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Posts published by “Ridenbaugh Press”

The view at Starbuck

Starbuck, Washington

Starbuck, Washington

Nope, nothing happening here, nothing much anyway, which is just as it's supposed to be. Welcome to Starbuck, Washington, one of those small communities in the state where there is, in fact, no Starbuck's.

There is coffee for sale, and some other conveniences, but when the main businesses that stick out seem to have to do with fishing and RVs, and maybe a few that relate to serving farm operations, you know you're out in the country.

We were on route visiting southeast Washington courthouses today and, though Starbuck is a few miles off the path, we couldn't resist stopping by. We'd never checked it out before; it was worth the excursion. Quiet, pretty, and just the kind of shaded place to stop by on a sweltering summer day. If we'd had a fishing pole we might not have made it to Pomeroy.

Naming rights

The Coeur d'Alene Tribe, like others around Idaho (and elsewhere) has been pushing for elimination of the word squaw" in place names, saying the term is offensive. Okay; place names change from time to time. Life moves on.

So who gets naming rights to the places from which "squaw" has been erased?

Formally, in Washington, the decision falls to the State Board of Geographic Names. But who's request on this should they honor? Richard Roesler of the Spokesman-Review has an interesting post on this, and the contest between the tribe (which has a suggested replacement term, from its tribal language) and area residents (who have other ideas).

All gone

Umatilla depot construction/DOD

Umatilla depot construction/DOD

Something of a regional milestone: As of now, all the nerve gas and mustard gas stored at the Army's Umatilla Chemical Depot are gone.

That's no small amount. The base used to store 7.4 million pounds of the stuff; it's hard to imagine how many people that could kill. (Put another way in another report: the gas destruction "construction site covers 33 acres, has eight separate buildings that, when complete, will house five incinerators and dispose of 220,599 weapons and 3,717 tons of deadly chemical agents."

And it has been there a long time: It was created in 1941. It has gone into the physical and psychic Oregon landscape.

It is one of 11 depots around the country; the closest others are one in California and two in Utah.

Old dog leaves the porch

Jim Clements

Jim Clements

Curtis King

Curtis King

The political quiet of midsummer in an off year in the solidly Republican terrior of Yakima, a time when the old political dogs hang out on the front porch, has taken a turn. A challenge, actually.

Selah farmer Jim Clements, a former six-term House member appointed in January to the state Senate (replacing fellow Republican Alex Deccio), is up for election this year, first in the Republican primary. (That will be the decision-maker; the general likely will be a non-event.) Well-known in the area and a proven vote-getter, Clements started by saying he likely wouldn't raise any money, indicating he didn't expect to campaign hard. Self-described as an "old porch dog," he seemed likely to stay ensconced on the porch.

No longer. A businessman (cabinet maker) from Union Gap, Curtis King (who also sought the Senate appointment in January), jumped in and appears to be running one heck of a campaign. The Yakima Herald Republic story on the race starts with his campaign door-knock at a house; the woman who answered the door knew exactly who he was: "Curtis King? You're the one with the signs, huh." A solid website too, an unusually long list of endorsees, and a large campaign organization as well. He is said to have 850 signs posted in Yakima; that would be a lot.

Clements may have taken his time, but he's now actively out there campaigning. Maybe just in time: The paper reports that the contest is now considered too close to call. The election is August 21.

Some street lessons here, in Politics 101.

Out of the muck, under fire

The old saying about freedom of the press runs that it can be exercised by anyone who happens to own one. That's something of a limiting factor in the world of newspapers, large presses being expensive things to own. But in the larger world of print publishing, the field is much more widely open. Ridenbaugh Press is a small business, but we own our own presses - printers - and publish on paper, as well as on line.

Beyond that, of course, the glory of the Internet is its inexpensiveness; anyone can publish there at slight cost, and almost without limit. The ability of one person to publish in print or on line is not really blocked (other than in the world of larger newspaper enterprises) by the fact that someone else is already doing so.

The airwaves are different. Frequencies are limited in quantity, are deemed to be owned in common by all of us (publicly owned), and have to be apportioned out. The renewed discussion about the fairness doctrine, tossed out with the trash a couple of decades ago, is about that. Much of the discussion has been lopsided: Barely had the idea been brought into view before a critical piling on began. (A Google search will give you an idea of that.) And since one of the national leaders in the debate, Representative Greg Walden, is from Oregon, and others (such as Idaho Senator Larry Craig) have been speaking out on it, a few words here seem appropriate.

The fairness doctrine, which required that politics and public affairs discussion on air be handled in a balanced way, is built on the idea that no one should be able to dominate the airwaves, that they were too important, and too influential, to allow any small group (or large one for that matter) to seize. (First stop in a traditional military coup d'etat? Seize the radio stations.) Most of the broadcast law this nation used for half a century was based on the same idea. Over the last couple of decades, we've tossed out the principle of many voices and many owners, and replaced it with the principle that access to the airwaves is for sale - to fewer and fewer owners, who consistently have replaced many voices with fewer and fewer, most of which tend to reflect their view of the world and support their political aims.

That is what a renewed fairness doctrine would seek to (in part) turn around, and why you're seeing such a visible battle against it - a round of blasts much more visible than the proponents of the doctrine have been able to muster.

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Executive counsel

Peter Callaghan of the Tacoma News Tribune wrote today's column aimed at the selection criteria for an interim superintendent for Tacoma's schools. We'd pretty much concur with its school-related point. But for those of us outside Tacoma: Most of it is good counsel for anyone moving into (or being considered for) an executive job, whether at a large big-city organization or a volunteer community nonprofit.

Starting with qualification number one: "You're not a jerk."

Really, everything else follows from there.

An Oregon House rundown

Apart - maybe - from the race for the U.S. Senate, the immediate issue in Oregon politics for 2008 is the Oregon House: Whether Democrats will retain control of it next session and if so, by how much.

While in theory the control of every legislative chamber in the Northwest could change each cycle, in practice only a few have such close partisan splits that there's a credible chance of a change in control. Democrats now run the Oregon House (and with it, hold unified control in Oregon governor) by the barest of majorities, 31-29. Considering that they gained five seats last election to reach that number, the prospect of a shift in a few seats next time is realistic. So every seat is being watched closely.

Oregon House districts

You pick up something more than uneasiness on the part of Republicans, and confidence on the part of Democrats, that the new majority will be retained and maybe expanded. Will it? You can never be sure; at this point in the last cycle, Democrats talking about a House takeover were often dismissed as dreamers.

But let's take an early look and see how it shakes out.

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Idaho behind bars

cell Some years back, when Idaho started getting into the business of outsourcing prisoner control to private contractors, we predicted that investigative scandal stories would be on their way, the only question being how long that would take.

Took a little longer than we thought, owing mainly to a decline in investigative reporting. But, coming some days after a report on how Idaho has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, here we are.

From a report by John Miller (at Boise) of the Associated Press: "Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector. More than 140,000 U.S. prison beds are in private hands, and inmates' rights groups allege many such penitentiaries tolerate deplorable conditions and skimp on services to increase profits."

The story focused on an Idaho prisoner being held by a private contractor in Texas, until he escaped by slashing his throat with a razor blade.

This AP report is today's must-read.

A Nelson decider?

Oregon State Representative Donna Nelson, a McMinnville Republican, has variously been on or off sundry lists of House Republicans who might not or will not run again in 2008. Our speculation has been that she won't; the ruling today from the state Elections Division may tip the balance that way.

Reports surfaced last year that Nelson had some issues with her campaign finance reporting, which may have had to do with haste: For much of the year she apparently figured she was being lightly challenged and raised little money, and discovered her Democratic challenger (Sal Peralta) was on the verge of beating her.

The Division cited 13 violations of campaign reporting law, none criminal.