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Posts published in “Idaho”

Bleeding the media

Used to be that reporters and editors in the news media tended to stay in those jobs; they had picked a field and stayed in it. For various reasons, which we'll enter into one of these days, the news media is less and less a place where very many people can build a career ... as journalists, at least.

Consider this from Dave Frazier's Boise Guardian blog, about one of the few Idaho broadcast journalists to actually break ground in public affairs reporting in recent years:

Guv candidate Butch Otter won’t have to worry about KBCI-TV 2 reporter Jon Hanian doing any expose’ stories about him. Taking a lesson from George Bush, Otter made a preemptive strike: He hired Hanion away from the news game.

Otter already had former Associated Press reporter Mark Warbis on the payroll. If he gets Dan Popkey he will be untouchable.

Spokesman for Grant

The Spokane Spokesman-Review has been one of the less easily predictable endorsers in recent elections. Its endorsement in Idaho's 1st congressional district race, though, comes as little surprise.

Associate Editor Dave Oliveria, an editorial writer for the paper who lives in Kootenai County - and therefore has a key role on Idaho endorsements - is a self-described conservative but has made clear for some time in the Huckleberries blog his concerns about Republican House nominee Bill Sali. He was one of the questioners at the Coeur d'Alene debate between Sali and Democrat Larry Grant, where both candidates put on their best face. But his view, evidently, is unchanged.

From the editorial (linked to here at the Grant site, since the Spokesman is behind a pay wall): "With only two seats in the House, Idaho can't afford to send another conservative flamethrower to Congress. Not only will Grant be in a good position to help Idaho if the Democrats regain the House, but he would work better with Republicans than Sali would if they don't."

Vasquez rides again

Robert Vasquez, th Canyon County commissioner whose focus on illegal immigration has become his calling card, came in second place earlier this year in the Republican primary for the 1st congressional district. Wednesday, he delivered an announcement suggesting that is his rationale for running in 2008 for the U.S. Senate, against incumbent Republican Larry Craig.

Robert VasquezA note of caution should be inserted before we go any further. Underdog candidacies announced so early, even before the two-year election system begins (that won't happen for another month), have a way of not materializing: The candidate comes to appreciate the difficulty of the task ahead, and bails, quietly. That could happen here, but we think probably not. Vasquez is a man on a mission, for one thing, and for him the campaign is worth running even absent success. Besides that, he just got done experiencing the realities of a U.S. House race. He wouldn't be going into this unawares.

The question then becomes, how seriously shold Vasquez' candidacy be taken? The core answer is, somewhere between earth-shaking and dismissable. It stands to become a factor, if he does stay in.

There is the matter of Craig's future, for one thing. Vasquez is contending that Craig has lost touch with Idaho after so many years in Congress. (He first joined the U.S. House in 1981, so it's been more than a quarter-century.) But then, there's some question about whether Craig necessarily will run again anyway. In 2008 he will have had 18 years in the U.S. Senate, a long stretch, and if he has any interest in doing something else (such as making a larger amount of money), this would be a logical time. There's another consideration. Craig has spent much of his time, and most recent years, in the majority. Odds seem about even right now who will be the majority after this year's election, and because of the nature of seats up in 2008, Republicans might not keep their majority then even if they retain it this year. Craig could be factoring that into his thinking, too; being in minority after having been in the majority isn't nearly as satisfying.

Vasquez has been nearly a one-issue candidate, and that usually doesn't sell well. But in a field of six Republican House candidates, it was this year good enough for second place.

He could be strong enough to pose an issue for Craig. And if Craig opts out - he wouldn't on account of Vasquez, but might for other reasons - Vasquez starts out as the early contender.

Worth bearing in mind as we move beyond this cycle, as soon we will.

Helen Chenoweth-Hage

Quite a lot will doubtless be said soon about Helen Chenoweth-Hage, who died in a car crash this morning near Tonopah, Nevada. The former U.S. representative from Idaho's 1st district (1995-2001) was a distinctive and strong personality, and it seems peculiarly unfitting that her passing occur as a passenger in an auto accident; that's simply tragic.

Helen Chenoweth-HageWe recall her most specifically in connection with one arrival and two departures.

The arrival was political, in the year 1994, when she entered the race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House. At the time she did that, her prospects seemed dim. Though she was a veteran Republican worker and staffer, she was the least-known of the three Republicans seeking the nomination, the less funded, the one everyone figured would be in third place - the fight, said the cognoscenti, would be between the other two. And whichever won would be unlikely to unseat the incumbent, Democrat Larry La Rocco, who had won easy re-election in two years before.

So much for all that: Helen Chenoweth (as she was then) ran an energetic race and took the prize. It was a cationary note, in a sense, to be careful who you underestimate. Which sets up the two departures ...

In 2000, she was facing a situation many of her colleagues were: In 1994 a lot of Republicans elected to Congress pledged to serve three terms and no more. In 2000 a lot of Republicans broke that pledge. Helen Chenoweth-Hage (as she was by then) did not: She kept her word and stepped down. She's had no lack of critics over the years, but they've all had to moderate their criticism of her with that tough-minded show of integrity.

As a private citizen, she remained vocal and tough-minded, and not just on a public platform. One day, not so long ago, she was at the Boise airport preparing for a flight back to Nevada, where in recent years she has lived with husband Wayne Hage. Arriving at the search area, she was instructed to submit to a search she thought was unreasonable. She asked the officials there: What is your authority for asking for this? (That being a question any citizen should always be able to ask of a government official and expect a clear answer.) She was told: We won't tell you. She then did what a liberty-minded American citizen should always do in such a situation, and what all too few actually do: She picked up her bags, walked out and drove to Nevada.

There was a day, in the early and mid parts of her congressional tenure, when Helen Chenoweth's critics were unflagging in their blasts at her. We suspect that a lot of them, reflecting today, wish she were still around to take up the battle. She will be missed.

Risch’s ratings

And how do Idahoans view Governor Jim Risch a month after his signature event - the property tax special session?

According to this month's Survey USA polling, not so well. His favorable/unfavorable numbers were 53% to 32% a month ago - pretty good. This month? 44% favorable, 38% unfavorable - a net fall of 15% in the margins.

Scratched: liberty, freedom, justice

The United States Senate today passed what is euphemistically called "the detainee bill" (S. 3930 As Amended) on which the Northwest Senate delegation was split. The three Democrats, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington and Ron Wyden of Oregon, voted against, and the three Republicans, Larry Craig and Mike Crapo of Idaho and Gordon Smith of Oregon, voted in favor.

With that vote, the latter three have entered, and may be leading us down, a dark back alley in history. They forfeited any moral right to describe their public positions or efforts in terms of freedom, liberty or justice. They have just voted against these principles as decisively as it is possible to do. (At last check, they do not appear to have noted their votes, or reasons for them, on their web sites.)

This assessment is not too harsh: Their votes enabled the single most stunning slash at civil liberties in this country since the days of slavery. The mass of power handed over to the president is of the kind more typically handed over in countries whose form of government is not described as either "free" or "democratic."

Here is what Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman said about it in today's Los Angeles Times:

The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops "during an armed conflict," it also allows him to seize anybody who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.

Not to worry, say the bill's defenders. The president can't detain somebody who has given money innocently, just those who contributed to terrorists on purpose.

But other provisions of the bill call even this limitation into question. What is worse, if the federal courts support the president's initial detention decision, ordinary Americans would be required to defend themselves before a military tribunal without the constitutional guarantees provided in criminal trials.

The Washington Post's Andrew Cohen remarked: "Of all the stupid, lazy, short-sighted, hasty, ill-conceived, partisan-inspired, damage-inflicting, dangerous and offensive things this Congress has done (or not done) in its past few recent miserable terms, the looming passage of the terror detainee bill takes the cake."

Before harsher denunciation followed: "Do you believe the Administration has over the past five years earned the colossal expanse of trust the Congress is about to give it in the name of fighting terrorism? Do you believe that Administration officials will be able to accurately and adequately identify so-called 'enemy combatants' here at home so as to separate out the truly bad guys from the guys who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Did you want your legislative branch to abdicate so completely its responsibility to ensure that there are adequate checks and balances upon executive power even in a time of terror? You might have answered 'no' to all three questions. But your answer doesn't matter. And neither does mine. To Congress, the answer is 'yes, sir.'"

And torture? Oh yeah, got that too - the president pretty much gets to define whatever he thinks is okay. There's even been analysis suggesting that the bill could legally authorize the rape of detainees. That's been disputed. Sorta. (We're old enough to remember when torture was something the bad guys did - and when we were better than that.)

There is much, much more.

A commenter to Cohen's post: "The fact that we - mere citizens - have allowed Congress to reach the brink of passing one of the most reckless and foolish laws in decades is astounding. Congress is set to gut the Constitution of one of the central rights our Founders fought for, and we are all asleep. Shame on the Republican majority for going lock-step with the President. Shame on Democrats for fighting for what's right in order to avoid looking 'soft' on terrorism. Shame on us for not saying this is wrong."

The core is this: The United States Senate today did its part toward turning this country into the kind of place we always thought we were better than.

Remember who did this to you, and to your country.

The home office

Typically, we don't report much here on technical election complaints to either the Federal Elections Commission or to state elections offices. While some may be serious, many are simply attempts to barb an opponent with an embarrassing "gatcha!". But now from Michigan, of all places, comes one worth more attention.

The local background to this is in Idaho's 1st U.S. House race, where Republican Bill Sali won his primary campaign in considerable part because of the help of Club for Growth, a supply side/tax cut group based in Washington. The Club's money was the biggest reason Sali's finances were well ahead of everyone else's in the primary and have continued so large. Sali has, in debates, acknowledged the group is an important part of his support, and said they simply believe the same things he does.

The FEC complaint just filed by Michigan Republican Representative Joe Schwarz, however, takes this to another kind of level. (more…)

WiFi – you’ll never guess

An Idaho city is planning a pilot wireless Internet - WiFi - project to cover a downtown area. And which one is it?

Meridian subdivision image - City of MeridianYou might logically guess Boise. Wrong. Or Pocatello, with Idaho State University close by, or Moscow with the University of Idaho. Wrong again. Tony Ketchum or Hailey? Nope. High-tech Idaho Falls? Guess again.

The first, apparently, will be Meridian, which plans to set up a WiFi network in its downtown.

You might call this counterintuitive. Meridian is one of Idaho's hottest growth spots, certainly, and sometime this year - if not already, then probably soon - it leaps past Pocatello to become the state's third largest city. But its growth pattern is more like Henderson, Nevada, or Phoenix, Arizona, than like any of those other Idaho cities - it is spreading out over scads of new subdivisions, miles in every direction from downtown. And the downtown area looks, considering the astonishing change around it, not sio drastically different than it did a decade or two ago. It is not a downtown area in the same sense as Pocatello's, or Idaho Falls', or Nampa's. It is still a small-town downtown, characterized most obviously by the heavy traffic passing through it on the way to residential and shopping centers out on Fairview or Eagle roads, or somewhere else.

That said ... maybe Wi-Fi is a good idea. Meridian would probably be well served in efforts to develop its downtown area into something more (which at least to some extent its overwhelmed city staffers have tried to do). An a Wi-Fi system might be a useful tool in that effort.

Strange consolidators

Time was not so long ago when most local radio stations had their own newsgathering organizations - often just one person, but freestanding nonetheless - as did, separately, each television station. In the last decade especially we've been seeing diminishing numbers of broadcast reporters and distinct units, and the trend is accelerating.

It has even led to some peculiar situations. Consider this, from the Idaho Radio blog:

Clear Channel Boise and KIVI-TV/Today’s Channel 6 are now sharing newsgathering and promotional resources.

Seems perfectly natural - until you realize that KIVI is owned by Journal Broadcast Group, which also happens to own six radio stations in the Valley.