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Posts published in November 2007

Paul people

One of the more intriguing pieces of '08 politics is the source of Northwest support for Republican Ron Paul. It is substantial, and fervent, but a little hard to identify: Who are the Republicans who are anti-war and pro-libertarian (small if not large L) and who otherwise are very enthusiastic about their guy?

We'll keep on loking for clues, but we get one piece of the answer from the political blog at the Coeur d'Alene Press, which seems to have been largely taken over by Paul supporters.

A local meetup group post mentions two speakers: "Phil Hart, Idaho State Representative and Author of "Constitutional Income: Do You Have Any?" will address the Group on why he supports Ron Paul. Dan Gookin, CDA City Council Candidate to speak at Monday's 7pm Meetup on his support for Ron Paul."

That will say something to locals who know Hart and Gookin. For those who don't, the comments - you'll find some wild stuff - attached to the meetup post should do the job. (You say you want a sample? Here: "It would appear that Ron Paul is the best, last hope to stave America from a monarchy under the North American Union. My search reveals only on other alternative, Mike Juckabee, but some claim he is a card-carrying Mason of the Southern Baptist Convention. This would make him as dangerous as Billy Graham who some alledge is a 33* Mason of the Scottish Rite.")

OR SecSt: On tellin ’em apart

Brad Avakian

Brad Avakian

Kate Brown

Kate Brown

Rick Metsger

Rick Metsger

Vicki Walker

Vicki Walker

The rapid accumulation of Democratic candidates for Oregon secretary of state has left even some Democrats a little scattered . . . The PDX Perspectives blog has been running a list of comments about telling the four apart, and how to to pick out preferences.

It grew out of a kind of cry for help: "what is that, four mostly indistinguishable liberal Democrats? . . . I promise I am going to spend some time trying to figure this out myself, based on looking at their web sites and at their news coverage, but in the meanwhile, can somebody out there please help me with a clue as to what the substantive differences are between Brad Avakian, Kate Brown, Rick Metsger, and Vicki Walker? And how would those differences translate into the way they would do this job?"

The latter question is the tougher one; the four are distinctively different personalities with sharply different approaches, and are likely to develop very different appeals. What any of that would mean for running the office isn't clear at all. (The eventual arrival of a Republican candidate for the office - Senator Bruce Starr has been mentioned as a possible - may help bring some clarity.)

The four Democratic senators - Brad Avakian of Beaverton, Kate Brown of Portland, Rick Metsger of Welches and Vicki Walker of Eugene - all come from the northwest part of the state, but slapping much more common definition to them is a little iffy.

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Of wetter days

Perry Swisher of Boise - this is a mere blog entry, so we won't recap here his almost endless activities in Idaho politics, society and government for more than a half-century - is among the relative handful of people who have been around and observed broadly enough to watch the change in the state's environment over a course of not just years but decades, and even quarter-centuries.

His columns, posted periodically for public access at the Idaho State Journal's political blog, are always worth a look. But we were struck by this recollection, as this year's winter climate starts to set in.

So much water was coursing through Hells Canyon of the Snake in the summer of 1986, that a great wave struck the steering paddle on one float vessel and knocked my cousin, a whitewater expert, into the river and drowned him. The torrent through the canyon was so inviting to rafters that a recent import into the staff of specialists at the Idaho Public Utilities Commission couldn’t stay out of it.
The result: He lost his wife because she couldn’t stand the risks he put her through and divorced him.
One serious proposal during that surplus of wet was to cut a channel west of Soda Springs and divert some of the surplus Bear River flow past Chesterfield. It would go toward Lava Hot Springs into the Portneuf River, and thence into the always thirsty Snake River at American Falls west of Pocatello.
There are geologists who say that geologically recent lava dikes formed in Eastern Idaho and rechanneled flood waters from Henry’s Fork back into the main Snake River’s flow, and thus ended a long inflow which had made what they call the Great Aquifer an underground resource to the Snake River Plain.
Had it not been for the delay in the formation of those lava dikes, this aquifer would never have become so enormous. It is still ranked as if it were the equal of one of the Great Lakes that lie above the Midwest and the New York-Ohio country.
When the big rains and snows invaded the Great Basin in the 1980s, there were those including Dr. Evan Kackley of Wayan who believed Idaho should blast a channel south of Hamer or Roberts into the lavas of the Arco desert so the prehistoric flooding could resume.
Weather and the human race are never long in agreement; maybe the Hamer-Roberts idea was all it took to dissuade the weather gods because 22 years have passed since we last saw “too much water.”
It’s true we would be tempting the fates, but we do that every time we reconvene the Idaho Legislature. I suggest the dreams we dream when in surplus be built into our plans in this time of genuine thirst.

The money spread

There's nothing especially startling in the Seattle Times piece today on fundraising in the governor's race. Snark at Sound Politics on this is duly noted on "the stunning story that persons and organizations with issues before state government are donating to an incumbent Governor after spreading their money around when the seat was open four years ago. Campaign hands across the state are floored."

From one Sound Politics comment: "That just goes to show how business-owners look out for their bottom line. Business is not like a labor union that will blindly go with the Democrat...Businesses support those who support them."

The point is still well worth noting, though, as a piece of the mosaic that goes into how relatively competitive the campaigns are. In 2004, running for an open seat, both campaigns spent in the neighborhood of $6.3 million. This time, as of the most recent reports, incumbent Democrat Chris Gregoire has raised nearly $3.6 million and Rossi somewhat under a half million; and the article notes that about $160,000 of the governor's money has come from people who donated to Rossi last time.

This picture will adjust, of course. Rossi has not been formally in the race, and has not been fundraising, for very long, and his totals should rise quickly over the next few months. Both candidates likely will shoot well past their 2004 totals; this race is not likely to be decided on the basis of money. (The last one wasn't.)

But it is a concrete indicator that the dynamic changes when you go from an open seat to an incumbent-challenger contest.

The efficient way

Count on Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney for some pungent commentary, as in his look ahead to a session of the Senate in which a whole lot of the members are or are considering running for another office. One-sixth of the chamber is formally so planning now, but it's likely to go much higher - maybe to about a third of the 30 total - over the next year.

Courtney: “I’m going to file the state Senate for any and all state offices, just to get this taken care of.”

As with many Courtney comments (we spotted this one on the Eugene Register-Guard's political blog), he was only half jesting.

Let's see. There's one running for state treasurer, Democrat Ben Westlund. There are four senators running for secretary of state (Kate Brown, Vicki Walker, and recently Rick Metsger and Brad Avakian), all Democrats; Republican Bruce Starr is said to be likely to join them before long. Then there are the potential governors in the group, including Republican Jason Atkinson (who has all but announced for the 2010 election) and (we're told not to be surprised if we see it) Democrat Kurt Schrader. Remember too, that Alan Bates (D-Ashland) gave serious thought to a U.S. Senate run this year, and new Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood) also gets mentions as a higher office prospect.

Which in all may create some tensions come the February session. But they might bear in mind too that all will look better if they play nice.

On their way out

As of a year ago - and the number would be higher now - an estimated 2,245,189 people were held in state and federal prisons in the United States. A few of them will stay there until they die, but most (the estimate is 95%) will be released back into society. And because over the last couple of decades sentences generally have been getting longer, those numbers are going to run higher than they have been until now, and those in "re-entry" to society are going to be people who have spent more years in prison than the released used to. And - the point here - we've been doing not a lot about dealing with this.

recidivism chartThere is some thought on the subject, however, starting with research. The Council of State Governments has a Reentry Policy Council, which looks at just this issue, and a number of states have followed up with councils of their own. One of the first was in Oregon, established last May, and this fall starting to generate some news and reports.

A press release on early stages of the group's work had some useful background: "Oregon prisons currently house nearly 13,500 inmates, a record number due to tougher sentencing laws and the state’s growing population. Each year about 4,000 offenders are released back into the community at the end of their sentences, becoming part of the 34,000 offenders under supervision across Oregon at any given time. Yet over the past decade, Oregon’s recidivism rate has remained relatively stable. One out of every three people released from prison is convicted of a new felony crime within three years of release. Policymakers, practitioners and researchers are increasingly identifying coordination of re-entry efforts as critical to successful outcomes and rehabilitation."

This stuff is a great deal more complex than you might at first think - the implications of bringing these people into a productive place in society, rather than simply marking time till the re-arrest, bring into play a lot of causes and effects. Here's one we just ran across, in a Re-Entry Policy Council brochure:

• People who do not find stable housing in the community are more likely to recidivate than those who do: the Georgia Department of Corrections determined that, with each move after release from prison, a person’s likelihood of re-arrest increased by 25 percent.
• Re-arrest and re-incarceration disrupts income and the ability of both the person arrested and his or her family to comply with a lease agreement.

The thought about "lease agreements" seems almost minor until you begin to spin out all the effects - personal, financial, social - broken deals can have all over the place.

Might be time for Idaho and Washington, which we gather do not have equivalent councils or similar activity, to take a look at this too.

In celebration of the Prince of Peace

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.

Batter up in the WA 4th

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.

A Melaleuca report

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.