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Posts published in June 2008

If you let O’Reilly run wild

This week's "Rogue of the Week" for Willamette Week is a national figure, but a former Portland (KATU-TV) broadcaster, Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly was only engaging in his usual routine of overheated misinformation, but this time he was pointing it back at Portland. Hence the reference.

Details at the link. In general, as the Week suggested, if you take O'Reilly's core shot - “If you let the crazy educators run wild, which they are in many, many parts of the country, then we’re just going to lose the country, because the kids are confused. They don’t know what the heck is going on” - and replace the references to educators and kids with "O'Reilly" and "his viewers," you've about nailed it.

Spokane/Kootenai and where else?

Interesting post out of Spokane about the development of an apparently national database of wi-fi locations.

Tom Sowa of the Spokesman-Review adds, "It’s no surprise that a Boston mobile services company hired drivers to spend hundreds of hours prowling Spokane and Kootenai counties. That company, Skyhook Wireless, is collecting the location of nearly every Wi-Fi signal in public spaces, building a database that is the key resource it sells to customers like Apple and others."

Quick, simple shots

Afew days ago we pointed to a badly blown video against Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, mainly because of the theme music it employed (from "The Sopranos"). The theme music wasn't it's only problem, though; the ad was simply so busy that little of its mass of message stuck.

Contrast that with the series of quick, simple 15-second spots developed by the group Evergreen Progress (whose main backers, it says, are Service Employees International Union Washington State Council, Democratic Governors Association, Washington Federation of State Employees, Sheet Metal Workers Local 66 PAC, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302). With 15 seconds to run, they aren't detailed. But they don't have to be. They each make a fast, hard point, then encourage people to go to their web site for the supportive background.

This is effective stuff. There are three of them now, and looks as if there could be a good many more. And you can imagine a candidate trying to swat away all those 15-second gnats. (Maybe something Rossi's campaign would be well to consider.)

Seattle-Louisiana, via Discovery

Anyone following the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, and its activities and connections, will want to check out this extensive blog post on DI's links to a new bill in Louisiana, likely to become law soon, aimed at installing de facto creationism in the state's schools.

Further of note: The person who may make it law is the governor, Bobby Jindal, who is being talked up quite a bit as a possible vice presidential pick for Republican presidential nominee-presumptive John McCain.

Yep, it’s over $100 million

Some years back, in an early version of this blog, we said that plans for renovation of the Idaho Statehouse were driving up the cost, once estimated at around $40 million, upward in the direction of $100 million.

That drew a stern chastisement from one of the people on the committee, arguing that estimates had the cost at nowhere near $100 million - no, far less.

Today's headline in the Idaho Statesman: "Capitol renovation boosts budget to $122.5 million." Up from a recent previous estimate of $120 million.

Couldn't help noticing . . .

On the second amendment

One of our long-standing political rules of thumb: Major court rulings that address emotional topics tend to energize the side that lost. Think abortion. Think busing. Think gay marriage (2004, though much of the emotion so prominent then seems bleached out now). And now, as of today, think gun control.

Well we remember an evening some years back at a political event in the Idaho Panhandle. After hearing several Democratic candidates make their case, a group of guys in the back of the room were still shaking their heads, and they would not be swayed. They agreed with the bulk of what the candidates said, but had two problems. A nagging one, with abortion. And a big one - they were convinced, no matter what they heard from the candidates (several of whom also owned guns), that the Democrats were about to take away their guns if they got elected. Period. And that was a deal breaker.

Well, today, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in effect that the U.S. Constitution would bar any attempt to do what those guys in the back of the room were concerned about: "Held: The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for
traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."

That rustling sound you hear is the air going out of the they're-coming-for-our-guns mindset. Not all of it, of course: No decision or action by anyone would eliminate it all. But a lot of people for whom gun ownership is very big deal are likely to look at that subject a little differently, with less concern, than they did not long ago.

Eventually, there may be some counterblast, from the organizational roots, for gun regulation. But not right away. In the meantime, the dynamics may well have changed.

An overshot

Yes, the new anti-Dino Rossi video by Washington Democrats was way over the top, and because of one element that involved not a single word spoken or written, or even an image. This could be a first, an ad gone very bad because of the theme music.

Everything but for the theme music seemed to be more or less in bounds. It is true that Rossi, the Republican running again this year for governor, is very close to the Building Industry Association of Washington, and the BIAW has been a major funder and supporter. The ad's text and clips make the point powerfully.

But then they play that unmistakable Sopranos music behind it. Intended to suggest someone's mobbed up here? (You have to ask: Would the idea even have arisen had the candidate been named Ross instead of Rossi?)

Kelly Steele of the Washington Democrats said the music wasn't intended to suggest any such thing: "It's a catchy song, which we thought jibed stylistically with our communication about Rossi's designated attack squad – the BIAW – who continue to pour millions into false and misleading attack ads against Gov. Gregoire." Just coincidence, apparently, that particular catchy song came from a program about Italian mobsters.

The ad has been taken down, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer blogging, evidently to be re-themed.

The commision replies

The Idaho Tax Commission has delivered its response to the batch of serious charges delivered several weeks back by veteran auditor Stan Howland. (We've posted it.)

The response is longer than Howland's original, and as blunt: "The Commission, and the individuals involved, reject as completely untrue any allegation that cases are illegally or inappropriately compromised. "

A key procedural element, referred to right up front: "When a taxpayer protests an NODD [Notice of Deficiency Determination], it is important that the protest process offer an impartial review. Moreover, it must be seen to offer an impartial review. It is difficult to have an impartial review, and impossible to be seen to have one, when the auditor sits in judgment on his own NODD. That is why auditor involvement is minimized at the protest level. Protests are heard either by Commissioners or their designees."

On the other hand, if those conducting the impartial review hearing mostly from the taxpayer and very little from the auditor, you can develop some unusual forms of impartiality.

Across party lines, for a life preserver

Maybe we should re-evaluate just how much trouble Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith is in. We have been assuming that, while he's certainly hard-pressed in a tough political year, the odds remain somewhat in his favor for November.

But if he thought so, if he thought he wasn't on the edge of loss, why would he run an ad like this?

So the presidential nominee of the other party is now serving as Smith's character witness? Don't believe even Idaho Democrats, desperate as they could sometimes be, ever slipped to trying that one.

This has been picked up by national blogs; the Talking Points Memo has run the reply line from the Barack Obama campaign, just to clarify things: "'Barack Obama has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment and we appreciate that it is respected by his Democratic and Republican colleagues in the Senate. But in this race, Oregonians should know that Barack Obama supports Jeff Merkley for Senate. Merkley will help Obama bring about the fundamental change we need in Washington,' said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton."

TPM also noted, "The ad is also further proof of just how far Smith will run away from the Republican brand in this blue state." In your court, Oregon Republicans? (They might ask why Smith, who was one of John McCain's early endorsers in the darkest days of that campaign, has run an ad aligning himself with Obama but not with McCain.)