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Posts published in “Idaho”

Issues more than candidates

Not, on the whole, a massively significant election night coming up a week from Tuesday, but it will have its moments. Recapping briefly, here, what we're paying attention to in the Northwest numbers.

Most significantly, ballot issues - there are no candidate races to match the significance of the major ballot issues.

Oregon has two of importance (and many voters, your scribe among them, will makes choices on nothing but these). Both can be seen from a big-picture view as intermediate steps, because neither Measure 49 on land use nor Measure 50 on cigarette taxes/child health are likely to be for-all-time end-alls on their respective issues.

But each could mark an important turning point, especially over the next three or four years. If Measure 49 passes (we suspect it will) then the center of gravity on land use in the state goes back to somewhere between where it has been under Measure 37 (under which a mass of development has been applied) and where it was before that (much more restrictive); it could evoke a period of negotiation and compromise. Measure 50, together with the upcoming restrictions on smoking places, would change the state's cigarette culture significantly (making it much less friendly to smoking), and could send substantial money to child health care, at least for some years. If the measure fails (and we're unclear about its prospects, uneasily leaning toward passage) a brake would be slammed on both developments.

The most sweeping measure in Washington probably is Initiative 960, a Tim Eyman special, which generally would require two-thirds approval in the legislature for increases in taxes or fees (even minor administrative or licensing fees) or, in many cases, a vote on a statewide ballot issue on each one. It sounds from here like a recipe for chaos, but it would surely be impactful. The campaign on 960 has been lower-key than you might expect given the stakes, and with a relatively low voter turnout, there's a good chance it will pass.

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Uproar in the NIA

This is hindsight now - we didn't see it coming either, so none of this is we-told-you-so - but, in hindsight, you can understand why there's such uproar and outrage about the North Idaho Adjudication, to the point that bagging it is a consideration on the table.

Our view has been and is that the NIA would be a real asset to the Panhandle, as over time the Snake River Basin Adjudication will be for most of the rest of the state. The Panhandle legislators who got the NIA pushed through - partly in return for their regional support for late-running issues in SRBA - understood that. Now the whole effort could come undone, but if it does, it will be a loss for the area and a distinct failure for the Panhandle's local political leaders.

But you can see why it's happened. On this issue of water, the North simply isn't as sophisticated as the South.

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The daily crises

At the New West Boise blog, Jill Kuraitis has a nice first-person piece up about what happened after she heard a report suggesting that her in-uniform son might have been hurt, or worse, and how she got help and information (and, finally, word that her son was okay) from the office of Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.

She concludes, "In an election year, it’s often overlooked that winning political campaigns turn into government offices which serve the people. A lot of what a senators field staff does resembles my story, although most are not so easy. They may try to help a farmer whose crop has failed, or track down a scholarship for a deserving kid, or help a widow collect her social security or pension. All Congressbeings have staff who do nothing but constituent service, and they don’t ask if you voted for their boss."

Charley Clark

Charlie Clark

Charlie Clark

Back in 2001, we had this to say in describing Union Pacific lobbyist Charlie Clark (as one of the 100 most influential people in Idaho):

Once an inherently powerful lobby in Idaho, Union Pacific (with its diminishing rail mileage) is less so now, though it still has a substantial employment base in the state, and quite a few farmers and businesses still rely on it for transport service. Clark’s experience and background, however, give UP a strong voice. He’s been at the Legislature since the early 70s (when, still a college student, he served as House Sergeant at Arms), and his close ties with a wide range of legislators and others, and sense of the ebb and flow of legislation, matter. UP took a loss in 1998, with passage of a truck weight bill; but Clark remains a major lobbying presence. He received votes for influence in the transportation field and in eastern Idaho, as well as statewide.

Those are some of the public facts, valid enough as far as they go. There are also the private, or at least less public facts, and Clark was one of those people who understood how they are as important.

Charlie Clark, whose formal title was special representative of the president (of Union Pacific Railroad), and whose government relations territory this year (it had been shifting) covered Idaho, Montana and Utah, died on Sunday. It came as a shock, completely unexpected: He had been walking his beloved dog Rags (who traveled with him almost everywhere), returned home, sat down, and passed away.

He was a good friend of many years duration, from the mid-70s when he was a new (and the youngest to date) sergeant at arms at the Idaho House, and I was starting to cover the Idaho Legislature. Just over a month ago, September 19 by the calendar, we lunched at Old Chicago in downtown Boise, hashing over as usual Idaho and its politics - Charlie was one of its best and closest observers, and professionally a fine participant too.

Charlie Clark was a corporate lobbyist, and here's the thing: What sticks in memory most about him was the depth of humanity he brought to politics and to his trade. One mutual friend today described him as a "gentleman," somewhat of the old school, and he was, though lacking entirely any stuffiness or pretense. But that doesn't quite cover it, any more than saying he was a solid professional, which he also was. I'd call him "Idaho old school."

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Next on “Boston Legal”

Series television, ripped from the Northwest's headlines (courtesy Spoilerfix) . . . Up next on the Tuesday ABC show (and one of our favorites) Boston Legal (and no, we didn't make this up) . . .

"Oral Contracts" [Airing November 13]: Alan defends Denny when he is accused of soliciting gay sex in a bathroom by two undercover cops.

Net discrimination

Awhile back we drew some scoffs with the suggestion that the issue of "net neutrality" could become a political hot spot. It didn't (in a major way at least) in 2006, and hasn't this year (owing in part to some backing off from some of the big telecoms). But it's coming. The only question is when - and how it will be shaped.

We draw attention to this Associated Press piece on Comcast Corporation partly because Comcast is a big Internet as well as cable provider in the Northwest, and also because so many people in the region are affected by shifts or alterations in Internet traffic structures. The AP ran a sophisticated series of nationwide tests and found at Comcast "the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users."

There may be some customer-service rationale to what Comcast is doing. Essentially, it seems to be redirecting and second-tiering traffic in file sharing - transmission of often large data files - in the interest of keeping other traffic (emails, web access and so on) flowing more smoothly. File-sharing sometimes takes a hit because some of it is illegal (such as sharing of copyrighted music or videos). But a whole lot of it is legitimate; the whole field of open-source software, for one example, is absolutely reliant on it. (The Northwest's large Linux community, for one, has been snapping to attention on this yesterday and today.) This kind of activity could seriously disrupt key file-sharing outfits like BitTorrent.

The AP describes: "Comcast's technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user. Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: 'Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye.'"

One Portland area Linux user with some knowledge of how the cable net systems work sees it as a little more benign, involving trying to move large transfers toward more local networks, in an effort to conserve bandwidth. And apparently plenty of other cable companies are moving into similar technology.

Regardless, this whole territory, even if specifically justifiable, ought to make net users generally uncomfortable. At the least.

This territory is going to turn political, in significant ways. Give it time. The seeds have been planted.

Advance look: ID Senate ’08

We had forgotten about this, and thanks to the brief cite at Red State Rebels that served as a reminder. To wit:

Turns out that Jim Risch, the probable Republican nominee for the Senate, delivered answers in full to the Gem State Voter Guide when he ran last year for lieutenant governor. (His opponent then and probably next year as well, Democrat Larry LaRocco, didn't respond to the survey.) Risch's answers are still posted on line.

The voter guide was developed by the Idaho Values Alliance, whose main spokesman is Bryan Fischer.

A sampling of the responses: "Embryonic stem cell research in Idaho" oppose; "Require state testing of home-schooled students" oppose; "Remove jurisdiction from the U.S. Supreme Court over religious liberty issues" support; "Pledge not to raise taxes, fees or rates" support; "Allow teaching in public schools that man is a created being, not an evolved being" support; "Allow teaching in public schools that the proper role of government is to protect rights given to man by God" support . . .

Re-viewing Craig

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

This, the Larry and Suzanne Craig interview on NBC by Matt Lauer, came a month after Craig hired heavy crisis control guns, and so it had a carefully defined purpose. It was the same purpose as the famous early 1992 interview on 60 Minutes with Bill and Hillary Clinton: Rehabilitation on a personal level.

It may have worked to a point. To a point.

That point is that the hour-long program gave exposure to not a punchline, not a caricature, but an actual human being. He strikes as humble; his typically strident speaking style is muted, he seems calmer and more reflective, and he comes off as more likable for it.

Did Craig's claims of innocence convince? Probably not. Most minds long since have been made up about that - too many weeks have passed - and the string of what Craig argues are fluke coincidences surrounding the Minneapolis incident are just too many.

But it may soften some attitudes, especially among people who would like to feel better about Craig. It could make some difference in D.C.; it may help Craig a bit when he travels around Idaho. Somewhat the way the Clintons interview did them. (That interview didn't, after all, convince many people that Clinton hadn't philandered.) And Craig did pretty well in the interview; he is naturally articulate, and doubtless extremely thoroughly prepped on top of that.

One other thing, can't help it. Matt Lauer and Steve Carrell: Separated at birth, right?

VIEWS Probably the program didn't change many views of people who had strongly-held views beforehand. The Idaho Statesman followed up with an editorial reiterating its call for Craig's resignation. At New West/Boise, Jill Kuraitis wrote, "The stunning miscalculation that more exposure for Craig would 'set the record straight' defies common sense. It’s that when-you’re-in-a-hole-stop-digging thing. The predictable over-rehearsed impression made by the skillful politician put Craig’s unctuous speaking style on display for a whole hour. It was two hours for those of us in Boise who first watched an hour of KTVB’s anchor Mark Johnson interview Craig with mostly softball questions, which also didn’t help Craig. Obvious is obvious."

That sounds about right, in part at least, but consider also the response from Talking Point Memo's Josh Marshall: "I watched a portion of Larry Craig's chat with Matt Lauer. And his denial was so thorough and complete that I had moments where I was almost lulled into the thought that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding."

Back atcha

We were sort of noting, repeatedly, back when Idaho Senator Larry Craig was supposed to have been planning to resign, that if he didn't, he would be in the unusual position of being able to say what he really thinks about people and politics, including many of those at the highest levels.

He has some reasons of loyalty for not bashing some of those Idaho Republicans, such as the other members of the state's congressional delegation, who haven't turned on him. But a whole lot of other Republicans may have to watch out.

That was our thought today when we saw Craig's quote, to NBC, about presidential candidate Mitt Romney: "I'd worked hard for him here in the state. I was a co-chair of his campaign on Capitol Hill. And he not only threw me under his campaign bus, he backed up and ran over me again."

Having established some cred with that quote - because what that metaphoric depiction is what happened - you wonder what observations are next.