"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

This week’s “Rogue of the Week” for Willamette Week is a national figure, but a former Portland (KATU-TV) broadcaster, Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly was only engaging in his usual routine of overheated misinformation, but this time he was pointing it back at Portland. Hence the reference.

Details at the link. In general, as the Week suggested, if you take O’Reilly’s core shot – “If you let the crazy educators run wild, which they are in many, many parts of the country, then we’re just going to lose the country, because the kids are confused. They don’t know what the heck is going on” – and replace the references to educators and kids with “O’Reilly” and “his viewers,” you’ve about nailed it.

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Interesting post out of Spokane about the development of an apparently national database of wi-fi locations.

Tom Sowa of the Spokesman-Review adds, “It’s no surprise that a Boston mobile services company hired drivers to spend hundreds of hours prowling Spokane and Kootenai counties. That company, Skyhook Wireless, is collecting the location of nearly every Wi-Fi signal in public spaces, building a database that is the key resource it sells to customers like Apple and others.”

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Idaho Washington

Afew days ago we pointed to a badly blown video against Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, mainly because of the theme music it employed (from “The Sopranos”). The theme music wasn’t it’s only problem, though; the ad was simply so busy that little of its mass of message stuck.

Contrast that with the series of quick, simple 15-second spots developed by the group Evergreen Progress (whose main backers, it says, are Service Employees International Union Washington State Council, Democratic Governors Association, Washington Federation of State Employees, Sheet Metal Workers Local 66 PAC, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302). With 15 seconds to run, they aren’t detailed. But they don’t have to be. They each make a fast, hard point, then encourage people to go to their web site dontknowdino.com for the supportive background.

This is effective stuff. There are three of them now, and looks as if there could be a good many more. And you can imagine a candidate trying to swat away all those 15-second gnats. (Maybe something Rossi’s campaign would be well to consider.)

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Anyone following the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, and its activities and connections, will want to check out this extensive blog post on DI’s links to a new bill in Louisiana, likely to become law soon, aimed at installing de facto creationism in the state’s schools.

Further of note: The person who may make it law is the governor, Bobby Jindal, who is being talked up quite a bit as a possible vice presidential pick for Republican presidential nominee-presumptive John McCain.

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Some years back, in an early version of this blog, we said that plans for renovation of the Idaho Statehouse were driving up the cost, once estimated at around $40 million, upward in the direction of $100 million.

That drew a stern chastisement from one of the people on the committee, arguing that estimates had the cost at nowhere near $100 million – no, far less.

Today’s headline in the Idaho Statesman: “Capitol renovation boosts budget to $122.5 million.” Up from a recent previous estimate of $120 million.

Couldn’t help noticing . . .

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One of our long-standing political rules of thumb: Major court rulings that address emotional topics tend to energize the side that lost. Think abortion. Think busing. Think gay marriage (2004, though much of the emotion so prominent then seems bleached out now). And now, as of today, think gun control.

Well we remember an evening some years back at a political event in the Idaho Panhandle. After hearing several Democratic candidates make their case, a group of guys in the back of the room were still shaking their heads, and they would not be swayed. They agreed with the bulk of what the candidates said, but had two problems. A nagging one, with abortion. And a big one – they were convinced, no matter what they heard from the candidates (several of whom also owned guns), that the Democrats were about to take away their guns if they got elected. Period. And that was a deal breaker.

Well, today, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in effect that the U.S. Constitution would bar any attempt to do what those guys in the back of the room were concerned about: “Held: The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for
traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

That rustling sound you hear is the air going out of the they’re-coming-for-our-guns mindset. Not all of it, of course: No decision or action by anyone would eliminate it all. But a lot of people for whom gun ownership is very big deal are likely to look at that subject a little differently, with less concern, than they did not long ago.

Eventually, there may be some counterblast, from the organizational roots, for gun regulation. But not right away. In the meantime, the dynamics may well have changed.

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Yes, the new anti-Dino Rossi video by Washington Democrats was way over the top, and because of one element that involved not a single word spoken or written, or even an image. This could be a first, an ad gone very bad because of the theme music.

Everything but for the theme music seemed to be more or less in bounds. It is true that Rossi, the Republican running again this year for governor, is very close to the Building Industry Association of Washington, and the BIAW has been a major funder and supporter. The ad’s text and clips make the point powerfully.

But then they play that unmistakable Sopranos music behind it. Intended to suggest someone’s mobbed up here? (You have to ask: Would the idea even have arisen had the candidate been named Ross instead of Rossi?)

Kelly Steele of the Washington Democrats said the music wasn’t intended to suggest any such thing: “It’s a catchy song, which we thought jibed stylistically with our communication about Rossi’s designated attack squad – the BIAW – who continue to pour millions into false and misleading attack ads against Gov. Gregoire.” Just coincidence, apparently, that particular catchy song came from a program about Italian mobsters.

The ad has been taken down, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer blogging, evidently to be re-themed.

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The Idaho Tax Commission has delivered its response to the batch of serious charges delivered several weeks back by veteran auditor Stan Howland. (We’ve posted it.)

The response is longer than Howland’s original, and as blunt: “The Commission, and the individuals involved, reject as completely untrue any allegation that cases are illegally or inappropriately compromised. ”

A key procedural element, referred to right up front: “When a taxpayer protests an NODD [Notice of Deficiency Determination], it is important that the protest process offer an impartial review. Moreover, it must be seen to offer an impartial review. It is difficult to have an impartial review, and impossible to be seen to have one, when the auditor sits in judgment on his own NODD. That is why auditor involvement is minimized at the protest level. Protests are heard either by Commissioners or their designees.”

On the other hand, if those conducting the impartial review hearing mostly from the taxpayer and very little from the auditor, you can develop some unusual forms of impartiality.

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Maybe we should re-evaluate just how much trouble Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith is in. We have been assuming that, while he’s certainly hard-pressed in a tough political year, the odds remain somewhat in his favor for November.

But if he thought so, if he thought he wasn’t on the edge of loss, why would he run an ad like this?

So the presidential nominee of the other party is now serving as Smith’s character witness? Don’t believe even Idaho Democrats, desperate as they could sometimes be, ever slipped to trying that one.

This has been picked up by national blogs; the Talking Points Memo has run the reply line from the Barack Obama campaign, just to clarify things: “‘Barack Obama has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment and we appreciate that it is respected by his Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate. But in this race, Oregonians should know that Barack Obama supports Jeff Merkley for Senate. Merkley will help Obama bring about the fundamental change we need in Washington,’ said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.”

TPM also noted, “The ad is also further proof of just how far Smith will run away from the Republican brand in this blue state.” In your court, Oregon Republicans? (They might ask why Smith, who was one of John McCain’s early endorsers in the darkest days of that campaign, has run an ad aligning himself with Obama but not with McCain.)

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One quick add-on to the piece on the Pew study, a statistic developed nationally but of special import to the Northwest.

The question was asked of everyone surveyed, which of these two views would come closest to your view: “It’s best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs,” or, “We should concentrate on problems here at home.”

Every religious tradition chose “here at home” over “active in world affairs” – nearly all by big margins – with just two exceptions. For understandable specific reasons, Jews went for “world affairs” by 53% to 37%. Just behind them, however, is a less-expected group – by 51% to 37%, Mormons agreed – the only other group on that side of the choice.

Worth thinking about in national electoral politics.

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Idaho Oregon Washington

The outlines of the Northwest on religion are clear enough. In most of southern Idaho and in patches of eastern Oregon and Washington, Mormons are dominant. The Seattle and Portland metro areas are relatively secular. Evangelicals are strong in many of the suburban areas. And so forth.

The latest study out of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life doesn’t break down below state levels, but it goes beyond the labels and tags: Almost uniquely, it goes after specific beliefs and actions.

Washington, Oregon and Idaho vary more or less under this type of lens generally as you’d expect they would. But the differences are enlightening anyway.

Some of the numbers seem a little unexpected out of context; among adherents generally, evangelical Christians (26% nationally) account for 25% in Washington and 30% in Oregon, but just 22% in Idaho; but you have to bear in mind that Mormons are counted separately from them, and they are estimated at 23% in Idaho, but 5% in Oregon and just 2% in Washington. Add the two (which makes sense, since despite their theological differences they have many social policy similarities) and you get 27% in Washington, 35% in Oregon and 45% in Idaho. A picture emerges.

(Add to this: The percentage of Roman Catholics is higher in Idaho, at 18%, than in Washington’s 16% or Oregon’s 14%. )

The more provocative stuff comes under the “beliefs and practices” tab.

The Pew study found that nationally, 71% of Americans believe in God (or “universal spirit,” which may open a door for some non-traditionalists) with absolute certainty, and another 17% are “fairly certain”; the small remainder are less so. Washington and Oregon score almost identically on those two categories at 64% WA/63% OR and 19%/both. Idaho, interestingly, scores higher than both (no suprise) but almost almost exactly at the national average – 71%/14%. (The national average is driven up by very high figures in the southern non-Florida states.)

Try this question: Is there only one proper way, or more than one appropriate way, to interpret the teachings of your religion? Only one way in Washington is 25%, and in Oregon 26%. In Idaho, it jumps in a big way, to 39%. Utah’s, in case you were wondering, is 45%; but Idaho (with Mississippi) ties for second place among the 50 states on this measure.

Then consider this one: Is your faith the one, true (exclusive) faith leading to eternal life; or, could more than one faith do so? The national average on this is 24%, which is about where Oregon (24%) and Washington (25%) are. But look at Idaho: 34% say they have the one true faith. Among the 50 states, only Utah (at 50%), Mississippi and Alabama outscored Idaho on this.

Highly provocative stuff, with significant political implications.

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Idaho Oregon Washington

Afine catch by the excellent Idaho Radio News blog, on what executives of two major Northwest daily newpapers had to say after news last week that the corporation which owns them both, the McClatchy Company, had marked its papers for major cutbacks.

Tri-City Herald editor Rufus M. Friday: “We have more readers today than ever before — for our newspaper, our website and our specialty products. That’s our most important measure of success for the future.”

Boise Idaho Statesman editor Mi-Ai Parrish: “We have more readers today than ever before – for our newspaper, our Web site and our niche products. That’s our most important measure of success for the future.”

As a commenter noted dryly, “Complete coincidence.”

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