Archive for March, 2007

Mar 24 2007

The notable exceptions

Published by under Oregon

Portland peace demonstration
Portland peace demonstration

Doesn’t take but a few people to miscast the larger number. In Idaho, the Aryan Nations never attracted but a handful of members, yet the entire state wound up besmirched by it. And so, apparently, with last weekend’s peace march in Portland.

We follow up here because our report from last Sunday, when we watched the demonstration, reported nothing of the incidents now making the rounds on (mainly conservative) cable talk shows. What we saw seemed almost institutional.

Several linked to this description from an editorial in the Portland Tribune: “This splinter group of protesters showed its support for “peace” by burning a U.S. soldier in effigy. It exhibited its supposedly pacifist nature by knocking a police officer off his bike — an action that brought out the police riot squad. Perhaps the most disturbing scene of the afternoon, however, involved the man who pulled down his pants in front of women and children and defecated on a burning U.S. flag.”

Not defensible (we’re disgusted by this, just to be clear), and hardly anyone has tried to defend it. It has also provided ammunition for flame-throwers from the right; Michelle Malkin, for example, snapped: “A few fringe actors? Not.”

She’s wrong: We were there, and while we don’t particularly doubt the accurate reporting of the incidents (we’d be interested in seeing more substantiation, though, than we have so far), they were sufficiently isolated and small in scale that we saw nothing like them in a half hour-plus of watching the march from a variety of angles. Out of somewhere in excess of 10,000 people involved, the objectionable actions came on the part of between a dozen and two dozen people.

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Mar 23 2007

Matters of control and capability

Published by under Idaho

Here are three disparate pieces of Idaho legislation, all House measures, that between them say something about the way Idaho legislators look at government and at themselves. Two are law; the third is awaiting action by the governor (and that action might go either way).

The first, House Bill 54, fixes a law that falls into the category of something that might have made sense a century ago but these days is a train wreck coming. It bars agencies issuing drivers licenses from giving them any who is a “habitual drunkard” or “addicted to the use of narcotic drugs”.

Wisely enough, the state transportation department proposed striking the language because, it noted, “If left unchanged, the statute creates a concern about Department liability for acts of such persons. The Department has no way of identifying these persons.” Never really did, of course, but in these days when the only time you’ll probably ever see your license issuer is at the counter, less than ever. It is, obviously, a law that hasn’t been enforced – hasn’t been followed by the state – for decades at least, if ever.

Which leads you to wonder about whether the law to be fixed by House Bill 126 was followed either.

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Mar 22 2007

In the base

Published by under Oregon

Jeff Kropf
Jeff Kropf

The post headline is striking enough, coming as it does from Portland conservative talk show host and former Republican legislators Jeff Kropf: “Listeners: Bushs incompetence makes him a horrible President.” The headline does not mislead.

Last weekend, Kropf decided to ask his mainly conservative listeners what they think of President George W. Bush. Here’s what Kropf writes about the results:

“First, surprisingly I learned that most callers, emailers and quick poll respondents would feel better about supporting our efforts in Iraq if they saw progress and believed that there was a reachable goal that was articulated by this President. Even though I have always supported the effort in Iraq, it has been increasingly clear that Bush and his advisors are incompetent in the ‘politics of perception.’ Secondly, in response to Sunday’s quick poll question, I learned that most of our audience believes that Bush is a horrible President (66%). While unscientific, it is significant once you realize that 70% of our show’s audience is conservative to moderate politically. This tells me that Bush is in big trouble with the public’s perception of his Presidency as a whole.”

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Mar 22 2007

By the numbers

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

NW population changes
Top NW counties for gaining population (green) and losing population (tan)

Census estimate releases are always good cause for some spreadsheet runs, and since the mid-2006 census estimates by county came out today, we decided to take a regional overview. (Stories about the state views are in most newspapers; if you know of anyone else doing a northwest-wide view, let us know.)

The region’s 119 counties are a varied lot, from King’s estimated 1,826,732 people (still many more than live in all of Idaho, and nearly half of Oregon’s total population) down to Idaho’s Clark (not to be confused with Washington’s Clark) with 920 people, now the only county in the region under 1,000 people.

All of the most populous counties in the region have been growing. In percentage since 2000, the fastest growing has been Washington’s Clark, at 18.8% since 2000 (adding 53,694 people since then, more than any regional county but King, which added 71,401).

Idaho’s Ada County, now at 359,035 people, grew fastest among big counties in the last year, but since 2000 ranks sixth for total population added (46,127), behind five counties all larger in population regionally (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Clark in Washington, and Washington County in Oregon).

To find mass runaway growth among Northwest counties, skip a little further down the list. Canyon County (Nampa-Caldwell), Idaho, the 17th most populous, grew by about 30.2% the first six years of this decade, and Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond), Oregon, ranking 19th, by about 27.9%.

In fact, of the top 19 counties for raw number addition, all have estimated populations of 130,000 or more, except one surprise: Franklin County, Washington (its county seat is Pasco), which added 15,707 of its estimated current 66,570 people in the last six years. The Tri-Cities should be getting a lot more attention as a growth spot; its larger neighbor Benton County (now at 159,463; the biggest city is Kennewick) added 15,707 people during the period too.

But the fastest percentage growth county in the region over the last year is not one of the largest, and one few outside southwest Idaho might have guessed: Valley County, the McCall-Donnelly-Cascade area, adding about a 1,000 people its small cohort, driven largely by the growth around the Tamarack ski area. (It was followed by Franklin County, Washington, and then Deschutes.)

This isn’t a rural vs. urban thing – or even broadly geographical. On the map, see how the big population gainers and losers often jostle next door to each other.

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Mar 21 2007

Cattails at Terrebonne

Published by under Oregon

Oregon Blue Book coverThe covers of the Oregon Blue Books have for many years featured breathtaking photography often originating from some of the unlikeliest places. There are maybe few more striking cases than in the picture gracing the Blue Book released today, from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

We’ve been to Terrebonne, which is located in the high desert near Bend, and we’ve never considered it one of the great beauty spots of Oregon. Goes to show that you can find beauty in all sorts of places if you look for it – or maybe have some inside knowledge. Jim Gardner, who won this year’s contest among photographers for the cover photo, shot “Cattails at Sunset Over Teal Lake” at Ranch at the Canyons, a preserve he operates near Terrebonne. He knew what to look for.

(Re the other states: Idaho’s blue book features a blue cover with the state seal design but no photo or other image. There is, alas, no Washington blue book.)

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Mar 21 2007

Cloning at Simplot

Published by under Idaho

No particular comment on this, yet at least, but we do think it should be noted that Idaho turns out to be a leader in animal cloning not only at the University of Idaho (where one of its leading researchers recently left) but also at the Boise-based J.R. Simplot Company.

cowA recent Business Week article focusing on Scott Simplot, now the chair of the company, points out how he is promoting cloning as a core part of the Simplot cattle-related business. The business already has at its operations the offspring of cloned cattle.

From the article: “This is the beginning of a grand experiment at the Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., a producer of food, fertilizer, and livestock that was founded by Scott’s father in 1923 and has become one of the largest privately owned companies in the U.S. Simplot is one of the first large beef-producing companies anywhere to clone cattle and then breed them on a commercial scale. Neither clones nor their offspring are in the food distribution system now. But if the Food & Drug Administration gives its approval as expected, Simplot plans to bring beef from the offspring of clones to market by next year. No other company has been nearly as aggressive in the controversial effort to clone animals for supermarket shelves.”

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Mar 21 2007

Chat time

Published by under website

Tonight once again, our regular Wednesday chat is on for 6 pm Pacific, 7 pm Mountain, accessible off this page. (Scroll down to the right to the “nickname” box, enter your name, click the button, and you’re in.) It lasts about an hour; feel free to jump in or out any time.

So far we’ve had enjoyable discussions with an eclectic group of people. Greg Smith, a co-founder, should be back on board this evening. Along with, well, who knows who.

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Mar 20 2007

The Edwards beachhead

Published by under Oregon

John Edwards
John Edwards

Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney were the first major presidential candidates to pick up top-line state support in the Northwest; now former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is becoming the first to do it among Democrats.

Edwards’ regional beachhead is in Oregon, and his collection of backers in-state is impressive – more impressive than a short thumbnail sketch may suggest. There are, after all, no statewide elected officials or members of Congress among them. But then, most of those titled people tend to hang back, not to commit until they see the lay of the land beyond the horizon, which hasn’t been periscoped well as yet.

(Our presidential support page listings are updated to reflect the Oregon changes.)

The people Edwards has brought in have some sweeping implications, and no few numbers of Oregon Democrats will recognize that. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will have a hard time matching this crew, at least until or if one or both puts Edwards away.

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Mar 20 2007

Age and perception

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

We’ve long thought that much of what makes legislatures potentially powerfully useful – we’re talking potential here, not always reality – is the number of varied viewpoints that can be brought to bear in the process of legislating. Not simply the fact that we have a hundred or so people rather than two or three: If that crowd thinks alike, then they may as well be two or three, or one.

(We explored that a bit recently on a personal level. Your scribe was asked to join the board of a local arts organization, and agreed, partly on grounds that his background would be distinctive from most other members, and therefore possibly useful in bringing fresh perspective to the table. One hopes.)

That point cuts a variety of ways, but today’s post has to do with age: Of these hundred or so people in a state legislature (10 less in Oregon, five more in Idaho, 47 more in Washington), how varied is the experience these people bring to the game? Thanks to an analysis by the Scripps Howard newspapers, we have statistics to examine. (The take of that effort focused on the arrival of the baby-boomers; our look here is more cross-generational.) Based on those numbers, here’s a chart of the birth-years of the legislators in several states, with percentages of membership noted.

State 1906-24 1925-45 1946-64 1965-83
Idaho 5 55 39 2
Oregon 0 30 62 9
Washington 1 38 52 10
Montana 1 32 57 10
Utah 3 27 63 7
California 3 33 58 6
Nevada 3 27 58 12
Texas 1 28 60 11
Florida 0 24 59 17
New York 3 30 60 7
Ohio 1 19 62 18

.
The first thing we should note is that, when all ages are factored in, Idaho’s legislature is on average the oldest in the country, while Oregon’s and Washington’s are relatively unremarkable middlings.

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Mar 19 2007

The Latvian family values envoy, or not

Published by under Washington

When you get a few moments free and feel like reading something really weird, try this post from this Seattle Stranger‘s Slog.

It has to do with Ken Hutcherson, pastor at the Antioch Bible Church and active in the culture wars on the anti-gay side. He says that he holds the White House-provided title of Special Envoy for Adoptions, Family Values, Religious Freedom, and Medical Relief, and that he recently visited the nation of Latvia, where he bestowed his views on proper family values. The White House says it has given him no title and hasn’t coordinated or talked with him about Latvia.

And then it gets a lot more complex.

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Mar 19 2007

Protecting and diminishing speech

Published by under Oregon,Washington

This latest outrage should be, and may well be, struck down by a court. For now, it stands as the latest example of how far trademark and copyright issues are being pushed, and the risk to all our freedom that they entail.

Moonray logoMoonstruck logoConsider the two logos you see here – one for the Moonray Espresso shop in the small, and somewhat remote, town of Duvall, Washington; the other for Moonstruck Chocolates, a chocolate company based in Portland which has developed “chocolate cafes” there and in California and Illinois, none yet in Washington state. Its shops sell coffee, too, as a sideline.

That geographic distance and industry distinction hasn’t stopped Moonstruck from taking legal action against Moonray, the allegation being an infringement on its trademark. Moonstruck is much the larger business, and Moonray’s owners express concern they could be driven out of business by legal costs. It’s not an idle concern.

The Seattle Times reports that “residents are circulating petitions, gathering donations and spreading the word through blogs. Bellevue alternative band AltSpeak performed at Moonray on Friday and will donate proceeds to the legal expenses. Guitarist and singer Iggy Faus said the band did it ‘as a matter of principle’ to support a small-business owner.”

It’s a matter of principle, all right. The small, remote coffee shop, which uses a name and logo only distantly remnant of the much bigger chocolate shop’s, poses no realistic threat to the Portland business. The Duvall community, on the other hand, may soon see one of its key meeting places crushed out, likely because an attorney somewhere in a Portland high-rise thought a client needed to aggressively “protect its interests.” It seems, from here, to be an over-aggressive protection.

Not many people think, yet, about trademark law reform. But as these cases proliferate, and they have, they should start thinking about it, else our ability to use half the words in the English language and half of our visual symbology is lost to legal clients who have the financial clout to seize the right to use it exclusively, and forever.

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Mar 18 2007

Costs across the border

Published by under Oregon

The high cost of growth isn’t always local and immediate. Sometimes it gets shifted over to the neighbor.

Take the case of three new resort developments – called Remington Ranch, Brasada Ranch and Hidden Canyon – planned for central Oregon’s Crook County. (Two are on the drawing boards, while construction is underway on the third.) Between them, they’d account for 4,550 houses and upwards of 1,000 “over-night units,” all in relatively remote desert high country.

This raises a number of issues, one of which is addressed in today’s Bend Bulletin, which looks at transportation concerns – not in Crook County, but in Deschutes County (Bend and Redmond), to the west:

“With all of those people potentially flying in and out of Redmond Airport and coming to Redmond for some of their shopping, city officials are worried that their roads won’t be able to handle the traffic and that they’ll have no way to pay for improvements.”

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Mar 18 2007

This year’s protest

Published by under Oregon,Washington

War protesters in downtown Portland
War protesters in downtown Portland

The Sunday war protest march in downtown Portland, one of many around the country, was energetic – it took its time getting started, but once it did the marchers moved briskly – though, seemingly, not especially massive.

Willamette Week reported a few days back that organizers “expect a turnout of up to 30,000 people at a downtown march planned for this Sunday, March 18, compared to an estimated 10,000 people who turned out for last year’s third-anniversary rally.” Seemed less than that, in our observation, though because of its location, stretched to odd shapes in the downtown blocks, we may not have seen them all, either. (Later estimates put the number at 10,000, which seemed closer.)

The organization was solid enough, though, and the highly visible police presence seemed to help keep things in order. They had some prominent speakers, including U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer. And the attitude, as you might expect, was all there.

Reports from Seattle, Tacoma (about 400 marchers there) and elsewhere suggest this type of scene was not unusual. The emotion may still be there, but the war has gone on long enough that the protests of it seem to be becoming institutionalized.

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Mar 17 2007

Protection of some interests

Published by under Idaho

It has been a few years, but we have in the past signed non-compete agreements, one employment-based preliminary to a short stint in television news, one of the places where such contracts are commmonplace. So we were a bit confused at first by the sudden emergence and somewhat surprising Senate floor defeat (narrowly, 16-18) of Senate Bill 1203, which on its face provides a specific state policy supporting the use of such contracts.

The catch is that non-competes are and have been enforceable as contracts; the headlines about the bill providing for their enforceability seemed a little off-kilter. What exactly did this bill do that caused such concern?

File this under one of those cases where a little research into the law helps with clarity.

As a core matter, non-competes are clearly a reasonable device in some business environments. In television news, for example, a station may spent a great deal of money and other effort promoting some of its on-air personnel, a real investment in that employee. If the employee walked out from station A one day and turned up that evening on station B, there’s no question station A would have been damaged; you could almost consider that its investment was stolen. (We wouldn’t go quite that far but we would understand the principle.) And in a variety of other businesses, comparable cases could be fairly developed.

But there are limits. To say that a person leaving an employer cannot practice his profession for an unduly long time, for example, is simply punitive – it turns the employee into a reasonably-paid indentured servant.

Like most other states, Idaho long has allowed legally for non-competes; also like many other states, the courts have been moving toward balancing the interests of employers and employees in deciding the validity of non-competes. The core purpose of 1203, which was proposed by the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, is to end that balance and swing the weight down solidly on the employers’ side.

To read SB 1203 reasonably, you need to look back at a 2001 Idaho Supreme Court case.

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Mar 16 2007

The cow that is a cow

Published by under Idaho

We expressed somewhat similar thoughts 9though less fully developed) a while back about the mega-luxury box development at Bronco Stadium, but Quane Kenyon’s take on the subject, a guest opinion in today’s Idaho Statesman, should not be missed.

Kenyon is retired from a career at the Associated Press in Boise, so he knows something of how state government works. This is one of the most pungent and incisive pieces on what talks and what walks in Boise these days, that we’ve seen in a while.

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Mar 15 2007

Not Hooley either (or is it either?)

Published by under Oregon

Darlene Hooley
Darlene Hooley

Tis a little striking how steadily the leading Oregon Democrats keep taking themselves specifically out of contention for the U.S. Senate next year, to challenge Republican Senator Gordon Smith. But as well, we’re starting to notice the trap doors alongside the hitherto flat demurrals.

Representative Darlene Hooley (5th district) is the latest to say that nope, she won’t do it. (The item shows up on the Oregonian‘s political blog.) And in her case, that seems to be that. She hadn’t really been expected to run, or thought likely to, partly given her improved status in the House.

That point also evidently has been influencing decisions by the other three Oregon House members. One of those three, David Wu (1st district), similarly opted out, with no further discussion since. But the Oregonian piece intriguingly adds (from his spokesman), “if that opportunity were to present itself, he would definitely consider it.” Which is more than he seemed to before.

Peter DeFazio (4th district), likewise has said in clear terms that he wouldn’t run, but we’re perceiving a slight crack in the door, based partly on some chatter in DC and partly on the qualification in his spokesman’s statement that he “has not changed his position on running at this time” [emphasis added].

Finally, Earl Blumenauer (3rd district) has never committed himself one way or the other, beyond saying that he isn’t ready to say anything yet, other than (in the Oregonian piece) saying the Democrats would likely have a candidacy rolling by Labor Day (more than five months off).

Okay: Odds are none of them run. But we do start to run if some serious discussions are quietly underway in the cloakrooms . . .

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Mar 15 2007

Clear Channel to Peak

Published by under Idaho

It may be a ripple in the corporate context of Clear Channel, but it’s a big deal in radio Idaho: Selloff of a half-dozen Boise radio channels, including some of the leading stations, to Peak Broadcasting of Fresno, California.

The most notable of the stations from a public point of view may be KIDO-AM, which has been home for much of the local talk radio in the Boise area (and beyond). Others include KCIX-FM (hot adult contemporary), KSAS-FM (contemporary hits), KFXD-AM and KTMY-FM (country) and KXLT-FM (adult contemporary).

Peak is a much smaller outfit, and new, and private (with prospective more flexibility in its options); the Boise stations are only its second substantial buy, the first being a smaller group of stations at Fresno. The deal becomes final in April.

The good folks at the Idaho Radio blog have been discussing this, and the prospect of it, for several days. A number of useful points emerge from the extensive comments you’ll find there.

One is the reason for the selloff – “The sale is part of Clear Channel’s ongoing effort to take the company private. The company announced it would shed all radio clusters outside the top 100 markets – with Boise being the largest group up for sale.” Clear enough.

There was much debate over the stations may change, if at all. Unresolved, for now.

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