Scenes from around the Northwest on the day after our giving of thanks, demonstrating why the day has gotten the nickname of Black Friday (and not just for the inkstains of retailer bookkeepers).

North of Seattle:

Alderwood Mall’s first crack at midnight madness on Black Friday became just down right maddening for some shoppers. The Lynnwood mall, following a national trend to open when the clock strikes 12 to lure early holiday shoppers, had an unexpected rush of consumers in the morning’s wee hours. Some screeching shoppers bolted through the doors right after midnight. . . . “I think this is the dumbest idea they have ever had,” said a frustrated Matt Carter of Snohomish. “This is not an environment for young kids. All it takes is for one person to fall down and you would get trampled.” . . . For Katy Brock and Samantha Brotherton of Shoreline, who arrived at Alderwood Mall at 9:30 p.m., it was the first stop before hitting the Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip. “Then it’s bed,” said the 18-year-old Brock. “There will be no shopping tomorrow morning when the crazy soccer moms are out.”

Along I-5:

Washington State troopers made 178 traffic stops over two days on Interstate-5 near Federal Way as shoppers headed to find bargains at local shopping malls. In one hour this morning along a section of I-5 in Snohomish County, which is being patrolled by aircraft, troopers pulled over 20 vehicles for speeding. “There’s still a lot of activity trying to get to and from the big sales,” said State Patrol spokesman Jeff Merrill. “We want to remind people to slow down a bit.” He said in four hours Thursday morning, troopers made 118 stops with one car going over 110 miles an hour.

In Boise, at Boise Towne Square:

So many people surged forward when the mall opened that one of the glass doors was knocked completely off its frame, according to Darcy Shippey, marketing manager at the mall. At least one woman fell and was helped up by people nearby. A pregnant women was overcome and an ambulance was called. No details on her condition have been released.

In the Inland Empire:

“I dreamt that I didn’t get up until 7:15 and missed all the sales,” said Leslie Naccarato. That would have been a nightmare, according to the St. Maries woman, who clutched a handful of ads as she stood in line for Wal-Mart’s 5 a.m. opening in Post Falls. On her shopping list: three portable DVDs and a laptop. “I’m saving $350,” she said.

Season’s greetings.

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George Fearing

George Fearing

Before long we’ll launch our revisable list of candidates for major office in the Northwest, so we’ve been watching to see who we might have missed. And ran across one this morning.

George Fearing, an attorney from Richland, is running for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Representative Doc Hastings, who has consistently won with strong margins since his first election in 1994.

The major piece on Fearing’s efforts so far has shown up on Evergreen Politics, which has posted a sizable interview with him. It makes for an interesting profile of a conventional Tri-Cities attorney at a mostly Republican law firm (whose clients, he says, include Hastings), who also sees fit to visit the Yearly Kos event and mingle with Seattle bloggers, while getting his campaign launched (much earlier than most other challengers). Worth a read.

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Melaleuca

Melaleuca

Readers in Idaho even more than those in the Puget Sound may find of interest (hat tip here to one of our Idaho readers) a piece in the Seattle Weekly about the Idaho Falls company Melaleuca, and its top executive, Frank VanderSloot.

It’s a good backgrounder on a company and a man playing a large and growing role in Idaho politics. The article points out some of VanderSloot’s political involvement and his long-time support for Senator Larry Craig. It did leave out, though, the most recent bit of news, that Republican Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, who is running to succeed Craig in the Senate, leased a Melaleuca aircraft in his state-hop for campaign announcement. The close involvement continues.

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Richard Sanders

Richard Sanders

Thejust-released decision in Washington State Farm Bureau Federation v. Gregoire by the Washington Supreme Court could almost be a straddler in its majority opinion, perhaps reflecting the variety of views that resulted in no fewer than five documents (including concurrances and dissent) in the decision folder today.

Much the most striking was the dissent offered by Justice Richard Sanders, which ended with an unexpected bit of wit: “Aside from that, I concur in the remainder of the majority’s opinion.” Witty, of course, because he had ripped into practically every underlying premise the majority had; unexpected, because his own views are so . . . well, read them for yourself below.

The case was a response to Initiative 601, passed as the Taxpayer Protection Act by Washington’s voters in 1993, aimed at limiting the ability of the legislature to raise taxes. When in 2005 the legislature raised tobacco and alcohol taxes, a coalition (including the Farm Bureau) sued, saying it had violated the terms of the initiative.

The main decision skirted the key issues here, holding (though some of the reasoning here seems obscure) that the legislature’s action didn’t formally violate the initiative’s terms. But much of the argument centered on a point the majority seemed not to want to formally nail down: The relationship between initiatives and the legislature. The majority opinion suggested but stopped barely short of saying explicitly that Initiative 601 ran afoul of the constitution, because it tried to bind the legislature in a way that only the constitution itself could.

The basic rule, commonly understood around the country in states that allow initiatives, is that legislation passed by initiative has the same standing as laws passed by the legislature. Just as any session of a legislature can revise laws passed by earlier sessions, and as initiatives can amend laws passed by legislatures, so legislatures can – possibly at their political peril – revise or even toss out measures passed by initiative. All these variations have happened in many states, Oregon and Idaho included, and all of this is commonly accepted as understood process. The Washington Supreme Court majority apparently does too: “A law passed by initiative is no less a law than one enacted by the legislature. Nor is it more. A previously passed initiative can no more bind a current legislature than a previously enacted statute.”

Besides the main majority opinion, the case generated four other concurrences or dissent. There’s a broader and recommended overview of court reactions to the case on the David Postman blog. Here, we’ll focus more specifically on Sanders.

Here’s the abridged Sanders dissent (edited mainly of quotes and cites):

I understand that the majority’s view to be the state legislature is virtually unrestrained except insofar as the legislative action countervenes some express prohibition in the state constitution. Although this claim has been repeated by rote in several of our decisions, I am unable to find a single one which explains its rationale, much less critically examines its premise. I challenge the majority to either do so here or dispense with this careless rhetoric.

The assertion seems to be based on an erroneous presumption that state governments have inherent powers – a presumption that contradicts the basic
premise of all American governance that all power resides in the people except
insofar as it has been delegated to the government. As such, the claim flies in the face of article I, section 1 of the state constitution, which plainly and expressly provides: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.” This section hardly evidences our state government has the inherent power to do anything. Rather, it stands for precisely the opposite.

Our majority also appears to be oblivious to the basic tenet of the American Revolution, which forcefully rejected the European model of unlimited
government. . . .

Therefore I think it is fair to say not only is the majority’s claim inconsistent with the text of our state constitution but profoundly un-American in theory as well. . . . The majority’s unexamined claim in reality invites a totalitarian regime and is inconsistent with the founders’ understanding of the social compact. . . But the majority’s claim on its face purports that the legislature may do virtually anything except where restrained by a Declaration of Rights. This has never been our system, as we have often observed even the constitutionally undefined police power is not itself without limits. . .

I also note with alarm the seditious doctrine sometimes embraced by our
majority that even our Declaration of Rights is itself trumped by exercise of the
state’s police power, a power which a majority of my colleagues seems to believe
with their new-found wisdom has no limits whatsoever. For example article I,
section 24 of our constitution, protecting the right to bear arms, was an early
casualty of this view as many cases purport to hold that the right to bear arms,
although constitutionally guaranteed, is subject to reasonable regulation under the
police power. Additionally our constitutional guaranties of religious liberty, also secured in very absolute terms by article I, section 11 of our constitution, are similarly subordinated to the police power. . .

The view that the federal Bill of Rights or state Declaration of Rights is subject to the otherwise legitimate government action is plainly inconsistent with the fundamental theory of American governance. Federalist No. 84, authored by Alexander Hamilton, defended the proposed Constitution of 1787 against the principal attack that it failed to contain a Bill of Rights. Hamilton countered that a Bill of Rights was “not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colourable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?. . .” So, to put it another way, the Bill of Rights, or Declaration of Rights, properly understood, is an enumeration of exceptions to what the government may otherwise legitimately do. Yet our majority rejects this view to virtually nullify the only purpose of a Declaration of Rights by claiming it is subordinate to an otherwise almost unlimited exercise of the police power, which removes any restraint at all to the claimed “inherent” and infinite “plenary power” of the legislature.

Fundamentally, when a majority of our court claims that our state legislature has “plenary power to enact laws, except as limited by our state and federal constitutions,” it departs from the founding principle that governments may legitimately perform only those activities which are delegated by the sovereign people. Moreover, the majority seems most willing to even subordinate express constitutional exceptions enumerated in the Declaration of Rights and elsewhere to the omnipotent power of the “plenary” state.

I fear for our Republic each step the majority takes toward achieving its counterrevolutionary premise. One cries outrage when the majority purports to recognize “a fundamental principal of our system of government,” which is in reality absolutely antithetical to those true principles of our Republic, which are indeed fundamental.

Put aside the red meat of “counterrevolutionary” and “totalitarian” or his concerns about an “infinite plenary” legislative power (which sounds like an awesome thing, except for this little thing called the constitution which actually does a decent job of restricting it). Sanders’ reading of republican – which is in considerable part legislative – government is, to say the least, quite a bit different than most people hold. His reading of the intent of the national founders is unique, too; many of them had great fear of what “the mob” (the mass of citizens) would do if they actually got the power to vote for their representatives, something relatively few Americans actually could do until well into the 19th century. And the idea of a series of checks and balances, not least holding in line the “passions” of the “mob,” was central to their design of the federal system.

But the larger question Sanders might try answering is this: How exactly would he define what a legislature should do? Every session legislatures of all sorts around the country grapple with a vast, almost astonishing, array of issues, as they have for a long time – since colonial days. What sort of an allowable defined power would Sanders prescribe for them? Or should we get rid of legislatures entirely, and legislate by poll?

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Portland has a reputation of being a city where a variety of people can co-exist peaceably, without major uproar. But maybe we need to readjust that view: The heels seem to be digging in, and if the furies are getting this intense over the naming of a street, you have to wonder what will happen when decisions have to be made about something, you know, important.

We’re referring, of course, to the city civic issue in town for the last couple of months (maybe the city should be delighted that nothing more important has had to seize its attention), the proposed renaming of Interstate Avenue in Northeast Portland to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Several Hispanic groups had sought the name change (noting that major throughways had been renamed for Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks), and Mayor Tom Potter jumped in with them.

But the proposal drew big resistance and angry meetings at the neighborhood, where Interstate Avenue had just in recent years become (owing to a MAX train line and revived commerce) something of a local brand name. The rest of the city council has been trying to deal with the situation for months now.

We thought they might have found an elegant solution in the proposed (four council members loosely expressing support for) A Chavez renaming of Southwest 4th Street, the street on which sits City Hall. How could the Hispanic activists, or even the mayor, dis that idea? Turned out, they did. And so did another ethnic group, the business and other people of the city’s Chinatown, through which 4th runs (for a short distance). (Potter, who declared himself “irrelevant” at one council session on the topic and consistently has rejected any but the Interstate option, seems to be ever more determined to lock in his own description as accurate.)

So now the report is that the city council is bagging the whole Chavez rename idea. Maybe just as well, at least until the concept of compromise returns to the discussion.

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Following up on a post from few days back about local government recalls, we noted that a recall election had been set for November 20 in our home base community of Carlton, Oregon. The target was the veteran mayor, Kathy Oriet.

Results (most, with a few additional ballots likely to be added0 just in: The recall failed, 191-243.

AURORA UPDATE But – looks as if the mayor in Aurora will be ousted. The ballot count as of midday Wednesday showed the mayor losing by five votes (181-176). We haven’t heard yet what was the crisis so overwhelming in the town of fewer than 1,000 people so serious that the voters couldn’t just wait until the next election.

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Steven Thayne

Steven Thayne

We were not among those who jumped on Senator Larry Craig’s case on grounds of pushing for one policy while (apparently) doing just the opposite in his personal life: Craig’s leadership issues have had to do with natural resources, balanced budgets and the like, more than with social issues.

But Idaho state Representative Steven Thayne, R-Sweet, has made himself the point man for the state’s setters of policy – the Idaho Legislature – both by his positions and comments and formally as chair of the interim Family Task Force, set up “To study the magnitude of the decline of the family since 1950; the effects the decline has had on state social policies; the reasons for the decline, and ways to strengthen the family.”

Moscow Republican Senator Gary Schroeder remarked of the group, “Basically, they are people who think women ought to stay home and take care of the kids.” And the Idaho Statesman added, “Thayn does not shy from this view, calling pre-kindergarten education a ‘free babysitting service’ and suggesting that early childhood education, day-care and Head Start may hurt families by keeping mothers away from home.”

Thayne’s own approach to family values, noted distinctly in his campaigns, has cropped up occasionally. Back in February we quoted from an email by Thayne concerning the Idaho Summit on Hunger: ‘Hunger is not always a negative as the report indicates. Without hunger or the threat of hunger probably half of humanity would not get up in the morning and go to work. Hunger is one of the great motivators of humanity. It is one of the tools that I used as a parent to encourage my children to do their choirs [sic] as young children. When used properly, hunger can motivate people so they can experience the joy of work and accomplishment.’” Hunger, in other words, can be a family value.

And apparently the picture fills in further with a post on Mountain Goat Report, about the April 4 arrest of Thayne’s son on charges of domestic battery against his newlywed wife. (That post has a thorough rundown of the situation.)

So the policy question logically presents itself: If, as Thayne suggests, it is the breakdown of the traditional family structure that causes such problems as domestic violence, what was the cause in the case of his own family? Might not his proposed view of women have something to do with it? And should not the Task Force address that?

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Irresistable news story lead of the day, from a report ut of Central Point by the Medford Mail-Tribune:

“Attempting to remedy what city officials say has been an ongoing code violation, former Mayor Rusty McGrath was cited for accumulation of junk on his Freeman Road property last week.”

Write your own commentary on that one . . .

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We’ll cop to having long ago had a bellyful of presidential come-to-town events: They are neither informative nor fun. Increasingly as campaigns have gone on, they have become wrapped in security and conditions and determination from candidates and campaigns to say absolutely nothing that might be in any way be damaging, which usually means saying nothing of any interest.

With that attitude firmly in hand, a piece in the Slog today came as refreshing. Posted by Ryan Jackson, it describes a Seattle Stranger reporter’s first exposure to the presidential candidate come-to-town scene. Conclusion: “It was a weird kind of fun.”

Okay. It seems that way. For a while.

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Drawing your attention to our latest page, “At the churches,” a list of major churches around the Pacific Northwest – primarily those called megachurches.

The idea is not that they’re politically active (though some do have roles that relate to politics in various ways). More, the idea is that these churches are major contributors of ideas in our society, developers of world views that in turn come to influence voting patterns and political activity, even if only very indirectly. We’ve been quietly watching activity in this area for a while; in the weeks and months to come, you’ll see somewhat more posts here on this subject. Consider this page an opening of marking of territory of interest.

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Sometimes the reason partisans in a given area support a particular presidential candidate are clear enough, sometimes a little less obvious. Of the three Northwest states, Idaho offers the most educational instances of both with the evidently really decisive levels of support within each party for a particular candidate: former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney among Republicans, and Illinois Senator Barack Obama among Democrats.

The Romney connection is clear enough for several reasons, starting with the Mormon connection but moving on to other factors. The Obama support level, which seems very high among Idaho Democrats, has been a little less obvious.

But read a post on Red State Rebels and at least part of the reason comes clearer: “Many people support Senator Hillary Clinton for President because they believe she is strong, smart, and capable. I agree. Would she make a good President? I believe she would. Can she win? Maybe. But is the 2008 election strictly about taking back the White House? I humbly decry that it is not. The 2008 election is also about restoring hope to our nation and scoring victories here at home, in Idaho. I have been approached by scores of Democratic Party leaders across our state for nearly 8 months with increasing concerns, who are not scared of a Hillary Presidency, but of a Hillary candidacy and what a successful nomination would mean for our local and state-wide candidates running for office.”

The post goes on to talk about Obama’s positive qualities as well. But certainly not many Idaho Democrats are looking forward to the idea of running down-ballot from Hillary Clinton.

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Ron Paul

Ron Paul

The Ron Paul campaign continues to surprise and do well in the Northwest. We’ve spotted no lack of Paul signage all over the region in recent weeks; could it be his fiscal conservatism combined with his anti-war stance? Both of those things would sell reasonably in the Northwest, to some extent, anyway. Whatever it is, Paul is going very well in this corner of the country.

There’s a striking map on the Paul campaign well site (hat tip to Oregon Catalyst for the pointer) showing the number of fourth-quarter donors per capita, by state. Excepting New Hampshire, where he also does well, Paul’s support seems heavily weighed to the western states (excepting California). Of those western states, Montana and Nevada are in the top tier, and Idaho and Washington are just behind, with Oregon also doing well for Paul in the next rank.

Oregon Catalyst has a fine – and intense – discussion about this.

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The entry this week of Boise businessman Walt Minnick into what’s now a three-way Democratic primary for the 1st U.S. House seat raises some issues – most immediately: Who winds up taking the primary?

And there we have no obvious answer – less obvious than some advocates probably think. Leaving aside the matter of the general election (any Democratic nominee will, as matters stand, be looking at a steep uphill against incumbent Republican Bill Sali), the primary is shaping as a seriously contested three-way contest that realistically could go in any direction.

Early presumption, months ago, was that 2006 Democratic nominee Larry Grant would have the nomination for the asking. And Grant is asking: He has announced his 2008 campaign. The arguments for a clear enough. Grant came across fairly well as a candidate last time (go back and read the at-the-time descriptions if you doubt that; a lot of revisionism has been underway this year). His campaign had faults, as all do, but it ran energetically, and Grant displayed substantial campaign skills. For ’08, he can draw on experience and much of his existing organization, and build on his mostly positive name ID.

The counter is that he’s never won a race, either, and the vocal criticisms of last year’s candidacy which have emerged this year from within his own party have sapped some Democratic confidence (and helped lead to the other candidacies). He’s not a new face this time. And his campaign hasn’t been super-visible since his announcement in July. (The most current press release on his web site is dated September 27.) Some Democrats will back him out of loyalty; others may question whether he pulled his weight last time.

Former Governor Cecil Andrus, still the most key figure among Idaho Democrats, backed Grant last time but now is supporting Minnick, who launched his campaign just last week and is starting nearly from scratch. Not, to be sure, in terms of his standing in the state and among Democrats. He ran a high-toned campaign in 1996 for the U.S. Senate against Republican Larry Craig and took 40% of the vote – not a close loss. But Minnick, who has background as CEO of at least a couple of substantial corporations (TJ International years ago, and SummerWind nurseries in the last decade) is a well-liked figure among Democrats. Like Grant (former counsel for Micron Technology) he has strong business background and is smart and articulate, and comes across as maybe more personable and easygoing. As much as Grant, and maybe more, he should be able to raise substantial campaign money. There’s some line of thought that, at this point, Minnick has become the presumptive front-runner.

But like Grant, his federal office track record is 0-1. And while active Democrats know him, Idahoans generally haven’t much heard of him since his 1996 campaign; he will be starting over in that regard. And, as much as Grant and maybe more so, there’s nothing of the bomb-thrower about him; crafting the powerfully emotional case needed to oust a conservative Republican in today’s Idaho will be hard, and harder for those without sharp elbows.

The third candidate in the field, Rand Lewis, has been – relatively – been dismissed by some of the Democratic activist field. But he shouldn’t be. Over coffee with Lewis and his wife Jan during a swing south to Boise, the Moscow instructor and career Army officer emerged as a plausible alternative.

He has never run for office before; first-timers who start with The Game tend not to know quite what they’ve gotten into until the campaign is well underway. (Grant and Minnick have both been there already.) His background – 29 years in the military (Air Force and Army) and more recently as a director of the University of Idaho’s Martin Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution – don’t suggest the kind of casual backslapper Democrats would need to win over Republican-leaning voters.

His personal manner, though, suggests little either of military or academic careers; small-town neighborly (even while just as articulate as the other two) seems to fit a little more. Meanwhile, his background has afforded him a wealth of stories, from work on troop deployment into the 90s (he retired from the Army in 1996) to involvement in research on al-Qaeda in those years as well. He is comfortable and conversant in talking about international affairs in a way few Idahoans are, which may be an edge. (His background in a number of other areas is thinner, which could be a debility.) His willingness to use somewhat tougher language may appeal to a number of Democrats looking for a harder edge. Active in the race since early this year, he described a surprisingly large campaign network already in place, with a series of town hall meetings to begin in a few weeks. And, he would be a fresh face.

Three options. And, depending on how the campaigns develop, any of them might manage that nomination, for whatever it may prove to be worth.

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Washington Group International

Washington Group International

The roster of big home-grown Boise businesses slims down again, as stockholders at Washington Group International – formerly and long known to Boiseans as Morrison-Knudsen Corporationon Thursday agreed to sell the company to URS Corporation of San Francisco.

M-K was a pride of Boise for many years, whose origins run back to the construction in 1905 of an irrigation canal in the Boise area. It long has been a major international building contractor and a big player in the city and state and the politics of both.

It ought to register with Idahoans as a major event – and it is – but it may not. At this point, a lot of Boise’s history has begun to recede. We talked this morning with one long-time Boisean who said he nearly ran off the road when he heard on his car radio an announcer talk about “Morrison-Nutson” corporation . . .

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This sounds supernally clever: How can you possibly say Portland Latinos would be dissed by the failure to rename Interstate Avenue for Cesar Chavez, when the street to be named for him instead would be SW 4th – the street that runs right in front of City Hall?

It might well be an easy street to rename compared to many. There’s no “name” identification to redo with a numbered street, and mail sent to SW 4th would still no doubt make its way to destination. At the same time, a renaming for the street on which City Hall sits can hardly be considered minor.

A neat solution. One would think. One will see.

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