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Posts published in January 2008

Toward a tracker code

You've heard - well, if you're reading this, you probably heard - about the video operator in mid-2006, a Democratic operative, who followed Virginia Senator George Allen around at public events, captured whatever he said or did. Allen one day made the mistake of talking about him and using the word "Macaca" in describing him, touching off a cascading series of blowups that eventually helped cost him a seat in the Senate.

That video operator was a "tracker" - that's the job title now - and trackers these days are employed or put up with by most candidates for major office. Around here, we watched one watching 2006 Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick, who occasionally referred to him on his travels around the state (but never made anything resembling a "Macaca" mistake). Trackers are busy again this year, on both sides in Oregon's Senate race, and they're becoming the subject of some contention.

Probably some kind of an informal but standard code of behavior is needed for this sort of thing. And probably it needs to start with acknowledgment of who the tracker is, and what he or she is doing there. It probably should continue with a strong press on candidates to allow the other side in, as, for example, McGavick did. (The results of the tracking didn't seem, in his case, to do his candidacy any harm.)

The new round in Oregon started with a Eugene Register-Guard report about a Republican tracker who made his way into events held by Senate Democratic candidate Jeff Merkley. The tracker, Tim Lussier, apparently wrote the campaign to say that he was “a local activist and a big fan of Jeff. I’d love to find out when I can see him speak." So they let him in.

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The use of a metaphor

We weren't among the leading fans of Oregon Senate candidate Steve Novick's first video spot; it drew attention to his physical differences from other candidates without suggesting why that could amount to a compelling argument for him.

The Portland Democrat's second, web-only, ad is a little different, and we'll give it a thumbs up (as it were). Subtle it may not be, but it slips up on you quietly and neatly, with humor and without beating you over the head. And yes, Novick actually is agreeable dining company even if you don't need a bottle opened.

Endorsement time?

Doesn't feel like endorsement season, but if you're going to have your say about presidential candidates, this would be the time. And the Seattle Times did, in part, today:

"The Seattle Times endorses Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president. He has the grasp, temperament and skills to right our standing in the world. He has broad insight and specific ideas to assuage our own hardworking citizens' fears of an economy turning sour."

The Republican endorsement is next Sunday. These have to do with the caucuses on February 9 and primary on February 19. (Yeah, yeah, we'll discuss later.)

Meantime: Will there be a counterpart editorial in the Idaho Statesman, since Idaho Democrats caucus on February 5?

Shutdown on Washington 14

bingen in snow

Bingen, Washington, in snow

This morning, back at home and blogging by the fireplace, thoughts return to that scene from last night, out of Dante - not the Inferno but the Icebox - and whatever may have happened to all those people . . .

What follows isn't political, as such. It certainly is a matter of public affairs, and a reflect on how often people in positions of responsibility lose sight of the point of their work.

Friday was not a good day for travel across the width of the state of Oregon. Saturday looked better, and it wasn't awful in its easternmost reaches, at least in early to midday; snow fell but the roads remained easily passable. On our journey, accompanied by a rescue dog headed from Nampa to Portland, trouble began with the ice rain, which started clunking down just past Arlington and was becoming inescapable by gasup at The Dalles.

Ahead, it apparently was much worse, at least account to Shell station gossip (which is usually pretty sound on such matters). US 84 had been shut down through much of the Gorge, from Cascade Locks to Troutdale on the east edge of Portland, because ice rain had led to a series of wrecks there. An alternative was to cross the Columbia and head west on Washington Highway 14; in fact, traffic between the Cascade Locks and Portland areas was being formally diverted there.

Sounded reasonable.

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The shoeshine crisis

As long as they keep acting this way, we'll keep posting about it. Today's latest case of inanity, courtesy the Boise airport (this account of it, though, courtesy of the Idaho Statesman):

About 400 passengers at the Boise Airport about noon Friday had to go through screening a second time after a California man seeking a shoe shine entered the secure area through the exit corridor, Transportation Safety Administration officials said.
TSA officials said the man, since identified as 38-year-old Jesse Flores, of Victorville, Calif., could not immediately be located in the terminal after he bypassed security. The breech caused the Boise Airport to be closed for about one hour and 20 minutes as Boise Police and the TSA investigated.

Obama taking Idaho

Obama headquarters

Obama headquarters at Boise

The Barack Obama headquarters in Idaho are tucked away in the central Boise bench, but the fact of its existence is a little remarkable: This is the first real, long-run, fully-staffed presidential headquarters in Idaho, at least in a long time and maybe ever. No one else in either party comes close.

Their offices, which we toured this afternoon, have ongoing staff and plenty of volunteers running in and out. It's pretty much what you'd want to see in a campaign headquarters, and it's been ongoing since well into last fall. In addition to heavy phone calling, door knocking and the like, there's what sounds like solid caucus training, which is useful stuff for the maze-like process. Combine that with the long roster of Idaho Democrats who have endorsed him (including most Democratic state legislators) and you get a picture of a probable lopsided Obama caucus win on February 5. That's not evidence of whatever may happen in other states, but Obama does seem to have Idaho largely wrapped.

The Hillary Clinton forces do exist, but they're much lower key. The discussion this week has to do with the personal calls to some key Idaho Democrats (who either hadn't endorsed yet, or who were thought not to have) from no less than Bill Clinton. One on one, that could have some effect.

But in the one Northwest participant (Democratic side only) on Super Tuesday, much of the battle seems over. Unless that turns into yet another in the long series of political shocks this season.

Depressed no more?

Oakridge long has been one of those remote, rural communities commonly described as stagnant at best, or maybe depressed and headed down. But not so fast. A lead from the Eugene Register Guard: "Hundreds of new jobs at the city’s industrial park? An outlet mall along Highway 58 in the middle of town?"

Oakridge, something like an hour southeast of Eugene and genuinely remote from population centers, would seem an unlikely candidate. But maybe it has some lessons to teach.

Loggerheads

Washington courts The key line in today's Twin Bridge Marine Park v. Department of Ecology Washington Supreme Court seems so self-evident that you almost wonder how a serious court case could develop around it: "When disagreements over property development arise between these two entities that exercise regulatory powers under the SMA [the Shoreline Management Act], private citizens must not be forced to choose between conflicting edicts." Even if the law in question is something other than the SMA.

This one has to do with a turf battle between Skagit County and the Department of Ecology; a marina developer has been caught in the middle. The Supreme Court noted that "Twin Bridge is a dry-storage marina that has been properly permitted by local, state, and federal agencies after years of litigation. At argument, Ecology conceded there were no continuing environmental concerns." But the battle has gone on, at some length.

This might be reasonable grounds for a task force: To find areas of overlap or conflict in the laws, so that citizens aren't caught between. Or, of course, we could all just litigate.