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Speed

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Every so often, I have need to travel across Oregon, and that's a long way.

The Portland to Ontario stretch of Interstate 84, alone, is about 375 miles. At 65 miles an hour, that's a drive of five and three-quarter hours (at speed limit, non-stop). At 70 miles an hour, you can shave a half-hour off that. Not massive, but it adds enough. It can make a difference.

For decades speed limits on Oregon roads famously were lower than almost anywhere in the west; cross the border into California or Nevada or Idaho or Washington, and you could instantly speed up. That also means plenty of drivers passing through those states probably speed right through Oregon, too.

More recently speeds have risen, not by a lot but somewhat. Beginning in March 2016 most interstate speeds east of the Cascades went from 65 to 70 miles an hour, and some highways in very lightly populated area - much of Highway 97, for example - went from 55 to 65.

The increases were resisted for a long time by safety advocates concerned that higher speeds could lead to more fatalities.

Maybe they have. The Eastern Oregonian at Pendleton reported this week that in the months after the speed increase in 2016, fatalities along the affected roads did increase, noticeably. (The story then went into some of the grisly details, of course.)

However, it also noted that the fatalities dropped in 2017, while inching up again this year.

So what do we draw from this?

First, the numbers of fatalities were still not large, and amounted to a small sample size. They added up to 11 crashes on those hundreds of miles of affected roads, including massive stretches of busy interstates. The numbers were small enough that drawing serious conclusions about the effect of the change in speed limits - just five miles an hour on the freeways - would be problematic.

Second, the decrease in the number of fatalities in the second year suggests that maybe there wasn't much of an effect or, if there was, that people were adjusting to it.

It's something worth continuing to watch. But there's not enough here to draw many conclusions.
 

Dancing with despots

jones

The United States is showing a new face to the world and it isn’t a pretty one. No more Mr. Nice Guy trying to show the manifest benefits of democracy. No more of this nonsense about a free and unfettered press: Vladie Putin has demonstrated how to deal with them. And, selling death-dealing equipment to autocrats takes a much higher priority than calling them out for their vicious butchery.

Just because the Prince of Saudi Arabia sent a hit squad to a foreign country to make hamburger out of a journalist who had been peacefully and lawfully living in the United States is no reason to get all up in arms. It was just one guy and he was making himself a nuisance to the Prince by urging him to treat his subjects decently.

Besides, we can’t say with absolute certainty that the dear Prince ordered the drawing and quartering. Just because the guys in the hit squad knew from the Prince’s track record that they would be in a world of hurt if they did not follow his instructions to the tee, does not mean he gave them explicit instructions to slice and dice the fellow.

The Central Intelligence Agency concluded with a high degree of certainty that the Prince was behind the killing, but what do they know? They also claimed with that same degree of certainty that the Russians attacked our elections and just look where that went.

Everyone in the press is making such a big deal of the fact that the hit squad contained a doctor who routinely cut up bodies for autopsies and that he brought his bone saw to the event. What else would you expect him to take on a pleasure trip. He probably was only following that old motto, “Be prepared.”

Even if the hit was not the proper way to conduct business, we have to think about the economic aspects. The Saudis have agreed to buy about $14.5 billion dollars’ worth of military equipment from U.S. arms makers. That’s a lot of cabbage, especially if you round up the amount to $450 billion. It is just a dollars and cents proposition. You can’t let morality stand in the way of raking in the dough in this dangerous world.

Besides, the Saudis desperately need those weapons to kill people in Yemen. We have been giving them a hand in that enterprise and we can’t very well let them do it on their own. Where else are they going to get their cluster bombs? Most countries, at least 107, have gotten soft-hearted and signed a treaty to quit making or using them. The Saudis might be able to replenish their supply from Russia, China or some of the other autocratic countries, but why should we give up this lucrative business?

It is unfortunate that the war being conducted in Yemen by the Prince has resulted in the starvation of about 85,000 children to date but we have to understand that he is reforming his government. The President’s son-in-law gets along great with the Prince and that counts for something.

Bottom line, the old soft-headed America is out of date for these times. There will be no more preaching to dictators about the need to be nice and not brutalize their people. That gets in the way of making money and from now on it is profit over principle in this country, which was formerly respected for justice, dignity and moral courage.
 

Why

rainey

Here are a couple of questions for you. Name the capitol of Afghanistan. Got it? What’s the answer? Here’s the second. Name two other cities. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Most people can’t name the capitol. Kabul. No one I know can name two other cities. And I’ve asked a few. Herat and Kandahar are a couple. There are many more.

Yet, young Americans have been fighting and dying there for 17 years. Seventeen years! And the vast majority of us couldn’t find the place on a map and know next to nothing about the nation or its people.

We have about 16,000 military there at the moment - down from 100,000 a couple of years ago. Our young people have died there for 17 years. The Pentagon won’t say how many. Thousands and thousands of wounded? Same non-response.

The financial cost to we taxpayers? Well, Randall Shriver is the top guy for the Defense Department in Asia. His numbers? About $5-billion a year for Afghan forces. Another $13-billion every 12 months for the U.S. military. And about $780-million more for “economic aid.” Whatever the hell that is.

When you ring up the total, adding what the military calls “miscellaneous costs,” we shelled out - in just the last year - $45-billion. Give or take a million or two. Put another way, we’ve been spending about $170-million a day!

Why? What are we doing there? To what end? To what goal? What will “peace” look like? The “peace” that seemingly will never come. How many more young Americans will have to die or be permanently scarred before “victory?” How many more trillions of dollars are we willing to throw down that Asian rat hole? This is the longest war our nation has ever fought. Why do we continue?

In recent months, an ambulance bomb killed 95 civilians. Fifty more killed at a wedding. More than 50 clerics have died ina single attack. Hundreds of other terrorist killings. And, at least a dozen American military murdered by Afghans wearing uniforms we gave them, using our rifles we taught them how to shoot. All just this year.

Afghans - who’ve been at war since the first one stood upright many centuries ago - wouldn’t know peace if it suddenly descended on them. They’ve been at war with each other - and one nation or another - since their inception. I can’t think of another country occupied more often by nation-after-invading-nation. And not one - not even one - left the soil of Afghanistan in victory and with honor.
Even our “Commander-In Chief” hasn’t dared venture there in two years in office. Nor, incidentally - to his shame - has he visited any of the other dozens of war zones where our troops are under fire.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is one politician who complains about our seemingly endless involvement in that far-off sinkhole. He notes every couple of years, one U.S. administration after another claims “a corner is being turned” and “the end is in sight.” Then he lists the corruption, government dysfunction and the repeated failures of the Afghan security forces.

The fact of the matter is, Merkley says, U.S. hopes of using military force to compel the Taliban to reach a political settlement are - and have been for years - unrealistic. He notes the Taliban now controls more territory than it did in 2001.

Sen. Rand Paul, also a vocal critic, says “Tens of billions are being thrown down the hatch in Afghanistan” and he calls it “an impossible situation for which there is no hope.”

Other congressional voices mutter and complain. But, as a body, having war-making and war-ending powers, there’s absolutely no action to put an end to the tragic waste. In a heartbeat, Congress could shut off the money spigot. There’s never been a congressional declaration of war for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or any other of the dozens of hot spots where we’re spending lives and treasure.

Congress, alone, we’re told, could end all of it by denying spending. Trump could holler, threaten and lie till he chokes, but he doesn’t control spending. The whole sad, tragic and tremendously costly “war” could be stopped. And, as so many other nations have done, we could get the hell out of there.

Imagine what we could have done for our infrastructure, our public education system, needs of our veterans, our real national defense, repairing our urgent environmental problems, health care, homelessness and so much more with the trillions we’ve wasted in undeclared wars.

Again, no voice has described “victory” in Afghanistan. Not one. Because there is none. There never has been. There never will be.

Here’s another question for you. Would you want your son or daughter on some Afghanistan battlefield?

Why can’t we learn? Why?
 

Idaho Weekly Briefing – December 3

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for December 3. Would you like to know more? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Winter hit much of Idaho last week as the state moved into holiday mode, and governmental activity settled. The Idaho Supreme Court of Court of Appeals did get new jurists. And state legislators are however preparing for their organizational session next week.

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter announced the appointment today of a veteran Judge and a seasoned trial court attorney to serve on the Idaho Supreme Court and the Idaho Court of Appeals respectively. Seventh District Judge Gregory Moeller, of Rexburg was picked to fill the Idaho Supreme Court vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Joel Horton. Attorney Amanda Brailsford, of Garden City was appointed by Otter to the Idaho Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Sergio Gutierrez.

Citing the importance of the Secure Rural Schools program, Senator Mike Crapo and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden on November 28 led a bipartisan call with 23 of their Senate colleagues calling for a one-year reauthorization of the program in any year-end funding measures.

Senator Jim Risch, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, joined his colleagues in advancing Dr. Rita Baranwal’s nomination for Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy to the Senate floor.

December 3 at 8:00 a.m., the Ada County Elections Office will begin recounting all ballots cast in Ada County during the 2018 General Election for Legislative District 15 State Senate race and the College of Western Idaho Plant Facilities Reserve Fund Levy.

Two years after launching, the Idaho Policy Institute in Boise State University’s School of Public Service has completed more than three dozen projects encompassing every geographic region of the state, and has grown its staff from three to eight full-time employees and two graduate students.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on the annual update to the Site Treatment Plan for the Idaho National Laboratory.

Beginning in 2019, Pickles Butte Sanitary Landfill will charge customers an additional $50 fee for vehicles or trailers that have uncovered/unsecured loads.

IMAGE Idaho State University researcher Chris Tennant researches snowpack levels around the western states. Here, he is engaged in field work. (image/Idaho State University)
 

Truth decays under Trump

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In his famous Harper's magazine essay about American politics, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Richard Hofstadter wrote: "One of the most valuable things about history is that it teaches us how things do not happen."

Hofstadter wrote about what he called "the paranoid style of American politics" in 1964 when another Republican, Barry Goldwater, was threatening to destroy his party with fanciful notions about winning nuclear wars and staging for adoring crowds at his rallies what the journalist Richard Rovere called "great carnivals of white supremacy."

The politically paranoid, the eminent historian argued, is a victim of his own lack of awareness where aversion to facts and his circumstances and experiences "deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him - and in any case he resists enlightenment."

A week ago, while many Americans were still in a turkey- and dressing-induced post-Thanksgiving food coma (or perhaps shopping at a big-box store on Black Friday), 13 agencies of the federal government released a 1,600-page report on our changing climate. The first sentence of the report stated its most important conclusion in clear and unusually stark terms: "Earth's climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities."

The report was purposely released on a holiday Friday in order to minimize the exposure of facts like this one: "Since the first National Climate Assessment was released (in 2000), the United States has endured 16 of the 17 warmest years on record, and the latest assessment paints a bleak picture of the future."

President Donald Trump, of course, dismissed the careful, factual work of scientists in four words. "I don't believe it," he said.

Such idiocy led Trevor Noah, the host of television's Comedy Central, to ask: "How can one man possess all the stupidity of mankind. It's like they edited his genes to give him superhuman stupidity."

In order to agree with our scientist-in-chief, you need to consciously discount the serious, detailed, principled work of 300 government and university scientists who drew upon the work of thousands of other scientists who have studied, analyzed and calculated what is happening to the climate.

This group includes two scientists I talked with this week who wrote chapters of the National Climate Assessment dealing with the Pacific Northwest. Philip Mote is the director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Washington. Another author is Scott Lowe, the associate dean of the graduate school at Boise State University, a professor of environmental studies and a researcher on resource economics. He has his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Both scientists told me a key takeaway from the new climate report - the fourth such effort since 2000 - is that Pacific Northwest resource industries, including particularly timber, agricultural and fisheries, best get ready for an unpredictable new era of climate variability: more variability in stream flows, more low snowpack conditions, reduction in irrigation capability and more variability in growing seasons.

Here are just three sentences from the report on climate impacts in the Northwest:

"Forests in the interior Northwest are changing rapidly because of increasing wildfire and insect and disease damage, attributed largely to a changing climate."

"Impacts to the quality and quantity of forage will also likely impact farmers' economic viability as they may need to buy additional feed or wait longer for their livestock to put on weight, which affects the total price they receive per animal."

"Decreases in low- and mid-elevation snowpack and accompanying decreases in summer streamflow are projected to impact snow- and water-based recreation, such as downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, boating, rafting and fishing."

Mote, the Oregon State climate scientist, told me he recently went back and looked at the first national climate assessment. He described that effort as "educated speculation," but now he says we know in detail what has been happening to the climate over the past two decades and the conclusions to be drawn are more certain and more emphatic. As the report says, "observational evidence does not support any credible natural explanations" for the amount of warming taking place. "Instead, the evidence consistently points to human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse or heat-trapping gases as the dominant cause."

Trump is not alone, of course, in his denial of evidence starring us in the face. And while the dismissal of decades of science is an insult to the very notion of truth - Mote calls it a "raw denial of knowledge" - it is also flat out dangerous. The scientists stress that we do have the ability to adapt and deal with much of the impact of climate change, but denying the existence of what is happening - the dangerous part - paralyzes any meaningful action and the longer we wait the less likely we'll adapt well or at all.

Lowe, the Boise State researcher, says the rejection of fact-based science is frequently tied up with weird notions of a conspiracy theory that university and government scientists "have an agenda that is funded by someone." This is pure nonsense. They are scientists seeking facts. They volunteer their expertise.

In the Trump era, the very idea of truth is taking a beating, "truth decay" one recent report called it. Meanwhile, debasing expertise and knowledge gets us an administration stocked with a knucklehead who blames California wildfires on "radical environmentalists" and puts the president's son-in-law, a trust fund baby and New York real estate developer, in charge of crafting a Middle East peace plan.

Such folks not only seek no enlightenment; they are supremely comfortable in their ignorance.

As you shift the competing "truth" about climate change, ask yourself a simple question: Who are you going to believe - a bunch of scientists who have been studying an issue for decades and have their work double- and triple-checked by other scientists or a guy who bankrupted his casino?

Johnson served as press secretary and chief of staff to the late former Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus. He lives in Manzanita, Ore.
 

Red, blue and purple

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What’s a red state, or county, or city for that matter? What qualifies as blue? What’s purple?

The lines are not as perfectly clear as we sometimes like to think. The point came back to me with an email from a Democrat in Valley County, who took issue with a characterization I made of his county.

Noting that Valley voters backed Proposition 2 (Medicaid expansion) 67.3 percent, I went on to describe the place as “strongly Republican.” My correspondent countered that Valley is not “very red” and “I would say is a purple county.” In support of that, he cited a Democrat elected to the three-member county commission, and that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paulette Jordan received 46.97 percent of the vote in the general election. These might be indications Valley is gradually moving toward a less-red hue.

But consider a few other factors.

Democrat Dave Bingaman did win a commission seat, with 46.2 percent of the vote (an independent got some of the rest, denying anyone a majority). But Bingaman was the only county-level Democrat on the ballot. Assessor, clerk, treasurer, coroner and another commission seat all went to Republicans without a contest. That’s not an indicator of a purple county.

Republican congressional candidate Russ Fulcher won Valley 51.2 percent to 41.7 percent, and with one exception (superintendent of public instruction) Republicans won there for all the statewide offices. And for all three state legislative seats (though in one of them the Republican margin in Valley was held to a thin 52.5 percent). Two years ago in 2016, Republicans won all the county and legislative races, most of them uncontested by Democrats. Donald Trump won Valley County with 54.3 percent of the vote - not a close call.

So, with all respect, I’ll stick with the characterization of Valley as a Republican county.

But, a qualification is called for, even in Valley County’s case.

At what point might we say a county is blue or red turf? I’ll suggest: When it routinely and ordinarily (not necessarily always) votes for candidates of one party. It shades purple when these outcomes get hard to predict regularly.

By that standard, there’s one blue Idaho county: Blaine, because of the deep blue vote based in the Wood River Valley.

A few others are more competitive. Consider Teton County, purplish tingeing toward blue. Trump won there in 2016, but by all of eight votes; Republicans won that year for U.S. Senate and U.S. House as well. This year, however, Democrats swept Teton, winning for all of the contested statewide and most of the county offices. Teton has elected local officials from both parties in contested races in recent years; no one should take it for granted. That’s purple.

What about Ada County? While Boise City is blue - look at the legislative delegation there, and the vote percentages Democrats have been getting there - the rest of the county has been red enough routinely to tip Ada Republican. In 2016 Trump won decisively in Ada, as did three Republicans for congressional offices. The 2018 results were far more competitive: Democrats won for governor, lieutenant governor, superintendent of public instruction and lost for secretary of state and attorney general. They won two county commission seats and coroner, lost for clerk and treasurer. The county’s legislative seats split 13 Republican (pending one recount) and 14 Democratic. The two congressional districts in the county went in opposite directions. On the basis of 2018 Ada looks purple. What will 2020 show?

So, Valley County? The growing parts of the county (like McCall) seem to be moving in a purple direction. Possibly one reason Democrats haven’t fared better there is that they have fielded so few candidates locally. Put up a few more, and that purplish tinge might in fact start to grow. Let’s see what it looks like in another couple of years.
 

Humbly thankful

schmidt

The turkey and dressing leftovers may be gone but the time for thankfulness is not over. It’s a blessed day in Idaho when the sun sets westward and we draw comfort that it will rise again.

Such blessings are symbolized annually by the gathering of our elected representatives in the darkest months at our state’s capital. We are comforted that come spring, the trees will bud, grass will sprout, snowmelt will fill the rivers, fawns are born, but most blessed of all, the lawmaking will cease and our elected representatives can return home where they can do us no more harm.

Each season bears its tasks, and meaningful tasks deserve our thanks. Spring for planting, summer the weeding and watering, fall the harvest and winter for bearing up under the burdens of the long dark legislative session. What solution will some yahoo propose to make our children want to learn? He surely knows education best; he won an election! What fiasco will be proposed to make more water available, when most of our senior legislators have trouble making their own water pass? What tax scheme will come forward that enriches the rich and pulverizes the poor, but for sure shrinks government to suit the Idaho Freedom Foundation? We should not spend our winters under such a thankless burden. I suggest instead we pursue more meaningful winter tasks, like taking a long walk and giving thanks for the icy footing and chill wind in our face.

This particular season I give thanks that Idaho citizens had the initiative to tell their lawmakers what to do. We elect these people, but thankfully, sometimes we get to tell them when we think they are getting it wrong. A few years back we were able to signal clearly to the legislature that their Luna Laws were poppycock. The laws were hatched in secret by an arrogant Tom Luna, recently reelected Superintendent of Public Instruction, who made no mention of this idea just months before in his campaign. The legislature passed these education reform laws despite overwhelming public testimony in opposition. Well, the referendum to repeal the laws passed with a wide margin. Governor Otter took the hint and then set up a work group to make recommendations. When arrogance and hubris fail, I guess open and broad discussions around a difficult topic can provide direction. Lesson learned?

This year the electorate sent a clear message to our leaders too: expand Medicaid health insurance eligibility to the working poor in Idaho. This was in the face of many legislator’s strong opposition or more often, silence but definite inaction on the issue for the last 6 years. I am thankful we had the opportunity. I will be even more thankful when the legislature decides to listen.

For what is being thankful if it is not humility? None of us gets everything right all the time. Admitting to being wrong is not a show of weakness or ineptitude. And such an admission is no guarantee one won’t be wrong or inept once again. But not admitting to one’s mistakes, not reflecting humbly on past actions is arrogance. And arrogance is a guarantee for future mistakes.

I hear the legislature has expanded its “civility” training for this year. I hope somewhere in those lessons there might be some time for them to be humbly thankful for the opportunity they have to represent us in state government. It is very tempting, once one is anointed by 50.1% of the voters to think you have all the answers. Be thankful; be humble.

Which Brad Little did Idaho elect?

richardson

There was a time when I thought highly of Brad Little, but that was some time ago. In recent years and, especially during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Brad disappointed those of us who have long thought of him as Butch with less charisma, but a much better brain.

Most discomforting were his broadsides at "illegals," a term I abhor, and his utter unwillingness to take a stand on the most important issue facing the state - health care, specifically implementation of Prop 2. Moreover, his commercials promoting “traditional marriage” were offensive in their appeal to increasingly obsolete prejudice.

Now, having been elected to the state's top job, Little can step out of Otter's Stetson-topped shadow and be his own person. We will see what he's truly made of. Will he be more open-minded and less ideological like the Little of old, or will he tack to the right and cater to the more extreme elements of his base as he did in the campaign?

In a recent interview, Little suggested that - in looking to fill his cabinet - he might appoint a Democrat or two. If Little isn't just musing aloud and actually follows through, he would be taking a page from an excellent book on statesmanship, one written by former governor Cecil D. Andrus. “Cece” didn’t hesitate to recognize talent outside his own party, and he built bridges with many Republicans that lasted a lifetime.

The governor-elect would do well to follow the Andrus model. I found a ray of hope in Little’s comment: “Last time I checked I’m governor of the whole state of Idaho and even Democrats count.” That statement would read better if he had dropped the "even," but at least there was a glimmer of recognition that members of the minority party are also Idahoans and merit a place at the table.

Little won his party's nomination against two formidable opponents by a relatively small margin. We'll never know how many Democrats registered as Republicans to vote for Little in the GOP primary, but if my facebook news feed is any indication, the answer is “quite a few.”

I was not among these because, for me, registering - however briefly - as a Republican would have been a lie. I couldn't associate myself, even for a nanosecond, with the party of Trump. But I understand the impetus of those who did. They saw Little as by far the most reasonable choice in the GOP field and, assuming (correctly) that the Republican nominee would go on to become governor, opted for the candidate they thought likely to do the least harm.

As Little assembles his transition team and begins the process of naming appointees to key positions in state government, he would do well to reach out to some of those Democrats who helped him win the GOP intramural contest. Idaho has had enough partisanship. Real leadership is inclusive and requires at least some amount of bipartisanship. Here's hoping our new governor rises to the occasion.
 

Why how you do it matters

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For all the many ways Oregon has organized itself governmentally in better and more advanced ways - mail voting, for example - ahead of lots of other states, it remains behind the curve in one important respect: Redistricting.

Legislative and congressional reapportionment is still done in Oregon by the state legislature - the old-fashioned, partisan and messy way. Three of the states around Oregon - California, Idaho and Washington - offloaded the job to redistricting commissions, set up to give the parties balance and avoid the prospect of a gerrymandered map being shoved down the throat of a minority, something that has happened (as we know) in a number of states.

The situation in Oregon has not been quite that unhappy, yet. In 2011 the legislature completed a redistricting map which passed with a strong bipartisan vote. That happened in large part because the districts were drawn so that incumbents of both parties would be relatively protected, so few lawmakers had much basis for personal grievance. It worked, politically, but the map was far from optimal on any basis other than incumbent protection. And it probably was an improvement over a decade earlier when the legislature did not get a map passed into law and the map was drawn by a court.

The commission approach, simply, is better. But how a commission works is important.

One approach, a proposed statewide ballot issue, is being floated by Kevin Mannix, a Republican and a former legislator and candidate for governor. It would set up a redistricting commission made up of 11 members. Fine so far, but there's a catch: The members would be chosen by county commissioners, who would get to fill seats based in part on whether the local commission is partisan or not - and that varies among the counties.

It also would have two other effects. It would give tremendous clout, well in excess of their actual population, to the rural counties, which much outnumber the urban. It also would have a clear effective partisan effect: There are a lot more Republican counties in Oregon than urban; in most elections elections, Democrats win because they sweep a relative handful of the largest counties. The Mannix proposal would turn that situation on its head. (It also would affect only legislative, not congressional, remapping.)

You probably can figure his proposal won't fare well at the polls.

There's another proposal out there too, backed by the League of Women Voters. The one - which the group plans to submit to the legislature for action there - would try creating a relatively neutral commission selection process. They would be, as one news story said, "applicants would be screened for conflicts of interest and randomly selected," and be chosen from a pool of politically uninvolved people.

Hmm. While the idea of redistricting sheltered from political self-dealing has some appeal, so does the idea of redistricting done by a group of people who know what they're doing. Anyone who really has no opinion about how such a map should look may be someone who doesn't know much about the state or state politics, and that's probably not a great place to start either.

Most state redistricting commissions start with the presumption that maps will favor this side or that in various places, but also with the assumption that the advantages can be balanced out if you have a balance of power, a commission split deeply enough between the parties, and maybe with some outside interests thrown in, that the overall result will be roughly fair. That approach has more or less worked in Washington, Idaho and California, which have had experienced political hands from both parties involved in the process but also, under the rules, forced to more or less compromise.

It's not perfect, and can be a little messy and argumentative at times, but it does get the job done in a sensible way that doesn;t put too many people at too much disadvantage.

And that may just be good enough.