• 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

carlsonlogo1

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.

Column

carlsonlogo1

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.

Column

” “Eye on the Caribou” is an outstanding historical review of the Alaska Lands Bill and all the people involved in its creation and then its passage. The author gives me more credit than I perhaps deserve but he also does a remarkable job of remembering and noting the contributions of the thousand fathers and mothers. He properly notes the ultimate credit deservedly goes to President Carter.”
Governor Cecil D. Andrus (44th Secretary of the Interior)

“In terms of land and wildlife conservation, it gets no bigger—anywhere on earth—than the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act signed by President Jimmy Carter. At his side every step of the way was Cecil Andrus—the architect, the Capitol Hill advocate, and the spokesman who, like so many of us, was fired by the understanding that here we could, for once, do conservation on a vast, ecosystem-wide basis, and do it right the first time. Chris Carlson was there every step of the way and provides in this book the rich detail only an insider can provide.”
Doug Scott, Lobbying Director, Alaska Coalition – 1976-1980

“No other conservation measure can match the Alaska Lands bill for sheer size and importance. Chris Carlson was there, side by side, with Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus helping to manage the prolonged effort to protect Alaska’s wild and untouched spaces. Oil, mining and other business interests resisted aggressively, but in the end the collaborative effort by President Carter, Andrus, the ad hoc Alaska team assembled by Andrus and key environmental leaders prevailed. “Eye on the Caribou” is a must read for political leaders, environmentalists and community organizers who seek to protect open spaces. It is a lesson about the need for endurance, compromise and collaboration. All in all, a great reflection about Alaska and politics.”
– John Hough

Books

carlsonlogo1

There’s an old political saying that when asked to choose between two good friends running for the same office, the answer is, “I’m with my friend.” That means you’re not about to choose, nor are you going to say who you might opt for in the privacy of the balloting booth.

One might even contribute the same amount of money to each campaign. Such a stance risks the loss of both because they’d rather that you choose, but the smart and prudent person stays neutral.

If Bruce Reed is anything, he is smart and prudent. The Coeur d’Alene native and 1978 Coeur d’Alene High graduate went onto Princeton, graduating with honors in 1982, thence onto Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, and obtained an MA in English Literature. Despite being a rather quiet and unassuming person his classmates could tell he was destined for good things.

A family friend, Tony Stewart, a professor at North Idaho College for many years, and a co-founder along with Bruce’s parents, attorney Scott Reed and State Senator Mary Lou Reed, of north Idaho’s Human Rights Foundation, would play tennis with the younger Reed. If Stewart was the least bit late he would find Reed patiently waiting but also always reading a book.

Early in his public career Reed encountered presidential politics as his services were sought by two young and intelligent senators, Tennessee’s Al Gore and Delaware’s Joe Biden. Reed had gone to work for Gore as a speechwriter in 1985.

As the 1988 election drew closer Biden asked Reed to work for his 1988 presidential bid. Reed was astute enough to ask Gore whether he planned to run. When told by Gore that he was going to run Reed politely declined Biden’s offer without burning any bridges and did work on Gore’s 1988 campaign.

In an amicable parting he left Gore in 1989 to work for the Democratic Leadership Group in 1990, where his talents and ability soon caught the eye of young Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. He joined Clinton’s successful campaign for the presidency in 1992 and when Clinton won Reed went to work first as a deputy domestic policy advisor, and two years later as the chief domestic policy advisor.

His relationship with both Clinton and Gore remained strong and in 2000 he left the White House for two months to help Gore with his debate preparation. Despite being close to the seat of power one seldom saw Reed quoted. He preferred to remain in the background and did not play the game of being a “high placed source” for the media.

When 2008 rolled around Reed’s loyalty to the Clintons’ trumped all others and he supported Hillary’s bid for the presidency. Once elected president, Illinois Senator Barack Obama let bygones be bygones and named Reed to be the executive director of the Simpson/Bowles Commission, a group of distinguished elected officials as well as private sector folks charged with restoring fiscal sanity to a budget process gone awry and with curbing excessive federal spending.

Reed, by all accounts, did a masterful job of helping hammer out a decent, doable set of compromises that could, if adopted by Congress, have met the challenge the commission was given. Following this Reed accepted an invitation from old friend Joe Biden, now Obama’s vice president, to become Biden’s chief of staff, which he did for two years.

Reed has many talents, one of which is to look down the road and over the horizon. It is fair to speculate that unlike many in the political game Reed saw the real possibility of being caught in the middle between friends with Mrs. Clinton again making a bid and his friend and current employer, the vice president, also deciding to run.

Reed’s answer, like the old political saying, is not to choose between friends. On November 13th, 2013, he announced he and his equally talented wife, Bonnie (Also a Coeur d’Alene High graduate), were leaving the nation’s capitol for Santa Monica where he would be the president of the Ely and Edythe Broad Foundation whose primary purpose is to facilitate meaningful reform in public education.

It was a wise move by a loyal soldier. My personal preference would have been for him to leave his job with Biden to run for the Democratic presidential nomination himself. At 55 years of age he’s at the right age to take on the rigors of the office. It’s time for the baby boomer generation to step aside and pass the torch to the next generation. Mrs. Clinton, Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden – all will be in their 70’s should they take the oath in Janaury of 2017. Candidly, that’s just too damn old.

Column