Last year, former Idaho Statesman political writer Dan Popkey demonstrated his willingness to shill for a corrupt sheriff in more than one way. But despite aiding and abetting an illegal release of information for political purposes, Popkey continued to write for the Statesman until very recently. Thus, it was with my faith in the newspaper’s integrity and judgment severely damaged that I recently picked up a book by now-retired Statesman writer Tim Woodward. Like Popkey, Woodward has been formally recognized for his writing achievements; fortunately, that’s where the similarities end. Continue reading
Category Archives: Idaho
Earlier this month, a federal court approved a $311 million dollar settlement against DRAM manufacturers on behalf of consumers. Boise-based Micron Technology, one of the firms involved, will pay an exorbitant $66.7 million to the “victims.” The crime? “[E]ngaging in unlawful anti-competitive practices to inflate prices,” according to The Associated Press. Sounds simple enough; the companies conspired to rip-off the public and will be forced to pay it back. Who could argue with that?
As with most things in an age where so much is beyond the scope of what can be perceived and understood locally, there is more to the story. From the AP report we learn not that a settlement was reached, but that the court ruling means “consumers can start filing claims” – the actual settlement took place in 2007. That means it took the court seven years just to figure out how consumers could get the money Micron (and others) already agreed to pay. The answer? Anyone can simply ask for free money! Really – it took them seven years to come up with that; the settlement site explains:
You don’t need any documentation to file your claim. So don’t let that stop you… You can still get paid even if you don’t have any documentation.
The likelihood of any actual justice being served under these conditions is slimmer than Idaho’s starving wolves.
But it gets sillier. The AP story doesn’t mention that the antitrust violations took place between 1998 and 2002, and the minimum “recovery” amount is $10. So the government agents who brought the suit – Idaho’s Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was one of them – have dedicated countless hours and millions of dollars in lawyers fees to returning $10 taken from consumers fifteen years ago. Of course, no one was forced to buy any DRAM and certainly most had no idea they were paying too much at the time. But even granting that illegal activity took place, have Americans really become so petty and childish that fifteen years isn’t long enough to get over losing a few bucks?
The cost to Micron is nearly $67 million, but the actual impact to Idaho will be much greater. How many Treasure Valley jobs could have been saved or created by Micron with all that money? When Micron agreed to the settlement in 2007, Idaho’s unemployment rate was below 3%. (After housing went bust, it nearly tripled.) Perhaps at the time Attorney General Wasden thought little harm could be done.
And perhaps this is another lesson in communities paying the price for a government too expansive to be genuinely representative.
The most disappointing thing about Justin Corr’s piece at KTVB.com called “More drug dogs help Idaho cops battle traffickers” isn’t that its author expresses unwavering faith in the hopelessly failed “War on Drugs”; it’s that Corr misses a great opportunity to do some actual reporting and thereby potentially improve the Treasure Valley. Rather than question even a single claim made by government officials, Corr chose to act as a mouthpiece by simply parroting the conventional wisdom of current drug policy that has done very little to actually protect and improve our communities. Continue reading
Media sources in Idaho cheerfully announced the arrival of 1,800 new jobs last July when Virginia-based firm Maximus, Inc decided to open a call center in Boise. Aside from a couple threatening notes that caused its building to be evacuated for several hours, Maximus has been out of the spotlight in Idaho. This isn’t particularly surprising, considering Maximus employees are forbidden to speak of the company, even on social media, without permission.
Who is Maximus? Its motto is “Helping Government Serve the People” – which sounds harmless enough until you remember some of the egregious ways the federal government “serves” the people of Idaho. As a government contractor generating over $1 billion in revenue for 2012, Maximus handles the profit side of the increasingly familiar crony capitalist equation. Continue reading
I spotted the above bumper sticker while cycling through Boise’s North End. On its face, it seems rather straightforward: one should be able to vote regarding one’s own health. Well, certainly we should all be able to make our own health decisions if we are mentally capable; that only seems right. But while the message of this sticker might seem to be one of personal empowerment, I would argue that it is exactly the opposite.
“How can this be?” one might ask. Surely a woman is more empowered when she is allowed to vote on her health than when she is not. Would I sooner have some bureaucrat or politician or insurance company make her decisions for her?
But the idea that she is either allowed to vote on her health or else she is not in control of it is a false dichotomy with a rather nefarious assumption: the State ought to be the one fundamentally making the decisions about her health, whether or not she is able to give her opinion on it through the ballot. Ultimately, by advocating her right to vote on it, she is acknowledging the State as the final decision maker, not herself.
This fallacy that “voting = empowerment” is not uncommon. We are taught that “democracy” is synonymous with freedom, political equality, and good government. But should we really think about democracy in this way?
There really is no magic in majorities. In US history, majorities thought it was perfectly fine to enslave human beings. No sensible person, I imagine, would think that a majority voting for such a thing would justify it.
We must conclude, then, that there ought to be some limits to democratic decision making. Most of us do not want what foods we eat, what books we read, the places we go, or the people we associate with decided for us, regardless if a majority makes the decision. So my question is, “Why would we want our health decisions made for us by anyone but ourselves as individuals?” Continue reading
By Lea Johnson
Utah governor Gary Herbert has signed a bill calling for the return of federal lands to the state. Six other Western states could follow suit, and Idaho has a resolution demanding 32 million acres be returned.
Many dispute the efficacy of federal forest management. This August, California was battling the 4th largest fire in its history in Yosemite National Park. In Idaho in 2012, it cost the federal government almost $200 million in fire risk and another almost $300 million in management. The federal government has done less than the minimum to restore trails after fires raged through, yet the main purpose of preserved lands are public recreational use. Should Idaho residents commit their trust, best interests and most importantly safety to federal agencies? How can federal agencies manage raging fires and management services in all states? Why not leave this to the states and their people? Continue reading