"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Not Northwest in scope, but it seems appropriate to mention it here anyway:

I’ve been added as a contributing writer for a new organization called BookWorks, a group set up in association with Publishers Weekly and other national organizations, to help self-publishing and small-scale publishers in the new book publishing environment. I’ll be one of three regular contributors to the group’s blog, and my first post is up there this morning.

This one happens to be about the selection of chapter titles (something I’ve worked with several authors in developing), but the subjects will vary widely as we go ahead.

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This is an excerpt from the Ridenbaugh Press book Transition, by W. Scott Jorgensen. More will be appearing over the weeks to come. The book is available now from Ridenbaugh Press.

October 2010

When I started to think hard about leaving Grants Pass, one of the first people I met with was Carl Wilson. Over the years, he had become like a second father to me.

We met at the Bluestone Bakery in downtown Grants Pass. It was surprisingly quiet, as the sun was shining brightly and the Growers’ Market was underway just a few blocks down the street. Carl pulled up on one of his many motorcycles and we took a table outside. The coffee shop was almost completely empty.

For more than two years, I had been responsible for booking the Wednesday talk shows at the radio station, as well as the Tuesday shows that Carl hosted. I always tried to book the shows about a month in advance in order to allow for adequate preparation, and was already working on November’s schedule. As such, one of my first orders of business was to tell Carl that I was leaving town, and would be unable to continue booking and hosting the show.

He listened patiently as I gave him the rundown on what was happening.

“Sometimes it’s all right to take a leap of faith,” he said.
Though I was no longer working at the paper, I was still doing the Wednesday talk shows on KAJO. This worked out well for me. Packing and making all of our moving arrangements would have been a nightmare if I were still commuting 45 minutes each way to work eight, 10 and 12-hour days in Cave Junction.

I was doing a show one day when I received a text from my longtime friend Robert. It stated that he wanted to “beat me to a pub.”

Because of my busy work schedule, I had rarely seen Robert or my other friends since they had helped me move from Cave Junction back to Grants Pass nearly a year before.

“What’s this about ‘beat you to a pub’?” I asked Robert as we sipped beer and played a game of pool. We were joined by his girlfriend, Nirvana, and our friend Tim.

Robert responded that every Wednesday, he and our other friends all received their unemployment benefits. The first one to wake up texts the others the location of a chosen pub, and the last to arrive buys the first round of drinks.

This was probably happening all over the place, as the national unemployment rate was at 9.5 percent. Josephine County’s seasonally adjusted rate was at 13.8 percent.

Although it was nice to see my friends again, I was saddened by the whole situation. They had all clearly seen better days. Robert had actually been my manager at the portrait studio in the mall. Now he was reduced to seeking multiple part-time minimum wage jobs just to get by.

We left to go play a round of disc golf at the park. Disc golf is pretty popular in Oregon, and involves tossing Frisbees into baskets. Now unemployed, I could do as I wanted, and I relished the opportunity provided by the nice warm weather.

I also had the time to make multiple donations to Goodwill and took maximum advantage of our last month of trash and recycling service.

As I sorted through my possessions, I came across the box containing many of my old newspaper clippings. This was essentially all I had to show for my entire career. If I had any interest in maintaining a career in journalism, I may have been less reluctant to empty that box. But it was more of a reminder of the frustrations I had experienced in my eight years as a professional.

I saved just enough clippings to prove that I had worked at some of these publications, or that they had ever existed, and proceeded to toss the vast majority of them in the recycling bin.

Going through my stuff even gave me the chance to check the status of the dress clothes I wore while working as a legislative aide at the state capitol in Salem during the 2005 session. But being married and regularly fed, and quitting smoking, had helped me put on some weight, and none of my old shirts or blazers fit me anymore. I didn’t want them anyway, as they all reeked of desperation, failure and stale cigarette smoke. But I was sure that the folks at Goodwill wouldn’t mind having them, so I went by and made a donation.

My last few days in Grants Pass were spent visiting as many of my old friends as I could. That included Dave Ehrhardt, the former publisher of two local weekly papers where I had worked.
One of my last errands was to purchase a yearbook from my stint at Grants Pass High School. I stopped by to pick it up, and the lady at the bookkeeper’s office said she recognized my name from the radio show. She said that she listened regularly, enjoyed it, and was sad to see me go.

Our move began with a quick up-and-back trip to our new house, located outside of Vancouver, Washington, using the opportunity to take in some live music.

Until this point, I had been to Vancouver approximately once. As such, I spent awhile driving around in circles, hopelessly lost.

While exploring my new surroundings, I couldn’t help but notice all the different political signs. I didn’t recognize any of the names on them, so contrary to what I was used to. I was more accustomed to driving down the street talking to candidates on my cell phone about the placement of their signs: “Hey, it looks like you need some more signs on Highland Avenue. ‘D’ Street looks pretty good, though.”

I eventually found where I was going and dropped off the boxes we had already packed. There were now a few hours to kill before the Suicidal Tendencies concert I planned to attend later that evening at the Roseland Theater. Luckily, I had friends in Portland, so I phoned one of them, Josh, and went over to his place on Northeast Alberta Street. We were joined by another friend, Bobby, and spent a few hours hanging out, and then I headed downtown for the concert.

The first time I had been at the Roseland was in 2000, to see Sonic Youth. Because I was only 20 years old at the time, I couldn’t sit at the top section, as it had beer gardens and was reserved for those of legal drinking age. But now, I was able to join the adults and watched from above as the young and fearless circled in the mosh pit. I was definitely too old for that anymore.

Suicidal Tendencies put on a great show that night.

The weekend seemed to offer me a snapshot of the new life I hoped to establish. I could spend my weekdays working from 9 to 5 and my weekends going to concerts in the city. I was still dazzled by the possibilities as I hit Interstate 5 the next morning and drove south to Grants Pass.

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This is an excerpt from the Ridenbaugh Press book Transition, by W. Scott Jorgensen. More will be appearing over the weeks to come. The book is available now from Ridenbaugh Press.

The parking lot was full when I pulled up to Elmer’s Restaurant, the usual meeting place for the Josephine County Republican Women. The November 2010 midterm election was days away, and many of the cars at Elmer’s had bumper stickers endorsing various candidates.

I was there to speak, and it would be my farewell to Grants Pass. I had just quit my job at the local weekly newspaper and my last radio program had just aired. All of my worldly possessions were already packed.

I had several things to say. But first, I had two good friends to talk with, and about.

Josephine County Deputy District Attorney Wally Hicks was the first of the two to show up. He had been a friend for a few years, and had run unopposed for a seat in the state House of Representatives in the May primary election.

Wally’s resume was so impressive that nobody wanted to run against him for the Republican nomination. The Democrats couldn’t field a candidate, and his only opponent in the general election was from the Constitution Party.

I rose to shake his hand, at which point Wally took the seat immediately to my left. Typically in politics, you don’t have friends, only allies. But Wally was a remarkable exception to this rule, and I was actually quite fond of him.

Wally’s mother had been a reporter for several years while he was growing up, so he attended various political events at a very young age. This undoubtedly left a big impression on my good friend.

We had met a few years back at the Dorchester Conference, a statewide gathering of Republicans held each year in Seaside. That town is located on the Northern Oregon coast, a couple of hours west of Portland. Back then, Wally was attending law school at the University of Oregon. He came to Dorchester with a friend who had interned with a Congressional campaign that I worked on in 2004.

I was immediately impressed. Within a few hours of meeting Wally, I and many of my Dorchester friends were clamoring for him to run for office.

For a moment, it seemed that we had convinced him to take on the longtime incumbent Congressman that we had failed to unseat. But in the morning, Wally did not share our recollection of his commitment to the race.
Wally joined the U.S. Marine Corps straight out of high school. He even celebrated his 18th birthday at boot camp.

In 2004, Wally served in the Iraq War. He returned to the states and worked as a volunteer law clerk at the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation before going to law school.

Once he graduated from law school and arrived in Grants Pass, Wally immediately began prosecuting high-profile cases involving child arsonists and juveniles who had broken into the local animal shelter and killed some puppies. He had impressed enough of the right people to garner tremendous support after announcing his candidacy for state representative.

My father had been a Marine, like Wally, and I was a reporter just like his mother. I think this is part of why we connected so easily and seemed to understand each other so well.

A few minutes after Wally arrived at Elmer’s, we were joined by Simon Hare.

Simon grew up in Cave Junction, a small town located about half an hour west of Grants Pass, and left after graduating from Illinois Valley High School. He went to Washington D.C., where he interned at the office of U.S. Senator Gordon Smith and spent several years working as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association.

After moving back to Josephine County, Simon wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but at the time, an incumbent county commissioner was up for re-election. The local Republican Party was eager to replace him, but didn’t have any particular candidates in mind.

I remember receiving the call at my newspaper office that they had found their guy, at which point Simon and I were put in touch with each other. We met at a restaurant in Cave Junction, along with his father Denny, to discuss his candidacy, and became fast friends.

Both Simon and Wally launched their campaigns shortly after we all met for dinner at my house one night. On his way out to my place, Wally had received a call from the outgoing state representative for Grants Pass, and was informed that he had the man’s blessing to pursue the position.

Shortly after we met to discuss both races, Wally and Simon filed their paperwork and began their races in earnest, and I dutifully reported on it all.

It was nice for both of my friends to show up at my farewell address, and it meant a lot to me. They were, after all, the primary subjects of my speech, which was entitled “A New Generation of Leadership.”

We talked among ourselves and mingled with the other attendees for a while. Then it was time for me to say a few words.

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The Intermediary, the fascinating and remarkably detailed story by Orofino historian Lin Tull Cannell of William Craig and his unique role in the development of the early Northwest, came out a couple of years ago when it was published by Ridenbaugh Press. Now we’re pleased to offer a couple of additions.

Lin has developed two more pieces available for free download. You can get them on the Intermediary web page or right here.

One is an index to the book, which Lin had contemplated earlier and now is available. (Note: the Index is based on books with print date 20 August 2012. The pagination is different in the earlier versions.)

The other is an errata sheet.

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The last half-decade has been an economically rough time for a lot of people, and some of them are precisely the people who under usual circumstances would be moving into key positions in our society. The catch is, in a time of high joblessness and diminished mobility, that has proven harder than usual for many of them to do.

Although, some of them do it anyway.

That subject generally is what our latest book, Transition by Scott Jorgensen, is about. (Its book page is here.) In it, Jorgensen talks about his own experience, one not wildly unusual in recent years.

Graduated from college about a decade ago, he continued (as he had since high school days) through a sequence of jobs, some in journalism and others in politics. (He has been involved in a number of Republican campaigns.) Then, after departing one in Josephine County about four years ago, the well seemed to dry – abruptly. He spent month after month, after month, looking for new work. It was not easy to find, and the difficulty took its toll.

The story has a happy ending, in that he did eventually find work, and now works for the Oregon House Republican Caucus. But his story is broader than simply one person’s scramble to find a place; many people are or have been in similar, or tougher, spots.

There’s some good food for thought here in what Jorgensen writes. It’s commended to your attention.

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These days most written works of history – those atleast going back more than just a few decades – mostly are reliant on the written record. Writers go back over what’s been written about the subject before, consult material from the times, original documents and first-person accounts where they’re available. But mostly, writing history that runs back beyond living memory involves going through the paperwork and, if the writer is very lucky, finding some new paperwork no one has seen before, or maybe finding a new interpretation of it.

In writing the new book Diamondfield about the life and tribulations of Jack Davis, Max Black has gone through the written record, and found both new interpretations and masses of new records that no one – neither of the two previous authors who wrote at book length about Davis’ murder trial and legal case – has examined before, not since the 19th century at least. That along is reason enough for a re-examination of the case.

But Black also did something more remarkable. He tracked down the location – information never positively determined for more than a century, and thought to be lost – where the murders in question took place. He found in the ground there one of the bullets involved in that shooting, a bullet that an expert concluded had been there for more than a century. And he found a gun that was involved. And quite a bit more long thought to be lost and irretrievable.

This is a remarkable piece of detective work, more than reason enough why I’m pleased to be publishing this book.

The Diamondfield Jack case may be unfamiliar to you if you’re not an afficianado of the Old West, but anyone interested in the time and place will pick it up immediately. The context was the great cattle and sheep conflict (between opposing ranchers, not the animals) around the 1880s in south-central Idaho. (There were other similar conflicts, range wars really, in Wyoming and elsewhere.) The shootings of two sheep herders was the trigger for the case; Jack Davis was a gunman employed by the cattle interests, and accused of the killings. The two men were in fact killed by cattle workers, but not by Davis, and the Davis murder case dragged on for years, even years after two other men had themselves confessed to the killing. Davis came within minutes of being hanged, before eventually receiving a pardon. He left Idaho, and went on to a remarkable life in Nevada and elsewhere around the west.

The story long has been poorly understood, and the reasons for it tell a lot about early Idaho and how it developed as it did. Black, after putting together more of the pieces than anyone had before, lays it all out in clear fashion.

Max Black doesn’t come to this by professional circuits. A long-time Boisean, he served in the Idaho Legislature for a couple of decades, and in his private life worked in insurance. But he brought to his search for the facts an unusual determination, and that was enough to unearth what no one had before.

What he’s come up with here is a book worth reading for what it says about Idaho, for what it says about the old west, for what it says about one of the country’s most notorious murder cases, and what it says about what determination in search of the facts and the truth really can do.

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The Andrus Center, named for the former Governor Cecil Andrus and aimed at providing educational events on public affairs, has opened an intriguing new location – across the street from Boise’s Grove Hotel, on the southern side of downtown, and across another street from a large new supermarket. Its location on Capitol Boulevard will be high-visibility.

Around-Idaho travelers Chris Carlson and I, running around the state on our book tour (Chris’ book are Medimont Reflections and Andrus, mine with Marty Peterson the Idaho 100), had a chance to check out the new digs, just being transferred from a location on the Boise State University campus. There’s a real chance this could become a major venue for some high-profile events in months to come, and conversation seemed to be leaning in that direction.

We were there at a book signing and talking event, introduced by the center’s director, David Adler, and Andrus himself. As elsewhere, we attracted not mobs of people but a substantial number, enough to make for another nice event.

Next stop on the road, tonight, will be at Ketchum, at an event hosted by former state Representative Wendy Jaquet.

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After a fine stop at Lewiston, Chris Carlson and I continued on Sunday headed south to Boise.

Sunday afternoon we had a fine flash-neighborhood gathering at White Bird, where Chris had some friends. At a house overlooking the Salmon River (and depending on the flow, sometimes right on top of it), people gathered and talked and … bought books.

Today we’re in Boise; our main book event today will be at the Andrus Center at 301 S Capitol. Tomorrow, on to Ketchum and beyond.

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An edited excerpt from Chris Carlson’s new book, Medimont Reflections, about the idea of breaching Snake River dams – and the effect on Lewiston.

Ed Chaney has been correct all along. So has my Columbia classmate, Pat Ford. From their first appearances before the Northwest Power Planning Council in 1981, through all the intervening years in interviews, articles, lawsuits, and speeches, each has consistently said that the best science says and will always say that the only real solution to restoring native salmon and steelhead runs to their former state, as required by the Northwest Power Planning Act, is to breach the four lower Snake River dams.

Supporters of the status quo and of leaving the dams in place like to point out that in terms of sheer numbers of the various runs of returning salmon and steelhead, the count is up and still rising. This is of course due to the large amount of supplementing the runs with hatchery-raised fingerlings and smolts.

Chaney points out that one should only examine the numbers of wild fish, which continue to steadily decline.

Chaney and Ford believe the law as reflected by and through the Northwest Power Planning Act and the Endangered Species law requires the restoration of the wild runs of salmon and steelhead. They insist these runs represent a distinct and separate gene pool that is declining.

On the face of it, their contention the dams continue to damage and facilitate decline appears incontestable. Courts appear also to agree with them as they have successfully petitioned to have most of the so-called “Bi-ops” developed by the Corps, the Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA and Bonneville Power Administration invalidated.

Breaching the dams is therefore the only measure not tried yet to restore and enhance the runs. What seals the deal, however, are the economic arguments for breaching the dams.

There are 31 federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers which produce 60 percent of the region’s hydroelectricity. The power produced by the four lower Snake dams is about 1 percent of the overall production. BPA of course sells and distributes this power.

Due to the several laws guiding BPA’s management of this “federal base system,” the agency also funds and manages a fishery enhancement program whose goal is, as the law requires, protecting, mitigating and enhancing the runs.

In March, I asked the agency’s public communications office to provide me with an estimate of how much money they have expended to meet the law’s requirement for the 11-year period of 2002 through 2012.

The total number is a staggering $7.35 billion, or an average of $677 million a year, with little, if any, progress being made in enhancing and protecting the wild runs.

Subtract the breaching costs from that figure and cease funding all of the fruitless efforts underway and the region’s ratepayers would be billions ahead shortly.

The next unsound economical entity is the Port of Lewiston itself. Sold by its boosters that it was going to be the catalyst of an economic rebirth for Lewiston, it has been nothing of the sort. Boosters of the port sold Nez Perce County voters a bill of goods, saying that a local option sales tax would be short-lived and retired.

Fifty years later the tax is still on the books. Face it — the Port of Lewiston is a heavily subsidized operation that will never pay for itself. The citizens of Lewiston and Nez Perce County would be far better off shutting it down and supporting dam breaching as their preferred path back to real prosperity.

Another reason that should galvanize support for dam breaching is the likelihood of a 10-year flood event inundating Lewiston’s downtown core. In large part due to the rapid buildup of silt in and around the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, water is already well above the street level in the downtown.

The levees constructed by the Army Corps were designed (there’s that engineering word again) to have a 7- to 8-foot margin above the anticipated highest level of the water. Today it is much closer to a 2- to 3-foot margin.

Meteorologists and other government agency forecasters, when pressed, will admit that a 10-year flood event, such as heavy snow in the mountains followed by a surge in temperature with a commensurate heavy rain that could bring most of the mountain moisture cascading down the Clearwater could easily inundate the city.

Lewiston City officials will also concede their ability to remove that amount of water is virtually nonexistent. For all practical purposes, the water would be trapped on the inside and it might take weeks to remove it by various siphoning methods. The damages would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and insurance would not begin to cover the rebuilding cost.

This is not a case of if; it is rather a matter of when.

The Corps response is to propose a massive dredging program for the next 50 years. By law the Corps is required to maintain a channel behind Lower Granite dam, just downstream from the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, that is 14 feet deep and 250 feet wide to facilitate barge access to the Port of Lewiston.

It’s not happening, folks.

Needless to say, the rapid accumulation of river-borne sediment will significantly add to the cost and the subsidies necessary to keep the port open and to operate the dams.

Kooskia resident and environmental activist Linwood Laughy estimates the 10-year cost of the taxpayer subsidy necessary to keep the port of Lewiston open would be $39 million — and the sedimentation accumulation would still continue.

He believes each fully loaded barge leaving the infrequently used Port of Lewiston leaves with a taxpayer subsidy of $19,000 reflecting the dredging and sediment management activities.

Virtually the only option left to comply with the Northwest Power Planning Act and the Endangered Species Act appears to be breaching and it is just a matter of time — unless of course those who want to save the dams can muster the political support to amend the Power Act and the ESA law. Such a prospect is highly unlikely.

So as a region let’s face up to the inevitable and get on with breaching the four dams.

A pure guess is that the breaching of the four lower Snake River dams would be somewhere between $500 million and $1.5 billion. This is a huge chunk of change, but still represents less than 20 percent of the costs incurred by BPA over the first decade of this century trying to enhance the native salmon and steelhead runs.

In this period of diminishing federal resources as the nation tries to get a handle on its deficit spending challenge, however, the cost benefits derived from adopting the last, best chance for real fishery enhancement are overwhelmingly compelling.

Add to that the cost avoidance of the flooding out of Lewiston and the elimination of shipping subsidies and breaching is a no-brainer.

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Medimont Reflections with shipping

Ridenbaugh Press has a number of books scheduled for release in the next few months, and today we’re pleased to lead off with a book of reflection and analysis by one of our regular columnists, Chris Carlson.

Chris’ Medimont Reflections, available now from this site (and soon locally around the Northwest), is a followup on his last book, a biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson’s take on Idaho politics over the years, the Northwest energy planning council, top environmental issues and much more.

The first review, from Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman, is out today. Popkey called it “a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho…. Carlson, who lives in the Kootenai County hamlet of Medimont, writes a newspaper column and has larded his 13 chapters with opinions. He says the council should be abolished because of its failure to revive salmon and steelhead; advocates breaching four dams on the lower Snake River; and offers his ideas on nuclear waste, the LDS influence on Idaho politics, gun control, abortion and end-of-life ethics. His behind-the-scenes accounts of the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area include lovely details.”

Carlson and Ridenbaugh Press’ Randy Stapilus will take a circumnavigation tour through all the regions and most of the larger cities of Idaho starting a week from now. More information about that (inclulding what is meant by a “circumnavigation tour”) will be available here soon.

Carlson was the first member of the Northwest Power Planning Council (since renamed, but very much active), and in the book he calls for elimination of the council – though he suggests that a different structure be followed up afterward to replace what he considers to have been a toothless tiger.

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Idaho 100

Idaho 100: The people who most influenced the Gem State, published in print last fall, is now available in the Kindle e-book format (via Amazon.com).

The 100 entries (and the other parts of the book) are a particularly good match for an electronic reader, read in pieces at a time. Even if you already have a print copy, you’ll want the e-book too for more mobile reading options.

Keep watch for some more Idaho 100 news in the coming weeks.

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Each Monday, we publish the Idaho Weekly Briefing, sent via email to subscribers. toward the end of last year, we decided to try something new: Summarizing the key elements of the Briefings from throughout the year in one book. The Idaho Briefing Yearbook 2012 is now available, covering all of the last year.

Ordering information is in the box above. It is available now.

Unlike the regular Briefings, the book is available only (for now) in print version.

It takes in a wide range of territory, the same as the weekly Briefings (which also, separately, cover Oregon and Washington). We have reports on politics, federal, state and local government, legal and law enforcement action, business and the economy, the environment, health and education, transportation, communication and culture in the state. There are also calendars and reports on milestones of people – arrival and departures, including deaths, during the year.

If you want to know what happened (that’s of importance) in Idaho last year, the Yearbook is probably the best place to start. Let us know what you think.

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