• 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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Two recent columns have elicited two different responses which demonstrate, on the one hand, the skill of a smart communicator, and on the other, the nit-picking approach too often taken by amateurs to divert attention from a column’s major point.

The first example comes from the column questioning whether there really is a cure for cancer, and suggesting that recent television ads seen frequently on CNN by M.D. Anderson, the huge Houston-based cancer care center affiliated with the University of Texas, were in fact over-promising with an apparent claim that MDA had conquered the dread disease.

The column also referenced an incident ten years ago in which they refused to see a potential patient and turned down the request for a second opinion. The column listed its outlets and invited MDA to submit a rebuttal if they felt injured.

Within 24 hours an associate director of external communications, Julie Penne , e-mailed back a truly responsive response reflecting the fact tht she had obviously mastered easily Public Relations 101, and that MDA, huge though it is, knows how important smart communications is for their national image.

First, she addressed the personal, and sincerely offered congratulations for holding my cancer at bay for almost ten years. Next, though it was ten years ago since they had refused to see me, my column and cover note had been forwarded to the clinic’s leadership team and someone would be calling shortly.

Third, she thanked me for sending the contact information for the media that carry my column should they wish to produce a rebuttal.

Fourth, she sent the critique of the ads to their marketing team for a review. This past weekend there were script changes in the “talking head ads.” They substituted for language like “cancer, you lose” and inserted a phrase I have often used, and one that was in my cover note: “I’m still here.” That’s all they have to say—-a straight forward, indisputable fact.

A good guess is they arrived at the need for some slight changes based on reactions from ad “focus groups.” It clicked with them when several of the participants said the same thing. Still, it is nice to think just maybe I influenced the decision a wee bit.

Contrast that response now with Craig Gehrke’s letter to all my media clients in which the field director for the Wilderness Society took exception to my column expressing disappointment in supporters of the new Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness settling for less than half a loaf in this wonderful part of Idaho, rather than holding out for President Obama to invoke the Antiquities Act to protect more acreage while restricting more motorized vehicle use.

Gehrke believes the National Monument designation would have been a hope and a prayer that let the perfect be the enemy of the good and risked gaining nothing at all. However, it is incontestable that all the Risch/Simpson legislation really does is preserve the current status quo.

Gehrke engages in a classic false syllogism whereby he cites my factual error on a minor point in the column and hopes then to invalidate in a reader’s mind everything else I wrote. His nit-pick was to challenge my statement that the Andrus/McClure comprehensive statewide wilderness bill in the late 1980’s would have placed more acreage into wilderness than does Congressman Simpson’s legislation.

He is correct. My memory was faulty on the amount of wilderness (157,000 acres) in the Boulder/White Clouds wilderness proposed by the duo, as opposed to the 275,000 acres of wilderness in the new law. I’d thought the two major political players in the late 80’s had proposed 300,000 acres.

That error, however, does not belie the column’s major point that the land itself, and more of it, would have been better protected by designation as a National Monument.

Nor does Gehrke acknowledge the many areas not included in Simpson’s bill because of increaseed motorized vehicle use over the last 25 years that invalidated the ground from being considered for wilderness—areas like Champion Lakes, Washington Peak, Little Redfish Lake and lower lands of the Big Boulder and Little Boulder Creeks and the area south of the Pole Creek/Germania Creek trails. These areas left out are why all the Simpson bill really does is to place into law what is the current status quo.

Ask yourself what is truly best for the resource and an honest answer has to be a National Monument. Preserving the status quo is no cause for celebration.

His nit-picking response is disappointing, and it should be clear which response, his or MDA’s, warrants acclaim.

Column

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Those singing the praises of the recently passed and signed legislation creating a modest new wilderness area in the high mountain regions of the Boulder/White Clouds are trying to sell a “Pig in the Poke.” They want to put a “Happy Face” on a bad bill that only rewards one side of the multiple use/special use lobby: the motorized crowd , the ATV’ers, dirt bikers and snowmobilers led by Lewiston’s Sandra Mithell.

Some of us are cursed with long memories. In particular, I can recall that time in the late 80’s when Senator James A. McClure, and Governor Cecil D. Andrus, worked long and hard to come up with a once and for all time Idaho wilderness bill that included protection in the Boulder/White Clouds for more than 300,000 acres.

The late Mary Kelly was then head of the relatively new Idaho Conservation League. She, along with Craig Gehrke of the Wilderness Society, and other Idaho conservation leaders, denounced the Andrus/McClure proposal for among other reasons not protecting enough acreage in the Boulder/White Clouds. How ironic.

This current bill, put together with Mitchell’s help by the crafty Senator James Risch, and identical to the bill passed by the House, reduced the acreage in the original CIEDRA bill from author/sponsor Second District Congressman Mike Simpson—-from just over 300,000 acres to 275,000 acres to be protected by the wilderness designation. In 2010 the number actually was up to 332,000 acres.

Such a deal. That this bill is now being praised as better than nothing and the right culmination of a forty year endeavor by folks such as ICL’s current executive director, Rick Johnson, and my old boss, Governor Andrus, does not warm my heart.

It’s pretty clear that the gang of three, the Risch-Crapo-Otter alliance of “not one more acre in wilderness,” knew they had won the chess match by calling the ICL/Andrus/Obama bluff of creating a larger National Monument using the Antiquities Act. First, they had Rick Johnson’s testimony in which Johnson pledged not to pursue the National Monument designation if Rep. Simpson had a bill before the President within six months.

Secondly, despite an on the record pledge by a top White House aide, John Podesta, that the president would invoke the Antiquities Act if there was no bill to sign within six months, it didn’t take much digging in the Interior Department to recognize that the folks responsible for producing the backup paperwork necessary for an Antiquities Act designation were working on other “candidates” and no one had been directed to work on a monument declaration for the White Clouds.

Rick Johnson, guessing that Senator Risch had figured out the probability was high that the Obama Administration could leave the ICL and Andrus “high and dry and hornswoggled,” could argue that the lemonade out of the lemon was any bill that gave he and the ICL some face-saving wilderness.

It is telling to look at who is and who is not standing behind the president for the traditional bill signing ceremony. Rick Johnson is there, Rep. Simpson is there, Gary O’Malley, the former Weyerhaeuser executive who is retired and represents the Sawtooth Society, was there, as was the former mayor of Stanley.

Neither U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo or Jim Risch, nor First District Congressman Raul Labrador, nor Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, was present. The White House also invited Governor Andrus to attend, but, citing other earlier commitments, even Andrus declined to be there.

One disappointed observer who hoped for more said “It’s not like the Administration moved the goal posts on proponents. They never ever even set up the goal posts.”

Supposedly the Administration felt there was not enough local support for the Monument option, and many folks wihin Idaho were uneasy about uncertainty surrounding the regulations governing a monument which would only become known AFTER a designation. The fact of the matter though is the Administration never gave the ICL and wilderness proponents the opportunity to show their support by way of turnout at public hearings.

When folks like Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, Under Secretary Robert Bonnie and White House aide John Podesta started saying Simpson had six months to get a bill one could guess Simpson would come up with something less than his original proposal but would allow him to declare victory and move on. In this writer’s book the Second District Congressman is the only player coming out of this charade relatively unscathed.

Bottom line is a national monument declaration would have been far and away the best for the resource and the best for Idaho’s future. Some will say this view is a classic case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and maybe they are correct. However, many know in their hearts the current bill is nothing to celebrate.

Column

In a legislative body it is called asking for suspension of the day’s business in order to make a personal point. Today, I rise in like manner and ask a reader’s indulgence to hear me out.

The “Big C,” as some call cancer, can strike any one any time in one’s life cycle and just about any part of one’s body. Because actual cause is hard to pinpoint, for many it is seen as a “death sentence,” a disease without a cure. Many fear hearing the word ever cross their doctor’s lips. The same cancer can effect people differently, and move aggressively in one while slowly in another. Only God knows why.

Because of research advances and various techniques involved with early intervention, one’s cancer can often be stalled. Some call it “remission,” but one doesn’t hear the word “cured” too often anymore. Used to be if one went five years without a recurrence they were pronounced “cured.”

Too many instances of the “cured patient” being struck again have occurred, however. Used to be also that when one contracted cancer, after a battery of tests, most doctors, if asked, would give one an estimate on how long they had before all the sand is through the top half of their hour glass. That just doesn’t happen anymore.

For example, in November of 2005 when I was diagnosed with Stage IV (meaning “almost gone”) of a rare form of a neuroendocrine cancer, I was told I had six months left. I’m obviously still here ten years later.

Like most folks, once one gets over the initial shock, my wife and I did our research. We discovered the world’s best hospital for treating this type of cancer was M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. I bundled up all my CT’s, all my MRI’s, my blood tests, my colonoscopies, shipped them off to this world-renowned hospital and asked for them to see me and to provide a second opinion.

A few weeks later I received their answer—“no.” I was bluntly told I was too far gone, that it was hopeless, and I should go home to prepare to die. I was stunned. I’d never heard of one being denied a second opinion.

I called the managing partner of a large, prestigious Houston law firm—Bracewell & Patterson. One of his major clients was the Texas Medical Association. Thus, a call went to the director of M.D. Anderson from the head of the major medical association in Texas. The director refused to over-rule his doctors.

Things happen for a reason, however. On the advice of two friends I turned to a relative new Cancer Center, The Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. I met with their team of doctors and we drew up an aggressive attack strategy which so far has worked for almost ten years.

I confess though I’ll never feel that M.D. Anderson is as good as they claim to be. Nor will I ever recommend them to anyone. When asked, I’ll suggest folks look into the Mayo Clinic or Huntsman.

This lament is prompted by a spate of ads currently running on major news channels like CNN in which MDA comes awfully close to claiming they can cure cancer. How else is one to interpret the last scene in which they strike through the word cancer following a succession of “talking heads” the last couple which say cancer has lost..

The field of cancer care is becoming increasingly competitive simply because there are vast profits to be made. This is no justification, however, for strongly implying that they have or will beat cancer.

I’ve had almost ten years of successively holding my always fatal form of cancer at bay. I’ve never claimed to have been cured nor in a state of remission, because I’m not. Like many others, it is a day to day, 24/7 battle. Some of us are lucky enough to keep fighting for a long time.

My experience suggests that unless and until doctors can alter one’s DNA before birth there will never be a cure for cancer. Why? Because I think all cancers are part and parcel of the natural dying process we all undergoe. We can stall, stymie, hold at bay for a long time in some cases, but in the end the Grim Reaper claims us all. In all candor people should understand cancer in that context. Acceptence of our mortality, strangely enough is one of the keys to enduring longer than predictions.

The folks at M.D. Anderson should be honest enough to say that.

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