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Posts published in “Northwest”

The safe Northwest

When it comes to disasters, they tend to be so all-consuming - when they do happen, or might - that we miss the larger risk picture. For example, this question: How risky a place is the Northwest, from storms, floods, quakes, twisters and so on?

Pretty safe, it turns out.

The New York Times last weekend posted a map showing which parts of the country are overall at higher or lower risk of disasters, and the Northwest is much the lowest. The safest metro area in the country, it turns out, is Corvallis. And of the eight safest metro areas in the country, seven are in either Washington or Oregon (Corvallis, Mt. Vernon, Bellingham, Wenatchee, Spokane, Salem and Seattle). The lone holdout was Grand Junction, Colorado.

The list of high-risk places was led by Dallas, Texas. The eight riskiest were all in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.

Bryan Fischer update

Bryan Fischer, the conservative social activist well-known in Idaho for a variety of issues, has been active since he left the state. Every so often, some off the wall comment emerges from him and shoots around the country.

You can see an update on that at the Raw Story site.

But note this also, the prime reason for taking note: He has a radio program (he meets the national central requirement for having one, since he's conservative), and his guests have included presidential prospects Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann and Haley Barbour.

Cowboy ethics

When Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter was running for governor last year, and before that, his campaign office had in the window a "Code of the West" - "live each day with courage," "take pride in your work," "be tough but fair," "when you make a promise, keep it," "ride for the brand" (aka, Be True to Your School, or loyal to your community and country). Concepts that, doubtless, you've never heard of before. It came up during the campaign and Otter has pushed them as governor, even reciting then when talking to school kids.

Nothing particularly wrong with them, either. But what wasn't clear then, seeing the "Code" posted on a campaign window or website, was that it wasn't the idea of Otter, or of some Idahoan.

It's popped up again this session at the Oregon Legislature, in the form of House Concurrent Resolution 14 (a hearing is set for Monday), to approve of the "Code" (because, remember, it has to do with the mythical Old West, not the real one) as a sort moral guideline for the state.

It has also appeared, the Oregonian noted in writing about this, in other places: Wyoming has adopted it as state policy (to accomplish what exactly is unclear), and the Montana legislature is considering it.

So it didn't just pop up as one local lonesome cowboy's thought.

It came from one James P. Owen, who has made substantial bucks from a series of books. The first one was Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, and when it sold well, was quickly followed by two sequels. Getting a marketing boost for his book from governors and legislators surely didn't hurt. And he set up a non-profit corporation as well, The Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership. The approach of the New West wrapped in the mythology of the old: Quite a mashup.

If you're wondering where that reference to Wall Street came in, you need to know something about Owen. He is not a cowboy (though the fringe-sleeved jacket he wears on his non-profit's web page conveys the impression). Owen's background is on Wall Street, as an investment professional; he has even been linked to investor Bernie Madoff's operations (though he has said the financial connection occurred after his left his firm). The cowboy principles do not come from any study of the old west, or life on a ranch, but - he has said - from recollections of his childhood, watching Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

A 21st century philosopher of the American West. Truly.

People will die

Representative Peter DeFazio on cuts, in the U.S. House budget, to emergency early-detection services (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, in the case of tsunamis).

So often, this kind of rhetoric doesn't relate to real-world risks. In this case the risks are real and apparent; you have only to look on the other side of the Pacific to see them (in a nation generally better-prepared for disaster than we are).

These services are there for reasons. Ignore those, and reap the consequences.

Broadband visuals

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Broadband in the Northwest

A fascinating online tool is out for checking where broadband service is available, and what types and what speeds.

Developed by the National Telecommications and Information Agency, the National Broadband Map shows where broadband is and isn't available. (By land-based services, anyway; satellite is obviously available in many more places.)

In the Northwest, you see what you generally expect to see, with maybe a little stronger lines through the outskirts of the Portland metro area, and in eastern Washington. But you can drill down to the street level. Want to find out exactly what's available where you live? Here's how.

Crisis in the nuclear debate

We've long thought that the people who dismiss the idea of nuclear power as a realistic energy source are being too dismissive. If you can resolve reasonable safety issues, ensure that the operation is price effective (not an obscene cost per kilowatt-hour) and get clear-eyed about the waste issues, it should be a realistic option, at least in some places and circumstances. And advances in technology suggest those issues shouldn't be insurmountable. The political could be harder.

Maybe much harder after Friday's tsunami. News of partial and possibly further meltdown of a nuclear operation in Japan, resulting from an earthquake the likes of which the Northwest could see somewhere in the future, is likely to shake up the nuclear debate in big ways.

Headlines like "200,000 evacuated as N-crisis escalates" in the Seattle Times won't make the pro-nuclear advocates' job much easier.

Carlson: Review and clarify


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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles


This column has been running for a year and it’s appropriate to update a few issues I dissected during that time.

ITEM: They never go back to Pocatello.

Former Democratic First District Congressman Walt Minnick demonstrated anew this old saying about politicians once they leave office. After auditioning for a post with the Obama Administration as comptroller of the currency, Minnick and his partners formed - you guessed it - a lobbying firm called The Majority Group.

While barred by law from any direct contact with his former colleagues for one year, there is nothing that prohibits Minnick from directing others on whose ear to bend and arm to twist. As a former member of the House, he still has floor access privileges to boot.

Minnick’s mid-February move followed by only a few days the announcement by former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) official Steve Israel that he would be forming an alumni association of the many former “Blue Dog” Democrats defeated in the last election by Republicans who may try to retake their old seats.

The thought is to stick together, try to influence the House Democratic caucus, share polling and fund-raising information to the extent the law allows, bank on the Republicans over-reaching and charge back.

Minnick did not return calls to his new office nor an e-mail request, thus leaving some obvious questions unanswered. Is he planning for a rematch? Most folks doubt it, but those bitten by the bug never say never. Is his wife, “A.K.” (a former tv newscaster and former Democratic state chair) and their children taking up permanent residency inside the Beltway? Will there be a business tie between Minnick’s new firm and the alumni association? Is there a particular market they will target? Does the firm already have a contract with the DCCC? Time will tell.

Don’t be harsh on Walt. He joins a large group of former Idaho elected officials and staff who once they tasted the D.C. power elixir cannot remove themselves. That list includes former Senators Steve Symms and Larry Craig, former Senate Sergeant of Arms Greg Casey, former Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey, and former Idaho Congressmen Orval Hansen and George Hansen, to name only a few.

ITEM: Congressman Mike Simpson reinserts provision on primacy of state water rights for non-navigable waters.

Kudos to Idaho’s Second District congressman for using his new position as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment to reinsert language into a resolution that would prohibit the EPA from using tax dollars to try to remove from the Clean Waters Act language restricting EPA’s authority only to “navigable waters” in a state. (more…)

Carlson: The Last Bastion?


carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles


The impending demise of the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding the ability of gay Americans to serve their country ably, along with the discarding of the military’s ban on women serving in combat, has led to some interesting conversations around the Carlson kitchen table.

We have four members of the United States Marine Corps in our extended family: a cousin, who is a retired colonel; a son, who is a captain on active duty; and two nephews, who are corporals in infantry units.

Those policies were doomed because they flew in the face of the best thing the military has going for it: the last bastion of true meritocracy in our society. In all branches of the service, how one performs, not who you know or where you were educated or how wealthy your family may be, determines promotion.

Hiding one’s sexual orientation inevitably invites a form of below -the-radar discrimination that impact adversely a gay officer’s ability to advance fairly in competition with straight Marines. Likewise, most Marine advancement is premised in on an ability to lead, especially in combat. Restricting women from leading in combat zones discriminates against fair advancement.

It was inevitable that policies running counter to the principles of meritocracy, as they did, were destined to be tossed.

Understanding the context in the evolution of these issues helped me to place such outcomes in an historical framework. (more…)

Carlson: “A thing that money could buy”


carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles


Some readers may recognize that line from an old Peter, Paul and Mary song that continues, “the rich would live and the poor would die.” Unfortunately, there’s too much truth to it: Wealth does allow the rich to live longer than those who do not have sufficient money, not to mention what’s left of the increasingly squeezed middle class.

“Income inequality” is a phrase news media and politicians alike want to avoid. They duck phrases deploring language that elicits thoughts of “class warfare.” The stark fact is income disparity, the difference between the super rich and the average worker, is at its greatest chasm in history (with the possible exception of 1928).

Yes, many of the wealthy (households with combined annual gross incomes more than $250,000) pay taxes. And, in a society that long ago institutionalized graduated tax rates, they usually pay more than those who earn less. But many of the super rich, the top two-tenths of one percent, don’t pay any taxes.

I once heard a member of the super rich say flat out “only stupid people pay taxes.” They retain attorneys and accountants to find shelters and write-offs to ensure they don’t pay a cent.

Yet they gladly take the protection of the American military in an unsafe world as an entitlement. They still expect their social security check when they “retire.” It makes me more than a little angry.

I mention this because, for all the rhetoric being tossed around regarding the need to repeal the historic passage of Health Care Reform because of problems and unintended consequences, the fundamentals of more government involvement in this gargantuan consumer of much of America’s wealth will remain in place.

Why? Because it is viewed as an equalizer that provides the poor and the stressed middle class more accessibility to more affordable health care and more protection against catastrophic illness that can financially ruin a household in a heartbeat. (more…)