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Saxton moves on

Ron Saxton

Ron Saxton

The Medford Mail Tribune seems to be breaking this: Ron Saxton, last year's Republican nominee for governor of Oregon, is leaving (mostly) his job as a key partner in the Portland law firm Ater Wynne, to become an executive at the Klamath Falls manufacturing firm Jeld-Wen.

Jeld-Wen is a door and window manufacturer; it has more than 20,000 employees. And, the Mail-Tribune notes, "Rod Wendt, the chief executive officer of Jeld-Wen, was one of the top donors in Saxton’s failed challenge to Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Blog intensity

The blog tracker Technorati has a new tool we may find useful in the months ahead, charts showing the number of references in blog posts to a specific name or word.

Here, for example, is the measure of mentions of "Bill Sali" - the Idaho representative - in blogs over the last six months.

Posts that contain Bill Sali per day for the last 180 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

You might have thought that as election season moved on and the summer doldrums approached, that references to Sali (and other politicians) would have diminished. Not so; in fact, they seem to be rising.

What about other Northwesterners? What's the pattern for, say, Oregon Senator Gordon Smith?

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Goin’ Hollywood

Or, you might call it the grass-is-greener reaction, the boom among Republicans for the candidates they don't (yet, at least) have.

Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics is reporting on the straw vote at the Washington Republicans' statewide auction and dinner. He didn't say how many votes were cast, but of them, former Tennessee Senator (now Law & Order actor) Fred Thompson got exactly half. The distant runners-up were Mitt Romney (16%), Rudy Giuliani (15%), Duncan Hunter (10%), John McCain (5%), Tom Tancredo (1%), Tommy Thompson (1%), Mike Huckabee (1%) and another non-candidate, Newt Gingrich, less than 1%.

Commenter Jeff B. reflects some of our thinking on this: "Fred represents the idealized candidate. And possibly one that is not attainable. Conservatives see things in all of the other candidates that they don't like, and the project their dream for the perfect candidate onto Fred. I happen to like Fred as well, but the reality is that translating the charisma and hope into a well oiled candidacy and money machine is an important part of every presidential race. And that has yet to be demonstrated."

Questions and worldview

We've suggested in the past that candidates who receive questionnaires from ideological groups probably are not well served in answering the questions on them: The questions are usually designed to frame ideas and issues according to the thought processes of the group, while the candidates may think of those issues differently. An answer, yes or no, from a candidate can amount to putting words in the candidate's mouth.

So, a candidate who does answer can be assumed to look at these questions much as the organization does.

So we'll be interested to know who winds up responding to the new Idaho Values Alliance questionnaire for applicants for the Idaho Supreme Court.

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Cyber-threats

Much of what we routinely see as the downside of the wired world - spam and the like - is nuisance but manageable. Not all on line threats are so easy to deal with.

That's the point made by Aaron Turner, a cybersecurity strategist for the Idaho National Laboratories, which has plenty to keep secure. Writing in CSO Magazine (a trade publication for security people), he says about his local experience:

"The Departments of Energy and Homeland Security have funded 12 separate control system security reviews, during which Idaho National Labs (INL) experts have found that all of the evaluated systems suffer from high-impact security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a low-skill-level attacker, using techniques that do not require physical access to systems. In reviewing the design and implementation of these control systems, the INL team discovered that in currently deployed systems, enhanced security controls cannot easily be implemented while still assuring basic system functionality."

And: "With computer attackers constantly looking for new targets, they will follow the path of least resistance, which could lead them to the control systems that underlie our infrastructure."

A smell beyond the metaphorical

Minidoka Internment Camp

Minidoka internment camp/National Park Service

You could call it the final indignity, if it come to pass. Which it may, cattle feedlot applications in the Magic Valley having the pull they have. But maybe not.

The location of this issue is the Hunt area north of Eden, Idaho, which is east of Jerome, near the middle of the Magic Valley. This is where, during World War II, a camp was built to house Americans of Japanese ancestry, citizens who were uprooted from their homes and packed off to the desert. It now is the site of the Minidoka Internment National Monument, a memorial to one of the sadder incidents in our national life, and an invitation to think more wisely in the future.

So going there would be a good thing for Americans to do. But Big Sky Farms LLP is proposing to launch a powerful disincentive to visitors: A cattle feed lot which would service more than 13,000 head of cattle. That many head of cattle will create smell, and the smell is almost certain to drift regularly across the mile and a half separating the feed lot and the memorial.

Other neighbors have issue with the feed lot, too. (Is there anyone who would want one across the street?) But the memorial ought to have a special call here: A national facility intended to redress with some dignity a wrong done to some of the people of this country, possibly being done in - as a tourist attraction - by cow excrement. We'll check back on this.

Doing the job, or else

Oregon statehouseCompared to a lot of jobs, there aren't many strict requirements for state legislators. There are a lot of things any legislator worth respecting should do, from attending regularly floor and committee sessions to working with constituents and researching legislation at hand. But, item by item, not many of these things are absolutely required, at least not all the time. Meetings can be missed (and, since conflicts develop, sometimes have to be). No lawmaker can become expert on all legislation. On most of these things, you're talking matters of degree.

In the Oregon Legislature, one of the few things the rules say you must do, if you are a legislator, is this: If you are on the floor and a vote is called, you have to vote.

We (along with others) noted just a few days ago a case of a legislator who opted not to vote. The bill in question concerned a cigarette tax increase, and the legislator who said from the floor, "Mr. Speaker, I am not going to vote on this issue," was Representative John Lim, R-Gresham. Speaker Jeff Merkley advised him that he had to vote; Lim said he would vote later. Which, according to the rules, he also wasn't allowed to do.

Merkley seems to have had time to think this over, and now he has a proposal. The Salem Statesman-Journal's legislative blog is reporting that Merkley is proposing an amendment in House rules to impose a $5,000 fine on any legislator who refuses to vote when on the House floor. "At that rate, lawmakers would plow through their entire salary after four violations," the blog noted.

You wouldn't think this would be necessary. Evidently, however.

A self-sought blast

Spokane

Spokane

We exalt the praises of local-owned media, especially newspapers, but today's shout from the Washington News Council is a reminder that this, too, has its problems. Of the Spokane Spokesman-Review and its coverage of the locally controversial River Park Square redevelopment project, it concluded among other things:

"The newspaper did not investigate thoroughly in a timely manner and report promptly and forthrightly the financial structure of RPS. The newspaper suppressed financial information of importance to decision-makers and the public at-large, but potentially unfavorable to developers. . . . Ownership’s involvement in news stories it deemed sensitive was inappropriate. . . . The Spokesman-Review suffers from the potential for self-censorship of the news product by reporters and editors. . . . The same attorney simultaneously influenced decisions on related business and newsroom matters."

And yes, those conclusions reflect the tenor of the findings: Damning, essentially. And not softened by the fact that the Council's inquiry had been sought, and partly paid for, by the newspaper itself. The many critics in town who thought the paper blew the story of one of the biggest downtown development squabbles in the region are sure to trumpet vindication.

The River Park Square history is too twisted and complex to recount fully here. (There's a good summary at the opening of the Council's report.) Briefly, it centers on a large-scale plan to redevelopment downtown Spokane, a proposal centering on the River Park Square area. The Square, along with other sizable chunks of downtown, was owned by the Cowles family; the Spokesman-Review was owned by it too.

In 1994 a reporter happened on information about development plans at River Park. Between her writing of the story and when it appeared in the paper, it was heavily rewritten by the paper's editor on request of a Cowles family associate. The Council report noted, "Over the next decade, the RPS redevelopment touched off a torrent of controversy in Spokane, spawning nearly two dozen lawsuits and an IRS investigation. It tore apart the city’s political structure and pulled down its bond rating. The Spokesman-Review’s coverage of RPS raised questions about the paper's editorial judgment, ethics, and impartiality that persist today."

It argued, "What Spokesman-Review readers did not get were many details about the project’s intricate financial underpinnings that the developer and Spokane’s city officials were quietly cobbling together." And: "If there is a moral to this RPS story, it is that the publisher-editor relationship got in the way of the public interest in the reporting of a sequence of events of great importance to Spokane’s citizens."

A strongly-recommended read.

Editor Steve Smith (who arrived at the paper after most of the River Park Square developments had occurred), and who proposed the Council investigation, had this to say: "The council's findings are troubling, and in my view, they illuminate as nothing else has done why some in our community questioned our RPS coverage and why that story so wounded our credibility. In an accompanying column on these pages, Publisher Stacey Cowles says he rejects the report's findings of interference, direct or indirect. I can appreciate his viewpoint, though we come at the situation from different perspectives. Furthermore, I appreciate the freedom he extends me to draw differing conclusions. So,in the newsroom, we accept the findings. And we sincerely apologize for not adequately living up to our journalistic standards." His comments are worth a good view, too.

Increasingly, on Sunday

liquorIs the purchase of liquor something that can't be planned for? We long have scoffed at the laws that ban some liquor sales on election day - would people really be unable to buy their stock prior to, and get sloshed on election day regardless? Well, maybe.

Just as Idaho's largest county (Ada) is preparing to join about half of the state's other counties in allowing liquor store sales on Sundays, the other two Northwest states are reviewing their own experience, and finding an apparently enlarged marketplace. You might suspect that allowing Sunday sales would do little to sell more liquor - knowing the stores are closed on Sundays, wouldn't you just buy ahead on Saturday? But evidently not everything is thinking ahead to do that.

The Seattle Times is reporting today on the Washington experience since, two years ago, the state opened liquor sales on Sundays. The business has, it turns out, grown tremendously. When the change occurred, state officials were figuring sales might increase by close to $10 million a year as a result; our thought at the time was that they were being a little optimistic. Turns out not: According to the Times, "Instead, Sunday sales have exceeded projections by nearly 60 percent and now the State Liquor Control Board expects $15.1 million will be collected on Sundays during the current biennium, which ends June 30."

That's no aberration. Oregon allowed some Sunday sales about three years ago, and sales overall have risen variously between 9.2% and 19.6%. Pennsylvania, which took similar action about the same time, reported a similar experience.

Maybe, some things you just can't plan for.