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Spring 1999, Volume 16.3

Reading The West

read-ing (from ME reden, to explain, hence to read) - vt. 1 to get the meaning of; 2 to understand the nature, significance, or thinking of; 3 to interpret or understand; 4 to apply oneself to, study.

Tribal Success

Since the mid 1970s, the United States government has been encouraging the Indian nations to determine their own future. This does not suggest that Congress and the courts have given them the powers they need to become self determining, but there are instances of remarkable progress. Stephen Cornell and Joseph P Kalt note challenges and successes:

The economic development situation in Indian country presents a puzzle. Most people think of Indian reservations as poor, and many of them are. The facts are sobering. Across Indian country, we find astonishingly high unemployment rates, average household incomes well below the poverty level, extensive dependency on welfare and other transfer payments, and high indices of ill health and other indicators of poverty.

As striking as the degree of poverty, however, are the exceptions to this pattern. Some are well known: In particular, a relative handful of tribes have generated enormous revenues in the niche gaming market and have attracted commensurate media attention as a result. Less well known, but much more intriguing, are those tribes that have broken from the prevailing pattern without depending on gaming as their primary revenue stream or source of employment. Consider the following examples:

bulletThe Mississippi Choctaws are one of the largest employers in the state of Mississippi. Several thousand non-Indians migrate onto the reservation every day to work in the Choctaws' manufacturing, service, and public sector enterprises. The Choctaws are importing labor because there aren't enough Choctaws to fill all the jobs they've created. Choctaw unemployment has fallen dramatically.
bulletThe White Mountain Apaches'forest products, skiing, recreation, and other enterprises have made it the economic anchor of the economy of east-central Arizona. Towns there look to the Apaches as the motor force that pulls them through the winter and as a major player in the regional economy. Their timber operation is one of the most productive in the western United States, regularly outperforming private operators like Weyerhauser.
bulletIn Montana, the Salish and Kootenai tribes of the Flathead Reservation have built a successful private sector economy based on tourism, agriculture, and retail services. Unemployment on the Flathead Reservation is often lower than in the rest of rural Montana. The tribal college now gets non-Indian applicants who want the quality of education the Flatheads provide.
bulletAt Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico, effective unemployment is close to single digits - one of the lowest rates among western reservations - thanks to the tribe's ability to employ in tribally owned enterprises most of their own people who want on-reservation jobs.
SOURCE: American Indian Culture and Research Journal 22:3, pp. 189,190.


Congress Moves West And South

U.S. Population continues to move west and south. Using 1998 Census Bureau estimates, Mark Mather predicts the following gains and losses in congressional seats:

Arizona +2
Texas +2
Montana +1
Nevada +1
California +1
Georgia +1
Florida +1
Oklahoma -1
Wisconsin -1
Mississippi -1
Ohio -1
Connecticut -1
Pennsylvania -2
New York -2
SOURCE: Population Today, February 1999


The Great Tobacco Money Rush

In 1994, state attorney generals across the nation began a concerted effort to sue U.S. tobacco companies to recover health care costs incurred by the states in the treatment of patients with smoking-related illness. In November 1998, an agreement was reached which will pay more than $360 billion dollars to the 41 states involved in the suit.

In return for the money received, states agree to drop any other pending suits and not pursue future suits on any grounds-fraud, anti-trust, health, or other reasons. The agreement does not specify how the states have to spend their share of the settlement—it can go for health care, highways, education or political junckets—whatever each state legislature decides.

Over a 25 year period (2000 to 2025) western states are predicted to obtain the following amounts:

State $millions
Alaska 669
Arizona 2,888
California 25,007
Colorado 2,686
Hawaii 1,179
Idaho 712
Kansas 1,633
Montana 832
Nebraska 1,166
Nevada 1,195
New Mexico 1,168
North Dakota 717
Oklahoma 2,030
Oregon 2,248
South Dakota 684
Utah 872
Washington 4,023
Wyoming 487
SOURCE: State Legislatures, February 1999


Lawyers Ethnics

The ethics of all professionals are questioned from time to time, but lawyers seem to bear the brunt of it. A quick web search using "lawyer, ethics, and honesty" reveals mostly sites with anti-lawyer jokes (e.g.,"Diogenes goes searching for an honest lawyer. After a few years one of his friends asks him 'how's it going?' 'Not bad,' says Digoenes, 'I've still got my lantern."')

C.M. Steve Aron, a practicing lawyer in Laramie, Wyoming, has proposed a simple statement of ethical expectations that seems adaptable to professionals in all areas. His proposal:

A lawyer shall be honest and respectful to the courts, and a lawyer's personal interests shall be subordinated to the interests of the client.

…Does a one-sentence theory answer every question and resolve every ethical problem? Of course not. A simplified theory is not a codification, governing all facets of professional conduct. The theory does not replace the Model Rules. The Model Rules answer conventional questions; they set the standard for those many situations which appear and reappear in the practice of law. The purpose of stating a simple, unified theory is to give coherence to the Model Rules and make them understandable. When ethical issues become muddled, a unified theory provides guidance and reminds a disoriented lawyer that there is a foundation; that is, even when there is erosion at the edges, the center is holding.

SOURCE: Land and Water Law Review, XXXIV, 1999, P. 137


Not on The Recommended List Of Tent Camping Sites

The delays in opening the WIPP [Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for the disposal of transuranic nuclear waste] have caused Rocky Flats to begin assessing alternative storage options at the site. Without a place to store the waste from the ongoing cleanup effort at Rocky Flats, work would need to come to a halt. To remedy this situation, officials at Rocky Flats have approved a short term fix by opening several new waste storage locations in some of the no-longer-used buildings and also in some of the tents used in the past to store other waste forms.

SOURCE: Rocky Flats Citizens Advisory Board Newsletter, March 1999


The Meters Are Running

Term limits on state legislators have come into effect in California, Colorado and the Oregon House. Currently eighteen states have enacted limits to legislative service, I I of which are in the West. Mark Katches summarizes some of the changes brought about by the California law:

Term limits have brought a younger and more diverse group of lawmakers to the Capitol. There are now more women and Latinos than ever before. Women make up 25 percent of the legislature, up from 17.5 percent in 1990. Latino representation has risen to 19 percent, up from 6 percent. Latinos now hold both party leader posts in the assembly.

Naturally, there is more turnover. Forty freshmen lawmakers took their seats in December-one-third of the Legislature. Back in 1990, only 14 new members arrived on the scene.... The changes are most evident in the Senate, which had always been a sort of exclusive club. Back in 1990, the Senate was made up mostly of white male incumbents, some of whom had been around so long they were almost as old as the Capitol museum pieces. Now there are twice as many women and more than twice as many Hispanics.... The average age has dropped from 59 to 52.

SOURCE: State Legislatures, February 1999


Western Legislative Term Limits

Impact Impact
State Limit Year Limit Year
California 6 1996 8 1998
Colorado 8 1998 8 1998
Oregon 6 1998 8 2002
South Dakota 8 2000 8 2000
Montana 8 2000 8 2000
Arizona 8 2000 8 2000
Idaho 8 2004 8 2004
Oklahoma 12 2004 12 2004
Utah 12 2006 12 2006
Wyoming 12 2006 12 2006
Nevada     12 2008 12 2008

NOTE: "Impact Year" represents the first year in which incumbents serving when term limits passed will no longer be eligible for reelection. Eastern states with term limits are Maine, Arkansas, Michigan, Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and Louisiana.

SOURCE: National Conference of State Legislatures


Doctor-Assisted Suicide

The February 1999 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine contained a special report on the effect of Oregon's 18-month-old physician-assisted suicide law. The study tracked the treatment and results of all 23 patients who received "lethal medications" in 1998 under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. The act legalizes doctor-assisted suicide.

The study compared patients treated under the act with a control group of people who died from similar illnesses, but did not receive prescribed lethal medication. The following results are noted in the abstract of the Journal article:

Results: Information on 23 persons who received prescriptions for lethal medications was reported to the Oregon Health Division; 15 died after taking the lethal medications, 6 died from underlying illnesses, and 2 were alive as of January 1, 1999. The median age of the 15 patients who died after taking lethal medications was 69 years; 8 were male, and all 15 were white. Thirteen of the 15 patients had cancer. The case patients and controls were similar with regard to sex, race, urban or rural residence, level of education, health insurance coverage, and hospice enrollment. No case patients or control patients expressed concern about the financial impact of their illness. One case patient and 15 control patients expressed concern about inadequate control of pain. The case patients were more likely than the control patients to have never married and were more likely to be concerned about loss of autonomy due to illness and loss of control of bodily functions. At death, 21 percent of the case patients and 84 percent of the control patients were completely disabled.

Conclusions: During the first year of legalized physician-assisted suicide in Oregon, the decision to request and use a prescription for lethal medication was associated with concern about loss of autonomy or control of bodily functions, not with fear of intractable pain or concern about financial loss. In addition, we found that the choice of physician assisted suicide was not associated with level of education or health insurance coverage.


Forty-Year-Olds, The New Minority

In a recent Fortune Magazine article, Nina Munk notes a discouraging trend-large corporations have begun to replace 40 year olds with younger and less expensive employees. As one of her many evidences of such behavior, Ms. Munk notes:

At [Santa Clara, California based] Westech Career Expos, the nation's biggest technology-related job fairs, the registration form asks attendees to indicate their .professional minority status." One option is "Over 40." ("Until I filled out that form, I never knew I was a minority," remarked a 43-year-old white male attendee at a Westech expo.)



Why Western Ends Won't Meet

The joke is told of a political rally where the incumbent points to the nation's economy and boasts how thousands of new jobs have been created. "I believe you, about all those new jobs," retorts a disgruntled listener. "I'm workin' three of 'em myself."

A recent study by the Northwest Policy Center and Northwest Federation of Community Organizations suggests that in the western states, the joke may be a reality. In Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and by extrapolation other western states, about half of the available jobs do not pay sufficient wages to support a single adult, and the situation is even worse if the single adult has children. Among the findings in the report:

bulletThe Northwest economy is not creating enough living wage jobs for all those who need them.... there were more working age households than living wage jobs in every Northwest state in 1996.
bulletAbout 40 percent of all jobs in the Northwest pay less than a living wage for a single adult and about 75 percent pay less than a living wage for a single adult with two children.
bulletThere are also more people looking for work than there are job openings that pay a living wage.... For each job opening that pays at least the living wage for a single adult, there are on average four to six job seekers, depending on the state. For each job opening that pays at least the living wage for a single adult with two children, there are on average 10 to 17 job seekers.

chart shows the number of working age households compared with the number of jobs that pay a living wage for a single adult and two children ing 1996.  Idaho, 331,100 households versus 110,620 jobs.  Montana had 265,960 households versus 65,467 jobs.  Oregon had 1,011,690 households versus 300,461 jobs.  Washington had 1,790,760 households versus 511,059 jobs.
SOURCE: "Northwest job Gap Study," Northwest Policy Center, January 1999.


Western Migrations

The river of immigrants flowing to America and the West has changed its headwaters. From 1820 to 1996, the top five countries of origin for US. immigrants were Germany, Mexico, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. From 1981 to 1996, the top five countries of origin were Mexico, the Philippines, Vietnam, China, and the Dominican Republic.

Presently, California (35%) and Texas (8%) provide a home for almost half of all U.S. legal permanent residents, The following table shows the chief western cities chosen by 1996 immigrants together with the percentage of all 915,900 immigrants admitted that year:

City Destination of Immigrants

Destination City Number Pet
Los Angeles/Long Beach 65,285 7.0%
Houston 21,387 2.3
San Diego 18,226 2.0
San Francisco 18,171 2.0
Orange County 17,580 1.9
Dallas 15,915 1.7
Oakland 15,759 1.7
San Jose 13,854 1.5
Seattle/Bellvue/Everett 10,429 1.1
Riverside/San Bernardino 10,314 1.1
El Paso   8,701 0.8
SOURCE: United States Immigration and Naturalization Service


Climbing The West…

Anyone who doubts that rock climbing has become intensely popular in the West only needs to drive through any park or mountainous area to discover scores of otherwise sensible people dangling from ropes or clinging tenaciously to precipitous rock faces. To put climbing in perspective, Weber Studies asked Dr. Mikel Vause, the Director of the Honors Program at Weber State University, to identify the ten most significant climbs in the West Mikel's writings have appeared in Climbing, The Climbing Art, The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, Popular Culture Review, Weber Studies and many others. He is working on a biographical study of British mountaineer, Christian Bonington. The following is his response:

I was asked to put together a list of the "Ten Best Climbs in the Western United States." "Simple," I thought. I'll just call a few climbers and get their opinions. So I picked up the phone and started calling folks like Tom Frost, Yosemite big wall climber and equipment designer, Ted Wilson, former mayor of Salt Lake City and Teton climbing ranger, George Lowe, physicist and hard core mountaineer, Doug Robinson, professional mountain guide, Steve Rope, climbing historian, Michael P Cohen, climber, and writer of natural history, and there were others. Needless to say, I found little consensus-what was to the big wall climber numero uno, was not to the mountaineer, so I complied my own list and it's no longer the "Ten Best Climbs nor is it the "Ten Hardest Climbs etc. It is simply "Ten Climbs I figure that with a title like that I can list about any ten climbs and not have to put up with letters, e-mails, or phone calls taking issue with my list because the list is now relative to the individual compiling it and that individual is me. I can therefore make my own rules and cite the climbs I choose.

I need to put into place one more hedge. This list is, by no means, intended to be a ranking, but simply a list compiled after years of reading climbing history and literature, thus, in the words of the poet, "uniting my avocation and vocation." I also fully recognize that this project could and most likely would change if undertaken on another day.

1. DENALI (commonly called Mount McKinley in honor of the 25' President of the United States). The highest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet was first climbed June 6, 1912, by Stuck, Karsten, Harper, and Tatum. The first all female ascent came in 1970 by Blum, Young, Isherwood, Kerr, and Clark.

2. HALF DOME CLEAN. This 1973 climb done by Doug Robinson, Galen Rowell and Dennis Hennek was the first . clean" ascent of a big wall, meaning it was done without the use of piton or expansion bolts, and ushered in an era of environmentally friendly climbing ethics.

3. GRAND TETON, (The Owen-Spaulding Route). First ascent August 11, 1898, by William Owen, Franklin Spaulding, Frank Peterson, and John Shiva. The OwenSpaulding route is a "classic" and still a very popular route.

4. MOUNT WHITNEY. The highest mountain in the contiguous states was first discovered in July of 1864 by Clarence King and Dick Cotter of the U.S. Geological Survey and was named for the Survey leader Josiah Whitney. It was first climbed by King in 1873.

5. EL CAPITAN (The Nose). The Nose Route is considered by mountaineers world-wide as the classic big wall. Three-thousand feet of Yosemite granite rising above the famous Yosemite Camp 4 was, for many years, considered impossible. Using siege tactics over the summer of 1957 and into the fall of 1958, Warren Harding, Rich Calderwood, George Whitman, and Wayne Merry made the first ascent.

6. LONGS PEAK (The Diamond). Long considered unclimable, the Diamond face on Longs Peak was first climbed in 1960 by Yosemite veterans Dave Rearick and Bob Kamps. To many Colorado climbers Rearick and Kamps were interlopers, and the fact they were successful on the Diamond was the cause for considerable resentment.

7. MOUNT RAINIER (Liberty Ridge). A classic mountaineering route was established by a team led by Ome Daibler in late September of 1935 with the first ascent of the Liberty Ridge on Mount Rainier. Daibler's route on Liberty Ridge was not repeated until 1957 and is still considered to be a very serious endeavorfor the most ardent mountaineers.

8. GRAND TETON (North Ridge). The first ascent of what many climbers call a North American Classic was completed on July 19, 1931, by Teton legends Robert Underhill and Fritiof Fryxell. This route averages 63 degrees for over 1200 feet.

9. SHIPROCK. October 1939 saw a strong team of Sierra Club climbers make the first ascent of the magnificient New Mexican rock formation called Shiprock. The team consisted of David Brower, Bestor Robinson, Raffi Bedayn, and John Dyer.

10. TITAN. Located in Castle Valley, east of Moab, Utah, Titan is a sandstone pillar rising 650 feet above the high desert. It was first climbed in 1962 by Layton Kor, George Hurley and Huntley Ingalls, helping usher in a strong interest in "soft rock" climbing.


Canyon Gridlock

Seventy percent of boat trips down the Grand Canyon are conducted by commercial outfitters. Individuals wishing to boat the canyon on their own have more than rapids to run. Alan S. Kesselheim, writing in the High Country News, describes how difficult it is for a private group to obtain a permit to explore the Grand Canyon by boat.

If you get on the list today, and if nothing changes, you'll wait about 18 years foryour chance. Atthe end of that long stint, if you aren't in a retirement home, the Park Service requests a prioritized list of your 15 preferred launch dates, which are granted in the order of permit number. Unless you are very near the top of the pile, getting one of your top dates is unlikely. But you take what you get, or you don't go. By that time, the bureaucracy will have squeezed $750 from you in permit fees alone - $100 to get on board, another $200 when you get the permit, and $25 each year for the required "continuing interest" payment. That's before you've dropped a dime into food, equipment, travel, or the substantial park impact fees, starting with a $4/person/night camping charge. Daunting indeed.

Source: High Country News at


Cartooning The West

Mike Keefe has been the editorial cartoonist for the Denver Post since 1975. Nationally syndicated, his prize-winning cartoons appear in over 200 newspapers across the country. He was a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University and is past President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. A former US Marine and college math teacher, he plays guitar and harp for a rock and blues band. He lives with his wife, two children, a dog, a parakeet, several deceased tropical fish, and 73 harmonicas in Evergreen, Colorado. More of his cartoons can be seen at http://

[Click to enlarge.]

political cartoon by Mike Keefe shows two sheriffs, one an elephant, one a donkey, arguing over how to untie a maiden in distress (labeled medicare) from the tracks as the train bears down upon her.  A second cartoon shows a man preparing to launch star wars junior, declaring that the budget surplus was just sitting there.


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