Writings and observations


One of the worst things too many politicians do is pander to their constituents, telling them what they want to hear, not what they should hear. It is endemic and it is epidemic not to mention also insulting to the intelligence of the voter.

It is especially disgusting when the pandering politician knows it is just kabuki theater designed to keep their supporters mollified in the belief that their congressman or senator is looking out for their best interests.

A recent example was the introduction of a bill, S. 132, on January 3, 2017 by Idaho’s two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, that restricts the President’s ability to utilize the Antiquities Act to preserve special and in some cases, sacred lands deemed worthy of extra protection, The bill mandates “local approval” and congressional authorization for any new monument designations.

The bill effectively gives higher standing to the comments of those living in and adjacent to these national interest public lands. In doing so it illegally creates a second class of citizenship, with those living next to or inside the boundaries of these public lands having a greater say and sway with the federal land management agencies.

Such legislation panders to the myth, the mistaken belief that public lands in a state like Idaho, in which the government owns 61% of the state’s acreage, belong more to those making a living directly or indirectly from those lands.

Many Idahoans simply refuse to acknowledge that a condo dweller in upper Manhatten has as much interest in Idaho’s public lands as does any Idahoan. Bills such as the Crapo/Risch proposal¸ that require public hearings as well as a public vote before a president can act, serve only to perpetuate the myth of neighbor ownership.

Until recently one could remain philosophical about such proposals. After all it is hard to imagine any president deliberately signing legislation that would restrict his power. In what appears to be an incredibly stupid move, though, President Donald Trump appears about to prove how unsuited he is for the presidency.

He has ordered a review of 27 national monument designations made by his three immediate predecessors apparently with the idea he may actually try to rescind some by executive order and lessen the acreage of others. He thus is encouraging those who believe a president just might be dumb enough to give up some of his authority.

Here is what Senators Crapo and Risch don’t tell their constituents:

they don’t tell them that almost every national park had its beginnning as a national monument;

that almost all of these then national monuments were opposed at the time by the surrounding communities but today they are seen as the key to a clean thriving tourism economy—parks like Olympic, Grand Canyon, and Grand Teton were first national monuments.

That all but three presidents have created national monuments since 1906—the three non­-users were Ricard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

Utah is leading the charge to limit a president’s usuage of the Antiquities Act, yet four of the five national parks Utah advertises traveling to visit started as national monuments.

Critics clamor for more public hearings yet the Bear Ears National Monument had the most public process in history.

The largest national monument declaration ever was NOT the Alaska lands designation of 56 million acres, it was actually a declaration by George W. Bush of an oceanic national monument in the Pacific.

During the last government shut-down Utah felt so strongly about the importance of the national parks to its tourism economy that they agreed to pay the daily cost (some $167,000) out of state funds to keep them open.

Despite false claims of restricted access to national monument lands regarding alleged arbitrary restrictions on fishing, hiking, camping, and even some hunting in adjacent “preserves,” monuments are open for recreational multiple uses along with some grazing. Understandably, logging, oil and gas drilling, and mineral entries are deemed incompatible activities.

Creating national monuments is not a new federal land grab – the monuments are carved out of alreay existing public lands.

National interest lands – parks, monuments, fish and wildlife refuges, seashores and wilderness areas – are all part of a natural legacy belonging to all Americans. Left solely to Senators and Congressmen, most too heavily influenced by contributors, this wonderful national heritage belonging to all of us never would have happened.

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If one lives long enough, as the great Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said, “its deja vu all over again.”

The latest example is the squabble between legislative leadership and Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter over whether he vetoed the bill removing the grocery sales tax in a timely manner.

Current law allows the governor to take ten days after a legislature adjourns and after he has received the bill to decide whether to veto or not. Some still today contend that the ten-day clock begins ticking from the moment the Legislature adjourned, which in their defense appears to be what the Idaho Constitution says.

However, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in July of 1978 in favor of language saying “upon receipt” in the Governor’s office. That supposedly settled the matter in favor of Governor Cecil D. Andrus in a lawsuit he brought against then Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa for failure to recognize his veto of two bills on the grounds that they weren’t vetoed within the ten days.

Of course by July of 1978 Andrus had been the Secretary of the Interior in the Carter Administration for 18 months, but the case had proceeded in the Court because of the question and the precedence it would establish.

In Cenarrusa’s defense he was acting on the advice of the then chief legal officer for the state, Attorney General Wayne Kidwell, a former Ada County prosecutor and State Senate Majority Leader. Therein lies the real background story that is missing from today’s media reports on this old matter being revisited.

The lawsuit cited two vetoes, but there was only one that really mattered: the veto of a bill within ten days of receipt in the governor’s office sponsored and driven by the attorney general to consolidate all attorneys working for the state under his office. This included attorneys working for cabinet agencies.

It was a raw, naked power grab by the attorney general who also harbored ambitions to run for governor in 1978 whether or not Andrus might be going for a third term.

Knowing his ambitions and hard Republican partisanship, Andrus did not trust the former state senator. Kidwell also had a hair-trigger temper. In the 70’s the AG’s office was on the same floor as the governor’s office. Upon learning of the veto, Kidwell, who should not have been surprised, nonetheless confronted the governor in the hall between their offices.

Playing the role of a “surprised” and personally hurt victim, Kidwell’s temper quickly rose and the confrontation devolved into an unseemly shouting match. Andrus, who can on occasion display his own temper, probably thought about decking the obnoxious attorney general, but restrained himself.

The irony is that earlier in Kidwell’s term as AG, in an extraordinary display of compassion, Andrus literally saved Kidwell’s political career.

The setting was a meeting of the Idaho Land Board, the five constitutionally elected statewide officers who are the trustees of the State lands. They were voting on some minor matter and when the vote came Kidwell was on the short end of a 4 to 1 count.

It was then, according to observers present, that Kidwell started to lose control of himself. Despite their political animosity, Andrus, who could have sat back and let Kidwell irreparably lose it altogether, instead called for a 15 minute recess, stood up, walked around the table to assist Kidwell out of his chair, and escorted Kidwell into his office..

To this day no one knows what Andrus said to Kidwell, but it’s a pretty safe bet he told him to get control of himself and displayed some compassion for his political adversary. Andrus knew what few people were aware of, that the Kidwells had recently lost a child, and were understandably devastated by the loss. What is known is that Kidwelll regained his composure and went back to his office. He did not return to the Land board meeting itself that day.

In today’s highly partisan atmosphere in which people with differing views are treated as the enemy and considered evil, its hard to imagine that kind of true compassion.

Its all about power, who has it and how ruthlesssly they can wield it. Some critics of Governor Otter’s veto are now talking about trying to change the law, but the betting is they’ll not succeed. Now, as Paul Harvey used to say on his noontime radio show, you know the rest of the story.

Incidentally, Kidwell chose not to run for re-election in 1978 and was succeeded by David Leroy. Kidwell later served with distinction for six years on the Idaho Supreme Court from 1999 to 2004.

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There is an emerging split among the normally unified resource industries of Idaho that so far has escaped wide public notice. It is, however, a matter that could have profound implications for those Idahoans who make a living off of natural resource conversion whether it is turning trees into lumber, graze for cattle into steaks, wheat into bread, or extracted minerals into metals.

It is a fight beween Idaho’s ranchers and farmers on one side, and on the other side are Idaho’s loggers, timber industry and contract haulers. The issue is who the Trump Administration should select for the critical deputy undersecretary position within the Department of Agriculture that oversees the Forest Service.

Now that former Georgia Governor “Sonny” Perdue has been confirmed as the department Secretary the battle is intensifying. Idaho’s ranchers and farmers are supporting one of their own, Melba rancher Layne Bangerter, 55, who worked for 13 years as the natural resource advisor to Idaho’s senior Senator, Mike Crapo. He played a key role for the senator in the negotiations that led to a successful resolution of the complex debate over preservation of the Owyhee Canyonlands.

Of more relevance today is Bangerter’s role as the chair of the Idaho Committee to elect Donald Trump president. In the course of the campaign, Bangerter reportedly hit it off well with Donald Trump, Jr., and also traveled with then vice presidential candidate, Michael Pence. Furthermore, Bangerter is a graduae of BYU and a bishop in the LDS Church..

An interesting aside is Bangerter years ago worked as a coyote trapper on Lt. Governor Brad Little’s ranch. Little is thus supporting an old friend, though he says either group’s candidate could do the job. To him the more important decision is how will decisions get made? Will the old concentrate in the Council on Environmental Quality’s hands model be taken up or will there be a true devolvement of authority to the cabinet and sub-agency level?

Those associated with Idaho’s timber industry are strongly backing Erica Rhoad, the House Resources staff director for the Subcommittee on Federal lands. Rhoad has a pedigree that would normally make her a lead pipe cinch to get the position. She started lining up support and solidifying her base within a few days after the election. Among her credentials are time spent working as the Federal Liaison for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Affairs, service on the staff of former California Congressman Richard Pombo, and director of policy for the American Forestry Association.

Perhaps her greatest asset, according to Bob Boeh, vice president of external affairs for the Idaho Forest Group, is her knowledge of the issues. Boeh says “we have nothing against Layne, we just feel there are so many major issues vital to the industry’s future coming so rapidly down the pike that there’s not sufficient time for Layne to get up to speed. Erica knows the issues and will hit the ground running.”

Boeh also reported that his company had signed a letter endorsed by 32 other industry related organizations and sportsman groups suppporting Rhoad’s appointment. The letter will go to Secretary Perdue as well as the Idaho congressional delegation.

Needless to say, Idaho’s ranchers and farmers, despite the fact that Rhoad grew up on a Colorado ranch and went to Colorado State, are putting together a letter of their endorsing organizations to be sent to Secretary Perdue and the Idaho congressional delegation. Senators Crapo and Risch are thought to be supporting Bangerter. First District Congressman Raul Labrador did not return phone calls to his office.

Second District Congressman Mike Simpson is backing Rhoad inasmuch as she once worked for him when with the Interior Appropriations subcommittee which Simpson chairs.

Shawn Keough, the executive director of the Idaho Logging Contractor’s Association, says her organization is officially neutral though she did acknowledge their national group, the American Logging Contractors Association, is one of the 33 signees to the letter Boeh referenced.

Former Larry Craig staffer Mark Rey, who held the post for eight years is strongly supporting Rhoad. He points out that she is exceptionally qualified because of her unique undertanding of the legislative process and the agency, how to make policy work with a large field organization, and her knowledge of the budget process by virture of her work on both the appropriations subcommittee and the authorizing subcommittee.

Despite these superb credemtials there is really only one constituent and literally he trumps all others—-Donald Trump, Jr. He has remained close and if he wants Bangerter in that post, Bangerter will get the nod.

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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.”

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Sometimes irony in life is simply too rich. And all too often even incredibly bright people do not see the train wreck they are headed towards. In such instances one has little choice but to sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all, rather than cry.

For the most recent example of this unintended consequence of not thinking through a matter we have Idaho’s Senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, a Harvard law product no less, to thank.

In going along with his party in rationalizing not even holding a hearing on President Barack Obama’s nomination of District Judge Merrick Garland, one of Senator Crapo’s expressed reasons was a perception on Crapo’s part that Judge Garland was weak on Second amendment rights.

In voting to secure Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by President Trump, Crapo joined his majority Republican colleagues in doing away with the requirement that 60 votes is needed to end a filibuster. That they don’t see this as a precedent that will be invoked with regard to legislation sooner rather than later is stunning.

Without the ability to hold up the process by filibuster, defenders of the Second amendment are going to discover they have lost their greatest aid. In Crapo’s case it is so ironic that he invoked Judge Garland’s perceived weakness on gun rights only to turn around and vote for the “nuclear option” which literally shatters 2nd amendment protections.

All it will take will be for the Democrats to recapture the Senate (which will happen sooner or later), then do away with allowing filibusters on legislation, then ram urban-oriented legislation down the throats of small states and in particular western states. Turn about will be fair play in their game play book, just as it is in the GOP play book.

Republicans of course blame the Democrats for starting this downhill slide when Harry Reid of Nevada was the Senate Majority Leader. Reid did invoke and utilize a modified form after getting fed up with Republican stalls on lower court nominees. Two wrongs do not make a right, however.

To the extent there is shared blame, though, there is some truth, but the historical comity of the Senate will be lost and a pure form of hard, harsh partisanship will result with a minority no longer having any rights or an ability to influence legislation.

Welcome to this Brave New World where the winner takes all and the opposition is totally and cruelly crushed, and thanks Senator Crapo, as well as thanks to his equally blind colleague, Senator Jim Risch. It is truly sad that neither of them demonstrated any ability to look down the road to see the inevitable turning of the worm.

This abject failure to protect the rights of the minority is simply disgusting. Its an action that belies any talk by Crapo, Risch and their Republican colleagues that they believe in bi-partisanship and fully respect and dutifully honor Senate traditions. Pure balderdash.

Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), two former majority and Senate Pro Tempore leaders, are rolling over in their graves at the stupidity of their former colleagues and the damage they have done to the institution as well as the smaller, western states in the Union.

By utilizing this “nuclear option” (It was dubbed this by Republican Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee for a reason), Republicans are virtually guaranteeing the Senate will become as dysfunctional as the House. It is a win at any cost strategy that destroys the check and balance role of the Senate and thwarts the purpose of the Founding Fathers in setting up a bi-cameral legislature. The fact that they could pull it off regardless of the cost to the institution does not make it right unless one believes absolute power has absolutely unchecked rights.

Don’t be taken in by Republican rhetoric, either, that this is just hard-ball politics. It is the first time in American history that the Senate deliberately stalled on even holding a hearing on a Court nomination until after the result of a coming presidential election was known. On the contrary, there were 13 instances where the Senate did its duty even when an administration was expected to change.

The really sad thing is that in Idaho Crapo and Risch will never be held acccountable to the voters for their unconscionable role in diminishing the influence of the body in which they sit and its historical respect for the rights of the minority. Remember that when an increasingly urban and suburban dominated senate starts riding roughshod over your second amendment rights or your property rights.

They’ll rant and rave as if they are the unknowing victims of this terrible perversion of the process of which they consciously aided and abetted. One wishes they had a sense of shame for what they’ve done but don’t hold your breath.

The illusion of comity and bi-partisanship has gone the way of the dodo bird.

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A few years from now political scientists and historians may look back on Idaho’s 2018 gubernatorial election as one of the most significant, game-changing elections since Cecil Andrus knocked off
Republican incumbent Governor Don Samuelson in 1970.

It will mark 24 years of the Republican hold on the governor’s chair following the 24 years before that of Democratic hegemony under Cecil Andrus, John Evans and Andrus again. Andrus’ first election, incidentally, ended another 24 year period of Republican rule.

Might there be a pattern emerging here?

For now, though, virtually all political pundits in Idaho already concede whoever wins the GOP primary will be the next governor of Idaho. The primary promises to be one of the more spirited contests in years.

Making it especially interesting is the expected entry of Tea Party darling and Freedom Caucus conservative member of Congress, Raul Labrador, who represents Idaho’s first congressional district. He is expected to announce around June 1st and may be crowned as the “favorite” because of name id and his affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

Incidentally, conventional wisdom speculates that former state senator Russ Fulcher, who gave Governor C. L.“Butch” Otter such a tough run for his money before narrowly losing in the 2014 primary, is just a place-holder for Labrador. Think otherwise. Fulcher ran a smart 2014 campaign, has learned from his loss and is no placeholder for anyone.

Labrador will be surrendering his safe seat to whomever wins the GOP primary here also, with conventional wisdom establishing former Idaho
Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy as the early favorite.

The other complicating factor is the entry of developer Dr. Tommy Ahlquist. A multi-millionaire with friends on both sides of the political aisle, he is traveling around the state attending Lincoln Day dinners and calling the political influentials in each county to introduce himself and make his pitch.

He has one of those rare political gifts, much like Cecil Andrus has and George Hansen had – the ability to listen carefully to what a constituent is saying and do so in a manner that leaves the constituent feeling at that moment he or she is the most important person in the world. There’s no looking over the constituent’s shoulder to see if there is someone more important in the room.

Add to that his piercing blue eyes and the message is clear – he’s smart, hard-working and wealthy. He also does his homework. His “elevator speech” is short and sweet. He is campaigning on job creation, tax reform and the state taking the lead on health care reform.

Asked about the sale of federal public lands a month ago he confessed he had not yet studied the issue but promised he would. Last week a Republican lobbyist told friends they’d heard the good doc discuss the issue and thought it was as knowledgeable and thoughtful as anything he’d heard.

So where does this leave Lt. Governor Brad Little? A year ago many had already bestowed the crown on his head. Today, many are revisiting that prediction. Writing off Little would be terribly premature, however. He has traipsed all over Idaho introducing
himself, displaying his thoughtfulness on the issues and his understanding of the state. It’s Idaho retail politics at its best.

Little knows he has to differentiate himself from Otter and start talking about his vision for Idaho’s future – and he must do so without appearing to be an ingrate. He also knows he has a solid base of support that will stick with him during the primary and he will be able to raise plenty of money to finance a first-rate campaign.

Common political sense says he ought to be urging four-term Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to get into the race, also, which in theory would take away more from his challengers than from him.

Predictions months ahead of the 2018 G OP primary are always risky especially when there are more than three candidates in a race. Right now, though, I’d still bet that when the smoke clears Brad Little will be the GOP nominee.

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Two decisions were made this past week that will have reverberations across Idaho. One was made in Pocatello. The other in Washington, D.C. Neither is easy to understand and a case can be made that the decisions were not necessary, that that they fall under the rubric “hope is not a strategy.”

The decision in Pocatello was made by Jeff Tingey, the athletic director at Idaho State, to force football coach Mike Kramer to announce his “retirement.” If he did not, Tingey would announce Kramer’s firing.

The forced retirement, at the start of spring football, fooled no one. To this observer it was a classless way to treat a coach who has brought respectability back to the ISU football program. And he did it while upping the student athletes grade point averages and class attendance.

Yes, he made the “mistake” of producing a winning team in four years, one year ahead of the five years he said it would take. In 2014, when ISU almost beat the league’s best, Eastern Washington’s Eagles, in their first league game, it was clear Kramer had achieved the unachievable.

That team went 8 and 4 and almost made the play-offs. Kramer was the toast of the town and the Big Sky coach of the year. The former high school coach at Colton, a bump on the road between Pullman and Lewiston, has turned three Big Sky programs around, starting with EWU in the mid-90s, then Montana State in the early 2000s, and then Idaho State.

As the 2015 season arrived, expectations on the campus, around town and among Bengal alumni soared exponentially.

Anyone who has watched a Kramer coached team knows the key to his offense is a smart quarterback with a quick read ability, a quick arm and an accurate throw whether short, mid-field or long. Unfortunately, Kramer had not been able to recruit his kind of quarterback for the following season.
To his credit, he did not blame his quarterback. Instead he deflected to himself the criticism. Tingey even rewarded Kramer for the break-out season with a contract extension. Kramer still had more to offer. He should have been given a vote of confidence for the coming season. He should have been allowed to retire gracefully at the end of next season assuming it was not consistent with his standard of success.

Bottom line is ISU will never have a better football coach than Mike Kramer.

Former ISU president Bud Davis once said the two most important decisions a university president makes are to hire or fire football and basketball coaches. He believed it was smart to hire a former head coach with a proven record rather than some hot shot phenom assistant. Jeff Tingey is going to find out just how much he should have stuck with a coach with a winning record.

The other “game changing” decision last week was made in Washington, D.C. One of the outfalls from the Freedom Caucus’ decision to vote nay on “TrumpCare” was a calling out by name the members of the Freedom Caucus, including Idaho’s First District congressman, Raul Labrador, who voted no and would not support the president.

Any hope Labrador might have landed a major position dealing with immigration reform in a Trump Administration flew out the window. Likewise, any chance he might land a lucrative job with a conservative foundation or association also flew out the window as it is unlikely they would pick someone who makes Trump see red.

Labrador could easily stay in Congress another three terms (he supports term limits of 12 years for Congress) but he is devoted to his wife and children, flies home every weekend, and reportedly is tiring of the grind and living out of his Congressional office.

Sources in D.C. and in Boise, have started to let people know he is seeking the govenorship, relying heavily on a six month old poll that gave him almost half the Republican primary vote with no other candidate busting out of the single digits.

The poll was taken though before developer Dr. Tommy Ahlquist declared his intentions and pledged to spend from his fortune one dollar more than it takes to win.

Labrador’s entry may inspire former State Senator Russ Fulcher, a friend of Labrador’s, to withdraw and turn to the Lt. Governor’s race. One thing for sure is Labrador has no intention of giving up his congressional seat while running for governor. Thus, there will be no special election.

Two questions remain: where’s he going to find the money to run and why does he even want to be governor?

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One of my cardinal rules about politics is there are seldom any coincidences. There may be coincidences, however, of time, place, and especially, of people. Our lives during the Biblical three score and ten will intersect with many different people. This has led demographers and social scientists to refer to the six degrees of separation – go back six generations and you will discover the Pope and you are related – in theory.

Over the years I’ve been surprised at the number of people my path has crossed who, like me, were born in Shoshone county, either in Kellogg or Wallace. For a county with fewer than 4000 people, I could quickly name a dozen, most of whom were serving or had served their home state with honor and brought distinction to the native county.

All merit mention, but space limits dictate just a few. This is my saying thank you for your assistance.

Tim and Julie Olson. High scphool sweethearts who married while Olson was attending Idaho State in the mid-60s having led Kellogg to its last state basketball championship in 1964. Tim retired two years ago as the vice president for Blue Shield of Idaho, but has continued to lobby the Idaho Legislature. We always gather at their summer place on Rose Lake for a good old fashioned patriotic 4th of July and he allows me to sing “Here We Have Idaho.”

Mike Blackbird. A former state senator who would have been a great governor had he stayed in Idaho. I assisted him in doing a wonderful book about his brother, Jerry, also a state senator, entitled One Flaming Hour.

Kenton Bird. Currently the head of general education at the University of Idaho, a former director of the School of Journalism at the University of Idaho, and a former journalist, he was terrificly helpful to me in bringing back to public attention the fine novels penned by a former Idaho poli-sci teacher, Syd Duncombe.

Art and Sherry Krulitz; Leo Krulitz. I knew Art’s cousin, Leo, long before I knew Shoshone County Commissioner Sherry and her husband. One could say they are easily the “power couple” of the county. Sherry was a popular commissioner and could still be if she wanted to be. She still works Facebook and the pictures of her flowers and garden are terrific.

Leo, like Art, grew up in Mullan. He attended Stanford, graduating with honors, then attended and graduated from Harvard Law. While still in his 20s and an active Democrat he became a stalwart supporter of then State Senator Cecil Andrus’ gubernatorial ambitions. He served as the campaign manager for Andrus’ first run in 1966. I still tease him about the campaign slogan he came up with for Andrus: “My kind of man.” Leo went on to become general counsel for the Cummins Engine Corporation until Andrus lured him into government service as his Solicitor at the Department of the Interior from 1977 to 1981.

David Fisher. First met “Fish” when he was working for First InterState bank. He went on to work for one of America’s great innovative corporations, Intel, the master builder of ever smaller but ever increasing capacity microchips, the wafers all made from the same material assembled in anti-septic environments and the guts of your computer. Fisher deftly handled the competition between northwest states for Intel’s major fabrication facility that located near Portland.
Chuck Malloy. One of few editorial writers who has covered Idaho politics extensively for over 30 years and has an institutional memory. He hails from Kellogg and though he has worked at times for the Idaho Republican party, he is a fine journalist and a great observer of the scene.

The late Harry and Collen Magnuson and their sons, Jim, John and Tom. Selected by Governor Andrus to run the 1990 Idaho Centennial Commission, and the man who saved Gonzaga University from bankruptcy, Harry was synonymous with the county. He and his sons also saved the hometown of Wallace by turning it into the snowmobile capitol of the world.

When all is said and done, my old rule regarding no coincidences in politics still holds true. Either that, or there is something in the water we all drink up here in north Idaho. I know I am better for having our trails cross. All of these people were the kind of folks dedicated to leaving the old camp site in better shape than they found it.

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If you think someone is watching or listening to you, odds are pretty high you’re partially correct. For sure you are not paranoid because it is almost a certainty that in this digital age you are being recorded.

The proliferation of sensors and digital cameras has been simply breathtaking. The amount of data being accumulated about individuals, their buying habits, recreation preferences, medical condition is stunning. Google yourself. You’ll be bowled over by high much is known about you.

Many folks have a false sense of security that their personal
information, income status, health history and credit record are safe. Balderdash. If there is one lesson folks should indelibly imprint on their brain it is that there is nothing a professional hacker cannot hack into. A basic rule one should keep in mind is this: The more connected one is the more vulnerable he is.

I garnered an inkling of what was coming during the presidential election of 2004. We kept getting a call from the county Republican campaign headquarters asking our presidential preference. Whether my wife answered or I answered each time we politely told them there was no way we would vote to re-elect President George W. Bush. Still, they kept calling.

Explaining all this to a good Republican friend drew a laugh. He gleefully explained the GOP (as well as the Democrats) had a sophisticated voter analysis program that developed profiles of solid Republican voters. I fit the profile yet was blowing their model.

Their data showed I had voted for Bush in 2000 (Could not stand Al Gore), was the co-owner of a successful small business, had purchased a flaming red Cadillac, had purchased a new shot gun for trap shooting, had a concealed weapons permit, had for a time belonged to the NRA, attended Mass at least once a week, sent my children to a private Catholic high school – in short, I appeared to be an almost perfect Bush voter, but I wasn’t.

One had the feeling they thought their entire model would collapse.

Fast forward now to 2017, and the amazing proliferation of even more technological developments, from iphones and ipads to kindles to gps chips in everything that moves and sensors that record reams of data instantly. All this and much more is explained in the one book everyone should read this year – Thank You for Being Late by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

His thesis is that there are three major forces inexorably shaping our future. Furthermore they are accelerating at an exponential pace that is outpacing human ability to understand and keep up let alone shape and control.

This ought to scare the hell out of a normal person because the day is not far off when society will have robots with artificial intelligence performing many mundane tasks. Think though about the implications of AI advancing beyond its inventor.

Perhaps you may recall that great scene in the Stanley Kubrick movie 2001. Hal, the on board computer, decides Dave, the space vehicle’s pilot, and his co-pilot are threats to the all-consuming mission to Jupiter.

While the co-pilot is outside the ship Hal cuts the tether and there goes the co-pilot spinning off into space. Hal then refuses to open the airlock that will permit Dave back onto the ship. Dave nonetheless figures out a way and the next scene is Dave, still in his space suit walking into the guts of the super computer to dismantle it.

The dialogue between Hal and Dave is one of the show’s highlights. The only thing Kubrick gets wrong is the size of the computer. Friedman explains how “Moore’s Law” has driven technology in the last 50 years to ever smaller, ever more powerful computer chips at ever more cheap to produce costs. The super computer in 2001 would fit into today’s lap top.

Friedman contends that what is so discomforting to so many is the simultaneous explosive acceleration in technology coupled with forces driving globalization and compounded by global warming and habitat loss.

He outlines how this incredible pace is impacting politics,
geopolitics, ethics, the workplace and communities. The implications of computer chips coupled with sensors, digital cameras, storage capacity and search engines to make a billion calculations in one second makes for an easy leap to recognizing that somewhere,someplace there are recordings of our coming and goings, of our phone conversations and who they are with. The search engine just needs a key word to find it.

What makes this book a cause for hope rather than despair is a quote Friedman cites at the beginning from the famous French scientist, Madame Marie Curie: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Amen.

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The subject is dying and death, especially for the first of the baby boomer generation many of whom are either now 70 years of age or about to turn 70.

The boomer generation has been a trend-setter, defying the societal restrictions it inherited on everything from sex to drugs to dodging the draft. Boomers are the most self-indulgent, narcissistic, ego maniacal generation ever.

Many have inherited or about to inherit the largest generational transfer of wealth in history. While some will turn it around and give to worthy causes, most will hoard it like no tomorrow. Others who can afford it will invest in various medical marvels that at most may extend their lives by six months or a year.

One thing one can bet on for sure, if funeral home directors are to be believed, few have bothered to do the planning necessary to ensure a peaceful passing that children and extended family will truly appreciate. It is almost as if boomers think planning for their
passing will somehow bring the day the Grim Reaper comes calling just that much sooner.

It’s not as if there aren’t reminders of mortality that bombard the consciousness every day – from graphic news stories about deaths (If it bleeds it leads) to pictures of children starving in Somalia or the Sudan, to the obituaries most boomers have furtively been scanning for several years.

Just this past week three fine Idaho friends – selfless, dedicated, decent, loyal to family, faith and country – were called to the Big Round-up, the trail ride having ended. They were former State Senator Mike Mitchell, Duane Jacklin, one of the founding partners of the world renowned Jacklin Seed Company, and Bob Templin, the founder and developer of Templin’s Resort.

Some families are prepared, others are not. The point though is that if one cares about their loved ones and those that survive them, they do the planning, make the key decisions and pay in advance so that the grieving surviving spouse or the child in charge doesn’t have to guess what Dad or Mom would have liked.

Every family should make sure that all are prepared for the inevitable day the loved one passes.

Many folks avail themselves of the wonderful supportive Hospice program. Hospice ought to require every family that engages it, as a first step, to watch and then discuss an excellent movie called Two Weeks. It stars Sally Field as the divorced and remarried mother of four who is prematurely dying of cancer.

The movie, which came out in 2006, probes the relationships and reactions primarily of her four children – three sons and a daughter. Each reacts differently. Indeed, the rock is of course the mother. The movie is not pollyansish – it makes clear that her passing is painful and gut-wrenching.

It even alludes to the fact that the morphine injections she receives to counter the pain towards the very end has a dosage increase that brings death more quickly rather than prolonging the agony.

Yes, it is a form of assisted suicide and one can debate whether it is compassionate or something akin to a mercy killing done to ease the discomfort of the family. It brings home the point that issues surrounding death cannot all be legislated, that room has to be left to respect the wishes of the person dying, the family and their personal clergy.

The mistake made by voters in Oregon and Washington, where assisted suicide is legal, was to get the state involved at all in the first place. Just as we have a constitutional right to life, we also have a right to choose to ease our suffering by seeking a little assistance at the end.

My definition of a natural death does not allow for such assistance, but that’s my faith’s belief and should not be binding on others. The point though is that all families should have these discussions and make the decisions long before Hospice is called in for assistance.

Few Idahoans are aware, and even fewer Americans that Hospice costs are covered by Medicare and we all should tip our hat and say a prayer of thanks to the good Senator Frank Church who led the drive to have Hospice costs covered.

The legislation was passed shortly before the Senator died from the reoccurence of a cancer that almost killed him in his early 20s. Incidentally, the Senator eschewed the drugs and painkillers he could have availed himself of and chose instead to take his death head on.

Dying and death are matters that require rigid adherence to the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared! And while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and watch Two Weeks.

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