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Posts published in February 2012

Carlson: Shoes of the fisherman

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…)

Hostile to religion?

It's been an oft-repeated line on the Republican presidential trail, that President Barack Obama is hostile to religion, even waging a war on it.

If people anywhere in the country logically - based on their voting patterns - ought to be agreeing, you'd see it in the central Idaho Panhandle, in Kootenai County country, home to what by many measures may be Idaho's most far-right legislative district.

Dave Oliveria at the Spokesman-Review's Huckleberries blog put the question in a poll, and here are the results: "Almost a supermajority of Hucks Nation disagrees with GOPresidential candidate Rick Santorum's claim that President Barack Obama is hostile to religion. 128 of 201 respondents (63.68%) said Obama isn't hostile to religion. 68 of 201 respondents (33.83%) said the president is hostile to religion. 5 of 201 (2.49%) were undecided."

Winmill: Idaho state was targeting dissent

Idaho state government has a fairly clear right to manage its public lands and within reason govern some of the things people do there. You can't camp on the Statehouse lawn, for example - that's already law - or, and this is the point of the legislation this session, the lawn across 6th street, where the Annex building (the former Ada County courthouse) is, and where Occupy Boise has been since last fall.

But the legislation has a problem. It was conceived, written and passed after Occupy moved in. And that's relevant. Here, in today's decision by Federal District Judge Lynn Winmill, is the issue:

Occupy Boise’s tent city is a political protest of income inequality. As such, it is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. The State has the authority to regulate expressive conduct and can require reasonable time and place restrictions that are content neutral. But once a State law, or the State’s enforcement of that law, targets certain speech for restriction because of its content – especially when the target is political speech in a public forum – the law is presumptively unconstitutional. When the restriction is content-based, the State bears an “extraordinarily heavy burden” of showing that the law or its enforcement is the least restrictive means to further a compelling State interest.

Here, there is evidence that the State’s enforcement of the recently passed Idaho law banning camping on state grounds targeted Occupy Boise’s expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. The State’s attorney in oral argument before this Court interpreted the law to permit a symbolic tent city that did not feature overnight sleeping. This interpretation clearly comports with the language of the statute, which
only prohibits “sleeping” and “camping” on state grounds and does not purport to ban the maintenance of a symbolic tent city which could be staffed 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Yet Governor Otter’s letter announcing his signing of the legislation appears to require the removal of all tents, and that appears to be how the State Police are interpreting the law. Such action is simply not authorized by the statute. Because the reach of the State’s enforcement may exceed the grasp of the statute, this creates the appearance that the State is stretching to suppress the core political message of Occupy Boise – its tents – as presented in a public forum.

These circumstances render the State’s enforcement policy of removing Occupy Boise’s tents presumptively invalid under the First Amendment. It is unlikely that the State can show that its enforcement policy is the least restrictive means to further a compelling state interest. Unlike the circumstances in Clark v. Community for Creative Non- Violence,468 U.S. 288 (1984), where the Supreme Court approved a ban on overnight sleeping that allowed the maintenance of a symbolic tent city, the State’s enforcement policy here would ban such a symbolic display. As such, it fails to use the least restrictive means.

Winmill did allow the state to ban sleeping on the site, but Occupy could remain and staff its operation round the clock if it wishes.

Trading in the non-mugshot

Around the country, a bunch of law enforcement agencies post mug shots of people booked into their jails, and Ada County is one of them. It has seemed a reasonable enough service; the information (and the pictures) are public record, after all.

But there are always unexpected consequences, and in an eyebrow-raising article in the Idaho Statesman, Ada Sheriff Gary Raney is apparently considering ending the web picture posts. Without passing judgment about whether that would be the right move, this much is clear: His reasons for concern are sound.

The reason has to do with web sites like, and, not linked to here because what they do is something disgusting: Post scraped versions of those mug shots, and then offer to take them down - for a price. (How much? One of them has a $159 scratched out wit the added message, "now only $99.") And you'd only have to pay who knows how many such operations for the removal of something that's publicly posted on a government web site anyway.

Raney's comment was that “I really have heartburn over this. What we do serves a purpose. What they do is self-serving profiteering. ... It’s distasteful, extortion-like activity. That is not our intent at all.”

But what to do about it is a tough question.

Mass exodus

Asked around about the number (and names) of Idaho legislators planning not to return to the Statehouse, and - well beyond those whose announcements I could remember - there were a lot. Some people suggested the number of (willing) departures could be a record.

Some of this surely has to be reapportionment as legislators are thrown into new districts, sometimes with each other. But are there other reasons as well? You suspect so.

Senate Republicans - John McGee, R-Caldwell (already gone, though apparently only semi-willingly), Shirley McKague, R-Meridian, Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene.

Senate Democrats - Edgar Malepaei, D-Pocatello, Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise

House Republicans - Tom Trail, R-Moscow, R.J. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, Sharon Block, R-Twin Falls, Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, Marge Chadderdon, R-Coeur d'Alene, Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert,

House Democrats - Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City.

Then there are House members running for Senate seats:

Republicans - Clifford Bayer, R-Boise, Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, Jeff Nesset, R-Lewiston, Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls.

Democrats - Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise.

One way to avoid those payouts

Local governments in Washington have had, in the last few years, a rash of cases in which (a) someone has refused to provide a public record, or charged an inordinate price for it, (b) the refused party took the agency to court and (c) the aggrieved individual won, along with a big settlement costing the agency a pile of money.

Quite a bit, in fact. A report on KING-TV said that awards from lawsuits over public records over public records access went from $108,000 in 2006 to nearly $1.7 million in 2011. Your tax money at work.

What to do about this?

The Washington Legislature has been considering that question.

One idea, under consideration by the state attorney general's office, is "co-mediation," setting meetings with mediators for each party - as opposed to typical attorney advocates, but including people knowledgeable about public records. Sounds interesting and well-meaning, and maybe but presumably if that failed, court would still be a recourse. Sounds also a little convoluted.

There might be a simpler way: Turn over the records.

Bonamici’s town hall

New Representative Suzanne Bonamici meets with constituents at a town hall at Newberg. (photo/Stapilus)

One of the first county town halls by Senator Ron Wyden we visited had an exchange that seemed startling for its abandonment of the way members of Congress often interact with constituents. A person in the audience asked a question (can't remember the subject) with a clearly partisan intent, evidently seeking to get Wyden to take a shot at then-President Bush and congressional Republicans. Wyden declined, saying that on another occasion he'd be happy to engage in partisan talk with the man, but at town halls, the idea is to discuss public business and public policy, and leave politicking outside. He has stuck to that rule pretty rigorously, and so has (in our observation) Senator Jeff Merkley when he followed up on Wyden's approach of a guaranteed town hall in every county ever year.

Which is a long way around to note that, in her first town hall meeting as a member of Congress in Yamhill County (at Newberg), newly-minted Representative Suzanne Bonamici conducted the even very much like Wyden and Merkley - quite well, and focused on policy ideas and judgments about what makes sense and what doesn't. If there was any itch to last out at House Republicans, it didn't show. The tenor showed at the beginning, when she was introduced not by a local government official (typical at the senators' events) or by a local Democrat, but by a local Republican state Senator, Larry George of Sherwood, who spoke about their cooperative working relationship when both were legislators at Salem.

Maybe it's an Oregon thing.

The Bonamici event at Newberg actually outdrew the two senators' recent Yamhill County events. It gave her a chance to run through her first rounds of votes in the House, for the STOCK Act (anti-insider trading for Congress), for one, and signing onto several bills, including one comparable to one she'd worked on in Salem to expand financing for small businesses.

Most of the session was taken up with questions, and they ranged widely, from the economy to contraception to Internet regulation to the defense authorization act. Her answers tracked fairly closely with those she gave in the numerous debates she was in before the January 31 election; there were no big surprises. And it was all, well, civil.

But you got the sense that this may be the first of more town halls to come; there was some discussion of, as well, future town halls aimed at specific subject areas.

Bonamici mentioned that one of the many caucuses she joined in the House was the Civility Caucus - a group trying to find ways to foster more civility in Congress. A suggestion: Strongly, strongly urge every member to hold regular town hall meetings with the rules Wyden described and Bonamici seemed to adhere to. They might provide some practice.

McGee departs

Remember John McGee, the Idaho state Senator, Caldwell Republican, who was in the headlines some months back because of a strange drunken incident in which he wound up after a blackout in a truck and in front of a house that weren't his?

That incident didn't cost him his seat, but this latest bit did: Accusations of sexual harassment of a Senate employee.

Maybe there's call for some reflection here, since this kind of behavior doesn't come out of nowhere. A post of particular interest is one by Dennis Mansfield, a Republican who has been calling for McGee's resignation, but focuses here on the actions of Senate Republican leadership.

Carlson: All hail the new flagship

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…)