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Posts published in July 2010

Review: The last of the Indian wars

trahant

Two subjects here. One is the long-time Washington Senator Henry Jackson, one of the most impactful the region has ever had, and his work with one of his staffers, Forrest Gerard - and we should note here that a lot of the work credited to members of Congress actually gets done by staffers, so that's a worthy story on its own merits.

The other is the issue at hand: "Termination," as applied to Indian reservations. As the glossary puts it, termination in the context of Indian reservations means "an end to the special relationship between tribes and the federal government. The idea was to settle claims with tribal governments and then terminate the federal government’s role on reservations. American Indians would then become subject to state laws."

For someone who likes clear and clean lines of government, the federally-recognized tribes and their reservations are an inconvenience. They fit nowhere in the nation's federal system, but they're not - terms of language notwithstanding - realistically independent nations either. (Independent nations controlled by a bureau of the federal government?) A wide range of people have bought into the idea of termination over the years. Of course, if that approach had become law, Indian country would look a lot different now, and surely a lot less prosperous.

Once, Jackson was one of them. He changed his mind, and his work with Gerrard was one of the key levers in that change.

So the new book Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars, written by former Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Page Editor Mark Trahant (and, much further back, former Sho-Ban News editor), tells a story about how a policy - against termination - came to be put in place after an unsteady run through the years, and a story about how Washington works. It's a solid slice of political storytelling.

It isn't an entirely dispassionate look at the subject; Trahant is clearly anti-termination. His argument, and compelling, is that ending the federal relationship with the tribes would effectively end their governing structure, and over time - maybe not long time - that would effectively destroy the tribes and native culture. Now, he writes that tribal self-government "is no longer in question. Every tribe, state and federal leader now accepts that framework as a given."

Wasn't always that way. Trahant recounts how Congress formally adopted a termination resolution in 1958.

Jackson is one of the main personal reasons for that transition, along with Gerard. For those of us who don't track Indian issues in Congress closely, it's an obscure story. This book shows why it should not be.

War chest reports

The latest congressional campaign reports turned up late last week, and they suggest some contours for the races. Not as absolutes; contrary to widely-held belief, money isn't all in political campaigns. Less-funded candidates win regularly, and we've seen significant cases of that happening in this Northwest this year.

But candidates tend to get funded in relation to their overall support system and in relation to what the money people think is their probability of winning. They're not perfect predictors, but they're well worth a look. (And one good place to look is at OpenSecrets.org, where we watch for this data most regularly.) These numbers are as of June 30 reports.

One of the most startling and unexpected disparities in the Northwest is in Idaho's 1st congressional district, where incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick has raised $1.8 million and has $1.1 million still in the bank. Compare that to his Republican opponent Raul Labrador, who has raised $215,671 but (because of a hot primary in which he was major financial underdog) still has (as of June 30) just $68,788. That kind of disparity with Minnick is an enormous problem for Labrador. Why Republican interests would be leaving him so underfunded at this point is unclear (unless they're still just mad he won the primary instead of the establishment-preferred candidate). In any case, he could wind up at a fatal disadvantage against Minnick if he doesn't get a major cash dump quickly.

The numbers in the other two hottest House races in the Northwest are a lot less overwhelming, but they are worth reviewing.

In Oregon 5, incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader has taken his fundraising seriously, and has $915,356 still on hand. His Republican opponent Scott Bruun - probably the best Republican candidate for any major office this year - is way behind on money, with just $178,356 on hand. This should be Oregon's most competitive congressional race, but these numbers don't look great for Bruun.

(The closest Oregon congressional race in financing is the 1st, but even there incumbent Democrat David Wu has more than twice as much on hand as Republican Robert Cornilles.)

Washington's hottest race is in the southwestern 3rd, the open seat now held by Democrat Brian Baird but in a highly competitive district. There, Democrat Denny Heck (the only major Democrat now in the race) has on hand $801,607; the leading Republican (and his probable November opponent) Jaime Herrera has $201,019. She's a strong candidate and certainly competitive with Heck overall, but she may be weighed down by a fundraising deficit. (She also has to deal with another strong Republican contender, while Heck's last fellow Democrat dropped out a while back.)

The big-money race in the Northwest, once again, looks to be the Washington 8th. Incumbent Repubican Dave Reichert has raised $1.7 million, and Democrat Suzan DelBene $1.6 million. Lots of political ads in the offing on the King and Pierce eastside this fall.

A dog not barking, yet

Among the stories not happening in the Northwest . . . wildfires.

There was a substantial fire this week, more than 100 acres and since put out, in the flat desert lands of the Idaho National Laboratory, west of Idaho Falls. But early indications are that it wasn't natural, that it resulted from some human action, or inaction. And that's about it.

The National Interagency Fire Center at Boise reports that so far this year, Idaho has had 122 wildland fires, Oregon 36 and Washington 165. Acres burned amounted to about 1,000 in Washington and Oregon together, and about 31,000 in Idaho. Those sound like large numbers but they're actually relatively small, smaller than most of the time by now.

Fingers crossed.

Wyden’s campaign call

The Ron Wyden Oregon Senate campaign in 2004 didn't talk a lot about the opposition (which was slight), but it's talking a little more this time. And it's even made an accusation of the opposition, which on its face looks pretty sound.

Jim Huffman is a stronger candidate, but yes, he seems - certainly at this point - nowhere close to Wyden in numbers, either money or polling percentages. The Wyden line: “Huffman and Moore are releasing laughable poll numbers to distract reporters from their as-yet unreleased fundraising numbers due out today.”

Moore being pollster Bob Moore, who released numbers showing Huffman ahead. Which might not be a cred-blaster except for the strong of other polls giving Wyden a big lead, and an apparent dispute about whether Moore is polling for Huffman. (The Wyden people supply some evidence that he is.)

The whole statement is worth reading.

Bagism

The do-away with plastic bags bandwagon is abruptly rolling at full speed. What lies behind the sudden impetus is unclear, but in Portland at leas the push is on.

Although, Jack Bogdanski makes a useful point: "At our place, every plastic grocery bag gets reused, usually for household garbage. If the stores stop handing them out, we'll just buy a box of them every now and then. It's not clear how this will help the planet."

Life all night

seattle nightlife

Almost sounds like a joke: How do you solve the problem of drunken behavoir at closing time? Maybe eliminating closing time will help.

Actually, it might. Has it ever made sense that cities dump their heaviest drinkers out on the street at the same hour? (Recognizing, of course, that plenty of bars simply choose to close earlier for their own business reasons.) Maybe allowing them to stay open until things wind down, which may be later than 1 or 2 a.m., would make more sense.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn seems to be up for exploring the idea. He launched it today, not as a hard proposal but as the opening of a discussion.

It's just one piece of what his group at city hall is calling the Seattle Nightlife Initiative. Altogether: "1. Code compliance enforcement. 2. Flexible liquor service hours. 3. Noise ordinance enforcement. 4. Security training requirements. 5. Precinct community outreach. 6. Professional development. 7. Late-night transportation alternatives. 8. Targeting public nuisances."

Which taken together has a sensible ring to it, at least as a core set of efforts.

A report on the "flexible hours" (nice euphemism) idea offers some specific support through extended studies of places where the idea has been tried. (more…)

A vote by mail glitch

Most people probably won't encounter this, but it's worth considering as we think about the long-range future of vote-by-mail, which is probably growing, and of the U.S. Post Service, which has been slowly spiraling downward.

The Klamath Falls News & Herald reports about the community at rural Crescent Lake (in far northwest Klamath County, about 70 miles southeast of Eugene), which has lost its post office and the zip code that goes with it, replacing it with another that has resulted in confusion. Getting mail there has become something of a problem.

When time came to vote in the primary election, there were issues getting them because the elections office was set up to use the Crescent Lake address and zip. The ballots were expedited, finally. But when time came to mail them back, the voters had to drive 35 miles to get them sent off.

Given the trend lines of mail voting and postal cuts, this is the sort of glitch that probably needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

The fine few, and the unworthy masses

The point tends not to be made this bluntly - and for good reason. It seems worthy of quote here because, we suspect, quite a few people out there are like-minded.

It comes in a letter to the editor of the Tri-City Herald from Jerry Czebotar of Pasco, who starts out mentioning (inaccurately) statistics on tax rates, and winds up with this:

"The rich are rich because they are smarter and more ambitious than the average person. There are three reasons why an otherwise healthy American won't be successful. They are either lazy, stupid or have substance abuse issues or some combination of the three. Those who are feeling wealth envy should examine their own lives. Are they stupid, lazy or drink or drug too much?"

There being, of course, no people laid off because of no fault of their own, or people working three jobs at minimum wage to survive. And there being, of course, absolutely no rich people who are "stupid, lazy or drink or drug too much"? And of course all of the rich having earned it all by the honest sweat of their brow, rather than inheriting or marrying into it. (Has he so much as visited a supermarket checkout counter lately?)

There are reasons Czebotar's line of reasoning has spread in recent years. Inadvertence is not one of them. Nor is anything resembling a reality check.

The week in the Digests

digest
weekly Digest

A variety of indicators last week, ranging from a slowing growth in Washington state, along with a decline in sales tax revenues, to - strange though it might seem in these times - growth in revenue the state of Idaho has received from banks.

Politics was a little quieter last week, although the Oregon Independent Party got underway with its unusual, first in the region (maybe the first in the nation) form on on-line voting for selection of its parties members. The Palomar gas line in Oregon was put on limbo, and talk spread about a possible move for the national fiddle festival long housed at Weiser.

As a reminder: We're now publishing weekly editions of the Public Affairs Digests - for Idaho, Washington and Oregon - moving from a monthly to a weekly rundown of what's happening. And we're taking it all-electronic: The print edition will be moving to e-mail.

That means we can include more information, and get it out a lot faster: The weekly Digests will be in your in-box first thing Monday morning. If you subscribe, of course: That's $59 a year, for 50 issues and the yearbook. Yes, including the yearbook. The Idaho Yearbook, which we published for years up to 2002, will return early in 2011 - in printed book form - and Digest subscribers get it for free with their subscription. And the Oregon and Washington yearbooks will be coming out at the same time.

If you'd like to take a look at one of the new weekly Digests, here's a link to the Idaho edition, to the Oregon edition and to the Washington edition. If you'd like to subscribe, here are the links (through to PayPal) for Idaho, for Oregon and for Washington.