Writings and observations

Much of what we routinely see as the downside of the wired world – spam and the like – is nuisance but manageable. Not all on line threats are so easy to deal with.

That’s the point made by Aaron Turner, a cybersecurity strategist for the Idaho National Laboratories, which has plenty to keep secure. Writing in CSO Magazine (a trade publication for security people), he says about his local experience:

“The Departments of Energy and Homeland Security have funded 12 separate control system security reviews, during which Idaho National Labs (INL) experts have found that all of the evaluated systems suffer from high-impact security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a low-skill-level attacker, using techniques that do not require physical access to systems. In reviewing the design and implementation of these control systems, the INL team discovered that in currently deployed systems, enhanced security controls cannot easily be implemented while still assuring basic system functionality.”

And: “With computer attackers constantly looking for new targets, they will follow the path of least resistance, which could lead them to the control systems that underlie our infrastructure.”

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Idaho

Minidoka Internment Camp

Minidoka internment camp/National Park Service

You could call it the final indignity, if it come to pass. Which it may, cattle feedlot applications in the Magic Valley having the pull they have. But maybe not.

The location of this issue is the Hunt area north of Eden, Idaho, which is east of Jerome, near the middle of the Magic Valley. This is where, during World War II, a camp was built to house Americans of Japanese ancestry, citizens who were uprooted from their homes and packed off to the desert. It now is the site of the Minidoka Internment National Monument, a memorial to one of the sadder incidents in our national life, and an invitation to think more wisely in the future.

So going there would be a good thing for Americans to do. But Big Sky Farms LLP is proposing to launch a powerful disincentive to visitors: A cattle feed lot which would service more than 13,000 head of cattle. That many head of cattle will create smell, and the smell is almost certain to drift regularly across the mile and a half separating the feed lot and the memorial.

Other neighbors have issue with the feed lot, too. (Is there anyone who would want one across the street?) But the memorial ought to have a special call here: A national facility intended to redress with some dignity a wrong done to some of the people of this country, possibly being done in – as a tourist attraction – by cow excrement. We’ll check back on this.

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Oregon statehouseCompared to a lot of jobs, there aren’t many strict requirements for state legislators. There are a lot of things any legislator worth respecting should do, from attending regularly floor and committee sessions to working with constituents and researching legislation at hand. But, item by item, not many of these things are absolutely required, at least not all the time. Meetings can be missed (and, since conflicts develop, sometimes have to be). No lawmaker can become expert on all legislation. On most of these things, you’re talking matters of degree.

In the Oregon Legislature, one of the few things the rules say you must do, if you are a legislator, is this: If you are on the floor and a vote is called, you have to vote.

We (along with others) noted just a few days ago a case of a legislator who opted not to vote. The bill in question concerned a cigarette tax increase, and the legislator who said from the floor, “Mr. Speaker, I am not going to vote on this issue,” was Representative John Lim, R-Gresham. Speaker Jeff Merkley advised him that he had to vote; Lim said he would vote later. Which, according to the rules, he also wasn’t allowed to do.

Merkley seems to have had time to think this over, and now he has a proposal. The Salem Statesman-Journal‘s legislative blog is reporting that Merkley is proposing an amendment in House rules to impose a $5,000 fine on any legislator who refuses to vote when on the House floor. “At that rate, lawmakers would plow through their entire salary after four violations,” the blog noted.

You wouldn’t think this would be necessary. Evidently, however.

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Spokane

Spokane

We exalt the praises of local-owned media, especially newspapers, but today’s shout from the Washington News Council is a reminder that this, too, has its problems. Of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and its coverage of the locally controversial River Park Square redevelopment project, it concluded among other things:

“The newspaper did not investigate thoroughly in a timely manner and report promptly and forthrightly the financial structure of RPS. The newspaper suppressed financial information of importance to decision-makers and the public at-large, but potentially unfavorable to developers. . . . Ownership’s involvement in news stories it deemed sensitive was inappropriate. . . . The Spokesman-Review suffers from the potential for self-censorship of the news product by reporters and editors. . . . The same attorney simultaneously influenced decisions on related business and newsroom matters.”

And yes, those conclusions reflect the tenor of the findings: Damning, essentially. And not softened by the fact that the Council’s inquiry had been sought, and partly paid for, by the newspaper itself. The many critics in town who thought the paper blew the story of one of the biggest downtown development squabbles in the region are sure to trumpet vindication.

The River Park Square history is too twisted and complex to recount fully here. (There’s a good summary at the opening of the Council’s report.) Briefly, it centers on a large-scale plan to redevelopment downtown Spokane, a proposal centering on the River Park Square area. The Square, along with other sizable chunks of downtown, was owned by the Cowles family; the Spokesman-Review was owned by it too.

In 1994 a reporter happened on information about development plans at River Park. Between her writing of the story and when it appeared in the paper, it was heavily rewritten by the paper’s editor on request of a Cowles family associate. The Council report noted, “Over the next decade, the RPS redevelopment touched off a torrent of controversy in Spokane, spawning nearly two dozen lawsuits and an IRS investigation. It tore apart the city’s political structure and pulled down its bond rating. The Spokesman-Review’s coverage of RPS raised questions about the paper’s editorial judgment, ethics, and impartiality that persist today.”

It argued, “What Spokesman-Review readers did not get were many details about the project’s intricate financial underpinnings that the developer and Spokane’s city officials were quietly cobbling together.” And: “If there is a moral to this RPS story, it is that the publisher-editor relationship got in the way of the public interest in the reporting of a sequence of events of great importance to Spokane’s citizens.”

A strongly-recommended read.

Editor Steve Smith (who arrived at the paper after most of the River Park Square developments had occurred), and who proposed the Council investigation, had this to say: “The council’s findings are troubling, and in my view, they illuminate as nothing else has done why some in our community questioned our RPS coverage and why that story so wounded our credibility. In an accompanying column on these pages, Publisher Stacey Cowles says he rejects the report’s findings of interference, direct or indirect. I can appreciate his viewpoint, though we come at the situation from different perspectives. Furthermore, I appreciate the freedom he extends me to draw differing conclusions. So,in the newsroom, we accept the findings. And we sincerely apologize for not adequately living up to our journalistic standards.” His comments are worth a good view, too.

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Washington

liquorIs the purchase of liquor something that can’t be planned for? We long have scoffed at the laws that ban some liquor sales on election day – would people really be unable to buy their stock prior to, and get sloshed on election day regardless? Well, maybe.

Just as Idaho’s largest county (Ada) is preparing to join about half of the state’s other counties in allowing liquor store sales on Sundays, the other two Northwest states are reviewing their own experience, and finding an apparently enlarged marketplace. You might suspect that allowing Sunday sales would do little to sell more liquor – knowing the stores are closed on Sundays, wouldn’t you just buy ahead on Saturday? But evidently not everything is thinking ahead to do that.

The Seattle Times is reporting today on the Washington experience since, two years ago, the state opened liquor sales on Sundays. The business has, it turns out, grown tremendously. When the change occurred, state officials were figuring sales might increase by close to $10 million a year as a result; our thought at the time was that they were being a little optimistic. Turns out not: According to the Times, “Instead, Sunday sales have exceeded projections by nearly 60 percent and now the State Liquor Control Board expects $15.1 million will be collected on Sundays during the current biennium, which ends June 30.”

That’s no aberration. Oregon allowed some Sunday sales about three years ago, and sales overall have risen variously between 9.2% and 19.6%. Pennsylvania, which took similar action about the same time, reported a similar experience.

Maybe, some things you just can’t plan for.

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Idaho Oregon Washington

There is on Blue Oregon a developing and lively counterpoint argument about House Bill 3540, which sends to the voters a proposed revision of the Measure 37 initiative passed in 2004. 3540 was passed in the Oregon House on Friday on a party-line 31-24 vote; it is next expected to easily passed in the Senate.

We weighed on this a few days ago (“An absolute decision”), arguing that there’s no violation of voter will in this approach: If the voters like what they did in 2004 and don’t want to change it, they can reject the new proposal. The new measure is different from Measure 37, substantially so, which led one pro-37 commenter to argue: “As long as we get it straight that 100% of Democrats are against the 61% of Oregon voters who passed it. I wonder if our newspapers will be making this clear during the campaign process? Or ever?”

That would have been a reasonable argument if the Oregon Legislature had directly passed a law (as they could have done) simply overturning Measure 37 and imposing a new regime instead. But that’s not what they did. The majority, argument (with some reason) that many voters would like to change what they did, will give them the chance. The voters can make their own decision – again.

That all the negative votes came from the Republican caucus (and five Republican House members chose not to vote on the bill at all) may be the most interesting part of Friday’s action.

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Oregon

Horse’s Ass blogger David Goldstein is ordinarily definitive about his side and the other side (ordinarily, Democrats and Republicans, respectively). But every so often a case comes up that makes any good blogger say: Well, what are you gonna do?

Such is the case of the candidacy of Maureen Judge for city council in Mercer Island city. She has bipartisan support (endorsements from legislators both Democratic and Republican). And the blogger himself, who adds, “Okay… I happen to know Maureen pretty damn well. Um… she’s my baby’s momma.”

They’re divorced now, but Goldstein hasn’t let that interfere with his endorsement: “And while I suppose this sort of disclosure might raise red flags amongst Mercer Island Republicans, they should at least take comfort in the fact that Maureen had the apparent commonsense to divorce me. Can’t get much more bipartisan than that. . . . and damn, she’s a helluva lot more likeable than I am. Go ahead, try to beat her at something she really cares about. Hell, I never did.”

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Washington

We’ve said before we expect, with the new Club for Growth activism in Oregon leading the way, that there will be a from-the-right challenge next year to Oregon Senator Gordon Smith.

We didn’t say it would necessarily be successful.

The outlines of such a challenge – a case against Smith – were cleanly laid out in the Northwest Republican blog, in the form of a letter from Bill Sizemore, he of numerous (largely anti-tax and conservative-based) initiative campaigns. (Blogger Ted Piccolo posted the letter, but without comment.) Sizemore has been mentioned as a prospect to oppose Smith in the Republican primary. That may or may not happen, but his argument against Smith could easily constitute the core of the primary insurgency.

“Can a greater case be made against Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon? Hate crimes legislation; boondoggle mass transit funding; voting against drilling in ANWR; voting for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and calling our troops’ presence in Iraq “criminal”. That ought to be enough of an indictment. But there’s more.” The more is Smith’s support of a cigarette tax increase, opposition to some anti-immigrant efforts, and so on.

Read and check it out. It could be picked up by whoever runs against Smith (who we suspect won’t be Sizemore.) But don’t assume it will necessarily be enough to work.

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Oregon

In Hailey

Streetside in Hailey

Lunching in bustling Hailey, after struggling with the heavy midday – not even rush hour – traffic on Main Street, we were startling to read this in the Idaho Mountain Express:

“Business for Ketchum retailers during the past winter was not nearly as bad as rumor would have it, a non-scientific survey by the Mountain Express indicates.”

Business down? Well, you certainly wouldn’t say so comprehensively. But so far this decade Ketchum has been losing retailers, at least, a net of 13 from 2001 to 2006.

Apparently last winter was reputed to be poor for business; and also apparently, that depends on which retailer you are. Nothing especially notable in that. But the story went on to describe many of the structural economic changes in the Ketchum area, including a decline in motel and overnight traffic and a great increase in condominiums, which seems to have diminished trade for many retailers. And retailers are concluding some new things. A Hailey bookseller who shuttered that business recently concluded that, after the opening and then closing of five sucessive booksellers in Hailey over the last quarter-century, maybe Hailey just won’t support a book store. Why is less immediately clear, but offers some interesting grounds for speculation.

A tucked-away, seemingly routine story, but well-worth examination.

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Idaho

2007 Progress ReportAttention should be paid to the new report by the Progress Board about Oregon’s economy. An editorial in the Oregonian today loads well at the lead: “Of all the questions raised by the Progress Board’s report on the Oregon economy, here’s the most important: Do you want fries with that?”

The editorial seized on what may be the most significant finding of the report, which is developed by a state agency (the Oregon Progress Board) and covers a lot of ground, much of which reflects positively or at least decently on where the state is going. Its overall description seems bland enough: “Oregon is holding its own with a growing economy, public safety and livable communities, but other areas give reason for concern, according to an analysis of 91 “Oregon Benchmarks,” which measure the state’s well-being. However, the report says some aspects of education, civic engagement, social support and the environment still need improvement in order to meet state goals.”

It is, overall, well worth a look. (There’s useful and especially interesting set of county benchmark maps available at the Progress Board site.) But the most useful, we suspect (as evidently the Oregonian has) have to do with the impact of the economy on individuals. Oregon progresses in a number of ways, but in many regard this isn’t one of them.

And if Washington or Idaho had a progress board, those doubtless would find the same thing.

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Oregon