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Posts published in July 2010

Mortgage stats

mortgage delinquent
Mortgage delinquency rates/Fed of NY

The yellow counties on this map are uncounted: They are among the smallest 10% of counties in the country, and trying to reasonably gauge how they fit into the rates for delinquent mortgages is too difficult, since a single case or two could drastically throw off the percentages.

Still, the map, developed by the Federal Reserve of New York, has a lot of useful stories to tell. Note how the rates run highest among many of the highest-growth counties in the last decade. In Oregon, the Bend area accounts for many of the highest rates. In Idaho, Canyon, Teton and Valley were among them. In Washington, Snohomish, Pierce and Clark (but not so much King).

But what's Bear Lake County doing here? Or maybe there's something going on in Bear Lake . . .


We need to hear a lot more like this; in this case, the word came from an editorial column by Ryan Blethen in the Seattle Times:

"The poisonous political atmosphere and the terrible economy has exposed our nation's lack of civic understanding. Nowhere is that more apparent than in endorsement meetings with candidates for the primary. There are a lot of angry people showing up who really do not understand our system. I have been shocked by how unprepared some candidates have been and the shallowness of their answers to our questions. Couple this perverting of our forefathers' intent with the sad state of civic knowledge and the future of the United States is bleak."

Not least, you assume from the structure of the column, among those who most routinely invoke the Founders: "I am not going to try and extrapolate how the Founders would feel about their intent being used to prop up modern-day arguments. I can't because I have no clue what they would think. Not as a group, and not as individuals. The world is a different place than it was in the later half of the 18th century. What might have made sense then could look very different in 2010. I will only venture to guess that their opinions would be as diverse as ours are today. When I hear the Founders' argument, I roll my eyes and wonder how much those people really know about our nation's history."

Blethen's column was basically a call for better civics education, and we need that - badly. Consider this a call for others, too, to take up the cause.

PI endorsements

It's uncommon for web-only politically-interested outlets to do political endorsements. Some are party-leaning or -oriented enough that explicit endorsements would seem to be beside the point. Others try to maintain some distance from the parties, and endorsements wouldn't help much there.

The online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer, though, said today it does plan to make endorsements in the November general election. (Not, it says, in the primary election.) That will mark something of a change for the P-I, since so far as we can tell, it doesn't run editorials, though it runs no lack of columnists, letters and the David Horsey cartoons.

The Code of Deseret Media, and KTTH

Under orders from Deseret Media chief executive Mark Willes, Deseret Media Companies of Salt Lake City has adopted a mission statement which, from word circulating, is intended to be not put in a back cabinet but actually lived up to. Its provisions include this: "I promote integrity, civility, morality, and respect for all people."

Why is this significant? Lots of companies and other organizations would (and many do) include statements that say much the same. But this is a company that owns talk radio stations, those bastions of fierce incivility and disrespect for so many people.

Desert, strictly, operates just one radio station in Salt Lake City (KSL), and a few other properties. But it is effectively owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as is the for-profit Deseret Management Corporation, which in turn owns Bonneville International Corporation. And Bonneville owns 26 radio staitons in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, St. Louis, and Cincinnati markets - and in Seattle, where it owns the talk stations KTTH and the two KIRO stations.

Strictly, Willes' order doesn't apply to Bonneville, though he's highly unlikely to have given it in contravention of church leadership. That suggests it may spill over to Bonneville too.

What might it mean? Salt Lake Tribune blogger Glen Warchol says it likely will mean that the conservative lineup of talkers at KSL might be in for a paring: "Deseret Media chief executive Mark Willes' new mission statement, some might call it a creed, includes pledges like: "I seek to lift, inspire, and help others find enduring happiness" and "I promote integrity, civility, morality, and respect for all people," and "I seek to instill light and knowledge in my work." As you can imagine, Sean Hannity, who is beloved by his listeners for saying things like, "I'll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo - every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress," has a large problem in the civility-respect area."

So, what about KTTH and KIRO? Well, the Blatherwatch blog in writing about this, speculates "It may be why Michael Savage was quietly dumped from KTTH a few months ago."

KTTH also currently airs a hard-conservative lineup including Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh; their civility and respect meter rankings wouldn't rate much higher than Savage's. Could they - strong ratings draws though they are - be bounced next?

Blatherwatch is skeptical of that, and reasonably. Still, as it adds from Warchol's post, “However the Hannity issue comes out, it will be an acid test of values-over-profit for church-owned media.”

Tech-up the initiatives?

Washington uses, and pretty well, voter guides - both print and on-line - to give voters the chance to review candidates and issues on the ballot before they vote, a tool especially useful now that the state has gone virtually all mail-in.

Might it be time to do something along these lines for putting initiatives on the ballot?

The thought arises with the report in Tacoma News Tribune's political blog of initiative signature-gathering issues.

In it, Richard Shrock, an opponent of the new income tax proposal, said that "said he confronted a signature gatherer at a Kmart in Everett who had folded the top of the petition over. Signers couldn't see the ballot title describing the measure as 'establishing a state income tax and reducing other taxes.' She pitched it as a measure to help education without mentioning the income tax, Schrock said."

This easily could be (and there's not independent confirmation, although it does sound credible) but one variation on a theme: Signature gatherers edging ever closer to the legal bounds to get those signatures in, sometimes under high pressure conditions that don't give the casual voter a lot of opportunity for reflection.

But that's only a relatively obvious part of the problem. As matters stand, ballot issues in Washington (and Oregon, and to an extent Idaho) reach the ballot not so much by way of public support, but by way of money - if deep pockets will support it, it can get on the ballot, whatever the real public attitude.

How about this as an alternative way to sift through the ballot options:

Gather the signatures on line. Security issues would have to be addressed, of course. But assuming they could be (and that seems realistic), why not let people add their names via a web site (ideally, one linked to the voter registration rolls), allowing them to do so only after going through a page offering the pros and cons of the ballot issue in question?

Backers and critics of the measures would still have to run their campaigns, of course; the names wouldn't just materialize. But at least when they do, there'll be no question that some degree of reflection and non-pressured decisionmaking went into it.