Archive for October, 2009

Oct 15 2009

Where Idaho is

Published by under Idaho

A concise summary of Idaho’s present governmental financial woes, on Betsy Russell’s blog:

“One in five Idaho school districts has declared a financial emergency. State prisons are managing 500 more offenders than a year ago, with $28 million less in funding. Part-time state employees already hit with furloughs and other cutbacks will face sharp increases in their health insurance premiums. And Idaho’s Medicaid program could see a shortfall so extreme it’d have to eliminate 23 percent of the health benefits it provides to the state’s poor and disabled.”

Tax increases are of course off the table.

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Oct 14 2009

“a massive giveaway to the rich”

Published by under Washington

That may sound simply ideological, but Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat has one of the best rundowns yet of the impact of Initiative 1033, the Tim Eyman special that’s been sold as restraint on government but does oh so much else.

Westneat delivers lots of specifics. They come down to this: “He could have targeted his tax relief, to help those who most need it. But he didn’t. This is the rotten core of his initiative. Forget all the caterwauling about spending cuts. At its heart this is a massive giveaway to the rich that does little to nothing for the poor.”

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Oct 14 2009

Why Mormons should be wary of Glenn Beck

Published by under Northwest

The TV talker Glenn Beck has spots of real popularity in the Northwest. The attention he has gotten is massively outsized compared to his actual audience (on Fox, about two million, or about two-thirds of one percent of the American population – not even a major sliver). But it has been enough to move book sales and generate substantial public appearances, like the highly-publicized recent events in Seattle and Mount Vernon, and in July at Idaho Falls. To judge from appearances and general public comments, he has a particular base of support in eastern Idaho.

That may have demographic reasons. Beck is a Mormon, since 1999 a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and that part of the country is heavily Mormon. The situation is a lot more complex than simply pointing to the co-religionist factor; to suggest that Beckism is the same as, as matches cleanly with, all of mainstream Mormon belief and culture, isn’t right. But if Beck’s visibility continues to grow, exactly that may happen.

The first article (I’ve seen) addressing this squarely is a piece in the Boston Phoenix, “Latterday Taint,” pointing out how Beck’s approach grows out of a line of thought within that church, but just one one. The article is well worth reading. The LDS Church isn’t entirely monolithic, and there are (relatively) liberal, mainstream, conservative and farther out elements. Beck’s rants grow out of some of the more extreme and paranoid activism.

A lot of Mormons have cause to be concerned that Beck’s fame has a backwash – that, in the minds of many, it comes to define them as well.

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Oct 13 2009

Buying commerce

Published by under Idaho

The long-term move of consumers from trading in small towns toward the mega-commercial centers in urban areas long has been one of the most serious problems small towns face (in the Northwest and elsewhere).

Here’s one approach for encouraging buying local, from an article on the city of Emmett (about 20 miles from Boise) in the Idaho Statesman:

“Last summer, a local non profit group called the Shadow Butte Development Corp. used an unusual approach to induce shoppers to buy locally. For every $100 they spent in local stores, the corporation gave them a $20 gift certificate. The result: $75,000 worth of gift certificates in July alone. ‘People found local mechanics and laundromats and other businesses they hadn’t even known about,’ said Wisti Rosenthal of the Gem County Chamber of Commerce. ‘For that $75,000, $2 million was spent in local businesses.'”

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Oct 12 2009

Reichert on health

Published by under Washington

reichert

Dave Reichert

The only Northwest Republican left representing an area west of the Cascades, Dave Reichert of the district located roughly east and southeast of Seattle but west of the mountains, has been through the political wringer.

He was elected in 2004, in a fairly tight race, then re-elected more closely in the Democratic year of 2006. Through this decade, his one-Republican district has been trending firmly Democratic in legislative and other races. And then, in 2008, the opposition to Reichert looked as if it had jumped the shark. His Democratic opponent, Darcy Burner, in her second race against him, did not quite as well as she had the election previous, in an election year even better nationally for Democrats. 2010 seems unlikely to be a comparable sweep year for Democrats. And the historical norm is that once a member of the U.S. House has passed the first re-elect, or maybe two, they generally settle in to easy returns.

And maybe that happens with Reichert. But our attention was snagged today by a Tacoma News Tribune article on Reichert (and Representative Doc Hastings of central Washington, a different situation since his is a very strongly Republican district) and his response to the health care debate. In Congress, Republicans have been hanging in very solidly on health issues, absolutely opposed to public options and other key elements of Democratic proposals. Operating in a politically marginal district, Reichert has been hanging in with his caucus.

The story notes, for example, “Reichert said, ‘it’s exaggerated to say it will put a federal bureaucrat in every doctor’s office, but the government will have a role.’ Both are also absolutely convinced the Democratic proposals to rein in Medicare spending by more than $500 billion over 10 years will result in cuts in care for the elderly, an allegation Democrat’s dismiss as an outright lie.”

Not only many superhot issues where the partisan divide has been so deep have found Reichert so firmly planted with his caucus; in some other cases, he seemed to try to have at least toe in both camps. But not so in this one.

When he draws an opponent next year, as he will, what role will this play? And will there be cost exacted?

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Oct 11 2009

No records, no poll?

Published by under Oregon

Sid Leiken

Sid Leiken

You remember the case of Sid Leiken, the Springfield mayor who said he planned to run for the 4th U.S. House seat presumably against incumbent Democrat Peter DeFazio. In the month since candidate filing has opened Leiken hasn’t, maybe because of the August 21 tearful press conference announcement of an “error in judgment.” That concerned a $2,000 payment his campaign made to his own consulting firm, a payment that ordinarily wouldn’t be legal; Leiken said it was actually just a reimbursement to an outside contractor who conducted a poll. The outside contractor was his mother.

Which sounded a little odd, but also seemed to end the story, partly since Leiken’s campaign seems to have ground to a halt since. But state investigators from the Secretary of State’s office have kept poking at it. And this tidbit from the blog by David Steves, of the Eugene Register-Guard, posted a few days ago, seems to call out for more attention. It refers to a response letter from Leiken’s mother to the state officials:

Most recently, investigators have requested evidence that there really was a poll. That’s where the letter put out today comes in. In it, Glenda Leiken explains that, beyond a memo summarizing the poll’s results and methodology, which she submitted this summer, “no other documentation exists.” She doesn’t have any notes or computer spreadsheets used to track the results. She doesn’t have phone records, either, Leiken says.

“I used a disposable/single use phone to retain my privacy, as my cell phone is my only personal phone line,” she wrote. “The cell phone account was closed over 5 months ago and the phone company does not retain phone records for closed accounts, therefore phone records are not available.”

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Oct 10 2009

Rally the base, or expand support?

Published by under Washington

protect marriGE

On R-71

Say you’re pushing a socially conservative concept is a state where the population is, as a majority, socially liberal or moderate at most. How do you do it? You might try a pivot to a non-morals-based argument, something relating to finance, legal complications or some other area.

What you don’t do, as the group Protect Marriage Washington has done, is something like this: A video that comes out of Sunday School and never leaves there, guaranteed to turn off all those people unlikely to support your view in the first place. (There’s no embed code for the video, hence the link to the home site.) The video’s view being that marriage itself is being violated by Senate Bill 5688, the measure that famously gave same-sex couples most of the rights of married couples but not the formality of marriage.

The guess here has been that Referendum 71, which seeks to repeal that legislature-passed law, won’t collect the votes it needs for repeal. Videos like this one do nothing to alter that sense.

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Oct 10 2009

Green votes, green behavior

Published by under Oregon

If you’re a plitician, best to assume you’re never off-camera – and that goes well beyond the range of traditionally scandalous stuff, down to what kind of car you drive.

Oregon Representative David Wu, who has a generally green voting record, also drives an SUV, as a Republican video which has made its way to Politico demonstrates.

His staff argued that Wu and his family do a number of other green things (recycling and so forth). And Wu, who does have a challenge but to all appearances so far, not a strong one, doesn’t seem in particular risk.

Pictures are, nonetheless, powerful things.

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Oct 10 2009

New: 50 Meds for a Sick Health System

Published by under books

50 Meds
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More about this book by Randy Stapilus

One or two won’t do. Most books (articles, speeches) about fixing America’s health care mess address two or three very real problems and corresponding solutions. But they don’t cover the waterfront, and the problem areas are too many to be cured by only a single silver bullet or two. This book for the first time compiles an extensive list of changes, some of them simple and some complex, that could cut costs and re-wire our system so it works better for all Americans. 50 ideas in a short and easy read – just 168 pages packed with solutions that can work. Available now from Ridenbaugh Press, $13.95

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Oct 09 2009

Facebooking-off on health

Published by under Oregon

John Kitzhaber, the former Democratic Oregon governor who’s seeking a third term, tried something a little different this afternoon: A Facebook discussion on health care. People would post and comment, and Kitzhaber would weigh in with comments and some answers to questions. It may be a useful direction for his and other campaigns to come.

The results in this case? So-so. The participants around the spectrum (and they were decidedly not all from the left) generally gave him praise for the effort, and the half-hour session did yield quite a few viewpoints. Kitzhaber’s own comments were intermittent and brief (some of that owing to the format), and often suggestive of bullet points.

Scanning through the comments overall, so many cry out for more explication. Bullet-points seem to be the mode of political and policy thought these days; facts are ammunition to fire at the other side. Some of the participants didn’t seem to have an interest in putting the pieces together, though a minority did. And some of it wandered off into the mists of political philosophy, where such matters as solving problems based on facts-on-the-ground often get left behind.

Consider this exchange (in which Kitzhaber doesn’t appear): Continue Reading »

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Oct 09 2009

Registration update

Published by under Uncategorized

At just over a year to the next general election – close to the midway point – seemed a useful point to review the party voter registrations in Oregon.

A note: Ind refers to the Independent Party; non-af is nonaffiliated. None that the drops in the interim (which are across the board) are generally explained because of standard records purging.

Month Dem Rep Ind non-af
Aug 909,414 679,934 47,563 423,711
May 907,700 679,624 44,752 419,486
Feb 930,649 692,610 45,358 429,858
Nov 08 931,318 694,589 43,030 429,758

.

Very stable.

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Oct 08 2009

Cubist health

Published by under Oregon

Not a bad little metaphor . . .

Somewhat complex, with each move having an effect on every other, but ultimately solvable. (Nice imagery for Merkley, too.)

A side note: The idea of a state opt-out for health care public option, if pursued, could be the shrewdest and most devastating political move of the year.

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Oct 07 2009

Feelin’ like carrying

Published by under Idaho

Those of us not much into guns – that majority of us for whom guns aren’t, maybe apart from a hunting expedition or such, a part of ordinary daily life – have one kind of mindset when it comes to firearms. Even in these western states where guns certainly aren’t rare.

But there’s also the “open carry” culture. A perceptive Boise Weekly piece on a group of “open carry” (guns) advocates, by Scott Weaver, points out the view this way:

“The question is this: How do you reintroduce firearms into a culture that, as Ludlow and Carter have admitted, has rejected them as a part of everyday life? How do you push people toward the open-carry advocate’s ideal society, one in which everyone who is permitted to do so openly carries a gun. It’s often the first question you’re asked when you inquire as to why they’re carrying guns: Why aren’t you?”

Possible answers might include the potential for deadly accidents, the improbability of needing a gun (speaking personally, your scribe never has felt the need for one in more than half a century of American living and travel across 49 states) and the possibility of getting into a conflict with someone else also carrying; and that this century is the 21st, not the 19th. But that’s just one way of thinking.

Presumably the majority way, though, Idaho’s reputation notwithstanding. The Weekly story is spun around an Idaho Open Carry group’s plans to hold a dinner (at which carrying but not shooting was expected) at the Meridian Fuddruckers, which which evidently became uneasy at the idea, then at an Idaho Pizza Company, which asked them to leave their weapons outside, before finally getting a dinner with carry at a Shari’s.

An Idaho Pizza Company employee remarked, “This is supposed to be a family atmosphere. We got no problem with them coming in. We just don’t want them carrying guns. I mean, we don’t live in the Wild West, man.”

Well, evidently he doesn’t . . .

But be it noted that the Idaho diners are far from alone in their enthusiasm. Check out the website OpenCarry.org for more on the national perspective and relevant state laws.

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Oct 07 2009

Lobbying for a prison

Published by under Idaho

There’s something sad about this. Time was when communities scrambled to avoid being a “prison town” – as in, put that thing somewhere else.

Now, they can be considered moneymakers.

And money is invested. From the Twin Falls Times News, in a report on Cassia County’s commissioners’ pursuit of a new $300 million federal prison: “The contract approved Monday calls for a monthly fee of $5,000, and commissioners also set aside a monthly travel budget of up to $500 for the effort.”

The fee goes to New West Strategies, the lobbying group founded by former Senator Larry Craig and his former staffer Michael O. Ware. (In case you were wondering what the former senator is up to.)

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Oct 05 2009

The real Olympians

Published by under Washington

Keep watching these trademark cases; you’ll see a disquieting pattern that reaches ever closer to home.

The Washington capital city of Olympia has had, as its leading newspaper since 1860, the Olympian – a logical choice for a name, since that also is what residents of the town are called. (And other things as well.) The paper has had several owners over the years, and when the most recent, McClatchy Newspapers, bought it in 2006, it decided formally to trademark the name, filing paperwork with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

This would seem to be uncontroversial. “Olympian” refers to a local business whose name is drawn from the community, and it has very long standing. The perversity of our trademark laws (regular readers will know we’ve been here before) will out, though: The U.S. Olympic Committee is challenging the trademark. The newspaper’s name, in place longer than the modern-times Olympic games have been (those date to 1896), “tends to cause confusion or mistake, to deceive, and to falsely suggest a connection.” Or so say the lawyers.

Why not just demand in court while they’re at it that the whole city of Olympia change its name as well?

Actually, this has been predicted, for a long time now. Former Washington Senator Slade Gorton crafted into federal law an exception for words relating to “Olympic” when applied to businesses and communities in the western Washington area. The Olympian quoted him as telling the Senate in 1998, “It is only fair that the USOC not be able to interfere with this use. Although there are relatively few instances in which the USOC, crying ‘mine, mine, mine’ has gone after any of the thousands of businesses in Washington state that use the word ‘Olympic,’ the attitude that the USOC has displayed in these few instances demand correction.”

That special exception may give the Olympian newspaper a break. But the law as a larger thing still deserves a much closer look.

Note McClatchy purchase date corrected.

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Oct 04 2009

Chuck Oxley

Published by under Idaho

I just concluded a week-long, 1,600-mile road trip around southern Idaho. One of the people scheduled for a coffee visit, in downtown Blackfoot, was Chuck Oxley, a long-time Idaho newsman, for a couple of years communications director for the Idaho Democrats, and most recently managing editor of the Morning News. The coffee didn’t happen; Oxley wasn’t at the newspaper office because he was home with the flu. We made tentative plans to meet later.

Won’t happen now. The first bit of news I saw after returning home was about Oxley – he died on Saturday in a one-truck accident, west of Blackfoot. The news hit home as sad and chilling at once.

He was a journalist at a couple of places I also worked (the Idaho Statesman, the Idaho State Journal) and I knew him from those experiences as a solid and committed journalist. Like many people in newspapers in this decade, he left the industry to work elsewhere (in this case, for the Idaho Democrats). But then he pushed to re-enter his old trade, something hard to do in most times and extraordinarily difficult now. Among various options, he was looking into the idea of setting up a suburban newspaper in western Ada County.

Idaho lost one of the good ones in that accident.

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Oct 03 2009

Washington tax increase?

Published by under Washington

People don’t like tax increases. Pretty nobody does, not even those on the left accused of being in love with them – they have to pay taxes too.

So this quote from Washington Governor Chris Gregoire in a Seattle Times story about potential tax increases – something the governor has opposed in this cycle up to now, but now accepts on the table – jumped out:

“I’ve told them, ‘Come on in and convince me that’s the right thing to do and that people will support it.’ At some point the people, I assume, don’t want us to take any more cuts.”

Indeed: At some point presumably, tax increases, however unpalatable, may become acceptable. And where is that point?

On one side, Oregon may find out in January when voters decide whether to keep the small-scale tax increases (paid by only a relative few Oregonians, to be sure) imposed in the last session. And that will be a fight.

On another side, Idahoans may find out just what happens when cuts go deep enough. A number of agencies are scheduled to see holdback cuts of 7.5%, and a few much more than that; after several years of tightening, there’s real questioning among a number of legislators – yes, conservative Republican legislators (heard from some of them yesterday on this) whether some of those agency functions can even be properly continued.

Where’s the break line? We may be about to find out. And Washington looks to be in this upcoming session, right on the edge. At present, the state Senate majority looks to be in favor of putting increases on the table, the House seems reluctant, and Gregoire is open to discussion. Keep watch on this.

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