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Posts published in October 2008

Endorsements: SR for McCain

The Spokane Spokesman-Review makes its presidential endorsement for Arizona Senator John McCain: "Sen. Barack Obama is an impressive political figure, but his rapid rise to eminence has left Americans with large gaps of information about him and put him at a disadvantage. John McCain's long service has armed him with a broader grasp of federal issues, which in turn gives voters a more detailed picture of him."

The endorsement comes at a time of big newsroom changes, including departure (because of financial cutbacks) of several top editors. Dave Oliveria, who runs the SR blog Huckleberries and formerly sat on the paper's editorial board, offered some thoughts: "I'd guess most of the Editorial Board was in favor of Obama - at least, I'd say Doug Floyd, Gary Crooks, and Rebecca Nappi were/are. Steve Smith's gone, of course. Dunno where Lynn Swanbom stood. But I remember our great debate when we came down 4-2 in favor of John Kerry in the Bush 2 sweepstakes - and I was assigned to write a convoluted editorial explaining why we supported Bush. I don't miss writing editorial endorsements."

The bailout case

We've focused here more on the skeptical side than than supportive side of last week's bailout bill vote, and the skeptics probably have had more of the conversation and visibility. But the aye side will be heard too, in the weeks ahead of the election.

So - and also because we've seen precious little campaign video from Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith - a link here to video from a press conference at Roseburg, in which Smith outlines his view on the bill, and more briefly on other matters.

Figure this as preface to the Senate debate with Democrat Jeff Merkley on Thursday.

County fallout

The passage of the $700 billion mega-bailout bill has impact all over the country (not to mention around the world), of course, but the 400 or so pages of attached goodies include at least one item of notably special interest to the Northwest - inclusion of extension the county timber payments, something Northwest legislators have been trying and failing all year to get included.

High irony: The inclusion of the provision in the bailout bill seems to have been most principally the doing of a senator who voted against the overall bill - Oregon Senator Ron Wyden: "I promised the people of Oregon that I would attach it to every single bill that was moving through the senate. I made it clear that I couldn't make any commitments to vote on the overall bailout bill."

From the Association of Oregon Counties:

The Governor’s Task Force on Federal Forest Payments and County Services is about to release a final report containing more than 50 recommendations for the Legislature to consider. Those recommendations offer the opportunity for the Legislature to craft administrative and statutory changes to give counties more flexibility in providing effective and efficient services to Oregonians.

The next big challenge for Oregon counties is to work toward making our federal forests healthy. Federal forest payments were originally enacted to help counties with the loss of revenue from declining timber harvests. The lack of responsible forest management has left federal forest lands in a weakened and generally unhealthy state. The risk of wildland fire has increased dramatically. It is time to turn our attention to the health of our federal forest lands – forest lands that can provide healthy local economies, biofuels, productive watersheds and much more.

Now that the President has signed the Emergency Stabilization Act, government agencies will begin the process of determining the amount of payments counties will receive and when those payments will be sent out. AOC will be working closely with the National Association of Counties and the federal agencies in the process. At this point, we are certain that Oregon counties will continue to receive federal forest payments for another four years, but those payments will be decreased by about 10 percent a year.

Of all places around the country, southwest Oregon probably has been the most severely hit by the abrupt cancellation of the timber payments. The county association seems, in its initial statements at least, to take a pragmatic view, that the new extension may be the last, that it provides a time to phase out rather than simply a continuation. From that perspective, as the association indicates, the work on replacing the money is only beginning.

Silly season

Part of what's not missed around here, out of working in a newspaper newsroom: In those places, you have to deal with the loony toon stuff that tends to accumulate especially toward the end of campaign season.

From a column by James Wright, editor of the Twin Falls Times News:

I spent some time reading Barack Obama's birth certificate Tuesday.

Why, you ask?

A gentleman from Rupert called me - twice - to ask why the Times-News wasn't reporting the shocking news that Obama wasn't even an American citizen, and thus cannot legally become president.

Either we weren't paying attention or - start the scary music here - we must be part of the coverup, he intimated.

OR: Endorsements, gradually

The flow of newspaper endorsements running out of Washington state is off to aa slower start just to the south. But a possibly significant one did emerge today.

The Eugene Register-Guard filed its endorsement in the U.S. Senate race, for Democrat Jeff Merkley: "That background, with its invaluable international seasoning, combined with Merkley’s extensive legislative experience, make him superbly qualified to represent Oregon in the U.S. Congress. Oregonians can help bring real change to Washington, D.C., by voting for Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate."

Offhand guess is that the Oregonian will stick with Smith. But we'll see.

WA: Endorsement round

Got a batch of endorsements dropping in the Nortwest on this Sunday. From the northern reach, some views . . .

bullet Governor. A couple of endorsements in the governor's race, both for Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire, one a surprise and one not. The non-surprise was the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which leans Democratic anyway: "Especially for uncertain times, she's a much more proven leader than her Republican rival, former state Sen. Dino Rossi." (Our guess offhand is that the Seattle Times will go to Rossi, as it did in 2004.)

The relative surprise is the Vancouver Columbian: "Gov. Gregoire has served well, particularly in matters affecting Clark County, and The Columbian today endorses her for reelection. Such was not our recommendation four years ago when we endorsed Rossi in a battle of two candidates who were seasoned politicians, but first-time applicants for the governor’s chair. Now, though, Gregoire is armed with a dossier that shows significant progress."

bullet Initiative 1000. The "Death with Dignity" initiative is picking up editorial support. The Wenatchee World concludes, "It already is legal in Washington to prescribe medication for relief of pain, even if it hastens death. It is just that death cannot be the intended purpose. Initiative 1000 will make legal what can be done indirectly. For a few unfortunate people, who wish only a less painful or more dignified journey to their inevitable end, this law provides a new option that compassion says they should have. Yes on Initiative 1000."

And at the Seattle Times: "But for the voters to reject I-1000 is to deny the patient the right to make the decision at all. On the grounds of compassion for the suffering, and recognition of the individual as a moral agent, death with dignity is a right that should be allowed."

The meaning of clean

Everyone wants a "clean" political campaign. But what does "clean" mean?

Here, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story about a group of legislative candidates making promises, and doing a little discussion, about what that might mean . . .

A reducible minimum

How do you know a newspaper cutback is getting really bad? Here's one way: The editor quits because he can't stand this anymore.

And that's what Steve Smith, the editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, has done, in the course of talking about still more layoffs (is this the third or fourth round of layoffs at the SR this year?). Looks as if it could amount to a fifth of the staff, including several newsroom managers.

The bureaus in Coeur d'Alene, Boise, and Olympia remain. For now.

Splitsville

Just fascinating the way the Senate delegations of all three Northwest states split on Bailout Mock II: Not just one one delegation split by party - Oregon - but also the usually like-minded Democrats in Washington and Republicans in Idaho.

The political headline here probably belongs to Oregon's Gordon Smith, the Republican in the delegation, who voted in favor of the bailout. (Democrat Ron Wyden was opposed.) If the conventional wisdom about public attitudes toward the bailout is anywhere near right, he may wind up paying a price in a re-election contest that has absolutely no room for error. (Your take about whether this is a profile in courage or an exercise in foolishness may depend on how you view Smith and the bailout.)

Certainly his Democratic opponent, Jeff Merkley, was quick to pounce: "I commend Ron Wyden for standing up for taxpayers and doing what is necessary to restore accountability on Wall Street. The easy thing to do would have been to vote yes on this bill. I have dedicated much of my life to advocating for consumers and I believe it is just wrong to spend $700 billion of taxpayer money to bailout the very Wall Street financiers who created this crisis. This bill will allow those same executives to walk away with golden parachutes, while doing nothing to end the abuses of oversight that caused this mess or help working families who need their own economic rescue. This proposal is badly flawed and adding a number of important unrelated items, no matter how worthy, does not fix the problems with this bailout."

Might this be the vote that costs Smith his seat? Could be.

But maybe more interesting was with split within parties.

In Washington, where both senators are Democrats, Patty Murray (who is in Democratic leadership) voted in favor (it is “an attempt to keep an already bad situation from getting worse"), and Maria Cantwell was opposed (it would amount to “turning the keys of the U.S. Treasury over to the private sector"). On key items, Murray and Cantwell usually vote closely together.

And in Idaho, Republican Senators Larry Craig and Mike Crapo usually vote a lot alike, but not this time. Craig was for: "I am convinced this investment, which the Treasury should be able to recoup, will bring the stability to the financial markets that Idaho and the nation need." Crapo (who serves on the Senate Banking Committee) voted no, saying taxpayers needed more protection.

What a partisan issue . . .

The Alfords

You don't see a lot of this kind of thing happening much anymore: A family business, in which the father turns over the shop to the son (or, in some cases, daughter). Yeah, there was a story in this morning's Oregonian about just that, in the case of the Red Coach Restaurant in downtown Portland. But newspapers . . . do families still own them anymore?

A few do, one of the classier around being the Alford family, which owns the daily newspapers at Lewiston (the Tribune) and Moscow (the Daily News) in north-central Idaho. Today, a sea change: A.L. "Butch" Alford (and one of the more personable as well as steely publishers you'll find in the business), who has been publisher at Lewiston for 40 years, turns over the store to his son, Nathan.

It's a tough business these days, and the Lewiston operation has not been immune from the cutbacks that so many other newspapers have had in recent years. But you have to suspect that these local owners will hold things together better than most.