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Posts published in April 2007

Chat is on

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.

Race and schools, II

Discussion over race and schools, and the Seattle School District's formal declaration that racism is institutionalized there, continues on - probably a good thing, since accusations that racism sprouts in every corner (like most broad accusations of the sort) flourish too easily when out of sight.

At Crosscut, Knute Berger's Crosscut column sided with the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat on the point (see our post below on Westneat's take): "The school district does have problems with racism, just like the rest of American society. But it also has a problem with a kind of institutional political correctness that sees racism at the bottom of everything — and this feeds a culture of aggrievement. It's at the point where everything in the schools is seen as racist. Two-tiered learning is racist. The Washington Assessment of Student Learning is racist. Closing schools is racist. Recess is racist. Summer vacation is racist. Even white charity to raise money and help fund enhanced programs is racist. No teacher, parent, or staff member, it seems, is ever accused of having good intentions, such as a simple desire to do the best for children in a flawed world."

Elsewhere, Berger follows up on a news item initially observed by Sound Politics, that the Seattle School District this year is sending high school students to a Colorado conference on "white privilege." The district cites this from the description of the conference: "The annual White Privilege Conference (WPC) serves as a yearly opportunity to examine and explore difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy and oppression." Along with the "negative historical implications of 'Whiteness.'"

(Do they have any idea how close in tenor this sounds like a reverse-image come-on to an Aryan Nations get-together?)

Just getting along together - you know, as in citizenship - is sure going to be easier after the kids return from that one.

Making the numbers fit

The Idaho Supreme Court's annual report on court activity over the last year (actually, with a year-end that stopped in 2006) is mostly unremarkable, except for a few numbers we're at some loss to reconcile.

From the report:

A total of 20,992 cases were filed in the district courts of Idaho, an increase of 1.5% from 2005. The total number of district court cases in 2006 indicates a 26% increase in filings from ten years ago. A total of 471,478 cases were filed before magistrate judges in 2006, a 4.1% increase from 2005.

Felony DUI cases increased by 26% over the number filed in 2005. Misdemeanor DUI filings were up 14.7% from the last year. Overall, the number of juvenile cases rose to 13,669, a 5.2% increase from the previous year. Showing a steady decline for the fourth-consecutive year, the number of domestic violence petitions filed in 2006 dropped 8.6% from those filed in 2005.

From 2005 to 2006, district court cases overall increased 1.5% - which seems about right for a single year - but felony DUIs (which would be heard in district court) were up 26%. That's an enormous jump for a single year. But at the same time domestic violence petitions, which so often show up somewhere in the neighborhood of alcohol abuse, were down.

Thoughts on this will be welcome.

By any other name

Does it matter whether Washington or Oregon pass laws allowing, for gay couples, to enter into "marriage" as opposed to "civil unions" as opposed to "domestic partnerships"?

We'll leave the question debatable but note the issue. The Oregon House Rules Committee seemed to think it significant enough to change the original name of the proposed legal took - "civil union" - to "domestic partnership." This to create an institution, whichever it is called, with many of the characteristics of marriage, but which cannot be called that either, since the state's voters amended the constitution in 2004 to bar same-sex marriage.

The issue may be moot in Idaho, where voters banned not only same-sex marriage but also anything resembling it. Washington and Oregon are different stories, as is California, where a more sweeping measure is being debated today. The Washington House may vote on its domestic partnership bill, Senate Bill 5336, today (likely passing it; it passed the Senate 28-19). California's, like Washington's, is called a "domestic partnership" provision.

Both of those states use that phrase as a descriptor. Oregon's bill, House Bill 2007 (odd we've seen no big references to the bill number), started out with "civil union." But the House Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rules changed the terminology to "domestic partnership" before agreeing 5-2 to kick it out to the House floor. The change had the support of one of its key backers, Representative Tina Kotek, D-Portland.


Trend lines: Governor/Senate

Among the arguments posed for why Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith might be vulnerable is the changing political climate in Oregon. If he's genuinely vulnerable - as we think he is, albeit no pushover - then something would have to be different this time around. Some thing major, especially since he doesn't even have a major-party opponent yet.

A number of things are different; here we'll get into one angle of one of them, that being the changing political climate in Oregon.

That change is a large topic we'll return to periodically. For now, let's re-examine one of the markers of change since 2002, when Smith last was elected. And by itself, it suggests not a Smith death-knell but certainly cause for concern. That is the election results in the gubernatorial races in 2002 and 2006.



What with the lines between politics, culture and other societal elements blurring in recent years, we were immediately intrigued by the name of a blog we just spotted: A Seattleite in Idaho.

It is run, it turns out, by a graduate student now at Idaho State University, and who happens to be Mormon. The perspective is sometimes striking. Worth a look.

Race, schools and lowering walls

integrationDealing usefully, productively, with matters of school and race seem to be areas where thoughtfulness, gentility and an assumption that everyone involved is of good will - even if, in fact, not everyone necessarily is - are near absolute requirements. There's almost not such a thing as a single objective reality, since the view changes significantly if your stance alters just a little.

But scaling back emotion does seem to be generally useful, which may help in finding the sometimes obscure line between problem-solving and obsession, and in finding out what the problem is. Removing that last from the realm of the subjective to reasonably objective is tough work.

There are problems to be solved. The Oregonian pointed to one last week in the Portland schools: "One in four African American middle school students was suspended or expelled from Portland Public Schools last year. One in 14 white middle schoolers was suspended or expelled during the same period, records show."

This statistic - the story goes on to develop it in some detail - more than indicates the existence of a problem. But what is that problem? Is it teachers and administrators more inclined to discipline black students than others? Is it not such an inclination, but a greater difficulty in communication? Could it have to do with the social or economic conditions in parts of the city where many of the black students live? (The story does note, "Rates of discipline are disproportionate no matter whether a student attends a low-income Portland school or a wealthy one.") Is there a cultural consideration? Or something else?

No immediate answers here, just a suggestion that the school district start looking into - as it apparently has begun to do - why the disparity exists, and why it's so great. Defining the problem isn't easy.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat discovered that too, when his column a week ago declared that the Seattle School District is obsessed with the subject of race.


Minority report

When you're in an overwhelmed minority, "they" don't have to listen to you. Idaho Democrats can swap a few stories with the Washington legislative Republicans - for the first time in quite a while in not just the minority, but a swamped minority - about what it's like.

The Spokesman-Review's Richard Roesler has pulled together a batch of quotes and observations about the situation, mostly from a meeting with statehouse reporters; it's well worth a read.

Best quote - from House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, adapted he said from an observation made by a Democrat: "It's like the guards and the prisoners...The guards make the rules and sometimes the prisoners get frustrated. But it's still the guards are in charge."

The Northwest’s turn

Ford and Carter
Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter at a 1976 debate

The applications are in: Sites in Portland/Vancouver and in Spokane have been proposed as locations for the 2008 presidential (and presumably vice presidential) debates. So what are the odds one of them will be selected?

There's no knowing with any certainty, of course; and, of course, we've not done a thorough site-analysis to determine exactly how well the specific venues would fit the unusual and specific needs of a presidential debate. The two locals are Washington State University at Spokane (no, not at the mother ship at Pullman), and the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (at a Portland-area site, possibly Clark College at Vancouver).

The other 17 applicants: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; Belmont University, Nashville, TN; Centre College, Danville, KY; Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, Indiana; Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; Indiana University and the City of Bloomington's Convention and Visitors Bureau; Ohio State University, National Public Radio, and Public Broadcasting Service, Columbus, OH; State of Illinois (Lakeside Center/McCormick Place, Chicago); University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR; University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, OH; University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL; University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS; VisitPittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC; Washington University in St. Louis, MO; Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT; Women of the Storm, New Orleans, LA.

Statistically, 19 organizations around the country applied to host what may be four (possibly three) presidential/vice presidential faceoffs. So on its face, the odds of a Northwest debate might be between one in two and one in three.

We would suggest that on a regional basis at least, it's past time to give the Northwest a shot. The Northwest, after all, is the one region of the country that never has hosted a televised presidential debate.


Disaster flick

There'll be a lot more of these coming up for web use in the years ahead: A visualization from the Washington Department of Transportation of what may happen if something or other is or isn't done. In this case: A visualization of what may happen on the high-use Highway 520 bridge (connecting Seattle with east King County) if it isn't fixed.

Okay: It didn't rattle us from our seats. But were we daily riders on the 520, maybe it would . . .