Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Are we killing journalism in America?

This came across on my e-mail discussion list for journalism educators last week. It is from the Character Counts Web site. It raises some important questions about media ownership and about the way that the media themselves are manipulated and controlled by powerful institutions.

Killing Journalism

A prominent Russian reporter famous for well-documented stories criticizing her government was recently assassinated. Her courage and commitment to the highest purposes of journalism was admirable. And the fact that she was murdered for doing her job reminds us not to take a free press for granted.

More than ever, we need a vigorous press to ferret out and publish "all the news that's fit to print" and to do so "without fear or favor." Unfortunately, the willingness and ability of the press to tell us what we need to know has been seriously threatened by investor groups looting venerable newspapers in search of greater shareholder value.

Last year, the Knight-Ridder chain of newspapers (including the largest papers in Philadelphia, Miami, Minneapolis and San Jose) were sold off in pieces. The Tribune Company (owner of 25 television stations and 11 daily newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and the leading papers in Chicago, Baltimore and Orlando) is currently poised to auction off its media assets.

Just last week, the Tribune effectively fired the very courageous publisher of the Times after he refused to make drastic newsroom cuts he thought would prevent the paper from giving readers the coverage they deserved.

Meanwhile, the news media, especially TV, seems even more dominated by a tabloidesque emphasis on lurid stories rather than important ones and political coverage designed to produce more heat than light. The great bias of the new corporate culture is not political ideology but profits. Not enlightenment but entertainment.

The big losers are a public too disdainful of journalists and too blinded by partisan perspectives to care. There is much to criticize about modern journalism, but despite the unremitting claims of bias by both liberal and conservative ideologues who label anyone who says things they don't like or don't agree with as a fool or enemy, we have the best journalism in the world. But all that is in jeopardy.

We don't shoot journalists in this country, but we are killing journalism.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Washington state's leadership legacy

Reunions can be wonderful celebrations or awkward affairs. I've been to a few in my life -- happy to see some of my high school classmates 10 years after graduation, and bored out of my mind meeting endless cousins at family affairs. But the reunion Saturday night at the Tacoma Sheraton was one of the most wonderful moments for me in a long time.

The Washington Student Leadership Program is celebrating 50 years in 2006. At the central of the leadership program are its summer leadership camps now held at the Cispus Learning Center, camps I was pleased to work for from 1992-2000. Saturday night was the gala event to recognize the founders of the program and to celebrate all that has happened in 50 years -- lives touched, students impacted and programs expanded.

I had been thinking a lot about the leadership program in the past few months, thinking about how much I liked being part of it and how big an impact it made on who I am today and how I got here. And when I heard about the reunion and celebration I knew I had to go. The program organizer had written to me in an e-mail that I would be so helpful in finding some of those "lost" former staff members. I knew she meant this because when I was on staff I used to keep track of and keep in touch with everyone -- by real mail before e-mail. But those words on the screen glared at me. I had lost contact with everyone I had worked with on staff except my friend Andy, who still works with the leadership program and who often tells me stories of his recent camp experiences, and that fact astonished me.

So Saturday night was a trip -- a trip down "memory lane" and a mind trip. I have rarely been overwhelmed by memory as I was when I walked to the entrance of the ballroom. I wasn't sure what to expect exactly. I went with Andy and I knew I would see people I had not seen in years. I've seen a few of these people over the years, and for others I have talked on the phone or by e-mail or through other people. But there was something almost magical as I saw person after person who I recognized and hugged, my jaw dropping at how much people have changed -- or really how much people are the same. And it was just like camp, just like the experience at Cispus where I always could leave my crazy life behind for a few days and just live in the ideal for a while, where everyone was friendly and by working together you could solve the problems of the world. Saturday night was a little like that.

I caught up with lots of people:
Wes and I worked together at the Cascade middle level camp for a couple years. He now owns a software company in Snohomish, Wash., and told me that his life is completely consumed by that -- but it's good. Wes and I spent some fun times laughing and playing jokes and just hanging out in the Sasquatch room at Cispus.

Ingrid and I worked together at Mt. Baker high school camp and at Cascade middle level camp, and she is now a health and fitness teacher in Bellevue and lives in North Bend. I always remember Ingrid being such a warm and fun person and she and I were buddies on many a camp activity, whether it was a skit or a song or a campfire.

Jeff and I first worked together as junior counselors at Mt. Baker, then at Cascade, where is is now the assistant director. Now working in technology at a Seattle law firm, I have seen Jeff a couple times in the past few years, and I have kept tabs on him here and there. So many of my favorite happy memories from camp involve Jeff. He always inspired me to do a better job, and his humor and stability was comforting and disarming. His genuine personality came through even on Saturday night as he shared his camp experiences with the audience.

Tricia and I also started at Mt. Baker and continued at Cascade, where she is now assistant director now. She worked for a while in Seattle private education and now teaches multicultural education classes at Highline Community College. If I ever needed a boost of self-confidence I got it from Tricia, and she is perfect for the job she has now. I remember her being pregnant at camp one summer and that child is now almost a teenager.

Jim was my high school principal and we also worked together at Mt. Baker. He's now retired from education but works for the state Department of Social and Health Services in Ellensburg. His daughter, Angie, and I served in student leadership together at Ellensburg High School and were buddies. She said doesn't remember, but we worked together at Cascade camp for at least one summer session. I have photos somewhere.

Beej, my own high school adviser, had numerous roles in the leadership program, including some recent work with the newsletter. It was great to catch up with her (she looks the same) and to find out she is a loyal reader of this Weblog.

Pam and Clay are now married and working as the co-directors of Mt. Olympus, where I worked for a few summer sessions with them. I had also worked at Cascade with Pam, who is still teaching English in Mukilteo. They looked great and also happy.

Trent and I worked together at Mt. Baker, and he was also the junior counselor I had when I went to camp as a delegate from Ellensburg High School in 1991. He has had more of an impact on me than he will know. He's now an attorney with a Seattle firm.

Vince and I worked at Mt. Baker, Cascade and Mt. Olympus together, and he is now a challenge course facilitator at Cispus and also the director of the bilingual leadership program at the new Chewelah Peak learning center near Spokane. He told me he plans to leave Washington soon to start his own leadership skill development operation in Louisiana, closer to family. But, he said he is committed to the bilingual camp in Washington for two more years.

Ken was the director of several camps, including Mt. Olympus, where I worked with him for two summers. What an inspiration! He is now retired from Bellingham schools and is the assistant athletic director and women's basketball coach at Biola University in the Los Angeles area.

And there were so many others who I wanted to talk with longer but couldn't: Susan (the program coordinator), Marty (the Cispus director), Lois, Sandy, Joe, Ruth A., Ruth C., Lana, Eleanor, Shannon.

And noticably absent were two of my closest camp pals, Mona and Steve. I know where Mona is because we share common friends, but I have completely lost contact with Steve, who was my Eastern Washington buddy and who got me into more "trouble" (and several scrapes) than I care to admit.

I had told Andy a few months ago that I was considering coming back to camp, if someone would have me. I worked camp for a lot of reasons, and I admit some of those were selfish. As a young person in college and as a newer teacher, I didn't have a lot of good things in my life, I knew I had the support of my friends from camp, and I gained the confidence to do so much of what I do now. I left in 2000 because I decided to pursue a leadership position with the journalism workshop, a position I held for seven years and left after this summer. Maybe now is the right time to return to camp. I had two offers just last night. I need to think about what I could offer and where that fits in my path, but I am thinking more and more that it could be the right choice.

-- Issaquah, Wash.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ten and counting

Just 10 days remain before what will surely be known as Black Tuesday around the Republican National Committee offices. Control of the House of Representatives will probably switch to the Democrats -- that is almost a foregone conclusion. The main question seems to be how wide the margin will be. Two major pollsters are indication somewhere between 18 and 30 seats will change hands. The Dems need just 15 to take control.

The Senate has been a horserace all summer and fall. A couple weeks ago, things looked very good for the Democrats. The last week has seen some of those races tighten. I speculate that the undecided or uncommitted voters have started deciding or committing. The Republican candidate they may have had doubts about before might not seem so bad after all, perhaps.

First local, then the nation:
In Washington's Senate race, Maria Cantwell sent a last-minute plea for more cash to keep her ads on the air in the final days of the campaign. An Oct. 19 poll shows her leading strongly, 51-42 over challenger Mike McGavick, the former insurance executive and former chief of staff to Sen. Slade Gorton. The last-minute cash call came just as McGavick announced that he was loaning his campaign $500,000 in cash to keep it afloat in the remaining days. Cantwell and McGavick are both millionaires, and a Seattle news article this week showed they are among similar company. I sent Cantwell $50 anyway, just because I like her so much.

In Washington's congressional races, one of the hottest in the nation is the 8th District seat held by moderate Republican Dave Reichert. He faces very stiff opposition form former Microsoft executive Darcy Burner. The ads have been messing up the airwaves, with accusations of lying and inexperience and anything else that ad-makers think will stick. This one will definitely go down to the wire.

The state Democrats also think they can gain some ground in Eastern Washington. The 5th District seat held by Cathy McMorris of Spokane (and formerly by Speaker Tom Foley) is now in play. McMorris was overheard on a recent conference call to ask the speaker, Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, to mention some of her good work on veterans affairs. Craig chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs committee. A reporter was accidentally placed on mute instead of having the call blocked while waiting for the conference call to begin last week. McMorris also said the race was tougher than she expected. The challenger is Okanogan farmer Peter Goldmark. He has a Ph.D. and developed a strain of wheat that is now farmed all over the inland empire. He also served as chair of the board of regents at Washington State University and as the head of teh state agriculture department. This is a man who would be great in Congress.

In my own 4th District, Doc Hastings still has not posted a single sign in Wenatchee that I have seen. The Democrats first sent an e-mail this week praising their chances to win with Burner and Goldmark. A later e-mail included Wright. I head a couple weeks ago that the campaign was pretty much broke, but I saw a sizable ad for Wright in the local paper this week, so perhaps there has been a recent infusion of cash. Meanwhile, there has been a strong letter-writing campaign, and I have seen a Wright letter several dayes recently. No letters have supported Hastings. However, Hastings is well-liked in the district, and he does not need to convince many voters to fill the box next to his name. The "R" is good enough. I only wonder if Hastings faced a stronger and more dynamic candidate if he would be sweating more now. Wright's low-key manner would make an election night victory even sweeter.

The nation:
Go with the devil you know maybe? That appears to be the case in Montana's Senate race, where incumbent Conrad Burns has been saddled with scandal over his dealings with Jack Abramoff. Burns trailed his Democrat challenger, John Tester, by a wide margin recently, but an Oct. 26 poll shows Tester leading just 51-47. Dems are counting on this race to move them closer to controlling the chamber.

Democrat challengers in Minnesota, Rhode Island, Ohio and Pennsylvania still lead with strong margins.

The races to watch continue to be New Jersey, where the polling has been a seesaw of activity, and Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia. Each of those last three states is especially crucial and the Dems face an uphill battle. Holding New Jersey and winning just two of the other seats wins control. Yet, recent polling shows a statistical dead heat, perhaps due to the Republicans pumping money in there so they can have a small bright spot on election night.

Those three states have also been very much in the media the past week. In Missouri, a state ballot measure woud permit stem-cell research. The Democrat candidate supports that. So does actor Michael J. Fox, who filmed an ad for her, and he was shaking throughout due to his Parkinson's Disease. He was criticized heavily by Rush Limbaugh and others on the right for "faking it" but Limbaugh later apologized. It focused attention on the Show Me State, and people who support stem-cell research in Missouri might be enough to tip the scale in a very close election. I doubt this one will be resolved on Nov. 7.

In Tennessee, the Republicans aired a cheeky ad that made fun of Democrat Harold Ford's attendance at a Super Bowl party sponsored by Playboy magazine. The ad closes with a white woman winking at the camera, kissing the air and inviting the candidate to call her. Many on the left have criticized this as racist, though I have yet to see a clear explanation of just how. At the same time, I don't have a detailed understanding of race politics in the South, so perhaps just the implication that a white woman -- a call girl no less -- would go after a black man is racist. Perhaps it is also the coded language of the South, where people still might harbor prejudices and the ad hopes to capitalize on them. Again, this Senate race is back-and-forth, and I wonder if the Dems can really pull this one out. It seems less about whether a candidate will be a good Senator and more about who is white and who is not.

In Virginia, where Sen. George Allen is barely hanging on to a seat against challenger Jim Webb, the Navy secretary under President Reagan, the past has also surfaced again. Turns out Webb wrote a few novels and they contain some steamy passages. Allen is trying to capitalize on that. Don't go throwing stones -- the Republicans have their own steamy writers, including Second Lady Lynne Cheney. This race has really tightened in the last couple weeks, and I thought Allen would win despite all his "macaca" missteps. But in the remaining 10 days, Allen may just look desperate and a Democratic tide could be enough to send the not-quite-liberal Webb across teh Potomac to the Senate.

All in all, there are still a few days for Karl Rove and his machine to make some sort of October surprise. Yet, voters all over are already marking their ballots. I have mine on the kitchen counter, waiting for some big event that might change my position on one of the nonpartisan issues or on a ballot initiative. I pretty much know how I am voting, but I like to wait until election day to actually do it, even though all balloting in my county is by mail. Ten and counting -- I can hardly stand the tension.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

'That damn marijuana'

Canadian troops in Afghanistan are apparently having difficulty working through thickets of 10-foot-high marijuana plants to find hiding Taliban outlaws. My friend RyeCatcher says that we could have won in Vietnam if we had this problem.

Read the full text at the aptly named moron.org.

-- Issaquah, Wash.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Election battleground: 21 days to go

With every poll that is issued, the Republicans have got to just be sweating bullets. More and more, the individual congressional races seem competitive. A few months ago, there were maybe a dozen competitive districts. In the last few weeks, that number has more than doubled, and all the seats in play were with Republican incumbents. Today, my main electoral source has it up to as many as 50. Fifty!

It seems a foregone conclusion that we're just three weeks away from the night that will lead to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She's not my favorite Democrat, but I would sure be happy to see her slam a gavel down. Let alone the idea that oversight committees that would move forward with some much-needed investigations of the executive branch.

The Senate, though has been a completely different matter. Months ago it looked like the Dems would basically have to run the table, a prospect that seemed incredibly daunting. Today, the Dems seem poised to approach a majority and possible recapture control of the chamber. They need six additional seats to gain control.

They needed to keep their possibly vulnerable seats:
Washington: Check
Michigan: Check
Connecticut: Check (well, Lieberman will win but he'll still be a D.)

They needed to pick up open seats previously held by a Democrat:
Minnesota: Check
Maryland: Check

And they need to pick up seats in the areas where Republicans were vulnerable:
Rhode Island: Check
Pennsylvania: Check
Montana: Check

So it comes down to four key states: Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia

Word comes today in The New York Times that the Republicans are essentially bailing on Ohio, deciding that Sen. Mike DeWine can't pull it out against challenger Sherrod Brown. They want to concentrate their resources (mainly money) on the states where they absolutely need to win and think they still have a shot. Apparently, that is not Ohio. Or Rhode Island. Apparently, it comes down to just Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia.

That's bad news all around. Those three races have each been tightening in the last few weeks, and the GOP has candidates that all have weaknesses and have been absolutely battered in the campaign so far. The best part is that the Dems need just two of these to take the Senate. Most likely that will be Missouri and Tennessee, where the incumbents are weakest. Virginia will be a tough challenge, but the trend is for a Democrat tide to come in on Election Day.

So for 21 days, expect to hear nothing but battleground reports from these three states. It's all about Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia. If the Democrats can prove successful in those states, every shred of conventional wisdom will be revised. And come Nov. 9, the morning after, people will be talking like they were on the day after Election Day in 1994. I just hope Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid don't stand in front of that lame picture of the Capitol with a banner reading "Under New Management" -- it's cheesy.

Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia. Get ready to know them well.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Feelin' free

There are a lot of people I admire, some I even consider heroes. Tonight, I added someone else to the list: Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union. I attended a speech she gave Wednesday night as keynote to the yearlong First Amendment Festival at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.

The hour's drive with two friends was so worth it. Strossen impressed me with her breadth of knowledge, her articulate expression of the rationale behind the mission of the ACLU and her passion for explaining it all. The auditorium was not fully packed, but there appeared to be several hundred people -- a good mix of students, older members of the community and academics -- attending, listening and later asking questions.

Her speech not only gave the history of the First Amendment but outlined the importance of defending those rights. She listed example after example of cases where the ACLU had defended the rights in the First Amendment -- in some situations describing a behavior that was unpopular or unsavory. She also had been asked to concentrate on the religion freedoms, and she presented support for why the ACLU was necessary and listed its many accomplishments.

I was struck throughout her presentation at how she remained objective and principled. When her position is one of absolute defense of first freedoms, it is easily defensible. She did not hedge, she did not equivocate. Furthermore, she walked her talk. In a question-and-answer session after her speech, she responded to more than a dozen queries on a wide range of civil liberties topics: Internet filters, pornography, school newspapers, flag burning, same-sex marriage, copyright. She patiently listened to what were surely the same questions she gets asked at every speech, and she capable answered them all. In one case, she honestly could not understand the question from a young man who clearly was nervous and inarticulate, offering to respond to him by e-mail. Another young man posed a pointed series of questions about the ACLU's position on flag burning and appearing anti-military when those same military members are fighting to preserve American freedoms. It was here where she was most patient and tolerant of the free speech she so values. Additionally, her knowledge of the cases that affected public schools was especially impressive.

The fact that such a luminary in the field of civil liberties would speak on the CWU campus made me proud to be an alumnus. Central Washington desperately needs to have dialogue about civil liberties and foundation freedoms. The role of the academy in society is to make available speakers and experiences that force each of us to question and which provoke us to think. Nadine Strossen at CWU was just such a speaker and experience -- the perfect opening to what promises to be a year of phenomenal opportunities to the campus community.

Tonight, I am especially pleased to be a graduate of CWU and a member of the ACLU.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Is Mike McGavick dumb?

Michael Kinsley, the former editor of The New Republic and Slate magazines and CNN commentator now a Washington Post columnist, used the ads of Senate candidate Mike McGavick as fodder for a column. McGavick trails in his campaign to oust Sen. Maria Cantwell from her Senate seat. Kinsley lives in the Seattle area.

Check it out here.

The best quote from the essay:
"If you knew nothing about Mike McGavick except what is in his TV commercials and on his Web site, you would conclude either that he is a moron or that he thinks you are a moron."
Well, you already know what I think. I met McGavick a couple weeks ago at one of his "Open Mike" events here in Wenatchee. I went as a Democrat with the intention of asking him a question supplied by local Demo organizers. I tried to pin him down on his position on privatizing Social Security. He had few specifics on how he differed from the privatization plan offered by the president. In that session, McGavick showed he is a very personable man whose intelligence comes through despite the fact that he tries to be straightforward and plainspoken. But in a clear attempt at an applause line he offered, without prompting, that English should be the official language of the nation. It was just a cheap grab for applause with a borderline racist comment. He knew his conservative eastern Washington crowd.

Is Mike McGavick a moron? Nah. But he is a fool if he thinks that vague plans and cheap applause lines will get him enough votes to unseat a generally well-regarded and sharp incumbent.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

A Democratic Senate?

For months, the polls nationwide have indicated that the Democrats' chance of regaining control of the House of Representative is the best this year since the GOP took power after the election of 1994. All summer, people said that the Senate was a different story. State by state, it looked like there were some strong candidates and some open seats and that maybe the Democrats would pick up a few seats but not enough to gain control of the chamber, currently 55 Republicans to 44 Democrats and one independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Basically, the idea of retaining all the Democrat seats plus picking up six seats meant the Democrats would have to run the table come Election Day.

Well, it looks increasingly likely that the scenario may just happen. Democrats running for re-election or against a Republican or in an open seat are up all across the country. Democrats are surging.

Part of the good news is that the open seats or seats with weak Republican incumbents are in states with strong Democrat energy or with voters that are fickle: Montana, Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota and Missouri among others.

Here in Washington state, Maria Cantwell won in 2000 by a slim margin of just a couple thousand votes. She has been a target for six years, and with state Republicans mad as heck after the 2004 gubernatorial recount where they also lost, Cantwell has been the number one Democrat to beat purely for vindictive reasons. Her opponent: a former insurance CEO who took a $28 million payout as he left the job, a job where he fired workers in order to "save the company." He's a former chief of staff to Slade Gorton, the moderate whom Cantwell sent into retirement six years ago. But Maria is a fighter and a shrewd politician. She carefully selected issues important to her constituents and doing what every freshman senator knows is priority number one: constituent services. Her issues are the environment, energy and workers. She has had to defend a pro-war vote to Washingtonians much more liberal than she, but so far everyone has fallen in line and Cantwell has led in the polls throughoutthe campaign season. Absent the Republican momentum that her opponent needed to fund his campaign and to energize the base, she'll get a second term.

Even in New Jersey, where Robert Menendez left his seat in the House to fill the vacancy left when John Corzine became governor. Memnendez has also faced some flak for a scandal, but a Sept. 30 poll has him up 44-41 over the Republican, Tom Kean Jr., the son of a very popular former governor (and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission).

Some other races have been prime targets for the Dems, too. It's been obvious for a while that Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum, the leader of the super-conservatives, and Montana's Conrad Burns, suffering under the weight of the Jack Abramoff scandal, would go down. That's just two Republicans of the six needed to win a majority.

Lately, though, Democrats in some of these other states have started to pick up a lot of momentum. In Ohio, Sherrod Brown is walloping Mike DeWine in a state that often is a bellweather of the nation. Brown's up 45% to 42% in an Oct. 3 poll. Democrats in Ohio are energized and organized after the voting fiasco in 2004. The man responsible for President Bush's re-election victory via Ohio screw-ups is running for governor, and Ohioans are set on stopping him. I suspect turnout will be very heavy for an off-year election.

Just this week, in Missouri, State Auditor Claire McCaskill has edged ahead of incumbent Jim Talent. I predict she'll win this race. She has made stem-cell research a cornerstone of her campaign, and a ballot measure on that topic should fuel turnout in her favor. She also has won a statewide race more than once in a state not known for electing a lot of Democrats. In contrast, Talent won a special election against Jean Carnahan, who was appointed to fill the seat her late husband won in 2000 (ousting John Ashcroft). Essentially, he beat a non-candidate, so he has not truly been tested, and he has a poor record and unpopular party to defend.

In a year where every seat counts, the Democrats have also set their sights on Rhode Island and the seat held by Republican Lincoln Chaffee. He's essentially a Democrat, even announcing that he voted against President Bush in 2004. But he had a tough primary battle against the anti-tax candidate, and he had to run to the right. Now, his Democrat opponent, Sheldon Whitehouse, is up 46-40 in an Oct. 1 poll.

The Democrats' best chance for that sixth pickup seat looks like it will be Tennessee, a state that has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Al Gore Jr. left in 1992. Harold Ford Jr., a son of a longtime Tennessee political family and a congressman himself, is the face of the new Southern Democrat. He faces Chatanooga mayor Bob Corker, and has raised far more than Corker has. A set of polls last week show Ford with a slight edge.

The Democrats have strong candidates in other states, such as Virginia, Nevada and Arizona, but it appears that unless the next month gets even worse for the Republicans, those Republicans will hold their seats. The most notable of those is George Allen in Virgina, hanging on with the slimmest of margins after public relations nightmares with the Confederate flag and a history of racist comments. It has been said that Allen has presidential ambitions and was looking past 2006 to the nomination process, but even if re-elected he will be so damaged and bruised that he won't be very attractive to many across the country. His brand of racism and good-ol'-boy politics may play well in Virginia, but I doubt he will be very appealing when standing on a stage next to fellow Republicans who are virtually revered (John McCain, Rudy Giuliani) or who have a huge presence (Newt Gingrich, Bill Frist).

Sure, there are 30 days till Election Day, and we all know that a lot can happen. The past week's events show that a scandal can break, gain momentum and be contained all in just seven days. The Republicans are down for the count. We'll see if the Democrats will see a total KO or if somehow the GOP can get back up on its already shaky legs.

I wrote months ago that this fall would be the most exciting election in years, and I think I was right.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

The sun shines for Dems

I'm a Democrat, through and through -- that's no news flash.

I like being a Democrat. And, as an Eastern Washington Democrat I am used to the fact that there are not a lot of us around. In Seattle and many other urban areas, a person can walk down the street and look at the bumber stickers protesting the war in Iraq, promoting Democrat candidates or just the ideals of progressives and liberals. But in Eastern Washington, especially in Chelan County where I live, seeing a yard sign for a Democrat is pretty rare and makes a person perk up just to know a neighbor thinks similarly.

But here's the real news: Even in Wenatchee and Chelan County, there are Democrats, and this year especially there are a lot of people who will be voting Democrat.

I have never felt this stronger than today when I went around several neighborhoods "dropping literature" for the only two candidates on the ballot that will be mailed Oct. 18 to Chelan County voters. I went around neighborhoods with literqature for Richard Wright, who is running for Congress against Rep. Doc Hastings, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, who is running for re-election. I moved quickly along the sidewalks, placing the lit under doormats. I saw three people who came to the door and to whom I passed the lit in person. One woman, age 88 I learned later, was pleased to see me with the lit and said she would vote for candidates "as long as they're Deomcrats." Another man, a former history teacher living just a few houses down the winding street, said he always votes and that he definitely votes for Democrats. Later in the afternoon, a very smart older man asked me about all sorts of things such as debt service and finance but basically wanted to know if Wright had a chance. I said he does.

All in all, it was an energizing day to be a Democrat, even here in Wenatchee. About a dozen people of all ages had gathered at the local office to take the materials around the community. Wright himself was there, and he went out to ring some doorbells, too.

Meanwhile, I still have seen no signs for Doc Hastings in Wenatchee. Zero. Not a one. Usually the local GOP leaders post some big signs on their vacant land or in the yards of run-down rental homes near high-traffic areas. This year, I have seen none. I'm not sure whether Hastings thinks he has it in the bag, if he is too busy to organize a campaign or if he just doesn't have the support. My hunch is that he is overconfident, and the last week in Washington, D.C., has shown him in the hot glare of the spotlight in his role as Ethics Committee chair. He is loyal, and so far his loyalty to Speaker Dennis Hastert has earned him lots of plum jobs and a perch as the next chair of the Rules Committee, but I think the Mark Foley scandal might bring down the Republican leadership of Congress and their slim majority.

Even before last week's revelations, polls showed that Democrats were within striking position of recapturing the majority. Now, with the Republicans reeling from scandal after scandal after scandal, their values being questioned, the Democrats are very appealing to a voter who does not have a lot of loyalty or commitment to a party. Guess what? There are a lot of those people in Eastern Washington.

The sun shone today for me as I walked around the neighborhoods with my Maria Cantwell and Richard Wright flyers, and I know that in the remaining 30 days or so it will shine for those candidates and for all Democrats around the country.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Slimming down

Thursday at 7:05 a.m. a simple act not only brightened my day but put me in a good mood for hours. During the past week I have worked my way through my closet wearing shirt-and0tie combinations that I have not used in a while, and avoiding doing laundry by wearing ]some garments I have not worn in a while. Finally, Wednesday I did all the laundry, thinking I had worn all the combos possible.

Then, Thursday morning I spied a pair of brown pants that have hung in the closet for a couple years. I bought these pants a couple years ago in one of those times when I just grabbed a pair off the shelf thinking I could just find my size and assume they fit fine. They didn't fit fine. They were a little snug across the rear and through the thigh, even though they have pleats. Honestly, they looked weird, and they were obviously cut for someone slimmer than I was when I bought them. Hoping I would fit in them, I kept them and I tried them on a few times over the past couple years.

But Thursday morning was the day. You've probably already figured out that they fit. And the euphoria I experienced was nothing short of glorious. What an exciting moment to have such tangible evidence that one is getting slimmer. I've been working on a few small methods of losing some weight and getting slimmer, and over the past few months I have dropped just a few extra pounds. I knew I was on the right track in July when I was sick and weighed at the medical center. The scale read less than I thought, but I figured that was just because of being sick. But, I have continued to lose a bit of weight while increasing the few pushups and weights I do daily. It's amazing what one moment and a pair of pants can do for self-esteem, energy and the feeling one has throughout the day.

I'm still working, but I know that if I stay the course I will be closer every day toward my goal for health and wellness. Those brown pants are the symbol so far. A pair of jeans in a bag on the closet floor is the motivation to keep going.

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Florida fool

You would think that a person elected to Congress would be a person who has some common sense. You would think that a person with oversight of Internet predators and exploited/missing children would himself be someone who stood up for children. You would think someone in a position of authority would be worthy of respect and admiration. If you thought those things about Mark Foley, who until Friday represented the 16th District of Florida in Congress, you'd have been wrong.

Turns out former Rep. Foley is a creepy, dirty old man. He resigned Friday when it became apparent that the reports of his online messages to a former male page in his office would become public. Pages are always juniors in high school, and it's not a good idea, let alone legal, for a Congressman to be contacting the youngster and making lewd comments in online chat. This kid was 16 at the time of the online chat!

Slate has the text of the instant messages, via ABC News.

So now, Foley's gone and there is the fallout. Turns out the Republican House leadership knew about the situation for months and sat on the info and perhaps tried to cover it up. This just has not been a good Congressional term for the GOP. Three Republican Congressmen were indicted this term: Tom DeLay of Texas, Bob Ney of Ohio and Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California.

The Foley vacancy also means the Democrats have a chance at picking up the seat that was considered a solid win for the Republicans. Foley's name stays on the already-printed ballots, but any votes for him would go to his as-yet-unnamed replacement. Still, if I think it would be hard for even a die-hard Republican to bring him- or herself to mark the bubble next to the creep's name.

Is it any wonder that increasingly people want a change in control of Congress?

-- Wenatchee, Wash.

Diverse Seattle weekend entertainment

It was a fantastic weekend of entertainment as diverse as can be imagined. On Friday I saw Paul Simon in concert (see previous entry). Saturday was a touring stage musical and an unusual movie.

"Bombay Dreams": The Broadway musical based on Bollywood turned out to be far better than I had imagined in the show I attended to open the season at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. Maybe it was just my own unfamiliarity with the show, let alone with the Bollywood genre, but I really liked this musical. The story moved along, for the most part, at a good clip, the songs were upbeat and well-performed, and the staging was nice. I wish the sound quality and timing could have been a bit better, but you can't expect perfection. All in all, I will be humming "Shakalaka Baby" for a afew weeks to come, that's for sure. I bet if the song were released with a major performer involved, it would not only skyrocket to the top of the charts, it would revolutionize pop music today. I think I need to give the Bollywood genre a closer look.

"The Science of Sleep": I saw a trailer for this film a few weeks ago and thought it looked interesting enough to go see. The show at the Egyptian on Saturday night was pretty full, even though the film has been playing a week or more. The audience really seemed to enjoy Gael garcia Bernal's performance, and he played the character to the hilt. He rivals Johnny Depp for number of quirky characters and his ability to bring a special personality to each. The movie, though, takes a lot of effort to follow. It is exceptionally creative with beautifully designed special effects and sets to capture the dreams and imagination inside Stephane's (Bernal) head. This film belongs alongside "Eternal Sunchine of the Spotless Mind" and "Being John Malkovich." Crazy stuff, but interesting.

-- Issaquah, Wash.