Al Link is a vanishing breed: a labor leader born and raised in a union household. He defies the stereo-type, however. There’s no cigar or dark glasses, no four-letter word laced talk.

He wears a suit with tie or a sport coat, is soft spoken, articulate, and a great advocate for unions. He possesses a sense of humor, is organized, disciplined and accountable. His father, Roy, was for many years the president of United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 329, and his mother, Mary, was the long-time COPE Director for the Spokane County Central Labor Council.

Link is proud to be a second generation union member, and proud of the role unions played in the 20th century that helped America become the industrial power envied by the rest of the world.

Unlike some labor leaders, Link does not hate “management.” In the early 1980s, when I was the regional vice president for northwest public affairs for Kaiser Aluminum and Link was the vice president of the USWA Local 329 at the Mead Smelter, he and I co-chaired a Labor/Management communications committee that tried to save 14,000 good-paying union jobs held by men and women employed by the nine facilities operating in the northwest.

The job multiplier for such good-paying manufacturing jobs is two for every one manufacturing. In other words, close to 50,000 pay checks were derived from the industry.

They first came to the region prior to and during World War II, attracted by the cheap hydropower generated by federal dams in the region. One-third of the cost of a pound of aluminum is the electricity. When one holds a beer or pop can in hand, they are holding fused electricity.

When the Bonneville Power Administration, which markets the power from the federally-built dams, went off on a binge of financing construction of nuclear power plants to meet projected load growth that did not factor in price elasticity, the cost of this power soared 900% overnight. Almost all the aluminum companies, especially Kaiser, began to hemorrhage.

The industry response was to advocate that BPA adopt a “variable power rate:” the price companies paid would be tied to the price the metal would fetch on the London Metal Exchange. If the price of metal was low, the price for power would reflect that. Of course if the metal price was high, so would the price of power.

The labor/management committee ran a classic campaign and Link was everywhere. We traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby the members of the northwest state’s Congressional deleggations. Majority Leader Tom Foley put out the red carpet, not because the Kaiser regional pooh-bah was seeking an audience, but because he was accompanied by the union leader who helped to provide campaign volunteers and dollars.

Link delivered union members who testified forcefully at BPA hearings. He delivered thousands of union-made yard signs as well as workers to handle the phone banks set up across the region. He delivered.

We won that battle. BPA adopted the variable power rate. The first year it kicked in Kaiser’s power bill was reduced by $105 million. It wasn’t enough, however, to save the industry. Like big business everywhere, the companies began to build more modern facilities overseas where costs, especially labor costs were less.

Link went on to become in 1994 the highly regarded secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, and has held a number of prominent posts within the still influential in Washington state labor movement. When Kaiser was taken over by the corporate raider, Charles Hurwitz, I left and founded the Gallatin Group, a regional public affairs firm.

It was my privilege to introduce Link as the speaker at the 13th Annual North Idaho Democracy dinner last weekend. Both of us are supposedly retired, but still active .

Link delivered thoughtful comments on an all too familiar theme – the movement of jobs that helped make America great overseas. In particular he, like his colleagues in Labor, denounced the effort being led by President Obama for the United States to adopt “fast trade, free trade” rules that can only lead to even more jobs going overseas.

My friend is of course correct. The major problem, however, is that train left the station years ago. Powerful as Labor still is, and as influential as Link still is, both of the state’s pro-labor senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, are supporting fast trade.

When organizations from Boeing to MicroSoft to the Washington Wheat Growers care more about international market share, protecting American jobs all too easily is forgotten. Our grandchildren are already paying the price.

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The end game on the future of the Boulder-White Clouds and additional wilderness protection is starting. Cross your fingers that the right changes can occur, and though he owes Idaho absolutely nothing, President Barack Obama will declare as a new national monument an area almost double the size of the carefully negotiated bill engineered over ten years by Rep. Mike Simpson.

It will serve right folks like ATV’er lobbyist Sandra Mitchell and the double-crossing Senator Jim Risch to have all their shenanigans, delays and obstructionism result in something from their view point twice as bad as before.

Governor Andrus has an old saying: “Pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered:.” That fits Mitchell, Risch and the narrow interests they represent to a tee Not satisified with all the concessions Congressman Simpson and the Idaho Conservation League were willing to give to get a carefully negotiated bill, a couple years back, they blew it up and walked away.

Now they are supposedly back at the table with a bill supposedly written by Senator Risch’s staff (Would you like to wager whether a working draft as a “courtesy” was provided by Ms. Mitchell?) and Senator Risch will hold a hearing on May 21st. The House will follow with a hearing in June. Reportedly, Rep. Simpson received a six month commitment from the White House not to invoke the Antiquities Act and see if he can get a revised form of his old bill (With less acreage protected) through the House.

Some would like to believe this is Idaho’s last best chance to get Congress to act responsibly. Others are hoping for the National Monument designation, believing, as it did in Alaska, it will result in the delegation making reasonable compromises to undo the more restrictive monument designation. Still a third group would be perfectly satisfied with just leaving the Monument designation in place.

I suspect this is the issue that Senator Risch will drill down on when ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson appears before Risch’s committee on the 21st. All things being equal, would Johnson and the ICL prefer the Monument designation be imposed on their fellow Idahoans or would they take less for a more democratic bill? Rest assured Risch will try to put Johnson on the spot, for truth be told this is just a “show” hearing. I doubt very much that Risch wants any bill that would add one more acre to Idaho’s wilderness.

For Risch its just a game of “gotcha.” He firmly believes a majority of Idahoans feel there already is enough wilderness in the state and like things just as they are. He also knows that by holding his hearing in D.C. only the well-to-do will be able to pay for the travel and take the time to come testify. He’s not about to hold a hearing in the home state areas near the Boulder-White Clouds because he is well aware that former Interior Secretary Andrus promised current Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that if she wanted him to turn out a crowd at an in-state hearing he’d have 500 people there if she gave him a week’s notice.

Both ICL’s Johnson and Andrus appear to have concluded that despite the incredible effort put in by Simpson and staff, and they do genuinely admire their effort, there will never be an acceptable bill that comes out of the Senate or out of a joint conference committee.

So 50 Andrus cohorts, as well as a slew of the late Senator Frank Church’s cohorts have written the President asking him to invoke his powers under the Antiquities Act. In a perfect political world one would not write such letters unless there was some reasonable assurance of a positive response. This is not the case, though. The White House has not given either Johnson or Andrus any assurances to the best of anyone’s knowledge.

That is unsettling to say the least but should not surprise. Why should the President do anything for Idaho?

Consider also the lack of any state-wide public clamor. Neither letter or press release on the former Andrus and Church staffers writing the president was deemed news worthy enough to be put on the Associated Press’ wire.

I can guarantee you one thing, if the public is not demanding action we’ll be living with the status quo for many more years.

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Like many news junkies, I’ve been reflecting on the events in Baltimore over the last ten days. I keep coming back to a fact that has been completely absent from the debate. I will explain by first quoting from Nikos Kazantzakis’ great novel,Zorba the Greek which was made into a fine movie with Anthony Quinn playing Zorba.

Zorba is getting acquainted with the sober-miened Englishman who asks Zorba if he is married. Zorba replies:

“Am I not a man? Are not men STUPID? So I married—wife, children, home, the whole CATASTROPHE!”

Inevitably, one laughs because this hits too close to home. As the old saying goes, the truth often is in a joke. Most, if honest, will concede, even the brightest and most disciplined among us can and often do stupid things, some totally inexplicable.

In my expereience, young men, regardless of race, creed or color, full of too much testosterone, sometimes do some really stupid things. Take me, for example.

True confession: Fifty years ago I “technically” assaulted one of New York’s finest.

It was early fall of my freshman year at Columbia. Classes had just started so many young men were milling around with little to do but cause mischief. Someone said, “Let’s do a panty raid on Barnard (the women’s college next to Columbia).” Yes, in 1965 this anachronistic practice was still in vogue.

Before you could snap a finger, 200 young men had stormed across the street and were standing on the south side street of the main Barnard residence hall, chanting and demanding that they be tossed women’s undergarments. I went along­­­ as can happen when in a crowd.

Of course few items were tossed out. It was then the Idaho kid decided to show these wimpy easterners how to take action. Amidst cheers I scaled up the side of the dorn two stories and into the residence hall where there were indeed young ladies milling around, screaming at the sight of a guy demanding undie’s and bra’s. Some young ladies handed me the items so back to the window I went to toss the contraband to the wimps still standing and yelling for such.

Then back down the wall I went and dropped straight into the arms of one of New York’s finest just waiting there. Grabbing me buy the arm, he informed me I was going with him. I replied, “Like hell, I am.” Then I committed the real stupidity, I struck the officer’s arm holding me, knocking his grip loose, ran and melded into the crowd.

As I wandered back to my dorm room I realized just how stupid I’d acted. I easily could have not been able to get away. Then, I would have faced an “assaulting an officer” charge, a felony no less, and easily could have lost my scholarship and probably might even have had to do jail time.

My future no doubt would have been quite different. Try getting a job even today if you’ve got a felony on you record.

Life has ways of evening things out. It’s often called the “school of hard knocks.” My hard knock was literally a hard knock but I looked upon it as an element of divine justice being meted out. No matter what you term it, New York’s finest got even in less than three years.

In April of 1968 a student protest led by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) against Columbia building a new gym on a large part of Morningside Park (One of a few areas where the African-American population in Harlem could recreate) led to a shut down of the campus. SDS leader Marc Rudd led the seizure of Hamilton Hall and Low Library where the administration offices were.

After several nights of a stand-off it was clear the police were about to move. I joined a group of students that formed a circle, holding hands, around the library. We thought as pacifists we could protect those that had seized the building and that the police would respect our non-violent stance.

We thought wrong. When the police moved we were all shoved and clubbed out of the way. It was then the scales of justice evened out for one of New York’s finest nailed me in the back with his billy club.

The moral of this story is yes, the chattering media can talk about lack of jobs, lack of education, lack of fathers or male mentors, lack of hope in Baltimore, and it all does contribute and it all needs addressing. Don’t forget, however, that men, especiallly young men, can act in a very stupid way at times. Only God knows why.

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carlson CHRIS


Pop Quiz: which is the most urbanized state, New York or Nevada? Between Alaska and Montana? Between Utah and Ohio?

Among these three states – Idaho, Iowa and New Hampshire – which has the highest rural proportion in its population?

If you answered Nevada (94%) is more urban than New York (88%); Alaska (66%) more than Montana (56%) and Utah (91%) more than Ohio (78%), give yourself an A. If you also know New Hampshire (40%) is more rural than Idaho (30%) and Iowa (36%) is more rural than Idaho, give yourself an A++.

Behind these figures lies an incontestable fact: our nation is steadily, inexorably becoming more urbanized. As children and grandchildren steadily leave rural areas to find jobs in urban areas, those of us left in the rural areas are more and more retirees and the elderly.

We sense that a way of life – connected families living close to the land and most often trying to make a living off of some form of resource conversion – is being lost.

The future looks uncertain. The “can-do, tomorrow will be a better day” attitude starts to erode. Fear creeps into the pysche. For some it is fear that medical challenges will force one to move into an urban area to be closer to the needed medical services. For others, it is fear that a heavily urbanized population in which a 9-1-1 call will be responded to within five minutes will lead to more restrictions on firearms.

What is more disturbing though is the few folks left in rural areas do not see the connection between an America becoming ever more urbanized and the proliferation of federal regulations regarding activities on adjacent public lands.

Too many country folks think their use of the national forests or the public range should get priority. We don’t grasp that our neighbor down the street, the Forest Service’s district ranger, has to manage for the urbanite in New York City’s equal interest in the public lands.

Surprise! The urban dweller sees the national forests as a place where he or she can camp, hike, raft, ride horses, bird-watch and a dozen other multiple often competing uses. The urbanite does not see timber cutting as a compatible use.

So, some rural county commissioners turn to schemes and dreams that the Federal government can be forced to sell federal lands because those living next to and off of the public resource can do a much better job of managing the resource. Dream on , my friend. It will never happen.

If anything, get ready for more regulations from the federal agencies, not fewer. Despite Idaho having established a good system of adjudicating water rights, as shortages begin to occur in the urban areas more restrictions on its use will be promulgated.

Charges for grazing rights will begin to rise towards true market value. The feds will spend more on fire suppression than ever before and will start more pre-emptive fires. Wild horses, sage grouse and their habitat will see more restrictive regulations placed on other uses. All because most urbanites see the public lands as a public playground.

These were the thoughts coalescing in one’s mind as I read about another example of the “Cliven Bundy” syndrome. You may recall how this Nevada BLM lease-holder consistently used and abused his grazing permit. His illegal activties reached the point where a warrant for his arrest was issued, but when the local sheriff and the BLM officers arrived at this scofflaw’s ranch they were met by heavily armed supporters spoiling for a fight.

Something similar is going on in Josephine County, Oregon, where two prospectors have been ordered to file a mine plan of operation on a claim they call Sugar Pine Mine. The Oathkeepers, a self-righteous group of supposed former law enforcement officers, have a volunteer possee surrounding the site to “protect” it.

Travesty, pure and simple. It reads like a Louis L’Amour western melodrama – you know, rich mine owners, hired guns supposedly to protect but really to provoke. It flies in the face of the law despite these folks wrapping themselves in the Constitution.

Oregon, incidentally, is 81% urban; more urban than Georgia, or Minnesota or New Mexico or Michigan or Pennsylvania. The earth is shifting.

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carlson CHRIS


Actually, the phrase is a French one, “poi pouri,” and, loosely translated it means “left over items.” Not having taken French as a foreign language either in high school or college, I’ve Americanized it a bit. I call it pot porridge.

Item #1. A covetted “Dummie” award to the p.r. experts at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Lab. They are making the Andrus/Batt contention that one cannot trust DoE at all, incontestable. Part of INL’s contention that they ought to be granted a waiver from the 1995 Batt Agreement’s ban on the importation of any commercial radioactive waste is that they’ve changed and now are committed
to more transparency, and to prompt notification. A recent event says “au contraire” (French for “I beg your pardon?”).

Turns out there are some bad habits that DoE/INL can’t correct overnight—-such as prompt notification to the media of a “worker exposure incident” at the troubled New Waste Calcining Facility. DoE/INL and the site contractor, CWI, admitted tht they had delayed filing a public report for six months.

Some things never change. One can almost hear Phil Batt saying “make my day!”

For his part, Cecil Andrus long ago figured out that any entity, whether public or private, operates by public consent. If one gets crosswise with the public and is perceived as placing the public at risk just for its profits, is not truthful, or misleads, they forfeit the public trust and along with it goes their credibility.

Andrus flat says that DoE has a long history of lying to him. He does not use that word lightly. Justifiably, DoE’s word is no good to him nor should anyone else believe a thing they say, as this latest doubt-creating incident again demonstrates.

Kudos to Corey Taule of the hometown Post-Register, who blistered DoE/INL in an editorial over the weekend for so stupidly making the Andrus/Batt lack of trust case for them.

Item #2. The Japanese have a difficult to translate word, giri, that Idaho’s legislative leadership, especially Speaker Scott Bedke (R-Oakley) ought to internalize. The word references the extra degree of obligation one has to another, and in the Idaho Legislature it is critical that the Speaker of the House recognize his responsibility to fulfill his role by truly providing leadership and producing for the public.

With alll due respect to the man who I’ve never met, there was little if any leadership from him, and few would give this year’s edition of the Legislature more than a D+ . Lay it all at the feet of Speaker Bedke. To let the Legislature adjourn without correcting the failure to provide funding for children from 155,000 certifiably poor families in Idaho, and possibly cripple if not destroy the support system, thus forfeiting $205 million is simply irrespopnsible.

That my good friend, Randy Stapilus, named Bedke the most influentrial politician in Idaho is rediculous. What good is having power if not exercised for the public good?

Bedke called the session “monumental,”and it was—-a monumental failure. In Japan when a “leader” fails so miserably, he apologizes and resigns. That’s what giri dictates and that’s what Bedke should do.

Item #3. Ted Turner’s 24/7 CNN News came calling last week. The producer of the Nancy Grace Show, one Mike Duffy, called and indicated they would like me to be available the next day to be on the show via a skype interview. He had seen the column I did on the tragic death of Veronica Rutledge, the bright young Kootenai High School graduate from Harrison shot and killed by her two-year-old last December outside the Hayden Wal-Mart.

It must have come as a surprise to them because most folks jump at the chance to be on a major network show, but I declined the invitation.

First, Nancy Grace is a former prosecutor well-known for her fervent pro-gun control views. Apparently, this is an outgrowth from the fact she lost her husband in a gun violence death. If I thought she and the show were really interested in facts, and were seeking an enlightened discussion, I might have thought otherwise. Regretfully, hers is one of those programs that seeks higher ratings by generating more publicity.

Secondly, I’m sure Ms. Rutledge’s family is still hurting fiercely from this terrible event. A program rekindling a painful past was something I simply was not interested in lending myself and my time.

As I told the producer in an e-mail – the column spoke for itself and there was nothing I could add.

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carlson CHRIS


There was both good news and bad for the Grand Old Party this week. The good news was the presidential candidacy announcement by Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. At the age of 43, he’s young, handsome, smart as a whip, and gives terrific speeches. First elected Speaker of the Florida House at age 34, his is an ascending star.

Presidential elections are most often about the future and who can best lead the nation into that uncertain time. Historically, the Democratic Party has been the one presenting younger, future-oriented candidates. This time around it may just be the Republicans, who with Rubio, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, have a corner on the younger, generational change leaders.

Former Senators Hillary Clinton, and James Webb (The only two announced Democrats) will both be approaching or at age 70 on Inauguration Day, 2017.

The bad news for Republicans is the candidacy announcement by Senator Rubio.

Rubio’s declaration coupled with the well-orchestrated meeting in Panama at the Organization of American States gathering between Cuban President Raul Castro and President Barack Obama spells trouble for the Republican presidential wanna-be’s.

Perhaps the most critical state for a Republican hopeful to capture in the primary is Florida. Likewise, the path to the White House in November, 2016 will go through Florida. There is one issue above all other issues that moves a critical Florida Republican constituency and that is maintenance of the trade embargo in the minds of the Cuban/American community.

President Obama’s long overdue movement to begin the process of doing away with the embargo ensures it will remain a divisive issue throughout the campaign cycle. Obama knows a good wedge issue when he sees one.

Senator Rubio, the son of immigrants who fled Cuba after Fidel Castro took power, is expected to maintain the “no compromise/no trade” position which must may give him the critical edge he’ll need to defeat in the primary his political mentor and friend, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Even before the Obama/Castro meeting, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced he was for pulling the trade embargo. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Wisconsin’s chief executive are expected to follow suit. After all, free trade is one of the tenet’s of the Libertarian faith.

Idaho’s current governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter, has long advocated lifting the trade embargo so Idaho producers could market and sell directly to Cuba. During the six years Otter was in the House he took three, lobbyist paid for trips to Cuba.

The first trade mission Otter organized and led as governor was to Cuba in April of 2007. Saying, according to spokesperson Jon Hanian, he was going down there “to sell some groceries,” Otter led a delegation of 35 Idahoans that included folks from the Idaho Potato Commission, the Idaho Milk Producers, a seed company, a couple of professors from BYU-Idaho, and Marty Peterson, the public affairs director for the University of Idaho, wearing his historical preservation hat. Peterson was hoping to take part in an effort to protect and preserve author Ernest Hemingway’s Havana home.

Before the “hate everything and oppose everything Obama does” crowd in Idaho gets too apopletic on this politically rewarding gambit by the President, they should also recall that while still a U.S. senator, Larry Craig visited Cuba in 2004.

As a ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Idaho Senator Jim Risch will no doubt be visiting Cuba before long on his own fact-finding mission.

The Idaho public figure with the most prescience about the futility of the trade embargo, however, was Senator Frank Church who visited Cuba several times. The last time was in August of 1977 when he and Fidel Castro sat and smoked Cuban cigars together.

Rest assured, my friends, Cuba will be an issue of some sort in the 2016 presidential race.

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carlson CHRIS


Most any day now Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy for the presidency. It appears she is going to be nominated as the Democratic standard bearer almost by acclamation. Fully 2/3’s of self-identified Democrats say she should be their nominee – a simply astounding lead for any one any time who aspired for an open seat presidential nomination.

Virtually every potential Republican has two mantras in their campaign speeches: why they are the true conservative and why they can beat Hillary Clinton. The media is positively salivating at the prospect. Her every move is scrutinized, not just her every e-mail (Those that were not purged from her personal PC server, that is).

They know the Republican party has a storehouse of materials researched, vetted and prioritized which they will start rolling out long before they have selected their nominee. It will be a string of invective, innuendo and distortion unlike anyone has ever seen. To their surprise it won’t change many minds.

I have a theory that many voters have already made up their minds about whether there should be a return to the White House of the Billy and Hillary Show. Yes, no matter how one wants to spin it, that decision is going to be influenced for many by the thought, for good or for ill, that coming along to the White House with Hillary would be “First Spouse” Billy.

All they are waiting for, before making up their minds, is to see whether Republicans will be smart enough to nominate a reasonable, competent alternative.

I haven’t seen or analyzed any polls on this subject – I’m just going with the old gut check here, but, for the sake of argument, indulge me for a moment.

First, most men voters, especially white men, are not enamored of Mrs. Clinton. The reasons vary, but it basically is a “not that woman at this time and this place.”

Thus, it is safe to say that Hillary arriving at the White House will depend on her “sisters” delivering close to a 2/3’s majority for her, and that’s where the Hillary juggernaut will stumble, and ultimately be stopped. My guess is she will at best win the women vote nationwide by a 53% to 47% margin.

Her sisters will let her down not because they reject that it is a woman’s turn, nor that it is Hillary’s turn. Nor that she isn’t qualified or because they have concerns about Slick Willie.

Hillary will at best get a slightly better than split vote not because of her gender, but many women will decide Hillary doesn’t pass muster because she did not speak out more aggressively on the major issues of concern to women voters. What they will see is the following:

Hillary will speak out for increasing the minimum wage instead of talking to women voters about equal pay for equal work.

Hillary will denounce the growing income gap in America between rich and poor but won’t offer a solution. After all, she and Bill are now full-fledge members of the affluent class.

Hillary will shy away from addressing with specific solutions the horrible abuse women endure not just in far off foreign cultures but here in America. One United Nations study said over the course of a woman’s life 7 out of 10 women will either be raped, physically assaulted, molested or sexually harassed in their lifetime.

Hillary will not be able to win the confidence of the nation’s military leadership.

Hillary will galvanize the evangelicals by appearing to attack “freedom of religion” clauses in legislation.

For example she will say she supports repealing the opt out clause in contracts with Catholic hospitals.

When she stumbles, as inevitably she will, she will revert to form, blame the media and act out in her pattern of petulence and victimization.

It won’t sell with many women who, unlike men voters, have yet to really make up their minds. They will have a “show me” attitude and at this juncture I’m guessing she won’t be able to do so.

Am I the only “business Democrat” (fiscally conservative, socially liberal) out here in the hinterlands who would like to see his party at least have an honest to goodness open primary? To quote former Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, can there be a choice, not an echo?

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carlson CHRIS


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

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

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

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

The envelopes please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rumors abound across the district she is planning on resigning shortly after the session ends with the presumption the Legislative district committee, which recommends names to the governor, will list son Jim’s name and Governor Otter will play along.

The son is a knowledgable attorney in Wallace, somewhat of an expert on water law. He understands even if his mother does not that most voters don’t particularly cotton to this type of backroom orchestrating.

Compounding such a scenario is that there will again be a primary challenge to McMillan even if it is Jim instead of Shannon, from Shauna Hillman. She is the popular manager of Wallace’s Northern Pacific Train Depot, is active in chamber and commmunity affairs, and plans to start doorbelling in Grangeville and Orofino soon. She recognizes she started late last time but has learned. Mining and timber interests in Shoshone County are expected to support her again.

Thus, Rep. McMillan receives the coveted “dummie” both for votes against her own district’s interests and for the hubris in thinking she can resign and designate her successor. That just isn’t the Idaho way.

– – –

James McMillan, an attorney at Wallace and the son of Representative McMillan, responded to Carlson:

I recently came across these articles:;, in which it is rumored that my mother is going to resign her seat and somehow designate me as a chosen successor.

As far as that is concerned, I can tell you, unequivocally and without hesitation, that these rumors are 100% FALSE. She fully intends to serve out her term, as well as seek re-election in 2016, and I am most certainly not in a position in my life or my business to be taking off to Boise for three months out of the year.

As such, I would ask that a correction be published whereever this column has been disseminated. You have both corresponded with me via e-mail in the past, and my office telephone number is hardly a secret, and so I am disappointed that you would perpetuate such a wild, unsubstantiated rumor without at least attempting to contact me to verify whether or not it is true.

I do not know who is spreading this rumor, but whoever it is, they are just plain making things up. Pure and simple.

I thank you for your attention to this matter.

Carlson responds:

James – columns, unlike news articles, are by definition opinions and interpretations and thus many columnists feel no obligation similar to a reporter’s to inquire when they come across a delicious rumor. I referenced it as a rumor and I’d heard it from four reputable sources , two in the county and two outside the county, but all saying they had heard speculation along these lines. I thought I went out of my way to make it clear that you in all probability would not be a party to such an effort.

In this case, though, I’ll concede I should have called you. I accept your absolute denial and do believe you are a person of your word. I do apologize for referring to you as Jim when you prefer James. You recognize I trust that one way to kill such idle speculation as you and some of your friends called it, is to just get it out there in the light of day.

As you know, I write to encourage people to think and look beyond the surface. From my standpoint it was an interesting and intriguing rumor.

I’m reminded of an old saying in politics: As long as they spell your name correctly, there’s no such thing as bad press.

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carlson CHRIS


It was probably inevitable that a clash between Idaho’s Second District Congressman, Mike Simpson, and Idaho’s First District Congressman, Raul Labrador, would develop.

For the record of course and when with their senatorial colleagues they try to maintain the appearance of comity, that it is all one happy gang of Republicans working together for Idaho. Don’t be fooled, folks. There is growing evidence the two men hardly tolerate each other.

Last week’s not so subtle “tit for tat” columns revealed much even to the untrained observer. It’s not just the canyon-wide differences on political and policy matters. It is that their style is different, which reflects real differences in their approach to public service.

Mike Simpson is a true “work horse.” The veteran congressman believes he is there to solve problems which often means to compromise and even to work together with Democrats. Simpson has paid his dues. He has worked within the seniority system, paid attention to details, displayed respect for all members but especially the seniors.

Simpson is a good legislator. He learned his craft while a member of the Idaho House where he quickly rose to become the Speaker. In Congress he has become a confidant of House Speaker John Boehner and is considered to be a key member of the Speaker’s Leadership team.

He is also known as one of the “Cardinals,” the rare achievers who chair agency appropriation subcommittees. As such, Simpson has much to say about the tax dollars that go to the major cabinet agencies of Interior, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Labrador comes across to veteran observers as a “show horse.” He is adept, almost gifted at attracting media coverage for himself. For a member only in his third term he has had an unusal number of appearances on television’s Sunday talk shows. He obviously likes publicity.

He is a darling of the Tea Party faction of the Party precisely because he is a young man in a hurry who has little use for protocal and traditional procedure. Two years ago he challenged his own Speaker because he and a large contingent of the Republican caucus are ideologues who prefer confrontation to compromise. Many of his Tea Party supporters applauded him. This January, when he voted for his Speaker, these same folks were angered.

Simpson and his staff were not pleased last year when Labrador did not endorse his Republican colleague. While he did not formally endorse Simpson’s challenger either, there were questions in the minds of some as to whether Labrador encouraged and even advised the challenger. Labrador denies having done anything to assist the challenger.

Labrador compounded his suspect behavior, however, by voting against the funding garnered by Simpson for the Idaho National Laboratory.

It came as no surprise then to see Labrador take a couple of not so subtle “potshots” in a column that ran in several Idaho dailies on March 9th. Labrador was part of a group of conservatives who sought to undue President Obama’s excutive orders on immigraion reform by tying up the budget for Homeland Security and making it a hostage. The goup not only threatened to cut off funding for Homeland Security, it threatened to once again stop all government spending except for Defense.

Labrador was critical of Boehner (and his leadership team) in compromising, saying he capitulated to the Democrats, and accusing the Speaker of weakening the Constitution. He ridiculed the so-called “adults’ of the Republican caucus. You can bet Simpson took every one of those shots personsally.

Within three days Simpson’s column with its not so subtle shots aimed obviously at Labrador appeared. Simpson excoriated those in the Republican caucus who practiced the politics of confrontation, who would use shutdown of an agency or the entire government as a tactic. He termed these types as obstructionits, pointing out that the Republicans had been given a chance to show America they could govern, but were fumbling it away.

He termed the Labrador types an “irresponsible, unrealistic, ineffective segment of the Republican Caucus . . . . .imposing a losing strategy . . . . with no credible policy proposals.” He was scathing in his criticism.

In particular his last paragraph was unmistakable in its target:

“My pro-shutdown colleagues are the same folks who pushed for immigration reform only to abandon the notion—leaving the American people on hold with a broken system, ineffective border, and an overreaching President looking for any excuse to write executive actions.”

When a spokesperson for Labrador was asked if the Simpson comments were aimed at them, the response was “ask Congressman Simpson.’ When a spokesperson for Simpson was asked if Labrador was their target, the response was “If the shoe fits, wear it.”

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carlson CHRIS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some truths that the INL booster types cannot handle:

1) Phil Batt authored the 1995 DoE/Navy/Idaho Agreement in which he skillfully brought to a successful to conclusion an effort begun by Govenor Andrus.. They know what it says and what it means far better than than the current overnor, Butch Otter.

2) Absent Yucca Mountain there is no national repository for radioactive material. Whether one calls it research material or waste, it’s radioactive and once here odds are it will be here for a long, long time.

3) Andrus and Batt care far more about the future well-being of the site than all the Idaho Falls INL boosters put together, including Governor Otter, Congressman Mike Simpson, Senator Mike Crapo and State Senator Bart Davis. Why? Because they see far over the horizon better than the booster types and what they see is that the more the site becomes the de facto repository the less there will be a research mission.

Here are some truths under the second phrase:

1) You can trust Andrus and Batt to care far more about the future of Idaho than you can the Department of Energy, or an indifferent Governor Otter.

2) The Department of Energy has repeatedly, going back fifty years, failed to meet deadlines, at times deliberately misled, and in general has an abysmal record with regard to keeping its word. Why would any sane person keep positing trust or give any credence to anything they say? With them the end justifies the means.

3) Verification mandates that the state keep a wary eye on the management at INL for past history is revealing. Remember a few years back when DoE tried to modify the definition of “all” in the Batt agreement, as in the requirement that the federal government had to remove ALL radioactive material from above the aquifer by 2035? Much to DoE’s chagrin a Federal District judge ruled “All” means ALL.

Despite this Federal District Judge’s ruling there are credible reports that the Citizenas Oversight Committee is currently hotly debating a DoE desire to forego having to dig up and remove ground at the INTEC site and the ATR complex. There are additional reports that Idaho DEQ may have already signed off on this newest DoE effort to subvert the Batt Agreement.

Finally, some truths under phrase three:

1) Some trace amounts of carcinogenic materials may have already touched the aquifer,

2) The former governors are dead-on correct when they point out how vulnerable the “downstream” ag industry is to a potential charge that potatoes, alfalfa and other crops which draw water from the Snake River and the aquifer could someday be contaminated by larger amounts of radioactive material. Even the misperception of that could kill frmers in the Magic Valley.

3) There’s a growing perception in the rest of Idaho that the INL and its largely southeast Idaho boosters don’t give a damn about the rest of the state, as long as they get the reward and someone else takes all the risk.

The question remains on the table: Can the critics of Governors Batt and Andrus really handle the truth?

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carlson CHRIS


Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s failure to understand not just the nuances but the primary purpose of the nuclear waste agreement negotiated for the state in 1995 with the Department of Energy and the Navy by Governor Phil Batt is simply appalling. It’s the people of Idaho and their descendents who are going to suffer if Governor Otter’s obsession with money trumping environmental risks warrants his unilaterally abrogating the Governor Batt 1995 agreement.

The waiver he and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are ready to allow for the importation of commercial spent fuel rods should be withdrawn or halted by a Federal district judge. It violates both the letter of the law and the spirit of the agreement.

Every citizen of Idaho, and every future Idahoan, should stand and applaud two of Idaho’s best former governors, Batt, the Republican, and Andrus, the Democrat, for coming out of retirement and dedicating themselves to reversing the folly of this successor. May the good people of Idaho recognize how extraordinary this is and rally to the cause.

As Governor Batt has pointed out recently, by a two to one margin the voters of the state ratified his agreement that states no more commercial nuclear waste is to be brought into Idaho. Furthermore, that which is here is to be gone by 2035. We know that won’t happen because work at the proposed national repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, was stopped and the Obama Administration has shut it down.

Now, there are reliable reports the federal government is going to ask Idaho for a 15-year extension of that deadline to 2050. Why shouldn’t they, since in Otter they have a compliant, asleep at the switch governor who rolls over every time he’s asked to do so.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see the handwriting on the wall – any additional commercial waste, including spent fuel rods, brought to Idaho for any reason is going to be here for a long, long time stored above the Snake River Plain aquifer.

Governor Otter’s response to the announcement that his two predecessors are getting ready to go to federal court to enforce the Batt agreement was pure blarney. It was nothing but a partisan, red herring designed to divert attention to the real issue.

Yes, Governors Batt and Andrus do see storing commercial nuclear waste above the aquifer as a liability. They also understand that legitimate research will continue with plenty of what’s already there available for research. Furthermore, they can see the best insurance for continuing research activities at the site is to clean up what’s there and not let the site become the nation’s de facto nuclear garbge dump.

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the Batt agreement’s emphatic, unequivocal “no more commercial waste” in Idaho?”

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that major federal actions impacting the environment have to be subject to public review and comment?

The NEPA process is to be an open, transparent process with plenty of time for citizen comments. On that point alone the former governors should prevail easily in a court of law.

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about a predicted budget of $200 million over ten years for research on commercial spent fuel rods, when each shipment is projected to be a $10 to $20 million expense, presumes future waivers at least eight more times?

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the Batt Agreement’s requirement that section D.2.e regarding calcining the 900,000 gallons of high level liquid waste there was supposed to be completed by 2012 and must be completed before DoE waiver requests can even be contemplated?

He should read the attorney general’s letter of February 27 where Wasden documents continual back-sliding and outright lying by DoE.

The date for completion of that project is clearly way off somewhere in the future but nonetheless completion is an absolute prerequisite for any request for any waiver of any kind to import any new additional commercial waste.

Even Wasden, after doing more due diligence, has figured out that DoE has yet to meet the section D.2.e criteria.

In spite of his letter clearly reversing himself, Wasden still is claiming consistency with his January letter. This means he believes a waiver is still in effect. The general is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Finally, what makes Governor Otter think he can act unilaterally and abrogate an agreement approved by the people of Idaho? This is pure arrogance on his part, unmatched by any of predecessors. The phrase that applies: dereliction of duty.

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