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Posts published in April 2017

Idaho Briefing – May 1

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Closed sections of Boise River Wildlife Management Area, will open to public access on May 1. This includes areas impacted by the Table Rock and Mile Marker 14 Fires.

The City of Boise is embarking on a broad “high touch meets high tech” effort to deepen its customer service and enrich its interactions with Boise residents.

The 366th Medical Group at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, will soon begin to make what some may see as drastic changes to the services provided here. The facility will transition from an inpatient hospital to an outpatient clinic by mid-summer.

Blue Lake Rancheria, a century-old Native American reservation in Northern California, has launched its low-carbon community microgrid that is helping power government offices, economic enterprises, and critical Red Cross safety shelter-in-place facilities across 100 acres. In collaboration with Humboldt State University's Schatz Energy Research Center, Siemens, Idaho National Laboratory and additional partners, the microgrid uses decentralized energy resources and intelligent software to provide its residents and economic enterprises with reliable power without interruption.

Salmon fishing seasons are tricky because the run size and fishing seasons vary from year to year based on how many fish return to Idaho and how many hatchery fish are available for sport harvest.

Anderson’s buttercup emerges early taking advantage of native bees & is found in Owyhee Mountains & Bennett Hills. (photo/Bureau of Land Management)

Water Digest – May 1

Water rights weekly report for May 1. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Fracking has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, but accidental spills of fracking wastewater may pose a threat to surface water in the region, according to a new study led by scientists at Duke University.

After a long-running public records battle with a conservation organization, the Utah Division of Water Resources has published online detailed records of water use information around the state.

The California State Water Resources Control Board on April 26 rescinded the water supply “stress test” requirements and remaining mandatory conservation standards for urban water suppliers while keeping in place the water use reporting requirements and prohibitions against wasteful practices.

High water levels at Lake Ontario have resulted in flooding in some areas (the Soda Point area in New York for one example), and questions have arisen about whether water use regulations may have been involved. The managing agency, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, said not.

Does he run?

stapiluslogo1

Political question of the week in Boise seems to be: Will Raul Labrador run for governor?

There’s been a lot of presumption, even as Labrador has held off declaring one way or the other, that he will. He has expressed interest, and since the seat will be open, 2018 would be a time to move.

He may run for it; the decision, of course, is his exclusively. If he does, he’d certainly be a strong contender. But I sense a majority opinion now of political observers who would be less surprised if he passes than if he runs.

Here’s what I might say if I were offering friendly career political advice.

First, Labrador is relatively young (he’s 49) for positioning for the higher offices; not too young, of course, but young enough that he can and should consider more than just the next election cycle or two.

If he runs for governor, he might lose. Large-population primary contests in low-turnout elections can be highly unpredictable, and he would face a candidate with strong establishment support (Lieutenant Governor Brad Little), one who has been campaigning and developing support since 2013 (Russ Fulcher) and a wild card businessman (Tommy Ahlquist) who already has put a good deal of money into name-I.D. direct mail campaigns. I wouldn’t risk any betting money on a race like this. And you never know: Labrador has shown himself to be a smooth and competent campaigner, but people do make mistakes. Labrador got into the House in large part because a 2010 primary opponent made so many of them. And a loss in a gubernatorial race would cut into his political strength.

Labrador also could win; he would bring a significant base of support, and credibly could take the lead in the primary with it. He might serve as governor four years, or eight (12 is of course possible, as the incumbent shows, but unusual). He’d still have time to do something else in politics after that, but what? If you’re a retired governor in Idaho, your options - if you’re not ready to retire - may not seem that attractive after where you’ve been and what you’ve done. And of course, as governor, Labrador would get nowhere near the national attention he’s gotten up to now as a member of Congress.

Or.

He could be on a glide path to the top rung in politics short of the presidency. Odds are he could stay in the House and be re-elected easily for the next several terms. Word is that Senator Jim Risch is unlikely to run for a third term when his current one is up in 2020, and Senator Mike Crapo may not want to serve much longer. Idaho’s other House member, Mike Simpson, has passed on Senate options before. Labrador could slide right in from the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate, a position of larger impact and of elections only every six years.

Besides which, Labrador has not shown much of an interest in running things. The governorship is an executive job, and it might be a less comfortable fit with the kind of legislative mindset Labrador has developed. He wouldn’t be the first legislator-turned-executive to find that the two are quite different.

None of this is to say conclusively that Labrador won’t run for governor. He alone will decide that, and if that’s what he really wants, if nothing else will do, then he can go for it.

But the long pause in signalling his intentions does seem suggestive of second thoughts.

The importance of Harry Huskey

peterson

Last week Harry Huskey died. He was 101. A death largely unheralded in Idaho, but worthy of a half page obituary in the New York Times.

In my mind, he is the most influential person ever to graduate from the University of Idaho. But if he was so influential, why have you never heard of him? Probably because you never tried to find out who was the father of personal computing.

Huskey came to Idaho with his parents when he was 18 months old. They settled on a ranch in Little Lost River, north of Arco. Harry’s father herded sheep and in his youth Harry did as well. The family next moved to Salmon and finally in the midst of the Depression, they moved to Pocatello to give Harry better access to a good education. His parents both had eighth grade educations and they were determined to make him the first in their family to attend college.

After graduating from high school, Harry moved to Moscow to attend the University of Idaho, where he majored in math. He lived in Lindley and Willis Sweet dormitories and graduated with highest honors in 1937. Following graduation from the UI, he received both masters and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University.

In 1946, he was one of the key members of the team that designed and built the ENIAC computer for the Army. The ENIAC was an 18,000 vacuum tube 27 ton behemoth that could perform calculation in 30 seconds that would require 20 hours to do manually.

The next year he moved to Britain where to joined the team led by British mathematician Alan Turing at the National Physical Laboratory. Turing had been the team leader of the top secret project that developed the techniques used to break the German Enigma machines codes and was the subject of the 2014 film, “The Imitation Game.”

At the laboratory, they designed the Automated Computing Engine, better known as ACE. It was one of the first stored-program computers.

Back in the states, Huskey was becoming increasingly recognized for his work in designing computers. At the item, the word computer wasn’t yet in wide use. Huskey used the term “large scale electronic computing machine” to describe his work.

In 1950 he was a guest and contestant on Groucho Marx’ radio quiz program “You Bet Your Life.” A recording of the show is available on You Tube. Listening to Huskey attempt to explain his work to Marx shows the small degree of public awareness of computers at that time. Although Marx makes wonderful use of his wicked sense of humor on the show, he also indicates that he recognizes that Huskey is involved in work that will ultimately have great benefits for mankind.

In 1956, Huskey rose to the zenith of his career. Working for Bendix Aviation, he designed and built the G15 computer. The G15 weighed 950 pounds and was the first computer that could be operated by a single individual. Because it could be operated by a single individual, it is generally recognized as the world’s first personal computer. It sold for $60,000 or could be rented for $1,485 a month.

At a time when the state of Idaho is giving a high priority to trying to figure out how to get more Idaho high school graduates to go on to some level of post-secondary education, they would use Harry Huskey as their poster child. From a childhood of herding sheep to attending the University of Idaho and eventually playing the leading role in the development of the personal computer. And all because his poorly educated parents were determined that he receive something they hadn’t.

There are lessons to be learned in Idaho from Harry Huskey’s experiences in the 1930s.

Loose rules of engagement

jones

It appears that the rules of engagement in Syria and Iraq have been loosened in the last couple of months. That is, air and artillery strikes can be conducted with less consideration of the possibility of harm to civilians and allied forces.

Military spokesmen have been less than forthcoming as to whether the increasing number of civilian casualties and friendly fire incidents are related to a change in policy but the results indicate there has been a loosening of the rules.

According to Airwars.org, a group that monitors civilian deaths caused by airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, over 1,000 civilian deaths were alleged to have resulted from coalition airstrikes during the month of March, a dramatic increase over previous months. This included over 200 deaths in the City of Mosul during the latter part of the month. Airwars said, “These reported casualty levels are comparable with some of the worst periods of Russian activity in Syria,” where the Russians have deliberately bombed civilian targets. Additionally, 18 Syrian fighters allied with the U.S. were killed by our airstrikes in Syria on April 11, a “friendly fire” incident.

Almost 50 years ago (1968-69), I had experience with both loose and tight engagement rules.

For seven months, I led a four-person team whose job was to clear all U.S. air and artillery strikes in Tay Ninh Province, Vietnam. We lived among the South Vietnamese soldiers (ARVNs) and worked with them around the clock in province headquarters. When U.S. forces wanted to shoot artillery or drop bombs, they called us for permission. The northern part of the province, which bordered Cambodia on the north and west, was largely triple-canopy jungle. It was a “free fire” zone and the rules only required that U.S. firepower not endanger U.S. or ARVN troops. The southern part of the province was largely open farm ground with scattered civilian population. To fire in that area, tighter rules required that we also obtain approval from our ARVN counterparts to protect civilians from harm. The tighter rules in the populated area were appropriate, even though we were not able on occasion to give permission to fire.

A complicating factor in the use of U.S. firepower in Iraq and Syria is that often airstrikes are called in, not by U.S. personnel, but by local forces. According to press reports, that was the case with both the Mosul airstrikes and the Syrian friendly fire incident. Recent experience in the region shows that U.S. firepower can be misdirected by locals against rival religious or tribal targets.

The danger is inherent in the battle for Mosul where most of the civilians at risk are Sunnis. Whether true or not, they may believe that a lack of care for civilians is because of ill will, either by the U.S. or by unfriendly Iraqi forces. This is detrimental to the long-term goals of the U.S. in the region.

We must win the hearts and minds of the local people in order to succeed and won’t be able to do it if civilians believe that we are indiscriminately killing their fellow citizens, much like the Russian and Assad forces do. Further, these conflicts are not being fought in isolation. With present-day communications, the world is watching and many young people on the fence in the region and elsewhere are deciding whether to side with us or our adversaries. If we show them we don’t care about the lives of civilians in those countries, they won’t likely be siding with us.

In order to protect innocent civilians and serve our national interests, we should not loosen up the rules of engagement. And, U.S. personnel should act as a check on decisions by local forces to call in U.S. firepower. If our bombs are being dropped, our personnel should be a part of the approval process.

Risch should recuse

richardson

Appearing on last Sunday’s morning news show hosted by the local NBC affiliate, Idaho’s junior senator showed himself yet again to be the most strident of partisans. James Risch, who is a member of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and Intelligence, embarrassed himself fawning over Trump's international escapades. "America is back," he crowed.

Really, Senator?

What about Trump lying about - or not knowing - the whereabouts of the "armada" he sent to provoke his North Korean counterpart? Certainly, that did little to instill confidence in our Asian allies.

What about his declaration that NATO was obsolete? Oh, never mind, that was just a rhetorical frolic during the campaign.

What about the utter hypocrisy of bombing Syria to punish Assad for the inhumanity of using toxic gas on his own citizens, while he himself would sentence desperate refugees to death by banning their entry into our country?

What about Trump's much-touted border wall that treats our neighbor to the south as though all of its people are pariahs?

What about Trump's total ignorance of history and diplomacy that leads him to declare in astonishment that Chinese-North Korean relations are "complicated." Who knew?

What about Trump's desire to blithely walk away from crucial international agreements, like the Iranian nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change?

And what about Trump's gushing tributes to strong men in Russia and Turkey while refusing to so much as shake the hand of Germany's Angela Merkel?

Examples of Trump's utter incompetence in foreign affairs abound. Yet, Risch, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, loudly sings his praises.

No, Senator, America is not "back," because we have a money grubbing, saber-rattling, know-nothing bully in the White House. If anything, America is "back," because hundreds of thousands of Americans are resisting Trump's bellicose, divisive rhetoric and his bumbling, truly dangerous agenda.

Even more troubling is the fact that Risch is a member of the Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the extent to which Russia meddled in our election and whether Trump and his team were complicit. Methinks a Trump lackey like Risch will not be fair or impartial, that he will decide Trump is in the clear no matter the evidence to the contrary. And, increasingly, it’s looking like there will be a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

If America is "back," it is because even in ruby red Idaho ever more people are coming to understand that "leaders" like Risch are not leaders at all, but followers, timid souls who grovel before the likes of Trump. It's time Trump's fanboy recuse himself from the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation. Sadly, we can't trust Risch to put country before party.

The best money can buy

carlson

The New York Times has long had a motto: “All the News that’s Fit to Print.” In this time when increasingly the line between news and entertainment is obscured, supposed “facts” are fabricated, candidates blatantly lie, adversaries engage in a pattern of disinformation, a confused and angry public falls back on listening and believing someone they trust even if the recipient of that trust is untrustworthy.

Exhibit A is Bill O’Reilly, the recently fired Fox News commentator who engaged for a long period in illegal sexual predatory behavior with regard to the women who worked for and with him.

He walked away with a $25 million settlement.

His show’s ratings did not suffer a whit. He was ousted by the results of an independent investigation conducted by a law firm hired by Rupert Murdock. Presumably, Murdock acted because the firm discovered a much longer history and pattern of sordid abuse. That, coupled with advertisers leaving in droves, brought about his downfall.

O’Reilly is a perfect example of someone the gullible public has posited trust in for long time. For these folks the source of news tends to be others who share their beliefs and reinforce their prejudices. O’Reilly reinforced their fear-driven view of the world.

Even a news gathering organization like CNN (Cable News Network) that proclaims in its advertising to be “the most trusted news source” in the world falls short of the full transparency they demand of all others.

How do they and others in the cable news business fall short? They more often than not will pay, sometimes a truly princely sum, for the video of breaking news. Savvy folks with hand held telephone cameras often happen to be at the scene of a police shooting or some other tragedy. They know they have an “exclusive,” as does the news editor sitting at the news assignment desk in Atlanta, New York or D.C.

He or she gets a call from the owner of the exclusive who has quickly compiled the list of phone numbers of major video news companies and literally starts dialing for dollars. The deal is usually reached rapidly and on the air it goes.

Of course there almost never is a disclaimer that has CNN or Fox or MSNBC saying they paid for the footage and how much they paid. Quite simply, the public should be informed when a news organization has paid for video, or has paid the witness to appear on their network.

It would be a good step towards restoring some credibility for tarnished news gathering firms.

Another step would be for the folks at CNN and their competitors to publish the list of non-full time contributors, especially the so-called expert analysts. Regular guests on various programs where “more expertise” is required (such as a military operation) don’t give away that expertise for free. They are paid on a per appearance basis or have an “exclusive” contract that ties them to the news organization.

CNN uses retired Army General Spider Marks for example, and former NATO Commander Wesley Clark as expert commentators. People like former advisor (to President Obama) David Axelrod, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum more likely than not are paid to opine. If a news gathering organization is big on transparency should not it walk the talk?

Sure there are guests who appear who aren’t paid - folks who know they can leverage an appearance into their advertising to differentiate them from their competitors. Probably it may even be a majority of those “talking heads.”

Try to find out whether CNN even has a written policy on this subject, or whether the news editor has a budget he or she can quickly commit to use to buy compelling video. Try to find out if they publish somewhere a list of subcontractors and what they are paid. More likely than not all one can ferret out may be an aggregate number and it will be accompanied by a statement that it is a private business matter.

Furthermore, they’ll say some gobbly-gook about standard business practice.

But it isn’t. Neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times pays one red cent to anyone for the news it prints. They intuitively understand that if a story has received money for outing there’s a natural tendency to play the story long after the legs may have dropped off.

The Times can still claim that it true to its motto. The video cable news networks sadly can only say they are bringing to their viewers the “best news that money can buy.”

A matter of face

mckee

The Western cultures have misunderstood and underestimated the Oriental societies – China, Japan and the Koreas – and their levels of civilization, culture, political objectives and abilities for centuries. Some think we are no better at it today than the followers of Marco Polo and Jorge Alvares were in the 1500’s. As we watch the evolving failures in our attempts to meet the crisis presented by North Korea developing a nuclear threat of world class proportions, one wonders.

This tiny country, sometimes referred to as a hermit kingdom, has an economy that staggers along at the bottom of the bottom quartile, completely beholden to China for its basic existence. Its GDP, when last measured, was an estimated $25 billion in 2015 (compared with South Korea currently approaching $2.0 trillion) placing it 125th in the world (compared with South Korea at 11th.) The two nations were approximately equal in 1970.

Yet North Korea today possesses a nuclear capability second only to the major world powers in its ability to construct weapons. It has a refined intermediate range ballistic missile capable of reaching Japan and the U.S. military bases there, as well as any target in South Korea, and is on the brink of refining an inter-continental range delivery missile, capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States.

But to what end? While it might deliver a single weapon or two at these ranges, it has no capacity to sustain a nuclear attack on multiple targets, or to defend against the predicted mass retaliation that would result if it started something. We classify it with terrorist nations, but it has not sponsored terrorist activities itself since an airline disaster over 30 years ago, and has no apparent intention of doing so now. It does not consider itself an imperialistic nation nor is it beholden to any controlling religion. According to some close observers, the motive for the hermit kingdom’s quest is not to actually mount any attacks on South Korea, Japan or the United States, but merely to hold this power and this capability as a safeguard for their leader, first Kim Jong-il, now his son, Kim Jong-un, so he will not see the same end as Qaddafi in Libya or Hussein in Iraq.

To the mind of the North Korean, their strong nuclear capability is security; it is the only reliable guaranty of the country’s basic sovereignty, to ensure the continued Communist control and the rule of its despotic leader, Kim Jong-un. Once established, the maintenance of this position becomes a matter of “face,” a concept that does not translate accurately and Westerners have difficulty understanding. In this area, we appear to be missing it completely.

The United States keeps tripping over itself in missing or ignoring the Oriental concept of face, and the necessity of saving face, and the abhorrence of losing face in any transaction. From 1992 through 2002, North Korea was a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and there were no problems – at least not in this area. But it had aligned itself with Russia during the cold war fallowing the Korean Truce agreements, and this eventually lead George W. Bush to lump North Korea into the “axis of evil” countries in a speech he delivered in 2002. In the face of this insult, and with nowhere to turn, North Korea announced it was pulling out of the NPT and no longer considered itself bound.

When the U.S. started the Iraq war to upset Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il, father of Kim Jong-un and then leader of North Korea, disappeared for close to two months. Later, observers said he feared an assassination attempt from the United States.

From 2003 through 2009, North Korea reluctantly participated in multinational talks to attempt to resurrect the nonproliferation treaty. All during this time, North Korea was requesting unilateral talks with the United States, which would be consistent with the North Korean objective of being treated with the prestige due a world member of the nuclear club, and clearly an element of “face.” But the United States refused, and would only meet with North Korea in multinational conference. Finally the talks broke down in 2009, with officials from Pyongyang declaring that North Korea would never return to multilateral conferences. The United States has remained just as adamant that it will not participate in unilateral talks with North Korea. This stalemate continues to this day.

Into this background, Secretary of State Tillerson arrived and arranged a state visit to South Korea during the time of the annual joint military exercises. These exercises, which are an annual event for South Korean and U.S. forces in country, are typically based on defensive operations against aggression from the north. This year, however, they included several exercises involving hypothetical missions into the far north by special operations teams, to cut off or neutralize North Korean leadership. The change in mission structure was not missed by North Korean watchers.

In a speech in South Korea, Tillerson said that the United States was about to embark upon a “different approach” with North Korea, as the efforts of the past 20 years had failed. He said he was traveling to South Korea, Japan and China seeking views on the new approach. He did not, however, approach anyone from North Korea, nor in any way solicit their view on what was needed. According to the New York Times reports, he concluded his remarks by saying that he hoped to “deepen cooperation among the United States, Japan and South Korea ‘in the face of North Korea’s dangerous and unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs.’” He has provided no details.

Most recently, Tillerson ruled out reopening any negotiations directly with North Korea, stating, “The policy of strategic patience has ended.” He advised that capitulation by North Korea in denuclearizing and giving up their weapons was the only acceptable step.

To anyone paying attention, the demeaning and condescending aspect of the United States’ position towards North Korea as it has unfolded over the years seem obvious. If face was important, as it surely would have been, we consistently ignore that facet in our manner of action; we were and are and have been, in a word, the Ugly American personified. We are accustomed to being the world’s cop, or thinking that we are such, and having nations listen and obey to what we say. We manhandled North Korea over the years in the manner we bullied every minor country of lesser significance, and economic standing and totally dependent upon richer neighbors. We justify this by insisting that we were in the right; our interests were pure, justice was on our side, and world peace depended upon us. We could not be bothered with the arcane, inscrutable, and to us totally irrelevant, mysteries of saving face.

Except we must. It should be obvious that with very minor adjustments in the manner and timing of communications, the United States could convey exactly the same messages to North Korea, provide it with ample assurance of its sovereignty and the security of its leaders, and do so in a manner that allows the country and its leaders to “save face” and not “lose face,” as it complies with the world demands on nuclear proliferation.

At least, it would be worth a try. Do you suppose anyone will catch on before it’s too late?

Lying has changed history

rainey

I’m a “repeat offender” when it comes to criticizing the national media. There’s so much wrong there that at least some of my anger must have some merit. This time, the whole mess of ‘em are mucking through something that will, eventually, change us all as consumers.

Having been a very small part of it many years ago, I learned a lot and am happy for the opportunity - lucky to have had the experience. Maybe that’s a big part of why I use this space to rant against some of the current practitioners from time to time. “Been there. Done that.” So, when they screw up, it touches a reflexive nerve which brings out the angry reaction. I’ve got one of those reactions going now. But, this time it’s different. Angry AND uncertain.

Not many in today’s media crowd were around in the ‘50's and ‘60's when I was learning the craft. Their early training and mine are a couple of generations apart. Oh, some of the basics are still the same i.e. who, what, where, when, why and how. Still gotta have all that.

Then we - and they as youngsters - went through the Watergate era where the most prized reporting came to those doing “investigative journalism.” Woodward, Bernstein, Mike Wallace et al. Dig out the dirt, confront the bad guys and make major headlines. Or a 10 minute “package” leading the evening’s national TV news. Journalism turned a sharp corner then, and the “who, what, where...” guys largely disappeared. So did a lot of “getting it right” with facts before being the bearer of constantly “breaking news.” Damn, how I hate that phrase!

Now, another “sharp corner” is being turned. Labeling public officials - up to and including the President of the United States - liars. Which - on a daily and often hourly basis - he, and nearly all the appointed minions who “speak” for him, are. Without question.

Most of the “street” reporters in the national media are less than 50-years-old. Such training as they received was much different than us older types had in the ‘50's, ‘60's and ‘70's. That - and Trump”s continuing reprehensible public conduct - has resulted in a very different “code of conduct” between them and news makers.

Case in point: Richard Nixon. I didn’t like Nixon when he was in Congress in the ‘50's. He was a liar then, just as he was in the presidency. He felt persecuted, disrespected, undervalued and cursed with being a perpetual “outsider” in Washington. All of which he carried into the White House years later.

My limited, working contact with him was usually as a weekend reporter or subbing for regular, daily beat reporters. Also had a couple of minor personal occasions to be in his presence. Each time, my innards churned with disrespect. A lot of contemporaries felt the same. But nearly all of us played our different roles professionally and - all in all - until Watergate, respectfully. If not for him, then for the office. But we knew he often lied. Big time.

Now, the next generation of reporters is faced with Donald Trump - the most unqualified, unprepared, unskilled and biggest misfit ever to hold the office of President. To that can be added his penchant for distortion and outright lying on a daily basis. And, his selection and use of people equally unskilled at their jobs who share the same distasteful habit of publically - and often - speaking “truth” as they see fit to create it.

Trump operated in the same dishonest manner for nearly two years of the national campaign. For a long time, he wasn’t openly challenged for his regular, daily “untruths” by a media not used to dealing with an openly confident, perpetual liar at that level.

Then, editors and others in charge of content for broadcasters and print, had to make some decisions. Should they continue to avoid or soft-pedal the daily torrent of lies and, thus, become complicit in passing them on to viewers and readers as fact? Should they employ fact-checkers and give the job of separating truth from fiction to them? Or, should they step outside the boundary of simply reporting and call the torrent of lies what they were? Lies!

Though the media is currently held in very low esteem by much of the American public, I can tell you, from experience, a lot of good scotch and considerable bourbon was consumed, a lot of sleep was lost and a lot of professional soul-searching was done by some very dedicated people. To openly challenge the voices and the blatant lies would forever change the honored - and mostly respected - balance between government officials and media. The relationship would never be the same.

The resulting decision for nearly all media has been to label this administration’s lies for what they are - lies. Not just once in awhile. Not just when the lie is a big one. Not just for spite. Not just for anybody but the President. A lie is a lie is a lie is a lie. Anytime. And anyone.

To my mind, this puts us on a whole new path. Those who persist in lying are going to be called on it - regardless of who they are. At least nationally. And the national media, once simply an institutional reporting source, has become a daily arbiter of fact.

Will this continue when Trump and his minions are gone? No one knows. But, that sweeping difference in one of our most significant national institutional relationships is what exists today.

I’m not comfortable with that. But it is what it is.

Clean bills, and other things

A guest opinion from Craig Gehrke of The Wilderness Society, in Boise.

Upon its return from the Easter recess Congress has only until April 28 to finally pass a federal budget bill for the remainder of this fiscal year – 5 months - and avoid another government shutdown.

One of the surest ways to pass a budget bill is to keep it “clean,” i.e. no unrelated policy “riders” that have nothing to do with the budget but are generally too unpopular to pass on their own. Too often Congress loads up “must pass” legislation like budget bills to get their own controversial proposals enacted.

For example:

Yet again, extremists are trying to tear down the Antiquities Act, which authorizes the president to designate national monuments. This law has enjoyed bipartisan support and a century-long record of success. A rider (Sec. 453) would make it harder for communities to collaborate and ask the president to protect places they care about.

One rider (Sec. 122) would force the construction of an unnecessary road through designated wilderness in Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, damaging the heart of globally significant wildlife habitat and undermining the Wilderness Act. This project has been rejected by Congress and the courts multiple times, and would set a dangerous precedent.

Riders are inappropriate on spending legislation and have no place in a must pass funding bill to keep our government running. Republicans control Congress and the White House - they could move these policies through regular order if they wanted to. Allowing for public debate on these policies is the responsible thing to do. The fact that they are trying to sneak these damaging policies through as riders on must pass appropriations legislation shows how unpopular they are on both sides of the aisle.

Idaho cannot endure another government shutdown this spring, which would idle employees of the U.S. Forest Service. There are already scores of landslides and road failures across Idaho’s national forests, bleeding mud into Idaho’s rivers and blocking recreationists. And its only April. Across much of Idaho, record-setting snowpack will be melting over the coming weeks, compounding the problems with road failures. We need the Forest Service on the job to jump on these landslides to clear them, protect fish habitat and restore recreational access to the national forests. Without the Forest Service on the job to deal with landslides as they happen, there’s a good chance the sheer number will prove overpowering and popular backcountry roads will be closed for the upcoming recreational season.

Case in point: the Forest Service has counted over 60 snow slides along the Selway Road (#6223), the sole access for recreationists floating the renowned Selway River. While the agency won’t know the extent of road damage caused by the avalanches until they melt, you can bet debris removal will be a major undertaking. The Forest Service shouldn’t be kept off the job, victims of petty political maneuvering in Washington D.C.

We hope that Congressman Simpson and Senators Crapo and Risch will advocate for passing a clean budget bill. And we hope they oppose including damaging anti-conservation riders, which have no place in must-pass spending legislation and undermine the budget-setting process.

Idaho Briefing – April 23

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

President Donald J. Trump signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration on April 21 for 11 southern Idaho counties, triggering the release of federal funds to help communities repair public infrastructure damaged by severe winter storms and related flooding from February 5 through March 3.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent in March, down one tenth of a percent from 3.6 percent in February.

The University of Maryland will continue operating its Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics – or TRIGA – research reactor thanks to lightly irradiated fuel provided by the U.S. Department of Energy site in Idaho.

Soon the Fort Hall Replica, Bannock County Historical Museum, and Pocatello Junction will be under the same umbrella.

On Earth Day, April 22, science enthusiasts joined to show their support for science with a national march in Washington D.C. and satellite events around globe. In Boise, hundreds of supporters will meet at the Idaho State Capitol at 10:30 am for speakers and then march through the streets of downtown Boise. Speakers include professional scientist working in agriculture, medicine, climate, engineering, and education.

PHOTO High revenue levels on the Boise River have damaged parts of the Boise Greenbelt, and parts of its bike path have been closed to public access pending repairs. (photo/Boise Police Department)

Water digest – April 24

Water rights weekly report for March 20. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

Voters in the Blackfeet Nation on April 21 voted in favor of the Blackfeet Water Compact and Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act.
It was the last step in putting the agreement into action. That measure had been approved last year by Congress and was signed by President Barack Obama. Under its terms, water rights for the six drainages which are on the reservation will be held by the tribe.

A report released on April 18 argues that environmental water use rules in California have had severe costs for human water users across the Delta region. The document was prepared by David L. Sunding for the Committee for Delta Reliability and the Southern California Water Committee.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources will be making an extensive effort to measure water levels in wells in the Prescott Active Management Area and the Verde Basin. Every year the Department’s field services technicians collect water levels in a statewide network of about 1,600 to 1,800 “index” wells that have typically been measured annually over the last several decades. There are roughly 250 groundwater index wells measured annually or semi-annually in the Prescott AMA/Verde Basin region.

The 2017 public review draft of Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy is now available for public comment. A briefer summarizes what’s new in this 2017 version and opportunities to comment. You can also view the “Note to Reader” section at the beginning of the document to help orient you to what elements are new to this version, where to locate new sections or recommended actions, and what to expect for the remainder of 2017.