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Posts published in July 2007

Diminishment of interest?

Question came up during conversation yesterday with a journalist from D.C. of whether Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley's likely entry into the U.S. Senate race would mean a withdrawal of some or many of the other names mentioned as prospects. Conclusion seemed to be that yes, likely it would.

That's not the explicit reason given today for the statement that Senator Alan Bates, D-Ashland, won't after all run for the Senate. After expressing some interest in the idea, he told the local Daily Tidings today that he'll stay where he is: "At this point, my family, my patients, and legislative work for universal health coverage for all Oregonians takes precedence over a bid for the U.S. Senate." (Pointer via Blue Oregon.)

Okay; but one has to suspect that the news about Merkley wasn't entirely irrelevant.

We suspect more decisions-against will be following before long.

Under whose carpet?

Over a generation our collective response to crime and other social ills has been largely this: Get rid of it, get it out of my sight, I don't want to be bothered with it. For crime, the simple solution: Lock 'em up. There's still someone out there doing something bad? Lock 'em up longer. Mandatory minimums. Three strikes and you're out. With the result that this country, and some parts of it in particular, have bulging prisons, enormous bills for corrections, and all the rest.

And a lot of those people we've locked up, out of sight and out of mind, are beginning to return to society, sentences partly or fully complete. Now what do we do?

We're jointly responsible for this mess, and over time we're all probably going to have to give a little as we work our way out of it. There's going to be a lot of conflict, and some of it will become political. Some of what's coming in many more places, emerged at a meeting this morning in Boise. The people involved there included the mayor and two former opponents for a state Senate seat, along with neighbors, attorneys and others, but in the end we're all involved.

[This is a long post, continued overleaf.] (more…)

Inslee on point

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee

Washington Representative Jay Inslee has abruptly become the lead congressional figure on the prospective impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

There's no reference to it yet on his congressional website, but it's all over news media: He's taking the initial step toward an impeachment, formally asking the House Judiciary Committee to look into it. His resolutions says:

Directing the Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Resolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary shall investigate fully whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to impeach Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The ruse organization

So often this kind of thing happens, and so often they get away with it. Might have in this case, but for the side effects of a lawsuit.

In his column, Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune writes about a group called Associated Casino Employees for Survival (ACES, of course). The city of Tacoma has been trying to ban or at least cut down on its proliferation of casinos, and a 2006 initiative (which failed) sought to overturn it. ACES was the public face of the attempt to overturn the ban.

ACES presented itself as a group of casino employees - notably, as Callaghan writes, single moms trying to earn a living and keep their jobs. That presentation wasn't enough to pass the initiative. But just now has it come completely undone, thanks to the firing of Mike Purdy, who ran the campaign, and his followup lawsuit for wrongful termination. In it, he described how the corporations which ran the casinos were the real backers of the initiative.

So you see an initiative - or something similar - on the horizon backed by jes' plain folks? Look carefully before you take them at face value.

Tracking the old dog

Following up our July 8 post "Old Dog Leaves the Porch," on the fierce Republican primary in Washington Senate district 14, we'd note here that the local paper, the Yakima Herald-Republic, has weighed in.

Its editorial endorsement today went to Jim Clements, the incumbent, over challenger Curtis King. Clements, a veteran House member, was appointed to the Senate seat last December to fill a vacancy. King also had applied, and now is challenging him in the primary for election to the seat.

The paper said the decision was close but tipped by what was described as effectiveness in the last session, on Clements' part, in several important pieces of legislation. And added, "Since there are only 17 Republicans in the 49-member state Senate, you don't have the kind of success Clements did unless you have earned the respect of your colleagues. That's something Olympia insiders report the folksy Clements certainly has done."

Election is next month.

The streets of Pasco

Pasco

In downtown Pasco

Walk or drive around the city of Pasco, and the Hispanic feel of the place is clear, and strong. You'll see more than small traces of Hispanic communities in many other communities in the Northwest, in Hillsboro or Woodburn, Oregon, or Caldwell or Rupert, Idaho, to cite a few examples.

But not to the degree at Pasco, where you could wonder for a moment or two if you've accidently slipped south of the border. On our last trip there a few weeks back, we were strcuk more than usual by the number of Spanish-language business signs dominant almost everywhere except the main drags, where the national chains were still most visible.

All of this might have sunk in more strongly if we'd noticed the latest Census figures for Franklin County (of which Pasco is the seat), and its neighbor to the north, Adams County. Those two have become the Northwest's first counties where the Hispanic population is an absolute majority - about 57% in Franklin and 52% in Adams, which is much smaller.

A useful Associated Press piece on the Hispanic growth at Pasco outlines some of the ways the city, and the local area, is changing. (It's worth noting that of the cities in the Tri-Cities, Pasco appears to be much more Hispanic than Kennewick, Richland or West Richland.) The raw numbers are substantial: Census estimates put Pasco at 34,022 in 2000, and very nearly at 50,000 now - growth of almost 50%, about 16,000 people, in six years. As the AP story indicates, nearly all of that growth seems to be in the Hispanic population. And, of course, this growth is not new; the growth spurt started in the late 90s.

The social and cultural effects of all this are various. Here, we'll take a quick look at the political.

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Wyden, Kempthorne and endangered species

Ron Wyden

Ron Wyden

Dirk Kempthorne

Dirk Kempthorne

This would seem to fall into the "helluva story" category, although the Northwest news media silence about it has been almost absolute - the Eugene Register-Guard (in a useful and telling editorial), Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (and out of region, the Federal Times and Forbes) seem to have been almost alone in delivering even succinct reports about it. So consider: This is about Oregon's senior senator asking questions about what may be important ethical issues in a major federal agency with important importance to the Northwest as well as with national import - an agency led by a well-known northwesterner.

In the case of some senators this might be business as usual, but Senator Ron Wyden is usually low-key and diplomatic. So some attention should be paid when words like these show up in one of his press releases (from July 19):

“Mr. Limbaugh’s switch from water regulator to water lobbyist is ominous, in part, because of the Department’s recent history of scandals involving industry players moving through Department ranks while serving industry interests,” wrote Wyden, identifying Ms. MacDonald and recently convicted, former Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles as examples. “Frankly, it’s not always clear where these Department leaders put their loyalties.”

Wyden wrote that, on July 20, directly to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.

Here's some background.

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Tribal diversification

Some Indian tribes which have gotten into casino operations have settled for milking the cash cow, however long that may last. Others have used the money as leverage to get into other things, and are developing strong economic engines.

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe, which has made good money from its casino, has plowed a good deal of it into other kinds of activities. Last year it bought most of Berg Integrated Systems, which manufactures large pieces of equipment. The Coeur d'Alene Press reports today that Berg appears about to receive a giant military contract (giant in the context - $300 to $500 million) to build big fuel storage units.

Tribe Chairman Chief Allan was quoted as saying. "It means new jobs and new money for North Idaho, not just recycled money. It's very cool."

That it is.

Haying season is on

haying season

Haying season is on the Northwest; where we are, in rural Yamhill County, farm equipment is in full use. The people running the machinery have been working hard hours after the recent spate of rain, which was timely and more than welcome for most of us, but a problem for some in agriculture - it left some area wine producers grimacing.

Harvest approaches. (Photo/Linda Watkins)

In the happiest of moments

Ian Johnson

Ian Johnson

We missed it till now because the item broke in a sports column in the Idaho Statesman. Caught it now because it is showing up in national media - Sports Illustrated, national blogs and more. Mention it here because the implications could take it much further.

Started with a much-celebrated moment - the January win of the Boise State University Broncos over the Oklahoma Sooners. One of the BSU players centrally responsible for scoring the final winning points was running back Ian Johnson, and just after the game ended the fine day went on for him and one of the cheerleaders, when he proposed marriage, and she accepted.

The fact that he is black and she is white, however, wound up unearthing some serious racist ugliness. In news reports, Johnson said that he has fielded "phone calls, 30 letters and, in some instances, personal threats." And the wedding will be the scene of increased security.

From the standpoint of Boise and Idaho, this too now has become a sad but undetachable part of the Fiesta Bowl story.