Archive for September, 2008

Sep 30 2008

The church, Kerry and Kulongoski

Published by under Oregon

Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

We saw this before nationally, in 2004, when there was talk of Roman Catholic church officials taking (internal church) action against presidential candidate and practicing Catholic John Kerry, because of Kerry’s pro-choice views on abortion.

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is a practicing Catholic too, and he too is pro-choice. The tension hasn’t come up publicly in Oregon until now. Today, Portland Archbishop John Vlazny criticized the governor for hosting a pro-choice event locally: “For a Catholic governor to host an event of this sort seems a deliberate dissent from the teachings of the church.”

Is he saying that a Catholic governor must draw all his policy decisions, and official actions, within the confines of the church, and whatever it might teach?

We just finished reading a fine book, “1960 – LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies,” by David Pietrusza, which included a detailed account of the concerns people at that time had about the idea of electing a Catholic to high office – whether he might be beholden to, or dictated to by, his church. John Kennedy put that partly to rest by saying forcefully that while he was a loyal Catholic, his church never would dictate policy to him when he was acting as a public servant. And that line seems to have been broadly accepted, nationally and within the church.

Would Archbishop Vlazny say now that Kennedy was wrong? And if Kennedy’s rationale was wrong, should non-Catholics have the old concerns about electing someone of that faith?

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Sep 30 2008

“Buildergate”?

Published by under Washington

It’s been more than 3 years: Can we please do away with the whole “-gate” thing, revived recently in Alaska with Troopergate and now in Washington with buildergate. Please: A little rhetorical imagination.

Having said that, David Goldstein of Horse’s Ass seems to have got hold of a juicy thread that more or less fits the pattern: An initial piece of hard, albeit small, evidence, a run of denials and a slowly emergant extended story as the string is pulled.

In this case, that initial chunk comes from a seemingly unlikely place, the minutes of a Master Builder’s Association meeting of May 21, 2007, which includes these sentences: “Doug moved into discussion regarding the request from BIAW to use excess money from the ROII refund to fund the BIAW’s war chest. . . . Doug, Joe and John reported that they had received a call from Dino Rossi. John stated that he reiterated the board’s sentiment to Rossi, stating that it was to early, and the association had building issues that needed to be resolved.”

Talk of managers of an independent political committee coordinating with a candidate? As a strictly legal matter, this may be iffy. Rossi didn’t formally announce his candidacy for governor until later in the year, for one thing. The level of “coordination” involved here also doesn’t seem very strong.

Politically, though, it constitutes ongoing evidence of just how close Rossi and the Building Industry Association of Washington are, and that may not sell well.

Every bit matters in a close race.

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Sep 29 2008

Northwest on the bailout

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

So how did the Northwest U.S. House delegation break on this morning’s bailout vote? The vote was reasonably close by the way, with the bill losing 205-228.

state in favor opposed
Idaho Simpson (R) Sali (R)
Oregon Walden (R)

Hooley (D)

Wu (D)

Blumenauer (D)

DeFazio (D)

Washington Larsen (D)

Baird (D)

Dicks (D)

McDermott (D)

Smith (D)

Inslee (D)

Hastings (R)

McMorris Rodgers (R)

Reichert (R)

As in the Northwest, the vote split both parties deeply, though a majority of Democrats voted for and a majority of Republicans voted against.

But for anyone who follows the region’s delegation at all, the splits in the vote here are a little amazing. Bill Sali lines up with Jay Inslee; Jim McDermott lines up with Greg Walden. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Although it might be noted that the candidates in serious races this cycle – Reichert and Sali notably – voted in opposition. May say something about public attitudes.

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Sep 28 2008

A real turkey

Published by under Oregon

Apublic policy issue for Philomath: What exactly do you do when turkeys – the animal kind – overrun your town?

That’s what they’re grappling with. From an AP story on the situation: “About 20 of the big birds hang out in west Philomath, scratching or tearing up landscaping and roofs, leaving calling cards on lawns and decks and making noise during the early morning, fish and wildlife officials say.”

Chase them off? (Been tried.) Kill them? (Maybe the last resort.) Or is there another option?

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Sep 27 2008

Outlier

Published by under Washington

So where might you find maybe the only group of surveyed independent voters Friday night who thought that John McCain rather than Barack Obama won the first presidential debate? Not the group at Fox News . . .

No: It was in the Washington state. Narrowly, 40%-38%, but still.

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Sep 27 2008

Cheers

Published by under Idaho

At the University of Idaho Argonaut (the school newspaper – celebrating its 110th anniversary this fall) blog, this note about national/international media excess:

It’s not just the University of Idaho cheerleaders getting tired of hearing about their uniforms. We are, too. The Argonaut has had information and photo requests from the likes of USA Today, Inside Edition, The Associated Press, Fox News, Fox TV and a myriad of other local news sources. We’ve had more outside news sources contact us about this than when UI alumna Sarah Palin was added to the Republican presidential ticket. May it end soon, for all of our sakes.

We’ve not said a word about it so far, but the massive media attention – and the Argonaut is not exaggerating here – certainly deserves note.

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Sep 26 2008

The Macpherson appointment

Published by under Oregon

Greg Macpherson

Greg Macpherson

The appointment of state Representative (and former attorney general candidate) Greg Macpherson to the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission has drawn enough fire to be slowed down, if not necessarily nixed. But it could say something about what that commission should be like in the months to come.

The opposition is not qualitative in terms of qualification for the job – Macpherson, who has a legislator and elsewhere has been immersed specifically in land policy for years – is well past that threshold, likely playing into the appointment by Governor Ted Kulongoski.

Oregonians in Action, which has spearheaded the opposition, takes issue instead with Macpherson’s specific stands (this from a press release appearing on Oregon Catalyst):

As many of you know, Mr. Macpherson is the state legislator from Lake Oswego who led the charge to draft Measure 49, run it through the legislature on a straight party line vote, and craft an exceedingly deceptive ballot title for the Measure without any public input.

As a reward, Governor Kulongoski has nominated Macpherson for a vacant spot on LCDC. If Macpherson becomes an LCDC commissioner, he will have no sympathy for Measure 49 claimants, rural Oregon property owners, or anyone who wants to make reasonable changes to our broken statewide land use planning system.

During his legislative career, Macpherson has opposed the most reasonable changes to Oregon’s land use laws. The last thing that LCDC needs is another hyper-partisan Portland area legislator who cares nothing about fixing a broken set of laws that are nearly four decades old.

Macpherson’s central role on Measure 49 is a matter of record; the rest is interpretative, and if you’re a fan of Measure 37 (the more ragged measure that 49 replaced), as OIA is, then you’re not going to be a Macpherson fan.

OIA said yesterday that a proposed Senate vote to confirm Macpherson has been put off, owing to calls generated by the group, but also noted that a vote still could come later this year (or presumably in January). There may be an opportunity in this for more discussion about Oregon land law, which the state could well use. Macpherson might even welcome it; he was, after all, on the big majority side in the vote on Measure 49.

UPDATE Turns out that Oregonians in Action had less to do with the timing of the Macpherson appointment than they claimed. We got some some background on it from a correspondent yesterday, and now this has shown up on the Oregonian‘s opinion blog, from Doug Bates:

“When the Senate Rules Committee met last week for a confirmation hearing on Macpherson’s appointment by Gov. Ted Kulongoski, the panel’s vice chairman, Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, raised a legal technicality. He asked whether a sitting member of the Legislature could be lawfully confirmed for such an appointment. Legal counsel didn’t have a ready reply, although Kulongoski has made several such appointments in the past without challenge. Macpherson told the committee he’d prefer holding up his confirmation hearing until the legal question can be addressed. There’s still plenty of time for that to happen between now and January, when Macpherson’s term in the Senate is over.”

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Sep 25 2008

The seizure of WaMu

Published by under Washington

The biggest savings and loan in the country, and one of the leading businesses in the Northwest, Washington Mutual, has been seized and decomposed.

The company doesn’t even mention the development on its news release page. But what happened is that federal regulators with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation today seized ownership, and sold most of it to JP Morgan Chase. A press release from the latter says:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) tonight announced it has
acquired all deposits, assets and certain liabilities of Washington Mutual’s banking operations from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), effective immediately. Excluded from the transaction are the senior unsecured debt, subordinated debt, and preferred stock of Washington Mutual’s banks. JPMorgan Chase will not be acquiring any assets or liabilities of the banks’ parent holding company (WM) or the holding company’s non-bank subsidiaries. As part of this transaction, JPMorgan Chase will make a payment of approximately $1.9 billion to the FDIC.

The acquisition expands Chase’s consumer branch network into the attractive states of California, Florida and Washington State and creates the nation’s second-largest branch network – with locations reaching 42% of the U.S. population. The combined 5,400 branches in 23 states will also serve as an excellent base to extend the reach of the business banking, commercial banking, credit card, consumer lending and wealth management businesses. The acquisition also extends Chase’s retail branch network to additional states, including Georgia, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.

Oh joy – another corporate buyout of a formerly Northwest-based business. How do you suppose the customer, employee and community-relations components of this one will play out? Along the lines, perhaps, of those previous?

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Sep 25 2008

A little more attention

Published by under Oregon

Peter DeFazio

Peter DeFazio

Maybe as the article suggests, this is an idea getting little traction – now. But our guess is that if the thought got some serious exposure, it could poll strongly nationally: An idea that a whole lot of Americans probably would sign up for.

From a Congressional Quarterly article on a meeting about the proposed finance bailout (Tyson is Laura Tyson, formerly of the Clinton Administration):

“Tyson got an earful from a number of liberals including Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., who advocated a new government fee of .25 percent of every stock transaction to ensure that the government can recoup funds to pay for the aid that it provides to lenders. ‘If this is truly such a catastrophe, I don’t see how anybody can object to a one-quarter of one percent fee,’ DeFazio said. Others who attended the session said that proposal seemed to be gaining little traction. Tyson rejected DeFazio’s idea and said she believed the government could recoup any funds it pays for troubled investments ‘deal by deal,’ by negotiating terms for financing rather than charging a fee on each transaction.”

Millions of deals by millions of deals? Really? Who would do all that negotiating? DeFazio’s approach could pick up steam, if it crosses the visibility threshold.

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Sep 25 2008

The other congressman

Published by under Idaho

Somebody write in and advise if we’re drawing too much out of this press release. But it seemed here highly unusual.

There’s nothing unusual about members of Congress proclaiming how they brought home the bacon, usually expressed by the phrase “secured funding.” Nor anything unusual about more than one member of Congress from a state joining together to make a joint announcement.

So today’s press release from Idaho Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson was in that sense nothing unusual.

But when they “announced today that several North Idaho projects are included in the National Security Funding Package” a bell rang, because while the senators do represent northern Idaho, Simpson does not – his district covers southern and eastern Idaho, and none of the projects noted in the press release are in his district. They are in the 1st district, whose representative is Bill Sali.

A slip? An oversight? Or?

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Sep 25 2008

What’s in a (Republican) name

Published by under Washington

In the Washington primary filings, candidates got to select a stated party preference, but they had liberty to name their preference themselves. Several Republicans chose something other than “Republican Party”; among those was Dino Rossi, the Republican nominee for governor, who stated his preference as “G.O.P.”

Which seemed here to be a minor curiosity: Yeah, the Republican label isn’t hot this year, but would a label of “G.O.P.” (which traditionally stands for “Grand Old Party”) really matter?

Maybe it does. The Tacoma News Tribune reports from a media panel a test by pollster Stuart Elway about just that point: “Republican gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi does better (though still trails) when his party preference is listed as ‘GOP’ than he does when his party preference is listed as ‘Republican.’ This is significant because Rossi will appear under the label ‘GOP’, something that state Democrats object to and have filed litigation to block.”

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Sep 25 2008

OR: We’re #1 (in closeness)

Published by under Oregon

Could it be that Oregon’s is the most closely-fought U.S. Senate race in the country? Yes, it could, which would explain the rash of really intense TV spots, both positive and negative, both from campaigns and not.

The polling has been plentiful, and the conclusion overall is steady and clear: Republican incumbent Gordon Smith and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley are within a couple of points of each other – and within the margin of error. Such a result has been closer and steadier for longer, as far as we can tell, than any other Senate race in the country.

The Cook Political Report rates it as “tossup,” one of just five such (the others being Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina and New Hampshire).

From our sense of what’s happening in those other states, we’d feel more comfortable giving slight leans (Democratic in Colorado and New Hampshire, Republican in Minnesota and North Carolina) than either way in Oregon.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ Politics) rates it as leaning Republican, but says this: “Two-term Republican Gordon Smith is in a statistical tie with Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, the speaker of the state House, leading him 46 percent to 45 percent with 2 percent choosing “other” and 7 percent undecided in a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted Sept. 15. The margin of error is 4 points. Smith’s favorable to unfavorable ratio is 49 percent to 46 percent while Merkley is viewed unfavorably by 46 percent and favorably by 45 percent.” That’s essentially a tie.

Expect the ads to accelerate.

UPDATE A Research 2000 poll (for Daily Kos) just out gives Merkley what we think is the largest lead over Smith he’s posted so far, 45%-40%. It puts the Obama-McCain topline at 53%-39%, also one of the largest reported for Oregon so far.

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Sep 25 2008

41% down

Published by under Oregon,Washington

This was totally predictable – we predicted it here – but it is still apt to come as a shock: Home sales in Seattle are off 41% from last year, and house prices are dropping fast too, with western median prices off by a quarter.

Prices were shooting up far higher and faster than all but a sliver of people could afford. How could the end result of that bubble be anything other than what we’re seeing now?

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Sep 24 2008

Washington’s stem cells

Published by under Washington

Stem cell research would seem to be an odd topic for the Washington governor’s race – more a national issue than a state subject. But it evidently has some resonance. It has become such a hot topic that the state’s largest newspaper is asking a gubernatorial candidate not to discuss it.

It launched in a major way a few weeks ago with a campaign by Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire, who is arguing that her opponent, Republican Dino Rossi, opposes stem cell research, which she supports. Rossi says he does not oppose the research; the basis for her flat contention hasn’t been entirely clear.

The ads are clear enough, though, as are the press releases on the subject, one released as recently as yesterday.

Rossi has shot back that he does in fact support stem cell research, and noted (unrebutted) that Gregoire’s administation hasn’t put any money into stem cell research. (She argues that a research fund has been established, and stem-cell related requests are in the pipeline.)

Yesterday the Seattle Times editorialized, “Enough of stem cells. The job of governor has nothing to do with stem cells. Gov. Christine Gregoire should use her re-election money to talk about things the governor actually does, starting with budgets and taxes. She should end the TV ads of people who fret that Dino Rossi is standing between them and medical salvation.”

To which Goldy at Horse’s Ass responded, “The governor’s stem cell ads are without a doubt the most evocative and effective of the campaign, and the Times damn well knows it. That’s why they chose to use their bully pulpit to try to bully her into pulling the spots. I mean, could they be any more obvious?”

All of this sounds like a form of code combat – “stem cell research” standing in for something else, maybe something too difficult to go after directly. That may be suggested by the final bullet point in Gregoire’s press release yesterday: “Gov. Gregoire is a supporter of science-based research. Republican Dino Rossi is willing to let his personal beliefs stand in the way of scientific research.”

That’s probably a little closer to where the battle here really resides.

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Sep 24 2008

Elect your AG

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Our view has been, for some years, that state attorneys general probably should be appointed, rather than elected. The reason has been that professional skills are key in the case of AGs, to a lesser degree than – as would be the case with a governor or legislator – pollicy judgment.

However, since reading this enlightening dispatch from Alaska showing just how damaging an appointed AG can be, that position is formally reversed. Elect ‘em. Absolutely.

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