• Andrus and Carlson

"I've long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history. So I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy." - Chris Carlson

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This past year may well go down in political history as one of the more wacky and weird ever. The emergence of Donald Trump as a genuine possible Republican nominee for president has clearly surprised the “chattering class” of journalists, commentators, the “inside the beltway” crowd, the self-styled political cognoscenti.

Trump has tapped into that vein of anger with the way things are, the shrinking middle class beset by too many obligations and too few resources, overwhelmed by a sense of unfairness, totally distrustful of a federal government that has earned the distrust through a series of lies to the American public, a government made up of folks who don’t realize the growing burden of oppressive rules and regulations.

Trump’s ability to dominate the race through seemingly outrageous and politically incorrect statements, his ability to generate television ratings, and to use the media he in part is campaigning against to deliver his messsage has been stunning.

So what will 2016 bring? Here are some even wackier predictions on both the national and state level that while admittedly unlikely might, never the less provoke thought on a reader’s part.

On a national level: Trump arrives at the Republican Convention with the most pledged delegates but not enough to win the nomination. Republican pooh-bahs still see disaster if he is the nominee and must deny him the nomination without having him leave and form a third party. What’s the solution?

RNC meets with House and Senate Republican caucuses and propose Speaker Paul Ryan resign to be replaced by Donald Trump. That’s correct, folks. The Constitution permits Congress to name anyone to the Speakership. Trump seizes the deal reognizing he still has a major platform, that after the Vice President he is next in line, and he does not run the risk of rejection at the polls or spending some of his billions.

What’s in it for Ryan, you ask? Paul Ryan becomes the Republican nominee for president.

On the Democratic side things become equally weird. Keep in mind the Obamas’ have never been close to the Clintons’ and that President Obama privately is not happy at the prospect of Hillary as his successor. Thus, when his Justice Department recommends he appoint a “Special Counsel” to oversee a review of the investigation of Hillary’s inexcusable use of an unsecured server for discussion of some critical official secrets, as well as other “unspecified” activities, Hillary reads the tea leaves corretly and with draws from the race in order to defend her good name.

The Democratic National Convention then by acclimation names Vice President Joe Biden as the party’s presidential nominee, in part because the the major unions pledge $1 billion to underwrite Biden’s campaign. Obama immediatedly endorses Biden, obviously more pleased with Joe as his successor. In November, Ryan wins.

On the state level, things get wackier also. First Disrrict congressman Raul Labrador, at the last possible moment, stuns Idahoans and senior U.S. Senator Mike Crapo by entering the Republican primary aganst Crapo. His declaration of candidacy nails Crapo as a faux conservtive, cites his 2012 drinking incident as inexcusable conduct, and charges Crapo with violating his Grover Norquist pledge never to support a tax increase.

Labrador, despite an ego growing like topsy ever since claiming to have forced Speaker John Boehner to leave office, and his alienation of many voters in eastern Idaho due to a perception of non-support for the Idaho National Lab, nonethe less defeats Crapo and coasts into the Senate.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s ranch, there has been a whole lot of scheming. Otter in November began quietly raising money for his personal PSC, ostensibly to support good Republican candidates for the Legislature.

The truth however is Butch has acquiesed to his wife Lori’s desire to be governor. Torn between his wife and loyalty to his long-time loyal lieutenant governor, Brad Little, Otter opts for his wife. Little immediately declares his canidacy for governor even though the election is 2 years away.

With Labrador going for the Senate rather than governor, as many had expected, former State Senator Russ Fulcher declares his candidacy and works to sew up the Tea Party vote. Crapo, still hearing the call for public service and angry with a right-wing he had tilted towards to no avail, seeks revewnge by also entering the 2018 governor’s race. Thus, the GOP primary in May, 2018, sees a free-for-all between Lori Otter, Brad Little, Russ Fulcher and Mike Crapo. Little wins.

In the 2016 race to succeed Labrador in the House, Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmeyer is a surprise winner for the GOP nomination, defeating State Senators Bob Nonini and Mary Souza, as well as Rep. Luke Malek. Widmeyer defeats Democratic State Rep. Paulette Jordan in the general election.

And the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 is Boise Mayor Dave Bieter who turns back a surprisingly strong challenge in the primary from Moscow State Senator Dr. Dan Schmidt. Little still wins in November 2018.

Admittedly my crystal ball is cloudy. These are all far-fetched speculation, but when politics gets this wacky, anything is possible. This coming year should be interesting. Happy New Year!

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The Mass in Hell took place on April 6, 2008. Officiating priest was Father Steve Dublinski, then the vicar general for administration in the Spokane diocese, rector of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes in downtown Spokane, my pastor, friend and one hell ‘uv a fine fly fisherman.

I had introduced him to the sacred rites of the most exclusive fraternity a few years earlier, but Father Steve quickly passed me in knowledge and skill. In no way could I claim to be his mentor, nor did I. Largely self-taught, Father Steve approached the challenge with the kind of diligence one more easily might associate with a medieval monk who had just stumbled across a major remnant of one of the lost Gnostic gospels.

Before six months had elapsed he was tying his own flies. Nonetheless, I felt rewarded for being the mid-wife to this new holy alliance Father Steve had embraced so easily for it led to many a wonderful Wednesday in which Father Steve and I would stalk the wily westslope cutthroat up and down the reaches of the nearby St. Joe River or the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene.

Wednesday was Father Steve’s day off and it quickly became the day of the week verboten for anyone to schedule anything on my calendar. I also introduced Father Steve to some of the fine literature about his new hobby. His favorite was A River Runs Through It by the Montana born and raised professor of English at the University of Chicago, Norman Maclean.

Father Steve was a Chicago native himself, having been born there on June 26th. While still an infant the family moved to Walla Walla. There Dublinski attended St. Patrick’s Parish and received his early education at the Catholic high school, DeSales. Though more noted for its phenomenally successful football and baseball programs (At one point DeSales had captured ten small school state baseball championships), Dublinski, a tall and lean 6 feet four inches, was a key starter on the school’s basketball team.

Even in high school, though, it was clear to fellow students that this Dublinski (Father Steve had five other siblings) was a cut above others in terms of intellect and interest in philosophy and religion. From DeSales he attended and received his B.A. from Spokane’s Gonzaga University.

While attending Gonzaga he decided to enter the priesthood, a path which required six more years of education four of which he spent studying in Rome. While there Father Steve discovered and to this day loves Italian food.

This led to a second treat besides the Sunday Mass – we all were introduced the night before to Father Steve’s culinary talent and his specialty, pasta carbanara.

That particular weekend the weather in the Hells Canyon of the Snake River that borders Idaho and Oregon for almost 100 miles was a typical blustery and ever-changing April. There had been few sunbreaks during the day and a cool wind was blowing down river as we lit the fire in the grate on the camp site we had established in the old horse pasure adjacent to the Jordan Ranch on Kirkwood Bar.

For a number of years our family’s first hiking/camping outing of the season was into Hells Canyon in part because spring always “sprung”two to three weeks earlier there. This particular year we had invited Father Steve to join us along with our old neighbors from Bainbridge Island, the Rick Richards family. We had taken a jet boat operated by Beamer’s out of Lewiston the 90 miles up the Snake to the Jordan Ranch where we established base camp and took day hikes from there.

That Father Steve was able to make an extraordinary and tasty pasta carbonara with the temperature dropping into the low 40’s and a light rain falling was considered a minor miracle.

On Sunday morning, however, we arose the sounds of chukars clucking in the hills, blue sky, warm sunshine and no breeze. It felt like another Easter morning with the promise of spring and summer overwhelming the senses. At 8:30 a.m. Father Steve laid out a vestment made in Italy and a chalice made in Mexico. A large rock in the corner of the pasure served as the altar in this cathedral of the great outdoors and seven people took part in the most sacred ritual of all—the celebration of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. During the prayers of the faithful I thanked the Lord for all the wonderful blessings mine and me enjoy but a special thanks for that day and those there.

It seemed to me that only in Idaho could such a special event like a Mass in Hell occur.

As Christmas in the year of our Lord, 2015, draws ever closer, may each and every one reading this remember what this season is all about: may you find the peace that passeth understanding and obtain the more abundant life that is promised. Merry Christmas from our home to you and all yours.

(Editor’s Note: This column was taken from the introduction to the forthcoming book by the author on Hells Canyon due out next summer.)

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Every Idahoan who cares about this state and how it came to be should read two relatively obscure books and be grateful the authors lived and worked here.

Through their writings and teaching these two left an indelible imprint on Idaho. Though they labored in obscurity, the political cognoscenti in Idaho know them well. Though they are fading into the mist of history, their contributions should be remembered. Any Idaho history is incomplete if it does not acknowledge their roles in shaping modern Idaho.

One book is a delightful novel, a murder mystery in fact, but chock full of the author’s knowledge of Idaho government, politics and public affairs. The other is a wonderful history of the major environmental issues that transformed and dominated much of Idaho’s political debate for fifty years, from the late 1930’s to the late 1980’s.

The novel, The Unlikely Candidate, is by the late Syd Duncombe who for 27 years taught government and political science courses at the University of Idaho. He was an inspiring influence to an entire generation of Idaho’s political leadership. Among those influenced directly by taking a class or indirectly by being drawn into out of class discussions prompted by his teachings were future U.S. senators and/or governors like Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch, Larry Craig and Steve Symms or future attorney generals like David Leroy. Then there are the “behind the scenes” political practitioners also influenced by Duncombe’s passion for politics, people like Phil Reberger, Robie Russell, Marty Peterson and Roy Eiguren.

Many of his former students could recall how he brought politics to life by brinigng different hats to class and then switching hats as he switched roles in the lessons he was bringing to life. His knowledge of politics was not just academic either. Before coming to Idaho he had worked in state government in New York and had been Superintendent of the Budget in Ohio.

He cultivated political office holders on both sides of the aisle. One of his great fans was Cecil Andrus who made Duncombe his Acting Director of the Budget Office upon his first election as governor in 1970. Duncombe put together Andrus’ first budget and Andrus always acknowledged his debt for Syd showing how a governor could truly shape policy if he understood how to put together a budget.

The novel’s hero is, surprise, a retired state budget director. Duncombe, however, wove into the text the kind of authentic details and knowledge that rings true with any who have been drawn into politics.

Syd had been working on the novel for several years. His beloved wife, Mary, died in 1997 but before doing so insisted Syd finish the book which he did in 1998. His passages on cancer are poignant as his writing was obviously one way of dealing with his grief.

He died at the age of 78 in Idaho Falls in late September of 2004. His legacy should live on beyond the life span of the hearts that were directly touched by his zest for life and politics.

The second book, Defending Idaho’s Natural History, is by former journalist and nine-term State Representative Ken Robison. He was born in Nampa in 1936, received his B.A. degree from Idaho State in 1957 and began a 30 year career in Journalism in 1959 as a copy editor at the Idaho Statesman. He was both a reporter and editor for the Statesman and from 1977 until his election to the Idaho Legislature in 1986 from Boise’s 19th Legislative District was the editorial page editor.

When it came to handing out charisma Ken missed the session. He always came across as a thoughtful but calm, dispassionate and objective – the journalistic version of Joe Friday – “just the facts, Ma’m” To the surprise of many though he turned into an outstanding legislator, one who always did his homework and when he spoke people listened.

He loved the Legislature, so he was one of those bulldog campaigners – knocking on every door in his district every year. Not surprisingly, his diligence and had work was rewarded by re-election eight times.

Robison brings this same diligence to his history of Idaho’s major environmental battles. He recognizes the truth in the old expression “success has a thousand fathers and mothers; failure is an orphan.”
He knows too that it is “citizen-activists” who bring change about and the parade of the involved changes inasmuch as some battles are decades long.

He does justice though to the many key folks who put forth time, talent and treasure. His account of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering is fascinating, and he exhaustively documents his sources. From the battles to restore salmon and steelhead runs, to the fight to protect the White Clouds, Hells Canyon and the Sawtooths to the creation of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway/Bitteroot Wilderness its all there.

Robison has done an invaluable service in documenting the fight and the fighters.

Like Duncombe he too has labored in obscurity, but all Idahoans owe them both a tremendous vote of thanks.

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The voice on the other end of the telephone belonged to a nice lady who hailed from Wisconsin. She and her husband, who she described as an outdoor enthusiast, had moved to Wallace 14 years ago.

Wisconsin is a state with two strong political parties, and while in recent years the Democrats and their union allies have been outmaneuvered by Governor Scott Walker to the point where critics feel Wisconsin Democrats are somewhat moribund, their organization looks postively dynamic compared to Idaho’s.

The caller wanted to know whether I could come speak to a discussion group of about 25 mostly Democrats and would I be willing to share thoughts on whether there would ever be a Democratic resurrection. Here’s the gist of what I said.

The Democrats can once again be the majority choice of Idaho voters, but it is going to take time, hard work, a major reframing of the issues they focus on and the mother’s milk—money.

Here’s what has to happen: the new State Chair, former State Senator Bert Marley from Pocatello, has to visit all 44 Idaho counties. While there he must interview the county chair and emphasize the paramount obligation to find qualified Democrats to contest for every office on the local ballot. Additionally, they must fill every precinct committee slot.

If the county chair cannot do that Marley should replace them with someone who can get the job done.

Conversely, Marley owes it to these county chairs to find qualified candidates to contest every statewide and federal office. The bottom line is a party cannot start up the comeback trail without contesting every position on a ballot. One cannot win an election with nobody on the ballot, as is the case all too often.

Secondly, Democrats have to thrust forward the kind of talent that has put time in grade developing the personal relationships still critical to winning elections. Butch Otter has won three terms as governor not because of his do-nothing, risk nothing policies. He has won because he spent 14 years as Lt. Governor traveling the state building the kinds of personal relationships with donors, party workers and constituent interest groups essential to achieving ballot success.

Nothing against Steve Allred or A.J. Balukoff, the D’s last two gubernatorial nominees. Both are fine individuals but neither had spent the time in-grade developing the necessary political relationships, nor had they served in other partisan offices.

Next, the Idaho Democratic Party has to attract back the lunch-bucket carrying Democrat—the hard-working, tax-paying dirt under the finger-nails miner, or logger or farmer who started migrating to the Republican party after they felt deserted by the left-leaning, super liberal element of the party.

Others call these folks Andrus Democrats. Whatever one terms them, they along with many independents and Republicans (Andrus received as high as 30% of the Republican vote) voters carried Andrus to victory four times with two of those gubernatorial races providing the highest winning margins in Idaho history.

The Andrus formula falls under the umbrella of what he calls the three “E’s:” the Economy, Education and the Environment. He authored the phrase, “First one has to make a living; then, they have to have a living worthwhile.” In other words one has to have a job.

Consequently, he focused on policies which enhanced job creation and expanded the economic pie—but not at the expense of erxisting businesses. New business had to pay its on way. He did not believe nor did he offer incentives that in actuality were subsidies at the expense of existing business.

Secondly, he knew how important quality educational offerings were to business leaders looking to relocate their business and their families. His steadfast support for education including better pay for teachers was steadfast and constant.

Third, he knew how important Idaho’s quality of life was to the numerous citizens who enjoyed all forms of outdoor recreation. For that reason he was as supportive of wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers as he was of national recreation areas and multiple uses on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Andrus saw these as issues around which people could unite. He avoided trumpeting the numerous social issues that divide people, and which made it all too easy for Republicans to define Democrats.

His advice today would be don’t let your opponents define you, reframe your messages, get back to basics, avoid fear-mongering, and be for the three “E’s.” When Idaho Democrats start listening and acting on the advice of their most successful office-holder ever, the comeback will start.

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Kudos to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Watching him last week on Idaho Public Television’s program devoted entirely to the issue of nuclear waste and the Idaho National Laboratory’s research mission, it is clear he gets what is at stake in the debate over Idaho abrogating the Batt agreement which bans the importation of any additional commercial nuclear waste material — even if the pretext is “research.”

General Wasden gets that he is charged with upholding the law and the Batt agreement is part of that law. He gets it that there’s an added layer in that the agreement was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Idaho.

Candidly, his show of resolve is encouraging. He reads the agreement correctly: It puts the onus on the federal government to solve the issue of 900,000 gallons of dangerous high level liquid waste stored above the Snake River aquifer. Some form of calcification permitting removal has to have been achieved and removal underway BEFORE any discussions can take place on the importation of any other radioactive material, including material allegedly for “research.”

The attorney general also noted that even in the short time he has been involved, the Energy Department keeps shifting the date for resolution on this critical matter. It is a classic example of an agency continually moving the goal posts.

It is no exaggeration to say General Wasden is a modern incarnation of the legendary ancient Roman hero, Horatio, who stood at one end of a narrow bridge and single-handedly defeated an enemy invading force. Folks, it is no exaggeration to say today that General Wasden is realistically the only person standing in the way of Idaho becoming the nation’s de facto nuclear waste dump.

Wasden gets it that with no national repository for highly radioactive material on the horizon, any material brought into Idaho even for so-called “research,” will NEVER leave.

In general the TV program, hosted by Melissa Davlin and Aaron Kunz, was balanced with some notable exceptions: the hosts never challenged former Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s claim to have been responsible for the Batt agreement in the first place, an agreement he now wants to discard. Pure baloney, as was Craig’s poor analogy equating nuclear waste to library books.

Nor did they challenge the obfuscation Energy Assistant Secretary-designate John Kotek brought to the program by his conveniently ignoring the series of broken promises by his agency. They should have asked him why any Idahoan, given that track record, should ever believe the agency or trust it?

Finally, what the program brought out was the strategy now being pursued by all the state’s top Republicans, except Wasden, in their craven desire to get the 30 pieces of metaphorical silver. So there is a problem with the Batt agreement?

Well, the solution is simple, my friend. Behind closed doors we’ll just renegotiate and “update” the Batt agreement. After all, it’s over 20 years old. Follow this logic being espoused by Senators Crapo and Risch and we’d be redoing the Constitution every 20 years. So, why should Idaho even agree to these “negotiations?”

The Energy department is already out of compliance because of repeated failures to meet key deadlines. Rather than updating the Batt agreement, Idaho should vigorously enforce it because there is a fundamental question DoE is refusing to answer.

If Idaho were to agree to allow this supposed minor amount of commercial spent fuel into the state for “research,” where will the material (not to mention the some 20 metric tons of spent fuel rods lined up behind) eventually go? The answer is, given the absence of Yucca Mountain (Nevada), nowhere. It will stay here indefinitely.

So will the toxic liquid waste even after it is solidified, BECAUSE THERE IS NO OTHER PLACE TO SEND IT. DOE, however, does not want to admit this which is why they redacted the answers to specific questions posed by former Governor Cecil D. Andrus, who has sued the department for failure not only to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act but also the Freedom of Information Act.

If there is one minor complaint regarding General Wasden, given his well-known commitment to transparency in governmental decisions and compliance with Idaho’s open meeting law, it is he has not joined Andrus’ suit to force DOE into FOIA compliance.

In the meantime all of Idaho’s top Republicans will stand arm in arm with the Idaho Falls Chamber in trying to peddle this pig in a poke about just a small amount of waste for research purposes being allowed into Idaho.

What they really will do is to open Idaho to an entirely new generation of wastes to join the significant waste already here, while hoping the public won’t focus on failures to meet long-ago agreed to clean-up deadlines.

These boosters, these Judas’ who risk a future they’ll not have to live with, are right now being thwarted by one man of integrity and courage, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Pray that he remains strong and resolute.

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Shame on you, Senator Crapo. Shame, shame on you.

Recently your campaign published a list of Idaho legislators who had endorsed your re-election. Among those was that of State Senator Shawn Keough, recently elevated to the co-chairmanship of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee.

She has served Bonner County honorably and well for 20 years and is a long-time loyal supporter of Senator Crapo’s. Her reward for all these years of support?

Senator Crapo, in his continuing groveling before the Tea-Party faction of the Republican party and its Freedom Forum caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, named as his Bonner County campaign chair, Danielle Ahrens, a Republican Tea Party zealot who has twice challenged Senator Keough in Republican primaries.

It would be one thing if Ms. Ahrens had conducted a campaign with debate centered on thoughtful explanation of differences. That’s not the case, however. Even minimal due diligrnce on his campaign’s part would have told Crapo that Ms. Ahrens ran a viciously personal campaign full of false charges, innuendo and lies.

One would think Senator Crapo would not want to be associated with this type of campaigning; nor, with the type of zealot for whom the end justifies the means and so what if the truth gets mangled in the process? The old Mike Crapo wouldn’t want to be caught dead with someone like Danielle.

Neither would the “new” Mike Crapo, one would think. Such thinking is wrong. The new Crapo is so pandering to the right it is downright disgusting to view. He will win re-election easily, even if someone like First District Congressman and Freedom Forum zealot Raul Labrador is a challenger.

Crapo is running an unseemly race to the far right in the fear that if not, he would face a primary challenge. Thus, he runs, driven by fear. He must be rationalizing that if he goes to the extreme right there’ll be no room for a challenger.

Additionally, he must fear his Driving while Under the Influence (DUI) charge and conviction a few years ago will be brought up and LDS voters, especially those with “temple passes,” will abandon him.

Likewise, the new Crapo wants to repudiate the old, who, as a member of the Simpson/Bowles Budget Reform Commission voted for a solution that reflected judicious compromise. It called for a combination of spending cuts and “revenue enhancements.”

The latter phrase is a euphemism for “tax increase.” Thus, the Senator broke his pledge to Grover Norquist that he would never support any tax increase. That he was correct is irrelevant as he runs from his previous stance.

Senator Keough, for her part, has to be angry. She knows, unlike Crapo, that political loyalty runs both ways—at least that is the expectation. Presumably she has expressed her displeasure but one suspects true to the form of the new Crapo, his campaign does not dare rescind the appointment.

Admit that they’d made a mistake and not done their due diligence? Are you kidding me? Rather than do that and write a note of personal apology, the campaign will muddle through this stupid decision. It is a sad confirmation that Crapo so desperately wants to be re-elected he is compromising his reputation for integrity and rectitude.

When asked to comment, his campaign chair, Sara Nelson, gave the old line about welcoming the support of all interest groups including people divided on issues but agreeing in their support of the Senator’s re-election. Follow this logic and they would have welcomed the late neo-Nazi, Rev. Richard Butler’s support. Nelson claimed they’d done their due diligence and were aware of Ahrens past, but another staffer conceded theysimply took the recommendation of a member of the Bonner County Republican central committee.

What is truly sad is that Senator Crapo and his cynical, clueless campaign are contributing further to an environment in Republican ranks that is hell-bent on driving the moderates, the so-called Rhino’s, out of the party—especially those in leadership, whether it is a Speaker like John Boehner, a majority leader like Kevin McCarthy, or the co-chair of a Legislature’s JFAC committee, like Shawn Keough.

This is a downhill path that will inevitably lead to the dissolution of the Republican party as we know it today. For Senator Crapo not to be aware of where this groveling and pandering is leading is to demonstrate an incredible degree of self-induced ignorance.

For him, by his actions, to repudiate the value of political loyalty going both ways is simply unconscionable. There’s a Biblical verse saying what good is it for a man to inherit the world but lose his soul in the process? One wishes the Senator would ask himself that question but its obvious he won’t.

It might mess up his application for membership in the Senate’s Freedom Caucus.

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A nice note from Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, in a September 16 letter to author Chris Carlson:

I appreciate your perspective on this important portion of Alaska’s history. As someone who was involved in the process and politics that resulted in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, your book provides an important record of the events that led to its creation.”

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This past week has witnessed two Jesuit-trained and educated men being tested by secular society’s differing, evolving and declining view on the sanctity of all life. The Roman Catholic Church they are members of adamantly adheres to the sacredness of life “from conception to natural death.” The two men are California Governor Jerry Brown and Pope Francis.

Both are keenly aware that secular society is undergoing profound changes and is well down the slippery slope of moral relativism by addressing these complex, often complicated highly personal matters as totally a matter of individual choice. Thus , two thousand years of tradition and history that says the first principle of the social compact is that people come together in society to protect the weak, the lame, the poor, the disabled from the predatory nature of the rich and powerful is now null and void. All is to be sacrificed on the altar of the all consuming self.

Heretofore many of society’s laws were extensions of this first principle. Both men understand that all institutions have a shared responsibility to protect life, whether a church or a governmental entity. They also recognize the difficulty in trying to legislate and anticipate every contingency and then codify it. The rub of course comes with the fact that despite laws saying a fetus is a person, its “right to life” only begins when it can exist outside the mother’s womb. And the law now gives a woman the right to make that highly personal decision hopefully before fetal viability, but justified under her right to personal privacy. This is summarized by the phrase “right to choose.”

The insidious genius on the other end of the life spectrum is that the proponents of physician-assisted suicide have largely succeeded in capturing the choice issue for their so-called death with dignity movement. Along the way they dropped the name Hemlock Society and adopted the name “Compassion and Choices.”

Recently, the California Assembly passed in a special session a law permitting physician-assisted suicide. Governor Brown may veto it without addressing the merits simply because it by-passed a committee-hearing which is always held during a regular session.

Let’s be clear about some of the deceit surrounding this end of life matter as championed by its supporters.

First, they often say this is a right to die as you choose matter. What they don’t say is one already can legally end their own life—start the car in the enclosed garage, take a bunch of sleeping pills and it’s over.

The real issues they don’t address are why the state has to be involved and why does a physician have to do harm counter to the Hippocratic Code? Oh, by the way, they redefine death along the way. Initiative 1000, passed by the voters in the state of Washington in 2008 by 58% to 42%, contains language mandating that the physician signing the death certificate of the suicide has to list the underlying disease as the cause of death, not the lethal dose of drugs prescribed by the doctor.

Presumably this is done in order to make sure insurance policies which have suicide exclusion clauses still pay. However, it is legalizing a lie. Oh, by the way, no one has to witness the suicide’s death. So don’t fall for the claim that such laws have plenty of safeguards. Ask yourself instead why is the state incentivizing premature death? Is pain really an issue?. Doctors say no that palliative care eases all pain today and even proponents admit that but their ads keep showing intolerable suffering. And who defines what constitutes dignity in one’s death?

No, the real issue for proponents of assisted suicide is pure and simple selfish power. They want to control how they leave this world though no one has control over how they enter this world. Without question they pass along their pain to their loved ones though they rationalize that they are sparing their loved ones.

Look at the data from Oregon and Washington. The few that avail themselves of this exit are almost all white, well to do, well-educated people who have the means and the connections to obtain the lethal drugs and find a physician to write the prescription.

Does California really need a law to put a patina of societal approval over their self-centered action? Does California or other states not recognize the mixed signal they send to our young at whom we spend millions with public service ads telling them not to take the road that has no return? Then we turn around and say that if they are 18 and a doctor says they have a terminal illness (and doctors can be wrong) they have a right to end their lives prematurely?

Here’s hoping Governor Brown emulates the courage of Pope Francis and speaks out for life and against secular society’s culture of death by vetoing the bill.

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As millions of Americans go about the Labor Day weekend brought to them in the name of the working men and women of America, one wonders if much thought is given, especially in a right-to-work state like Idaho, to the debt owed to those labor pioneers who worked so hard to establish benefits we all take for granted: the eight hour work day and the 40 hour work week; overtime pay; health benefits; retirement plans to supplement Social Security; the passage of laws outlawing child labor and laws ensuring safe working environments are the priority not productivity.

Its doubtful much thought is given or thanks offered. In part this is due to a relentless campaign over many years by Republicans to portray labor as “greedy unions” that would rather see a business go broke if it cannot meet the union’s grasping effort to get paid more for doing less.

There’s greed in abundance, but today it is almost wholly monopolized by over-paid, unaccountable corporate executives who often install strategies that fail but still receive outlandish compensation for their failure. The failure usually reveals a woeful undervaluing of employees who are treated as “overhead,” not as people trying hard to do their best. Constant cutting of “over-head”can tempoprarily improve share price and/or provide the façade of a better return on investment number. But its short-term thinking that sacrifices the future for the present.

In past years, the gap between the average union worker’s paycheck and the company ceo once was 10:1. Today it is more likely 100 to one and growing. It’s at a point now where it is excessive enough to be an issue in the presidential campaign.

The decline in union membership is well-known, as is the proliferation of right-to-work laws which forbid the forced payment of union dues in an organized shop. There’s no argument that there was a time in the late 50’s when unions were their own worst enemies. Public disdain grew either because of corrupt union leaders or strikes supporting demands for excessive pay increases, or suspected “socialist” tendencies.

I once was a member of United Steelworkers of America local 338, the union shop at Kaiser Aluminum’s huge Trentwood rolling mill. I worked there the summer of 1965 to earn extra money before heading east for college.

Initially I was assigned to the box shop stacking lumber that came through a saw cut to the correct dimensions to make pallets for shipping coils and other products. During the afternoon break a union “brother” mosied over and said, “Slow down, kid. You’re working too hard.”

I was dumbfounded since I was easily keeping up. “But I’m doing fine,” I protested. The brother then got blunt and snarly. “Listen, kid, the company contract says that’s a two-person job. Your showing one person can do it is denying another person a job. Slow down or else. .”

Welcome to what’s called “featherbedding.” Not wanting to find out what the “or else” meant, I slowed down. The next day there were two of us during the work. In those days Kaiser was selling every pound of aluminum it produced at a handsome profit.

When the economy started to slide with inflation and interest rates rising, demand declining, and profits disappearing, Kaiser began to hemorrhage and a long slow struggle to right the ship began. To their credit the Kaiser unions recognized inefficiencies had to be removed, that contract niceities had to be sacrificed for maintenance of necessities.

Despite wage and benefit concessions for future profit sharing,eventually Kaiser went into bankruptcy.

The idea of labor/management partnership though has survived and many unions today work closely with management to maintain solid profitable production while providing a safe working environment and a decent benefits.

Unfortunately, state Democratic parties everywhere have become enamoured of Labor’s major legislative priority—raising a state’s minimum wage. While Idaho’s is one of the lowest in the nation, imposing an unrealistic, unsustainable number on businesses in Idaho is not the answer.

Idaho Democrats should take note of the fact that the four states that most recently increased their minimum wage did so through a ballot initiative. That’s not going to happen in Idaho.

The Idaho Democratic party would be better served by promoting a woman’s right to “equal pay for equal work.”

So what is Labor’s top legislative agenda for the next session: a law that mandates an Idaho employer has to provide a one hour lunch break for employees! In 2015 an Idaho employer can deny an employee his or her lunch break and force them to work eight or ten hours without the lunch.? Simply unbelievable.

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