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Posts published in “Carlson”

Speaker Simpson – in Congress this time?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The table just may start to be set for Idaho’s Second District Congressman, Mike Simpson, to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. Yes, the split in the House Republican Caucus started to show when one member cast a vote for Idaho’s 1st District Congressman, Raul Labrador, and Labrador himself refused to vote. Rep. Labrador, however, even though the darling of the Tea Party types, will never be
Speaker.

Mike Simpson, on the other hand, has a real shot in part because he has been a loyal lieutenant to Speaker Boehner. One can predict that if it becomes clear to the Speaker that he no longer enjoys the confidence of his Caucus and should step aside, he will still have a sizable contingent of loyalists. Boehner could no doubt direct these loyalists to vote for one of his key advisors, Mike Simpson.

It not only takes skill to maneuver successfully to ride herd on the incredibly divisive House, it also takes luck and a talent for being perceived to be the right person at the right time and the right place to become the next Speaker. Simpson, however, over his long career has demonstrated both skill and luck.

Make no mistake, Boehner has been mortally wounded. He just barely survived a major in-Caucus rebellion over his bumbling, lackluster inability to draw and quarter the president in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. The fact that the split within became so obvious is in all probability an unmistakable sign his days are numbered. He clearly cannot deliver a majority of his caucus on anything, which the Democrats smell, as do the House members of the Tea Party.

Simpson is thought to command the respect of all the factions within the Republican caucus in part because he is a good listener, a shrewd analyst and a savvy negotiator who is not afraid to compromise in order to achieve consensus and move forward.

There’s an old political saying about he who intends to kill the King ought to make sure they’ve done so. In this case, the challenge initially has failed but Boehner may be a member of the walking dead. It may take time to recognize his legs have been cut out from under him. But not by Simpson. Ever the loyalist he is not about to knife a friend and scramble over the body. That is another point for him.

Another attraction is that while second in line for Presidency, the House Speaker has rarely ever ascended to the Presidency. It is not a stepping stone. In fact the only Speakers of the U.S. House to ever make it were James K.Polk and James A. Garfield who by all accounts were successful speakers. Elected in 1880 he never was able to fulfill his promise as he was shot by an assassin within months of taking office. Incompetent doctors helped him to survive the bullet but he couldn’t survive their incompetent care. (more…)

An open letter to DOE (part 1)

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

An “Open Letter” to Jeffrey Sayer
Chair
Leadership in Nuclear Energy Commission

Dear Mr. Sayer:

Former Governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus have once again rendered their fellow citizens a tremendous service - indeed, service above and beyond the call of duty.

Both governors saw through the smoke screen of wishful thinking by blind Idaho National Laboratory partisans who with dollar signs dancing in their eyes thought they could hornswoggle the two governors into accepting amendments to Governor Batt’s 1995 agreement with the Lab, Do E and The United States Navy severely limiting the importation of any more (other than a small amount for research purposes) nuclear waste and mandating it all be gone from the Site by 2035.

Idahoans ought to thank the members of Governor Butch Otter’s LINE commission for being, choose your word: dumb or naïve, enough to think that dangling a carrot of vague, unspecified additional economic development might possibly entice Idaho ’s current leadership to amend the 1995 agreement.

There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Butch will buck two governors who he served as Lt. Governor and cross their emphatic response to even the hint of amending the agreement with their firm not just NO!, but Hell No!

Batt and Andrus understand that Idaho has the only agreement of any state NOT to be turned into an interim waste or possibly permanent waste repository. The 1995 agreement gives Idaho the only real leverage it has and it is reinforced by having been held up as binding in a Federal Court of law.

To deal away a “hole card” would be the height of folly when dealing with a Federal government that did not begin to keep many of its promises until the 1995 agreement was in place.

One cannot be any clearer than Governor Andrus was in his letter to the LINE Commission chair, Commerce director Jeff Sayer. He told Sayer he had carefully read all 50 plus pages including the recommendations and “nothing in the (Line Commission) report warrants any amendment for any reason to the Batt Agreement of 1995.. . .”

To have Governor Batt follow suit immediately with his own strongly worded letter to the Idaho Statesman ensured that folks would still see the two governors from different political parties were absolutely tied together at the hip on this matter.

It was meant to signal to anyone who might try to make this into a partisan matter that that too was a non-starter. The governors had obviously been talking and had coordinated their responses. One could almost hear the gnashing of teeth in far away north Idaho emanating from the INL booster types in Idaho Falls. (more…)

They also serve

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

“They also serve…”

The full quote from the 17th century English poet, John Milton (1608-1674; author of Paradise Lost), is "They also serve who only stand and wait." It’s from another of his writings, On His Blindness, made poignant by the poet’s own blindness.

It’s a reminder that most are supporting cast on the stage of life to a few star players whose light outshines others and who are more noted by historians. That said, their roles, seemingly insignificant, are necessary to fill out the drama. Every star needs a supporting cast to help them stand out in life’s movable parade.

These thoughts were prompted recently following a discussion with two of the four most noteworthy stars from the Idaho State Senate freshman class of 1961. This is the class whose stars and role players, with seasoning and maturity, four years later led Idaho into modernity by debating, then adopting and sending to the voters for ratification the first ever sales tax designed to better fund public education and meet the stated first goal of Idaho’s state constitution.

Fifty years later two of the "stars" who played critical roles in the sales tax debate and passage are still alive with sharp memories: former four-term Governor Cecil D. Andrus, who in 1961 was elected to the Senate as a Democrat from Clearwater County, and former Majority Leader Bill Roden, a Republican from Ada County.

Curious about the other lesser known members of their class and what each might recall of these supporting players, I called both recently.

Coincidentally, both Andrus and Roden started by recalling the same anecdote. It seems the Statesman’s then political editor, John Corlett, ran profiles during the session on new members from both the House and Senate. Corlett wrote up a glowing profile of Roden in 1961 in which he said Bill, at 29, was the youngest person ever elected to the Idaho Senate. (more…)

Intervention and prevention

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Former Governor Cecil D. Andrus said it best: I never met a deer armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

He’s well known as a sportsman who gets his elk and deer annually for the family larder, and fills the edges of the freezer with pheasants, ducks, geese, wild turkeys and chukars, all of which he hunts annually. This past fall he nailed his six-point bull elk with one shot at 340 yards.

He fundamentally supports the Second Amendment right of a citizen to keep and bear arms. He does not believe, as some interpreters of the Constitution do, that the right is meant just for a militia. That said he also believes common sense has to be applied. That means society can through Congress sanction reasonable curbs such as banning cop-killer bullets and imposing waiting periods before purchase.

The tragedy and the carnage at Sandy Hill Elementary demands at a minimum re-opening the debate on whether there should be a restoration of an outright ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles and their incredibly lethal magazines (up to a hundred rounds in some cases.).

AR-15’s and other semi-automatic rifles are built for one purpose: to kill human beings. They are neither a hunting rifle, nor usually a sporting or target shooting rifle. They are a lethal weapon meant to kill. Only police agencies and the military should have them. One can defend his castle from any home invader with a Glock 21 semi-automatic .45 caliber pistol, or a shotgun.

The problem of course is when the Brady Bill ban on the sale of these weapons and their magazines was allowed by Congress to expire, people could legally buy them and many gun collectors as well as individuals have. Common sense says we’re not going to confiscate these legally acquired weapons.

Rather than focus first on the irresolvable debate over whether stricter controls on the sale of these weapons could make elementary schools safer, there ought to be a focus on establishing ways of identifying and intervening with individuals who have mental issues and almost always are heard by someone saying they are going to exit this world and take a bunch of innocent people with them.

Meaningful intervention means society is going to have to cough up a lot more funding to address mental health issues and fund campaigns on television and radio urging people to report on “rats.” Set up toll free lines that can be directed to agencies who can legally engage in preventative detention and also direct concerned parents to services that will help them deal with a troubled son or daughter.

We also have to make part of the debate some way of discouraging these awful video games young people are consumed with playing which glorify action heroes who gun down their enemies by the hundreds. Bottom line is in our culture we glorify violence and encourage people to think they can be Lone Rangers taking the law into their own hand to wreak vengeance.

In the debate over possible restoration of the ban on automatic weapons, if not a ban then we should insist on examining better registration requirements as well as longer waiting periods before sanctioning a sale. Additionally, we should consider prohibiting gifting these weapons as well as an outright ban on their sale at gun shows across the nation.

There is no single simple answer to trying to minimize the circumstances that lead to these tragedies. Placing more restrictions on the millions of legitimate owners is simply feel good legislation that harasses the law abiding.

A combination though of both ways to identify and intervene with these deranged individuals, while making it tougher for them to acquire the kind of lethal fire power an AR-15 has to create absolute carnage seems to be a good starting point.

Let’s not fool ourselves either. It will take more money to fund properly mental health intervention programs as well as monitor the stricter controls on sales of automatic weapons and place more police “resource officers” in public schools.

We all pay lip service though to the belief that children are the future. As a society we just have no choice but to step up to the responsibility to ensure they are truly protected in their schools, their homes and on the streets. We best walk the talk.

President Obama can get the debate going by unilaterally announcing in six months he will sign executive orders placing more funding through ObamaCare into mental health prevention programs and the reinstating tighter controls on the sale of assault weapons.

Let the debate begin.

Native jurisdiction (con’t)

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

As I walked into my publisher’s office for our weekly discussion on issues, political and otherwise, he threw out this opening gambit: “You must still feel guilt from having had Chief Allen call you a racist?

Dan was referring to my column/review of Louise Erdrich’s National Book Award winning novel, The Round House. A richly textured and finely written book, it is full of ambiguity. At one level it is an eloquent plea for tribal courts to have jurisdiction especially in capital cases over non-natives if they commit a major crime on native land.

“As usual, you’re wrong,” I shot back at my good friend who loves to twist one’s tail and succeeds because he outrageously exaggerates where one may be on an issue. “I took no position on the issue but rather pointed out what an important matter it is for tribes and how central it is to understanding the novel’s plot.”

“So, given your raising this controversial topic why not inform your readers why Congress and the Courts have come up with this concept of “quasi-sovereignty” for reservations? Check with some of your lawyer friends,” Dan suggested.

So I did, all of whom benignly indulge my “practicing law without a license.” Ever since learning of the 1902 Winter’s Doctrine, and laws in which Congress reserved rights to tribes, it has intrigued me why tribes have been reluctant to fully exploit the obvious power contained therein.

While Walter Echo-hawk’s book, In the Court of the Conquerors, outlined the ten worst rulings by the Supreme Court denying basic constitutional rights to Native Americans, he failed to point out that there are laws and court rulings, such as the Winter’s Doctrine, which give Native Americans first in time water rights on all bodies of water arising on
or passing through their reservations. Some tribes are starting quantify their claims while others prefer to let things simmer longer as water becomes ever more valuable.

When asked the question as to what they considered the key obstacle standing in the way of tribes attaining the right to enforce their laws on both natives and non-natives, all said the real issue is whether Tribal Courts are truly an independent branch of government.

One attorney said that in his state “and I suspect everywhere else the real issue is the lack of independence from the Tribal Council. Tribal Councils control Tribal Courts so instead of the rule of law you essentially have the rule of the council. If the council doesn’t like the result in a particular court case, the council overrules it or perhaps fires the judge.” (more…)

Limits of sovereignty

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, The Round House, in early November was chosen by the National Book Award as the year’s best work of fiction. It is a worthy recipient, but in telling a compelling story of a Native American woman’s violent rape (Told by her 13-year-old son), the art of fiction transcends boundaries and presents an all too believable “true” story.

At one level it is a tale of injustice. At another it is one of vengeance as well as the coming to terms with tragedy full of ambiguities by two precocious 13 year old boys trying to make sense of their world while still full of teen-age angst driven by their own developing sex drive.

With skill and selective humor the author captures the complexities of reservation life and of Native Americans still trying to find their identity in a world that very much looks down on their culture and them. Now living in Minnesota, Ms. Erdrich grew up in North Dakota near the Chippewa Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain band. Her eye for the revealing detail is incredible while still employing a bare, fast moving writing style that quickly engages a reader.

In a powerful and emotional appeal Erdrich is making the case for a change in jurisdiction law in a more effective way than did Walter Echo-hawk in his scholarly book reviewed in this column earlier this year entitled In the Court of the Conquerors. Echo-hawk outlines the ten most outrageous cases upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court over the years that systematically denied America’s native peoples rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Each author, though, in their own thoughtful way makes the case for tribes to be allowed by Congress and the Courts to administer justice to native and non-native alike for crimes committed on their reservation. Non-native folks in counties containing or adjacent to Native American reservations immediately protest saying that since they can’t vote for tribal officials and judges they should not be placed under tribal jurisdiction. (Try using that argument if arrested in Turkey for drugs)

If the US Supreme Court starts recognizing tribes as having full sovereignty on their reservations (as opposed to the apparent interpretation that tribes only have “quasi-sovereignty”) then it is inevitable that the day will come when non-natives will be prosecuted in tribal courts for crimes like murder and rape.

In Erdrich’s novel it is just this issue of jurisdiction that lies at the heart of the story. The rapist is allowed to walk because neither the authorities nor the victim can say for sure where the rape physically took place. Sure, it was near the novel’s namesake “Round House,” but there are multiple ownerships in and around this particular site.

In the Afterword, Erdrich cites stunning statistics from an Amnesty International report which says one out of every three Native American women will be raped during their lifetime and 86% of their attackers will be non-Native men. For Erdrich this is as much an issue of safety for Native American women as it an issue of justice.

A minor yet central character in the story’s plot is a “fictional” South Dakota governor, Curtis W. Yeltow. In the book he fathers a daughter by a 17-year-old Native American intern working in his office and then pays her $40,000 to keep quiet and disappear. She disappears alright by way of murder. (more…)

Governor: Time to build a Legacy

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Dear Governor Otter:

Allow this former bit role player on the Idaho political scene to make some suggestions to one of the major players for the past 40 years, as to how you can secure a legacy and bequeath to your fellow citizens one worth remembering.

Leaving a legacy is challenging and frankly most governors are really just caretakers. You have a congressional legacy of sorts. Many will always admire the manner in which you courageously stood almost alone against the excesses of the Patriot Act and its clear threat to many of our precious personal freedoms. Your stand is deserving of a chapter in any new publication of Profiles in Courage.

In looking at your record for the last six years I see nothing extraordinary. You’ll point to a reduction in the growth of government and ignore the reduction in support for public education that has taken place on your watch. You’ll point to the growth in business and your trade missions generating more business, but that’s expected of a governor. It’s not a legacy.

Here are four suggestions that would secure a legacy:

#1. Don’t back down on nuclear waste removal deadlines. Impose the fines contained in the Batt agreement and other follow up memorandums for the failure of INL to meet the year-end clean-up date for beginning to remove the liquefied waste from the site and continue the stance of not accepting any more waste above and beyond the limited amounts already agreed upon.

You are being asked to grant a waiver, but don’t do it. What good is accomplished by ignoring a reasonable timeframe every one at the table agreed upon and then letting it slip, and slip again, and slip again ad infinitum? Don’t be intimidated by those who say such a stance will mean less work for INL. The fact is with budget cuts coming regardless, there’s going to be less funding for INL period. Your responsibility is to see that Idaho’s aquifer is protected and that the waste is safely removed, all the waste, from above the aquifer by 2035, whether the federal government has steamrolled a renewed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada through or not.

You are dangerously close to letting Idaho become the de facto interim storage site for all nuclear wastes unless you take a firm stand and that includes not waiving deadlines or fines.

#2. Clean up the mess at the privately run prison south of Boise. Letting the prisoners run the prison is no answer to solving the woes of increasing costs for incarceration whether public or private. If even one fifth of the charges in the recent lawsuit are true you have a major problem on your hands. Have you looked at the video?

Don’t hide behind lawyers urging you not to comment because there’s a lawsuit involved. Take charge because if you don’t this item alone could condemn your tenure to infamy. Put together a task force with tight deadlines. Give it a charge and frame the questions. (more…)

The Duke of Elmore?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

At first glance there could not be two more different people than Frank Church and former President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Surprisingly, though, there were more similarities than one would think.

Both men were terrifically ambitious; both had talented wives who played crucial roles in their success; both could be excellent “stump” speakers; both loved publicity as much as they loved being senators; both relished the give and take of politics; both authored legislation that has touched for the better the lives of millions of Americans past, present and in the future.

Most interesting though is both first came to the Senate courtesy of a missing ballot box in a key county controlled by friends of theirs.

Robert Caro, in his massive yet to be completed five volume biographies of Johnson documents with a story teller’s flair how Johnson finally got to the U.S. Senate by an 87 vote margin over former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson. The key to that “victory” was ballot box 13 in Duval county controlled by one man, George Parr, a Johnson supporter and a true loyalist who was well rewarded for his loyalty.

There’s even a picture of the wayward ballot box sitting on top of the hood of a car with several deputy sheriffs, as well as cronies of Parr’s, one with his foot on the bumper, posing for posterity before the box went into the mists of history.

Less well known is Idaho’s remarkably similar story. Seven years after Johnson took his Senate seat courtesy of a missing ballot box, in August of 1956, young Frank Church defeated former U.S. Senator Glen Taylor in the Democratic primary by 170 votes.

The winner would be up against the already dying and somewhat disgraced Senator Herman Welker, one of the few supporters for the red-baiting activities of Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.

Idaho’s usually Republican leaning business establishment, including the state’s dominant paper, The Idaho Statesman, was beginning to recognize the damage being done by “Little Joe from Idaho’s” support for McCarthy. Behind the scenes Church’s friend and campaign manager, Carl Burke, was thought to have enlisted some key establishment support for Church’s bid.

For years afterwards Taylor maintained the nomination had been stolen, and wouldn’t you know it, a key ballot box could no longer be found. The county was Elmore and the finger of allegation has long pointed at veteran State Senator Bob Wetherell, the “Duke” of Elmore county and the counterpart to George Parr, the Duke of Duval county. By all accounts Wetherell’s influence included dominating the Courthouse. (more…)

A miss is a miss

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Several readers have indicated they believe there should be an explanation of why the six indices the column forwarded as ones to track before the final vote that would give one a good idea whether there would be a new president missed the mark.

All seem to have a perverse desire to see this humble scribe masticating on crow.

#1. The 80/40 rule which said if Obama took 80% or more of the minority vote then Romney had to take an almost impossible 60% of the total white vote. Preliminary final tallies show that neither hit the mark. Obama took 75% of the minority vote (including an impressive 72% of the Hispanic vote), and Romney came close to topping the 59% plus of the total white vote that Reagan garnered but did not go over the magic 60% mark. What was really deceiving to the public was the impression the media created of a massive turnout by showing long lines waiting to vote at places where there were not as many balloting places as before for budgetary reasons, or, as in Florida, where early voting time was cut in half. Actual turnout totals will not top either the 2008 or the 2004 elections.

#2. Watch how undecided independent women break. Initially they appeared to start breaking towards Romney after the first debate, but the predilection of stupid, white male GOP Senate candidates to start talking about rape and abortion soon brought many of them back to their concern as with other women about access to abortion and protection of contraceptive rights. When the smoke cleared Obama had a 12 percent advantage among women voters more than erasing Romney’s 7 % advantage with men voters.

#3. As goes Ohio - this said no Republican has ever won the presidency without taking Ohio and it still holds true. Polls appeared to show Romney gaining steadily on the President in Ohio but what the polls could not measure was the superior ground game Obama had in Ohio with far local store front offices in key neighborhoods and a far more sophisticated involvement plan for all its numerous volunteers. Romney’s team simply did not believe that Obama could recreate the 2008 coalition nor match the intensity. Not only were they wrong on that they had no idea how much more sophisticated the ground operation Messina and Axelrod had in place was over theirs. When the smoke cleared not only had Obama won Ohio, he took every other one of the key swing states. (more…)

Idaho and ISU football

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Allow me some comments on the future of football at Idaho and Idaho State.

#1: Both Athletic Directors, Idaho’s Rob Spear and ISU’s Jeff Tingey, need to take media training refresher courses. When confronted by a crisis the first rule is to gather the facts quickly, then go public with the bad news because that allows you to frame the matter.

So, Jeff sits on the Coach Kramer shoving incident for a good two weeks, creating the impression he was hoping it would go away and the university could deal with it as a private personnel matter. When taxpayer dollars are involved there is no such thing.

But at least Jeff was finally forthcoming about what he knew win and how he checked it out. The subsequent suspension of the player involved should not surprise anyone.

Rob Spear, his hands tied by President Duane Nellis and advisers, all of whom defer too often to the lawyers, has been bobbing and weaving not being allowed to tell the full story yet about why Coach Robb Akey was let go in the middle of the football season. Its become apparent that when Rob got the news Idaho’s talented quarterback had failed a drug test for the third time this season (according to the Spokesman-Review) he had to deliver on a probable ultimatum he’d made earlier to Coach Akey.

An educated guess is the qb flunked his first drug test for which he was punished by being held out of Idaho’s first game against Big Sky power Eastern Washington. Presumably there was a second test he failed and at that point Spear must have said something like "one more time Akey and you’re both gone!" Then one more time happened.

Rob should have and could have addressed all of this at the time he announced Coach Akey’s firing. My educated guess is he was not permitted to lay it all out by the coterie of sycophants that surround the President. The result is of course his credibility is badly compromised with the media, not Nellis’, nor executive vice president Chris Murray’s.

This is unfortunate because Spear is a good man doing as well as anyone could under next to impossible circumstances. He deserves better.
#2: Tingey and ISU President Arthur Vailis ought to stick with Coach Kramer. Anyone who looks at the YouTube footage is amazed the wide receiver so easily fell backwards. One wag said after watching it, "no wonder ISU is losing games so badly. They all must be easy push-over pussy cats!"

Give Kramer the five years a salvage operation like ISU’s program is and that it will take to turn it around. (more…)