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Cross-cultural

What with the lines between politics, culture and other societal elements blurring in recent years, we were immediately intrigued by the name of a blog we just spotted: A Seattleite in Idaho.

It is run, it turns out, by a graduate student now at Idaho State University, and who happens to be Mormon. The perspective is sometimes striking. Worth a look.

Race, schools and lowering walls

integrationDealing usefully, productively, with matters of school and race seem to be areas where thoughtfulness, gentility and an assumption that everyone involved is of good will - even if, in fact, not everyone necessarily is - are near absolute requirements. There's almost not such a thing as a single objective reality, since the view changes significantly if your stance alters just a little.

But scaling back emotion does seem to be generally useful, which may help in finding the sometimes obscure line between problem-solving and obsession, and in finding out what the problem is. Removing that last from the realm of the subjective to reasonably objective is tough work.

There are problems to be solved. The Oregonian pointed to one last week in the Portland schools: "One in four African American middle school students was suspended or expelled from Portland Public Schools last year. One in 14 white middle schoolers was suspended or expelled during the same period, records show."

This statistic - the story goes on to develop it in some detail - more than indicates the existence of a problem. But what is that problem? Is it teachers and administrators more inclined to discipline black students than others? Is it not such an inclination, but a greater difficulty in communication? Could it have to do with the social or economic conditions in parts of the city where many of the black students live? (The story does note, "Rates of discipline are disproportionate no matter whether a student attends a low-income Portland school or a wealthy one.") Is there a cultural consideration? Or something else?

No immediate answers here, just a suggestion that the school district start looking into - as it apparently has begun to do - why the disparity exists, and why it's so great. Defining the problem isn't easy.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat discovered that too, when his column a week ago declared that the Seattle School District is obsessed with the subject of race.

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Minority report

When you're in an overwhelmed minority, "they" don't have to listen to you. Idaho Democrats can swap a few stories with the Washington legislative Republicans - for the first time in quite a while in not just the minority, but a swamped minority - about what it's like.

The Spokesman-Review's Richard Roesler has pulled together a batch of quotes and observations about the situation, mostly from a meeting with statehouse reporters; it's well worth a read.

Best quote - from House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, adapted he said from an observation made by a Democrat: "It's like the guards and the prisoners...The guards make the rules and sometimes the prisoners get frustrated. But it's still the guards are in charge."

The Northwest’s turn

Ford and Carter
Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter at a 1976 debate

The applications are in: Sites in Portland/Vancouver and in Spokane have been proposed as locations for the 2008 presidential (and presumably vice presidential) debates. So what are the odds one of them will be selected?

There's no knowing with any certainty, of course; and, of course, we've not done a thorough site-analysis to determine exactly how well the specific venues would fit the unusual and specific needs of a presidential debate. The two locals are Washington State University at Spokane (no, not at the mother ship at Pullman), and the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission (at a Portland-area site, possibly Clark College at Vancouver).

The other 17 applicants: Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; Belmont University, Nashville, TN; Centre College, Danville, KY; Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, Indiana; Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY; Indiana University and the City of Bloomington's Convention and Visitors Bureau; Ohio State University, National Public Radio, and Public Broadcasting Service, Columbus, OH; State of Illinois (Lakeside Center/McCormick Place, Chicago); University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR; University of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, OH; University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL; University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS; VisitPittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC; Washington University in St. Louis, MO; Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT; Women of the Storm, New Orleans, LA.

Statistically, 19 organizations around the country applied to host what may be four (possibly three) presidential/vice presidential faceoffs. So on its face, the odds of a Northwest debate might be between one in two and one in three.

We would suggest that on a regional basis at least, it's past time to give the Northwest a shot. The Northwest, after all, is the one region of the country that never has hosted a televised presidential debate.

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Disaster flick

There'll be a lot more of these coming up for web use in the years ahead: A visualization from the Washington Department of Transportation of what may happen if something or other is or isn't done. In this case: A visualization of what may happen on the high-use Highway 520 bridge (connecting Seattle with east King County) if it isn't fixed.

Okay: It didn't rattle us from our seats. But were we daily riders on the 520, maybe it would . . .

One down, Sonics next

The proposal by the new owner of the Seattle Sonics for a half-billion dollar new arena at Renton sounds increasingly like a put-up: An obligatory proposal, performed as per the terms of the team purchase, but not necessarily the desired outcome. The desired outcome, probably, is the Oklahoma City Sonics.

The proposal as crafted likely has slim chance of passing the legislature and less of passing the voters. (The level of public-backed financing involved is they key point.) Taken together, these points make a little odd today's Seattle Times editorial urging another go-round in the arena construction effort. "The SuperSonics deserve a chance to work something out with King County. There might not be any more options for the SuperSonics if Olympia swats this proposal or strands it on the bench," it concludes.

This is notable as an expression of a still-vital viewpoint in Seattle. A detailed and useful deconstruction is available at Horse's Ass.

Feeling a draft

We have said before and say again, that it'll likely take a powerfully persuasive argument - especially on the matter of money - to get Representative Peter DeFazio into the race for Senate.

But you can't say the effort isn't being made.

You can check out the state of it at Draft DeFazio For Senator from Oregon!, a just-founded blog founded by the Loaded Orygun bloggers. It sums up much of the rationale for a DeFazio run against incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith. (Among other things, it's a reflection on how the net can directly influence political action, and political decisions.)

On a semi-related note, we were wandering around downtown Eugene today and saw a metal announcement plate, outside the Lane County courthouse, marking ideal spot for a campaign announcement for a Senate run, should DeFazio make one.

Morse Terrace at the Lane Courthouse
Morse Terrace at the Lane Courthouse

You'll notice that the chief official signing off the naming of the "free speech terrace", after the recently-departed U.S. senator (who lived near Eugene and was a law professor at the University of Oregon there), was then-county commission Chair Peter DeFazio (whose Oregon residence, now as then, is in Lane County's Springfield).

Smith bucks

Never hurts to be able to wave a pile of money in the face of people who are considering opposing you in a political campaign. And Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, by announcing that in the first three months of this year he has added $700,000 to his $2 million campaign fund - and doing it days before he had to, thereby guaranteeing media coverage - is doing just that.

It could even be aimed directly at Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio, who this week seems to have turned into a possible contender for the Senate seat (after earlier declaring his non-interest), but whose reluctance to enter the race has a lot to do with the daunting rounds of fundraising required. DeFazio could raise the money to be competitive with Smith. The catch is that he'd have to put in a lot of time and effort, away from his newly beloved committee chairmanship, to do it.

Which may give emphasis to what we suspect DeFazio is privately telling those Democrats who want him to run: "Before we can even get serious: Show me the money, and prove to me that raising it isn't going to be preoccupying for the next year and a half." Sounds now as if whether he runs may hinge in large part on whether they can.

Chat on

Tonight once again, our regular Wednesday chat is on for 6 pm Pacific, 7 pm Mountain, accessible off this page. (Scroll down to the right to the “nickname” box, enter your name, click the button, and you’re in.) It lasts about an hour; feel free to jump in or out any time.

So far we’ve had enjoyable discussions with an eclectic group of people. Greg Smith, a co-founder, should be back on board this evening. Along with, well, who knows who.