Well this is taking its time. At two hours past polls closed, just 117 of 917 precincts are in, and most of those are from eastern Idaho. Not a lot to work with yet in the premier race, the Republican nomination for the 1st congressional district.

Based on early results, the big gubernatorial primary win by C.L. “Butch” Otter looks about on track, at 69% (wouldn’t be surprised to see it bump a little higher as the night goes on). On the Democratic side for lieutenant governor, former congressman Larry La Rocco appears to be piling up a substantial win over Dan Romero – there had been some question about that. The early numbers also seem to suggest a win by Tom Luna for a second Republican nomination for superintendent of public instruction, and – a surprise if it holds, which it may not – a lead by Jana Jones over state Senator Bert Marley on the Democratic side.

And in the 1st? Bill Sali, Keith Johnson and Sheila Sorensen bunched together at the top, with Sali in a narrow lead. Will it hold? The next couple of hours ought to tell the story . . . if the pace picks up . . .

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Toward the beginning of U.S. District Judge William Redden’s decision Tuesday in American Rivers v. NOAA Fisheries, there was a sentence with a striking word in it.

The sentence was, “This opinion addresses the latest in a series of biological opinions issued by the federal government that have ostensibly attempted to stem the decline of threatened and endangered Columbia and Snake River Basin salmon while preserving tribal fishing rights, and protecting the region’s economic and political interest in cheap hydropower, agricultural irrigation, and commercial/recreational fishing.”

Did you catch the “ostensibly”?

Redden’s decisions over the last few years have built a portrait of the judge as a persistent and accelerating critic of federal environmental policies, and an ally of environmental groups (even if, in this decision, he technically gave American Rivers only a partial win). He can’t force congressional policy, and so he remains simply at loggerheads with his critics . . .

Unless, that is, this latest decision upends a key section of the federal-state-Nez Perce Tribe agreement, so carefully worked out over a period of years, in the Snake River Basin Adjudication.

That may not be the case, and for the moment it isn’t – necessarily. For one thing many of the key points were not actually decided but remanded for more evaluation. Redden’s key conclusion read like this: “I conclude that the 2005upperSnakeBiOp is arbitrary and capricious, and invalid under the ESA because it relies on the same flawed comparative jeopardy analysis used in the 2004BiOp for the down-river dams. The 2005upperSnakeBiOp will be
remanded with further instructions to NOAA and BOR to correct its flaws. I conclude that NOAA and BOR may continue to segment the upper Snake water projects from the down-river FCRPS operations in the upcoming consultations during the remand period for both biological opinions.”

The segmentation approach for the river is critical in this; if the river can be amanged only in a unitary way, the Nez Perce agreement may not be managable.

So. The Idaho congressional delegation started their response by saying “Not only does this ruling jeopardize the careful and long collaboration process between the federal, state, and local governments and the Tribes, but it also jeopardizes the potential for a long-term solution.” But it added: “We do note that the judge put the remand of the Upper Snake and Federal Columbia River Power System Biops on the same schedule and agreed they should remain segmented. With these objectives in mind, we will watch very carefully the way that the region responds to the judge’s ruling, particularly with regard to the way the remand order is implemented.”

It doesn’t endanger the SRBA or the Nez Perce agreement yet. But Redden is unlikely to hold much sacred, and you almost start to wonder whether he’s just found the two-by-four that gets the attention of a whole bunch of regional elected officials.

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And so much of it comes down to this. We’ll be right here, of course, well through the evening and tracking the results. We’ll pass on what we have, and analysis of it . . . but we don’t guarantee how far we’ll hang in there into the early ones Wednesday morning. (It could be that kind of election.)

Additional places to check for results info start with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, which had a good and often-updated report in the November 2004 election night. Election night posting at the Idaho Statesman has varied in quality over the years, but you’ll likely want to check it out this time. The freshest TV election returns usually are those of KTVB-TV (Channel 7).

A growing number of counties are doing real-time on-line returns. Ada County has been running them reliably for a couple of cycles. Canyon County, Kootenai County, Bonneville County, Bannock County, Twin Falls County, Nez Perce County, Bingham County, Bonner County (note that it has a pop-up screen), Madison County (note that it’s on a PDF linked to the main page) and Idaho County.

Have fun. And send in your ideas, analysis, thoughts, facts, plaints, whatever, as the night progresses.

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We will be watching to see how the Oregonian responds to the fallout from one of its more striking recent stories – not on politics or even anything very controversial. The story was less broadly significant than the errors in it – if errors they were.

The story was a great read about Mark Provo, a manthematician by inclination (and a sometime teacher professionally) who chucked it all a few years back to live in a motel room at Centralia, Washington, to try to develop a hitherto-elusive proof to a mathematical equation. The story by Tom Hallman was a beauty, a fine read. Problem is that its subject, Provo, says it was riddled with errors, about 30 or so. Which becomes an issue if the reporter involved is a star reporter, a Pulitzer winner, as Hallman is.

The Willamette Week has a piece up about this. Nothing yet in the O. We’ll be watching.

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Just a quick note on the Idaho 1st district race: The endorsements are now in, and may be considered.

We’re aware of three newspaper endorsements in District 1. On the Republican side, State Controller Keith Johnson got those in southern Idaho, at the Boise Idaho Statesman and the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune. Sheila Sorensen got one up north, at the Spokane Spokesman-Review. On the Democratic side, Larry Grant (who is only barely challenged in the primary) got all three.

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Awhole lot of the premises in our society – the concept of a free market, for one among many – stems from the idea of arms’-length negotiation and agreement: Parties with comparable leverage reaching a deal that works for both. In the real, non-theoretical world, such equation of leverage is relatively uncommon, but we’ve gotten away from the tools and procedures that could help compensate.

As a boat against the current, then, consider the foster home parents of Washington state. They have had a group organizaton – the Foster Parents Association of Washington State – since 1973. Now they’re planning to link with the Washington Federation of State Employees, a labor union, to put a little more muscle behind their efforts.

We’ll keep a watch on how this turns out.

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Credit University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer with pulling the plug on the latest cycle of insanity-cum-outrage, a cycle spinning fast courtesy of a small group of UO students on one side, and none other than Bill O’Reilly on the other.

Student Insurgent flagStarts with a group of students who for some years have been publishing something called the Student Insurgent, which proclaims, “We are unaffiliated with any partisan organization. We seek to provide a forum for those working towards a society free from oppression based on class, gender, sexual orientation, race, species,and free from the threat of ecological collapse.” Sounds predictably far-left-wingy, and it is; it seems to be trying to make a point of being farther out there than anyone else. It is funded in part by student fees and has used campus mailing to get a discounted rate, though it is not a student newspaper (that would be the Daily Emerald).

The editors of the Insurgentdecided in their March edition to provoke some thought (thought? or just yelps?) about the recent battle over cartoons in Europe on the subject of Mohammed and Islam; the cartoons published in Eugene would be cartoons of Jesus. Some of them were graphically sexual in nature, were designed to provoke, and to that extent succeeded. Uproar quickly ensued.

The haymaker developed according to its predictable script. Various Christian activists were furious, especially with a public university giving mail discounts to the publication. (William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, remarked, “”The March edition of the Insurgent … was one of the most obscene assaults on Christianity I have ever seen.”) The univeristy reviewed its policy and found that the Insurgent shouldn’t have gotten the rate, and held up the controversial issue at a mailing facility. Letters and requests have gone out to the governor and a constellation of other elected and unelected officials. Some on the left cried foul on grounds of freedom of speech. Some on the right said the university didn’t go nearly far enough –

– and (you’ve probably beaten us to it) that is the point at which Bill O’Reilly got into the picture. (Thanks to Blue Oregon for the pointer to some of what follows.) He invited UO President Frohnmayer on his May 17 program; after he declined, he got two students to do the (predictable) point-counterpoint. After which the host wrapped up, ” “If any publication funded by student dollars endorsed the KKK or Nazism, the university would step in and say it violates the standards of the school. But in this case you can brutalize the image of Jesus and nothing is done. University president Dave Frohnmayer is a coward who needs to be fired.” (It did, of course, get its university priveleges pulled, and it is the students who have the option – and it is their option – to quit funding it.)

If you suspect that O’Reilly’s firing call had something to do with Frohnmayer’s decision not to appear, you’re probably right. Why didn’t he appear? According to the Emerald, the president said he would have had to drive to Portland to get in front of a camera for the show, and “there’s no reason to drive 200 miles to appear on a show that’s entertainment.”

But that he would lead a parade of similar no-shows – on the O’Reilly circuit and through the rest of this circus. Frohnmayer’s simple explanation contained the least spin-per-word in a comment by anyone drawn so far into this rather minor incident . . .

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To read opinion pieces about blogging in newspapers (and see them on the tube), and to read about the MSM (mainstream media, to you dead-tree folks) in many blogs, you’d think a kind of trench warfare between two opposing sides is underway. It isn’t true; the lines have long since been breached.

Blogs have from the beginning relied heavily on other media for news and other items (and we reference them regularly). For their part, newspapers have increasingly been using blog-developed information too. And the key bridge between the sides may actually be the growing number of blogs by newspaper writers, under the aegis of those newspapers.

Our immediate hook for this discussion is the launching (okay, it was last month, but we just spotted it) of a blog in the Olympian newspaper by reporter Adam Wilson. But let’s take a look at the newspaper politics/public affairs blog scene around the Northwest; there’s more here than you might think.

Oregon: The Oregonian has some some modest promotion of regional blogs for some time, but didn’t get seriously into its own until recently. Its politics blog now has become fairly active, and was a highly useful stop on primary election might. Two city beat reporters run a Portland city hall blog, which may not quite replace the old Portland Communique but is still a good stop for the interested. There’s also an editors blog discussing in-paper doings, but it’s only semi-active (two posts in all of April, and just two so far in May). And there are other blogs on sports, schools, entertainment and other matters.

The Salem Statesman-Journal has no reporter blogs per se, but it does have an interesting opinion blog, which which editorial page staff set out a question and invite local comment, and often seem to generate a pile of it. The Roseburg News-Review has Off the Wall, a sort-of-blog of recent news items. Several other papers which don;t have blogs do have reader comment boards (see the McMinnville News-Register for an active example).

Idaho: Not many newspaper blogs in the Gem State, but some are under development. The strongest Idaho newspaper political blogs, in fact, have a Spokane source (see below).

The Twin Falls Times News is developing a batch of blogs, one of them called The City Desk, though the project seems to be in its early stages. The Lewiston Tribune has just started a collection of newsroom blogs by staff, though none of them are public affairs-related, as yet (the arts is a larger focus). Just a bit further along, the Pocatello Idaho State Journal has a Journal Politics blog, but it seems to include mostly reader comments (a lot of pro and con on the president, for example, and not much on the local scene). (No blogging we could find, by the way, at the Boise Idaho Statesman.) None of these blogs yet have more than a limited utility from a political or public affairs point of view, but give them time: They could easily develop into more.

Washington: On the other hand, lots of blogs in Washington.

Longview Daily News blog logoThe single most intriguing bit of newspaper blogging in the region is at one of the smaller daily newspapers. When you get a few moments, pop over to the Longview Daily News and check out their reporter blog. That paper has a reporter, Michael Anderson, who is assigned in large part to running the blog and fostering a community conversation. He seems to have had some success at it, often drawing significant numbers of respondents (well over 100 on one recent day when the big topic of discussion was the upcoming implosion of the Trojan tower across the Columbia).

The Seattle Times only periodically runs blogs, with one substantial exception, Brier Dudley’s blog – and it’s often a good read – on business and tech. The Post-Intelligencer, though, has developed a whole tribe of blogs, several of them public-affairs usedful. One, called Strange Bedfellows, is mostly political, and there’s one on the environment and several on business (including Todd Bishop’s Microsoft Blog, highly useful for anyone tracking the doings at Redmond).

The Tacoma News Tribune has several blogs on its site, one about the paper by its editors (a good one, much more active than its Oregonian counterpart, and often including “What we’re working on for tomorow’s paper”), another looking at on-line developments in the South Sound, and several on sports and features. But nothing specifically public-affairs oriented. The Everett Herald has four blogs, but none on public affairs.

Out East, the Spokane Spokesman-Review is highly active on that front – maybe more so than any other paper in the region. While much of the paper’s content is barricaded behind a paid-subscription wall, its blogs are free access. Three of those have for some time been regular stops for us. The overtly opinionated one is Huckleberries Online by long-time editorial writer Dave Oliveria. His personal views are clearly conservative but Oliveria is no censor; the blog includes loads of local comments of all stripes, and it’s typically a very entertaining read as well as informative about the Inland Empire. Followers of Idaho politics have for several years known reporter Betsy Russell’s Eye on Boise blog is an obligatory visit to keep up with Boise doings. The paper’s Eye on Olympia is a little less consistent but still worth a check. The paper does several other blogs too, but from a news perspective the other must-see is Daily Briefing, a reflective take on the paper’s news coverage.

And lest we forget, there’s now the Olympian with its new State government Blog by Adam Wilson, a reporter at the Olympia paper for a couple of years and before that a political and state reporter for the Lewiston Tribune in Idaho. It’s off to a good start, with regular and substantive posts.

As is media blogging around the region. Check back a year from now, and we’ll bet the equivalent of this post will be twice as long.

UPDATE 5/21/2006 A day after this post, the Seattle Times announced a new blog on politics by its chief political reporter, David Postman, starting operation on Monday. The Times column noting the addition doesn’t say – so we will – that Postman in effect took blogging on a trial splin last year, when he did minute-by-minute updates at various critical points during the battle over the Washington governorship (and compelling reading much of it was, too).

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Given the location of ski resort complexes, you might expect the sort of thing now bedeviling the Schweitzer Mountain ski area near Sandpoint to be a periodic occurence. And maybe over years to come, it will be.

Areas in the mountain turf near Schweitzer have developed some serious geologic problems, cracks in the mountain and landslides – generated at the moment by sudden spring heat – that have virtually wiped out two condo complexes and apparently have rendered a third a hopeless cause.

The damage apparently did not occur on the ski resort’s property, but its managers may have some cause for concern anyway – even if only as a matter of perception. The ski complex, located at a beautiful sites in the mountains above Sandpoint (which is one of Idaho’s prettiest city locales), has been a major draw for the region for some time now. Quite a bit hangs in the balance as specialists re-evaluate the mountain.

Others with comparable interests may want to take note of what happens there next.

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It wasn’t boring. If you’re in the mood for some offbeat TV drama, and you haven’t seen it already, consider this a recommendation to check out the Idaho 1st congressional district Republican debate on streaming video from Idaho Public Television.

For sheer slash and burn, you won’t find much better reality TV. Republican politics does not get blunter – in public – than it did here.

It may have been the single most attack-packed major debates in the Northwest in years; not until its last quarter or so did the action let up. There was little subtle here, and few punches withheld, even from unlikely sources. A prospective voter planning to vote Republican but knowing nothing about the race save the content of the debate must be left with a deeply uneasy feeling. Did the debate produce a winner, or a single loser? It’s hard to imagine. No one stayed entirely above it all; everyone got burned, to some extent or another.

Where to start? Consider this from state Controller Keith Johnson, a smooth candidate with a usually placid surface, in a question addressed to state Representative Bill Sali: “Most of your money, over 80%, has come from out of state interests. I would ask you to explain how you represent the people of the district when you have so little support coming from within the district.”

Sali replied that those out of state supporters backed him because of his stands for lower taxes and smaller government. “I think the people of this district want the same thing as those people,” he said.

Johnson shot back in rebuttal that “the rheotric of lower taxes and smaller government sounds good,” but most of the money comes from a group called Club for Growth, which has other agendas too: supporting the CAFTA trade agreement, opposing C.L. “Butch” Otter in past elections and more. “This is not an organization that supports Idaho and has Idaho’s interests at heart . . . I do not believe that the Club for Growth can be trusted.”

The Club’s international trade stance was the epicenter of the evening for Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez, whose big issue is illegal immigration: “The Club for Growth is in favor of open borders and cheap labor and they have purchased their candidate . . .”

Such limited polling as exists and some degree of conventional wisdom (for whatever that’s worth) generally puts Sali and former state Senator Sheila Sorensen in the lead, and those two were the lead targets – and exchanged shots as well. But there was much more. Attorney Norm Semanko questioned – on the basis of modest campaign fundraising and 1st district votes in 2002 – whether Johnson had the goods to adequately take on a Democrat. Brandt and Sali got into it over a couple of anti-abortion bills in 2004 and this year. Semanko took on Vasquez on his support of Congressman Tom Tancredo, best known for his immigration stances but also a backer of proposals to sell off large amounts of federal lands; Vasquez said he didn’t support the land sale idea. It went on.

Besides all that, several other moments stood out.

  • Asked about the nuclear threat in Iran, Vasquez flatly said he favored a pre-emptive strike – “absolutely. Why would we wait . . .?” Others proposed a more measured approach.
  • Reporter Betsy Russell posed this question: Given that the cost of oil is a function of both supply and demand, and since supply overall is limited, isn’t it time to ask Americans to consume less oil? Rather than grapple with that question seriously, the candidates down the line recited the usual “America has to remove the shackles on its energy production” talking point. Vasquez did, however, have the wit to note that (implicitly as a matter of political mileage) the idea of asking Idahoans to limit their motor vehicle use goes over about as well as the idea of taking away their guns. He had a point: Which suggested none of these candidates were emerging as profiles in courage.
  • Asked whether voters ought to be wary of Republicans at this point, several of the candidates – warily – actually acknowledged some of the concern. Johnson remarked that “it’s important for Republicans to own up to some of the mistakes we have made.” Semanko largely blamed it all on “a national biased media that continually every night pumps down our throats that Republicans are bad and there must be a sea change.” (Which media would that be: Fox news, talk radio, the mega-conglomerates which own nearly all of the mass media, or the same news reporters who pumped George W. Bush and a Republican Congress to such stratospheric levels only a few short years ago?)
  • The most unusual closing statement: Sali’s, which was devoted to political strategy. (In the course of it he quoted, among others, this site as predicting he would win – which it specifically has not, though it has suggested his odds are good.) Sali’s point was that the race was between him and Sorensen, and the others were splinter candidates: “A vote for anyone but Bill Sali will help elect Sheila Sorensen as you r cnext congressman. Please don’t split the vote.” How will people react to that? Unclear.
  • Moderator Marcia Franklin’s comment, near the end, was, “There you have it: Friendly to the end.” She’s a pro: Managed it with something resembling a straight face.

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    Four years have passed since Tom Luna became the only statewide Republican candidate in Idaho to lose in November. His chances for the same office, superintendent of public instruction, look good this time: He has the odds to win the Republican nomination (he was unopposed for it last time), and probably throws the Democratic nominee into presumptive underdog status. All this owes something to early planning, good organization and solid campaign skills, which were not bad in 2002. It seems to owe little to the four years in between, during most of which Luna was a high-ranking official in the U.S. Department of Education.

    Tom LunaThat piece of his track record isn’t ignored, exactly. It’s appropriately referenced on his resume, and mentioned in passing. But it’s hardly the focus and highlight you might expect. In running for the top education job in Idaho, his years on the Nampa School Board really aren’t an especially great recommendation, or his work on some state advisory committees.

    Luna was a Bush Administration official from early in 2003 into 2005, and one online resume lists him as senior advisor to Secretary of Education Rod Paige, director of the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities (2003-04) but primarily, apparently, he was executive director of the U.S. Rural Education Task Force. One might expect Luna to speak at length about these experiences; instead, they tend to get perfunctory mentions. Why?

    Could it be because there’s not much to tell? Or because the telling might make for some uncomfortable juxtapositions?

    Try Googling “U.S. Rural Education Task Force” and the sole return you’ll get is the current Luna resume posted on the Idaho Public Television site, noted above. That’s a little stunning. Try expanding the search, running it in various directions and focusing on the Department of Education, and you’ll not get much more.

    There was work to be done in this area. In one report, the Government Accounting Office concluded that “Rural districts faced some challenges in meeting NCLBA provisions to a greater extent than nonrural districts. For example, rural district officials were more likely than nonrural district officials to report challenges presented by a large enrollment of economically disadvantaged students who may live in communities lacking resources such as libraries. Rural districts also identified small school size and geographic isolation as greatly affecting their ability to implement NCLBA. Rural officials we interviewed said that limited access to teacher training facilities and Internet line maintenance difficulties impeded NCLBA implementation efforts.”

    As director of the task force, Luna evidently attended a number of education meetings and conferences around the country, such as one in Billings in March 2004 and another in Morehead, Kentucky. And he evidently convened at least one conference.

    Apart from speaking at conferences, what was Luna doing in his couple of years in the Bush Administration? Hard to tell; it would be a good question to ask on the campaign trail. It’s been hard to tell even by those following rural education policy. Michael Arnold, a Coloradoan who has done just that, wrote in 2005 in his rural ed blog:

    I’ve heard rumors of a rural education task force but have never seen anything from it. I did a search of the department’s website to get some information.

    First I found mention of it in a Department of Education press release from April 2, 2003. As part of another press conference, Secretary Rod Paige announced the “formation of a high-level task force within the Department to help identify challenges faced by states and school districts and to work with the caucus on finding solutions.”

    Another mention of the rural education task force is on a page from the Office of the Deputy Secretary. It’s essentially the same information but does add that “the efforts of the task force will include the challenges and opportunities facing rural education and the promising prospects made available through the effective use of state-of-the-art technology.”

    The one accomplishment I can find is a virtual town-hall meeting on how rural schools can use technology to meet the requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act. Otherwise it seems that the principle activity of the rural education task force is to ask rural parents, educators and citizens to tell them about the challenges facing rural schools.

    Not finding much information, I contacted the department to find out how I could learn more about the task force’s work. I was referred to the web page from the Office of Deputy Secretary that I had already found.

    It’s been almost two years and the only tangible thing the Rural Education Task Force has accomplished is a virtual town hall meeting. The purpose of a task force is to accomplish a task! What are these guys doing? If you know, send me an email.

    Oddly, the press release Arnold cites here doesn’t mention Luna, but referring mainly to a congressional caucus and adding, “He asked Deputy Secretary Bill Hansen, a native of Idaho, to chair the task force.” (Lunqa was executive director.)

    One thing the task force apparently was not doing was questioning No child Left Behind – that has been a Bush Administration cornerstone since 2001. The reference to the virtual town hall appears in a Government Accounting Office review of the Department of Education’s rural and small-school efforts. (Thanks here too to one of our readers, who pointed this out.) At one point it paraphrases a statement by the Rural Task Force director, presumably Tom Luna:

    Since April 2003, Education has focused more efforts on rural education issues. At that time, Education established a Rural Education Task Force to coordinate and focus rural education efforts within the department and, according to the Executive Director of the task force, to bring together senior level personnel to identify rural issues and solutions. According to the information provided by the Executive Director, the task force has met with the Congressional Rural Caucus and several national education organizations. The task force also organized a virtual town hall meeting, hosted by the Secretary of Education, on how rural communities are using technology to meet the goals of NCLBA. The event was a live webcast to allow school officials from across the country to learn more about how their colleagues are using technology to achieve the goals and meet the requirements of NCLBA. The Executive Director also indicated that the task force contributed to developing the new flexibilities for rural states that addressed some of their challenges, such as those related to qualifications for teachers of multiple subjects. He said he believed that rural states and districts currently had all the flexibilities that they needed to implement NCLBA. [Emphasis added.] The Executive Director added, however, that discussion would continue on whether there is any other work for the taskforce to do in assisting rural states and districts.

    At the Ketucky conference in 2003, “NCLB, Luna said, is based on four principles: accountability, local control of federal education funding, funding what works, and increasing parental choice when schools fail to deliver acceptable results. He cited historical evidence that the kinds of accountability mechanisms in place at state levels tend to shape local educational institutions. . . . Today’s challenge, Luna continued, is to reward high academic achievement and penalize low achievement.”

    The most recent word on the rural task force appears to be this in a press release from the Department of Education, dated December 2005 – some months after Luna had left. (There appear to be no Department of Education press releases on record referring to Luna at all, save for one noting his precence at the Montana conference.) It referred to the task force as an adjunct to a new Center for Rural Education to be based in Arizona: “Beto Gonzalez, acting assistant secretary for the Education Department’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, made the announcement in remarks to a national meeting of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Tucson, Ariz. Gonzalez also chairs the department’s Rural Education Task Force, which met this week in Washington to discuss efforts to promote excellence in rural education through the No Child Left Behind Act.”

    Skip to now, the Luna campaign web site, and an April 23 news item on it, “Luna: The right choice to advocate NCLB changes.” Here’s candidate Luna, mark 2006:

    Everyone talks about the need to fix NCLB. I’m the only candidate who was tasked by the Bush administration to make the law better. As a senior education adviser, I served as executive director of the U.S. Rural Education Taskforce. My job was to identify areas of the law that were not working and to suggest changes. Our taskforce convinced Congress to add more flexibility to the law.

    There is still much to be done. Idaho’s schoolchildren deserve a federal education law that recognizes the differences between schools in Nampa and Rupert, between schools in Riggins and Meridian.

    The next generation of NCLB must be adequately funded and should continue to emphasize accountability, allowing parents everywhere to know how well their children – and their schools – are performing. Parents and school boards should be equipped with the tools to make improvements. Broader local control must be the basis of any law revision. Decisions are best made in our communities, not in Boise or Washington, D.C.

    Finally, school choice must continue to be emphasized. Parents must have options if a school is not meeting their child’s needs. We must not force children to stay in an educational environment were they are not learning.

    The pieces don’t seem to fit together very well. Maybe they can be made to fit, but at the moment Idahoans interested in the direction their state’s education will take in the next few years have some questions to ask.

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    No, not this one – we haven’t and won’t, in any political race. (At least that’s our past and current policy; like all things blog, it could change in future.) But what does it mean to say that a blog has endorsed a candidate?

    The question is a little trickier than it might appear at first.

    Some blogs, like this one, are relatively controlled-access and have some control of viewpoint. You can comment about our posts, and we encourage that, but anyone who says this space has endorsed someone or something because a commenter has, is simply wrong. On the other hand are blogs like Blue Oregon or Red State Northwest which are joint efforts by a number of bloggers; if one of those bloggers urges the election of a specific candidate – as occasionally happens – you still can’t easily say that the blog has done that.

    And there’s a secondary question: What does it mean to endorse? Is writing favorably about the idea of someone’s election enough? Newspaper endorsements are typically clear-cut; they say that “we endorse X for election,” or something clearly similar. On the web, the situation is a little less certain.

    All that preface to a response by the campaign of Keith Johnson, a candidate for the U.S. House in Idaho’s 1st district, to a question posed here about one of its messages. The message said that “2 out of 3 left wing, Idaho bloggers endorsed Robert Vasquez in the Republican primary for Congress. Because he would ensure the Democrats a win in November. The third endorsed Sheila Sorensen. Enough said.”

    So, we asked, who were the bloggers? The campaign responded today, and here are the links:

    The two Vasquez items are linked. The blogger at the new site IdaBlue, remarking on comments in the Idaho Statesman about Republicans worried they might nominate a weak candidate for Congress, had this: “Personally, I think Dems ought to vote for Vasquez. Although he has done well raising money so far, immigration has been a hot issue. There is no guarantee that it will stay hot, and his money could trickle off for the general. Being outside the establishment he won’t be able to raise funds as well as an insider. Also, the racist right probably won’t vote for him. And last, in the event that the R beats Larry Grant, I’d rather be stuck with Vasquez than Sali.”

    Okay, that pretty much qualifies as an endorsement, albeit a backhanded one; it does in any event validate Johnson’s central point. (In a comment here, the proprietor of IdaBlue remarked, “I suppose he could be counting my post . . . It drew a positive comment from a left blogger, and a negative one from a right blogger. But, since I get only about 22 readers a day, it’s unlikely he is aware of my blog.”

    The second endorsement was that comment from a left blogger, under the headline “Vote for Pedro… um, I mean, Vasquez!” It appeared on the active blog 43rd State Blues, and owing to the headline if (to a lesser degree) the content of the post, it probably qualifies technically as an endorsement. An endorsement by the blogger, not necessarily the blog. Still, the two Vasquez items do check out as presented by the Johnson people.

    Johnson’s cite of a third endorsement is more problematic. It appears on a Moscow blog, F-Words, which like the other two is oriented more left than right (subhead is “feminism, food, fact and fiction”). She writes a descriptive bit about Sorensen and about Bill Sali, and ends with this: ” I have to say, if Democrat Larry Grant doesn’t win the election, I would be absolutely mortified if Bill Sali were to be representing my district at a federal level. Sheila Sorenson, I could probably live with. Maybe.”

    Is that an endorsement? Call it a gray area: She says that one candidate is better than another, but stops short of addressing the other four in the race or of urging a vote for anyone; if anything, it could best be read as an endorsement of Grant. But it’s an iffy case.

    So let’s call it two and a half out of three for the Johnson campaign.

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    How far does a government’s responsiblity to warn people extend? Consider the just-decided case of John Osborn, et al., v. Washington before you answer – but first, here are the underlying facts.

    Neither party disputes the tragic facts of this case. Rosenow was a registered sex offender. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to third degree rape of a woman at knifepoint, and in 1999 he pleaded guilty to second degree assault for choking unconscious a former sexual partner. When Rosenow was released from prison in June 2000 he moved to Hoodsport, Mason County.
    The prison preliminarily classified Rosenow a level II sex offender, but Mason
    County reclassified him a level III sex offender.1 Detective Jason Dracobly handled sex offender registration and community notification for the Mason County Sheriff’s Department. Before Rosenow’s release Shannyn Wiseman, a resident of Mason County, contacted Dracobly who said he would post fliers and otherwise notify the community of Rosenow’s presence. Dracobly registered Rosenow and posted a notice identifying him as a sex offender on Mason County’s website, but did not distribute fliers. Wiseman contacted Dracobly again, informing him that Rosenow had followed two minor children, reporting Rosenow’s change of address, and asking whether Dracobly still intended to distribute fliers. Dracobly told her he was too busy to distribute fliers and discouraged her from doing so herself. In December 2000 Rosenow moved from Hoodsport to Shelton. But on February 24, 2001, he returned to Hoodsport where he raped and murdered Osborn.
    Osborn’s parents sued Mason County for failing to warn them of Rosenow’s
    presence. Mason County moved for summary judgment, arguing that the sex
    offender statute then in effect, former RCW 4.24.550 (1998), imposed no
    duty to warn and conferred immunity from liability for failure to warn and
    moreover no duty to warn existed under the public duty doctrine.

    Washington courtsHow far should Mason County have gone in warning these people? No easy answer: The courts disagreed.

    The lower courts held for the plaintiffs, saying that Mason County had an obligiation to more extensively warn. The Washington Supreme Court, however, had a different take: “Assuredly, Mason County has a “duty” to protect its citizens in a colloquial sense, but it does not have a legal duty to prevent every foreseeable injury.” And they quoted a California decision which advised, “Notification to the public at large of the release of each offender who has a history of violence and who has made a generalized threat at some time during incarceration or while under supervision would, in our view, produce a cacophony of warnings that by reason of their sheer volume would add little to the effective protection of the public.”

    We owe it to ourselves, in other words, to pay reasonable attention. Voters might take heed of that counsel, too.

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    Last week we e-mailed the Keith Johnson congressional campaign with a question. We haven’t gotten a response to it yet. If we get one, we’ll post it, but for the moment – what the with the Idaho primary election scant days away – we thought we should note the inquiry here.

    Johnson’s web site includes several clever “enough said” videos. One of them says this: “2 out of 3 left wing, Idaho bloggers endorsed Robert Vasquez in the Republican primary for Congress. Because he would ensure the Democrats a win in November. The third endorsed Sheila Sorensen. Enough said.”

    Well, not quite: Who exactly were the three “left wing, Idaho bloggers”? Or was the campaign just trying to make a satirical point, while stating it in the form of a flat, factual allegation?

    Is it possible that Johnson’s statement is true? Maybe . . . but we monitor the Northwest blogosphere fairly closely, and can’t come up with a single “left wing” blogger endorsing either Vasquez or Sorensen. (Several of them have effectively endorsed Larry Grant, the leading Democrat in the race.) So who exactly are these bloggers? – we’d be interested to know. Or are we to be left with the speculation they don’t exist outside the Johnson campaign?

    UPDATE (5/18/06) The Johnson campaign has responded with three blog links. See the more recent post “A blog endorses” (above) for discussion.

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    There will be more as the weeks roll out, but enough numbers are in and crunchable to sketch a few preliminary notes about the contours of the just-ended Oregon gubernatorial primary, and the larger shapes and sizes it suggests.

    Maybe the point most noted about the election, other than the actual results, was the low turnout, apparently the lowest for a primary in Oregon for decades. (The exact number of ballots and party designations on them aren’t available yet, and we’ll revisit this when they are.) A note here: The numbers for 2006 that follow are neither final nor official, but they do seem close enough to final for the statistical uses we make of them here.

    The low turnout rate might have been accounted for in part by voting not keeping up with population increase. But no: The actual numbers of voters dropped. A question: Did more of that falloff occur on the Republican or Democratic side?

    To judge from the votes cast for governor, the one major office up for grabs Tuesday, the falloff seemed almost perfectly split. Take the number of voters in the 2002 Republican primary for governor (332,575), compare to the 2006 combined votes (285,457), and you get 85.8% of the vote in ’06 compared to with ’02. Run the Democratic numbers for 2002 (354,284) and 2006 (303,350) and you get 85.6% – remarkably, almost exactly the same. If the decline in vote had to do with disinterest, which seems plausible but isn’t easily provable, the malaise must have crossed party lines. Or maybe (just as plausibly) each side had its own set of issues.

    This primary offers other points of comparison too with 2002, since four of the six main candidates in the primary ran in both elections.

    On the Democratic side, for all the storm and stress of the primary, remarkably little actually changed. Ted Kulongoski, who won both years, lost about 5,000 votes this year from his 170,799 in 2002 – hitting about 96.6% of his earlier total. His chief rival both years, Jim Hill, fell short of the earlier total too; his comparable mark was 96.4%. It was as if four years hadn’t happened and that just fewer people mailed in their ballots. You get the feeling that Kulongoski neither gained nor lost many supporters since his first election.

    The situation among the Republicans was more complex, reflected first in the fact that the party chose different nominees in the two elections. Consider this (again, note that the ’06 figures are not final, but should be reasonably close):

    candidate 2002 2004 difference
    Saxton 93,484 120,319 +26,835
    Mannix 117,194 85,671 -31,523
    Atkinson na 64,556 na
    Roberts 98,008 na na

    Two numbers most obviously jump out: the gain by Saxton and the loss by Mannix. But look at the whole chart and ask yourself: Where did those Saxton numbers come from, and where did Mannix’ go? And beyond that: Where did the Atkinson votes come from, and where did Roberts’ votes go in 2006?

    Recall that the 2002 race was structured (in common discourse) as two moderates, Saxton and Jack Roberts, against one conservative, Mannix. The initial take on this year’s election was the reverse: two conservatives, Mannix and Atkinson, against one moderate, Saxton. Except that this year especially, the candidates didn’t color within the lines. Much of Saxton’s tone was deeply conservative (even if, as he argued, his positions hadn’t much changed), and he had the money to put that tone across in advertising.

    Still, you have to suspect that the absence of someone like Roberts sent a batch of relatively moderate votes in Saxton’s direction; even if less than a third of them travelled that route, it would be enough to account for the Saxton vote pickup. (That’s leaving aside issues like Mannix’ losing electoral track record and campaign finance headlines.)

    Consider this question too: In a falloff of overall Republican gubernatorial votes of about 47,000, whose voters – Saxton’s, Mannix’ or Roberts’ – probably contributed most to the non-voting sector in 2006? You have to suspect Roberts was the big contributor to that group, meaning Saxton’s pickup in the centrist Republican sector was less than overwhelming.

    But where did Mannix’ own votes from 2002 – he lost 31,523 of them – go? You have to look at Atkinson as a probable absorber of many of them, finding in the southern Oregon senator a fresh face with indisputable conservative cred. Consider, for example, the counties Atkinson won. One of those was his home Jackson County (which Saxton took in 2002), but the other two – Josephine and Wallowa – were home to substantial Mannix wins in 2002.

    The Tuesday election seems to be getting some initial play – on account of Saxton’s win – as representing an important shift in Oregon politics. Some of these initial numbers suggest: Don’t be hasty in jumping to that conclusion. The changes may be less substantive than they first appear.

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