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Posts published in “Day: February 8, 2009”

Closing in on a record

Peter DeFazio

Peter DeFazio

Representative Peter DeFazio erred a bit the other day, on a matter of record. From the David Steves blog Capitol Notebook (Eugene Register Guard):

"U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio opened a state Capitol news conference Friday with this bit of trivia: When he completes his current term, in January, 2011, he will have served 24 years—tying the record for longevity for any Oregon congressman." There was a punch line to this: The other 24-year guy, Al Ullman (also a Democrat), went no further because he lost his bid for re-election in 1980, thereby becoming the classic case study of an incumbent losing touch with his district. (DeFazio, who seems also to be mulling a run for governor, is highly unlikely to fall victim to the same problem.)

DeFazio's glitch: Ullman doesn't hold the Oregon/U.S. house longevity record. That is held by Willis Hawley, best known nationally as the co-sponsor of the trade-limiting Smoot-Hawley Tariff, "which raised import tariffs to record levels, and, as many historians claim, contributed to the circumstances which resulted in the Great Depression." He was ousted in 1932, not coincidentally. so one point DeFazio made stands: both representatives serving longer than he has were bounced out by the voters.

Or, as David Sarasohn of the Oregonian wrote in his entertaining rundown today about the state's House delegations, "So on the one hand, Hawley helped make the Great Depression even more depressing. On the other hand, he's the most famous Oregon congressman ever."

(A Sarasohn glitch: "Bob Duncan was elected to the House from the 4th District in the 1960s, then moved to Portland and was elected from the 3rd - the only Oregonian sent to Congress from two different districts." Not the only: There was Denny Smith from the 2nd and 5th; and you could stretch it add Walter Lefferty from the 2nd and 3rd.)

The most notable data point to emerge from looking through the longevity runs of Oregon representatives is how the terms in office generally have been lengthening, Hawley and Ullman notwithstanding. Apart from freshman Kurt Schrader, all of Oregon's current House members are in their sixth terms or more, and Schrader's predecessor was in her sixth. Call that the marker of a trend . . .

Dash that cat

moscow pullman airport

Moscow-Pullman Airport (in the distance)

The Moscow-Pullman Airport, not one of the big hubs, is located out in the rolling Palouse fields more than easy walking distance from either city, and the site of sporadic regional air travel. The main difficulty there is keeping a steady enough flow of flights (a few each from Alaska and Horizon) coming and going. But if you're the Department of Homeland Security (memo to Barack Obama: Please change that name; we need no reminders of Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa), your eye might have been caught by this descriptor line about the airport in Wikipedia:

A cat named "Dash" occupies the airport and freely roams through the security checkpoint.

Well, that Siamese just couldn't stand (even if Dash has been an airport fixture for four years). In his latest email to constituents, state Representative Tom Trail puts on the wry: "Many of us who used the airport looked forward to this friendly feline. However, it is apparent that in reality Dash was a deep undercover terrorist cat trained by Al Qaeda and just waiting to launch an attack on local citizens. Homeland security agents became suspicious when they saw Dash with a deadly weapon - she unsheathed her claws. Agent suspicions also grew in intensity when they realized that over 4 years there had not been a single high jacking, terrorist attack, the sign of a single rodent, and not a single case of bubonic plague at the airport. This perfect record was just too good to be true. Dash was last seen being escorted under armed guard and the rumor is that she is being shipped off to Catanamo for intensive interrogation."

Actually, there's an effort underway to find a new home for Dash.

(There's the argument that someone might be allergic to a cat, and this is why the removal. That will not become credible at least until cats, and dogs, which do regularly travel by plane, are banned from airports even for travel purposes.)

Praise be that the feds are out there to protect us all from a little slice of humanity . . . or felinity.

An immigration sweet spot?

The subject of illegal immigration, subsumed to a degree by the current economic crunch, is bound to rebound - it almost always does in tough times. If it turns into a hot topic that, say, the Obama Administration might want to put away with some efficiency, the search may be on for a political "sweet spot", a point in the debate where some realistic solution (or something close to it) might be found, a place that satisfies no one on the extremes but might find some broad acceptance.

Something like what a group of Idaho business people are suggesting. Wouldn't that be a mind-blower: The Obama Administration drawing from such a source? And yet, as policy, it might be a pretty good fit.

Brent Olmstead of the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform had this to say in a guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman:

Amnesty unfairly rewards those who broke our laws, and mass deportation is unrealistic. Current enforcement policy is centered on undocumented workers who are contributing to our economy. The enforcement priority should target those engaged in criminal activities.

That is why we support a sensible guest worker program that takes undocumented workers off the black market and legitimizes their economic contributions without providing an expedited pathway towards citizenship status. This type of a program in conjunction with increased enforcement at the border will more readily allow the government to know who is entering our country.

A guest worker program that provides foreign workers with a worker ID removes the incentive for millions of people to illegally enter our country. It adds workers to our tax base, generates revenue for needed social services and it satisfies the need that employers have for a reliable labor pool.

Those who are here illegally and want to stay should be assessed a fine, pay any owed back-taxes and submit to and pass a criminal background check. When all of that is completed the individual should be given a renewable work permit that is valid as long as the individual stays employed.

Absolutists on one side or the other won't much like it. But it jumps past the key problems with the absolute answers, from basic practicality to making a joke out of our legal system, to having some realistic control of our borders and a sense of who is and isn't within them. This may be an idea worth some more thought.