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Posts published in December 2006

Books from the year, or thereabouts

Abit off-topic for this Northwest site, but not by too much: Herewith, a quick review of 10 books we read over the last year (all of these published in 2006, or shortly before) which gave us useful insight in a number of areas . . . including the great Northwest.

Even though only one of these books was explicitly about the region.

To be clear, we're not suggesting this as any kind of "10 best" list (and we'll list them in alpabetical order by author). Some are national sellers, but most are lesser known, and one a relatively obscure regional academic books. Just two are specifically "Northwest" books. But all of them have, in their various ways, fresh and useful ideas and information useful to anyone trying to better understand politics and society. They are all highly useful. And between them, they suggest some of the many ways books can help us understand our neighbors as well as people who live somewhat further away.

The only descriptive word we can think of that all have in common is, "provocative" - they will make you think. At least, they made us think.


On reflection, a Merry Christmas

Wreaths on church

If the traffic and consumption madness of the days before Christmas has a positive side, it would be the time of rest and reflection many do take in the day or two that follows. This year, perhaps more than most, we seem to have come to a light pause, in the Northwest and beyond, and this seems a good time for reflection.

Most everyone around the Puget Sound can, at last, turn on working electric lights and ensure their houses will be heated again. The storm of the 14th whacked the region hard, the Seattle area harder than any, and to greater and lesser degrees people suffered from it. The path back was longer than most anyone expected, and the discussion of how to shorten that path in future has now to begin. But for the moment we have, most of us, recovery.

The last few weeks have been helpful to others as well.

The Oregonian's David Reinhard posted a fine column today on the apparent settlement of the Portland Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic church with plaintiffs suing it over sexual abuse cases. Without diminishing the seriousness of those charges, Reinhard also got on the ground about the effects the suits have had:


The lever of Pierce

In Oregon, Washington County, in Washington, to a great dergee, Pierce County - electorally a crucial pivot when things get tight, a county tilting either way, and sometimes providing enough votes to make the difference. (Ask Dave Reichert.)

Pierce CountyPierce is also one of those counties electing a county executive, a partisan position which can generate enough sway to affect the county's tilt. The Moderate Washingtonian has a useful post on this, along with some of the early contours of the race to replace current Executive John Ladenburg (Democrat), who in 2008 will be term-limited.

His way

One of the ponderables - toward the beginning - of the short Idaho governorship of Jim Risch was, to what extent was he simply doing his own thing and to what extent was he coordinating with probable future governor and fellow Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter?

Jim RischRisch made a number of major appointments early on, for example; were these run past Otter, so that they would not be short-timers? Risch and his staff put considerable work into developing a governor's budget proposal; to what extent was he doing something Otter would be willing to submit?

We now have at least partial answers, and the upshot seems to be: Risch was mostly out there on his own. Otter's few comments about the Risch budget seemed a little dismissive - no particular optimism about his support for it. And early on, he dismissed several Risch appointees (Vaughn Killeen at Corrections, Carolyn Terteling-Payne at human resources, for two) and a large batch of Risch re-appointees he could have unseated months ago.

That's not to suggest the Risch and Otter people did not communicate, but it does suggest Risch was very much doing what he wanted to do, irrespective of what Otter would do later on.


Wanted for Christmas: A new set of labels

One of the things our politics badly, desperately, needs is a new way of describing our philosophical differences. The ye olde left-right formulation was creaky even when it made some relative sense a half-century ago; it has become simply moronic in the years since.

Put under intense political pressure in the last decade, the "left" seems to be making some moves toward coming up with redefinitions - which would fill what has been a vacuum that has allowed the "right" to do the job for it these many years. The need for redefinition of the "right" may be even more imperative; the leaders of that movement daily violate what are commonly described as its core values as a matter of basic principle.

The case may be made clearest when we move away from the two major political parties.

The Constitution Party of Oregon generally gets defined as - and probably they would not argue - a party of the right, "very conservative." You could plausibly imagine that means it is a lot like the "conservative" Republican Party, only more so.

But then you would have to explain the CPO's intense opposition - as strong as if not stronger than that of any wing of the Democratic Party - to American military action in Iraq. The party's vice chair recnetly had a confrontation with state police over one anti-war protest, and the party will be holding an anti-war rally tomorrow. (Nor is any of this a new development.)

You'd also have to explain away something perhaps even more startling: Its picketing of the new Wal-Mart at Grants Pass.

"Their concern is that purchasing those goods is detrimental to the security and prosperity of the United States, as well as exploiting Chinese workers," party officials said in an e-mail. "Those who participate will be holding bright yellow signs reading: 'Boycott Wal-Mart made-in-China products' and 'Chinese slave so you can save' In a play on Wal-Mart's price roll back smiley faces, the signs feature a sad, slant-eyed face, reminding us of the misery we are causing to exploited labor in China."

Both actions fit the party's program, which is loosely held to be "of the right." Perhaps Karl Rove can explain it all for us.

Face of things to come

In his Bremerton Beat blog, Steven Gardner equably suggests: Look and decide for yourself.

The context: Democratic state Representative William "Ike" Eickmeyer was challenged this year by Republican Randy Neatherlin. Eickmeyer wound up winning in the Kitsap-Mason County based district with 60.9%. Near the end of the campaign, Washington State Democrats mailed a flyer with a picture of Neatherlin that looked a lot like the Republican's official portrait photo. But not exactly alike.

Watch Gardner's video and gauge your reaction.

Our reaction: The brows were shifted down, giving Neatherlin an almost demonic look.

The upcoming photoshopping of candidates? Don't be surprised.

And look for something else we've not seen before: Analysis by way of YouTube, which Gardner did here quite effectively.

(And a hat tip here to the pointer, from David Postman's Seattle Times blog. Which pre-empted the logical headline: "Low brow campaigning in Kitsap County?")

You’ve got a gun; are you armed?

Just because it sounds simple - like common sense - doesn't mean it stands clear as law. Lawmakers in the three Northwest states (elsewhere too, for that matter) would well spend a day, as they prepare for their January sessions fast approaching, reviewing recent Supreme Court cases in their states, to consider how the law gets interpreted, or must sometimes be expanded upon to make sense.

It would be a humbling experience.

Here's one good example from the just-released Washington v. Sheldon Dwight Easterlin, that efficiently lays out a case involving a conviction on a drug conviction "enhanced" because the arrestee was armed. But it was not a simple equation: When, exactly, did he become armed?

Here's the Court on the question:


The local O – scaling back

Have you seen any reference to this anywhere: The Oregonian, which for ages could be had at home delivery virtually all over Oregon, no longer be available on the morning doorstep outside the home area?

OregonianWe can't recall a news story on this, or even anything on the blogs. But the Oregonian web circulation section now notes: "Home delivery area includes the following counties: Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill, North Marion (Aurora, Woodburn and Donald), Columbia (Scappoose and St. Helens), and Clark County, WA."

Our correspondent who advised us of this (a hat tip here), notes, "I've been predicting this, only it's more sweeping that I was expecting. I was figuring the O would just cut off Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon, continuing to serve the northern and central coast, Central Oregon and the Willamette Valley down as far as Eugene."

This really is a change, basic to the paper's historic role in the state. The Oregonian has been one of the few truly statewide newspapers left in the West, one of the few with genuine statewide reach. But no longer.

Sumner’s replacement

About the transition of the Oregon House seat in district 18, from newly re-elected Mac Sumner to someone else, three quick observations.

Mac Sumnerbullet As we know now, his departure is for ongoing treatment for lung cancer, a condition he clearly has known about for quite a few months and didn't disclose to the voters. [UPDATE/AMENDMENT]: On reflecting and after considering a comment - see comment 1 below - this is too harsh and too pointed at the candidate; Sumner didn't hide his condition. But word of it was not widely spread, and several people and news organizations should have better informed the voters.]

bullet The Salem Statesman Journal reports that the nominees offered by local Republicans to take Sumner's place are Mike Shrock of Aurora, Ken Iverson of Woodburn, Vic Gilliam of Silverton, Victor Hoffer of Mount Angel and Jeff Faville of Salem. We have no particular take on what the Marion and Clackamas County commissioners may do in picking among them, as they are supposed to do by December 27. (A curiosity: Tootie Smith, who once held this House seat, was earlier said to be interested but not listed in among the nominated five.)

We will suggest the most interesting of these prospects may be Hoffer, who has had some visbility as a candidate before. In the Blue Oregon review of the prospects, state labor director Dan Gardner weighs in with a recollection: "Victor Hoffer ran against me in 2000 for Labor Commissioner He is the nicest opponent I ever had. I used to call him Mr full service He is a lawyer and an ambulance driver."

bullet Finally: Isn't this system for replacing legislators - by way of county commissioners - just a little clunky? Doesn't it give odd imbalances in cases of districts where one or more counties have only a precinct or two of participation, but commissioners get a heavy say in the decision?