Sunday, April 23, 2006

OR-Gov: Straining to be Crazy Above the Din

It's that unique time in Oregon again for the wonks, cranks, gadflies and (maybe one or two) normal people--Voter's Pamphlet is out! Consistently exceeding the threshhold for what you'd generally consider an electable written demeanor, some of Oregon's fringiest pretenders to the throne get the chance to wax freely in statewide distribution, exercising that most precious of American rights: self-grandeur. I mean, free speech.

There are no major initiatives on the primary ballot, which is a shame because they often hide some of the best material. At the risk of getting off track, here's a short excerpt of just one in a series of paid political parodies from the 2004 general election, this one (sarcastically in favor) for Measure 36's ban on same-sex marraige:
Oregon public policy should define marriage in accordance with divinely inspired Scripture. Therefore, marriage licenses should be granted only to those persons who have been certified by professional psychiatric examination to be too weak-willed to abstain from sex.

Oh, by the way, although Jesus never said a single word condemning homosexuality, if heterosexuals can't get married, homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to marry either—well, unless they're too weak-willed to abstain. Sissies!

The sissy institution of marriage must not be perverted by sinners who are capable of abstaining! The sacred union of church and state must prohibit the immoral union of men and women capable of the discipline of sexual abstinence. We are not saved by either faith or good works. We are saved by religious-right legislation!

Freedom of religion and equal treatment under law is simply the special right to sin, because our tradition is the one and only truth! And our tradition (that is, our personal moral opinions) should become law.


(This information furnished by M. Dennis Moore, Traditional Prejudices Coalition.)
Now that was money well spent. I could frame some of those. But to refocus, the candidates are afforded the opportunity to explain their rationales for both running and actually expecting votes worth talking about, and I guess in their minds that means it's time to come clean with whatever completely nutso conspirital idea they've been kicking around since 1984. I thought this year's race was won out of the starting gate by Republican contender for goobernor Gordon Leitch, the opthamologist and opportunistic numismatist. You may remember him as the fellow who wants to take us back to the gold and silver standards. No, seriously. He tried to file his candidacy in double eagle $20 gold coins, which are of course worth about 10 times that each. The state wouldn't take them, so he switched to 1,000 silver dollars--again, overpayment in real value--but this time the state gave in to their 19th Century pay pal, and he was in.

Gordon's got some super ideas, like a 50% property tax cut and 90% capital gains cut (interestingly, I think at least two of the 'mainstream' GOP candidates go the full boat at 100%). Not only that, he wants it to happen immediately after his election. Not after his inauguration, after consultation with the Legislature and the writing up of some kind of, y'know, BILL--but while he's still up there making his acceptance speech. But Gordon's not satisfied depleting his stash of precious metals; he'd like you to join him:
I intend also to take Oregon properly into the international community by implementing a $1 Oregon Income Tax Credit for you and all taxpayers, whenever any business headquartered and incorporated in Oregon has, establishes, or maintains an operating office or business enterprise in any foreign country or territory that maintains a full circulating gold and silver coinage among its people. It is my plan, moreover, for tax free interest on gold and silver savings accounts opened at Oregon chartered banks, and to provide at least a 30% discount to Oregon income taxpayers if they pay in the honest dollar — a gold coin.
So I thought Gordon had looniest bird in the house honors down this primary, but driving down and back to Silver Falls this weekend I saw a curious number of highway signs for "Ames." Who is this Mr. Ames? Whoops, not his last name. Ames who? No, not his first name either. Don't tell me you're not familiar with W. Ames Curtright, of the Massachusetts Ames/Curtrights? Are you embarrassed not to know how totally famous and influential his family is? Don't worry, I'll let him fill you in momentarily.

You know you're going to get a good candidate statement if there are lots of boldings, underlinings and exclamation points. It means the candidate is so geeked up they just don't know what to do with themselves, and I suppose there's the subtle implication that politics would be just the harmless outlet for such a restless mind. Ames is geeked up, all right:
Prior Governmental Experience: Absolutely None. Good!


I will help protect you and fight for you!
I promise you that I will get our house in Order!!
I promise you I will hold our government accountable!!
Oregon businesses are the heart of our economic engine and must be encouraged to flourish. Thriving businesses hire more people. “Let’s get government off our backs. Let’s deregulate government and make it user friendly. Let’s stimulate business and create new jobs.”


I will talk to you.

Our state and our country need healing. Many people are afraid of Government. I am running from my heart and not for me. Join me in this fight against evil. Let’s take our state back!

IMMIGRATION: I promise to oppose illegal immigration.

We will open new treatment centers for drug, alcohol and bipolar disease.
How long do you think he mulled over that policy on immigration? Lotta candle nubs left at his house the next morning, I'll bet!

That's pretty good stuff, but the deal didn't get sealed for me until reading his online chat at the Statesman Journal from last Wednesday. Here's where Curtright lets his Plymouth freak flag fly:
The Ames Family was one of the most powerful and influential families in Massachusetts. Before the Kennedys there were Ames’. Many large mansions were built in that era, before their vast fortunes were lost during the Great Depression. Students come there to study architecture of those mansions. Stone Hill College sits on the land donated by my family.

I have donated a great deal of money to help build archives on the campus.

It was an era that is has left a lasting mark in Massachusetts and on this country. It is an era that I am a part of. We have had two Governors in my family. And a very long list of public servants. Senators and Representatives. Both State and Federal.

By the way, I might add that Curtrights are bald. Ames’ have hair. I still have my hair. That’s a joke.

It is obvious with to me that I have that blood and the Ames entrepreneurial talents to make and grow companies. It’s hard to describe! We breed horses. Sometimes things are transferred in ones’ genes.
Oh, so white people are entrepreneurial by genetics, huh? Or are they...horses? Either way, I think someone's going to be offended.

More seriously, Curtright's signature outrage is the issue du jour, immigration. He's got some killer ideas to beat it, too, like impounding all undocumented cars and "busing them home." But his best idea by far is building a prison for the (additionally) criminal immigrant Mexico. Naturally, it would be a real shitbox, in order to "place our illegal alien prison population who are from that country to live and stay as they are accustomed." I'm not sure Curtright know what they're breeding there, but it sure isn't horses. Also, in a move sure to endear himself to those who will supervise the counting of the votes, he all but accuses the Secretary of State of conspiracy to commit electoral fraud...twice: "I have seen and heard that he is not known for having a lot of neutrality when it’s possible to help Democrats get elected."

As with many of the hardcore "reformers," the fact that elections officials aren't automatically deputized as federal Customs officers seems to them a loophole you could drive a truck through, and their fear is that immigrants are just waiting to build up the strength in numbers so they can quietly replace Arnold Schwarzenegger with Ricky Martin or Edward James Olmos. How will they do it? By registering to vote and using fake ID or even no ID! Brilliant! The clever bastards! If only there were some kind of EVIDENCE that undocumented people were going down to the library and registering on faked documentation, and then voting in numbers beyond those I can aggregate on one hand. Unfortunately for Mr. Curtright, there isn't.

So maybe that's cheating; I had to go to a second, more interactive source in order to declare the winner. Don't get me wrong; Gordon Leitch has a more than admirable looney tunes vibe going, and just because he doesn't quite make the grade here only attests to the pure weirdness of the competition. Taking money from a certified loon is one thing; actually being the loon is quite another. W Ames Curtright met the challenge of Mr. Coinjangles, and took honors by virtue of his easy way with reporters. When asked what he thought of civil unions law, Curtright said "I believe that unions between husband and wife should be kept civil." What a smoothie, eh?