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Posts published in October 2009

Green votes, green behavior

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.

New: 50 Meds for a Sick Health System

50 Meds

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

Facebooking-off on health

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): (more…)

Registration update

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.

Cubist health

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.

Feelin’ like carrying

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 for more on the national perspective and relevant state laws.

Lobbying for a prison

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.)

The real Olympians

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.

Chuck Oxley

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.

Washington tax increase?

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.

NW . . .

Washington is considering closing one or more prisons, and cutting back on other corrections activities. Depending on how some of this play out, it could turn into a notable social experiment, though corrections officials warn about public safety problems . . . Idaho's Otter okays a delay in moving gas tax revenues from parks and police to roads, a major shift itself from a few months ago . . . A right to newspaper distribution? A conservative Oregon state paper's publisher thinks so . . . Everett says, no lewd conduct at the coffee shop . . . Year-round schools: Maybe something a whole lot of us can agree on? We'll agree with Lars Larson and Barack Obama on this . . .

NW . . .

In economic sweepstakes, the Tacoma News Tribune's Peter Callaghan writes, "Gregoire made the state’s case with Boeing, but said no to shameless begging." What? . . . Oregon State Representative Scott Bruun, R-West Linn, says he will run against new Democratic U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader in the 5th. Bruun, on the relatively moderate side of the state House caucus, often gets high marks (sometimes from Democrats), has been a skilled legislator and may make the race high-toned. He may be the best candidate for the general election Republicans could have. But will more conservative possibilities leave him unprimaried? And what of his House seat? . . . Interior's Klamath Dam plan released . . . Quote of the day, laying the marker in the Seattle mayoral race. From candidate Mike McGinn: "The issue here, though, is big business, the Chamber (of Commerce) and the big construction unions really want that tunnel. And Joe Mallahan is their man. I've come into this race, I haven't needed their support to win the primary. If we build a campaign based on people and ideas and win I think that's a different type of politics in Seattle and that concerns them. They've set the agenda for a long time and they want to keep setting the agenda and I'm suggesting we need to take some different approaches to build for the future." . . . As Nampa mulls Sunday liquor sales, still banned there . . .