Writings and observations

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Idaho scientists talk global wrming (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing Common Core (Lewiston Tribune)
Studying the Oso mudslide (Moscow News)
Not enough space for female jail inmates (Nampa Press Tribune)
Kimberly city administrator under review (TF Times News)
Wolf population holding about even (TF Times News)

School bomb investigation evidence (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Partisan battle over health reform in OR (Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Financing Lane commission races (Eugene Register Guard)
Big money opposing GMO ban (Ashland Tidings)
Strike at Portland State averted (Portland Oregonian)
Veterans Administration wrongful death pay (Portland Oregonian)
Cherriot buses return to transit center (Salem Statesman Journal)

Mental illness and jail population (Everett Herald)
Management of aid on mudslide (Spokane Spokesman, Everett Herald)
Cowlitz River flushing out silt (Longview News)
Survivors of mudslide reflect (Longview News)
Nippon Paper sensors and air readings (Port Angeles News)
Microsoft plans for innovation (Seattle Times)
Traffic cams planned for Highway 195 (Spokane Spokesman)
C-sections reduced at PeaceHealth hospital (Vancouver Columbian)

Share on Facebook

First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

The day after election day – any election day – people publicly and privately will offer up their theory as to why the results happened as they did. Usually, in truth, there’s no one single reason, but the dominant theory gives people some comfort: An easy explanation.

The Idaho secretary of state Republican primary is an especially juicy theory-fest. At this point, six weeks or so ahead of election day, the outcome is not at all clear, to the point you can make a credible argument for any of the four candidates to win. Usually an incumbent would be the likely winner, but here incumbent Ben Ysursa, holder of the job since 2002, is retiring. The Republican winner will oppose Democrat Holli Woodings in November.

The four: former house speaker and current representative Lawerence Denney; former state senators Evan Frasure and Mitch Toryanski; and Phil McGrane, deputy Ada County clerk.

Read the theories below and reflect that one, but only one, of them will look prescient on election day.

Denney is the best-known (by election day all will become better known), though many of his headlines have been negative. (Will voters remember those headlines, or just the name?) He does have a strong base of support, however, and many Tea Party members and allies may rally to him. His recent Duck Dynasty fundraiser will raise his visibility and identification with this sector. In a four-way primary, that could be enough for a win. And though he lost his bid for a fourth term as speaker in December 2012, he retains plenty of allies in the legislature and elsewhere.

Frasure is the only one of the four who has run statewide before – he lost the Republican primary for this same office in 2002 to Ysursa. Before that he was in the legislature quite a while, experienced in campaigning in difficult territory (Denney, though a long-time legislator, has been opposed only sporadically), and he is one of the best campaign organizers and strategists Idaho has seen in the last generation. He has played a big role in legislative redistricting for three decades now, and few people know the intricacies of Idaho voting patterns better. He is the only candidate from east of Boise, and more than 40 percent of Republican primary votes are cast in that region. (The other three contenders all come from southwest Idaho.)

Toryanski, a former deputy attorney general, has a base in Boise and has been thought likely to generate strong support from business interests and some of the mainstream Republican Party organizers, a core of backing that shouldn’t be lightly dismissed. Like Frasure, Toryanski has campaigned in difficult territory (southeast Boise), winning once and losing once, both fairly narrowly, and he did both in the last few election cycles.

Unlike the others, McGrane never has been elected to office, but he does have experience helping run the office – Ada County Clerk – that most resembles the secretary of state’s office. He also has an endorsement, nicely timed for delivery last week, from Ysursa. Most endorsements carry little weight, but this one may be more significant given Ysursa’s sterling reputation in the job not just since 2002 but also for decades before that as chief deputy secretary of state. He also, of course, has a strong endorsement from his current boss, Ada County Clerk Chris Rich, whose Republican activism goes back several decades, and on top of that one from former Governor Phil Batt.

What’s the winning theory for secretary of state? Take your pick: They’re all pretty good.

Share on Facebook

Idaho Idaho column

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Crapo blasted in ads on mortgage bill (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing secretary of state race (Boise Statesman)
Wine development possible around Riggins (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon Fair Board reviews fair location (Nampa Press Tribune)
The local meth industry today (Nampa Press Tribune)
Amtrak schedules changing (Sandpoint Bee)

Tagging sage grouse (KF Herald & News)
Snowpack going away (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem Statesman Journal (Snowpack still low)

Oso mudslide services (Seattle Times, Everett Herald)
Vietnam vets losing out in groups (Longview News)
Washington wine industry growing (Seattle Times)
Renters displaced by tower buildings (Seattle Times)
Tacoma considers expensive parks proposal (Tacoma News Tribune)
About filling open Clark commission seat (Vancouver Columbian)

Share on Facebook

First Take

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

It must have been sometime in early 1979. The Interior Secretary and I had just finished our morning review of public and government affairs matters. Andrus turned and asked, “What can you tell me about a member of the British Parliament, Anthony Wedgewood Benn? The British Embassy called to set up a meeting for him with me.”

“All I know is the conservative press has called him “the most dangerous man in Britain,” I replied, adding “I don’t know why but I’ll do a briefing page for you before you see him.” Andrus added the Embassy had not said why, they had just asked for the meeting.

A week later one of the more fascinating figures Andrus ever met was sitting in his office. Memories of the meeting came back to me as I read the news of Benn’s death on March 14th at the age of 88.

A voluminous writer and speechifyer, Benn was long-time member of Britain’s Labour party, but a more apt description was that he was a true socialist. He waged an eight-year battle to renounce his peerage because rather than take his father’s seat in the House of Lords he wanted to sit in Parliament where the action and power really were.

He won a seat from the Bristol Southeast and Chesterfield riding and his native intelligence soon captured the attention of his party’s leadership. He first served as Minister for Industry in the Labour government of Harold Wilson, then as Minister for Energy for Prime Minister Jim Callaghan.

His reason for visiting Andrus ostensibly was to discuss energy policy in the United States under Carter and since Interior oversaw offshore oil leasing and onshore coal leasing, programs that generated through royalties considerable income for the U.S. Treasury, he wanted to probe Andrus’ views. I couldn’t help thinking though that Benn was trying to take the measure of Andrus, that the Brits knew the former Idaho governor was one of the very few stars in the Carter Administration.

By the time he came to see Andrus critics were charging that he had almost single-handedly destroyed the Labour Party (And thereby helped to clear the path for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party’s rise to power), and Rupert Murdock’s press was calling him “bonkers.”

What generated this charge was a bill he introduced to Parliament in 1975 which called for more centralized government, state planning and nationalizations. It was dead on arrival but some observers saw it as the beginning of the end of Labour, and Benn’s fervid support for disarmament, a tax on wealth and import controls did not exactly endear him to party leadership.

Benn never wavered though in his base belief that it was the working men and women, the shop stewards, the common laborers, the taxi drivers that he represented and who needed a sympathetic government to protect them from the predatory and exploitive practices of big business and the excesses of capitalism.

In Andrus parlance, Tony Benn was a “spear chucker,” one who enjoyed throwing the spear rather than holding up a shield. While never embraced by Labour leadership and never a serious candidate to inhabit Number 10 Downing Street, he remained a public figure with some influence for the rest of his days.

By the time of his death the very conservative Daily Telegraph had designated him to be “a national treasure,” which Benn called ludicrous.

What I remember most about this iconoclastic figure’s meeting with Andrus was his penchant to lace his comments with quotes that displayed his erudition and education. Phrases such as “Aristotle once wrote,” or “as Churchill once said,” were constantly being cited.

Andrus listened politely, but finally had enough. He saw his opening when Benn started talking about government ownership of land and its resources, as if government was the end-all and be-all. Looking Benn in the eye, Andrus said, “Let me quote to you a statement by a noted Native American, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Nation.”

With perfect recall Andrus then cited “The Creative Power, when he made the earth, made no marks, no lines of division or separation on it. The Earth was his mother. He was made of the earth and grew up on its bosom. The earth, as his mother and nurse, was sacred to his affections, too sacred to be valued by or sold for silver or gold. He could not consent to sever his affections from the land that bore him.”

Benn wasn’t quite sure what Andrus was saying to him, but he clearly knew he’d been (Pun intended) both one-upped and nicely put down.

Rest in peace, Tony Benn.

Share on Facebook

Carlson

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Poisoning ravens to help sage grouse (Boise Statesman)
Renewing forests damaged by disease (Boise Statesman)
Otter line-vetoes governor’s pay raise (Boise Statesman)
Wolf numbers decline but still substantial (Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Students dean Pitman leaves UI after 41 years (Moscow News)
Planning for Pullman-Moscow airport (Moscow News)
Commercial end of Nampa library in question (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello debate over science teacher (Pocatello Journal)
Idaho public defender system still troubled (TF Times News)

Reviewing sale of state forest lands (Coos Bay World)
Home rule ballot issue coming to Curry (Coos Bay World)
Homeless camp Whoville closed (Eugene Register Guard)
Developers at Glenwood financing (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath Skywest flights will end (KF Herald & News)
Board of directs starts at OIT (KF Herald & News)
Board for SOU approved (Ashland Tidings)
New report on Cover Oregon options (Portland Oregonian)
Pioneer Courthouse Square 30 years (Portland Oregonian)
Open meeting violation alleged at ed district (Salem Statesman Journal)

Debating blame for mudslide (Everett Herald)
Inslee signs state budget bill (Everett Herald)
Breach in causeway could help fish (Kennewick Herald)
New wilderness possible in Umatilla NF (Kennewick Herald)
Little measuring of possible slides (Longview News)
Reviewing vocational education at Seattle (Seattle Times)
Inslee vetoes bill on drones (Tacoma News Tribune, Yakima Herald Republic)
Mudslide help continues (Vancouver Columbian)
medical provision changing structure (Yakima Herald Republic)
Roundabout planned near Yakima Boise mill (Yakima Herald Republic)

Share on Facebook

First Take

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

Linus Torvalds, the originator of the Linux computer operating system (on which this publication is produced), doesn’t get out a lot, at least not to speak to groups.

Written into his employment contract is a provision saying he can’t be required to speak to groups. Although he has lived in the Portland area for about a decade, he has appeared at the local (and highly active) Linux users group, which just celebrated its 20-year anniversary, only twice. The most recent occasion was Thursday night.

Mostly, he said, he works at his computer, overseeing the “kernel” of the operating system named for him; “the kernel is my real life’s work.” His employer is an open-source foundation which is based in the area. A native of Finland but a United States resident for 17 years, Torvalds speaks with only a trace of his native land and with great clarity.

torvalds
Torvalds at Portland (photo/Randy Stapilus)

 

As the people who have felt the sting of his barbs could attest. (“C++ is a horrible [programming] language,” he said at point, and dismissing executives at one corporation as “horrible people” at another.)

“You never see my happier outbursts,” he said.
He spoke as well with a good deal of humor as well, reflecting on the progress 0f Linux and open source software – which he said are doing well and are far ahead of where they were just a few years ago – and technology as well.

While some tech corporations have been resistant to working with open source (including Linux) projects, Torvalds said that most have been highly cooperative, and are becoming more so.

Gaming – in which he said he has little personal interest – is important for Linux growth into the future, he suggested. It has been an area where Windows has been notably strong.

In his work, he said, he often finds “bugs” in the code as new upgrades evolve. The plus side is that they’re usually swiftly discovered and corrected. He acknowledged making periodic mistakes himself, but they’re almost never seen by the world because they’re caught before they get that far. Open source software is developed by large numbers of volunteer software coders who regularly review and correct new and existing code.

That concept of broad correction returned in some other ways as well. “You’d think banks are secure,” he said, but: “No, they’re not.” But he added that wasn’t a big problem, because banks have proven highly capable of fixing and correcting problems once they do happen, which is nearly as good.

Torvalds suggested focusing attention on computer privacy and security where it matters most (such as in financial areas), not as a broad subject for concern in all areas. The reach of information gathering, he said, “is not the end of the world. You want to care about some things, and not so much about others.”

Many people use Linux programming without know it, though “If you’re a user, you really really shouldn’t care.” Android smart phones, for example, use a Linux-based operating system, and many computer servers and embedded computers use it as well, because it is so inexpensive (free in many cases) and its coding is so efficient.

These areas interest Torvalds less, however: “For me, the main target is the desktop, and always has been.” That he suggested, is where the broad range of what a computer and an operating system can do really comes into play.

He acknowledged that a decade ago, Linux was not able to fully hold its own as a desktop operating system, but said that has changed. It has been picking up some steam in the United States, but growing faster in some other places, such as much of Europe and – for reasons unclear – South America.

The large open-source community in the Portland area only occasionally gets some visibility. But it gets some real encouragement from the fact that the founder and still final arbiter of one of the globe’s leading operating systems lives close by. And, now and again, shows up at a users meeting.

Share on Facebook

Oregon Oregon column

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Meridian schools may bring in arts academy (Boise Statesman)
Shakespeare annexation held off (Boise Statesman)
Otter signs business tax break law (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Easing off Palouse cross-deputizing (Lewiston Tribune)
WA, ID AGs meet on pot, other issues (Moscow News)
American Fals fertilizer plant possible (Pocatello Journal)
Some regional flood risk (Sandpoint Bee)
Does wolf panel funding violate federal law? (TF Times News)
Water coming through main gait at Murtaugh (TF Times News)

OSU Bend site stays where it is (Corvallis Gazette Times)
New skatepark set for Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath commission candidates on economy (KF Herald & News)
Possible marijuana tax in Ashland (Ashland Tidings)
Student housing discrimination in Ashland (Ashland Tidings)
Medford superintendent possibles interviewed (Medford Tribune)
Megaload battle heats up (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Salem Boise site turned to apartments (Salem Statesman Journal)
PSU professors may strike April 16 (Salem Statesman Journal)

Mudslide finances in review (Everett Herald)
Fire chief at Everett retires (Everett Herald)
Respirators go to Hanford workers (Kennewick Herald)
Critics: EPA not enforcing rules at oil docks (Longview News)
Port Townsend biomass business ends (Port Angeles News)
Reports on elk, steelhead takes (Port Angeles News)
Seldom-used mudslide warning evaluations (Seattle Times)
Cuts in transit budget could hit college students (Seattle Times)
Med school sought for WSU (Spokane Spokesman)
State supreme court orders more pay for caregivers (Tacoma News Tribune)
Mudslide victims now total 30 (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark Commissioner Stuart departs (Vancouver Columbian)
NuStar has crude oil proposal (Vancouver Columbian)
New police chief at Sunnyside (Yakima Herald Republic)
Possible end for Yakima-Ellensburg bus (Yakima Herald Republic)

Share on Facebook

First Take

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

The conservative Washington Policy Center asked the former state Supreme Court Justice (and a former gubernatorial candidate) Phil Talmadge to offer his legal analysis of the state Supreme Court’s decision and subsequent actions in the school funding case McCleary v. Washington. The full piece is available through a web site; his conclusion follows.

To a large extent, the issue presented here is not one of whether the Court has the power to take steps to order compliance with its McCleary opinion. It does. The more basic and nuanced question is whether it is wise to exercise that power.

When I was on the Court, I wrote a law review article entitled Understanding the Limits of Power: Judicial Restraint in General Jurisdiction Court Systems. 22 Seattle U. Law Rev. 695 (1999). In that article I discussed the school funding cases in Washington and recounted the problems experienced by other state courts who became a part of the political process.

In reviewing the Court’s post-McCleary orders, the Court has progressively articulated an ever more assertive role in defining basic education and its funding without defining the specific constitutional requirements for either. Chief Justice Madsen’s concurrence/dissent is apt on that point. The Court has not articulated what basic education is, against which to measure legislative compliance and funding. This lack of precision means that the Court may not be making so much a constitutional decision, as a political, or normative, decision on how schools should be organized and how much K-12 funding is “adequate.”

If the Legislature fails to meet the Court’s rather amorphous mandate, what is the Court’s “end game?” Will the Court find the Legislature or a distinct group of legislators in contempt? Justice Johnson’s dissent on the January 9, 2014 Court order is quite pointed on this question. Dissent at 6.

Will the Court order the expenditure of funds for K-12 without legislative appropriation or go so far as to direct the raising of taxes to meet the expenditure level it deems adequate? Plainly, this would be a profoundly political act in an era when general tax increases are greeted with little enthusiasm and often face roll back initiatives. In the absence of new revenues, if the Court simply redirected expenditures to K-12 schools, such a redirection must come at the expense of the two other significant components of the State budget–higher education or human services. Report of Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation at 22. The Court would hardly relish being the cause of distress to people in need or students in our universities and colleges.

Will the Legislature sit idly by and not engage in aggressive fiscal or constitutional steps in response to the Court’s actions? Many of its members are restive and have offered what seem to be retributive measures. Other, troubling actions are possible, limited only by legislative imaginations.
Apart from reducing the size of the Supreme Court, the Legislature could choose not to fund certain judicial services. It could also consider a constitutional amendment to give the Legislature the exclusive authority to define the courts’ jurisdiction or remedial authority.

None of this is pretty. The prospect of a major constitutional crisis between the legislative and judicial branch is something no one relishes.
While the Legislature certainly must heed the Court’s construction of article IX, § 1 and clearly define basic education and fund it, the Court should respect the Legislature’s exclusive constitutional role to organize K-12 education (article IX, § 2) and to tax appropriate funds (articles II § , VII, § 4).

Share on Facebook

Reading Washington

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Meridian and the book of controversy (Boise Statesman)
1st term legislator Monks reviews session (Boise Statesman)
Profiling AG Wasden and primary race (Lewiston Tribune)
Windows XP phaseout an issue for schools (Moscow News)
Audit finds misspending of welfare money (Nampa Press Tribune)
Fewer Idahoans stuck at part-time work (Nampa Press Tribune)
Otter formally announces around state (Pocatello Journal)
CSI co-founder Eldon Evans dies (TF Times News)
New liquor license yields new TF bar (TF Times News)

New Latino center opens for OSU (Corvallis Gazette Times)
9th street hotel approved by commission (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Plans for Glenwood conference center, hotel (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene man died at Stillaguamish mudslide (Eugene Register Guard)
Fewer student defaults at Klamath college (KF Herald & News)
Salt Creek tunnel work on hold (KF Herald & News)
Jackson County sets pot moratorium (Ashland Tidings)
Planned burn at Siskiyou nearly uncontrolled (Ashland Tidings)
Medford wins on employee insurance case (Medford Tribune)
Review natural gas plant explosion (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Hermiston police computers hit by virus (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Umatilla County sets pot moratorium (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Reviewing a timber battle near Reedsport (Portland Oregonian)

Everett planning budgets (Everett Herald)
Earthquake would mean Hanford risks (Kennewick Herald)
Crude oil shipment meeting at Clatskanie (Longview News)
Bomb threat yields arrests (Port Angeles News)
Lottery set for legal pot store licenses (Port Angeles News)
Snohomish considered buying Oso homes (Seattle Times)
Army Corps allowing trees on levees (Spokane Spokesman)
Banfield pet hospital base moves to Vancouver (Vancouver Columbian)
Oil shipping hearing turns hot (Vancouver Columbian)

Share on Facebook

First Take

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Rather than put the important part of this blog at the top of the column, I’m going to tell you a story. Please bear with me. The point of the matter will become very, VERY obvious.

The Missus and I recently decided to refinance our home. Several reasons to do so, not the least of which was a reduction in our interest rate by more than two-percent. Most financial advisors will say that’s reason enough. Having bought and sold many homes, we figured things would be pretty familiar. Wrong!

With our excellent credit standing and lack of significant debt, we really had little trouble qualifying. It was what we had to go through to get to the closing stage.

You’ve never seen such a pile of forms! We probably accounted for at least an entire tree from an old growth forest. My count is 63 signatures by each of us. Then, of course, all those forms had to be copied so we had a stack, the broker had a stack and the lender had a stack. Better make that two trees because – in the end – the title company had a stack.

Many – far too many – of the documents had no other reason than to cover someone’s backside. Even the loan broker could not offer a coherent reason for a number of ‘em. But the one that stands out in my mind is the one that certified who I am. The Missus had one, too.

It read something like this: “I, Barrett Rainey, certify that I am Barrett Rainey.” Then I signed it “Barrett Rainey.” Of course, that form had to be notarized. Which was done by someone who wasn’t even in the office! They were in another state! But, had these forms been left out of the tree-killing exercise, our loan wouldn’t have been approved. Made no difference what our credit was or what our assets may have been or our income. We had to self-certify that we are who we say we are. Some gibberish about “the Patriot Act” as I recall. My brain still has not made the connection. Sometimes it’s best to just get through the obstacle course alive without much knowledge about the process. Like sausage-making.

Then – wait for it – all of this paperwork – all of it – was sent to us electronically. Again. All of it. Multiple times! Because the broker who started it had to furnish it. The bank carrying the loan had to furnish it. The closing agency had to furnish it. And each had to be notified – in writing – that we had been furnished it. All of it! Can’t you just hear those saws working in the forest?

But there’s more. The whole tragic point of our experience was yet to come. Everything was signed, sealed and delivered. And the hurdles, inconsistencies and lunacy of those weeks will be just so many memories.

Except for this. Here’s what we learned when it was all over. All those signed and notarized documents have been sent off to another mortgage company somewhere else. They’re being copied – again. Then they’ll be bundled with similar new loans and sold through another money market to investment companies. There, they’ll be sorted out, re-bundled and – wait for it – sold into the world markets. Can you say “derivatives?”

This is one of the major calamities that nearly collapsed our financial markets several years ago! We’ve been here before! We’ve read the book AND seen the movie! And it’s happening again!!! Add to that the news from London that a young banker lost more than $2 billion in six weeks by doing what? Doing WHAT? Selling derivatives!!!!! Likely our home loan!

Despite the redundant paperwork redundancy – despite the billions of dollars lost – regardless of the millions of people hurt by lost retirements, lost homes, careers ended and broken families – we’re doing it again! Our financial markets are lunging straight for the rabbit hole one more time!

Much of the blame for this unoriginal sin certainly rests within the banking community here and overseas. But in my view, the majority rests squarely on the intellectually degenerate Congress of these United States. Banking lobbyists have anointed the pointy heads of both parties with millions and millions of dollars and have stopped any legitimate government regulating action from putting up workable roadblocks to this kind of national theft.

Don’t give me a lot of crap about Dodd-Frank or any similar legislative efforts. What has been done is nothing compared with what MUST be done to stop this nation from going over the edge of a devastating financial cliff. AGAIN! The idiotic excuses of too much regulation being bad for business or allowing the banking industry to “self-regulate” ring hollow when this tragedy starts repeating itself.

Damn it! It’s your money! It’s my money! And – more than that – it’s our lives at stake here. I don’t care if a federal regulator is strapped to the back of every worker on Wall Street one-by-one. If that’s what it takes, so be it.

We have a systemic problem here. The banking world itself is not only capable of bringing about near-collapse when left alone, it’s showing itself entirely able of doing it again. And again. And again.

Well, we got our loan. The whole deal closed. The resultant paper fallout was sent to the four corners of our country. And overseas. We oughta just close the book on it.

The Hell I will!

Share on Facebook

Rainey