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Spin Control

Archive for February 2009

That was the week that was

What did you miss if you spent the week in a cave (one without access to newspapers, the Internet or cable television)?

Barack Obama held an economic summit, John McCain was in the audience and got to ask the first question.
Obama addressed a joint session of Congress; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was in the next segment and got to give the GOP response. Obama got good reviews; Jindal not so much.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner’s rap performance sort of went viral (well, it got lots of play in Spokane.)
Obama announced an end to the war in Iraq, although it’s about 19 months from now (and doesn’t mean all the troops will be home even then.) John McCain said good idea…didn’t these two run against each other at one time? Military types said good idea.

Videos from the week that was are inside.

Crashed ‘copters were under fire

The U.S. Army has released the cause of crash of two helicopters near Kirkuk, Iraq, last month, a crash which killed all four pilots aboard, including Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Todd of Colville.

The two helicopters were hit by enemy fire and collided while trying to take evasive action.

This is a significant shift from earlier statements on the crash. After the Jan. 26 crash, the Army said the crash did not appear to be a result of enemy fire.

A day or so later, when a Sunni rebel group claimed to have brought down two helicopters, the Army reiterated that the crash “did not appear to be by enemy action.” The rebels don’t know what they’re talking about, the Army said; they didn’t even identify the helicopters correctly.

Now it seems that the rebels may have had the make and model wrong — these were Kiowas, and the rebels claimed they shot down Apaches — but they at least did have a hand in causing the crash.

The crash remains under investigation, but this at least lifts any cloud that the crash was a result of “pilot error.”

General misstated the debate

While asking retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey about the president’s plan to draw down the troops in Iraq, Matt Lauer segued Friday morning into another military question du jour, the lifting of the ban on photographing the coffins of returning casualties.

For those not following closely at home, the Pentagon has long banned pictures and videos of the flag-draped coffins coming off the planes at Dover Air Force Base, which is, for most fallen service members, their first American stop on the final journey home. A cynical person might say that the Pentagon, or the previous Administration, didn’t want the public to be reminded of the true cost of the war. The official response, however, was always that it was to preserve the dignity of the soldiers and the privacy of the family.

McCaffrey’s answer pretty much blew the official answer out of the water, as well as misstated the whole debate.

Video: Obama announces Iraq drawdown

President Obama announced today the United States will be bringing combat troops home from Iraq by next August.

Fun video: What just happened?

Yesterday was “budget day” for the Obama Administration. Here’s the TalkingPointsMemo quick look at that, and a few other things.

More than a walk in the park

The City of Spokane is looking to fill two spots on the Park Board. For those unfamiliar with the way the city works (or doesn’t work), the Park Board is arguably the most powerful unelected body around.

The city, by its charter, has to set aside a chunk of its general fund every year for parks. (Thank the city grandfathers and the Olmstead Brothers for that one.) It has 10 appointed members, and they serve five-year terms, with the option of being reappointed once. There’s at least a meeting a month, plus subcommittees. Along with Parks like Riverfront, the Arboretum and Manito, the Park Board also oversees the four municipal golf courses, swimming pools and other facilities.

Might be interested? Click here for more details.

Want to fill out an app right now? Click here to get to an application.

Brother, can you spare $7 trillion?

Now that the stimulus package has packaged, state and local governments are lining up to ask for money for projects that they’d like to get done, if only they had the money.

Gov. Chris Gregoire today debuted a new Web site, , that tells those looking for money how to go about applying for it, as well as offering updates on how the process is going.

And how is it going? Well, from the asking side, very well. The Web site also has a list of requests so far for federal stimulus money. It’s about 1,275 projects long, arranged neatly on a spread sheet that’s alphabetized by location.

Total amount for the projects listed? A tad over $7 trillion (that is, if $92 billion can be described as a “tad.”)

Let’s see, if the entire stimulus package is $787 billion, the list right now is about, umm, divide into 7, carry the 3…nine times more than that huge amount Congress approved.

We’ve all heard of wish lists, but this is a bit much. Want to see projects for Spokane or any other Washington state location? Click here to go to the spread sheet.

Today’s fun video: Jindal voice-overs

The worst thing for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal after his response to the president’s speech Tuesday night might be being compared to someone else.

Someone who doesn’t actually exist, except as a character on a sitcom: Kenneth the page on “30 Rock.”

The Web is full of such comparisons, including this one that intersperses Jindal quotes with clips of Kenneth-isms from the show.

So what do you think: Accurate and clever satire or mean-spirited cheap shot? Click comment to offer an opinion.

McMorris Rodgers productions

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is dabbling in Web videos with a YouTube offering that catches her before and after President Obama’s speech. It’s pretty interesting, but it seems the director may have watched too many “West Wing” episodes where the characters walk and talk.

Wondering about those stimulus claims?

FactCheck is a Web site worth checking regularly. And they are pretty even-handed in their criticism.

They point out problems in President Obama’s Tuesday night speech at a research piece here. (But then, you knew the U.S. didn’t really invent the automobile, didn’t you?)

They point out problems with some common GOP criticisms of the stimulus plan here. (That train from Disneyland to Vegas? Not really in the bill.)

Video: Day after the speeches

News shows are giving Barack Obama high marks for Tuesday’s speech.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Republican response? Not so much.

Today’s fun video: Mayoral rap

Mayor Mary Verner is getting some extra exposure on YouTube from her performance last weekend at RAWK.

We’re thinking she shouldn’t quit her day job. But how would you rate the mayor’s rap?


Bye-bye, Itronix

I have an Itronix laptop, one of the really rugged ones designed for use by the military and other occupations that are out in the rain, snow, muck and sand. It’s called a Go Book, and I admire it for its simplicity, and its ability to take a beating.

Technically, it’s the newspaper’s laptop, and I use it only on out-of-town assignments. But it’s so old (read slow), and heavy (it has a titanium case) that no one else much cares for it, so I’m the only one who checks it out from the supply of laptops.The newspaper got it when preparing to embed a reporter and photographer with a local Army Reserve unit scheduled for Iraq. The media’s Macs and IBMs were being fried by the dust, so a computer that was used by Army Rangers seemed like a good investment in 2003. And it was local.

The Go Book is hopelessly archaic by most standards now, but I’m sentimental about it.  I used to think about it whenever reading a press release about how one of our honorable congresspersons had added a few million dollars for Itronix to the gazillion dollar Defense Appropriations bill, or accompanying one of those congresspersons on a tour of Itronix’s Valley factory.

In the days when my Go Book was pretty new, Itronix worked the Congressional delegation like champs, and money was added to different budgets so different military commands could buy whiz-bang things that Itronix was developing. Members of the delegation, accompanied by staff, would drop by to see the whiz-bang things in person, sometimes before the vote, sometimes after. The message was always clear: Best technology for the military, good jobs for the community.

Spokane is kind of a mid-tech place, for the most part, and congresspersons loved to highlight a high-tech success. The Itronix plant could draw them like bumble bees to lilacs in late May…

Today’s video: Post-speech

Sen. John McCain rates the Obama speech effective

To hear what members of the Washington and Idaho delegations talk about the speech, go here.

What’s in it for us?

All this talk about the economic stimulus is mostly in the macro.

$787 billion total, about a third in tax cuts and two thirds in spending.

But what does it mean for Washington or Idaho? There’s a way to find out.

A Web site called Stimulus Watch has a breakdown for each state.

Check out the Washington projects by clicking here. You can even narrow it down to individual cities.

Check out the Idaho projects by clicking here. Breakdown for cities also available, although Coeur d’Alene isn’t singled out.

Obama @ 6

President Obama’s speech starts at 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, or as close to that as possible after he gets in the door, walks down the aisle and gets to the podium.

Members of Congress have been told the speech will take about 50 minutes, allowing time for expected applause pauses.

Some of the Washington and Idaho delegations may duck out a tad early; others might be caught on camera in Statuary Hall, which is where the national press corps waits to get the congressional take on the president’s speech.

Today’s fun video: For those missing the debates

President Obama and Sen. John McCain must be pining for the debates from last fall.

Obama gave McCain the first question at the economic summit. What are you going to do about those pricey helicopters, McCain asked.

Dissing incorporation

Supporters of a move to disincorporate the City of Spokane Valley will hold an organizational meeting on March 3 at University High School.

Sally Jackson, leader of the move to undo the incorporation that voters approved in 2002, said the meeting is an opportunity to discuss the upcoming petition drive. To disincorporate the city, supporters will need about 24,000 signatures of Valley voters, she said.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

Not to say ‘Toldya so’ but…

As reported by rumor last week in Spin Control, former Washington Gov. Gary Locke is apparently President Obama’s pick to head the Commerce Secretary.

The Associated Press is quoting an anonymous source as saying the announcement hasn’t been made yet but that’s the way it’s shaping up.

Why the secrecy? The Obama administration may be hoping for third time’s the charm on this one, as opposed to three strikes you’re out.

Today’s video: Not easy being GOP

In an interview last week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers fairly succinctly described the problem a Republican governor would be in right now when faced with the prospect of taking or not taking federal money from the economic stimulus package.

“It would be very difficult to say ‘No’ to money from the federal government,” the Eastern Washington Republican, who voted against the bill, said.

The Sunday talking head shows gave lots more depth and context to that dilemma, with Republican governors taking opposing sides.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal plans to say ‘No’ to some things.


Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is saying ‘Yes.’


Today’s fun video: Hillary on TV…

Although you’ll have to watch about 30 seconds before hearing words you might recognize.

Because it’s a TV show in Indonesia.

For teen-agers.

But they don’t do such a bad job with the interview, if the backdrop doesn’t drive you crazy.

Rumor: Commerce job for Locke?

Barack Obama may reach into Washington state one more time for spots in the administration. A Washington, D.C., source says former Washington Gov. Gary Locke is being considered for the Commerce Secretary’s job.

That’s been a tough one for Obama to fill. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg both accepted the nomination and then withdrew. Chances are the vetting and the understandings on both side will have to be solid before any announcement is made.

But Locke served two terms as governor, and worked very hard to expand the state’s international trade, particularly with Asia.

King County Executive Ron Sims has already been nominated for a spot at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Renew what?

Campaign yard signs for Spokane School proposed ballot measures say one way the public can “Vote Yes for Kids” on March 10 is to renew a bond issue.

But that’s not quite accurate, even a co-chairwoman of the bond issue campaign concedes. Spokane School District 81 is not renewing  bonds, it’s selling new ones, totaling $288 million, and repaying the new bonds over 20 years.

“It’s not a word choice with an eye on the financial market,” Barb Chamberlain of Citizens for Spokane Schools said.

Today’s fun video: Who is Kristen Wiig?

A little late in posting, but last weekend’s Saturday Night Live was not very kind to Congressional Republicans and their opposition to the economic stimulus package.

But it does raise a couple of questions:

The first: Is Dan Ackroyd better as John Boehner than he was as Bob Dole back in the 1980s?

The second: Most of the characters being spoofed by men are recognizable figures, but who might the woman being played by Kristen Wiig be — possibly someone close to home?

And sorry about making you sit through the commercials, but this embed comes from the official NBC site.

Help remembering the presidents

Here’s a good video for the week between Presidents Day and Washington’s Birthday. It may also be helpful if your kid has to learn the occupants of the White House for a class assignment.


Drop off boxes out

Spokane County is putting out its ballot drop off boxes today. Which may seem strange, considering that most voters do not actually have ballots to drop off.

But the ballots go out in the mail today and Thursday, so it won’t be long before you are looking at that signed and sealed envelope and wondering “How can I save on postage?”

Take it to a drop off box. There’s probably one somewhere along your route, between now and March 10, so you don’t have to burn more than 42 cents in gas to get it in.

 Locations are inside the blog.

Minnick to auto industry: Yer grounded

Well not exactly. But U.S. Rep. Walt MInnick did repeat his call today for “tough love” for the auto industry as it seeks federal bailout.

By that he means they need to submit reorganization plans to a bankruptcy judge, rather than coming to Congress. Go inside to read more of his comments from an appearance down in Lewiston.

Aww dad, does that mean we can’t borrow the car, or that there will be no car to borrow?

Go inside the blog to read his official statement.

Today’s fun video: If the recession were an Oscar nominee. . .

… which movie would it be?

This video, courtesy of Funny or die, weighs in. (Hint: Not “Slumdog Millionaire.”)

The Uncler w/ Uncle Sam and Alyssa Milano from Alyssa Milano


For those keeping track at home

Washington Votes, a Web site that offers information about the Legislature, legislators and legislation — as well as news and comments — has a rather telling set of figures.

There are three rolling counters. One for bills introduced, one for amendments introduced and one for new laws passed.

Tuesday’s counts:
2,292 bills introduced.
251 amendments introduced.
0 new laws passed.

The question is: Is that last figure a good thing or a bad thing?

In case you missed: Sunday talk shows

TalkingPointsMemo boils them down to less than four minutes.

What Risch will be up to

Idaho Sen. Jim Risch got his subcommittee assignment today, and they seem to be pretty well matched with the state and the region.

The freshman Republican even got a “power” post of sorts. He’s the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy Subcommittee. (And yes, that’s an attempt to make it work on the literal level as well as the figurative level…albeit not necessarily a good attempt.)

He also is on the Public Lands and Forestry Subcommittee, which is also part of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Over on the Foreign Relations Committee, he’s ranking Rep on the Near Eastern and South/Central Asia Subcommittee; he also has seats on African Affairs, European Affairs, Western Hemisphere, and Peace Corps subcommittees.

Wait a minute. Near East. Asia. Africa. Europe. Western Hemisphere. . .

Today’s video: In case you slept through Wednesday…

…here’s a quick look at what you missed.

A day off…from meters

This may be the only state named for a president, but President’s Day is sort of a second-tier holiday.

Banks are closed, many government offices are open, and some stores will try to capitalize on it by putting Washington or Lincoln’s mug on their closeout ads.

But the City of Spokane is offering something for the average folks:


No need to slip coins into the meters next Monday.

Sounds like change you can believe in.

The power to tax is the power to…

Colleague Rich Roesler continues his reporting on one of the more unusual revenue generating proposals of the Legislature, a special tax on porn, in this Eye on Olympia post.

As he notes, the idea isn’t brand new. It was tried without success in 2004.

So the question may be have things changed enough in the last five years, either in terms of less state revenue or more porn?

Today’s fun video: Tuesday, done quickly

In case you weren’t paying attention to anything on Tuesday, here’s what you missed.

Stimulus tally: WA 2 yeys; ID 2 nays

No big surprises locally on the Senate vote on the stimulus package. Or as Idaho Sen. Jim Risch calls it in his press release the “so-called stimulus package.”

Which probably tips people to the fact that Risch and fellow Idaho Republican Mike Crapo voted no.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., voted yes.

Want to read more from any or all, here are links to their official pronouncements. (Hint: they really are talking about the same bill, even though it may not seem so at first glance.)

For the Risch statement Click here.

For the Crapo statement Click here

For the Murray statement Click here

The Cantwell statement isn’t posted on her Web site yet, but go inside the blog to read Tuesday’s press release.

‘One man’s pork…

…is another man’s wise investment in the local infrastructure.” — Tom Foley, former House speaker.

We are reminded of that quote in listening to President Obama’s press conference, in which the prez said there are no earmarks in the economic stimulus package.

PolitiFact says that ain’t exactly so.

They may not be bad earmarks. And they may not be the most egregious of earmarks. But they seem to pass the “quacks like a duck” test.

You cut the budget

Congress and the Legislature are spending most of their waking hours wrestling with the budget…and the general public is spending most of its waking hours criticizing what they’ve done (or not done) so far.

Here are a couple of chances to show you could do a better job.

One is from American Public Media, and deals with the federal budget, albeit a very simplified one. It’s an updated version of their budget challenge from the 2008 campaign, adjusted to show a bigger deficit.

The other is from Gov. Chris Gregoire’s office and deals with the state budget, although it, too, avoids some of the complexities of that budget.

But these are, after all, Internet games. The governor’s site also has some background on the budget and priorities.

Just-in video: This had to hurt

The perils of being a tall president…

Today’s videos: The debate rages

The Senate debate over the stimulus package continues.

And so does the parody-ing of it.

Today’s fun video: Daschle before his chauffeur

Politics 101 teaches elected officials to be careful what they put in their campaign commercials. Tom Daschle apparently slept through that class.

It’s hard to view this TV ad from his 1986 re-election campaign in light of his 2009 problems and not laugh.

Daschle drops out

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle is now also the former Housing and Human Services Secretary nominee.

He withdrew his name, with White House approval, Tuesday morning.

Read the AP story about it inside the blog…

Coming later on Talking Points: What is it with these folks and not paying taxes?

La Senadora Patty

Patty Murray is the newest member of the Senate’s Democratic Hispanic Task Force, which might surprise some folks who didn’t know the senator is Hispanic.

OK, she’s not. But then, neither are 43 of the other 44 members of the task force. Or as we would say in “en espanol,” el Grupo del Trabajo Hispano de los Democratas.

Or so the headline on the bi-lingual press release says.

Murray does not speak Spanish, a spokeswoman acknowledged. But she is interested in …

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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