Archive for the 'Northwest' Category

Sep 18 2012

A river in pictures

Published by under Northwest,Oregon

It’s not exactly obscure since the Oregonian made a picture from it today’s page one centerpiece, but you really should check out the paper’s new photo essay on the Columbia River.

Those of us who have often traveled across much of its distance (especially, in my case, the Portland/Tri-cities stretch) will not in recognition at a number of the shots and place them easily – the startling tree farm near Boardman, for example. But there’s a lot more, and many of the shots taken from mid-river will give you a perspective you’ve never seen before.

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Aug 23 2012

Amazon heat

Published by under Northwest

amazon

 

You may have seen the maps showing how the red and blue fare on votes and campaign contributions. But have you checked out the Amazon.com map on political book sales?

It may not be especially illuminating at any single moment, especially when a few hot new titles might push things in one direction or another. But over time, it could provide some insight into how political books match up with local politics.

You’ll notice, for example, that while Republican-leaning books are leading generally in the Northwest (as in most of the country) at the moment, that Idaho (buying 64% red to 36% blue) is much more so than Washington or Oregon (both 54% red/46% blue).

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Jul 17 2012

News sources

Published by under Idaho,Northwest

Back in the 19th century, most political journalism was overtly partisan – newspapers specifically called themselves Republican or Democratic (less often, independent), aligning themselves with one of the parties in news coverage as well as editorial comment. In the 20th century, as the number of newspapers shrank and the business model called for reaching most of the population – to pull in broad-based advertising – political reporting changed, recast in ways that would (or at least was intended to) more fairly represent the news and views of both parties. “Objective” would not be the right word for it, but done well, it could be a generally fair and neutral reportage.

Are we moving back away from that, toward more overtly partisan coverage – two sets of coverage, two sets of reality, one each to match your inclinations?

A new article on AlterNet highlights the Idaho Reporter, a web-based news organization tightly linked to conservative groups (and specifically a subsidiary of one Idaho lobbying group). The article, by Joe Strupp, goes into the background and associations of the site and the way it is part of a growing development of ideologically-based news coverage. Such groups are a growing force in statehouses around the country; conservative news agencies associated with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity have been expanding rapidly around the country.

Meanwhile, as the article noted, “A 2009 American Journalism Review study found that 355 newspaper reporters and editors were covering state capitols full time, a 30 percent decrease at the time from 524 in 2003.” The decrease may be even larger than that in the Northwest’s statehouses. Will ideological coverage reach a point where it starts to drown out conventional nonpartisan coverage?

The Idaho Reporter (and its parent, the Idaho Freedom Foundation) may take issue with the description of its product as ideologically-driven, but its website describes it specifically as “your source for uniquely watchdog and free-market oriented coverage.” That’s a fair enough indicator for what they’re about. But what do the benefactors of this widespread, national effort expect will be the result? And what other ideological perspectives will get the money to launch effort to promote any other ideas – or does it matter if, down the road, the only one we get is this one?

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Jul 17 2012

“Good guy” or “bad guy”

Published by under Northwest

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The other day, someone said to me “The 2012 national election is going to see a housecleaning in Washington. We’re going to put a bunch of those freeloaders and nuts out of work!” I nodded and changed the subject. That was preferable to starting an argument.
Ain’t gonna happen. Not now. Not ever. Under our current system of voting, it’s just flat not gonna happen!

Sometime ago, I used this space to describe the “good guy-bad guy” syndrome and the effect it has keeping incumbents – no matter how looney or undeserving – in our national congress. Now, the Gallup polling organization has reaffirmed that theory in spades! Again.

The latest finding is the anti-incumbent attitude among likely voters is the highest it’s been in 19 years. That time period is important for purposes of comparison because, 19 years ago, there was a Republican wave that put the GOP in charge of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years and sat ol’ Newt in the Speaker’s chair. From which he was subsequently forced to resign by his own party for numerous ethical and legal violations. But that’s several other stories for several another times.

Gallup’s latest sampling of voters found 76% – 76% – believe most members of congress deserve to be fired. Posthaste. That’s the highest point of dissatisfaction since – wait for it – 19 years ago. As for the 20% who’d keep the same bunch, that’s the lowest percentage since – you know.

Among Republicans, a surprising 75% believe a clean sweep is due. Democrats agree by 68%. But Independents want to clean house by more than 80%! All those are new highs.

Now, back to the “good guy-bad guy” thing. Most of us have a target or two in congress we call “bad guys” and we’d like to see them gone. My list starts with two-thirds of the Texas delegation and expands nationally from there. Continue Reading »

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Jan 13 2012

The Koch ratings

Americans for Prosperity – a group founded (inter-shell) by the hard-right Koch brothers, and highly active in support of Tea Party activities – has released its list of approval and disdain of members of Congress.

Whatever your view, it can be considered indicative: You may consider an A or an F from these guys a badge of honor, but it does give you a realistic idea of who the new hard right really likes and really doesn’t, and in relative terms. There are no low-graded Republicans, or high-graded Democrats.

Here’s the Northwest results (from their results page):

A+ – Representative Raul Labrador, R-Idaho (the only Northwesterner with a “lifetime” A+, though the fact that he’s in his first term helps some); Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

A – Senator Jim Risch, R-Idaho

B – Representative Doc Hastings, R-Washington; Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington; Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington.

C – Representative Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; Representative Greg Walden, R-Oregon; Representative Dave Reichert, R-Washington.

D – Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington; Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington; Representative Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon; Representative Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon; Representative Rick Larsen, D-Washington.

F – Representative Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Representative Norm Dicks, D-Washington; Representative Jim McDermott, D-Washington; Representative Adam Smith, D-Washington; Former Oregon Representative David Wu.

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Nov 13 2011

Rolling occupation

Published by under Northwest

A few words for the organizers of Occupy in Portland, and other locations where people are trying to take over spaces without end in sight … from someone sympathetic with the core messages they’re trying to convey:

Adopt as action the name of another organization of similar mind. Move On.

Occupy started out well, and powerfully, and it has already succeeded in what at least should have been its initial goals. The object was to change the conversation about what the nation’s core problems are, to a discussion about the power of great wealth, inequality and the resulting threat to democracy. After weeks of deliberate avoidance by national news media and others, attention was finally gotten. And the scope of action made clear that this was not just about a street crowd in downtown New York. When crowds in places from major metro centers to places like Mosier, Oregon – and there are only a small and scattered number of houses in Mosier – began joining in, a corner of some sort has been turned.

It started as a march, then an occupation, and a few other events have occurred. What needs to happen next for Occupy is to, well, move on.

It needs not to go away, but to evolve.

For a matter of days, maybe as long as two or three weeks, the presence of the protesters in Chapman and Lownsdale Square parks in downtown Portland added to the message, gave it a center, made it more powerful. Over the last week, maybe two, though, the encampment has distracted from it – inevitably. Occupy Portland became about a group of people camping in downtown Portland. The story became its governance, its gradually growing clashes with police (after a highly cooperative beginning) – up to more than 50 arrests today. And the arrival of people whose interest had little to do with promoting the message the original protesters were so passionate about.

The message has gotten left behind. Not totally obscured – a lot of the national conversation really has changed – but the Occupy Encampments are no longer adding to the message, or spreading it. As any organization, however intentionally unorganized, will do, its top priority eventually becomes itself.

That suggests a solution to the problem: Do other things.

Find other ways to get attention. Stage other events (peaceably and legally – there’s plenty of room for action within the law). Do more marches. Keep the focus, above all, on the message.

The primary Occupy organizers seem to want that, at least as demonstrated by their determination to avoid a leadership hierarchy and a series of spokesmen.

If they’re really serious about it, their next move is clear: Break up the encampment, and schedule another activity in, say, a couple of weeks.

Otherwise, their message is almost sure to be trampled underfoot.

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Oct 02 2011

Dodging the fires

Published by under Northwest,Oregon

For a second year, the Northwest seems to have mostly avoided the large wildfires that were such a plague only a few years ago.

The weather has to have a lot to do with it: The heavy rains earlier this year, substantial snowpacks and the summer that didn’t really get underway until around Independence Day. Washington has been unusually lucky, with only a few substantial fires, mainly in the northeast. Oregon and Idaho have done nearly as well, though the fires circling Bend early last month were fierce enough to send their smoke across the Cascades. And Idaho has had some significant blazes, though of moderate size and generally well off from human habitation (many in remote areas in the region near Salmon).

Current federal wildfire mapping indicates four fires in Idaho, two in Oregon, none in Washington.

Some of this was luck, though. An Oregonian article out today notes that a massive area of the Fremont-Winema National Forest in southwest Oregon (around the Klamath Falls area) has been hit by pine beetles which have damaged immense stands of trees across 300,000 acres. “Foresters and firefighters held their breath when lightning storms swept through in August, sparking numerous fires but sparing the Fremont-Winema,” the paper said.

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Aug 06 2011

Free market sustainability

Published by under Northwest

Put the phrases “free market”, “less regulation” and “environmental sustainability” together in the same concept … well, it’s not that they can’t work together, but you don’t see it a lot. But here’s a case that can easily bridge the divide.

It comes from the Sightline Institute at Seattle, with the unlikely subject of taxis. Taxi cabs, it turns out, are a “sustainable” type of business, partly because they provide the means for people to use cars and other vehicles less. “Plentiful, affordable taxis facilitate greener urban travel. They help families shed second cars, ride transit more often, and walk to work on could-be-rainy days. They fill gaps in transit systems and provide a fallback in case of unexpected events,” Sightline said.

taxi

It turns out out too that Seattle and Portland are, relative among the nation’s larger metro areas (with large taxi fleets), over-regulating them – diminishing their numbers and use, increasing the cost of using them, and harming sustainability.

More specifically:

In the Northwest’s largest cities, however, local ordinances enforced by taxi boards suppress the entry of new cabs onto the streets. They impose arcane and ultimately farcical management principles reminiscent of Soviet planning. Imagine teams of pizza regulators pawing through discarded receipts and pizza boxes to determine whether demand for pizza delivery markets are “oversaturated,” and you won’t be far from the truth. Restricting taxicab licenses undermines passengers’ mobility, local economies, and—by encouraging driving—our natural heritage; uncapping cabs would allow market competition to bolster all three.

As shown in the figure above, at present, the Northwest’s largest cities have fewer cabs per capita, and higher fares, than many US cities. Seattle’s 1.4 cabs per 1,000 residents is twice Portland’s 0.7, and well above Vancouver’s 1 cab per 1,000. But all our cities lag. Washington, DC, has more than 12 cabs per 1,000 residents; Las Vegas has almost 6; and San Francisco has 2. Meanwhile, the cost of a typical, five-mile trip is $16.50 in Portland, $17.25 in Seattle, and $21.57 in Vancouver. Washington, DC’s typical fare is just $11.50.

Consider the efforts of Portland’s Transportation Board of Review, which has the power to issue new taxi licenses but is also charged by city law with monitoring “market saturation factors.” It is supposed to avoid market oversaturation, something every other market—from pizza delivery to home remodeling—manages to do just fine on its own, without benefit of a board. In Portland, the rules actually require applicants to prove that a new taxi license is needed. Imagine if Pizza Hut had to demonstrate to the Pizza Delivery Board that it needs another driver for the Super Bowl.

That’s not an argument that holds up on every regulated business, the markets-are-flawless crowd notwithstanding. But Sightline makes a good case for it in the case of taxis. And it’d be interesting to see counterpart studies elsewhere.

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Aug 03 2011

Not far from a settlement?

Published by under Northwest

salmon

In the category of things – like the debt ceiling settlement – that can be interpreted in various ways, include the Tuesday ruling by U.S. District Judge James Redden in Portland on salmon recovery and the steps needed to ensure it.

The terms “Redden” and “salmon” have been tied together tightly for a long time, back to the 70s when he was Oregon attorney general and since 2000 as a judge. There’s been a reliable pattern ever since: Federal agencies and a number of other regional issues (often including state governments and various other organizations) submit salmon recovery plans, and Redden declares them inadequate. This has been particularly irritating to people who defend the four lower Snake River dams in southeast Washington, which have been targeted as major blocks on salmon runs.

Redden is no less a salmon defender today than he ever was, but a clean reading of his new ruling, the latest in a series – while not bringing an end to the case, as some people had hoped – does seem to point the way to a direct conclusion without massive regional uproar.

The plan seemed to give a general approval to much of the federal plan. He says up front that “Federal Defendants have failed, however, to identify specific mitigation plans to be implemented beyond 2013. Because the 2008/2010 BiOp’s [biological opinion] no jeopardy conclusion is based on unidentified habitat mitigation measures, NOAA Fisheries’ opinion that FCRPS operations after 2013 will not jeopardize listed species is arbitrary and capricious.”

Otherwise, he seemed to continue along the lines of his earlier rulings – in terms of their substance. But the sense of the decision seemed to indicate a sharp narrowing of subjects under serious dispute. As an indicator, Redden seemed to leave much of the proposal in place through 2013.

The end could be near.

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Jul 17 2011

A paper bankruptcy?

Published by under Northwest

Reports are out from Bloomberg News that Lee Enterprises is scrambling to refinance its debt – seen as an indicator it is moving to avoid bankruptcy.

And: “Lenders will also be asked to approve a prepackaged bankruptcy, which the newspaper owner will pursue if an out-of-court restructuring doesn’t gain enough support, they said.”

The Northwest significance is that Lee is one of the major newspaper owners in the region. It has a near monopoly on newspapers in the Magic Valley area (after buying up what were 20 years ago a bunch of independently owned businesses). And in Oregon, it owns the papers in Albany, Corvallis and Coos Bay, and in Washington the paper in Longview.

Following up on additional weak circulation reports in the newspaper industry, including serious downtowns at a number of Northwest papers. Newspaper troubles aren’t getting the attention they were a few years ago, but they haven’t gone away – or, apparently, slowed.

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Jun 04 2011

Ryan, district by district

Published by under Northwest

The budget proposal by U.S. Representative Paul Ryan – especially, his proposal for Medicare and Medicaid – is bound to continue to be a centerpiece of political discussion nationally. At least, it will if Democrats have anything to say about it.

Some of the shape of that may emerge through some online documents developed by the Democratic caucus on the House Energy & Commerce Committee. These are reports outlining the effect of the Ryan plan congressional district by district.

They’re accessible on a map page.

Here’s sample, a small slice of the report from Oregon’s 1st district:

The Republican proposal would have adverse impacts on seniors and disabled individuals in the district who are currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Increase prescription drug costs for 8,500 Medicare beneficiaries in the district who enter the Part D donut hole, forcing them to pay an extra $84 million for drugs over the next decade.
• Eliminate new preventive care benefits for 97,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district.

The Republican proposal would have even greater impacts on individuals in the district age 54 and younger who are not currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Deny 620,000 individuals age 54 and younger in the district access to Medicare’s guaranteed benefits.
• Increase the out-of-pocket costs of health coverage by over $6,000 per year in 2022 and by almost $12,000 per year in 2032 for the 128,000 individuals in the district who are between the ages of 44 and 54.
• Require the 128,000 individuals in the district between the ages of 44 and 54 to save an additional $29.9 billion for their retirement – an average of $182,000 to $287,000 per individual – to pay for the increased cost of health coverage over their lifetimes. Younger residents of the district will have to save even higher amounts to cover their additional medical costs.
• Raise the Medicare eligibility age by at least one year to age 66 or more for 71,000 individuals in the district who are age 44 to 49 and by two years to age 67 for 496,000 individuals in the district who are age 43 or younger.

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May 02 2011

The safe Northwest

Published by under Northwest

When it comes to disasters, they tend to be so all-consuming – when they do happen, or might – that we miss the larger risk picture. For example, this question: How risky a place is the Northwest, from storms, floods, quakes, twisters and so on?

Pretty safe, it turns out.

The New York Times last weekend posted a map showing which parts of the country are overall at higher or lower risk of disasters, and the Northwest is much the lowest. The safest metro area in the country, it turns out, is Corvallis. And of the eight safest metro areas in the country, seven are in either Washington or Oregon (Corvallis, Mt. Vernon, Bellingham, Wenatchee, Spokane, Salem and Seattle). The lone holdout was Grand Junction, Colorado.

The list of high-risk places was led by Dallas, Texas. The eight riskiest were all in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.

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Apr 06 2011

Bryan Fischer update

Published by under Northwest

Bryan Fischer, the conservative social activist well-known in Idaho for a variety of issues, has been active since he left the state. Every so often, some off the wall comment emerges from him and shoots around the country.

You can see an update on that at the Raw Story site.

But note this also, the prime reason for taking note: He has a radio program (he meets the national central requirement for having one, since he’s conservative), and his guests have included presidential prospects Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann and Haley Barbour.

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Mar 20 2011

Cowboy ethics

Published by under Northwest

When Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was running for governor last year, and before that, his campaign office had in the window a “Code of the West” – “live each day with courage,” “take pride in your work,” “be tough but fair,” “when you make a promise, keep it,” “ride for the brand” (aka, Be True to Your School, or loyal to your community and country). Concepts that, doubtless, you’ve never heard of before. It came up during the campaign and Otter has pushed them as governor, even reciting then when talking to school kids.

Nothing particularly wrong with them, either. But what wasn’t clear then, seeing the “Code” posted on a campaign window or website, was that it wasn’t the idea of Otter, or of some Idahoan.

It’s popped up again this session at the Oregon Legislature, in the form of House Concurrent Resolution 14 (a hearing is set for Monday), to approve of the “Code” (because, remember, it has to do with the mythical Old West, not the real one) as a sort moral guideline for the state.

It has also appeared, the Oregonian noted in writing about this, in other places: Wyoming has adopted it as state policy (to accomplish what exactly is unclear), and the Montana legislature is considering it.

So it didn’t just pop up as one local lonesome cowboy’s thought.

It came from one James P. Owen, who has made substantial bucks from a series of books. The first one was Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, and when it sold well, was quickly followed by two sequels. Getting a marketing boost for his book from governors and legislators surely didn’t hurt. And he set up a non-profit corporation as well, The Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership. The approach of the New West wrapped in the mythology of the old: Quite a mashup.

If you’re wondering where that reference to Wall Street came in, you need to know something about Owen. He is not a cowboy (though the fringe-sleeved jacket he wears on his non-profit’s web page conveys the impression). Owen’s background is on Wall Street, as an investment professional; he has even been linked to investor Bernie Madoff’s operations (though he has said the financial connection occurred after his left his firm). The cowboy principles do not come from any study of the old west, or life on a ranch, but – he has said – from recollections of his childhood, watching Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

A 21st century philosopher of the American West. Truly.

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Mar 17 2011

People will die

Published by under Northwest

Representative Peter DeFazio on cuts, in the U.S. House budget, to emergency early-detection services (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, in the case of tsunamis).

So often, this kind of rhetoric doesn’t relate to real-world risks. In this case the risks are real and apparent; you have only to look on the other side of the Pacific to see them (in a nation generally better-prepared for disaster than we are).

These services are there for reasons. Ignore those, and reap the consequences.

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Oregon State Highway film from 1966. A few changes since then.

 

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