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Posts published in “Carlson”

Carlson: Filling in the forms

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Indulge me in a rant about interest group questionnaires and the absurd length contained therein to ensure a candidate is a purist before he or she can receive the group’s nod, its mailing list and a donation from its PAC.

Were we not taught in civics classes that we are a republic with the people electing representatives “hired” to use their intelligence and commonsense to weigh complicated matters most of us don’t have time to study and then decide what the greatest good is for the greatest number?

Instead, many interest groups only want an automaton, a robot that will vote their way on issues of import to their agenda 100 percent of the time. Use your own judgment? Heaven forbid. Our representative is supposed to be bought and paid for, according to various interests across the spectrum, and stay bought and paid for.

A friend running for a municipal office in the state of Washington recently sent me the questionnaire from Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the political action committee that doles out contributions to those it views sympathetic to its women’s health and reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion.

Instructions made it clear every question had to be answered, that “yes” or “no” had to be circled on every question, and incomplete responses would be interpreted as “refused to respond.” Where do these people (I’m referring to all such groups) come off thinking that intensely personal, private issues influenced by one’s value system and beliefs can be reduced down to black and white “yes” or “no?”

The late baseball commissioner, Barlett Giamatti (a former president of Yale), said it best: “There are many who lust for the simple answers of doctrine or decree. They are on the left and right. They are not confined to a single part of society. They are terrorists of the mind.”

He points out many people have a hard time dealing with the tough ragged edges of life, the many gray areas that confront one. But that’s the real world, and he is politely saying “deal with reality.” Don’t take refuge in ideology and demagoguery.

Interest group zealots also are fond of falling into what Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard called the “fallacy of the either/or,” as in you are either “with us or against us,” most recently spouted by President George W. Bush in telling the rest of the world his view regarding the war on terrorism.

How hard is it to understand and gird ourselves against taking refuge in such simplicities? Because our mind boggles at the increasing complexity of daily living, we begin to imagine a simpler time, to yearn to make life, which increases in complexity each day at screeching hyperbolic rate, into simpler fare we think we can handle. So we categorize and pigeon-hole with generalizing labels that miss the nuances that are part of this challenging world.

Interest group questionnaires are one such manifestation of this. For example, what does one’s position on President Obama’s health care reform law have to do with running for mayor or city council? What does running for a municipal office have to do with whether one supports or opposes sex education in public schools? Isn’t that a matter for parents and/or school boards?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney deserves an “atta boy” from all for refusing recently to sign a gay-bashing group’s pledge asking for undying support for marriage as between one man and one woman. As a devout member of the LDS Church that, of course, is his belief, but he refused to sign the Tea Party led pledge because of its intemperate language, which he correctly said was beneath the dignity of the office he seeks.

The “Tea Party” zealots of the Republican party, especially as it's reshaping Republican politics in eastern Idaho, are spearheading a new, even kookier form of “the Pledge” which demands that any candidate for any office in Idaho promise absolute and complete fealty to every plank in the party’s platform. (more…)

Carlson: “To be, or not to be …”

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The latest national Gallup poll on social attitudes reports a new number one issue that most divides the American public. For years the issue has been abortion. Today it is physician assisted suicide (PAS).

While 48 percent of the respondents said the matter was “morally objectionable all the time,” some 45 percent said it could be morally acceptable.

The issue has gained sufficient attention that the nation’s Catholic bishops finally issued a policy statement deploring its increased public acceptance at their annual summer meeting in June in Bellevue, Washington.

It is an eloquent statement, worth reading. It provides effective counter-arguments to those made by PAS supporters that the issue is a matter of “choice” and “compassion.” Sadly, it fails to grasp that one cannot effectively counter an emotional appeal rooted in the fear many have of dying with rational appeals. The challenge is to find an emotional appeal that resonates more forcefully with the public, regardless of whether one believes in God and an Afterlife, and one rooted in hope rather than despair.

Opponents of abortion on demand finally figured this out and began to turn the tide when they started running ads featuring the child at 20 weeks in the womb, with a beating heart and already human form. Those ads made an emotional connection that underscored their message. Consequently, it put abortion supporters on the defensive by casting would-be mothers who use abortion as a contraceptive or simply don’t want to accept the responsibility for a consensual act of sex that produces a third life as being selfish and willing to sacrifice the life of a child because of inconvenience.

Physician assisted suicide is an equally complex issue, which most folks instinctively see purely in their own context. Many can see themselves taking a premature departure if they feel they are being made to suffer unendurable pain, or have become a burden on their families. (more…)

Carlson: Indian wars today

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Those who think the days of Native American tribes fighting other Native American tribes are long gone, best think again. The advent of and phenomenal growth in Indian gaming has created a division of haves - the tribes with revenue producing and political powerful casinos - and the have nots.

Gaming tribes in Idaho, the Coeur d’Alenes, the Nez Perce, and the Shoshone/Bannock, appear to have natural markets where there is no real competition. They appear at peace with neighboring tribes.

You see the Coeur d’Alenes unveiling a new $100 million dollar upgrade in their hotel and casino in May, the Nez Perce moving into a lovely new wooden structure instead of operating out of the huge circus tent that was the prior base, and the ShoBans unveiling their new facility.

Where the warfare begins is when two tribes relatively near to each other decide to co-locate casinos. It becomes especially vicious if one tribe perceives the other as encroaching and there is a belief that the market cannot sustain two enterprises.

The best example of this is the not so subtle contest between the Kalispells and the Spokanes in eastern Washington. The Kalispells built and operate the fabulously successful Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, just outside of Spokane. A small tribe with a land base of just a few square miles, the Kalispells petitioned the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the Washington governor’s office for permission in the 1990’s to buy some off-reservation land and to have it declared Indian trust territory and part of their reservation.

Once that was completed, they found investors, struck up an arrangement with a Las Vegas gaming management outfit and built their casino which is now in the midst of a several hundred million dollar expansion.

From their much larger reservation, the Spokanes looked on with envy. They had earlier constructed a smaller casino at Two Rivers (where the Spokane flows into the Columbia at the reservoir behind the Grand Coulee Dam). Two Rivers was reportedly successful, but once Northern Quest was up and going, revenue rapidly diminished and eventually the casino operated on a reduced schedule.

Using the old principle of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, the Spokanes decided to travel the same path as the Kalispells. The Spokanes, of course, were hoping the Kalispells would see competition as healthy and beneficial for both.

Wishful thinking. (more…)

Carlson: It’s the water, stupid

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

With apologies to political consultant James Carville, who famously coined the expression “it’s all about the economy, stupid,” the future in the west is all about water, its allocation, cost and rapid depletion.

Scientists, naturalists, writers, farmers, ranchers, and politicians are all too aware of its scarcity beyond the 100th Meridian, as duly noted and popularized in the late 19th century by John Wesley Powell, famed explorer of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River and first head of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Lay on the issue of global warming and many scientists believe the arid west will become hotter and drier, accelerating the desertification process. Cities that had neither right nor common sense in their expansion, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, are requiring ever increasing amounts of water. They willingly pay farmers and ranchers princely sums to surrender their water rights to pipelines hundreds of miles in length to slake their thirst.

This growing need for potable water has fueled the drive for more impoundments to store winter run-off and rain. The coming conflict between agricultural use versus culinary and human use is clear. Determining highest and best use will be the marketplace, not board rooms of large corporations nor the committee meeting rooms of state legislatures.

Nor does it take rocket science to predict two major aspects regarding water and the future:

1) Those that have an abundance of water, ground water or a sizable underground aquifer, are going to prosper and those that don’t are going to flounder. Thus, 100 years from now Spokane, with the vast and so far unmapped and unplumbed Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, will be a thriving city with manufacturing transplanted from California. And Las Vegas may be a mere shadow of its glory days.

2) Congress will repeal the so-called Winters Doctrine of 1908. Why? Because Congress will conclude the Supreme Court vested too much power in indigenous Native American tribes by placing their water rights “first in time” and therefore “first in right.” (more…)

Carlson: On Andrus and I

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

For readers who have been entertained or, hopefully, intellectually stimulated by my musings for more than a year, I have some news: Idaho’s oldest publishing house, Caxton Press of Caldwell, will be publishing a book by me.

Entitled “Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor,” the book recounts an insider’s view of events that happened in the 10 years I worked for the “good, great former governor.” Elected to four terms covering 14 years with a 10-year break between the first six years and the second eight years, Andrus is without question the longest serving, most influential political practitioner to ever hold Idaho’s reins.

He is the standard against which all previous and subsequent governors will be measured. His total tenure will never be exceeded, nor will his margin of victory in the 1974 election (73 percent) ever be topped. He is considered by many to be one of the five best persons to ever serve as Secretary of the Interior.

The book describes the governor’s early years on the family farm outside Hood River, Oregon, where he was born on August 25, 1931. It also describes his teenage years, early marriage (he was 18), and service in the Navy on board a P2V Neptune patrol bomber and intel gathering aircraft during the Korean War. Few know, for example, he survived a potentially disastrous air crash.

His years as a gypo logger in northern Idaho and his election in 1960 to the Idaho State Senate from Clearwater County at the age of 29 (then the youngest person elected to the Legislature) and his years serving in the Senate also are recounted. Little has been written about these formative years and experiences.

Throughout the book I recount anecdotes from our years working together when he was governor and then Interior secretary, as well as during our business relationship at the Gallatin Group in his post-political office years. I try to help the reader understand how such an extraordinary politician emerged from such ordinary circumstances.

When a reader is finished with this book, I can only hope those that know him will say “Yup, that’s Cece.” Those that don’t at least will feel they have met and gotten better acquainted with him. Even 16 years after leaving office, according to almost all polls, Andrus remains the most popular and best known hunter/ fisherman in the state. Many believe he could easily win the governor’s chair again. (more…)

Carlson: Hough and the dams

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

For years millions of radio listeners were tantalized each noon hour by the news and personal interpretations of the great radio commentator, Paul Harvey. He would throw out a nugget to tease his listener before a commercial break and then come back with “and now, for the rest of the story.”

That thought, and an old saying - “success has a thousand fathers, failure is a bastard” - came to mind as I read recent reports regarding removal of the dams on the Olympic peninsula’s Elwha River.

On June 1, the process of shutting off generators in the Elwha and Glines Canyon Dam powerhouses began. This will lead to dismantling the two dams that have blocked the return of once bountiful salmon and steelhead runs following construction of the projects shortly after Woodrow Wilson was elected to the presidency in 1912.

Restoration of these salmon runs and acknowledgment of their centrality to the religion of the indigenous native American Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is the primary driver for this historic action.

It is the largest dam removal project in American history, will take three years to accomplish and cost America’s taxpayers $325 million. While there will be many who claim parentage, some with legitimacy, such as the tribe and the advocacy group American Rivers, much of the credit should go to a former aide to Governor Cecil Andrus: John D. Hough.

Hough first hooked on with Andrus as campaign press secretary during Andrus’ successful 1970 governorship race. Adept and imaginative at generating coverage for candidate Andrus, once in office Hough chafed at the “baby-sitting the media” role called for in a press secretary.

Hough’s true love was and is resource policy. He convinced Andrus to make him his natural resource aide. Eventually, Andrus made him chief of staff. Before then, though, Hough left fingerprints on a number of successful resource protection issues. (more…)

Carlson: Rebuild or not?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Thirty-five years ago this week the Teton Dam in eastern Idaho catastrophically collapsed on June 5, 1976, causing the deaths of 11 people, millions of dollars in damages as well as displacing hundreds from their homes and ruining thousands of acres of productive cropland.

Governor Cecil D. Andrus flew to Rexburg, jumped in a National Guard helicopter for an inspection flight and was simply stunned by the destruction the collapse had wrought.

The chopper returned and landed near the Administration Building of what was then known as Ricks College and today is Brigham Young University-Idaho. A group of newspaper reporters and television anchors with camera men spotted him getting out of the chopper and came charging at him across the lawn.

The first one to reach the Governor was from KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. He breathlessly threw out the first question: “Governor, are you going to rebuild the dam?” Andrus’ eyes flashed in anger at the insensitivity and the impropriety of the question.

Using some words, which can’t be repeated in a family newspaper, the Governor proceeded to dress down the reporter for the insensitive, and inane question.

The question was premature by about 35 years. Yes, it is still a controversial question with strong feelings on both sides of the matter in the Upper Snake River Valley. According to a late winter article by Sven Berg in the Idaho Falls Post-Register the issue is being vigorously debated in homes and coffee shops.

Surprisingly, the anti-dam building lobbying group, American Rivers, sponsored a survey of 300 folks living in eastern Idaho. They were astute enough to use Moore Information, a Portland-based political/public affairs polling firm that has worked on the campaigns of almost all major Republican office holders in Idaho, including Governor Butch Otter, Second District Congressman Mike Simpson and Senator James Risch.

Moore’s polling showed the region was still sharply divided and memories still fresh. His poll showed 45 percent in favor of rebuilding and 34 percent opposed. As Moore noted to the reporter: “There isn’t a huge groundswell of opinion behind rebuilding that thing.”

Though recognizing the need for more water storage throughout the Snake River basin, Governor Andrus has always been skeptical about the site. Before heading off to Washington, D.C., to serve in the cabinet of President Jimmy Carter some seven months later, Andrus ordered the Idaho Department of Water Resources to conduct its own review of what went wrong.

Thus, when the Interior Department Solicitor, Leo Krulitz (yes, he is related to all the Krulitzes residing in Shoshone County) came by a couple years later to ask what I thought Secretary Andrus’ reaction would be if Interior sued the dam contractor, the huge Boise-based construction firm of Morrison-Knudsen, I was able to tell him “that dog won’t hunt.” (more…)

Carlson: Knowing Basques

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Father Tim Ritchey (The St. Maries priest who also serves Harrison) and I were talking after Mass following “Good Shepherd” Sunday recently about how few northern Idaho residents have the opportunity, as many in southern Idaho do, to be exposed to the unique Basque culture.

It is one’s loss not to know a “Basco” or to have worked with one. The hardest working, most ethical, most loyal, most friendly people we know, we agreed were Basques. As Father Tim put it, “If a Basque gives you his word and shakes your hand, you can take it to the bank.”

Historically residents from time immemorial of several provinces along the border between Spain and France, many Basques immigrated to the United States in the 19th and early 20th century.

In particular, Basques took positions as sheepherders, an awfully lonely task trailing bands of sheep across high mountain country as the sheep wandered looking for grazing. The sheepherder’s job included protecting his band from the predation of wolves and grizzly bears, not to mention magpies that pluck out the eyes of recently born lambs during the lambing season.

Idaho has the largest concentration of people of Basque heritage outside of Spain, and many have contributed to the political, business and social fabric that make Idaho what it is today.

Among Idaho’s outstanding Basque-Americans are Ben Ysursa, the current Idaho Secretary of State, and Pete Cenarrusa, the former speaker of the Idaho house and long-time secretary of state. Across Idaho’s border with Nevada resided for many years a former governor and United States Senator, Paul Laxalt, probably President Ronald Reagan’s closest friend.

Father Ritchey and I discussed the many other fine Basques we know, folks with last names like Etchart, Eiguren, or Ubarragua, and always there was a story of perseverance. We agreed that to have a well-rounded life you must attend a Basque picnic, witness their contests, drink wine from a bota bag and revel in Basque warmth and friendliness.

I was reminded of all this during a recent trip to eastern Montana to attend a water conference sponsored by the Wheeler Center at Montana State University. The conference included a tour of the massive Fort Peck Dam, which, at the time it was built (1933 to 1940) was the largest earthen dam in the world. To think that President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched this project with the stroke of a pen, and almost simultaneously also authorized the construction of the Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams was simply mind-boggling. (more…)

Carlson: Governor Patty Duke?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Approximately eight years ago, Coeur d’Alene city councilman Mike Kennedy approached friends to assess whether his aunt, Anna Pearce, also known by her stage name as Patty Duke, could develop a second career as a successful public officeholder in her adopted state of Idaho.

One’s initial reaction might have been to wonder if he were serious? He was and with reason.

His aunt is not only a talented member of the nation’s acting community, who achieved stardom at an early age with her unforgettable role in “The Miracle Worker,” she also has long cared about public policy matters, is intelligent and can carry on an articulate conversation on almost any political subject.

Duke already had held the most challenging “political” office in Hollywood, that of president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. One of her predecessors, a B-grade actor by the name of Ronald Reagan, used the post as his springboard into public office. By all accounts Duke carried out her role as a union president successfully and, indeed, it had whetted her political appetite.

Her nephew, Mike Kennedy, is not the only member of the family bitten by the political bug. Her son, Sean Astin, star of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, is up to his eyeballs in a friend’s race for a congressional seat in California. Politics runs in the family.

While still in the process of becoming one of the few widely acknowledged talented members of Idaho’s declining Democratic Party, Kennedy did not want bias for his aunt to color his assessment. He also felt it was imperative he offer his aunt a process for evaluating her prospects without diminishing her acting career or exposing her interest prematurely.

For several weeks, Kennedy and friends discussed the challenge. Had his aunt been a conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan, the decision would have been much easier. Duke made it clear that if she were to run for any office it would be in her adopted state of Idaho, a state with which she and her husband have become deeply taken.

Anna Pearce (a.k.a, Patty Duke), though, is fundamentally a Democrat. She cares passionately about protecting the environment, and about the state fulfilling its constitutionally mandated role to fully support public education. Idaho, however, was well into its rightward drift at the time. (more…)

Carlson: Over the Horizon

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Cece Andrus’ uncanny ability to look over the horizon is one of the hallmarks that make him such a unique political figure. A reminder of this occurred recently in a reflection piece on a Fairbanks trial by Alaskan writer Craig Medred.

A cantankerous, iconoclastic “outback” figure was on trial for not following the regulations within the boundaries of one of the National Parks created by landmark Andrus led “set aside” legislation that doubled the size of the National Park system when signed by President Carter in December of 1980.

Trial testimony revealed a classic over-reaction by the Park Service as a SWAT-team descended to arrest and haul the guy off to jail. The image of NPS police holding a shotgun to his head said it all.

Medred was one of a contingent of national and Alaskan reporters taking part in a tour put together at the behest of the then Interior Secretary during the summer of 1979 to showcase the many “crown jewels” in Alaska being proposed for permanent protection. The ten-day tour was designed to educate a national audience to what was at stake for all Americans in perpetuity in these unique public lands.

The tour was successful with hundreds of news stories and tv clips appearing in major cities across the nation. Alaska’s senior senator, crusty Ted Stevens of course charged Andrus with lobbying with public funds but there was little he could do but fume.

During the tour time was scheduled for reporters to hike and fish as well as watch birds or, at a distance, Alaskan caribou and grizzly. On such a break the Secretary and Medred wandered off to do a little fly fishing.

Medred recalled that while casting Andrus opined one of the reservations he had about creating new additions to the nation’s various protection systems was turning over the most scenic tracts to management by the National Park Service. Andrus opined it would be better for all if the lands were declared part of the wilderness system managed by the Forest Service.

His concern was legitimate and prescient as anyone visiting Alaska today knows. The National Park Service, much as Andrus feared, has ham-handedly lost the respect of Alaskans living adjacent to the vast, protected tracts. The parks are viewed as play grounds for the rich from the lower 48 who trek to Alaska during the two months of the year when the weather is nice, there’s almost 20 hours of daylight, and they can ride tour busses or, fully clad in recent purchases from an Orvis Fly Shop, descend upon streams to flail away.

So how did Andrus come to know that this was something to be worried about? (more…)