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Posts published in July 2009

Newswriting alchemy

There is a style and an approach to writing news stories, for newspaper or wire service, on one hand, and news releases, for general consumption, on the other. They read differently. They do different kinds of things. They are different sorts of statements.

So, some fascination in what David Ammons has been doing at the Washington secretary of state's office. For a long, long time (from 1971 to 2008) he was the dean of the Olympia press corps, the key Associated Press writer on government and politics in the state. Now he's the public information guy for the secretary of state.

Point here is, read what he's been writing there, such this recent piece on Referendum 71. It reads more like a news story than a press release - some sort of a new style combining the types, or maybe something new altogether.

It's a creative approach, whatever it is.

Reasons for selection

If you threw down a list of the dozen or so key turning point moments in the history of Boise, one of them would have to be the selection of the city by Hewlett Packard for development of its laser printer operations. Its arrival in 1973 was notable but seemed not overwhelming at the time. Over the years, it became pivotal, giving Boise a solid tech anchor it would not have had otherwise, around which the city became a genuine tech center. It's hard to imagine Micron Technology having launched there, at least the way it did, in geography unplowed by HP. As corporate relocations go, this was one of the most consequential ever in the Northwest.

The man who made that call was Ray Smelek, and he writes about it in his memoir, "Making My Own Luck." There were other contenders for the laser printer operation, notably Spokane and Corvallis (in both of which HP also developed operations). Why Boise? (Was it, say, low taxes?)

Golf, skiing, personal lifestyle - that was pretty much it, Smelek writes: "I didn’t tell anyone at the time what the truth was about how we site selected Boise. It seemed such a dumb reason. But in reality, I believe that the decision-maker’s affinity for a specific place plays a large part in any site selection when there is no specific business reason, i.e., natural resources, customer proximity, etc."

(Hat tip to the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell on this.)

The lying

Let's call this what it is: Lying.

From a comment on a post by the Oregonian's Charles Pope: "I would not believe anything that Blumenauer says. Obviously they want Senior Citizens to die earlier because they have a created a health plan that is going to ruin this country!"

The health care system in place right now is already in the process of bankrupting Americans by the millions and rationing health according to wealth, primarily in the interest of massive profits for specific industries. But put that aside.

What Representative Earl Blumenauer did was propose an idea reflective of the ongoing health care discussion in Oregon: To allow for a voluntary discussion between doctor and patient about end-of-life considerations and options. Note the words "allow" and "voluntary."

Blumenauer's description of what this is about:

Anti-health reform groups are misconstruing a provision of the legislation, which enjoys broad support in Congress, to provide coverage under Medicare for people to talk to their doctor about their wishes and care preferences at the end of life.

Such groups claim that advance care planning consultations include “euthanasia” and are “mandatory every five years.” These claims are blatantly false. Accusations that physicians would be required to “recommend a method for death” are as offensive as they are untrue.
I have been working on a bipartisan basis to ensure that patient wishes are known and respected. The provision included in H.R. 3200 simply allows Medicare to pay for a conversation between patients and their doctors if the patient wishes to speak about his or her preferences and values. This benefit would be purely voluntary, and patients do not need to have this consultation with their doctor if they do not wish to do so. The new Medicare benefit would allow doctors to be compensated for these conversations every five years, and more frequently if a patient has a life-limiting illness or health status changes.
Without these discussions, families often are not confronted with these difficult decisions until emergency situations arise, leaving spouses, sons, daughters and grandchildren unprepared because they do not know their loved ones’ preferences. As a result, families are left struggling to make decisions in the midst of turmoil. These are deeply personal decisions and they do not need to happen in crisis.
Doctors, nurses, and patient advocacy groups have supported our bipartisan effort to improve the quality of care for individuals facing their last chapter of life. I hope you will recognize the urgent need for improved communication around advance care planning, recognize the false claims against this provision, and support our efforts.

From here, this sounds sensible, and in fact has pretty broad support across party lines. But the torrent of fury unleashed by it has been a little astonishing. Blumenauer has posted a "myth vs facts" page which outlines a number of the myths. Among them: "Patients will be forced to have this consultation once every five years . . . Patients will be forced to sign an advance care directive (or living will). . . . Patients will have to see a health care professional chosen by the government."

On that page, he didn't even get to the stuff about government-ordered euthanasia, which is running around rampant. But he did mention it in a piece on the Huffington Post, and no, it didn't come from the outer fringes, but from a Republican member of Congress, North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx who said in that in contrast to Democratic proposals, the Republicans "would not put seniors in the position of being put to death by their government!"

The fear campaigns we saw in 1993 and 1994 was mild compared to the madness being unleashed now. How many people will recognize it for what it is? How many will buy into it?

A candidacy?

Brian Clem

Brian Clem

Oregon State Representative Brian Clem, D-Salem, is sounding more and more serious about running for governor. Today he shipped out an email outlining his activities since the legislative session ended, and they sound a lot like the early stages of a run for higher office.

For example: "I appeared on the radio with conservative host Jeff Kropf on July 14 because I'll never be afraid to talk seriously with anyone, of any political persuasion about creating the future Oregon deserves. On July 15 in Camp Sherman, my family and I witnessed Governor Kulongoski sign the bill I championed to protect the Metolius, an extraordinary Oregon treasure. I spoke at several events, including the world-famous Lane County Chili Feed on July 26 and the Marion County Demo Forum on July 20."

All outside his Salem-area district. (Should be noted here that Clem is a capable speaker, has some presence, won election in what had been a mostly Republican district, and has been a relatively visible legislator.)

Clem's candidacy, to judge from statements he's made, is apparently contingent on other candidacies (notably the possible run of former Governor John Kitzhaber). Absent that, he's making all the sounds of someone planning to run . . . in the event . . . Meantime, sooner or later, he's laying the groundwork.

Johnson’s posts

Johnson

Marc Johnson

Marc Johnson is the president of the Gallatin Group, a public affairs consulting company (what it does exactly seems a little too amorphous to describe in only a few words) and before that was chief of staff and press secretary for former Governor Cecil Andrus. Those who go back in Idaho politics in the decade before Andrus' third campaign for governor in 1986, recall Johnson in a different context, that of a television newsman.

Begone the thought of your basic local commercial TV anchor; Johnson spent most of his years in Idaho television at public television. You might reasonably put him in the Idaho neighborhood of a Jim Lehrer/Bill Moyers community. He's almost everyone's first choice in Boise to emcee public affairs events, but not just because he handles them so smoothly; there's an informed and thoughtful underpinning that gives the technique grounding. You saw it those years ago when he hosted news programs on public TV; he was (and presumably still could be) one of the best questioners in the state (noted here as a then-reporter who periodically fielded his questions).

All of which is noted now because Johnson has launched a new blog, the Johnson Post. (Picked up, it should be added, via a comment on Facebook by one of his co-workers.) His first entry concerns a slice of Idaho history, about Senator William Borah's involvement with two key Supreme Court appointments and confirmations, timely now of course because of the current confirmation activity.

A suggested read. We'll look forward to see what Johnson posts about next.

Sifting endorsements

During general election season, we keep some track here of endorsements by newspapers around the Northwest; taken generally, they're an interesting thermostat both of the politicians and of the news media. It doesn't constitute, of course, some sort of uber-endorsement (vote as they say), just an indicator of who's lining up where.

To that extent, the recent rash of endorsements in Washington local government elections, by people who often have little to do with the local election, has some analytical value. As a serious marker of who to support, not so much.

Joel Connelly has collected a number of these, and some are laugh-inducing. Or should be. One argues the case for which King County executive candidate former Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson would have backed; remember that Jackson died close to three decades ago. There's a prospective endorsement in a Spokane race by initiative activist Tim Eyman, which would be fine if he lived in Spokane but less so as a resident of Puget Sound community of Mukilteo.

If Inslee runs for gov

Jay Inslee

Jay Inslee

Horse's Ass has an intriguing bit of political insider speculation, about the governor's race in 2012 and possible fallout from one of the candidacies.

It starts this way: "Everybody knows that Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (WA-01) has long had his eye on the governor’s mansion, and is widely expected to give up his House seat to run for our state’s top office in 2012." Not sure what the sourcing on that is like, but the idea is interesting.

And the follow: "But who of note has his eye on Rep. Inslee’s coveted House seat, once it becomes vacant? Word is that noted travel writer and TV and radio personality Rick Steves is seriously considering giving up his globetrotting ways for an extended stay in the other Washington, and is already working the local Democratic circuit in preparation for a potential run."

The evidence for Steves feels a little thin, but who knows?

As to Inslee, a Democrat, a couple of pieces of background seem in order, since he has specific political background in two geographic areas of interest.

In 1988 he ran for the state House and won, in a Yakima-area district - a hard get for a Democrat even then. In 1992 he was elected to the U.S. House from that central Washington district, also a tough go, and his loss in the 1994 Republican sweep was hardly an indicator of specific weakness. He moved to the Puget Sound after that and (after a primary-losing run for governor in 1996) ran for the U.S. House in his new turf, District 1, which includes a slice of King County but most takes in Kitsap and Snohomish - those latter mainly being swing suburban areas. He won by a hair in 1998, tossing out Republican incumbent Rick White. But since then he has become entrenched, and wins in landslides - Republicans haven't even tried seriously the last few runs. (His six general election percentages in District 1, in order from 1998 to 2008: 50%, 55%, 56%, 62%, 68%, 68%).

Inslee would have ample appeal in King County generally; he would be for the most part their kind of liberal Democrat. He has worked key suburban areas with considerable success. And he would have some experience in, if not necessarily winning in rural areas, at least appealing to them enough to toss a little blue into the sea of red. he also has had the experience (albeit unsuccessful) of running for governor.

A strong prospect, if that materializes; you can imagine a second Inslee run for governor doing better than the first. A primary between he and Spokane Senator Lisa Brown would be fascinating.

Tight budgets, but production goes on

The Seattle Post-Globe - an online aftermath spinoff from the old Post-Intelligencer staff - has been running some interesting material, some of it on local politics and other governmental actions. But the link today is a little more direct, about the Post-Globe itself.

Fundraising standard practice probably wouldn't suggest trumpeting, "We've raised enough to pay our all-freelance staff of writers for another two or three weeks." (And yes, that's apparently as far as it goes at the moment.)

But the piece also points out that there've been a number of useful efforts in the last couple of months. Among the headlines: "'Nickelsville' told to move again" (concerns a homeless encampment); "City Light superintendent's bonus was much more than he'd received before"; "Seattle mayoral debate focuses on Nickels and Mallahan" and a number of others.

You might take a look.

A Nazi revisionism watch

protest

Protesting Irving in Portland/Indymedia

A little belated with this recommendation, but a highly recommended link regardless: A Boise Weekly story about the visit to downtown Boise (the relatively most liberal section of Boise, by the way) of David Irving, a historian who has come to align with the neo-Nazi movement.

Irving's approach isn't that of the Aryan Nations crowd. A description from David Neiwert at Orcinus: Irving "is an academically trained historian, one whose career arc traversed from 'controversial' to 'extremist' over the course of several years. . . . Even in his early, 'controversial' years, careful examination of Irving's methodology revealed 'that he omitted important evidence and that he misused, manipulated and even altered documents to support his theory' (sound familiar?). Eventually, rather than accept the criticism and alter his approach accordingly, Irving defiantly drifted into the murky waters of Holocaust denial . . ."

There were no parades here; this was a quiet tour, evidently organized mainly through a web site. There has been little-noted stops - this was a book-signing and sales tour - around the Northwest, first in Boise on July 15, then in Spokane (July 16), Seattle (July 18), and Portland (July 19). The page notes, "Rights of admission strictly reserved. Use this registration button to get on the list."

There have been a few online reports of Irving's latter three stops. A protest developed at his Portland stop but it got little external attention. At Spokane, word gout out by way of Twitter and MySpace.

But the report to read came by way of Nathaniel Hoffman at Boise Weekly. In part, it's a reflection on the difficulty of properly covering such an event, even deciding what proper coverage is. But there's a fair amount of useful material here too about Irving and (more to our point) the reactions of people around him. Recommended.

Merkley on health options

Following up on yesterday's post on the lightly-mentioned state-run insurance funds - which do provide some health insurance for employees - it turns out that a mention of them was made yesterday by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley. (And, his staff says, not for the first time.)

Appearing on Fox news, Merkley made a number of useful points. (The insurance fund reference, toward the end, was relatively brief but hit a mark.) The trillion-dollar cost of one current proposal gets batted around a lot, but seldom in the context - which Merkley provided - of overall projected health spending during that time of $40 trillion. And the highly useful point that many of the fiscal benefits of the proposal, especially in the area of preventive care, haven't been "scored" by federal budget analysts because no firm numbers for them exist - although there's little doubt those benefits would be substantial.

Not a long interview (and cut off by the Fox interviewers with a slice of unwarranted snark at the end) but a useful listen,