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Posts published in November 2012

An entertaining civic education

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I’ve just seen Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Were I put in charge of this nation’s public education system, no student would graduate from any high school without seeing it. Twice. Once in the freshman year – again as a senior. It’s that important.

As I remember, when a kid of about 13-14 is assigned American history studies, most approach the task with as much zeal as being asked to eat sawdust. The pages are flat. The information is boringly black and white. The names uninteresting and hard to connect with reality. Watching “Lincoln” at that age would change all that. These are real people sprung from dusty and mostly forgotten lessons. You cannot see and hear them without learning. And feeling. It’s just not possible.

William Seward, Salmon Chase, Edwin Stanton, Edward Bates and ol’ Abe himself are now – to those kids – just so many names to remember for some meaningless test. But in the hands of Spielberg and the superb actors he chose for those parts, there is flesh and blood – depth of character – motivations for their actions – ample reasons why they should be remembered for their importance to our history.

The second required exposure – at age 17-18 – would provide a review and a perspective not possible the first time around. It would bring together lessons learned since the first exposure – lessons about real people – fleshed-out, ambitious, patriotic, honest – and not-so-honest. They would understand how things happened. And why. Added to other lessons learned over those intervening years – and with more maturity – the second viewing would create an indelible memory “stamp” to last a lifetime.
All of us learned Abraham Lincoln was a great president who ended slavery and was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. As a kid, you accepted those facts and closed the book. History learned.

But scholars want us to know more. Republican Lincoln was a wheeler-dealer who “bought” votes to abolish slavery using the power of patronage. He passed out government jobs as rewards to those who’d abandon their own political party or their pro-slavery positions by voting for the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many were offered to Democrats who’d been losers in recent elections and were looking to hang on. Do most people today know Lincoln used paid lobbyists to win his victory? (more…)

The decline of the Oregon turkey

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From a November 21 article by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

carlson
NW Reading

The distinct sound of gobbling turkeys in Oregon has generally grown silent for nearly 20 years. What was once a thriving agricultural industry left the state– a rarity among Oregon's diverse list of commodities. While there are a few locally-grown birds sold to niche market consumers this year, most Oregonians will sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner featuring a turkey produced in California, Utah, or Minnesota.

"At one time, Oregon was a large producer of turkeys, probably producing up to 30 percent of the West Coast supply from the Willamette and Yamhill valleys," says recently retired Oregon Department of Agriculture Assistant Director Dalton Hobbs. "Due to consolidation of the turkey processing industry and a few other factors that hit during the early 1990s, all that commercial production has gone away."

Back in the mid-1980s, Oregon produced about 2.5 million turkeys and had a strong, viable industry. The state’s climate was amenable to turkey production and suited growers and the local processors. Turkeys were part of Oregon’s diverse agricultural product mix. Now there are only a handful of small-scale producers who specialize in organic, pasture raised, or so-called "heritage" turkeys– birds produced through natural mating, not through artificial insemination as is the case with commercial turkeys.

Many factors led to the demise of Oregon's turkey industry in the early 1990s. But the bottom line is that it's cheaper to grow turkeys in California, Utah, the Midwest, or in the southeast US and ship them to Oregon for sale than it is to actually grow them locally. Turkeys are generally raised where the feed is produced. The closer the turkeys are, the lower the production cost. Unfortunately, Oregon is rather distant from the feed sources of soybeans and dry corn. (more…)

The Duke of Elmore?

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

At first glance there could not be two more different people than Frank Church and former President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Surprisingly, though, there were more similarities than one would think.

Both men were terrifically ambitious; both had talented wives who played crucial roles in their success; both could be excellent “stump” speakers; both loved publicity as much as they loved being senators; both relished the give and take of politics; both authored legislation that has touched for the better the lives of millions of Americans past, present and in the future.

Most interesting though is both first came to the Senate courtesy of a missing ballot box in a key county controlled by friends of theirs.

Robert Caro, in his massive yet to be completed five volume biographies of Johnson documents with a story teller’s flair how Johnson finally got to the U.S. Senate by an 87 vote margin over former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson. The key to that “victory” was ballot box 13 in Duval county controlled by one man, George Parr, a Johnson supporter and a true loyalist who was well rewarded for his loyalty.

There’s even a picture of the wayward ballot box sitting on top of the hood of a car with several deputy sheriffs, as well as cronies of Parr’s, one with his foot on the bumper, posing for posterity before the box went into the mists of history.

Less well known is Idaho’s remarkably similar story. Seven years after Johnson took his Senate seat courtesy of a missing ballot box, in August of 1956, young Frank Church defeated former U.S. Senator Glen Taylor in the Democratic primary by 170 votes.

The winner would be up against the already dying and somewhat disgraced Senator Herman Welker, one of the few supporters for the red-baiting activities of Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy.

Idaho’s usually Republican leaning business establishment, including the state’s dominant paper, The Idaho Statesman, was beginning to recognize the damage being done by “Little Joe from Idaho’s” support for McCarthy. Behind the scenes Church’s friend and campaign manager, Carl Burke, was thought to have enlisted some key establishment support for Church’s bid.

For years afterwards Taylor maintained the nomination had been stolen, and wouldn’t you know it, a key ballot box could no longer be found. The county was Elmore and the finger of allegation has long pointed at veteran State Senator Bob Wetherell, the “Duke” of Elmore county and the counterpart to George Parr, the Duke of Duval county. By all accounts Wetherell’s influence included dominating the Courthouse. (more…)

Pay for performance

carlson
NW Reading

An item in the Seattle Slog notes the serious reversals Hewlett Packard Company has endured in the last year. Not small reversals, either. There was the approaching $8.8 billion in charges, much of that inuring to HP, for its associated British software company Autonomy. And the close to $11 billion in writedowns just in the last quarter for the EDS services division.

The piece by Goldy goes to note the impact on the top executives behind these moves and others: "Former HP CEO Leo Apotheker, who initiated the acquisition, earned $30.4 million last year. Current CEO Meg Whitman, who closed the deal, and who approved the deal as a board member, earned $16.5 million last year for just a few months work. Chairman of the board Ray Lane, who hired and quickly fired Apotheker, and who has presided over a string of disastrous acquisitions, earned $10.6 million last year in exchange for his shrewd business insight."

Can we get rid of the malcontents?

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The latest lunacy from the far right is a top-of-the-voice demand to be allowed to secede from the good ol’ U.S. of A. or, in the alternative, renounce citizenship. Anyone that wants out that badly not only has my blessing but a foot firmly planted on their ass to get ‘em started.

It’s just a wild guess, but few of them likely have checked laws of the country they want out of to see how it’s done. Or if the rest of the state can go with ‘em. Or if either can be done. Being a helpful soul, I’ve done their research for them. And they ain’t gonna like it.

First, no individual or state can “secede” from this country. They can’t just pick up their marbles – or oil wells – and go anywhere else. We have some loudmouths in our Oregon neighborhood who take to the stump or the bar- or right wing radio – every so often, demanding several Oregon and California counties dump the country and form the Sovereign State of Jefferson. Much as I’d like to see them secede – er – succeed, they won’t. The occasional full-throated exercise is probably more the beer talking than any profound, thoroughly-researched, heartfelt desire to pack up and go.

Once a state joins a Union, it comes under the protection of that Union. If a state wants to secede, that state will be considered a “rebel” of the Union – as in the Civil War – and the federal government must do all in its power to preserve the “embodied collective status.” The Union. Should the rebellious state keep trying, it does so facing “severe economic results and law enforcement issues.” In short, whether we want ‘em or not, we’re stuck with ‘em. And they with us.

Personally, I’d love to see Texas malcontents prevail. Few states get more federal money – military, space, farm subsidies, etc. – as does Texas. If the feds shut the spigot, the state would soon look like an El Paso parking lot. From border to uninhabitable border. Also, Louisiana gets $1.45 for every buck paid in taxes – Alabama $1.71. They’d lose those. (more…)

The killing off of liberal talk radio

The format change at Portland's KPOJ-AM eliminating liberal talk radio in that city is not an aberration. This out today:

On January 2nd, CBS (which used to be known as Viacom before it spun off several of its business units as a separate company called Viacom) plans to convert KFNQ, formerly KPTK, to the sports radio format, along with many other stations around the country. The apparent objective is to create a stronger network of sports radio stations so that CBS can better compete for national sports programming contracts.
Seattle, of course, already has plenty of stations offering sports talk. These include KRKO (broadcasting as Fox Sports Radio 1380), KIRO (broadcasting as 710 ESPN Seattle) and KJR (broadcasting as Sports Radio 950).
But CBS executives don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, AM 1090′s current format isn’t making enough money – so they’re going to completely trash it, just like Clear Channel did with AM 620 in Portland.

This site has been in favor, for many years, of a return to the Fairness Doctrine. Reiterating the call for it ...

Just a note before the poll goes

The last week, we've asked readers whether incumbent Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney or challenger Scott Bedke (the assistant majority leader) would emerge as winner when the session holds its organizational meeting next month.

Results: 87.5% say Bedke, and the rest said someone else. No one predicted Denney.

Crapo looks at the cliff

mendiola
Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

With about 6,100 jobless Idahoans facing a cutoff in their extended weekly unemployment payments by the end of December and plunging over their own fiscal cliffs, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, says Congress and the Obama administration have only a few weeks left to resolve the nation’s ominous federal budget crisis before taxes spiral up and deep spending cuts are imposed.

Conducting a November 14 iTownHall conference call from his Washington office that reportedly was tuned into by thousands of Idahoans, Crapo said, “We truly are facing difficult and historic times in our country.”

Noting the nation recently went through extremely intense presidential and congressional elections that only succeeded in maintaining the status quo – President Barack Obama remaining in the White House, Republicans controlling the U.S. House and Democrats dominating the U.S. Senate – Idaho’s senior senator said the government has been split and unable to bridge partisan differences.

Meanwhile, Americans “face very, very serious and immediate problems,” including a $16 trillion national debt swelling by $1 trillion a year, and the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlement systems “rapidly facing insolvency.”

Crapo said: “The economy is beginning to reel because of our debt load. If we don’t take prompt action soon, the world markets will soon lose confidence in the ability of the United States of America to pay its debt. We literally face the threat of losing the American dream.”

He explained the so-called “fiscal cliff” technically is different from the debt crisis but related. The cliff over which the federal government is scheduled to go over on Jan. 1, 2013 involves $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts “done in a way that is very inartful with the potential of causing great damage to the military and the economy,” Crapo said. (more…)

The merits of willful inefficiency

Oregon is home to a good deal of talk about the reorganizing of its liquor marketplace, prospectively moving away - as Washington state has - from the liquor store system, and possibly removing such elements as the three-tier sales system (producer, wholesaler, retailer) that without doubt adds inefficiency and cost to the system, and to the product.

Not as a final word but as a factor in thinking about this, take a look at this Washington Monthly article, which suggests - more clearly than I've seen elsewhere - the pluses to throwing inefficiency and extra cost into the system.

A sample: "And so, for eighty years, the kind of vertical integration seen in pre-Prohibition America has not existed in the U.S. But now, that’s beginning to change. The careful balance that has governed liquor laws in the U.S. since the repeal of Prohibition is under assault in ways few Americans are remotely aware of. Over the last few years, two giant companies—Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, which together control 80 percent of beer sales in the United States—have been working, along with giant retailers, led by Costco, to undermine the existing system in the name of efficiency and low prices. If they succeed, America’s alcohol market will begin to look a lot more like England’s: a vertically integrated pipeline for cheap drink, flooding the gutters of our own Gin Lane."

As the region moves, apparently, in the direction of a marijuana marketplace, some of the ideas here might come into play there as well. - Randy Stapilus