of Islam in a less harsh way are deceptive.

Here’s the fourth: “So when someone brings to our attention that Muslims are infiltrating even in places like Idaho, we must pay attention. We must demand that our lawmakers and law enforcers pay attention and ascertain whether or not there is a potential threat. Read this article and decide for yourself if we have a potential problem in Idaho. I, for one, believe this is something to take seriously. If you do too, contact your legislators and let them know you expect them to look into this. Please, don't wait until something bad happens.”

So . . . how exactly would this Islamic takeover of Idaho work? Give me the nuts and bolts. What exactly is it that some portion of the Bonneville County Republicans are so concerned is going to happen?

Let’s make this concrete. Are we expected to believe Muslims are going to start winning elective office in Idaho in such numbers as to take over county courthouses, the Idaho legislature and judiciary? Let’s imagine Muslims winning Idaho’s congressional seats, shall we? How about the governor’s office while we’re at it? For all the radio talk show chatter about imposition of Sharia law in America . . . where exactly has that ever been attempted? And how exactly would it happen?

If these horrors are going to happen in Idaho, presumably they would be happening in other states. Which states exactly are those? Where is religious Muslim control ascendant in this country?

Or is this supposed to be a violent takeover? Are we being asked to imagine Muslims behind the Idaho sagebrush, stockpiling weapons to . . . uh, do what exactly? Come on, be specific: What precisely do you expect they – it’s always a “they” - are positioning themselves to do?

The letter is specific enough in one sentence contending, “It is no secret that the ‘islamatization’ of America is a wide spread fear.” There’s plenty of fear being generated, all right, on the radio, by political figures: Fear without basis. There is no threat, no measurable prospect, of a Muslim takeover of any part of this country, even a single county, and much less in Idaho. Making that point doesn’t even contradict the Bonneville letter, so full is it of weasel words: “ascertain whether or not there is a potential threat. . . if we have a potential problem in Idaho . . . something to take seriously. . .. don't wait until something bad happens.” You’ll search in vain for anything resembling specifics: There aren’t any.

There is only the promotion of fear, and people who sense advantage in trying to scare their fellow Americans and fellow Idahoans to death. So I’d suggest posing to the Bonneville County Republicans a question about why they’re so busy trying to terrify Idaho people over a non-existent problem. With that in mind, I suggest:

“Read this article and decide for yourself if we have a potential problem in Idaho. I, for one, believe this is something to take seriously. If you do too, contact your legislators and let them know you expect them to look into this. Please, don't wait until something bad happens.”

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)

Boise considers fast food near high schools (Boise Statesman)
Boise farmers market opens for year (Boise Statesman)
Limitations on mental health treatment in Idaho (IF Post Register)
Legislation approved for STEM education (IF Post Register)
Idaho wolves grow in numbers last year (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Agricultural drone launched in Kendrick area (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
WSU plans for medical school (Moscow News)
Legislators react to transportation money shortfall (Nampa Press Tribune)
Dutch Brothers Coffee comes to Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)

State releases 94,000 Hayes-related e-mails (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune)
Legislature considers tuition again (Eugene Register Guard)
Lakeview faces possible loss of three physicians (KF Herald & News)
Some highways could rise to 75 mph (KF Herald & News)
State IT at risk over outdated software (Pendleton E Oregonian)

Ferries whistleblower nets $1m (Bremerton Sun)
KapStone workers turn down labor deal (Longview News)
Limitations on making hash oil possible (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Fast-track trade authority hotly debated in WA (Olympian)
Court won't block shipping of zoo elephants to Oklahoma (Seattle Times)
Legislators still debating budget bill (Vancouver Columbian)

The Unpublished


It started one day when Roger Plothow, the publisher of the Idaho Falls Post Register daily newspaper, was talking at home about the letters to the editor his paper received, and especially some of those it didn't publish. His son said that might be a good idea for a book.

He was right.

What happened next was that Plothow and his staff collected some of the most, ah, interesting of the letters that didn't make the cut. There's good reason letters like those get a lot of attention in newsrooms, and get passed around and much commented on.

They're entertaining. Highly entertaining.

See The Unpublished page, and order your copy.

So this is the book bringing together many of the letters - they date generally from 2010 up to this year - which get a lot of attention in the newsroom. Some letters were just outright unprintable by any standard (extreme bad taste, libel and so on) and couldn't make even this collection. But quite a few, for one reason or another, just seemed to beg for the light of day. The authors' names were, however, redacted.

It's not that Plothow and his staff have anything else letters to the editor. Quite the contrary: They print a lot of them every year, and prize the interaction with readers. Toward the end of this book, they also selected about a dozen of the best letters they received as examples of how the form can be done well. Many of those well-crafted letters happened to be sharp blasts at the Post Register, just as many of the rejects were. Attitude toward the paper wasn't the dividing line; it had more to do with attitude toward logic and language.

The specific reasons for the rejections, though, aren't noted here, at least letter by letter. Instead, make the judgement for yourself: Should this letter have been rejected, and if so, why? You may find yourself reading through an unexpectedly provocative book.

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)

Ag-gag law reviewed after a year (Boise Statesman)
Otter signs teacher pay, salamander bills (Boise Statesman)
State said Boise Aquarium badly managed (Boise Statesman)
WA House approved budget plan (Lewiston Tribune)
Inslee visits Pullman for clean energy (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Public employees names public during inquiries (Moscow News)
House panel passes cannabis oil measure (Nampa Press Tribune)
More work underway on transportation funding (Nampa Press Tribune)
Apology offered over GOP Muslim article (Pocatello Journal)

Klamath schools see funding problem (KF Herald & News)
A look into subscription scam charges (Medford Tribune)
Unusual ran of auto thefts during March (Medford Tribune)
Unemployment rates continue to fall (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Hayes asking state for help with legal costs (Pendleton E Oregonian)
OSU analysts says Oregon might over-grow pot (Pendleton E Oregonian)
How to make rail oil transport safer? (Portland Oregonian)

Pay raises urged for sheriff, others (Bellingham Herald)
Finance industry sometimes unaware of disasters (Everett Herald)
Cold snap hitting area farms (Kennewick Herald)
Area hospital exec Sy Johnson will resign (Longview News)
WA House clears plan for budget (Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
Federal court bears down on seat over mentally ill (Seattle Times)
Nordstrom shareholder complains over family air fleet (Seattle Times)
Idaho teacher pay increase becomes law (Spokane Spokesman)
Inslee visits Schweitzer energy labs at Pullman (Spokane Spokesman)
Pierce transit hired new CEO (Tacoma News Tribune)

“The Dummies”

carlson CHRIS


EDITOR'S NOTE: Please see below for a response by a reader referred to in this column; and a response from Carlson.

Hollywood has its Oscars; New York has its Emmies and its Pulitzers. Boston has its Eppies. As of today, Medimont has its “Dummies” - a ten inch lead question mark.

Dummies can be awarded anytime, anyplace for any reason at the sole discretion of the awards panel whose identity is kept secret to protect their lives from being ruined by an avalanche of nominations. Idaho has become such fertile ground.

While political in nature, that is not a requirement. The only condition is nominees have to live in Idaho.

The envelopes please.

The first ever winners of a “Dummie” are Idaho State Senators Maryanne Jordan of Boise and Grant Burgoyne of Boise---the two and only members of the Democratic Party on the Senate Judiciary committee. The prize is awarded because, as the Lewiston Tribune’s Marty Trillhaase put it, not only were Republican Senators like Majority Leader Bart Davis, asleep when Governor Otter’s nomination of State Police chief Colonel Ralph Powell to a second term came before them, the two Democrats had to be snoring.

There is no excuse for missing the opportunity to make the ISP Chief and his governor at least be embarassed if not downright ashamed of conduct unbecoming one serving such high offices. This is the police chief who told the media he would be conducting an investigation of Correction Corporation of America’s deliberately over-billing the State of Idaho 26,000 hours for supposed management of the maximum security prison outside of Boise.

A year later, when asked where things stood, he reveals that there was no investigation undertaken because he decided that over-billing was a civil matter, not criminal. Where was Senator Burgoyne, an attorney no less? Isn’t any theft over $500 a felony and by definition criminal? This theft was in the millions.

When did the chief make this decision? Was it ever discussed by he and the governor or any member of the governor’s staff? Did he discuss it with CCA’s lobbyist who just happens to be a former chief of staff for Otter? What did he know and when did he know it?

Why was his renomination not in the original package of Otter’s renomination of his cabinet sent in early January? Why should the public posit any further trust in an ISP Chief who if he truly acted of his own volition is worthy of nomination for a “Dummie” award himself, and if he was directed to do so, is covering for a governor who, like the chief himself, puts personal interests ahead of their public trust?

Some would excuse Senator Jordan as she was just appointed. Perhaps, but she reportedly has a lick of common sense. People wonder why Democrats are so few in number in Idaho and growing fewer? Look no further than this. They cannot take advantage of a golden opportunity even when it slaps them in the face. Snore on.

The second winner of a coveted “Dummie” is State Representative Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, serving her third term. Rarely does one see a legislator so brazeningly vote against the interests of their own district. She voted against funding for the Idaho Youth Ranch near Cottonwood, a facility on the military model that instills discipline and responsibility in wayward youth that can still be turned.

The ranch is a classic example of pay a little now or pay a lot more later - a concept she does not appear to understand. Also, she was one of only a handful of votes against increased funding for education and more pay for teachers. (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)

Otter reviews horse racing bill (Boise Statesman)
Renewed push for Craters of the Moon park (Boise Statesman)
College of Western Idaho looks for more tax funding (Boise Statesman)
Higher speed limits could cause big rig blowouts (IF Post Register)
Republican newsletter offends Muslims (IF Post Register, Pocatello Journal)
Lots of disputes in wake of horse racing bill (IF Post Register)
Lewiston children's home blocks new admissions (Lewiston Tribune)
Inslee signs bill allowing WSU med school (Lewiston Tribune)
Transportation bill alive with Otter out of way (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon sheriff against expanding jail (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nafziger's men's store closing (Nampa Press Tribune)
Simpson, Labrador split on rural funding bill (Nampa Press Tribune)
Air rescue base opens at Portneuf Medical Center (Pocatello Journal)
New concealed carry bill goes to governor (Pocatello Journal)

School funding bill moves from House to Senate (Astorian)
New gun registration bill drawn much debate (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Medford reviews dispensary location rules (Medford Tribune)
New large brewpub planned for Medford (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing property taxes for local data centers (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Extended statute of limitations sought for race (Portland Oregonian)
Hayes looks for funding for legal battle (Portland Oregonian)
Salem Hospital and OHSU near deal (Salem Statesman Journal)

Allegiant Air strike stopped (Bellingham Herald)
Port Orchard cops for justified in shooting (Bremerton Sun)
Deal made for Harrison hospital (Bremerton Sun)
School cameras to be added at Edmonds (Everett Herald)
State auditor doesn't show at legislative hearing (Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Olympian, Longview News)
Sites considered for Manhattan Project Park (Kennewick Herald)
Inslee signs WSU med school bill (Spokane Spokesman, Kennewick Herald)
Snowpack still very low (Kennewick Herald)
Tenino residents march for ousted cop chief (Olympian)
Expedia expected to move from Bellevie to Seattle (Seattle Times)

Nothing new here

peterson MARTIN

Recent actions by some of Idaho’s politicos have attracted attention and comment both within Idaho and, in a couple of instances, in the national media. But the truth is that individuals who have followed Idaho politics over the years may not have liked what they saw, but certainly shouldn’t have been surprised.

The first was Representative Vito Barbieri’s lack of understanding that the female reproductive and digestive systems are not one and the same. It was the statement that launched a thousand jokes across the country, making it one of the most far-reaching actions to take place in the Idaho Legislature this year.

But Barbieri wasn’t the first Idaho legislator to be confused about female reproduction. In the early 1980s, Bill Moore served a stint in the Idaho Senate. Like Barbieri, he was a California transplant who moved to Kootenai County and gained election to the Legislature. During debate on an abortion related bill, Moore famously stated that there was no reason for an exemption for cases of rape, since a woman who had really been raped couldn’t become pregnant. Given their similar backgrounds hopefully the fault lies with their California roots rather than being a reflection of the thinking of their Idaho constituents.

Next comes the outcry over Idaho’s two U.S. Senators, Crapo and Risch, affixing their signatures to a letter to Iran’s leadership concerning the Obama administration’s negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The letter originated with Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas and was co-signed by 47 GOP Senators.

It’s not the first time that southern cotton has divided our country. But for Idahoans, there should be little surprise about members of Idaho congressional delegation being involved. The stage was set for this decades ago.
In 1977, Idaho Congressman Steve Symms, travelled to Libya to negotiate with Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Qaddafi was known as the “mad dog of the Middle East” and an enabler of international terrorism. Symms and Qaddafi both wanted things that they thought the other could help them get. Qaddafi wanted to gain access to a shipment of U.S. military planes for his armed forces. Symms wanted to gain access to Libyan markets for Idaho agricultural products. Both efforts failed.

Speaking of Iran, let’s not forget about Idaho Congressman George Hansen, and his solo diplomatic efforts with Iran. In 1979 revolutionaries took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. Similar to the feeling of today’s 47 Republican Senators concerning executive branch negotiations with Iran, Hansen didn’t like what the Carter administration was doing to free the hostages. In fact he proposed that President Carter be impeached over the issue.

So Hansen made a solo trip to Iran to negotiate with the Iranian government for the release of the hostages. He wasn’t successful and, for the most part, was viewed as something of a nut, which shows how times have changed. Following in the footsteps of Idaho’s two congressmen, 47 Senators now see it as the role of Congress to get directly involved in executive branch negotiations with foreign governments. Who knew that eventually Symms and Hansen would be setting the stage for future actions in U.S. foreign policy?

And, finally, there is the refusal of three Idaho senators, Nuxoll, Vick and Hartog, to sit through a prayer offered by a Hindu cleric. Again, no surprise here. Religious intolerance is nothing new in Idaho. (more…)