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Posts published in June 2013

A great newspaper’s lousy spin

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

The news of what the Oregonian will be doing, and not doing, by and on October 1, was bad enough. But do they have to insult our intelligence, and do a really bad job of dodging the facts in a hail or corporate bafflegab, at the same time?

Here's how the Oregonian story on the new developments begins: " A new, digitally focused media company, Oregonian Media Group, will launch this fall to expand news and information products in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The new company, which will launch October 1, will operate OregonLive.com and publish The Oregonian and its related print products. A separate company, Advance Central Services Oregon, will provide support services for Oregonian Media Group and other companies. Oregonian Media Group will introduce new and improved digital products, including enhancements to Oregon's largest news website, OregonLive.com. The company will provide up-to-the-minute news and information, when and where readers want it - on their desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets. At the same time, it will continue to publish Oregon's oldest, largest and leading newspaper."

Sounds fine, doesn't it? Doesn't sound very significant to the average reader, does it?

Of course, what's really happening, and what's not even really hinted at in those opening sentences, is this: The paper is cutting back home delivery from seven to three times a week (there's a fig leaf about a "Saturday edition," but evidently it will be delivered with the Sunday paper). There will be layoffs - no specific word on how many, but word circulating is that they will be large. The paper will move out of its long-time building gently uphill from Portland's downtown, to some smaller digs, no longer needing the space. And so on.

You can find an actual comprehensible news report about what's happening and what its significance is, at Willamette Week.

What it comes to is this: The Oregonian will no longer be a true daily newspaper (at least not in any sense that distinguishes it from every weekly newspaper that also runs a 24/7 website, as most of them do). It will have a far smaller reporting and editing staff and so - the limitless capacity of the web notwithstanding - there will be less local and regional news coverage. News consumers in Oregon will be taking a major hit.

So, long term, I suspect, will the Oregonian, and its parent Advance Publications, based out of New York; Advance (not in Portland) was where the cutback decisions got made. (They are similar to the approach which gouged the papers in Cleveland and New Orleans, which Advance also owns).

Not long ago I talked with a veteran and successful newspaper publisher outside Oregon curious what I'd heard about what was going on at the Oregonian. I said there was talk about the three-day-a-week model and major cutbacks, but also hearing about blowback in Ohio and Louisiana, with the possibility of some rethinking about at the approach at Advance. He and I agreed the big cut approach would be disastrous, and hoped it would be reconsidered.

But evidently not.

Lincoln and Idaho

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Linking Idaho to Abraham Lincoln’s four greatest speeches, David H. Leroy - former Idaho lieutenant governor/attorney general who has collected 1,500 historic Lincoln-related items - said the nation’s leaders in Washington would be wise to study and respect the U.S. Constitution as did America’s 16th president.

Lincoln signed the bill creating the Idaho Territory on March 4, 1863, effectively blocking the spread of slavery to the West during the Civil War. Idaho’s gold and silver mines, in turn, helped finance the Union’s war against the Confederacy.

Lincoln appointed Idaho’s first three territorial judges, including Samuel Parks who had practiced law in the same Illinois courts as Lincoln. The Republican president mentioned the Idaho Territory in his State of the Union addresses to Congress in 1863 and 1864 and approved the name “Idaho” for the territory.

lincoln

Leroy told the City Club of Idaho Falls that those in the federal government’s executive and legislative branches need to focus on their constitutionally defined roles as the nation once again finds itself divided.

Speaking at the club’s June 13 annual dinner about Lincoln and the birth of Idaho, Leroy said individual rights and the concept of privacy need to be jealously guarded. In response to a question, he urged elected officials to comply with the oaths they take to uphold and defend the Constitution, which underwent a severe crisis during the Civil War.

A Republican and practicing attorney in Boise, Leroy served as Idaho’s 28th attorney general from 1979 to 1983. He was the Gem State’s 36th lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1987 and unsuccessfully ran for governor against Cecil Andrus in 1986. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed him U.S. nuclear waste negotiator, a position he held for three years.

Leroy chaired the 2009 Idaho Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. When the Idaho History Center in Boise opens a “Lincoln Legacy” exhibit in September, it will permanently display books, letters, photos, relics, paintings, cartoons, statuary and campaign items donated from the extensive collection of Leroy and his wife Nancy.

“After 45 years traveling the breadth and length of the land, I suggest to people that Idaho more than any other state is related to Abraham Lincoln,” Leroy said, even more so than Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana.

In 1913, a University of Oxford vice chancellor in Great Britain listed the three greatest speeches ever given in the history of the English language. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address were two of the three, Leroy noted.

In February 1860, Lincoln delivered his Cooper Union speech to a capacity crowd of 1,500 in New York and noted that 21 of the 39 signers of the Constitution believed Congress should control slavery in the territories and not allow it to spread. At the time, the nation was in danger of splitting apart.

“What is the frame of government under which we live? The answer must be: ‘The Constitution of the United States.’ That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and 12 subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789.” (more…)

How not to win them over

oregon

It was an expression of attitude, sure. A clear expression, and one in keeping with many active parts of the base. It was intended to raise money, and it evidently has.

But it showed too the tone-deafness that offers one reason Oregon Republicans aren't doing better. It's an automatic Facebook post and direct mail people for anyone not part of the gun advocacy crowd, which in Oregon includes a whole lot of swing voters.

 

gun raffle

 

The Multnomah County Republican Party is holding an auction: "AR-15 Raffle! Get Your Tickets NOW! The MCRP is raffling off a DPMS AR-15 - $10 per ticket or 12 for $100. Maximum tickets sold is 500. This is the PERFECT gift to slip into a father's day card!"

A KATU-TV news story about it quoted Jeff Reynolds, the county chair, as saying, "It's been very popular. To be frank, we could not make as much money with a TV as we could with an AR-15." Significant parts of the base, he suggested, are worried their guns may be taken away.

He's probaby right about all that.

Some miles to the south in Salem, Republican legislators have been stepping rather more carefully, in general, sticking to their ideas (and, generally, their base) while making the case for their points to others, especially people in the middle. They get some backing from the middle on PERS (the very costly Oregon public employee system), some traction in places on taxes and fees. Their recognizing that control of both chambers, now in Democratic hands, is very nearly on the bubble, and a modest breeze could give them control in 2014. (The Democrats seem, uneasily, to understand that too.)

But while the legislators move with some caution, other local party people seem not to.

Word of the raffle of an AR-15 - the same kind of weapon unleashed to deadly effect by a suicidal gunman at Clackamas Mall last winter - will appall people in Portland and the rest of Multnommah County. Okay, that's overwhelmingly Democratic to begin with. But it's not likely to play well either in the swing counties, notably very swingy Clackamas, where Republicans can easily get tagged as the gun nut party.

This wasn't a brilliant media maneuver by Oregon Democrats. This was a gift to them.

A free market?

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

The walking, talking embodiment of the mythical free market in Idaho today is Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. He called a few weeks ago and asked if we could get together and get acquainted while he was in the north country on other business.

No harm in getting acquainted I thought, though for Wayne, there was some “harm” encountered. It seems the speeding ticket he received was because he was running late for our get together at an Irish Pub on Lake Drive in Coeur d’Alene.

Though we are polar opposite on many things, there are some issues where we have commonality - government over-reaching and the public’s loss of trust in government “honesty” at all levels, for example.

It was a pleasant enough discussion but when he used the phrase “free market” as in “we have to return to a true free market” I took strong exception.

I will tell you what I told Wayne. That fight was fought and lost 80 years ago, and there’s no going back. Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in 1932. Roosevelt was the architect of government intervention in the so-called free market.

In order to fight the Great Depression and assist truly desperate Americans he campaigned on the federal government as the only entity that could protect the public from the excesses and vagaries of the private sector.

Hoover, a businessman and engineer, was the apostle of the private sector and the free market and he was soundly trounced. Ever since then there has been an inexorable pull of more and more governmental intervention the result of which is a “controlled market” and an international economy that is dominated by multinational corporations.

The fact is today our economy is riddled with subsidies for just about any conceivable interest. The subsidies are so rife and so numerous there is no way a majority of the electorate would ever sign off putting itself at the mercy of the private sector and the winners vs. losers free market.

The biggest mistake Mitt Romney made in the presidential election was miscalculating and then denigrating the 47% of the public he said in effect were takers living off of the in theory 53% producers.

In a sense he had the numbers reversed: 53% of the electorate likes its subsidies, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or one’s deduction for their mortgage payments. A majority believes they are better off with their entitlements, and yes, dependency, than believe the GOP philosophy of so-called free market and self-reliance. (more…)

We’re doing it again

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

I was a kid during WWII but old enough to be aware of the national condition (1941-1945) at our house. It was wartime with rationing – air raid drills at home and school – primitive recycling – black shades on all the windows. And racism. And hate. You didn’t need to be an adult to recognize it. Now, more than seven decades later, it’s happening again.

In the early ‘40′s, it was “Nazis” and “Japs.” When kids played “war,” someone had to be one of “them.” Others got to play “good guys” – the Americans. It wasn’t racist to us then. We were children just acting out what we’d heard parents and other adults saying. We were giving life to what we saw in our comic books and movies. We had posters in our grade schools warning us about “strangers” – about people who looked “different.” About “them.” Little kids can learn very quickly.

But we also learned fear at times. Even today – all these years later – the fear I felt watching my Japanese-American friends being hauled out of Mrs’ Kirk’s first-grade class by large men with guns in 1942. It’s still with me. So are their screams as they disappeared forever down hallways of East Wenatchee Grade School. To internment camps. To prisons. To our everlasting national disgrace.

An adult now, I don’t believe in racism in any form. But, during two simultaneous wars affecting everything in our daily lives, we accepted depictions of it then because it drew a clear, easy-to-understand line between what was “right” and what was “wrong.” We, of course, were right. They, of course, were wrong and deserved national condemnation. But – even to a kid of six – those screams erased some of that national pride we were supposed to feel. Even then, it somehow didn’t fit with us being the “good guys.”

Now, we’re doing it again.

Since 9-11, we’ve experienced a growing anti-Muslim movement based largely on ignorance. We see it in anonymous hate-emails and hear it on hate talk shows. Muslims are the butt of nightclub “humor.” A dozen years later, many TV shows – top rated “NCIS,” the other night for one – and movies are about swarthy people “tied” to various Muslim terrorist organizations. Often, you don’t hear the word “:Muslim” but the villain has a Mideast-sounding name or appearance. Some made-up organization sounding terrorist-like is attached to a murder or a bombing or some other destructive act. So, of course, it’s them bad ol’ “Muslims.”

I got a hate-email the other day intimating our President was a (gasp/choke) “Muslim!” He was photographed “trying to hide” a book in his hand – “The Post American World” – written by a (gasp/choke) “Muslim.” Just two sentences there. But (1) the President is NOT a Muslim – (2) he had chosen to read the book on a flight and was not trying to hide it in any way and (3) the book was written by the highly regarded Fareed Zacharia, a Hindu. Not a Muslim. EDITOR’S NOTE: Damned good book.

The anonymous email originator set out to put Muslims in the worst possible light and tie the President to these “unsavory” people by lying about both him and Zacharia. Send it to 10 people – they send it to 100 – they send it to 1,000 – then 10,000 and, within hours, this piece of racist B.S. is around the world. (more…)

First take: Breaking wave, or bump in road?

news

GOP POSITIONING Last weekend the Idaho Republican central committee sent out some mixed messages - depending on who you are, you could find something hopeful and something troubling inits actions (the specifics will vary). The group rejected a proposal by former state Senator Rod Beck to require that candidates seeking to run in the Republican primary first get a seal of approval from party leaders. But it reaffirmed a policy (backed by Beck as well over the years) in favor of party registration for voting in the GOP primary. There was plenty else as well.

And there was division, plenty of it. Here is how Rocky Barker of the Idaho Statesman describes one view of it: "Former Idaho State Sen. Stan Hawkins of Ucon, who was at the meeting in McCall said the party was increasingly divided between people who supported traditional Republican values like the free market and those that were involved in “state-sponsored crony capitalism.” He said the press was a part of the problem because it minimized how former GOP state officials leave to get lucrative jobs in everything from utilities to failed ski resorts."

Are we seeing here a line of argument in next year's primaries?

A case of Idaho changing the country

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

To most non-lawyers, the Idaho-originated Supreme Court case of Reed v. Reed is a little obscure now, not one of those few like Roe v. Wade many people could grasp immediately.

But Reed was a pivot in modern society, and it's especially worth recalling now with the death last week of Allen Derr, the soft-spoken Boise lawyer who improbably pushed it to the highest court in the land and was a central part of changing the law as it applies to men and women in America.

(Disclosure here: Last year I worked for a time with Derr on a book about the case; he apparently was still at work assembling materials for that project at the time of his death.)

Up to 1971, the law often treated the genders differently. Illinois had a law barring women from practicing law; the Supreme Court upheld it. It also upheld an Oregon law limiting work hours for women but not for men, and a Michigan law keeping women from tending bar. There were many such laws around the country, and for decades the Supreme Court had a perfect record of sustaining them.

The Idaho law that got Sally Reed's, and Allen Derr's, dander up, seemed just one more of the kind.

Reed encountered it when in March 1967 Reed's son, Skip, died and left behind a few personal effects and $495 in a savings account. (That was the treasure over which a nation's laws would change.) She and her ex-husband Cecil, the boy's father, each applied in probate court to be administrator of Skip's estate. Cecil got the appointment, but not, as the judge acknowledged, because Sally Reed was in any way disqualified. It was because the Idaho Code on probate said this: “Of several persons claiming and equally entitled to administer, males must be preferred to females, and relatives of the whole to those of the half blood.” In other words, Cecil had an automatic preference because he was male. (more…)

Friends, it ain’t 1984

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

How’s about we rewrite the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

The most interesting story on my plate right now is public reaction to the disclosures that our government is “spying” on us. On the far right and far left, folks are coming unglued – bending what facts are known into either some massive conspiracy – or some massive conspiracy. Just what kind of “conspiracy” depends which reasoning-challenged theorist you’re talking to.

Of more rational interest, is the reaction of the majority in the middle of the political scale. Polling indicates most of us think government has little choice but to technologically look over our collective shoulders to find the bad guys – the really bad guys – out to brutalize this nation. That “middle majority” isn’t actually endorsing prying eyes in our communications but seems to understand that terrorism has to be rooted out and the terrorists use the same communicating technology we all do. Not endorsing but not condemning. For now.

Is the officially sanctioned snooping violating one or more of our rights of citizenship? Probably. Should we be upset about that? Probably. Angry enough to demand it stop. Doubtful.

In my book, this new facet of our technologically-driven lives shares a commonality with gun control and a couple other modern issues tied to our founding documents. We’re 237 years from the signing of the Constitution – living in a world the signatories never dreamed of. But, despite the overwhelming differences, we’re still trying to push, pull and stretch the two-century old dictums to cover today’s problems. You can’t get five pounds of old lard into a new two pound bucket. But we keep trying.

Take the gun issue. In 1776, we had one army that moved by putting one foot in front of the other – walking to where it was needed. Took about four to six weeks to walk the length of the 13 colonies. Local militias were needed to handle local problems until the army – which may have been two or three weeks away – could get on the scene. Now, a fleet of Apache helicopters can go from Maine to South Carolina in a few hours. Do concepts about militias conceived then still make sense?

Rifles then were muzzle loaders. Took about two minutes to fire, load and shoot again. Now an AK-47 shoots 150 rounds a minute. Are the rights to private ownership and use of the private firearm still valid 237 years and a few hundred million citizens later? (more…)

Drama in the GOP

To get a sense of the psychodrama unnfolding in the Idaho Republican Party, you can trace a bunch of the elements through a single Facebook post by state Senator Dean Cameron.

He started it by connecting to a story by Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, noting that at the state Republican convention this weekend (they never used to have conventions in Idaho in odd-numbered years, by the way), a group of activists including former state Senator Rod Beck will try to establish a new rule providing that only candidates who win support from party leaders (that's an unspecific description) can be placed on the party's primary election ballot. The idea is to set up a filtering system something like that used by the Utah Republicans.

Cameron: "This is a really bad approach. Some want to continue to disenfranchise voters. I hope those attending the convention will be able to stop this proposal."

That drew a bunch of likes, and also a response from Beck: "Dean, what do you mean to "continue" to disenfranchise voters? Are you suggesting to give the Blue's everything they want is to offer voters a franchise? Did also get a limo ride in Kootenai County at IACI'S expense? I notice you didn't join Speaker Bedke in the taxpayer funded junket to NYC, however so congrats on that."

Representative Stephen Hartgen (who doesn't support Beck's proposal) cautioned Beck, "it does not advance the proposal to attack those who question why you think we need it."

Another commenter said she "may have to change parties just to have representation."

Hartgen: "Don't do that, Linda....this too shall pass...."

But another, addressing Cameron, said "but this is the final nail for me. I've voted Republican all my life, but now I'll be sending in the official form to change. They didn't listen to us about the Luna Laws, and now this control trip.... They would even fight YOU for daring to buck the approved "party line" - it's starting to sound like the USSR here...."

Hartgen again, trying to soothe things: "Hang on, Ruth....the proposal isn't going to go anywhere."

Soon, Beck was back in the comments: "I'm not trying to prevent any evil. I'm just trying to provide a mechanism that would make local precinct leaders at least as important to policy makers as the corporate lobbyists for Blue Cross, Regence Blue Shield and others. That's all. Nothing more or less.""

Another commenter, Mark Balzer, said that "I finally got a copy of the proposed rule changes for the summer meeting. to be honest with you I can only support 6, and 11-14. the rest of them including yours are dangerous. You and other seem to want to tie the hands of the legislature with the party platform and resolutions."

All that on one Facebook post.

This'll be a lively convention.

If I were to guess, from a distance, based on the history of recent conventions, I wouldn't bet against Beck. Either way the vote, and debate leading up to it, should be more than interest.