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Posts published in “Carlson”

Carlson: A nuclear legacy

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Jack Byrnes, Dick Legg and Richard McKinley are names few Idahoans know---unless they happen to work at the Idaho National Laboratory located in the Arco Desert west of Idaho Falls.

On Jan. 3, 1961, these three died when the safety rod that absorbs neutrons and slows the nuclear chain reaction was removed too quickly from the reactor vessel core at SL-1, a small Army reactor approximately 50 miles west of IF. A steam explosion occurred blowing the top of the building and spreading radioactive debris into the atmosphere. They became the first humans to die in a nuclear plant accident and 51 years later are still the only Americans ever killed.

While overall the record of the nuclear industry in America, and at the site, is one of spectacular success given what engineers and operators are dealing with, whether the industry has a long-term future remains debatable. Incredible escalating costs for building new plants (ranges vary from $4000 to $9000 per kw) and waste disposal are major red flags.

In January 2011, this column raised questions about an amendment to the Idaho Settlement Agreement negotiated initially by Gov. Cecil Andrus and finalized by Gov. Phil Batt with the Navy and the Department of Energy in 1995.

At a time when Idaho is seeing the benefits of its earlier focus on removing transuranic waste from storage above the Snake Plain Aquifer, reprocessing and repackaging it for shipment to the salt caverns at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site in New Mexico, it makes little sense to accept even a small amount of commercial spent fuel rods for research purposes at the INL site. The amended agreement signed by Gov. Butch Otter allows 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of heavy metal content in imported spent fuel rods each year for 23 years.

The overarching Idaho Settlement Agreement calls for the removal of all transuranic waste and spent fuel rods on the site by 2035. So, why fret? Well, that date is premised on Yucca Mountain, Nev., becoming the nation’s major repository by 2035. That site has been mothballed. Why run the risk of having to store researched upon rods, even a relatively small amount, approximately 10 tons, beyond 2035?

No one has provided a good answer. After additional research and candid discussions with Department of Energy spokesman, Brad Bugger, I have come around on one issue.

The Otter m.o.a. is NOT opening the floodgates to Idaho becoming the de facto repository for the nation’s considerable number of spent fuel rods. The 10 tons of spent rods that could come in are within the 55 metric ton amount negotiated by Andrus/Batt and capped. (more…)

Carlson: Elder Larry EchoHawk

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Idahoans of all persuasions, political as well as religious, should congratulate their former attorney general on his call to serve as a general authority and a member of the LDS Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy. It is an honor long overdue.

EchoHawk, 63, was also the 1994 Democratic nominee for governor, but lost narrowly to former Lt. Governor Phil Batt. The Wilder State Senator won 52% to 48% giving EchoHawk the distinction of being the first Native American to come close to being elected governor.

EchoHawk, a Pawnee, is currently the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. To know Larry is to like him. He’s just one of those truly fine people all too rare nowadays.

Quiet, competent, hard-working, analytical and dedicated to supporting his wife and sons, he walks the talk of “faith, family and friends.” Educated at Brigham Young, he was a star defensive back on the Cougar football team and two sons were also star players, one at the Y, the other at ISU.

The sons obtained their own law degrees and set up law offices in Pocatello. The former U.S. Marine has spent time as an “of counsel” member of that firm and has represented the Fort Hall Sho-Bans in the past.

Given the prominent position Native Americans hold in the Mormon story (Saints believe today’s native Americans are descendents of the two “lost tribes” of Israel and that Christ appeared before them in the New World), it is surprising EchoHawk was not named sooner. There are some who expect he will eventually be named one of the 12 Apostles who serve as the “board” to the LDS president and his two first councilors.

As most know it is a gerontocracy that runs the LDS Church, but at 63 Larry is thought to be a “youngster.”

EchoHawk is only the second Native American named to the First Quorum of the Seventy and as such, carries the additional burden into this ecclesiastical office of having to redress the image left by the first Native American, Navajo George Lee, who served 14 years before being excommunicated for apostasy and conduct unbecoming a member of the church. (more…)

Carlson: ACA is here to stay

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Let me tell you a story that illustrates why, even with its unconstitutional mandate that everyone participate, the health reform act is here to stay regardless of who becomes president.

In the fall of 2006, I was laying on my gurney at Salt Lake City’s University of Utah Hospital adjacent to the Huntsman Cancer Center where I was being treated for late Stage IV neuroendocrine carcinoid cancer. Having been diagnosed in November of 2005, I already had survived longer than the six months I’d been given.

I was getting ready to undergo my fifth chemo procedure wherein the interventional radiologist enters one’s femoral artery with a thin flexible device and guides it to one’s liver where the chemicals are placed on the lesions.

This fifth procedure, unlike the first four, was considered “experimental” but had been approved by my insurance carrier. Radioactive pellets of Yrtrium-90 were that day being flown in from Australia to be placed on the remnants of the shattered lesions in the hope the pellets, with a half life of a couple of weeks, would kill the remaining cancer cells. The procedure cost about $80,000 and for two weeks I would literally be one hot dude.

Fortunately, the flight home to Spokane was only 90 minutes for I was not supposed to sit close to anyone for more than two hours, could not hold children or pets for two weeks, and had to sleep in a separate room from my spouse.

We had a few moments before they administered the sedative that would keep me semi-conscious through the five-hour procedure and we started talking about the procedure.

The doctor casually mentioned how fortunate I was my insurance company had approved the procedure. He had another patient who would benefit from this same procedure, but her insurance carrier would not approve it. She was a young mother in her early 30’s with four children. But for the cancer, she had many years of life ahead of her.

Here I was entering my 60s, much of my productive life behind me, and our four children self-sufficient adults long gone from the home. Life is not fair, but that’s not a good answer. For me, the experimental procedure obviously played a significant role in rendering my cancer dormant for an extended period. One is never cured -- ultimately it returns and is always fatal -- but life also is a terminal condition.

It’s all relative, though, and I often have thought of that faceless young mother who I suspect long ago died. Why I was a lucky one and she wasn’t? If there had been any sort of “death panel” as Sarah Palin infamously and falsely charged about the health reform act, objective criteria would have placed the young mother in line ahead of me.

“Obamacare,” as it is infamously called by its critics, is not about rationing an ever more costly health care system. At its core lay two key concepts: Insurance companies cannot refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions and access to money is not going to determine who lives or dies -- everyone has access to care and everyone pays something. (more…)

Carlson: Best left unsaid

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Been rolling “life” matters through my mind of late. I always do this time of the year because March marks the third anniversary of the implementation of Washington’s physician assisted suicide law. I was among the leaders in the fight against Initiative 1000 which allows doctor assisted suicide especially if one is deemed to have less than six months to live.

I took exception to the state getting involved in such a personal issue and encouraging premature suicide as an answer.

In periodically reviewing “life,” I am struck anew by how complicated, ambiguous, highly emotional and personal these issues are. I am supportive of protecting “life from conception to natural death.”

Life begins at conception: All one’s possibilities are present in the embryonic child. There is a constitutional right to life and society has a responsibility to protect it, especially the weak, the infirm, the disabled and the innocent within the womb---those that are most vulnerable.

One, however, also has a right to privacy. Despite the tragedy, in cases where the life of the mother is at stake, a woman’s right to make that decision in consultation with her doctor trumps the child in the womb’s right to life and society’s interest in the child. There are few dads in the real world that aren’t glad the law recognizes their daughter’s right to make that call.

Additionally, in cases of rape or incest most dads are glad daughters have a right to choose innocent though the child in the womb is.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. Ours is full of messy, tragic struggles between conflicting rights. Bill Clinton’s “formula” about abortion is correct: It ought to be safe, legal and rare. The problem is abortion is not that rare and pro-choicers have a hard time dealing with the fact that some women use abortion as contraception.

That’s just plain wrong.

People also should be held accountable for consensual choices. When one engages in heterosexual sex there is a possibility of a new life for which they should be held accountable. Society sends a horribly mixed signal to young people. It says be responsible, but you can abort that mass of protoplasm because it is inconvenient to you.

That’s just plain wrong also.

So modern medicine comes up with the morning-after pill, forcing one to deal with whether taking it is comparable to an abortion.

There is not one simple morally correct answer. Access to the morning-after pill can and has provably saved the life of distraught, suicidal women victimized by rape. To be denied that pill can be tantamount to sending a person over the edge. Does the pharmacist really want to be responsible for someone’s death? (more…)

Carlson: Selflessly serving

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Among the some 50 members of the Idaho Legislature, who have served notice of retiring or seeking another office, is one many consider virtually irreplaceable. She is State Rep. Wendy Jaquet, the Democrat from the 25th Legislative district that includes Blaine, Camas, Gooding and Lincoln counties.

My former Gallatin Group partner, Marc Johnson, said it best: “It’s tough duty to spend your entire career in the minority. It’s much more difficult to get things done and to be effective you have to work at least three times as hard. I do believe Wendy has been among the two or three most effective Democratic members of the legislature in the last 30 years. She did it the old-fashioned way---by hard work, mastering details, building relationships, displaying good humor and always playing for the long game. Lots of people in politics are 'show horses.' Wendy is a work horse and an effective one at that.”

On a recent trip to Boise I sat down with the all-everything for the Democrats to discuss what got her into politics and what drove her to endure so long and well.

Asking the “quintessential” question---“Which high school did you attend?”---quickly provided an insight into her core being. She attended Seattle’s Garfield High. I attended Spokane’s Central Valley High in the mid-60’s, and inevitably when we got to the state basketball tournament we ran into and got drubbed by Garfield.

Of course Garfield, being an inner city high school, had a racially diverse student body whereas CV was close to all lily white., So Garfield, for several years led by an extremely gifted African-American named Levi Fisher, sent us home whether in the first round or in the finals.

I asked Wendy if she remembered Fisher? She immediately starting humming the music played by Garfield’s pep band when the school’s team fell behind. The music almost always transformed the Garfield five into a virtually unstoppable juggernaut. The music was “Peter Gunn” from the television show.

And when the pep band started playing it with that eerie beat you knew you were dead. To me the piece resonated the word “relentless” which is as good a word as there is to summarize Wendy in one word.

Throughout all the years Wendy has labored in the public vineyards she has relentlessly pursued her goals, with humor, elan, and dedication born of the knowledge that she was striving always for the right outcome.

The almost 18-year legislative veteran got her start in politics working in San Francisco for now U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, before then Supervisor Feinstein inherited the Mayor’s post upon the assassination of Mayor George Moscone by a former member of the city council, Dan White, who then hunted down, shot and killed supervisor Harvey Milk.

Her husband, Jim, whom she met while both were attending the University of Washington (he graduated from Seattle’s Roosevelt High) had worked earlier for both Mayor George Alioto and Mayor Moscone. They came to Idaho in 1977 because Jim accepted an offer to become the city administrator in Ketchum, a post he held for 25 years.

While raising their two sons this energetic woman with a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in public administration took on and successfully managed for 13 years the Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce. With that post came an understanding and appreciation for the needs of small businesses as well as their crucial role in an area’s economy. If ever there was a true “business Democrat,” Wendy fits the bill.

Along the way Wendy garnered well-deserved awards recognizing her commitment to people and causes ranging from the arts to the environment, The bottom line though is she cares deeply about people and knows there is a legitimate role for government in assisting those who through no fault of their own need the assistance only a government can provide.

Over the years she has mentored many young women and even a few men willing to listen to her sage counsel. A summary of her legislative history fills pages listing successes against great odds as well as a fascinating list of draft legislation the Republican leadership would not even allow to be printed. Her support for a local option sales tax leaps out.

She suffered defeat all too often, but as Republican lawyer/lobbyist Ken McClure (son of the late Senator) pointed out “she knows how to disagree without being disagreeable.”

Joining her in leaving the legislature will be several others who due to their own hard work and dedication will also be missed: State Senators Diane Bilyeu (29th), Joyce Broadsword (2nd), Edgar Malepeai (30th), Nicole LeFavour, (19th), as well as State Rep. Brian Cronin (19th). And two fine, ethical, decent, intelligent Republican State Senators looked like they would be squaring off against each other until Denton Darrington (27th), the longest serving State Senator in Idaho history (16 terms) decided to retire rather than challenge his friend, Senate Finance chair Dean Cameron (26th). (more…)

Carlson: Shoes of the fisherman

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The late Australian novelist Morris L. West was known to his fans as a writer on Catholic Church matters. Since he spent 12 years in his youth in a Christian Brothers monastery his focus is understandable.

Several of his fine novels were turned into movies such as The Devils Advocate and The Shoes of the Fisherman with the latter featuring Anthony Quinn as the first Slavic pope (ten years before Karol Wotyla was chosen Pope).

West reinforces Catholic dogma and gives novelistic support to the important concept of “Apostolic Succession,” the idea that Christ made Peter the first Pope and the line is unbroken since that time. Implicitly he reinforces respect for the Magisterium (the rules of the Club as a friend calls it) as well as one’s local bishop or archbishop.

The choice this week was whether to provide an additional insight into the Conference of Catholic Bishop’s wading into a trap deliberately and cynically laid for them or to write about something else West wrote which will resonate with more Idahoans.

In a lesser known work, Summer of the Red Wolf, he writes about another type of fisherman:

“They are all fanatics, though in a quiet, monomanic fashion that makes them agreeable enough to live with. Some of them have obtained a high degree of mysticism so that they can endure for days and weeks without women and with very little food or drink. They worship always in solitary places: by dark pools and mountain streams and hidden arms of the sea. They are jealous of these private shrines and apt to be hostile to intruders. They measure salvation by the pound, and the merit of a man by his skill with a fighting fish. You will recognize them by their ruddy, patient faces and their faraway eyes and the coloured flies stuck on their hats. They have a discipline of silence and of secrecy and they train their neophytes with constant admonition and frequent humiliation. They would submit to martyrdom rather than use a gill net, and some of them mourn the old days when a poacher could be legally killed with a spring gun or exiled to the Colonies for taking a trout from another man’s water.”

Idaho Fish and Game best read the above carefully. If one thinks the Catholic bishops in their ignorance of the real world have generated controversy with passion on both sides, then wait and see sparks fly by attending a March 22nd Fish and Game public session in Coeur d’Alene on possible changes in north Idaho fishery rules regarding allowing a limited daily take of cutthroat over 14 inches. (more…)

Carlson: All hail the new flagship

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Idaho media recently carried reports that the State Board of Education had unanimously voted to strip the word “flagship” from the University of Idaho’s mission statement.

President Duane Nellis appeared stunned by the move. He should not have been - even this scribe pointed out a year ago in several columns that shang-haing the title of flagship away from the land grant university was part of BSU President Bob Kustra’s five-year game plan to have the Boise State campus be perceived by the public and politicians as the real flagship in Idaho’s university system.

The apparent ease with which President Kustra pulled off the move not only is a testament to his political and p.r. skills, it also says much about President Nellis’ passive nature. Vandal partisans should ask pointedly why their president, despite all the obvious signs, failed to see this coming and did nothing to block it.

One has to ask pointedly also, where were the two Idaho board members with the most obvious connections to the University of Idaho, Bill Goesling and Emma Atchley, and why did they go along? Surely they could not help recognizing from a p.r. standpoint alone how insulting to the University of Idaho this slap in the face would be.

Looking over the horizon and anticipating what is coming is clearly art and not science. Some see various pieces of information, connect the dots more quickly, and draw pretty good conclusions about what’s coming around the bend. Then there are those who one can present with all sorts of data showing the loaded dump truck around the corner and still refuse to believe it until it is seconds from running them over. The latter is the case with Duane Nellis and the University of Idaho.

Set aside for a moment the stupidity of such a move by the board which offered up the weak rationalization that the University of Idaho should not be so singled out when course offerings and instruction were equally good (?????) at Boise State and Idaho State.

Set aside too the tier system American universities are rated by a standard which is largely a reflection of the amount of research done at a university, the dollars attracted from both public and private resources for research, and the number of Ph.D’s awarded by the school. By all these measures and by accreditation associations across the country the University of Idaho clearly predominates.

Yes, the Vandals and Bengals field lousy football teams compared to Boise State but that should not matter to the academicians of the world, and in fact it doesn’t. But to a politically appointed Board of Education, such as Idaho has, it clearly does matter. (more…)

Carlson: Lessons from St. Maries teachers

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Those supporting repeal of the Luna/Otter Educational “Reform” package in general, and the Idaho Education Association, in particular, might want to take note of comments and attitudes gleaned from a recent sit down with three teachers at St. Maries High School.

The comments not surprisingly reflected a similar earlier sit down with a teacher in the Challis School District.

All four said without hesitation they intended to vote to repeal the three items on the ballot in November. Like many they are offended by the lack of due process alone. In their eyes it was a betrayal of trust for Governor Otter and State Superintendent Luna to have campaigned for re-election in 2010 and not to have said word one to any involved in education about what they were planning to introduce a scant seven weeks later when the 2011 Legislature convened.

To them it was deliberately deceitful, reflecting a lack of trust by these officeholders in teachers’ ability to thoughtfully analyze and provide valuable input into ideas for reform. To have it steamrolled through a compliant state legislature was just adding insult to injury. Invoking the “emergency clause” to force early implementation before all the unintended consequences had been worked out was just the frosting on the cake. (more…)

Carlson: Hoisted on their petard

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There’s an old saying some may recall: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely! That so applies to Idaho’s Grand Old Party. Power has gone to the heads of many who drive the flashy Republican car model down the road. The road though is leading to a helluva crash and inevitable voter rebuke.

One cannot absolve the Idaho Democratic Party from its complicity. Failure to follow the tried and true “lunch bucket” approach led to the Idaho D’s drifting away from common sense conservation, balanced budgets, continuing investment in Idaho education and protecting the values which make Idaho such a great place to live. Instead, being on the correct side of hot button issues such as abortion, guns and more wilderness became the goal of what other Idahoans perceived as a party growing out of touch and into the hands of the “wine and cheese” liberal set as represented by multi-millionaires living in Blaine County.

From the mid 90’s on Idaho Democrats have appeared hell bent on narrowing their base of support. The voters noted and duly administered rebukes which should have awakened the D’s but so far haven’t.

Now it is the GOP hell bent on narrowing its base. In their zeal to eliminate anything that even smacks of “democrat,” these impervious believers now driving the GOP car have gotten the upper hand. Through adroit tactics that come down to good old grass-root organizing and getting their people elected to numerous vacant precinct committee positions they are in the process of solidifying their hold on the party structure.

Pardon the tortured pun but it seems like the phrase “democratic process” has itself become a target of the reformer’s zeal to take over because there’s a “democrat” in that there phrase, it’s got to go. So onto the very anti-democratic notion of purging those who aren’t true believers from being able to impact the right wing agenda.

A step in this process is to limit those who vote in a Republican Party primary to those who truly are members of the GOP. If one ain’t a registered member he’d best declare he is right there on Election Day or go home and watch for results on the television. If you’re an independent and prize your independence, tough luck. You are welcomed, however, to vote in a Democratic primary which is open to one and all.

Here’s the glitch the R’s aren’t advertising: once you say you’re an R you’re going to have to file a formal written renunciation of that affiliation by March (the filing deadline for the coming year’s elections) of the following year if you want to vote in a Democratic primary of any sort. (more…)