• 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

carlson

There’s an old expression, “pride cometh before the fall.” Ancient Greek dramatists wrote great theatrics around this all too common human foible. In these tragedies they wrote about hubris, the excessive pride many people in power possess though they falter at fair exercising of this power.

The Greeks had another expression: “Those the gods rise up they then lay low.” It doesn’t take a fortune teller looking into a crystal ball to see that Tommy Ahlquist, the doctor/developer running for Idaho governor and pledging to spend whatever it takes for him to win, is headed for a classic fall.

Whether it happens soon enough for him to recover remains to be seen. As the one with the deepest pockets his recent announcement that he was launching an “attack website” is rather ironic. Its an attempt to pre-empt his opponents by attacking their records before they start attacking his non-record.

Its right out of the Republican advertising/media-spinning playbook that says first spend a lot of money giving your biographical story, preferably one which portrays you overcoming adversity and triumphing over obstacles placed in your way.

Ahlquist followed this to a tee during this past summer and fall, saturating the Boise television market with his “rags to riches” narrative. The game plan then in phase two calls for you to go negative with sometimes questionable charges that negatively define your opponent.

The goal is to put your opponent on the defensive and to keep him there always responding to you. Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson early in his political career was an aide to a Texas congressman. He once asked his boss why on the campaign trail he kept repeating a totally bogus negative charge. The congressman simply smiled and said “let him deny it.” In denying the charge he would have to repeat the negative. Think, for example, about the infamous headline in which Richard Nixon stated “I Am Not a Crook!” Johnson never forgot the lesson and it has become a staple of modern campaigning.

Phase three is when the candidate, about four to six weeks before the election, comes back with flight after flight of positive advertising emphasizing his personal characteristics and his positive policy agenda.The last flight just before the election usually has the candidate looking into the camera radiating sincerity and asking for your vote.

In modern times Idahoans have never voted into the governorship someone who has no previous political experience and has not been vetted by an electorate. They recognize the governorship is no place for on the job training.

When asked about this at a small town hall meeting in St. Maries Ahlquist was quick to dismiss it citing the fact that 13 current state governors had been elected with no prior elective experience.
He then let slip that he had stopped by a Republican governors meeting in Chicago in September to introduce himself to his (in his mind) future colleagues.

He indicated in particular he wanted to discuss the looming crisis in the nation’s health care challenges. Some may admire the chutzpah of such a presumption. Others might see it as an act of sheer arrogance and an egregious taking of the Idaho voters for granted. You can decide which.

Calls to the campaign office and to his campaign manager asking whether Ahlquist had also flown to Austin, Texas in November to attend the formal national meeting of the Republican Governor’s Association were not returned.

Over the weekend the three major Republican candidates for governor (Lt. Governor Brad Little, First District Congressman Raul Labrador and Ahlquist), all submitted statements to the Coeur d’Alene Press about their candidacy and why they each believe they can lead the state into a better future.

Only one though used the royal or imperial “we” – as in “we announced,” “we know better,” “we know it’s time,” and “we will get things done.” You want to guess which one?

Hubris, pure hubris and pure balderdash.

Caveat emptor.

Column

carlson

If you are puzzled about what is, and is not, happening in the race to secure the Republican nomination for governor in 2018 you are not alone.

Different strategies are being utilized, but the presumed front-runner, First District congressman Raul Labrador, appears to be master-minding a much different campaign than his two primary rivals, Lt. Gov. Brad Little and doctor/developer Tommy Ahlquist.

First, it appears that Ahlquist, true to his promise to spend whatever it takes, has spent well over a million dollars and he will continue to spend at that high rate as he tries to buy his way into office.

Little, in the meantime, is collecting a significant amount himself, but is husbanding the money. It’s a good guess that when the time comes his campaign will, like Ahlquist’s, spend gobs of bucks on negative television ads as they attempt to redefine who Labrador is through negative attack ads. That’s one of the rewards for being perceived as the front runner at this juncture.

The three of them plus expected Democrat nominee, millionaire A. J. Balukoff, will quickly shatter the previous spending mark for a governor’s race.

Labrador has apparently chosen to lower his profile for awhile, which is a practical as well as a necessary decision. As a respected libertarian, hard conservative voice his views are sought out and there’s plenty of work to be done in D.C. while still running for governor. Thus, he is not appearing every where his two rivals are.

This may be a smart tactic for a frontrunner, but some observers speculate Labrador is not raising the funds he needs to raise as quickly and as easily as he may have previously thought it would be. Thus, he is lowering the profile as much out of necessity as out of the book of tactics.

Labrador is going to have to rely on the conservative Tea Party/Donald Trump base to write lots of smaller checks that will still keep him competitive. He appears to have conceded that the GOP establishment wing will split between Little and Ahlquist, but he’s not bothered by lack of support from the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), the equivalent of a statewide chamber.

It makes I easier for him to portray himself as the champion of the little guy and the governor who will best protect the average guy from the predatory practices of big business.

The guess is he’ll have enough to counter the expected attack ads and still get his key messages out to Idahoans.

Conventional wisdom says this race will be decided by Second District voters. Each of the major Republican campaigns figures that they each have a fair claim to about a third of the First district vote.

Ahlquist has touted two key endorsements: that of former GOP (and fellow LDS member, as is Labrador) presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is expected to run for Senator Orrin Hatch’s seat when Hatch announces his retirement. Perhaps more important is the support of former Melaleuca vice president for government affairs Damon Watkins, who is also the Idaho GOP’s national committeeman.

People make a mistake, however, if they think this reflects billionaire Frank VanderSloot’s preference. The Melaleuca CEO reportedly has told friends he can live easily with either Ahlquist or Labrador.

Some pundits believe Labrador’s most pressing problem is the perception that he as governor would permit the Idaho National Laboratory INL) to take a proportionate budget cut as part of any national debt reduction plan. He said as much two years ago.

Others say this will reinforce his image as a fiscal conservative hawk who takes consistent stands on principle. It appears that Labrador has succeeded in carving out the far right most conservative side of the GOP knowing full well the GOP primary is designed to maximize their clout.

Little is betting that a lot more establishment Republicans will turn out and will opt for his steady hand. Labrador is quietly confident that the hard conservatives and the anti-establishment voters are in ascendency and he will emerge as the winner.

Both Little and Labrador will continue to work to make Ahlquist be the odd man out and the race to become by next May a two person face-off between them. Come late May we will know who was correct.
 

Column

carlson

Twelve years ago, the week before Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroendocrine cancer and told I had the proverbial six months left at best. As my former boss, the late Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, would on occasion say, “there’s nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus one’s attention.” I focused fast.

This was of course stunning not the least reason being that my neurologist who had diagnosed five years earlier my Parkinson’s Disease, had told me a silver lining was that those with PD seldom contract cancer. One of my first calls was to him to let him know what a rare bird this patient was.

Like many couples and families do when receiving such news, we (My wife was trained as a Registered Nurse) read up as much as we could find of the literature on this form of cancer and on the facilities noted for the best practices in treating this always fatal disease.

Turned out that the best place to seek treatment was Houston’s M. D. Anderson Hospital. I drafted a note and enclosed copies of blood tests, MRI’s, PET scans, whole body scans, CT’s and cardiovascular work. I was absolutely floored when they declined to see me saying that the disease was too far along and there was nothing that could be done but to stay home and make my final preparations.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to bring this inexplicable denial to the facility’s attention. To their credit they looked into it, wrote me an apology, revised their admission protocal and even had the CEO send me a personal note.

The denial turned out to be a blessing in disguise for it created the opportunity for a friend of mine, Jay Shelledy, the then editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, to strongly recommend that I allow the relatively new Huntsman Cancer Center attached to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to be my primary treatment provider.

Shelledy was familiar with the Huntsman family and good friends with Jon Huntsman, Jr., a future Utah governor. So I flew to Salt Lake, met with the hospital’s chief of staff and the team assigned to me. Together we worked out an attack strategy.

Somewhere in my body, most likely in the colon, exists a generating tumor that periodically starts to significantly increase the production of this rare form of cancer cells. It can attack one, two or three vital organs: the liver, the heart and the lungs. In my case it was the liver and heart.

The most immediate threat was to my liver, covered with lesions and tumors almost to the point they could not be treated because the risk of liver failure was too high. My tricuspid valve was also starting to deteiorate, but that would be the second point of attack, and for addressing that it was decided I would go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

During 2006 I underwent three chemoembolization procedures at Huntsman which shattered almost all the tumors. I then underwent an experimental procedure whereby Yrtrium 90 radioactive pellets were placed on the shattered tumors and this appeared to stop temporarily the cancer from spreading rapidly. For two weeks though I was a hot dude literally.

Since then there have been relapses but mostly I’ve been able to manage well. I’ve had 15 sessions of targeted radiation, a bland embolization procedure,and my monthly chemo is a 40 mls shot of Octreotide that the drug company charges $17,000 for a shot.

Bottom line, though, is I’m still here and each morning I thank the good Lord for another day of life. As I reflect this Thanksgiving I wish to send a special thanks to the many people who through modern medicine to good old fashioned prayer have helped keep me alive: Jay Shelledy and Pat Shea, who introduced me to Huntsman; Dr. James Carlisle, my interventional radiologist at Huntsman; Dr. Joseph Rubin, my oncologist at Mayo; Dr. Robert Gersh, Dr. Robert Laugen, Dr. Maryann Parvez, my oncologists at Cancer Care Northwest; Dr. Chris Lee, my interventional radiologist at CCNW; Dr. Mark Wilson, my interventional radiologist at Deaconess; Dr. David Greeley, my neurologist at Northwest Neurology;
Dr. Michael Kwasman, my cardiologist at Sacred Heart; and Dr. Scott Spence, my general practitioner at Benewah Community Hospital.

Also, my friend, pastor, and fishing bud, Father Steve Dublinski, who is so patient with me during our weekly stalking of the wily cutthroat on the St. Joe. He is but one of many fine friends too numerous to list who call, send notes and offer encouragement.

Last, but not least is a loving and supportive family led by my wife of 47 wonderful years, who along with our three daughters, son, spouses and two grandchildren sustain me simply out of love I don’t deserve but gratefully accept. To all who care accept my heartfelt thanks.

A blessed Thanskgiving to all, and all glory to the Almighty.

Column

carlson

Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter and Representative Mike Simpson, R-2nd, are staunch, conservative Republicans. Former Governor Cecil D. Andrus was a self-described “lunch bucket” Democrat. The three men, though, had an ability to put the interests of the state ahead of partisanship and work together when necessary.

They held each other in genuine respect and though they could disagree they were rarely disagreeable while dissenting. They had a long history of knowing and working with each other. Andrus couldn’t help liking Butch who worked well with Cece during the 14 years Butch was Lieutenant Governor; and, Mike, whom Cece nicknamed “Driller” because he had a dentistry degree, was also a person of his word.

If asked, Otter and Simpson would tell you that they missed “the Boss.” Both delivered moving heartfelt eulogies on Andrus at services in late August.

While they would not put the others’ bumper stickers on their car, one has to search long and hard to find any record on the campaign trail where they actively worked against one another.

They gave the perfunctory endorsement of their party’s nominee but that was it.

About the only exception for Cece was when Betty Richardson ran against Butch in one of his congressional re-elections. Cece knew Betty’s family were long-time supporters and Betty was also so loyalty may have trumped friendship. Otherwise, there was an unspoken rule between all three of them.

October 24th marked the two month date of Cece’s passing. Like many folks, both Governor Otter and Congressman Simpson are having a hard time believing and adjusting to Andrus’ passing. Cece was such an integral part of the life of Idaho as well as our lives, and not to be able to pick up the phone and talk to him is just hard to believe.

In the two months since Cece passed away there have been a number of suggestions regarding designating an appropriate memorial. None can top the announcement Congressman Simpson made on the two-month anniversary of the governor’s passing: Simpson announced he had introduced a bill, H.R. 4134, which would rename the Boulder/White Clouds Wilderness as the Cecil Andrus White Clouds Wilderness. It was immediately referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

In a way it parallels what Republican Senator Jim McClure engineered just before Senator Frank Church died in 1984. McClure introduced and ramrodded through the Congress a bill that renamed Idaho’s Central Idaho Wilderness the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Most folks just call it “the Frank.”

Such bills temporarily suspend requirements of the Geographic Names Act which among other things says there has to be a five year wait after one has passed away before others could go about naming or renaming geographical features.

Congress can do just about anything it wants to do, however, and when someone introduces a special bill and the sponsor happens to be a “Cardinal,” as is Simpson by his chairmanship of the Interior and EPA appropriations subcommittee, another member has to think long and hard before crossing that Cardinal. Thus, odds are high that Simpson’s bill will succeed. Simpson was always a good nose counter and would not introduce a bill unless he knew he had the votes to get it passed.

Undoubtedly, there will be hearings in Idaho and in D.C. for people to express their opinions, but Andrus was phenominally popular and chances are there will be little opposition. Major interest groups such as the Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Recreation Council are expected to be supportive.

There are several other worthy ideas being batted around Boise and Lewiston, from naming a street after Andrus to naming a city park, to naming a rare plant in the Boise foothills, to naming the Idaho Fish and Game Building. None tops Simpson’s legislation though all the ideas are good and have merit.

There is one crucial vote that supporters hope will weigh in and be supportive of this fine idea. That is Governor Otter, who may not tip his hand until a hearing is held. The governor knows the White Clouds has a special place in the hearts of many Idahoans because the White Clouds’ most majestic mountain, Castle Peak is, as Cece liked to say, the mountain that made a governor.

Butch may not jump on Simpson’s wagon immediately, but by the end of the day he’ll be sitting on the buckboard bench with Mike whipping those horses along for passage.

Column

carlson

A “paradigm shift” is a fancy phrase for changing the way we look at and perceive things. We revisit our assmptions and then change our approach.

Watching that instant classic game two of the World Series between the Dodgers and the Astros while also filtering through my mind another series of steps and maneuvering by the President that day, it occurred to me that as a nation we are in the middle of a paradigm shift orchestrated by the President.

Furthermore, neither the media nor the political cognoscenti who within the Beltway talk to each other ad nauseum understand this shift is occurring. President Trump and his former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, though do understand and are leading the shift.

For example, the pundits and talking heads in D.C. and New York are constructing artificial benchmarks which they proclaim the voters want to see Congress achieve, such as repeal of ObamaCare and passage of tax reform. Otherwise, they pontificate the voters exacting swift retribution at the polls in November of 2018. Maybe so, maybe not.

The baseball analogy occurred to me as I listened to the game announcers rattle off traditional yardsticks by which ballpayers are measured, such as batting average, slugging percentage, runs batted in. For a pitcher it is wins, strikeouts to walks, innings pitched.

Michael Lewis’ fine book Moneyball came to mind. The book basically demonstrates how a paradigm shift radically redid the business of baseball. The book tells the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Bean, who as a prospect was labeled a “can’t miss making the majors.” But he did.

Once Bean got to the business side he started pondering why and this eventually led him to familiarize himself with sabermetrics, a new way of measuring the potential of a ballplayer to make it to the major leagues.

Being in a small market with a tight budget Oakland couldn’t afford to have too many misses. So Bean embraced the new way to evaluate players and also made the decision they would not draft high school phenoms but rather would focus on older more mature players.

Bean told his scouts, for example, to note the on-base percentage of a prospect believing that he would find more patient hitters who more often could get on base without a hit. Likewise, he worked up different formulas for evaluating fielding success and pitching success.

It paid off with Oakland winning several league championships. It wasn’t long before other teams adopted many of Bean’s methods.

President Trump is in the middle of pulling off a major paradigm shift in politics and is well on his way to redefining how success is measured. Frankly, he does not care really whether ObamaCare is repealed or tax reform is achieved. Successful legislation has to come from the Congress, or the GOP supposedly faces political disaster.

Trump will argue not necessarily. That’s the old way of measuring success. The new paradigm is cutting intrusive federal agencies down to size, eliminating bothersome and burdensone regulations, appeals to white males that are subtle messages of racism couched in language underscoring “fairness,” beating up on media that obviously has an anti-Trump agenda, and keeping your opponents off balance with a constant shifting of views and tactics.

If Congress can pass enabling legislation on tax reform, great. Don’t kid yourself, however, because tax reform is already dead. Trump’s base is largely holding strong because they don’t believe much of what the press reports and what they do see is their man standing up for American “values” against those shifty-eyed Muslims and those nasty Persians and North Koreans.

The more they see and hear the establishment scream and yell the more they like it. It’s a classic “paradigm shift” and don’t be surprised if it doesn’t lead President Trump not to impeachment but to a second term.

Column

carlson

Cathy McMorris Rodgers doesn’t know it yet, but she is in for the fight of her political life to turn aside the challenge from former Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. The former Eastern Washington University professor of economics is smart, tough, tenacious, fearless, hard-working, politically sophisticated, and plays to win.

Recently married and also retired from her position as Chancellor of the WSU-Spokane campus, where she was one of the leaders in bringing a medical school to Spokane, Brown thought her years of public service were at an end. The more she read about the divisive policies being embraced by President Donald Trump, and the more she saw Spokane’s member of Congress, McMorris Rodgers, blindly endorse policies punitive to the middle class and the poor while helping the top 1% accumulate even more wealth, the more she felt the call of continued public service.

Brown believes McMorris Rodgers has got caught up in the national issues swirling around the nation’s capitol and seldom pays attention any more to the needs of the district. She points to the passage of the 2014 Farm Act Reauthorization and contends the Fifth District Congresswoman was AWOL, that she wasn’t a player, and knew next to nothing about proposed changes in farm policy.

She says it is a well known fact that lobbyists for the various ag groups by-passed McMorris Rodgers and instead worked with and through the office of Washington’s senior U.S. senator, Patty Murray.

Brown is quick to point out that she is running on a platform that stresses the successes she has had in bringing people together, forging compromises and producing solutions. She believes she will work harder and listen better than the incumbent.

She knows Democrats will try to make the election a national referendum on President Trump , but she says she is running a positive race related to providing better representation in Congress. She intends to stress ways to expand the economic pie by growing the economy and cites her Ph.D in economics from the University of Colorado as giving her a leg up on economic issues.

She will continue to be a strong advocate for education and for common sense environmental protections, she says, as she has done her entire career.

She fully expects Republicans to run an independent campaign against her that will try to label her as a liberal, outsider, a sympathizer with the Sandinista movement in Central America many years back, anti-gun rights, pro-abortion and a Hillary Clinton clone.

She’s not worried as she knows facts belie many of these deliberate distortions and knows that once people have the facts in hand their vote will not be fear-driven. She points out that she grew up in a rural Illinois community and that her father taught her the proper use off firearms.

She understands that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion establishing the qualified right of individuals to own firearms at the same time also reinforced the right of government for the common good to restrict firearms from being brought to public gathering places such as schools, courthouses and arenas.

She has no intention to get sucked into debate over divisive social issues but intends to stay focused on economic and service issues.

She feels there are residual good memories of her service as a State Representative and State Senator representing the Third District that will help her. She also knows that Spokane is becoming increasingly a Democratic-leaning community.

She hopes McMorris Rodgers will agree to several debates and joint appearances where she feels her knowledge of the issues will be much better than the incumbent’s and voters will see the kind of difference that will cause them to recognize that it is in their best interest to retire Cathy and elect Lisa.

Column

carlson

October 8th was the sixty-first anniversary of one of the great sports events of all time: Don Larsen, pitching game five of the 1956 World Series, threw the only perfect game in series history. Twenty-seven Brooklyn Dodgers came to the plate, and 27 walked back to the dugout as Larsen led the New York Yankees to a 2-0 win.

Most baseball fans have seen the famous picture of the joyous Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, rushing the mound to jump into Larsen’s arms. While there have been regular season no hitters pitched since then and even another Divisional play-off no hitter, there never has been another perfect game and some baseball pundits don’t believe there will ever be another.

The last survivor of those who played in that historic game is none other than Larsen himself. Since he and his spouse, Corrine, retired 23 years ago, the Larsens have lived quietly at Hayden Lake. He makes occasional appearances at Yankee Old-Timer events and signs a baseball now and then.

Otherwise he enjoys fishing on various Idaho lakes and streams. A few days before the anniversary a mutual friend arranged for my wife and I to have lunch with Don and Corrine. It was one of the most delightful two hour lunches I’ve spent in years.

My first surprise was how tall he still is, easily 6’5”, still slim, still ramrod straight and his mind and memory were still sharp. Not bad for one who turned 88 in August. Born in Indiana, the fmaily moved to San Diego when he was 14 where he attended Point Loma H.S. and was known more for his basketball skills (my second surprise) than his pitching talent.

His senior year he was named to the first team all-Southern California High School basketball team but he turned down basketball scholarship offers from St. Mary’s and Oregon. While playing baseball he caught the eye of a scout for the St. Louis Browns who signed him for a signing bonus of $850 (about $10,000 in today’s dollars) and in June of 1947 reported to his first minor league team. He rose steadily but in early 1951 was drafted into the Army and served for two years during the Korean War before being honorably discharged in early 1953.

During the spring he made the major league roster of the St. Louis Browns and made his major league debut on April 18, 1953. That winter the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Larsen struggled during the 1954 season, winning three and losing 21 games.

Two of his three wins though were against the Yankees and their manager, Casey Stengal, insisted Larsen be included in a large swap of players in 1955. Stengal saw something no one else did for there is virtually nothing in Larsen’s early career that hinted he had a date with destiny and baseball immortality. On that October day though even Larsen admits he had incredible control of his pitches.

Larsen was not aware that the 27th and last out against pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell has become the subject of some college philosophy classes on life’s ambiguity. Mitchell had a ball one, two strike count when Larsen let loose with his 97th pitch. Mitchell, started to swing then he claims checked his swing because he thought it would be ball three. The home plate umpire called it strike three and the game was over.

To his dying day Mitchell insisted it was a ball. The umpire retired after the game and never spoke about it again. At this lunch, Larsen growled “he swung and it was strike three. Game over.”

Asked who was the toughest out in the Dodger line-up, Larsen growled again,”they were all tough outs. These were the Dodgers after all.”

My third surprise was learning that Larsen “on his way down” as he put it, pitched in Spokane against the Spokane Indians while a member of the 1966 Phoenix Giants. He also pitched in Tacoma early in the 1967 season. His last major leaue appearance came with the Cubs on July 7th, 1967. He retired shortly thereafter.

His final record was 81 wins and 91 losses, an earned run average of 3.78 and 869 strike outs. It appears to be an average record for someone who spent 15 seasons in the majors. Packed in there though is that one magic October day when he pitched the only perfect World Series game.

For that he was named the World Series MVP and garnered baseball immortality. Understandably he is proud of that incredible achievement, but he has handled the ensuing years, which had both ups and downs, with dignity and grace.

Before leaving he signed a baseball for me and wrote on it “a perfect Dad.” I’ll treasure it as long as I live, undeserved though it is.

Column

carlson

One of the many refreshing attributes of Pope Francis is “he tells it like it is,” even when he states the obvious. To a lay person it is astounding to hear a Pope who speaks clearly, non-judgmentally, with compassion, intelligence and common sense.

It reminds one of a saying uttered by another plain-speaking leader from an earlier era: President Harry Truman. While running against the “do-nothing’ Congress in 1948 he responded to the charge that he was giving them hell by saying “I just say the truth and they think it’s hell.”

In late September Pope Francis met for the first time with members of an advisory commission he named in 2014 to look into the Church’s less than sterling response to the matter of priestly sexual abuse. In the course of the meeting with this panel of outside experts he acknowledged the Church’s initial response was late and the initial response of just moving pedophile priests from one parish to another was morally and legally wrong.

Some bishops responded quickly, recognizing the gravity of the issue, indeed the criminality of it, and instinctively knew that transparency was critical to maintaining confidence within the laity for the Church hierarhy. Others thought first that they had to protect the image of the Church and its leadership and tried to dodge the gravity by moving offending priests around and minimizing any adverse publicity.

For differing responses one need look no further than the Spokane diocese, where Bishop William Skylstad responded quickly and adroitly. This response contrasted greatly with Boise Bishop Michael Driscoll, who, while Vicar General to the Bishop of the Orange County California diocese, had knowingly moved several pedophile priests around to different parishes.

In Driscoll’s defense he subsequently acknowledged his error and apologized.

Skylstad’s response was comprehensive and should have been the model for all bishops.

He formed a panel to review all cases, whether new or old; he authorized immediate reporting to civil authorities; any priest against whom a charge was levied, if still alive, was suspended while charges were investigated. He ordered more comprehensive background checks for any new diocesan employees and all teachers in the parochial schools. He formed a special communications committee to advise how to best and most quickly respond; he met with victims and apologized to them; he was one of the few bishops in the nation to meet with all the nuns in his diocese and he heard an earful.

He was one of the leaders in the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops in shaping the new protocals dictating a response from the Church that would clearly protect children.

Despite the extensive publicity, international as well as national, when the issue erupted into a mushroom cloud over the Vatican Pope John Paul II remained disturbingly quiet. His successor, Benedict XVI, did start authorizing bishops to identify and where possible, purge offending priests, but he too was largely silent.

The issue had to wait until Francis, the third Pope since this story broke, could look into it. Francis is finding out the truth in a saying of President Reagan’s: people can vote with their feet. This is especially true in the United States. Good “pray, pay and obey” Catholics have left or are leaving the church because of disgust with how many bishops handled his matter.

The fact is attendence is down as are contributions. There isn’t a parish or diocese in the country that isn’t engaged in some form of discussion and debate on how one should respond to a Church gone astray.

Even a Bishop as good as Skylstad realizes the Church has to pro-actively do more to win back victims as well as angry laity. It has to demonstrate that it has uncovered the why and taken steps to protect children to ensure it never happens again. It has to commit itself to working sessions with dissenters where it listens first.

It has to be creative in its outreach but show it knows it needs to reclaim lost members and reintegrate them into a more open, engaged and changing Church,

At the close of his meeting Francis spoke nailed the core of the issue:: “The consciousness of the church arrived a bit late, and when consciousness arrives late, the means to resolve the problem arrive late. Perhaps the old practice of moving people around and not confronting the problem kept consciousness asleep,’ he stated. No kidding, your Holiness.

Now lead the Church further along the path that lives what it preaches.

Column

carlson

The National Park Service (NPS), one of the few loved and admired federal agencies, is cruising for a black eye. Set aside that nine months into the Trump Administration the President and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, have yet to name a director for this venerable agency.

Lack of leadership is indeed a problem but the black eye is going to come the Park Service’s way when the public realizes the Park Service has decided the best way to overcome an over-population of mountain goats in Olympic National Park is to start shooting them.

Many Americans have a soft spot for warm and fuzzy animals that look cuddly to them, whether it be mountain goats, wild burros and horses, buffaloes, lynx, wolves or even grizzly bears. Rational thinking goes out the window.

The problem is the goats are consuming too much of the flora and fauna within the park, and are particularly attracted to the salt a person carries around whether it be in the urine discharged next to the trail or the sweat soaked handle of a hiking stick.

Despite their benign look goats can be dangerous also. Attacks on humans are extremely rare but in 2010 a goat gored a 63-year old male severing an artery and then would not allow others to try to assist the hiker who did bleed to death.

The Park Service closed comments on a voluminous Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on September 26, 2017. The document appears to favor darting goats from a helicopter, landing the chopper while the goat is tranquilized and moving them across Puget Sound and releasing them in the similar habitat of the North Cascades. However, the plan also allows the NPS to shoot to kill problem goats or those in difficult terrain.

Part of the justification is the fact that the NPS does not believe the goats are natives. They cite stories pointing to the introduction of 12 goats into the park in the 1920s by a hunting group. By the 1990s the goats had grown into the thousands and an open hunting season drew the goat population down to the more sustainable 300 or so. Last year the population was 623 and has been growing at 8% per year. Thus, the goal is to again reduce the number to 300.

A decision is expected in support of the preferred alternative by spring.

Don’t be surprised though if the fuzzy, furry loving Fund for Animals, founded by Cleveland Amory in the early 1970s, doesn’t file suit and seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) that will suspend the program pending a hearing and possible trial.

In 1979 a similar problem existed in the Grand Canyon National Park and at New Mexico’s Bandolier National Monument. The guilty party though was wild burros which had a penchant for finding native American artifacts such as priceless mixing bowls and then stomping them to bits, as well as munching on most of the native grasses.

Since this was the early days of producing impact statements the Park Service did a fairly cursory one to justify its plans to shoot a number of burros. The Fund for Animals filed suit which temporarily stalled the plans. The Park Service then acted on advice from the then Interior Secretary’s office, that it separate out Bandolier, quickly do another EIS, figuring on it escaping notice, and commence shooting the offending burros in Bandolier.

By the time the Fund for Animals realized what had happened the desired number of burros was achieved. This success in Bandolier stands in marked contrast to the Grand Canyon which still is dealing with the burro problem today.

Americans also love birds, even those that are not endangered. Even pigeons that sully statues and are basically an unclean scavenger have a constituency. I found this out the hard way when as Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus’ press secretary I sanctioned and orchestrated a highly visible reintroduction of peregrine falcons into the nation’s capital.

Nests were set up on the Interior Department Building’s roof and a picture of Secretary Andrus holding a peregrine chick with its mother carefully watching while perched on his shoulder made the front page of the Washington Post.

Peregrines of course feast on pigeons. Instead of letters praising the department for the reintroduction of a bird that would help control the pigeon population my office was inundated by angry letters from the pigeon lovers of the world.

Now it’s the turn of the goat lovers. I hope the Park Service is ready.

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carlson

There is an opportunity for any one of the three Republican candidates for Idaho’s governor – Lt. Gov. Brad Little, First District congressman Raul Labrador, or medical doctor and developer Tommy Ahlquist – to show some gutsy leadership skill as well as an understanding that a governor’s role is to solve challenges.

For that matter, the same opportunity exists for either of the possible Democrat gubernatorial nominees, A.J. Balukoff or former State Senator Dan Schmidt.

The issue is that of holding the Department of Energy’s feet to the fire regarding their continuing to adhere to the agreement worked out with former Governor Phil Batt to have removed from Idaho all the various nuclear wastes stored in some form at the Idaho National Laboratory site west of Idaho Fall by 2035.

The Energy Department accepted this part of the Batt agreement because at that time they allegedly believed America would have its National Nuclear Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, up and operating. They badly underestimated the power and skill exercised by the former Senate Majority Leader, Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid.

Reid was able to cut off the funding and stop the project dead in its tracks.

The Batt agreement also forbid the importation of additional spent fuel rods recognizing it made little sense to add to a supply of nuclear waste you were supposedly committed to removing down the road.

The implication for many was Idaho would become the de facto repository, keeping all high level wastes on-site while accepting additional spent fuel rods for “research.” Support for this passive acceptence of the status quo quickly became a political litmus test for candidates for statewide office if they wanted support in eastern Idaho.

The reasoning was that keeping waste material on site (other than low-level transuranic wastes which are shipped by rail to salt caverns in New Mexico) would assure continued funding for the site and thus remain an integral ingredient in eastern Idaho’s economy.

Folks in the Idaho Falls Chamber are more than willing to accept the risks of possible contamination of the Snake River Aquifer which could devastate the economy down river in the Twin Falls area.

There is a real possible solution, however, that requires an ability to look over the horizon and recognize what is best for Idaho is removal of all the waste material despite the short-sighted bias of the IF Chamber.

The operating asssumption for several years has been there is no alternative repository with the demise of Yucca Mountain.

Wrong. There will be a fully certified operating nuclear waste repository capable of accepting nuclear waste as early as 2024 known as Onkalo on an island off the coast of western Finland. It has under construction for years, but is nearing completion and is being built by a Finnish company called Posiva.

Presumably Finland would negotiate agreements with the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries which have nuclear energy facilities but are storing spent fuel rods on site. To prod the process along a governor and a state attorney general could conceivably open its own negotiations.

The point is there is a viable solution. Any or all of the major candidates can and should get on a plane and go see for themselves what the Finns have accomplished that no one else has been able to do.

They’ll see an entrance bored into near seamless bedrock, called gneiss, that is geologically stable and water resistant.

It drops 1500 feet down and then has a series of tunnels that run for miles with storage chambers where spent fuel rods are encased in cast-iron canisters further encased in two inch thick copper which is extremely resistant to corrosion. The chambers and access tunnels will then be backfilld with bentonite clay, which also absorbs moisture.

Here’s hoping all the candidates for governor visit Finland and see for themselves the potential viable solution to an issue that has vexed Idaho for years, but now just may be on the threshold of a real solution for which future Idahoans will be most grateful.

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