Thursday, November 30, 2006

AF Gen. Tony McPeak Arrested For DUII

This story is notable more for who it happened to in a political context, rather than the simple details of the case, which are these: On November 15, a couple minutes before midnight, Lake Oswego Police pulled over retired Air Force General Merrill Anthony (Tony) McPeak in his silver Acura, on suspicion of DUII (Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants). Despite limited public information available (and owing to two unreturned phone calls to McPeak's home and office), it seems clear that McPeak failed field sobriety test(s), as he was formally arrested and lodged for a time in Clackamas County Jail. The county DA's office has received the case paperwork from Lake O, and is currently screening the file for further potential legal action.

As the Wikipedia entry above details, McPeak is a notable figure in recent Air Force history, having risen to the rank of Chief of Staff and even interim Secretary of the Air Force under the Clinton administration, before retiring in 1994. He began as CoS during the runup to the first Gulf War, helping to plan the Air Force's part of the invasion, and then working to dismantle portions of the service during the "peace dividend" years following the end of the Cold War. McPeak is also a veteran of the Vietnam War, flying over 260 missions in country before rotating out in 1970. Prior to that, he was a member of the Thunderbirds aviation acrobatics team during the 1960s.

Personally speaking, McPeak has long ties to Oregon, graduating from Union High in Grants Pass, and settling in Lake Oswego after retirement with his wife Ellie, who is now a member of LO's City Council. But it was his departure from typical military neutrality on politics that drew national attention in 2000, as he and other high ranking military officers declared their endorsement for George Bush the Junior. And as the policies of Bush's administration devolved into the clusterfuck we're now faced with, McPeak changed his mind and went about as far away from Bush as you could imagine, opting to back Howard Dean for the Democratic nomination.

Following Dean's flameout, McPeak shifted loyalties once again to fellow Vietnam vet John Kerry, and that's when his name surfaced again in the wake of the Swift Boat attacks. After dithering about whether to diginify the attacks with a response, Kerry finally enlisted Oregonians McPeak and Jim Rassman for support. McPeak filmed a commercial for Kerry in response to the attacks:
McPeak, who lives in Lake Oswego, said that Kerry has a “real strategy to make America safer” and would be a better leader than President Bush.

The Democratic ad starts airing today on national cable networks and local media markets in states the Democratic National Committee thinks are competitive. The independent expenditure arm of the DNC is paying for the ad but by law cannot coordinate such actions with the Kerry campaign.

In the ad, which was filmed Thursday, McPeak says that he endorsed Bush in 2000 but is backing Kerry now.

“Nothing is more important to me than protecting America,” says McPeak, a fighter pilot in Vietnam who rose to leadership in the Persian Gulf War in 1991. “John Kerry has the strength and common sense we need in a commander in chief.”

McPeak said he broke with the president regarding the war in Iraq.

“What I’m against is amateur hour (in Iraq) — the sloppiness in the postwar phase,” he said

The ad marks the Republican-turned-independent’s latest effort to help elect Kerry. He became a member of a Kerry “truth squad” earlier this month that will shadow the Bush campaign and challenge its claims from the Republican National Convention, Aug. 30-Sept. 2, through Election Day, Nov. 2.

Ellen Moran, who is overseeing the DNC ad, denied that the McPeak ad was a response to attacks on Kerry’s character and Vietnam War record by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
McPeak also joined Rassman and other veterans on stage at the Democratic Convention in 2004, backing Kerry and hoping to rally other veterans and military voters to his cause. Efficaciousness aside, McPeak played a central role in the effort to boost Kerry's standing and save his political cheese from Rove's attacks.

Should the Clackamas DA opt for a formal charge in the case, this primer by an Oregon DUII defense attorney suggests that (assuming this is McPeak's first offense) the former general may escape serious punishment if he completes a DUI Diversion course, which would ultimately lead to dismissal of the charges. No other plea bargains or charge reductions are possible however, and McPeak's license has likely been administratively suspended for 90 days pending the outcome of the case (it's not clear to me whether applying for diversion lets you keep your license or not).

This is no earth-shattering story, but I did find it curious that the arrest notice seems to have appeared only in the Lake Oswego weekly Review on Nov 22, as part of the regular (and regularly hilarious) police blotter section, which is unfortunately not reproduced online. Lake O Police confirm that a copy was also sent to the Oregonian, and I find no record of their mentioning it (although I was not exhaustive in my search).

As I said, this shouldn't bump the war off the front pages, but it IS notable for a semi-public figure like the 70-year-old McPeak to be arrested for drunk driving, and should be worth SOME kind of mention, shouldn't it? When I contacted the Review's police reporter Lee Van Der Voo, she admitted that she felt it was newsworthy, but "there simply was no time" to write up a proper article given other stories being worked on. When I asked whether the arrest would be noted more prominently in today's edition, she said "Now that's a good question!" If they ran it, they did it quietly; I can't find any mention of it online. So consider this our public service to the MSM, covering the stories they don't have time for...

The Sizemore Screw--Delusional Edition

Oregon's own ballot initiative abuser Bill Sizemore implored Oregonians last week to thank our lucky stars for the screwing he's given us or write to him to find out how to get unscrewed.

Not being one to pass up an opportunity to out the delusion that is Sizemore, I took the undifferentiated ego mass up on his offer:

from Loaded Orygun []
to Bill Sizemore []
date Nov 29, 2006 2:35 PM
subject Sending off my tax "savings"

Dear Bill:
I read with interest your LTE to the Bend Bulletin regarding the tax "savings" Oregonians have been dealt with the passage of your Measures.

As someone who generally opposes what you do and how you do it, I'm writing to inquire (as you requested) how I might in fact refuse this "savings".

Thank you,
Loaded Orygun

Bill never ceases to dissapoint:

from Bill Sizemore []
to Loaded Orygun []
date Nov 29, 2006 2:59 PM
subject RE: Sending off my tax "savings"

When you pay your taxes the old fashioned way, you have no real say over how the money is used. However, if you do not wish to accept the savings from my measures, you will able to direct all of the money you saved from Measure 50 to the specific programs you most fondly embrace. Pretty much every government accepts gifts and donations.

Here is all you do. Take the real market value of your property and multiply that number times .015, which is the amount your tax would be absent my measures (but still taking the savings from Don McIntire’s Measure 5, which frankly has little impact today). Take this 1.5% figure and subtract from it the amount of your current property tax bill, minus the bonds and other voter approved add on taxes, which are exempt from the limitations of my measure. This simple calculation will tell you how much you saved from Measures 47/50. You can then write a check for the amount you saved to your favorite government entity.

Doing this should save you a lot of unnecessary guilt. If everyone who voted against my measure did this, governments would receive hundreds of millions of dollars more every year.

I should mention that this was a lot easier under Measure 47, the way I originally drafted it. In the original measure, I actually required a new line on the property tax statement where a property owner could refuse the savings from the measure and direct the savings to the government program of their choice. Interestingly, the legislature in redrafting my measure as Measure 50, refused to include that provision. Why? I suspect it was because property tax bills are a public record and all of those phonies who opposed my measure knew good and well that they were going to keep those savings, if everyone else did, and they didn’t want the world to know that they were hypocrites.

I hope this helps. It really is not hard to calculate.

You should also note that the contributions of your savings to your favorite government program are probably tax deductible. However, you probably wouldn’t want to claim the deduction, because that would diminish the effect of your contribution by lowering your income tax obligation.

Feel free to post this response on your website. If enough of your friends joined in your effort, you could reduce the impact of my measure by 48 percent.


Bill Sizemore all I have to do is some basic math, write a check to the gubmint and that's that, eh?

Not so fast, Bill.

Your Measure might make my check to the Oregon Department of Revenue smaller. But its made many of the other checks I have to write quite a bit larger. Due to drastic cutbacks in the public schools, I've been writing some pretty big checks to cover costs for things the government used to pay for ever since my kids enrolled (in 1996). Things such as computers, new projectors, new white boards to replace old chalkboards, after school programs, etc. have all come out of my pocket.

These costs have more than negated any "savings" I might have netted from your Measure.

Since you're so eager to accept responsibility for my "savings", I'm sure you'll have no problem accepting responsibility for my increased costs. Please email me your snail mail address so that I can bill you for these expenses.

And before you claim that folks who don't have kids in the public schools shouldn't have to pay taxes for those schools, think again. Unless you plan on privatizing every government service and program--that argument is specious. Public schools are the foundation of this state and this nation. If we don't all pay to keep them at the highest standard possible, then we all pay later with an ignorant electorate. bad. Maybe that's your intent in the first place. If so, at least have the balls to be honest about it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Is Gregg Schumacher a total idiot or just an asshole of epic proportions?

Is it just me, or is the dustup with anti-fur protestors and skin-off-their-back shopkeeper Gregg Schumacher looking more and more like the product of Schumacher just being a dick?

I generally don't pay much attention to animal welfare protesting type stuff because it would make me a hypocrite. While the idea of wearing fur completely creeps me out I do wear leather (and carry it in the form of handbags and satchels, too). I can't reconcile my inconsistent feelings on the matter--only that it is. But the escalation of hostilities in downtown Portland between Schumacher Furs, promoters of downtown Portland shopping and animal welfare activists seems to have reached a zenith.

Schumacher complained in today's O that he's forced to move his business to the burbs (he wouldn't tell the O where he's going but I've heard its to Bridgeport Village in Tualatin) because downtown Portland is unsafe with its nest of panhandlers and protestors assaulting shoppers. The Merc is reporting that they've in fact been evicted, rather than just relocating.

Having just spent part of last Saturday in downtown Portland doing just the type of Christmas shopping that downtown businesses look for, I can attest to the fact that there are panhandlers. I even had one get a little aggressive with me. But at no time did I feel unsafe. Plus it doesn't seem to be curtailing the shopping. The stores looked to be doing a brisk business.

From what I can tell, Gregg Schumacher has had a firm hand in pushing this conflict to its current place. Provocative actions such as placing a stuffed bobcat in the window of his store and signage which appears to deliberately poke at protestors isn't exactly a good faith way of solving this conflict.

Its also been reported that Portland City Counciler Randy Leonard made overtures to Schumacher to help resolve the protests and was rebuffed. Apparently there's no helping this guy.

Certainly the protestors have a hand in making it uncomfortable to walk near Schumacher's store, much less shop in it. But its apparent that Schumacher either isn't bright enough or is too much of an arrogant dick to work with anyone to resolve the matter.

Get Your Media Reform On

If the lack of a fairness doctrine puts a burr in your saddle or the consolidation of media gets your panties in a twist, the good folks at Money In Politics Research Action Project have your back.

MiPRAP is sponsoring the Our Democracy Our Media Action Forum.

The Forum is set to take place on Wednesday, December 13 from 7-9PM. They'll be meeting at the American Federation of Musicians Office located at 325 NE 20th Ave in Portland. That's nestled between Sandy and Burnside for you Portlandphiles (yeah, I made that up) out there.

This Forum is an action-oriented time for citizens to bend the FCC's ear on topics such as broadcast tv license renewals, media consolidation and net neutrality.

Laptops are welcome (there's free wi-fi) but not necessary.

If this is an itch you're dying to sratch but you need more info, MiPRAP can be reached at 503-283-1922 or email them:

Labor's Grinches of 2006

I thought this was kind of an interesting idea, and we don't publish enough state union news (like Oregonian Tom Leedham's quixotic bid for Teamsters national leader). Jobs With Justice is using anti-worker ideology and practice against itself, asking holiday partygoers to vote for their Grinch of the Year on December 2, 2006 at 7:00 PM at The Peace House, 2116 NE 18th Avenue. Ten bucks gets you in and ten vote vouchers (plus a bev). Kids get in free, and if you are legitimately poor they'll cut you a break. Net proceeds will benefit Portland's chapter of Jobs With Justice. Here are your 2006 candidates, JwJ invective included:
Bob Burton, Cenveo Corporation, the “Layoff King”

On April 27th, 2006, Bob Burton’s Cenveo corporation laid off close to 100 people at Graphic Arts Center in Portland, a money-making operation. The layoff took place at a 3pm all-employees meeting first announced the previous midnight. Second shift workers reporting for twelve-hour shifts found they were instantly unemployed. Only the federal WARN act and their union contract cushioned the blow. It's time to crown the “Layoff King” Grinch of the Year!

Marty Meyers, General Manager, Three Mile Canyon Dairy

Marty supervised the anti-union campaign at Threemile and instructed staff to do the same. At the same time that management agreed to honor the neutrality agreement with the UFW, Marty sent union organizers to areas where there was no work occurring. While Marty is quite Grinch-like, his neigbors were very generous during a JwJ supported food drive in his Lake Oswego neighborhood. According to some, Marty is “basically a corporate facist who only follows orders”. Ouch!

Oregon Minuteman Civil Defense Corps

These brave souls are defending the American way of life not by fighting for health care, not by working to raise the minimum wage, and certainly not by helping to organize unions. They are out there harassing some of the most exploited and vulnerable workers in our community: day laborers. They harassed workers in Cornelius for weeks, and recently showed up at the day laborer's corner in Portland. Let's make sure they feel an appropriate welcome if they ever come back!

Providence Health & Services

Every Who down in Who-ville liked patient care and fairness a lot… but the rich Grinch and his union busters did NOT! Over 5,000 non-RN employees of Providence Health & Services in Oregon are building a union to have a voice on the job to better advocate for their patients, their community and their families. PH&S, the richest health care system in the West, has a history of fighting unionization and has hired Jackson Lewis as their "union avoidance" consultant. Employees – who have repeatedly asked PH&S to agree to fair election ground rules so they can decide for themselves, free from grinchy intimidation, whether to form a union – are now calling on the community to support their efforts for fairness.

Vanessa Sturgeon, President of TMT Development (Tom Moyer Theaters)

Vanessa should be this year's Grinch because of her dedication to undermining the wages of working people. This 28 year old rich kid got the world handed to her and wants to keep it all for herself. How does she plan to do this? By hiring workers to remodel her buildings that get paid about 40% less then they should, by filing numerous NLRB charges on the carpenters union, banning union reps from her buildings, trying to get organizers arrested, and any other tactic she can think of. She has also been known to throw stools in bars out of anger. She is greedy and evil just like the Grinch who stole Christmas…except she has no heart to make her change her ways at the end of this story.

Bruce Zagar and the Oregon School Board Association

Wherever you see three-time Grinch nominee Bruce Zagar negotiating a school district contract; Portland, Multnomah Educational School District, Sandy, Oregon Trail, or Rogue River, you are sure to see a labor dispute due to his stalling, sneaky and untrustworthy tactics. The Oregon School Board Association aids Bruce and his cohorts in developing strategies to break labor's back.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rooming with Wayne Scott: It's No Gift

Yet another story this morning by The O on legislators who neglected to mention or report trips paid for by lobbying interests; this time it's Idaho Power and an even mix of Republicans and Democrats, current legislators and former ones (although it seems that if mislaid ethics are involved, you can always count on Billy Dalto to be part of the story).

It's a worthy expose' series to be sure, but it's getting a little tiresome to hear the same poor excuses over and over: "Oh, I misplaced that expense file;" or the buck-passing of choice utilized this time by Dalto--"[he] was under the impression lobbyists were responsible for reporting. He said he would need to talk with the ethics commission." I'm sure you will, Billy--not necessarily on your schedule, though. As the article points out (and which we intentionally neglected to tell you), the commission will be reviewing the spate of unreported trips to determine whether violations occurred (duhhhh).

This particular paid trip was not your typical golfing junket, however; legislators roomed and ate dorm-style, sharing bathrooms and a mess hall for meals. Just sharing floor space at the Capitol in Salem is odious enough for some legislators; in the quote of the day, busted former Rep. Mark Hass made it clear that Idaho Power's largesse would have gone on his post-holiday return list: "Rooming with Wayne Scott in a utility shack isn't my idea of a gift." Amen. I say let Hass off with time served.

SWIFT-Boated: An Oregon Soldier's Nightmare

Spc Suzanne Swift is looking down the business end of what is possibly one of the ugliest stories to come out of Bush's Folly in Iraq: she's being court martialed for refusing her second tour because of sexual harassment.

Swift's claims are genuinely horrific. From news accounts they may also have merit:

Swift served with the 66th Military Police Company and was in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005. But just days before her new unit, the 54th Military Police Company, was scheduled to deploy in January 2006, Swift decided not to go back. She remained in Oregon until she was arrested by Eugene police at her mother’s home June 11.

Swift has said she was sexually harassed by her platoon leader in Iraq, coerced into a sexual relationship by her squad leader during her first deployment, and that a third sergeant made sexually suggestive comments to her after she returned to the U.S. She said she couldn’t face the thought of further harassment and went AWOL instead.

An investigation last summer into her allegations supported the stateside incident, noting that it had been properly probed and the sergeant admonished and transferred to a different unit. The investigator failed to find witnesses who could back up Swift’s allegations.

But the report did find people in her unit who believed Swift, and at least one person who confirmed that some male soldiers continuously made sexually suggestive comments.

The investigator said that he also found Swift's testimony to be convincing.

Amazing that the one guy the military awknowledges is a harasser manages to get a slap on the wrist and shuffled off somewhere to prey on other women..while Swift is the one facing court martial and confinement.

Swift was arrested last June in her mother's Eugene home. She's charged with failure to deploy and for being absent without leave.

But she wasn't charged right away. Its clear that she was held under arrest for at least a couple of months before the military even bothered to charge her:

It has been a long 60 days. While Suzanne is still wearing her jail bracelet, she does so now at Fort Lewis, where she is awaiting her fate. She will continue to do so until she is free. Suzanne's mental health is starting to deteriorate as the Army continues to keep her without charging her. (Truthout 8/10/06)

Congressman Peter DeFazio apparently initiated congressional investigation about Swift's case. I called DeFazio's office this morning to inquire about the status of that investigation and anything else DeFazio might be doing on her behalf. Their office says they'll gather up the relevant information and call/email me back with it.

Another little piece of this doesn't add up for me as well. According to the news accounts, the military and Swift's attorney have been in negotiations to resolve the situation without the court martial. They invited Swift to submit proposals to resign from the military. The submitted proposals were rejected.

Swift's camp also says that at one point, the military proposed that Swift sign a statement stating she had not been sexually assaulted in Iraq in exchange for a summary court-martial. Swift apparently refused. Officials at Fort Lewis (where Swift is held) are denying that such a proposal was offered.

The military investigator believes Swift. There are people who will back up at least parts of Swift's story and will attest to the fact that this aggressive harassment is going on. But the military wants Swift to cop a plea to get them off the hook?

These are the "brave men and women" who are supposed to be protecting us?

I'm utterly disgusted.

Mexico Halts Immigrant Xmas Trees at Border

In a stunning tit-for-tat against US calls for tighter border policies regarding Mexican immigrants, officials in our neighbor to the south have retaliated with a "no mas" to 2,000 Oregon-grown Douglas Firs:
According to the Profepa, Mexican inspectors seized a shipment of almost 2,000 Oregon-grown trees at the Colombia crossing on the Nuevo Leon-Texas border. Justifying its action, the environmental protection agency said the trees were detained after inspectors discovered live Douglas fir twig weevil larvae in the shipment. The trees will be returned to the US, the Profepa said.

In a Mexico City press conference, Profepa official Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada outlined the different phases of Operation Christmas Tree. In addition to inspecting US and Canadian tree plantations for infestations and diseases, Elvira said Profepa personnel would check ports-of-entry, monitor highway traffic and visit commercial points of sale. The twin objective of the program is to curb illegal tree harvesting and ensure that Mexican consumers purchase healthy trees grown in a sustainable manner, he added. Operation Christmas Tree is expected to continue through December.
Sure, they say that the trees were infested with vermin, but we know that kind of pejorative reductionism is all too easy to apply. I think the primary motive is revenge. Daniel's Unbalanced Musings are part of a tiny but vocal cadre of angry white bloggers in Oregon, and I think their sponsored stunts harrassing day laborers (instead of the employers) have annoyed the Mexican government, and this is how they're responding. They're watching us. They KNOW we're the #1 tree state in the country, and they know our trees are a point of pride. They're on the lookout, waiting for trees to sneak over the border or perhaps be brought over en masse by what's known as a mule (we call them truck drivers here). And since trees are ironically made of paper yet cannot produce them at the border when required, they're sitting ducks for Mexican immigration officials.

Our producers seem undaunted, gearing up for another big season of holiday outsourcing as if unaffected by tensions at the border:

On the 160 acres that make up the Calico farm, the Schmidts can cut, bail and load for delivery about 1,000 trees a day. For about a month during this time each year, the Schmidts ready about 30,000 Douglas firs, grand firs, noble firs and pines for wholesale delivery.

The trees are shipped to lots locally and to those as far away as Austin, Texas.

"It makes us feel good to supply trees to people that live in rural areas in Texas," Wayman said.

A tree is ready for harvest once it gets about 6 feet tall. That can take six, seven or eight years, depending on the tree.

"This is for me a hobby and a pastime that's turned into a lifestyle," said Phil Adams, of Oakland Tree Farms, as he helped load 600 trees.

They seem blissfully unaware of the fate that awaits the trees once they get to Texas, don't they? Operation Christmas Tree isn't sleeping this holiday; they're lying in wait as unsuspecting conifers make their way south from Austin, hoping to provide shelter for gifts and aromatherapy for Mexican homes at a fraction of the price of "native" trees. Families like them because they work hard at not dropping needles, and when they no longer have a use for them, they can just put them out on the curb and, buy a new one next year.

Also among officials' concerns is the worry that the trees will drop cones along the journey, leading to thousands if not millions of what are known as "anchor seedlings." Once implanted on Mexican ground, a seedling becomes a legal Mexican tree, eligible for free water and sun. While some have claimed that these new floral immigrants only use daylight and water that Mexican trees don't want, officials are unpersuaded, with some extremists even calling for uprooting such "naturalized" trees and sending them back to America.

I think they're fucking with us. Are we going to stand for this, letting Mexicans treat our glorious firs like so much ready kindling? I say no. Let there be a Reconquistador movement, so that one day we may reclaim the land on which our trees grew freely (so the legend goes). To the mattresses!! Smash your bottles of Herradurra and exchange your frequent flier miles for that trip to Cabo in January! Protect Oregon's honor! Viva la Revolucion Evergreen!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Oregon Gets Another Blog Aggregator Service

In our mailbox over the weekend we received notice of a new blog aggregator service, a national outlet that has created a template organized by state, corralling all blogcontent into a couple of pages that continually update the latest and the hottest:

BlogNetNews doesn't have a political ax to grind and jumps a generation ahead of other aggregators out there that just reprint posts and tell you which ones get clicked on the most.

Our current version offers these features:
1) The day's top news - based solely on what news stories Oregon bloggers are linking to - no matter what mainstream news source they're in.

2) An OR blogs search engine.
3) A quick guide to the hottest blog comment sections in the Oregon blogosphere.
4) A quick index of the day's most active Oregon news and politics blogs
5) A guide to the OR blog posts most linked to by other Oregon bloggers.

In one place, in one minute, you'll get an update on what's going on across the blogosphere. And your readers will be able to find the best Oregon-related content - not based on random voters or some editor's choices - but based on the real actions of your fellow bloggers and their readers.

Well, it does what it advertises--I don't see any notably missing blogs offhand--and I suppose given our own lackluster design I shouldn't hurl e-stones, but so far the site's readability score is a D or D+. Like many attempts to aggregate a lot of disparate information, BlogNetNews simply packs too much junk into its columns. There's the standard hotwire in the middle, but also a "what stories bloggers are blogging" column and a "most active bloggers" column that also includes the most-commented stories and most-linked stories.

I guess that's interesting information, but it's a little too 'meta' for me. Carla and I have been mentioning since the election that the standard blog MO of linking an MSM piece and then commenting on it is becoming boring for us, and the idea of blogging topics because OTHER blogs have covered it sounds even worse. It's like an invitation to join the herd so that at some point critical mass will be reached, and the story will cease being the story itself, and become the fact that "the blogosphere is buzzing about" the story. Blech. No thank you. And I haven't even mentioned the seemingly-random placement of those annoyingly small GoogleAds, or the fact that the timestamps show Eastern time rather than Pacific, and appear to only run about every two hours or so...

Besides what I would call over-design busyness and an appeal to the self-referential side of blogging, there remains the salient point that good aggregators already exist. If you're predominantly interested in progressive viewpoints, The NW Portal and Daniel Kirkdorffer's PNW Topic Hotlist, currently undergoing some growing pains as a sidebar service but still a top notch aggregator, are the current standards. If you like the state-by-state model that BlogNetNews is pursuing, of course there's, which we proudly feature in our own sidebar. And if you want a broader perspective than politics, ORBlogs continues to set the standard, in a much more pleasant and readable interface IMO.

So we'll keep an eye on BlogNet for growth and improvement, but for the time being we'll stick with the already-existing players in the market.

Did LO spur Hotline's senate call to Westlund?

Last week, the folks at National Journal's Hotline speculated about 08 Senate races for Oregon, Idaho and Texas. Oregon was mentioned thusly:

OREGON: Ben There, Going To Do That?

When asked via e-mail, '06 GOV candidate/state Sen. Ben Westlund (I) political adviser Stacey Dycus writes: "Democrats have been asking Ben to run against" Sen. Gordon Smith (R), "but he really hasn't considered it. People have also asked him about" Treas. and re-election to state Senate. "Right now, he's not thinking about his next election, he's thinking about a well-deserved vacation and the next session. ... He is an independent and all I can tell you is that his heart and mind is closer to the views held by Democrats, but he has no plans to change registration. If asked, he may caucus with the D's this session"

An OR Dem source reports general optimism about '08, given Smith will up in a presidential year. Ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), as always, is the "lion in waiting." Other attractive candidates would be Clatsop Co. DA Josh Maquis (D), Educ. Sup't Susan Castillo (D), and Treas. Randall Edwards (D) (Hotline reporting, 11/21).

Hotline's musings came on the heels of our own speculation about Westlund's possible run against sitting GOP Senator Gordon Smith.

Westlund's advisor Stacey Dycus emailed us this morning with this little gem:

You should know this hotline blurb came because they saw your post Will Westlund make the leap and contacted me within 2 hours for comment

We've emailed Hotline to confirm Stacey's claim. No word yet.

Its probably not a big deal to anyone else. But I think its cool that National Journal may have contacted Westlund because we suggested he might consider running.

Yay us.

Timber Payment Cuts, Electoral Tightwadness Doom So. OR Libraries

A sad little game of hot potato in Southern Oregon's Jackson and Josephine Counties has left the generally accepted public service of libraries on the chopping block there, and pretty much everyone is to blame. From the feds to the state government and eventually the citizens of those counties and the natural progression and regression of the timber industry, the question of keeping local services going has been bedeviling the area for over 100 years.

One hundred years? Yes, you have to go back to 1866, when the US government appropriated and then gave away land in 18 Oregon counties in exchange for railroad service from California to Portland. When the railroads were unable to sell the land they'd gotten in the deal, the government bought it back and shared such a pittance with the counties that they made a big stink, until the feds offered half the cut from timber sales on the once Oregonian-then-federal-then-railroad-then-federal land.

All was well and good while the timber industry thrived and served a building nation, and the teat was lusty with the milk of growth. But when the bottom fell out, the only thing standing between solvency and total destruction for many counties was a federal stipend to ease the pain of the market's collapse. And now here those counties sit, dependent on the money for 50% to 70% of their discretionary budgets. So when the Bush administration suggested cutting those funds earlier this year, the counties howled.

Meanwhile, the libraries of Jackson and Josephine still needed funding, and as in several areas across the state the local ballots had proposed operating levies to pay the cost. Already having made good on a $39 billion construction bond in Jackson, voters there and in Josephine decided they didn't want to pay the freight to keep them running. (In all the other counties the levies passed).

What was the reason? Have voters there simply had enough of the constant taxes required to fund non-critical areas of local government? In Jackson, did they confuse the money needed to build new libraries with that needed to run them, and feel annoyed they were being asked for library money again so soon?

Those are all possibilities, but if there's another reason I think it's because the Democratic Wave did not make it to Jackson and Josephine this year. With both counties sporting strong Republican registration edges, it's no surprise that only one House Democrat--Peter Buckley, who ran unopposed in Ashland's 5th District---is represented in the area. Two seats are held by Republicans unopposed in 2006, and while Mike Moran gave Sal Esquivel a run for his money in the 6th, Howard Owens (3rd) and Richard Koopmans (4th) fared poorly in getting their message across.

But perhaps more relevant to the question at hand, let's not forget the gubernatorial vote--which favored Ron Saxton with 50% of the vote in Jackson County, and a whopping 56% in Josephine. That being the case, voters in those areas must have responded positively to Saxton's appeal, that the state was being fiscally mismanaged and waste abounded, and that the government should tax less and do less itself. If that's your perspective about how things in Oregon are going, no wonder you're not ready to kick in extra to run your libraries.

Or are libraries just not generally deemed as important in those counties? It's a legitimate question; as a spending item they should probably rank along with parks as 3rd-tier necessities below public safety (fire, police) and transportation (roads, public trans, bicycling, et al). It hurts to say it, but if you can't fund the first two tiers adequately, maybe free loaner books aren't the most important thing to pay for.

But at the ballot level, it's not a zero-sum game. In fact, it's quite the opposite: voters have the opportunity to "make the pie higher," as famously said, by creating a new and dedicated revenue stream. This a la carte method of funding services is a legacy of the conservative revolution of the 80s, where the level of standard items the government covered financially continued to shrink like so many vanishing airline perks (hot towels, magazines, wider seats, meals). Those who want to continue indulging their municipal wish-list are now forced to pay up front, and after a while the extras add up and people start to rebel.

Of course, the ironic thing is that if the charge for things like libraries were just mixed in with "taxes," people wouldn't directly complain about having to pay for them--they would simply complain about the cost of government in general. That's a healthy thing, and there's no reason to waste money in spending, but individual budgeting decisions are probably not best made by the electorate at large, choosing options from a cafeteria menu rather than recognizing the inherent worth of all of them and hammering out relative funding as part of a professional, deliberative process.

Ironically, I suppose the most philosophically pure response for conservatives in these counties is to hail the recent developments, for the federal government wishes to stop subsidizing rural counties against the vagaries of the free marketplace--and spending decisions are being left up to the people. So far I haven't heard anyone from rural Oregon say "to hell with the crutch money; we'll make do on our own." Some are making contingency plans for any real cut (Oregon's politicians are working overtime to preserve the payments in DC), but none are saying that the end of subsidies is good. Perhaps that's because they can see what the result of that turned-off spigot threatens to mean for their counties. In that view, however, the question posed by one library supporter is apt:
"The problem is the federal government will not bail us out, the state will not bail us out. We have to look to ourselves to see what kind of community we want, and make that happen," said Whitney Lard, chairwoman of the Josephine County Library Board

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Spanning the State: Hot Soup Edition

Things have been kind of quiet here at LO with TJ off galavanting around the South and me indulging in some much needed family time and rest. I did take a few hours yesterday morning to drive into downtown Portland and do some Christmas shopping. Did you know you can buy some pretty decent stuff at The Gap for just a few dollars? The downtown store in Pioneer Place has a good sized selection of clearance merchandise. I managed to buy four nice shirts for my kid for $22. Yay me!

Today I'm planning to make turkey noodle soup with what's left of the Thanksgiving bird. I'll be working on that the rest of the morning. In the meantime, let's Span the State!


While you're still no doubt digesting your Thanksgiving turkey, don't forget to be mindful of those who were here before us. As Renee Roman Nose of OSU reminds us, sometimes we become more full of ourselves than any kind of full we can get from a Thanksgiving meal.

A family from Louisiana who had their lives shattered after Hurricane Katrina is struggling to put the pieces back together while living in Bend.

The Columbia River estuary habitat decline is thought to be a big factor in the decline of salmon and steelhead. But exactly how much of a factor remains unknown due to the vast complexities of that ecosystem. A plan is underway to do a massive study and recovery of the estuary in an effort to save these endangered species.

Earl the pearl is getting some well deserved attention for his efforts to make America blue.

A Klamath Falls woman has transformed her life and herself (with a little help from Tyra Banks) after years of abusing meth.

You know you're living in a small town when the local paper trumpets the 387 new residents as a population boom to your region.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney says the corporate kicker is destined for a state rainy day fund and the corporate minimum tax is now fully on the table.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Sizemore Screw

There's a solid and reasonable argument to be made against ballot initiatives.

In what appears to me to be one of the more well done pieces, Western Oregon University Prez John Minahan lays it down:

We need to recognize that there is a new form of nobility among us that's as dangerous as the kings and nobility of old. This new nobility consists of a wealthy few who use their money to bankroll initiatives designed to perpetuate their wealth or power or to advance narrow social causes.

This new nobility is dangerous for several reasons. First, by moving initiatives directly to the ballot, special interests are able to bypass the Legislature and the kind of public political debate that makes for good laws. They're often willing to spend millions of dollars to avoid the elected legislative process.

A second danger is less obvious. All of us have personal special interests -- ideas or causes that we care deeply about but that may not be shared by the majority of the rest of us. Sometimes individual initiatives match our private religious, social or financial interests. By supporting such initiatives merely because they fit with our private view of how Oregon should be, we help short-circuit the obligation citizens have to submit to the majority rule of "each by all the rest." The new nobility, with our unintended help, can make it appear that they are acting for the will of the majority on any individual special-interest initiative -- if we let them.

Another danger is that initiatives tend to feed political and social intolerance. Democracy depends on reasoned debate so that opposing ideas and causes can be weighed. Public debate requires each of us to tolerate the expression of ideas to which we may be personally opposed. Initiative writers and supporters escape the obligation to debate openly. Signing one's name to an initiative petition presented by a paid signature gatherer in front of a shopping mall without much discussion is not democracy. Indeed, it's closer to being the opposite of democracy.

Democracy only works when we have a reasoned and open debate in society. Otherwise we become little more than underlings to the robber baron class who can easily afford to market their ideology rather than debate it.

According to the folks at Our Oregon, there are 52 new ballot initiatives that are actively filed for 2008. Forteen of those initiatives are approved already for circulation. Of the 52 that are filed, 25 include Bill Sizemore as a petitioner.

As Minahan notes, Sizemore is rarely (if ever) held to account for these initatives. He's under no obligation to debate them with the public because he hires people to sign the initiatives. He doesn't have to. Its perfectly legal for him to do this.

Bill Sizemore's ideology plays to the ugliest and worst sides of people. He panders to people's pocket books--and makes money the highest priority. Sizemore sees taxation as a scourge rather than the dues we pay to live in a civilized society. Yet Sizemore gets away with it because he can--and he drags many Oregonians along with him down this trail of cowardly sickness that dismisses the very basic values this nation was founded upon.

25 initiatives. And I'm willing to bet he's not done. Bill Sizemore gets paid to screw his state..and his fellow citizens...with these ideologically driven initiatives. As long as we keep allowing it to go on, he'll keep right on doing it too.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Felicitations for Thanksgiving

Greetings from Hot Springs, Arkansas, where the temperature is a balmy 68 degrees and the sun is shining like a National guitar. And yes--I am pointing out the weather here, cognizant of the dismal continuance of monsoon season west of the Cascades. I love my state, but don't think for a minute I'm not enjoying the holiday break from dampness.

As such, I'm not available for a lot of blogging the next couple of days, but I wanted to wish everyone within blogshot a Happy, Happy Thanksgiving. Carla and I hope you are with family, friends, or SOMEBODY to pass the day with, re-forging old ties or making new ones. And if you have a little space left over in your heart, think of those who are not quite as lucky, and work--even in a small way--to make their lives a little brighter.

It's a happy time this year, a new beginning from what most of us considered a 6-year nightmare. So in that spirit of rebirth and regained sense, all the best and let's look forward to a future we can be proud of.

TJ and Carla, Loaded O

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Write Your Own Caption--Still Gloating Edition

The big kids speculate on Gordon Smith

We here at LO are a pretty small fish in a verrrrry small pond of Oregon blogging. So when the very big fish discuss our Senator (with an understanding of what we're up against in defeating him), its worth noting:

These are states that look tough in the early going. Collins is one of the nation's most popular senators, while Smith benefits from a perception of moderation and a non-aggression pact with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, also of Oregon. Texas hasn't looked so hot for Dems in recent years, and if we're talking about Henry Cuellar (CfL), then we're in real trouble.

The original impetus for Kos' look at this came from Hotline.

I'm not convinced that a change of course by Wyden to go after Smith would injure Smith enough to make a difference. The real problem is the "moderate" meme, not inconsequentially shoved in our faces by the Oregonian.

(Thanks to Bill Nothstine for the head's up)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

LO Editors Lash Out at Hapless, Unstable Blogging Platform

I said GOD DAMN! What's a brutha (and a sistah) got to do to get reliable blogger service up in here? If not for Carla's amazing ability to fire up the server with some new posts during the apparent 10 minutes Blogger was NOT down, we'd have been totally dark since late last night. Thankfully, the actual blog stays up when the editor module goes kaflooey, but anyone who tried to comment on one of the stories today has been greeted by a big fat error message. I don't know whether Google has put everyone on YouTube integration , but they ought to be flat-out ashamed at the way they've let Blogger go to pot. I use Gmail literally every day I'm near a computer, and not once has service been interrupted. Grrrrrr!

We apologize for these waning days of get-what-you-pay-for bloghosting. We have identified next week as the time to implement platform, host and design changes. We've got the new look, and I think we've come to a likely decision on platform--now we just need to pick a host. We've gotten a couple of good suggestions already; if you haven't told us about your favorite, now's the time.

And if you've got something to say on one of our topics but were thwarted before, at the moment it's safe to pontificate again. We'd love to hear from you--it was getting lonely here, and in a couple hours I was going to go all Michael Richards. Whew!

OR Fox Affiliates Pressure Murdoch to Murder "If I Did It"

What an interesting thing happened today: people across this great land, both in and out of TV executive offices, said, "this OJ thing is just too much, even for me" and rejected it. Flat out said no before it could air. That it was a Fox network show, and that Rupert Murdoch of all people expressed a sense of taste and concern for the well-being of society (as well as seeing the writing on the wall sponsorship wise), makes it all the more sweeter. Informal cultural norms have, for once, taken over in American popular society, and we can all celebrate just a little: we're not ready for a creepy snuff-styled thriller-as-hypothetical-documentary.

As I said, Murdoch eventually killed the show, the book, the appearances, and any "If I Did It" trinkery or Burger King tie-ins. But as Oregon Media Insiders reported this afternoon, he was being pushed from all directions--including his own affiliates:
FOX 12 Oregon has decided not to air an upcoming two-part special featuring O.J. Simpson previously scheduled to air on Nov. 27 and 29. ...
After careful consideration, FOX 12 Oregon has decided that the programming does not serve the public interest and will be airing encore episodes of "The Simpsons."
All four of Meredith's Fox affiliates withdrew their support, in fact, as did KMVU in Medford. So while Fox in Portland usually gets an unceasing serving of crapola from me, they deserve a lot of credit for bucking the big man at first, and making a decision of ethics and taste that we should be requiring of our broadcasters more often.

Let's not gloss over that last point: you and I have a right to demand this kind of self-censorship from our broadcasters. They operate under the good graces of the public, using airwaves that belong to the common. And as such, they operate licenses that require their service to the public interest:
The obligation to serve the public interest is integral to the "trusteeship" model of broadcasting--the philosophical foundation upon which broadcasters are expected to operate. The trusteeship paradigm is used to justify government regulation of broadcasting. It maintains that the electromagnetic spectrum is a limited resource belonging to the public, and only those most capable of serving the public interest are entrusted with a broadcast license. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the government body responsible for determining whether or not applicants for broadcast license meet the requirements to obtain them and for further regulation of those to whom licenses have been granted.
Of course, no one wants a federal government watchdog overlooking programming decisions, which is why it is imperative that we fill the gap that government cannot, and demand with regularity that our broadcasters take more initiative such as Murdoch did today, and say "we will not air this, because it is beneath our standards." And if they will not, we shall find broadcasters who will.

This is just step 25, of the 6,500-step process in demanding our rights back as a people and as a unit of civic advancement. Richard Dreyfuss, who is actually studying civics at Oxford (I'm not kidding), has begun to speak out on the need to grab hold of our media institutions and shake them until they do what we want. He was on Bill Maher's show on HBO this past weekend, and while he sucked all of the funny right out of the room with his extended monologues, he was certainly right on with his analysis.

Call up Fox 12 or Fox 26. Tell them, good going--thanks for looking out for us. We want you to do more. We watch the crap you put on now, because many of us can't get up, and we've lost the remote. It's not a sign of respect. But if you do better, we won't ask for so much medicine.

Rasmussen nails final Guv outcome or "Saxton never had a shot" redux

So TJ was absolutely correct when he complained about the stupidity and bad methodology being used by pollsters to call a tight race on the Guv's campaign here in Oregon.

Rasmussen was the go-to polling who had it right. Just as TJ said.

The final Rasmussen pre-election poll read:

Kulongoski (D) 51%
Saxton (R) 44%

The actual outcome:

Kulongoski (D) 51%
Saxton (R) 43%

So much for Hibbits, Moore and Zogby.

And so much for the lousy pronosticators who were trying to prop Saxton up with the bad polls.

Babs Bush to mingle among the great unwashed in Salem

Does that blog title sound disdainful?


Statesman Journal:

Barbara Bush is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for the MedAssist program of Marion and Polk counties. MedAssist provides prescription drugs to low-income, uninsured people at no cost.

Dean Larsen, the executive director of the Marion-Polk Medical Society, confirmed that the first lady will speak April 21 at the Salem Conference Center.

"She will talk about philanthropy and volunteerism and how it's important to the health of communities," Larsen said.

Tickets for the event are $125 a pop.

Presumably, Babs won't be making comments on how well things are working out for low income or destitute Oregonians, as she did for victims of Hurricane Katrina

Apparently Babs' little chat about philantropy and volunteerism doesn't quite extend to herself, as she's receiving a fee for her trouble. The amount is thus far undisclosed.

No word on whether the flying monkeys will also be in attendance.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The dues we pay for a civilized society

I believe taxes are a good thing. I think taxes are moral and ethical. Taxes are the dues we pay for living in a civilized society. The demonization of taxation by anti-tax advocates is, in my view, unpatriotic to the extreme.

That's why this post by Terry Olson is so good.

Terry's post demonstrates the liberal value of local school control while advocating a broad base of taxation in order to fund schools:

Why should schools be locally controlled?

Because people in Prineville and Burns, for example, are more likely to see the value of funding agricultural education or promoting chapters of Future Farmers of Amerca than the people who live in Portland. And urban districts, like Portland, are much more likely to stress the importance of assimilating, say, Haitian or Laotian students into the local culture.

Why broadly funded?

Because of the disparity of property wealth between districts. Students should never be denied adequate educational facilities (or good teaching) because of where they live.

The problem is that outside money often comes with strings attached (NCLB, for example.) That's why Texas school districts took to calling themselves independent districts, as in the Houston Independent School District. They didn't want the feds telling them what to do. Ironic, given that Houston in particular was the model for the highly intrusive No Child Left Behind legislation.

The problem with that thinking is that even local money, primarily from the property tax, goes to schools, or in the case of Portland, even other districts, over which the taxpayer has little direct control. In fact, most local money comes from people with no school-aged children. But frankly, who cares? If one sees public education as a vital government service and as part of the infrastructure of a civilized and enlightened society, where's the problem?

And there's the rub. That "if" statement is the total thrust of the argument.

Unfortunately, there are a significant number of individuals and groups that want to demonize and divide the public school system.

They don't see public education as a "vital government service". And they're working overtime to make sure other people don't see it that way, too.

In order to make Terry's great idea a reality, public education supporters must rise above the din. They must continue to convince the electorate about the vital importance of investing a strong public education system.

I often hear the detractors of taxation screech about "keeping their own money". Except it isn't their money. They belong to this society..just like the rest of us. This investment is part of the dues we all pay for living here.

And its about damn time pro-investment advocates start making that clear.

R-Guard Nails OR GOP's Past; Botches Dems' Future

Today's editorial in the Register-Guard engages in some more electoral post-mortem, and finds the outlook for Republicans in Oregon to be rather bleak:
The governor's race revealed the magnitude of the Republicans' problem. This was supposed to be the GOP's year of opportunity. Kulongoski's core supporters in the labor movement deserted him in the primary. In Ron Saxton the Republicans had a candidate who seemed more likely to appeal to independent voters than such previous nominees as Kevin Mannix, Bill Sizemore and Denny Smith. Saxton had a political base in Portland and raised a record amount of campaign funds.

But Kulongoski won by a bigger margin than in 2002. Kulongoski beat Saxton in only 12 of Oregon's 36 counties - but among them are the top five in population, including Lane. Kulongoski won in only six counties four years ago, with nearly all of his margin of victory coming from Multnomah County. The governor added Washington, Clackamas and Marion counties to his column, which are the state's second, third and fifth most populous.
No argument there. And later on in the piece, the editors correctly note that recently the reach of Oregon Democrats has moved beyond high-density urban areas, penetrating into suburbs, exurbs, and even the fringes beyond that.

Which makes the very next paragraph somewhat odd:
Single-party control will give the Democrats a chance to advance their agenda - but as has been shown at the national level, it can also lead to arrogance and over-reaching. In particular, these election results threaten to deepen Oregon's geographical divide. Rural areas, the Republicans' only solid base in Oregon, may have trouble being heard in Salem. The Democrats will control the entire government, and they will have to take responsibility for governing the entire state, not just those portions that elected them.
Was this team-written, with one editor writing the conclusion after the original author fell asleep on deadline? How can you assert in one paragraph that Democrats are broadening their appeal outside of the biggest cities--and then turn around and claim that those results will "deepen Oregon's geographical divide?"

I might accept that a cultural divide may deepen to some extent, with those on the east of the Cascades feeling even more marginalized in their concerns relative to the wet side of the duck's back. But talking about urban/rural as if they are the linchpins of electoral math, after the paradigm-busting elections we just had, seems silly. Sure, Democrats cruised in the major Washington County suburbs around Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and King City, and out towards Hillsboro.

But are Cornelius and Forest Grove--and points west--really suburbs of Portland? Certainly the vast expanse in western Washington and eastern Tillamook Counties that makes up the 32nd District doesn't qualify as anything but rural, yet Debbie Boone got 62% of the vote. Further north in the 31st, which has some Portland-edge cities like Scappoose and St. Helens but then features a whole lot of not-much until Astoria, you can't tell me those folks think and act like people in the Pearl...but Brad Witt got 59% there. How about the 11th HD, whose biggest towns are probably Brownsville (ca. 1,500) and Coburg (ca. 1,000)? You can guess--Phil Barnhart, re-elected with 62% of the vote.

So this isn't about rural/urban anymore as much as it is east and west. And as I said, that's cultural, not demographic. Which means that there's no reason why Democratic candidates and ideals can't play in the rightward half of the state; it simply means they must play correctly. To that end, the warning from the R-G that Democrats must show that they wish to govern the entire state is a good one--but it's not based on any inherent inability for them to appeal in rural areas. And as for suggesting that recent national history and current results should caution Dems about the arrogance of power, sure--but it was the Republicans in DC who perfected that profile so quickly. It took Democrats 40 years to get fat and sassy before 1994. So we can relax for at least 39 years and 50 weeks, right? :)

Asking the Tough Question: Could OR Dems Have Done More?

If you want to bash me for posting lame story ideas over the last week or so, I'll cop to a bit of post-election ennui and exhaustion. Nov 7th was an awful lot of fun--seeing people I knew but meeting them for the first time, watching politicos do their work, and of course drinking many times to the victories of the evening. It was the kind of night to throw off chains of frustration and despair, and if we were feeling bold enough and temporarily vindictive enough, to feel a little triumphant--as one victorious Democrat said off the record, "fuck those fucking fuckers!" Fuck them, indeed--they know who they are.

But starting with the next morning's mild hangover, there's been the expected lull. Where are the polls (this tasty Gallup post-mortem notwithstanding)? How about late returns? An ad to debunk? Someone calling in with a tip? C&E's to pore over? A meet n greet in Josephine County? Nothing? We'd gotten so adept and used to having some original work to provide, that the inevitable return to slower news cycles and thus site traffic has been a little comedown. But a needed one. Some campaign managers still haven't woken up since the election, so rest and stocktaking were in order.

I guess I was having withdrawals, because I was looking forward to a little debriefing lunch with Jon Isaacs. I especially wanted to see him to answer his assertion that Howard Dean's role in these elections wasn't a big deal, by which I think he meant the OR House races, which I only sort of disagree with. But I also wanted to ask a question that may seem a little ill-timed given the tremendous Democratic victory in the state, but which--after several days of backslaps and afterglow and sleep--is one that forward looking parties should always ask of themselves: could we have done better, and how?

I floated the idea in a comment a few days ago at Blue Oregon, after having heard the tiniest of grumbles from a couple of candidates that they didn't necessarily feel the love of the House majority effort, run by Isaacs at FuturePAC. And then John Napolitano, the unsuccessful candidate from Senate 19, took a jab at the state senate committee:
I did not get any support from the Senate campaign committee. When I tabled at the Washington County Fair in July, I asked for a handful of fliers with the Senate Democrat plan for the next session. I had seen those fliers mentioned on the Internet, and they were a very good piece. But I could not get even a couple of dollars worth of one color fliers. I did get access to the voter database, which proved very useful. But other than that, nothing. I asked for a list of contacts of groups that may have been be doing endorsements, but was told that it was not something that they had available. Hard to believe. I asked for a media list for press releases. What I got was very TV-centered, and so out of date that a lot of emails bounced when I used it. Not very useful for my Western corner of the metro area.
He also made essentially the same claim against Isaacs and FuturePAC as some progressives are making against DCCC Chair Rahm Emanuel--that the state committee focused too heavily on incumbent protection and too few challenger races.

Jon and Carla and I had a fine lunch, and I didn't even bring the question up until the end of it--but Isaacs made sure we talked about it. Call me a crappy journalist--I did not especially press him on some of the details of the decision, although we did talk general strategy and named names as to who got what help and who (by their absence) got little or nothing.

I had more probing questions about whether the committee had been able to adjust as the D-Trip did, finally recognizing hot races and somehow finding money to quick-pump into them, but I didn't bring them up. What the state Democratic machine in all its forms accomplished last week in Oregon was as remarkable as anything done in any of the wave states across the country. And Isaacs was at the helm for much of the successful work accomplished, so his results answer many questions by default: check the scorecard.

Still, we talked about the plan laid out last fall, based on what was known and believed at the time, and--let's face it--was probably true, but changing. The key strategy was, as Napolitano noted, incumbent protection, then adding five targeted districts with good challengers and favorable district figures. There were also a couple of 2nd tier overflow races doped out, and that was pretty much it. But they did have a plan for making their money work for them, and part of that plan was forcing Karen Minnis to sweat and spend money on her own race instead of spreading it to others.

What is amazing to me about this gambit is not that they tried it--it makes decent sense, although money games are a fairly standard ploy--but that Minnis and Chuck Adams and the entire OR GOP fell for it. They plowed an insane amount of money into the 49th, and while it looks like they actually may have needed all of it, the Republicans treated the Minnis race as if she held at once all four seats the Democrats needed for control.

Aside from the concentration of GOP money into the Minnis race, one other thing Isaacs said helped them was the bizarre way in which the Republicans decided to allocate their leftover (non-Minnis) money. They poured money into the Washington County races, where there were certainly theoretical opportunities for the GOP to gain, but where Democratic polling indicated their folks were reasonably well ahead.

For instance, in HD30 where Ev Curry was facing David Edwards for an open seat, the GOP Majority 2006 PAC dropped almost $67,000 into the race--over $30,000 of it before October 1st. Wayne Scott's PAC kicked in an additional $30,000, as did Minnis' Speaker's PAC. That's over $120,000 in total from the main GOP committees, and what was the result? Curry got hammered by 15 points. Contrast that with HD10, where Jean Cowan edged incumbent GOP Rep. Alan Brown by fewer than 1,000 votes. Majority 2006 gave about $26,000 to that race, $18,000 of it by early October. Further, I don't see ANY money from Wayne Scott or Karen Minnis' PACs. No wonder they were laughing at Dem HQ; the Republicans wildly miscalculated early on and never seemed to recover.

As far as FuturePAC's plan went, as October 2005 became September 2006 it became clear that things were going well according to plan--perhaps a little too well, as endangered incumbents began to appear safer, and lower tier Dem challengers began to show signs of being 1st tier races. As noted, Isaacs and his team made some accomodations for the spreading of the battlefield, identifying Tobias Read and Susanne Bonamici as candidates who had the potential to break through into the elite tier if things went the Dems' way. Once again, those predictions almost faltered on account of their own success; both candidates eventually won in landslides.

Was there a lack of adjustment on the part of the Dems as the election reached its closing 6 weeks, neglecting to catch whiff of The Wave and scrambling to maximize the benefit of a hugely favorable environment? I'll give that one a maybe, leaning a little towards yes, with a couple of major caveats.

First of all, hindsight is 20/20 and money is fairly finite, and one has to understand the context in which the committee was operating: Three Cycles to the Majority, starting with 2004. The first thing Isaacs said before we even sat down was that in gubernatorial elections, recent history indicates a 2-seat loss for House Democrats, so anything gained is a strong showing. And to overtake the Republicans a full cycle early is something that gets you your own chapter heading in the history books.

Secondly, they did in fact try to adjust on the fly, and let affiliated groups try to pull weight in newly contested areas. And like a football coach, every campaign guru has their own system. Often, success is not necessarily the merits of the system but the teamwork supporting the system, and changing plans late in the game when things are going well for you can be a big disaster. Isaacs admitted he's a "stick to the plan" kind of guy, so he owns his style for its strengths and weaknesses, but stands behind what he's accomplished.

Those caveats aside, even Howard Dean did what I opposed at first but realized was the right thing to do--gave up some of the long term field-building money and dumped it on candidates running hot races. He saw the shooting star and hitched his hopes to it, and god bless him for doing it. And if he hadn't done so, I fully expected Rahm Emanuel to take out a big loan (Schumer had plenty of money; he whipped poor Liddy Dole like she'd stolen something.)

While I said earlier that money was fairly finite, it's not absolutely so--at the national level, some races were made in the final month by quick recognition of a hot race and a strongly directed appeal to support that candidate. If the Oregon Dems were doing that, we missed it. Was there a chance to borrow some money? I didn't ask Jon, should have. In this once-in-a-generation political environment sometimes you have to go all in. Would I have suggested 10 challengers to support big in 2005? Hell no. But when it's looking like you've drawn 4/5ths of a royal flush after the flop, you have to chase the easy money that's out there--if only you've got some of your own to put down. The writing was on the wall for this election by Labor Day, and some people feel they were left wanting. I can't speak to the validity of specific claims, but as a generality I feel like there were perhaps some missed opportunities overall.

That said, if I was looking for someone to run a statehouse campaign, or maybe I was running for Senator, I'd hire Jon Isaacs in a minute. I'm just sayin', is all.

Maybe I should just subscribe to the PI instead, eh?

Oregon's anti-choice crowd hasn't made up much ground in the state over the last twenty years. While we do have our conservative streaks (freaky property rights hardliners and anti-tax whacknuts, to name a few), Oregon is very hands off when it comes to laws regulating what people can do with their bodies.

As someone with personal experience making the decision to have an abortion, I'm grateful that we have that unfettered choice.

Oddly tho, the story of the woes of the anti-choice aren't splashed across the pages of our paper of record. The folks up north in Seattle actually dug it up first:

Oregon Right to Life, the state's most prominent anti-abortion group, poured about $725,000 into the parental notification campaign, only to see a spirited campaign waged against it, spearheaded by the local Planned Parenthood chapter, which argued that the initiative could place young girls in danger.

The measure was soundly defeated, with 54.7 percent of Oregonians voting against it. Even in conservative-leaning counties like fast-growing Deschutes in Central Oregon, only a bare majority of voters supported the measure.

Anti-abortion groups also lost their staunchest allies at the Capitol when House Republicans lost control of the chamber. Victorious Democrats have spoken magnanimously of bipartisanship, but that apparently does not extend to any legislation designed to curb abortion rights.

This isn't so much a commentary on abortion per se. I simply find it bizarre that a great piece like this isn't sitting in the A section of the O rather than the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

In my view, its pretty huge that 43 barely squeaked out a majority vote in Deschutes County, one of Oregon's more conservative bastions. The big story in the O today is how Portland commuters have to navigate a maze of construction projects.

While I do find driving around Portland right now to be a monumental pain in the ass, it hardly seems as relevant as the fact that Deschutes County is shading more blue all the time. At least when it comes to social issues.

Eh...or maybe I'm just such a political junkie that my opinion is too skewed to tell.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

OK, So I Guess it Was News After All

Friday evening I picked up on two stories that seemed of interest for LO, as we ramp down off the elections buzz and return to a more varied diet of topics. But after six solid months of digging for news or having it tipped to us, I'm still getting used to what's worthy statewide-quality news, and what's just MSM fodder that literally gives blogs their raison d'etre. So too, we've never wanted to be the kind of place that got stuck in a rut of link-and-analyze pieces where relatively common knowledge gets rehashed with our oh-so-important personal takes.

So as I scanned these stories I was feeling especially jaundiced, and I rejected both of them because they just didn't sound like big stories--or at least their time for reporting was not the right one.

Now I'm not sure whether I was validated or firmly rejected in my conclusions; one of them was the lead story top-o'-the-fold in The O yesterday, and the other led the Metro section in the same issue. Now, the first thing I notice is that as the generally recognized paper of record for the state, isn't the ethics review story theoretically the more important, more widely newsworthy item? And isn't the sentencing for the crooked finance director more of a metro-area story, even with the amount stolen?

I think I have a bit of a bias to start with against the embezzlement piece, since it feels like a Fox 12 TV news special--some reporter standing outside a courthouse, the principals long departed, holding some little prop (an accounting notebook?) and talking about what happened in grave tones, before cutting to video of shocked neighbors and co-workers. It's apparently one of the largest public embezzlements in state history, so it IS kind of a big deal, and at least it's white collar crime for a change, instead of yet another burglary or indecent exposure story. But it's also the sentencing phase, and I figured after the arrest (busted in April) and the guilty plea (in September), the sentencing story was probably the least interesting of the three. So in the end, I gave the crime story a pass. You tell us--is this the kind of story you want to see talked about at LO?

The second story is much more up our alley, on a different theme of corruption--one we've covered more than once here. It's of significance that the state ethics commission isn't accepting the "oops, we forgot" excuse from legislators and lobbyists who neglected to report paid trips, and it's certainly a welcomed and fitting exercise. But I hesitated to make much of the piece, because it seems like a way-station on the way to the real story, which is whether anything will actually come of an investigation--whether politicos will suddenly discover that a fine and a slap on the wrist are no longer the wages of "forgetfulness"...or whether we'll continue wringing our hands but ultimately shrugging our shoulders. So I thought, why report the announcement of the review? Let's wait and see what the recommendations are, and if anyone actually gets a legal cap popped in their ass.

The bottom line for me is whether LO can make the story or add to the story, or are we just rehashing the story? At first I was chagrined to see both the embezzlement and ethics stories get such prominent play in The O, because if we'd wanted to, we could have told interested readers about them before going to bed instead of on the way to work. And I definitely dig myself a scoop, taking advantage of the blogger's immediate news cycle to beat the big boys.

But we've got a niche and we kind of like it here--so yes, we saw the news, and no we don't have anything to say about it for the moment. But that doesn't mean we're not working, and we're going to keep teasing you about an image makeover until we finally produce one. And thanks to you, we've got some mojo to do it with. Special shouts to our first LO Militia benefactor, offering early housewarming wishes to the tune of $25. Donate $100 and get this tote bag!*

*tote bag not included

Spanning the State--Pre-Tryptophan Edition

In anticipation of Thursday's festival of food and football, I'm going through family recipes today and then making our traditional trip to drop off food for the Oregon Food Bank.

There are several Portland area food drop sites. They also take cash. Donations are badly needed so please help.

Now...let's Span the State!


David Sarasohn at the O has a very important commentary on the need for Oregon to step to fund higher education and make it a priority.

An OSU political science student has an interesting piece on the decline of American evangelism.

A family in Bend that is struggling to care for their severely disabled daughter has chosen to alter her growth with high doses of estrogen. They've done so because as she grows they'll no longer be able to care for her in their home. The move raises all sorts of ethical and moral questions...but it also reminds us that we need to walk a mile in this family's shoes before we judge their decisions.

A mighty army of ravenous crustaceans is chewing away at the Oregon coastline at Hayes Inlet.

A few lucky Eugene residents managed to score PlayStation 3 game consoles buy winning the ability to buy them via a raffle. The consoles sold at Freddie's for $500 each. They're selling on Ebay for around $1300.

Residents of John Day are having difficulty getting Portland stations. Due to a 30 year old study, all Grant County zip codes are considered part of the Boise, Idaho market. Locals are very unhappy with the District Court decision that's forcing the issue and are working to have it changed.

Medford may be forced to shut down several libraries due to the failure of the library levy.

Members of the state ethics panel dismissed a complaint against U of O Prez Dave Frohnmayer.

Friday, November 17, 2006

BREAKING: SoS to Declare M47 Null and Void

The Secretary of State's office has released a letter to petitioners this afternoon declaring that Measure 47, the campaign finance reform measure that passed in last week's election without the attendant change to the Oregon Constitution (OC) in Measure 46, will--in its entirety--NOT be enforced as law. The office cites Section 9F:
Section 9. Penalty for dueling. Every person who shall give, or accept a challenge to fight a duel, or who shall knowingly carry to another person such challenge, or who shall agree to go out of the State to fight a duel, shall be ineligible to any office of trust, or profit. —
Oh, wait, wrong Section 9, sorry--that's from the OC. But given the persecution complex some of M47's primary supporters have had all year, maybe it's instructive to remind them of the consequences should they challenge Bill Bradbury to a duel. Let's see if we can scare up the right paragraph, which actually flaps breezily from Dan Meek's own self-hanging petard of a ballot measure:
"If, on the effective date of this Act, the Oregon Constitution does not allow limitations on political campaign contributions or expenditures, this Act shall nevertheless be codified and shall become effective at the time the Oregon Constitution is found to allow, or is amended to allow, such limitations."
What the Sos is arguing is that because the wording says "this Act," and not "certain parts of this Act," the authors of M47 have declared their own measure null until such time as M46 (or something like it) is approved.

You can bet that Meek will challenge that interpretation, contending that they simply meant the dollar amounts, and that greater disclosure does not limit contributions or expenditures. But relying on the "plain, natural and ordinary meaning" of the words written, the SoS will potentially argue to the courts that "this Act" means this Act, the whole Act, and nothing but the Act.

Interestingly (and pretty ironically), because "this Act" was to be automatically codified into law upon acceptance, the SoS will also declare M47 to be law...just not law that anyone will have the authority to enforce. Which has huge implications for any future attempt to amend the OC. If the OC is amended, then M47 will automatically go into effect--which means that any bill or initative that seeks to reform campaign finance in Oregon will trigger not just the potential for reforms, but the actual reforms passed in M47. Will this make a "Son of 46" bill harder or easier to pass? My guess is harder, but that's just a guess. What's really a pisser is that people who want reform but do NOT want M47's reforms, will now have to force a repeal of 47 before offering a new 46-style amendment to the OC.

Oi! Stay tuned for litigation, folks!

You can read the SoS letter here {pdf}.

Update, 230pm--

Janice Thompson at Money in Politics Research Action Project (MiPRAP) has put out a statement on the ruling:
Oregonians still want reform and the legislature should fulfill mandate of the last election with ethics and campaign finance disclosure improvements that can go into effect without a constitutional change. The passage of Measure 47 is a clear signal that Oregonians are tired of big money politics and want campaign finance reform. That it can’t go into effect without its companion, Measure 46, isn’t unexpected, given language in Measure 47 indicating that it was intended to go into effect in its entirety.

The legislature has already adopted disclosure improvements that meet many of the goals of Measure 47 regarding the need for online access of campaign finance reports. In 2007, we should see immediate action on additional disclosure improvements that aren’t tied to reforms that require constitutional action.

In addition, the legislature has an immediate opportunity to adopt a comprehensive set of ethics reforms recommended by the Ethics Work Group of the Oregon Law Commission. The legislature should move beyond the work group recommendations in regard to a comprehensive ban on gifts, entertainment, food and beverage, and trips, but other recommendations from this year-long effort are solid.

Oregonians have a history of being careful about amending the constitution. Contribution limits, however, are a helpful piece of a reform package and have been found constitutional at the federal level and most other states. Given the loss of Measure 46, Oregonians may be more receptive to a set of reform steps that includes amending the constitution more narrowly.

Will Westlund make the leap?

Former-GOP-now-Independent Senator Ben Westlund begins the 2007 Legislative Session without an automatic place to caucus. This morning I heard him tell Thom Hartmann that he hopes the Dems will invite him to caucus with them.

Westlund's surge to the left (or perhaps his former party's surge to the right, leaving Westlund behind) has put him out of step with the Oregon Republican Party and in many ways, the national GOP as well.

Which begs a few questions:

1. Will Westlund come over all the way to the D's?

2. Will Westlund run against US Senator Gordon Smith in 2008?

3. If Westlund runs against Smith, does he need to be a Dem to mount a serious challenge?

What to pay....or not to pay?

One of the more sensitive-least politically helpful topics that Oregonians need to tackle is the compensation rate for our public servants.

A commentary this morning by Clastop County DA Josh Marquis pulls this topic into the light:

The Oregonian recently ran a story about the extraordinary number of trial judges leaving the bench. It's a tough job, but one reason they're leaving was barely mentioned:

The pay for our circuit (trial) and appellate judges is somewhere between 47th and 49th in the 50 states. A first-year associate lawyer at one of Portland's top law firms is paid more than the chief justice of our Supreme Court. That is beyond ridiculous, it is embarrassing.

Judges are only one example. We pay our legislators between $15,000 and $30,000 a year and yet are surprised that they don't take vows of poverty or that they hire their spouses as legislative aides. Oregon's attorney general is paid less than $80,000. The governor (who turned down a raise) makes more than $30,000 less than his chief of staff. The Oregon State Bar pins the median salary for all attorneys at about $95,000. The top prosecutor in most Oregon counties is paid about $77,000. (Some counties supplement that salary so that the elected DA doesn't make less than his or her deputies.)

What does that say about the value of the work done by lawyers entrusted with decisions -- including whether to seek the death penalty -- that affect the lives of Oregonians? It's fashionable to claim that money doesn't matter, and it's considered beyond rude for an elected official to complain about her salary. Naturally, when Oregon's median salary is less than $40,000 it may be difficult to feel sympathy towards someone who earns twice that amount. But it's simply denial to believe these low salaries don't affect our ability to attract and retain the best people. All too often we lose them to the private sector, which appropriately rewards those with the most experience and responsibility.

This same argument has been made for teacher salaries as well. While I understand that the private sector in education doesn't pays teachers more, there are other benefits such as smaller class sizes, much fewer special needs and behaviorally challenged kids, less bureacracy, etc. However, other areas of the private sector draw teachers out of teaching often times due to a more attractive compensation package.

For our legislators, the financial compensation is so low that its creating a number of problems. First there are the lobbyist paid trips and other expensed things that are forcing us to look more closely at ethics oversight for the legislature.

Additionally, the lack of reasonable legislative compensation forces legislators to either be fairly wealthy or find creative ways to bring in more income. One of the practices that's raised eyebrows for some Oregonians is the hiring of spouses or family members to work as legislative staff. Its evident that some of these legislators and their families NEED that income in order to financially survive. But it does raise ethical issues.

Don't we owe it to these representatives, judges, teachers and other public servants to appropriately and reasonably compensate them for their work?

Its certainly not a cachet topic of discussion..and its likely the rightwing blowhard machine will snidely snarl about the whining class of those who work for the State of Oregon. And we'll have to endure the hand wringing about "more taxes", too.

So what's the best way to provide political cover for the legislature to do this?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mike Caudle Announces Run for HD39 in 2008

Talk about a quick rebound rate! In an email from 'failed' state House Democratic candidate Mike Caudle, he has confirmed that after a recharging weekend out of state with family, he is tanned (figuratively, obviously--he spent the weekend in Seattle, where tans go to die), rested and ready to run again:
I am running for State Rep again in 2008. The campaign starts now, well in a few months. I am planning on spending the 18 months after [returning to coach high school] wrestling holding the Waynerator accountable to the citizens of OC and Canby and being involved even more in the district building toward the 2008 election.
This is exciting news, because--coupled with rumors that Sal Peralta may be considering a rematch against Donna Nelson in HD24--it means even our LOSING candidates are still energized and looking towards a future where they can make a difference.

Incumbent Wayne Scott was re-elected by Republicans as House Minority Leader, which to me is on a politically dubious par with the national GOP giving Trent Lott a leadership position--why are they recycling negative emblems from previous terms to be the face of the party? Like Lott, Scott will quickly discover that life in the minority is a lot less fun, particularly when you had already had a taste of being on top. It's almost entirely speculation at this point, but the scuttlebutt indicates that Scott may opt against another term in 2009, which of course would make any Democrat's job in winning the seat a lot easier.

Demographically, the district has a slight edge in registered Republicans and a relatively high rate of NAVs, so it's certainly winnable. But the key will be what Caudle pointed out in his statement--educating HD39 voters about what Wayne Scott has REALLY been up to, and building the party and his own name recognition from the ground up. Caudle's biggest strength in the recent campaign was his ability to connect with voters at the door and in meetings with the public, and that's crucial for someone who is relatively young and lacks a typical pre-political resume'.

As glad as we've felt about the candidates who won last Tuesday and will be headed to Salem to change things, there's a little melancholy about those who fell short--so news like this warms the soul. Sometimes all it takes is one unsuccessful run to introduce yourself to voters, to earn their confidence that you're serious the next time around. Hopefully other challengers from the strong candidate class of 2006 will eventually consider a return fight in 2008, and will remain active in the party until then, working to cement gains achieved this year.