Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “notes”

Notes . . .


Sometimes it's the audience that prompts some reflection.

That's not a comment on Representative Suzanne Bonamici, from Oregon's first congressional district, and who held one of her twice-yearly (two series of them annually in the district's counties) town hall meetings in McMinnville this evening. Her discussion was a straightforward report, from her eye view, of what's happening in Congress at present. There's a lot of caution, watching and questioning, by her description, which sounds about right.

When an audience member asked whether Congress is as dysfunctional as it seems to be, she gave her most noteworthy answer: No, probably not. Yes, there are a string of problems, which have gotten a lot of attention. But while the bigfoot stories clump around, lots of smaller-scale activity goes on, to little notice, underneath. She cited a string of measures she's working on with Republicans, on subjects ranging from job training to tsunami preparation.

That seemed to be of a piece with the audience.

Sometimes, in these town halls, some people get overheated and start stomping out of their proclamations rather than coolly asking questions. Sometimes someone will start to take over the proceedings by going really long-winded, delivering their own speech rather than a concise question.

Didn't happen tonight. Everyone was courteous and to the point, and emotions were dialed down.

That may or may not be typical, of course. And you can speculate over the various possible reasons for a quieter, calmer town hall. It was a mostly Democratic-friendly audience, by all appearances; was the thinking, in part, that we've now just a few months to go to changing the political world in D.C.? (That change might include a subcommittee chair for Bonamici if the House changes partisan control with the next election.)

Whatever the reason, something feels a little different. - rs

Notes . . .


Chris Carlson, who writes a regular column here and has penned a couple of books for Ridenbaugh Press (Medimont Reflections and Eye on the Caribou), has a new book coming out. It relates the history of the Hells Canyon federal recreation area; Caxton Press is the publisher. From an Idaho State University release on the book:

Idaho State University alumnus and 2017 Professional Achievement Award winner Chris Carlson has written a new book “Hells Heroes: How an unlikely alliance saved Idaho’s Hells Canyon” that will be available in April.

“It is the story of the politics that went into ultimately providing federal protection to this unique asset in Idaho that many Idahoans aren’t even aware of,” said Carlson, who has spent many days hiking in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area both on the Canyon’s river trail and in the Seven Devils. “It’s one of my favorite places in Idaho.”

Carlson, a long-time Idaho journalist and former press secretary to the late Idaho Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus, graduated from ISU with his Master of Arts Degree in English literature in 1970. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English literature from Columbia in 1968.

Carlson said the book is broken into two parts, the first focusing on the efforts of Brock Evans of the Sierra Club who brainstormed on how to get the canyon protected. It was fiercely debated whether the canyon should be a national park or have a different designation.

The second part focuses on how Sandra Mitchell, now the executive director of the Idaho Recreation Council, worked to keep the Snake River in the recreation area open to jet boats and other motorized watercraft.

“The focus is on two fights and two heroes and is an interesting story most Idahoans are not aware of and would enjoy it if they read it,” Carlson said.

Rick Johnson, executive director for the Idaho Conservation League, has written the book’s forward.


Notes . . .


Dave Wasserman, who works for the Cook Political Report and offers commentary for several other also-respectable analysis outfits, was really struck by a data point. To the extent, he tweeted, that he had "spent [his] career downplaying" something, and now sees just that thing happening.

Look at the map above (via Gallup) which shows approving ratings for President Trump in polling by state. The exact numbers range are interesting, but what's worth noting here is which states fall into which cohorts - states that give the president approval ratings of 50% or more (not bad), as opposed to 40 to 49% (mediocre) or below 40% (bad).

You'd expect that states supporting Trump would fall into the not-bad group, and many of them do (Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, the Dakotas and so on). Then there's the large expected number in the middle group, which almost all consists of states Trump won but, in many cases (not all), not by much.

The third group consists mostly of states Trump lost in 2016 - including places like California, New York, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado and so on - which is about what you'd expect. But look down to the lower center and see which state anchors that group of really-don't-like Trump states.


That's what stunned Wasserman. He noted that for many years he's been throwing the damper on talk about a Democratic rise in Texas. But this map tells a different story.

It's just one data point. But keep a close watch on it. - rs

Notes . . .


Last fall, when the sexual harassment complaints against Roseburg (Oregon) Senator Jeff Kruse surfaced, he was accused of “ongoing workplace issues,” without a lot more detail provided. People reacted seriously, but for those of us without knowledge of the specifics - and an unwillingness to prejudge in a time when j'accuse too often seems enough for conviction - a clear assessment was harder to make.

That's not a problem now.

A detailed investigation of Kruse's activities was conducted, and this week the results, 51 tightly-spaced pages worth, were released.

Before this report, we were left wondering what exactly it was he did - and with one small exception, he did not deny the allegations (saying in some cases that he didn't remember) - and so left wondering whether this was serious stuff. Taken together, and in some cases even as individual incidents, this was certainly worth the uproar.

Part of the conclusion read, "there is a longstanding pattern of Senator Kruse engaging in unwelcome physical contact toward females in the workplace, including Senator [Sara] Gelser and Senator [Elizabeth] Steiner Hayward, and that he stubbornly refused to change that behavior after being warned about it in March 2016." There were other people and incidents involved too, but what seemed most especially pertinent was the unwillingness to change his activities and approach. I can understand not reading someone else's mind, or intuiting their preferences; persisting after those concerns were conveyed (in this case even through official channels) is highly noteworthy.

Many of the MeToo cases in recent months have exposed clearly bad behavior, while some have seemed - to me - in a grayer area. The report is recommended reading. It makes clear that Kruse was not operating in a gray zone, and that clarity should help with moving through what is likely to come next. - rs

Notes . . .


Purely local: Returning home from Portland yesterday, we drove the new Newberg-Dundee bypass in Yambill County. The long-awaited bypass. Compared for the travel available upt to now on Highway 99, it is an improvement. Here's hoping it can become more of one.

The new road - there aren't a lot of "new" roads these days, are there? - was good. It was an easy, pleasant drive of four to five miles, and it showed off some areas off to the side of Newberg and Dundee. Travel speeded up; all of it was traversed at highway speed.

And it will divide the traffic volume heading through the area, which alone will help diminish the periodic parking lot at Dundee.

But . . . the northeast-side entrance, coming in from the Sherwood area, is balky and clumsy; you have to do several lengthy twists and turns, some of them not intuitive, to get to the actual new road. It wouldn't surprise if some people miss the route or just say the hell with it.

And it falls a couple of miles short of connecting directly with the old, existing, Dayton bypass, which would help a great deal.

These may be projects for the future. Hopefully. - rs

Notes . . .


A rainy, quiet afternoon. Time to put on a movie, one that would entertain but also engage.

Time for another view of Citizen Kane. Haven't watched it in, oh, six or seven years. Let's give it another go. (And yes, that's as far as my thought process went.)

No big, thoughtful review of it here; I have no idea what I could say about it that hasn't been said elsewhere. Except, maybe, on this day in January of 2018, this . . .

Kane is a movie about an arrogant, reckless, loud, aggressive, rich, powerful media figure, married more than once and profligate and ultimately dismissive of all but his most sycophantic allies, ostensibly a populist but seldom able to see anyone else for who they are . . . politically ambitious and also snared by scandal, brought low at the end in his palatial Xanadu.

A review of the movie I read maybe a generation ago asked the question: "Try to think of a personage in contemporary life who would be a suitable model for an updated Kane . . . Or don't they make them like Hearst anymore?"

What do you think? - rs

Notes . . .


Incorrect or even made-up information about the world around has grown to be a real problem. In our household we routinely have to sift through what's real and what's either satire or otherwise not reality-based.

But that's a matter of fact versus fiction. In a sense, that's not too hard to deal with; most of the time you can (if you're willing to keep your mind open to do the work of sorting) work through to what's real and what's not. Inevitably, if you do that, sometimes you'll find data that supports your world view, and sometimes you'll find something that undermines it. The latter is useful, if you're into thinking: It means you may get to add another level of sophistication to the way you interpret things.

Then on the other hand, there's this from the just-released survey American Views: Trust. Media and Democracy, from Gallup and the Knight Foundation:

Four in 10 Republicans consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be “fake news.”

The study noted that "The research community often defines 'fake news' as misinformation with the appearance of legitimately produced news but without the underlying organizational journalistic processes or mission. However, some political and opinion leaders, including Trump, commonly label news stories they disagree with or that portray them in a negative light as 'fake news.'”

If that kind attitude becomes commonplace - data isn't real if it runs counter to the way I want the world to look - then we really are lost. I don't think we're there yet. But consider this a serious warning signal.

Addendum: See also Arizona Senator Jeff Flake's floor speech on Wednesday, well worth the read.

Notes . . .


A few thoughts after finishing the new book Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff, about the first nine months or so of the Trump Administration.

One is that many of the points in the Washington Post's review of it, were on target. It was journalistically iffy: There was little clarity about the source of much of the material, or the background. (One long scene happened, apparently but not made clear in the book, at a house party Wolff held.) There were curious gaps and omissions; there were significant elisions. In a number of cases, conflicting explanations or descriptions were offered, with no effort to determine which of them might be, at least, most true. And so on.

With all that true, there are some other things worth saying about it (and reasons why reading the book isn't a waste of time).

One is that, while no one should be shocked if some material in it doesn't hold up, evidently, at least so far, the large bulk of it does. Don't take it all to the bank; but as for providing a broad, rough picture, it seems to do the job.

It is published in book form, but it seems more like quick, journalistic writing, more an impression (segments are reminiscent, sans the style, of some of Hunter Thompson's political pieces). It was done fast, in a hurry, probably in part to keep from seeming out of date in months to come. But that does give it some immediacy.

Generally, it matches up with, and reflects, a good deal of the reporting that's been done in recent months. That means the outline of the book doesn't tell us much new, that only the details are really fresh. Still, the details, in aggregate (and recognizing that some of them may not endure) provide a good deal of depth and understanding about the dynamics inside the White House. The stories we've seen in established publications have a lot more depth after this new book is absorbed.

There's some good, useful background about the key figures involved, too, that many people may not have known.

And it is entertaining.

It's worth a read. Add to that a cautionary note: Don't take it all to the bank. But . . . it's with factoring in, not as any kind of definitive take, not as a finely documented record of the time and place, but as a partial, immediate, temporary piece of the story. Something else we can draw on, in addition to other sources, as we try to figure out in years ahead just what happened. - rs

Notes . . .


Two new U.S. senators were sworn in Wednesday - Doug Jones of Alabama and Tina Smith of Minnesota - both arriving after presence in part of a national political firestorm. Jones' election as a Democrat from Alabama is remarkable, but Smith's entry to the Senate is the one that sets a statistical record. She becomes the 22nd woman in the U.S. Senate, marking the largest number of women ever to serve there.

That simply brings ther Senate more or less into line with the rest of American politics, because the 20 percent mark is about where women are in politics nationally.

The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University has looked at the numbers, and as a matter of percentage here is the female membership of various elective cadres:

• Senate - 22%.

• House of Representatives - 19%.

• Statewide elected officials (including governors) - 24%.

• Mayors (100 largest cities) - 22%.

• State legislatures - 25%.

The across the board similarity is remarkable.

And it may rise across the board a year from now. - rs

Happy New Year!

And welcome to 2018. Before we welcome another year in another 365 days, we should have quite a bit to discuss. We'll be back to get it started tomorrow.