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Richard Larsen: Voting Problems of Bannock County

November 26th, 2010 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It’s difficult for me to understand how Bannock County is always, embarrassingly, the last county in the state to report election results. It’s also difficult to explain away so many seemingly minor problems in vote processing by the county as “human error,” as if that excuses lapses in security or protocol, or the actual count.
Such “human errors” were in abundance for the election two weeks ago. Perhaps the most egregious is the absentee ballot discrepancy. The clerk’s office has been very accommodating to local party officials in facilitating party workers involvement in vote counting. This is done to ensure transparency and accuracy, and is really a blessing for election officials as well as the voters.

According to the county’s reports, there were a total of 23,916 total candidate ballots cast and 23,351 issues ballots cast. Of those totals, there were 3,694 candidate ballots cast absentee and 3,622 issues ballots cast absentee. That represents 15.45% absentee candidate ballots and 15.51% absentee issues ballots. Yet when they were counted by the party workers, all six, who had meticulously maintained vote count records, agreed and certified there were 3,493 absentee candidate ballots tallied. That’s a differential of 201 additional votes.

All absentee ballots are held in “cans” that are sealed with serialized tape to ensure no tampering is possible. The party workers who tallied the absentee ballots had completely emptied those cans before they counted them and inspected them again before they were closed by the election staff. Yet mysteriously another batch of 25 ballots surfaced. They seemed to be in good order as the inner security envelopes were intact, but where did those 25 ballots come from?

Speaking of the serialized security tape, some of the post-tabulation containers had masking tape with penned letters on them, as elections officials indicated they had run out of the serialized security tape on election night. Yet six days after the election, more of the security tape surfaced for use on the box the discovered 25 absentee ballot were later stored in. One would think that there would be sufficient forethought to have enough security tape for proper sealing of all the absentee ballots containers. It’s troublesome that all of the other ballot containers were properly secured, while ten of the absentee ballot containers only had lettered masking tape on them.

There were several reports of voters who showed up at the polls to vote, only to be informed that they had already voted absentee. One such voter from Lava Hot Springs, pressed the issue with the poll workers insisting she had not voted absentee. A county election official informed the poll workers that it was in error, as there was someone with a similar name who had voted absentee, so they should allow the Lava voter to vote. The problem is, the four with the same last name all live in Pocatello and had requested mail-in ballots weeks before.

Also, according to several observers, when the test count batches were run through the tabulation machines, the counts showed significant anomalies. They reshuffled the ballots and got another set of results. Finally, the system reported accurate results off of the test batch, but not without raising some questions of the programming of the voting machine.

It has been reported by some whose family members are deployed in the military that they were not able to vote absentee. Instead of receiving a ballot from the county, they received a nicel letter explaining that they couldn’t get the ballot to them in time to be counted. Perhaps their ballot requests were not submitted in time, but it would be good to know the timeline for military requests. Of all our citizens, they are least deserving of disenfranchisement.

While those directly overseeing the elections locally seem committed to complete transparency and integrity in the process, somewhere along the line that integrity is obviously breaking down. If all was working as it should, there would not be inconsistent counts from the test ballots, there would not be discrepancies in the absentee balloting, there would not be mysterious surfacing of uncounted absentee ballots, there would not be people turned away at the polls for reportedly voting absentee when they had not, and there would not be mysterious surfacing of serialized seals for ensuring security. Yes, these are all obviously attributable to human error, but the question all of us need answered is whether it’s intentional, accidental, or due to ineptitude.

In our banking system we expect complete transparency and accuracy in accounting for our deposits. In my industry, every penny of every client’s money is accounted for and safeguards are in place to ensure accuracy, accountability and security. Don’t our ballots and our votes deserve that same treatment?

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Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Pocatello Issues | 1 Comment »

Richard Larsen: George W. Bush – A Classy Ex-President

November 16th, 2010 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

There are certain words that are atypical to use together for they are to many, an oxymoron. I’m about to use one that will make certain segments of our population cringe in disbelief that two ostensibly disparate words would be used in the same sentence. Since you’ve been warned, I’m going to say it: President George W. Bush is a classy ex-president.

Concomitant with the release of his memoirs, “Decision Points,” the former president appeared on Oprah Winfry’s show. When asked what he thought about the job his successor is doing, he replied, “I do believe you ought to treat people the way you want to be treated yourself, and so you’re not going to see me out there chirping away. I want our president to succeed.” He elaborated, “I don’t think it’s good for a former President to be out there opining on every darned issue. He’s got a plenty tough job. Trust me. And there’s gonna be plenty of critics, and he doesn’t need me criticizing him. And I don’t think it’s good for the presidency. Other people have a different point of view.” That is a courtesy that neither he nor President Reagan enjoyed, as they were preceded in office by men who didn’t have the class or the values that would allow them to be uncritical of their successors.

In the case of Bill Clinton, who preceded Bush 43, I think it was a matter of his ego not allowing him to simply fade away, shrinking from the limelight and into relative obscurity. In the case of Ronald Reagan’s predecessor, Jimmy Carter has been on a veritable crusade for three decades attempting to prove his relevance subsequent to his dismally failed presidency, domestically and in foreign affairs.

Now to have the vilified former President George W. Bush appearing quixotic in his retirement is a breath of fresh political air. There’s another oxymoron for you! Even more impressive since his successor has blamed him for everything that’s wrong with the world. And even more refreshing to see someone who has borne the weight of that office actually accept responsibility for his decisions, with no blame cast on his supporting cast, circumstances, or his political antagonists.

The 43rd president has had more than his share of aspersions and pejorative adjectives hurled at him. He addresses that in his book, “Partisan opponents and commentators questioned my legitimacy, my intelligence, my sincerity. They mocked my appearance, my accent and my religious beliefs. I was labeled a Nazi, a war criminal and Satan himself.” But President Bush says he didn’t let the critics get to him. “First of all, I read a lot of history when I was president. My view was if they were criticizing Abraham Lincoln in harsh tones, certainly I could take that.”

The former president showed the most emotion when Oprah asked him about the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. You’ll recall that rap artist (another oxymoron for you!) Kanye West claimed, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” and Jesse Jackson said the New Orleans Convention Center looked like the hull of a slave ship, and a congresswoman asserted that if the Katrina victims had been white they would’ve received more help. The accusations of racism were deeply felt by the president who typically didn’t let criticism get to him. As he countered, “You can disagree with my politics, but don’t ever accuse me of being a racist. I put policy in place that I really felt helped people from all races in America. I don’t understand why somebody would accuse me of being a racist. There’s no justification for that whatsoever. Frankly, it speaks to the ugliness of the American political scene.” He continued, “I can see how the perception could be, maybe, ‘Bush didn’t care.’ But to accuse me of being a racist is disgusting. … It’s one thing to say: ‘He could have done a better job. He maybe should have put troops in.’ You don’t call a man a racist when I’m confident my heart is right on that issue.”

Bush showed his colorblindness throughout his public service, culminating in his presidency where nearly 1/3 of his top appointments were minorities: Black, Latino, and Asian.

For all his hard decisions, many of which ended up very divisive and dubious from a layman’s perspective, Bush loves his country and, as president, did what he thought was right to protect her and make her stronger. There’s a billboard proliferating across the country featuring his picture and the question, “Do you miss me now?” I think many of us answer in the affirmative.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Politics in General, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

David Ripley: A Great Lady Goes to Her Reward

November 14th, 2010 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

Former state Senator Claire Wetherell passed away this last week. Idaho has lost a great lady.
Claire was a feminist of a different stripe. She demonstrated a character and strength born of service in World War II – harkening to the kind of traditional feminism which settled the West.

While Claire Wetherell was a Democrat, she acquired her politics in a different era. Her politics were built on regard for working people, the family and her Christian faith. During her time in the State Senate, Idaho Democrats moved toward an increasing emphasis upon entitlement and abortion as their core organizing principles – but Claire remained unapologetically pro-Life.

I had the privilege of knowing her, and working for her election even before coming to the pro-Life movement myself.

She was gracious, gentle and principled. There can be no doubt that Claire left the world a better place for her innumerable contributions to Mountain Home and Idaho.

Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to her family.

David Ripley

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Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | No Comments »

David Ripley: Seniors Rise Up to Defend Themselves

November 8th, 2010 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

A fascinating analysis has just appeared on the Politico website, detailing the massive defection of seniors to the Republican Party in last week’s election. Not only does this represent a major rebuke of the Democrat leadership – the vote serves as a wholesale rejection of the “advocacy” served up by groups like the AARP in the past few years.
There can be no doubt that the national election served as a referendum on ObamaCare. There can also be no sober argument over the fact that the country has expressed its profound opposition to federalized health care; the polling data reviewed by Politico demonstrates conclusively that America’s senior citizens led the way. That should serve to minimize the future credibility of groups like AARP – which sold its soul to support ObamaCare.

Despite the earnest propaganda efforts of AARP, seniors in New Hampshire supported pro-Life Republican Kelly Ayotte over her Democrat opponent by a whopping 33%. The victorious Mark Kirk was elected by a margin of 22% among Illinois seniors.

Politico quotes Jim Martin of the 60 Plus Association:

“I’ve been saying since August, 2009 that there was a tsunami – in this case, a senior citizen tsunami – headed towards Capitol Hill. That tsunami came ashore.”

That uprising among American seniors is obviously directly tied to the draconian threats posed by ObamaCare: health care rationing and massive cuts to Medicaid.

With such clear repudiation of their leadership in hand, the AARP is going to have to figure out what seniors actually want – or relinquish any claim to “represent” them in public policy discussions.

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Idaho Pro-Life Issues | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

November 8th, 2010 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

With crude oil prices hovering near $90 per barrel and unleaded gasoline prices near $3 per gallon, we all stand to benefit from a venture that seeks to increase oil production in North America. But as is usually the case, there is a dogged special interest group seeking to not only derail the effort, but to deny us, the citizens of Idaho, the commercial benefits of the proposed venture.

Canadian based Imperial Oil, the world’s largest producer of synthetic oil harvested from oil sands, is investing $8 billion in expanded operations in Alberta. Included in that investment is $100 million in transportation costs to transport 35,000 tons of South Korean-made mining equipment across northern Idaho’s U.S. Highway 12, which has been handling over-sized loads safely for 20 years, from the Port of Lewiston.

The shipments will take about a year, 3-4 per week in the middle of the night, to transport the 207 loads from Lewiston to Missoula, and then cross the Canadian border at Sweetgrass, MT. The logistical planning, with public and environmental safety as primary objectives, has been two years in the works. It requires a stretch of highway with no overpasses or tunnels, which Highway 12 features, and necessitates installation of numerous turnouts to allow late night travelers and emergency vehicles passage. Imperial Oil and Exxon Mobile, their partner in the project, are paying the cost to improve turnouts, and will be required by Governor Otter to post a $10 million bond to pay for any possible damage to infrastructure. This is only a precaution and likely unnecessary since weight distribution to the highway will be less than a standard loaded semi.

The Port of Lewiston, Idaho’s unique shipping hub hundreds of miles inland from the Pacific coast, allows importers and exporters to shave millions of dollars off of transportation costs by utilizing the Columbia to Snake River shipping corridor bypassing Washington and Oregon. The Port of Lewiston, Idaho’s only seaport, stands to make $80,000 per month for the next year handling the oversize loads coming from South Korea, and facilitates exports of Idaho wheat and other agricultural products to Asian countries.

With all the benefits to Idaho, revenue at the Port, good-paying shipping jobs, over-time pay to the state patrol officers accompanying the shipments, and nearly $70 million in direct economic impact, it’s hard to imagine anyone in their right minds would oppose the venture. Yet there is opposition, and it brings to mind the truism, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Advocates for the West and the New York based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who are opposed to the Alberta oil sands project, are attempting to derail it by blocking the mining equipment shipments. The NRDC is the self-serving radical group that nearly destroyed the apple industry in Washington state 20 years ago after it colluded with CBS’s “60 Minutes” producing a scientifically unwarranted scare over the use of Alar to prevent early drop with Washington’s apple harvest. In April 1989 Science magazine exposed the Alar scare as a hoax, based on scientific research, and a 1990 book, Fear of Food, characterized NRDC’s Alar scare as “a deliberately misleading environmentalist fund-raising campaign.”

Still, the discredited environmental group trumpets its impudent and factually fallacious agenda as just cause to prevent economic development, job growth, and energy production. And now Idaho is in its crosshairs.

So many of these fringe “save the earth” groups are really self-serving special interest extremist groups that are anti-business, anti-natural resource development, anti-capitalism, and anti-human progress groups that utilize emotional attachment with nature as a tool to harvest donations from gullible, yet well-intentioned donors. Which brings to mind another aphorism, “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

The Port of Lewiston manager is right on when he said “activity leads to activity.” A venture like this increases commercial activity, not only of the transportation variety, but has ripple effects through Idaho’s economy. That means capital flowing through the state, increased monetary velocity, which means more investment, more jobs, more job security and more tax revenue.

These groups attempting to block this venture are incapable of looking at the big picture, and “choke at a gnat and swallow a camel” with their myopic and self-aggrandizing agendas. These groups would be not be attempting to block these shipments if they were turbines or blades for a wind farm! It’s an agenda with them. And right now they are utilizing mass emails to their members and other dupable targets to prevent a viable and safe commercial venture from benefiting Idaho. We need to assess cogently and logically the self-aggrandizing motives of these special interest groups versus the Idaho jobs, economic growth, and energy benefits they seek to thwart. Let’s collectively and individually not be complicit in their self-serving agenda at Idaho’s expense.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature | No Comments »

David Ripley: Big Pro-Life Majority Wins House

November 5th, 2010 by Halli

Idaho Chooses Life

This week brought renewed hope for the pro-Life movement and our nation: The election of a strongly conservative majority to Congress has purchased time for the nation to right itself after a long and continuous assault by the Left. A measure of fiscal sanity is all but certain.

Most importantly, Tuesday’s general election saw the election of a mighty host of new pro-Life advocates to the U.S. House. That is not accidental or coincidental. While the media focused on the fiscal and economic issues, many Americans were also paying close attention to the unprecedented assault on preborn children being waged by Obama and Pelosi.
Idahoans were obviously paying attention as well.

Raul Labrador’s defeat of Walt Minnick is a testament to the common sense and wisdom of Idaho voters. They saw through the smoke of Minnick’s many advantages – and were repulsed by his decision to wage a personal, nasty campaign. And they also clearly rejected Minnick’s radical pro-abortion values.

Idaho’s great call to moral clarity echoed through the land. As a result, we learned that at least 51 other pro-abort congressmen have been turned out, replaced by men and women who share our respect for human life. With ten other races still in recount – the gains could yet be greater.
This week’s election was – notwithstanding the president’s dull rhetoric – a resounding rejection of his scheme to federalize health care. That rejection certainly includes the Pelosi/Obama scheme to expand abortion through tax-funding.
It is not quite morning in America – but we may have survived the darkest hours of Obama’s regime.

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Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Andi Elliott: Your Neighbor Called

November 4th, 2010 by Halli

By Andi Elliott

Your neighbor called me today. He had some choice words for you. After settling down, he asked me a few questions. He wanted to know why in the “heck” you have a dog if you’re going to chain it up at the back of your property and ignore it. He wanted to know why the law doesn’t step in to help the dog that only sporadically receives food and water. He asked me if there wasn’t some law to make sure that the dog isn’t lying in a mud hole on a rag that froze solid with the first hard freeze and will remain that way until the spring thaw.

IDAHO CODE TITLE 25. ANIMALS CHAPTER 35. CRUELTY TO ANIMALS addresses animal cruelty: “…and it shall be the duty of any peace officer, or officer of any incorporated association qualified as provided by law, to take possession of the animal so abandoned or neglected, and care for the same…. To subject an animal to needless suffering…negligently confine an animal in unsanitary conditions or to negligently house an animal in inadequate facilities; to negligently fail to provide sustenance, water or shelter to an animal….”

In order for any law to be worth the paper it is written on, it must be enforced. It’s up to us to see that it is. Phone in a complaint and document the situation…sometimes that’s all it takes. After all, we can’t force them to love them BUT we can force them to provide minimum care.

Andi Elliott

President/For the Love of Pets Foundation


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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: A Look at State and Local Issues and Races, Election 2010

November 1st, 2010 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

In this day and age when our federal government can rack up our collective debt obligations without our approbation, the last thing we should be doing is giving that same ability to local hospitals, airports, or municipal power companies. The proposed constitutional amendments HJR4, HJR5, and HJR7 do just that. They can issue public debt without a vote of the taxpayers. No thank you!

Butch Otter has done a superb job as governor managing the ship of state through some turbulent fiscal waters the past few years. Keith Allred’s criticism of Otter for a 7.5% reduction in the education budget is evidence of his inability to make difficult decisions in a real-life setting. While crucial to our quality of life and the culture of Idaho, education is not a sacred cow to be immunized from fiscal reality. Would Allred have spared education and axed that much more than the 19.45% from the rest of the state agencies? This fiscal myopia is perhaps endemic with academics who have negligible exposure to the real world of financial management. We’ve seen what academics so limited in actual experience have done on the national level, we don’t need to make of Idaho another academic laboratory of fiscal experimentation.

As Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna has been an ardent proponent of a customer-driven education system. That’s critical, because in education, the customers are the children and the parents. What’s best for customers is not synonymous with what’s best and most comfortable for the educational bureaucracy and establishment. Stan Olson, based on his own statements, is driven from a practitioner perspective. Read that as a euphemism for “IEA compliant” and “administration friendly.” For the past four years Tom Luna has reduced costs in his department, including his own pay, transferring the savings to the general education fund, while Olson increased his pay (including a $25,000 bonus) and benefits as Superintendent of the Boise School District while cutting pay for teachers in his district. I think Luna is right: actions do speak louder than words. And in these challenging financial times, we don’t need someone in that crucial role who is self-admittedly “bad at math.”

All of our local candidates, without exception, are in the broad sense, good people. And almost all of them are likeable. When we cast votes for elected officials, it should have little to do with their likeability, but much to do with their ideology, their character, their perception of the role of government, and what they plan to do once elected.

We often are critical of the mindset and actions of the ruling party in Washington. What we infrequently do is connect the dots with local politicians to ascertain ideological orientation. There was a benchmark in the legislature this spring whereby those dots could be connected. HB 391, which was a symbolic rejection of the individual freedom-destroying, and expanding government control over our lives, national health care reform known not too affectionately as Obamacare. The entire Democrat legislative contingent from across the state voted against that measure. Such a tacit endorsement of engorging governmental control and debilitation of individual liberty shouts volumes. Based on that one benchmark issue, we don’t need more of the national statist mentality roaming the halls of our statehouse. We need believers in freedom, and a wise and frugal government. We get that from Ken Andrus, Terry Anderson, Jim Guthrie, Lance Kolbet, Dave Bowen, and Brian Nugent.

Larry Ghan has been a fixture in county governance for as long as I’ve lived here. And that’s a long time. Larry was commission chairman in 2008 when the county budget jumped an astounding 27%. I have difficulty fathoming that not only ideologically but as a taxpayer. Howard Manwaring brings a sound fiscal mind and a fresh perspective on county governance which would be superbly complementary to the commission. I think it’s time to retire Larry.

In what shouldn’t even be a partisan race, we have the unmistakable opportunity to hire as Bannock County Assessor someone with all the experience, the credentials, the licensing, and certification that the job demands. Geoff Ranere brings all these to the position, and much more. The underlying question for all to consider in this capacity is, do I want someone who knows how to value property competently and equitably or someone who knows how to sell property? I’ll take the licensed, certified, and professionally competent appraiser any day, hands down.

Local and state political races, though less prestigious than those on the national level, will likely affect our lives much more intimately and personally than the larger elections. Learn about the issues at stake and go to the polls prepared to vote for those you feel will do the best job for our community and state.

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Posted in Guest Posts, Idaho Legislature, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Taxes | No Comments »

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