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Posts published in October 2010

A new green eyeshade

The complaint here with the crowd griping about government spending isn't that there isn't a point there - does waste exist in government agencies? are there bad calls on spending? of course there are - but that it is lazy, generic and non-specific. To get serious on the subject, you have to get serious. You have to get dirty with the numbers.

Oregon state has some useful tools for getting up to speed with a good deal of the information about the state budget. But it isn't notably interactive.

So we'll be highly interested to see what comes of the new project led by former gubernatorial candidate Allen Alley and Republican state Representative Dennis Richardson, which got some play in the Oregonian this morning.

Called Oregon Transportation, it is nicely detailed (much of it seems to be drawn from state documents, but that's not a problem) and it appears to offer numerous and useful was for readers to make specific suggestions about line items and priorities.

It doesn't seem to be yet complete. But it could become a useful tool if enough people take the time to deal with the information in a practical, rather than an ideological, way. We'll keep watch.

Tuning out

Aaron Brown, the former CNN reporter now teaching journalism in Arizona, had some crisp things to say about the state of TV news when he returned to his old haunt in Seattle. Brown, who used to work for KING-TV and KIRO-TV, spoke this week to the Municipal League of King County.

In his column on the speech, Joel Connelly (of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) quotes him, "Do you realize that 90 percent of what's on news today is embarrassing, not only to Mrs. Bullitt [long-time owner of KING] were she still alive but to those of us who worked in the business."

And: "How should viewers respond to demagoguery on their screens? Turn off your TV, Brown advised."

That advice gets some space here whenever it is made.

Common sense?

common sense
In the mail

It says important, highlighted in red, so it must be. Now if only they'd tell us why.

It's an unusual come-on. It breathlessly urges the recipient (our household got two, one for each registered voter) to detach and return a card showing which of our two local state House candidates we'd support. The two in our district are the incumbent, Republican Jim Weidner, and Democratic challenger Susan Sokol Blosser. (An analysis aside: In this year, Weidner has to be considered the favorite, but Blosser is well-known and has run an intensive campaign, so the contest has to be considered competitive.)

The sheet says, "Your opinion matters. That's why we're asking you to review your two choices for State Representative and send in the card of the candidate you favor. It only takes a few second and postage has already been paid." Well ... my opinion as a voter may matter, but what follows from that is that I should vote. Our first question was, how many people may think that in doing this, they've already voted?

The other immediate question was, who is Common Sense for Oregon (their logo but not their mailing address calls them a political action committee) and what do they want the cards for? They don't say.

There are clues.

One is in the description of the two candidates, which is a work of some subtlety. The first sentences describing Weidner and Blosser are bland family statements. But Blosser's goes on to say she is "endorsed" (not nominated, which would be the correct term) by the Democratic and Independent parties; that she "supports abortion and same sex marriage" without qualification; supports a string of tax increases; that she has hired illegal immigrants; and so on. Weidner, in the description, opposes tax increases and abortion and illegal immigration, supports "traditional marriage," and "owns a small business that helps large production plants run more efficiently." You get the idea.

The second is the filing in the Oregon Secretary of State's office for Common Sense for Oregon PAC, which lists as its directors Ross Day and Kevin Mannix. Mannix is the former Republican candidate for governor, attorney general and the U.S. House, and former state GOP chair. Day previously led Oregonians in Action, which (like Mannix) was heavily involved in conservative ballot issues, most notably the land use Measure 37. Its web site emphasizes opposition to government waste.

So back to the questions: What does this partisan group plan to do with the cards? Why did it send out the mailing with no indication of what its leanings or intentions were? Why this race? What's going on here?

Among others ...

This week in the Digests

digest
weekly Digest

Politics heated to a high pitch as election day neared to within about a month - and voting in Oregon and Washington gets seriously under way within two to three weeks. A key gubernatorial debate was held in Oregon, others were about to get underway in Idaho, and newspapers in Washington and Oregon unleashed their first major round of endorsement editorials.

The backdrop for all this was ongoing economic hard times, but the picture was mixed. Word about a number of new federal programs was released, along with a string of new state projects, and some new business ventures getting underway. But numerous social indicators continued to project an ominous tone.

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.

He’s ba-ack

When you want to organize a no-subtlety-about-it hate-a-thon, who you gonna call?

That's right: Pastor Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, but quite often on the road. And headed to eastern Washington and northern Idaho on October 21 and 22, presumably with their signs saying "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," "God Hates America," "God Hates Fags" (have you seen the sharp deadpan parody of that one in the opening credits for True Blood?) and others of similar ilk.

This undiluted hatred is so far out that the acceptance level for it has to be miscroscopic. Phelps and company will turn off more people than it turns on.

At the Spokesman-Review, Dave Oliveria asked those on his Huckleberries blog: "Is it best to ignore these hatemongers? Or stage a counter-protest?" Good question, about which the audience was split.

Another question, though: Suppose the news media declined to give Phelps any coverage - not an inch of print, not a second of air? That might be the most effective response of all.

Recommended: R-G on the 4th

Reading the mass of newspaper endorsement editorials in this season you get a sense of mass-production in a lot of cases. The candidates come in for interviews, are evaluated by certain criteria - broader or narrower depending on the paper - and emerge with one chosen over the other, sometimes with a strong recommend and some as a closer call. The newspapers in this region that do endorse, we should note, mostly take care to endorse both Ds and Rs, which sometimes looks like a determined attempt to look impartial.

Not many such editorials are really lengthy and detailed in their evaluation, especially in cases where the choice is clear-cut. Because there are so many endorsements, papers couldn't d that in many cases as a practical matter.

But anyone interested in regional politics or endorsement editorials ought to take a look at today's in the Eugene Register-Guard, which makes its call in the suddenly heated 4th U.S. House district race between long-time incumbent Peter DeFazio and Republican challenger Art Robinson. It's the finest endorsement editorial we've seen in the Northwest this year.

It quickly makes an unusual admission: Robinson didn't even respond to a request for a meeting with the largest newspaper in the district where he's running, and the paper said that, he "may have judged such a meeting to be a waste of his time, and maybe he’s right."

What follows is an extended look at Robinson's background, drawn from publications and public record and most of it in language Robinson probably wouldn't dispute, through his years in scientific research and bitter fights with other scientists, to his contention that students in public schools are systemically abused and "mentally handicapped." From there: "Robinson has backed away from such statements during the campaign, perhaps realizing that they imply a belief that a vast majority of his would-be constituents are unqualified for citizenship. As a candidate, Robinson represents the new style of conservatism that departs from a defense of American institutions, and instead demands that they be dismantled or abolished. Many of the federal government’s programs, he believes, including Social Security, Medicare and environmental regulations, bring a socialist intrusion on personal and corporate freedom."

The editorial evokes with crystalline clarity who Robinson is, and also who DeFazio is, and isn't: "... attempts to depict DeFazio as a drum major in the Obama administration’s march toward socialism are distortions. The word “socialism” is used with gross imprecision, but if it is to be employed, DeFazio would emerge as a consistent enemy of the only type of socialism practiced widely in the United States — lemon socialism, the public takeover of debts and other obligations of failing enterprises with no corresponding public claim on their profits."

It concludes with a roundhouse endorsement for DeFazio. The editorial is a model of powerful and informed endorsement.

Read it all.

“It’s called money laundering”

Following up on the earlier post on the shadow "group" called Concerned Taxpayers of America, and its ads against Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio.

This group, with no evident connection to Oregon, apparently has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the DeFazio race and seems on track to hit a million. In a race that's not supposed to be up for grabs.

An excellent take on this appeared on the Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) program, including an interview with DeFazio. The only link we could find to the whole thing was on a Democratic fundraising page, but by all means check it out. It was one of the clearest explanations this year of how much of our politics these days stands to be bought and sold by whoever has the most money.