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Posts published in June 2008


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.

Fine tuning on religion

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%. ) (more…)


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."

Careful with your friends

Guilt by association runs rampant in campaign season, and too often people with thin connections get used as a club to wallop some candidate or other.

Sometimes, though, the connection is strong enough that the tie is legitimate. In the 2004 gubernatorial race, the Building Industry Association of Washington as tight as could be with Republican candidate Dino Rossi, to the point of running point on his post-election battles over vote counting.

So we're paying attention when Rossi's campaign drops mention of his speaking at a BIAW luncheon last week, after being introduced by the group's leader as a “candidate who believes as BIAW believes.”

That, of course, opened the door: What does the group believe? Said one opinion aarticle in the groups's publication (see page 8): "Hitler's Nazi Party: They Were Eco-Extremists" - and yes, the language in it follows suit: "Knowing my parallel would illicit screams of protest—how politically incorrect of me to mention Hitler and Nazis in the same breath as
DOE or the environmental lobby—I explored the actual connection between environmental extremism and Hitler’s Nazi party. . . So, much like Stalin and Hitler were divided on how to best go about their socialistic schemes, environmentalists are also divided over how to best go about their socialistic scheme of controlling human development—either by burning houses down
with Molotov cocktails, or slowly squeezing the life out of it through extensive, Soviet-esque micromanagement." Quite a view of the world; it drew a complaint from the Anti-Defamation League.

And, of course, elsewhere, such quotables as saying Governor Christine Gregoire is a “heartless, power-hungry she-wolf who would eat her own young to get ahead” whose backers are “witches.”

In politics, best to be careful who you get close to.

The virtues of Paulina

Ever considered living way out there, out in - no, we won't say the middle of nowhere - in a really low-population place? Far from the crowds? Really far?

Check out the piece on Paulina today in the Bend Bulletin, and you can start to imagine what it's like (if not necessarily yourself doing it). Nearest substantial community: Prineville, about an hour away. (It's way up in the Ochoco Mountains on the Beaver River.) If that gives you the itch to learn more, check out the community's web site (technically, the local store's, but there's not much difference).

(We are based in a small town, Carlton. But there are close to 2,000 people in it; it's about six miles from a city of 30,000; and an hour from Portland. Small, rural, but not remote. Paulina is remote . . .)

Seattle’s pot & kettle

Those of us who can as easily take or leave the nearby presence of a major league sports team haven't had much reason to fully internalize the business-model realities of having one in place. But, thanks to the Seattle Sonics trial (over who properly has ownership of the team), we're getting a great insight into that. For those of us simply interested in the phenomenon, this whole bloodbath has turned into an excellent education.

Specific case in point is a lawyer-client document, just released in the course of the trial, which is one of the best pieces of reading we've seen on the business model and strategic considerations of obtaining and running a major league franchise. Some pieces of it may be taken as a little scandalous, and certainly it does gray out the formerly clear-cut spin of Seattle hometown advocates as the good guys and the "Oklahomans" - the current Sonics owners - as the black hats. The new document comes from the city/hometowner side, and it is quite blunt. Cynical? You might say so, but we'd just call it realistic.

You get some of that from the Powerpoint's headline: "Why a Poisoned Well Affords a Unique Opportunity."

If you want to run a major league sports team (and really, how many tens of millions of people have thought about it?), the report says, there are three key considerations: "Scarcity: they are hard to come by; Economics: They are hard to operate properly; Reputation: They are hard on the owner's reputation." All three seem at first counterintuitive; pause for a moment, and all three make sense.

Few regional franchises are ever available; the attorneys note that "for example, big four franchises have been available for sale in the Seattle market 11 times in their combined 100 years of operation." Only about half of the NBA franchises operate at a profit at any one time (sounds like a bad business to get into if money is the objective). And: "Few sports team owners are loved (or even just not reviled) by the local community. Franchises can be seen as 'rich boy toys,' subsidized by [the] public."

There's much more, much of the rest being Seattle-specific. This is a highly recommended read.

Action, possibly?

One of the posers about Idaho tax auditor Stan Howland's report on tax commission practices - that it was in essence letting many large corporations get away without paying taxes they should be paying - has been this: Would it be ignored by the policymakers in Idaho government, or would it lead to a serious inquiry?

Some reporters asked that question, but the initial indicators were uneven. Reports today, though, suggest that a point man on this is emerging: State Senator Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, who is himself an accountant.

And a commission response is supposed to be out on Monday. When we see it, we'll link to it.

Number 17

Today's national "House line" on most competitive U.S. House seats - no, actually, seats most likely to turn over in party control - by the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza ranks the Washington state 8th district at number 17 nationally. Considering that the trend line is showing a likelihood of 20+ seats turning this year from Republican to Democratic, that puts Washington 8 on the edge.

We started this year figuring Republican incumbent Dave Reichert had an edge, albeit a small one, heading into the rematch with Democrat Darcy Burner - such rematches fall short more often than not. But we've seen little this year to ramp up Reichert's odds and quite a bit (money, national mood, better reviews among them) to improve Burner's. Last time Cillizza reviewed this race, he slotted it at number 19; now it's up two.

Cillizza's take: "Every Republican strategist we talk to insists on the one hand that Rep. Dave Reichert is the only GOPer who could possibly hold this Seattle-area seat but on the other acknowledges that Reichert's time may be up. Barack Obama at the top of the national ticket is bad news for Reichert, as the Democrats' presidential candidate will roll up the vote in metropolitan Seattle. Darcy Burner, who took 49 percent of the vote in 2006 against Reichert, is, by all accounts, an improved candidate. The political environment is everything in this district. If Obama wins big in the 8th, he is likely to carry Burner along with him."

Sonics v. No Sonics

Would your life be appreciably different if the Seattle Sonics were no longer in Seattle? (You'd think that would depend on whether you're an active fan or not . . .)

The question has been asked by a pollster, the results emerged in legal action today, and here they are (for the Seattle metro area) for the question of whether you're better or worse off if the Sonics leave: No difference 58%, 31% worse, 7% better, and 4% didn't know.

The Sonics' fan base again is . . .