Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wu on Iraq

Hopefully this is more than just wordsmithing.

(via WW)

Another example of why the Merc's blog kicks ass

And no, I'm not sucking up. This is a legitimately superb piece.

And yes, I'm jealous that Scott Moore gets paid to write blog stories this good and I don't.


LPO Pushing Privacy Amendment; Planned Parenthood balks?

The Libertarian Party of Oregon has been trying to get the legislature to introduce a privacy clause amendment for the Oregon Constitution. The clause would be added to Article I and become section 46 and read as follows:

"The right of
individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and
may not be infringed without a showing of a compelling state interest."

According to LPO Executive Director Richard Burke, State Senator Ben Westlund (D-Tumalo) was all set to be the amendment's primary sponsor. State Senator Ginny Burdick (D-Portland)was also a backer. Rep. Chuck Riley (D-Forest Grove) was set to introduce the bill on the House side.

And then Planned Parenthood apparently stepped in to scuttle it and everyone bailed out.

Privacy rights are the foundation of Roe v Wade. I'm confused as to why PP wouldn't be 100% behind this amendment. In addition, with all the Bush Administration's attempts to supercede the privacy of the citizenry, this seems like a no-brainer for civil rights Democrats and anti-government conservatives.

I contacted the offices of Westlund, Burdick and Riley this morning and have yet to hear exactly what prompted them to drop their support. I also contacted NARAL's press person but haven't heard back. And I contacted Planned Parenthood's lobbyist (Maura Roche) and haven't heard from her either.

What gives here?

Meet the Bend Weekly Parrot

We don't make any bones about where we come from. While Democrats are our natural philosophical allies, neither Carla nor I belong to the party (I should change my registration to Working Families Party soon), and at times lately we've been pretty frustrated with the way the national party is organized...or not, although Oregon's Democratic reps are actually among the leaders in the country on policy right now in my view. And at the state level, I think we're pretty pleased so far. The ORGOP is in far more disarray here than in DC, which is a help.

So despite our professed sense of independence, some may want to label what I did yesterday as shilling: I published the link to the statement from the Majority Office on the blockage of the rainy day fund bill, House 2707. I quoted an excerpt of an obviously self-interested press release, and provided the direct link to the whole thing. I think in doing so, I gave everyone full disclosure that we were quoting a partisan source on a partisan incident, and you should take from the rhetoric what you may. Of course we happen to agree with the facts contained in the rhetoric as well as the rhetoric itself, and it sums up the situation pretty well, so I republished it. But the reader should be warned where the narrative is coming from--House Democrats.

Having seen the release, my introduction to the Bend Weekly News online edition became a rather surprising one. In googling around on the rainy day story, I found this article. Hey wow, I thought--new media outlet! Who wrote it? Hmm, it says "Bend Weekly News Sources." Cool, they have their own sources! And then I started reading the text. Man, it sure sounded familiar. Really, really familiar. Go ahead and compare their "statewide news" story to the original press release I linked to. It's the whole bloody thing verbatim, isn't it? Subheads--"All House Republicans vote against saving for Oregon’s future, Democrats vow to press ahead on ballot measure referral"--and all.

That's pretty ballsy, if you ask me. It's bad enough to epitomize the absolute height of lazy journalism by simply reprinting a party press release; it's even more sad and pathetic to a) pass it off as news, and b) very nearly pass it off as Bend Weekly-written news. Ridiculous. And what sucks for the people of Bend is that they deserve to have the story explained to them properly. My personal feeling is that Douglas Deschutes and surrounding-county residents need to see the caliber of legislator they are sending to Salem: petty, spiteful, not-very-logical Republicans who got used to stubbornly avoiding reason and aren't about to change now just because they're in the minority.

There will be a referral on this issue in May, it will pass, and anybody who was REALLY concerned about what they claimed were their concerns on the floor yesterday, should now be even more worried about a permanent "tax hike." from a permanently repealed corporate kicker. It just doesn't seem very smart to block a one-time repeal in that light, does it? If only Bend readers were lucky enough to be privy to such analysis in their hometown, as opposed to another sycophantic weekly flushing their credibility down the toilet, printing whatever Source X hands them. And that applies whether Source X is Wayne Scott or Jeff Merkley.

The cops call Carla and noone really knows why

While checking email yesterday during my lunch, I received an email from Tom Cox asking if he could call me. I consented and emailed him my cell phone number.

My lunch ended and I got into my car to drive off to work when my cell rings.

And it isn't Tom Cox. Its the Hillsboro Police Department.

I'm guessing Cox contacted them because I was sent a copy of a check from Cox's account written to the Libertarian Party of Oregon.

Only I don't quite know what the cops actually wanted to know.

The officer asked me if I was sent a copy of Tom's check. I told him that I had. Then he warned me about identity theft and said he wanted to make sure that I had no plans of using the information on the check for any purposes. I said that I didn't. I then told him that I couldn't tell him my source because that would be unethical--which he didn't seem to care about at all.

Now I can certainly understand why Tom would be concerned about a stranger (me) having a copy of his check. He doesn't know me and doesn't know if I'm a nefarious person. But it would have been kinda nice to have a warning that he was giving my cell phone number to the cops......

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

200 Grand

Within the last hour, Loaded Orygun recorded its 200,000th page view. Considering it took us about eight months to get to 100,000, needing exactly five months to get the next 100K is a pretty good sign. We got a big boost a couple weeks ago when we reported on Gordon Smith's vote against cloture on the non-binding Iraq bill. All of a sudden we started receiving a deluge of hits, on the order of about 20 a minute at its peak. It turned out that our recent acceptance as a purveyor of Google News had gotten the piece at the very top of the US News section, and then still as the top story on the subject of the bill, on and off for a few hours after that. When all was said and done, something like 5,000 page views had come and gone. We don't do that much business in a week, much less a 24 hour period!

There's surely a little personal ego involved when we put these kind of scoreboard-watching posts up, but I like them because they're another opportunity to marvel at the fact that anybody reads LO, and to thank them (you) once again for supporting advocacy journalism from the left here in Oregon. We'd probably still do it if no one noticed--I know I did for two years on other blogs(!!)--but it's much, much more fun that people do notice. And maybe along the way we've helped inform and entertain.

On to 500,000!

GOP Fibs Like Mad , Then Kills Rainy Day Bill (Updated)

Right now in the House Chamber (which you can watch on the Oregon Channel and in live stream here {.ram file}, they are debating Engrossed Bill 2707, which seeks to establish a rainy day fund for the state by resecuring corporate kicker proceeds. The Republicans know it's a popular bill, and they've given up any idea of not there not being a rainy day fund.
However, the minority report they're offering opts not to use the corporate kicker, favoring instead a 1% skim from revenue before budgeting, and sharply reducing--by half in the long term--the amount of money that would be kept in reserve, and putting 2/3 majority rules on any spending allocations from the fund.

All that's fine, I suppose--I can see room for disagreement on the amount of money being put away, where it comes from, and what restrictions are placed on how it's spent. But the rationale being used by most of the Republicans I've seen rise to push the minority option is misleading, disingenuous and fundamentally distortive of basic economics.

What are they saying? That diverting the corporate kicker is a "tax hike" that cripplingly takes away money from small business in Oregon--money that "belongs to them." What do I say? Pfffft. Redirecting the kicker is no more a tax hike than having your business fail represents a tax cut--because you don't pay any when you don't show profits.

Here's how it works: the finance people in state government make an educated stab at the amount of revenue Oregon will receive in a particular biennium. It's probably a slightly more exact science than meterology, but it's still inexact--and thus revenues can vary significantly from projections. According to the kicker law, if the revenue projection falls more than 2% of the actual intake, businesses get that "overage" back.

Why did I put "overage" in quotes? Because it's not an overage of revenue over income, but an overage over 2-year-old projections. If you make $10,000 in a year, you'll pay X dollars in taxes. If you make $20,000, you'll pay more. Unless the state GOP is planning to argue that taxation is an illegitimate enterprise, and that the state is not due tax revenue, there's no way it's not legitimately the state money. Or to put it another way, what if you make LESS money than you earlier projected? Do you still pay the tax amount on your projected income, or on what you really made?

It's a load of horse crumbles, and it's bad faith debating in my opinion.

...and now it's a moot point, because the minority version just failed 31-26. The vote to pass the original, majority-backed bill is coming up very shortly.

Update, noon--

Hallelujah! Rep. Phil Barnhart heard exactly the same BS as I did, and smacked it down in the same (but more eloquent) way.

Meanwhile, Rep. Kim Thatcher is whining cluelessly about losing her kicker rebate as a small business owner, again displaying an odd sense of entitlement to money that logically she's not entitled to--and now she's threatening that Intel might leave if we take back the kicker (and then oddly cites them as en example to think about regarding NON-Oregon-based corporations...?)

Update, 12:45pm--
Just as the minority bill failed 26-31, the main bill failed 31-26, requiring 40 votes for passage. Good luck defending your vote on that one, GOP. It's going to be a rough 2008 for you guys, I think.

Update, 2:30pm--
Like I said, a rough 2008. The Democrats aren't ready to forgive and forget:
“For sixteen years House Republicans have failed to lead or deliver on the promise of a Rainy Day Fund for Oregon,” said House Majority Leader Dave Hunt (D-Clackamas County) “Today’s vote is just one more in a long line of road blocks and political ploys used by House Republican leadership to keep a Rainy Day fund from becoming a reality.”

House Democrats have been fighting for nearly two decades under Republican leadership for a real Rainy Day Fund that would ensure funding for schools, health care, public safety and natural disaster recovery but previous proposals have been consistently blocked by Republican leadership. In 2005 alone, House Democrats put forward three specific proposals for a Rainy Day Fund. All were killed by House Republican leadership.

“Without a rainy day fund, the cyclical ‘boom and bust’ pattern will persist, making Oregon one grand casino and our fellow citizens unwilling gamblers,” said State Representative David Edwards (D-Hillsboro). “Because of Republican’s failure today, the fate of our economic stability rests largely on speculation and chance. And worst of all, in periods of recession, the system will continue to be rigged against our most vulnerable citizens—children, the elderly and infirm, the working poor—anyone who relies on essential public services when times are tough.”

In lieu of approving the Democrats plan, House Republicans proposed a minority report that would have saved a half billion dollars less than the Democrats proposal and created a corporate loophole allowing companies earning millions—even billions—to retain their kicker. Republicans claimed the proposal would have supported small Oregon businesses.

But the bill championed by House Democrats had the backing of the state's leading business associations including the Oregon Council of the American Electronics Association, Associated Oregon Industries, Oregon Business Association, Oregon Business Council, Portland Business Alliance and the Smart Growth Coalition.

So Will Bojack Be Giving Sten His Propers on Homelessness?

Typically loath these days to do anything that might encourage Jack Bogdanski in thinking he's relevant or useful in the blogging community any more, I nonetheless feel I must address a story in today's Portland Tribune, perhaps as a method of closure of sorts. The contretemps that led to multiple bannings from his site and eventually being "outed" (which I guess was supposed to be intimidating) all began over last year's City Council elections and the issue of homelessness.

While fact-checking Bog's dubious statement on his own blog that Measure 37 was "very popular" in Portland at the time, I also took a moment to marvel at his criticisms of Sten's work on homelessness, while supporting a candidate who literally admitted he had no plan for it should he be elected:
I understand that Lister's taking some heat for not spouting the prevailing party line on the homeless last week at the City Club. Sten apparently paints himself as the champion of the downtrodden. But ask yourself, folks, after 10 years of Opie in City Hall, are Portland's homeless better off or worse off than before he got there? To me the situation appears as bad as ever. He's had his chance, made 10 years' worth of speeches, and he's gotten next to nothing done.[emph mine]
Read the rest of the article to see the rather firm debunking of "bad as ever" and "next to nothing" as it stood at the time, but today's Trib--ironically one of the few mainstream backers Jack has left--gives us this year's update:
City Commissioner Erik Sten, who spearheaded the plan in December 2004, said last month’s unduplicated count of people sleeping outside in Multnomah County and the cities of Portland and Gresham came to 1,438. In 2005, the number was 2,355. That’s a drop of 917 people, or 39 percent.

Both counts were taken during the last week of January. Fifty-seven outreach agencies took part in the count two years ago, tallying everyone who slept on the street, in a vehicle or an abandoned building.

About 200 agencies took the most recent count, so if anything, city officials expected to see a much higher number of people identified as homeless this time around.

The city saw an even greater drop in the number of people identified as chronically homeless, which means having a disability and being homeless for more than a year or four or more times during the last three years. In 2005, that number came in at 1,284. This year, it was 386. That’s a decrease of 918, or 70 percent.
To be fair, the paper also quotes Israel Bayer of the Street Roots paper--a person whose judgement I trust on homelessness issues--as being somewhat skeptical of the precise numbers. On the other hand, he's also quoted as saying that he doesn't notice a dramatic difference downtown, which is theoretically possible even as the countywide totals show such a difference. There are always people newly finding themselves without a place to stay, so he's absolutely right that it's no time to get carpal tunnel from patting ourselves on the back.

But the "chronic placement" numbers are hard to explain away, because they're not a survey count on a single night but rather documentation of actual people put into actual places to live:

Sten admits there are a lot of external factors, but the drop of about 900 people does correlate with the number of chronically homeless the city moved into housing during 2005 and 2006: 1,039 people.

Some of those people moved into the 480 new units of city-supported housing. Others moved into other affordable housing or private units throughout the city.

Pull back from the data now and reconsider the human tally--that's 1,000 people who aren't cursing the unexpected snowflakes of late February this morning as the wetness seeps through their sleeping bags. It's 1,000 people not standing in line waiting for the Rescue Mission to open. It's 1,000 people no longer catching pneumonia or bronchitis from being in the elements 24/7, costing all of us money while they sit in the ER waiting to be treated. Every single one of those 1,000 people has a name, a face, a story and the right to their own personal dignity.

I've gotten to know Commissioner Sten better through several conversations since last spring, and he's no pollyanna. He doesn't hold any illusions about eradicating homelessness, but he does believe in the moral imperative of helping others who have fallen on hard times for whatever reason. He'll be the first to tell you he inherited the calling from his predecessors on Council, and that the people who deserve the real credit are the ones doing the outreach, like Bayer. But Sten is making good on this particular campaign promise, and he's getting results in the bargain.

I've come to like and respect Dave Lister, too--but Portlanders are probably pretty happy that the guy they chose DID have a plan for homelessness, and it's turned out to be a pretty good one. As for Jack, Sten's probably too courteous to ask, so I'll do it for him: how about an apology or at least an admission that maybe Sten isn't the ineffective buffoon you make him out to be? I won't hold my breath, but it's worth a shot.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Norquist attempts to nudge his nasty dogma into Oregon

Apparently Oregon's government isn't drowning fast enough for ol Grover:

Dear Friend,

Gov. Kulongoski is pulling all stops to raise taxes on Oregonians! Your legislators need to hear from you that higher taxes are not an option.

While the governor is tossing around program names like "healthy kids" and bringing in big-name speakers to support his $500 million in tax increases, you will be the one stuck with the bill of up to $450 extra per year if legislators sign off on his spending spree.

The next two weeks are crucial for contacting your legislators and telling them to vote NO on higher auto insurance premiums, tobacco taxes, and taxes on the businesses that provide jobs for hard-working Oregonians.

The next two weeks are crucial for contacting your legislators and telling them to vote NO on higher auto insurance premiums, tobacco taxes, and taxes on the businesses that provide jobs for hard-working Oregonians.

A "spending spree"? Ensuring all children have access to health care is a spending spree? Cuz the private sector is doing such a whiz bang job of keeping prices down.

What a dick.

He can kiss my lilly white liberal ass. And stay out of Oregon politics and policy. We don't want or need the kind of irresponsible, anti-government, anti-Oregon crap he advocates.

Don't Be Fooled: Polling Shows Cig Tax for Kids a Political Winner

Other than Measure 37, I would say that no issue before the Legislature so far has attracted as much attention as Goobernor Ted's plan to pay for universal child health care by taxing cigarettes an additional 84 cents per pack. Nothing gets the Oregon press corps excited like an attempt to raise taxes, because they know that generally speaking, Republicans will give plenty of good quote in railing against the evils of tax collection and the rapacious state government, while Democrats will flinch a bit and try to justify the tax as necessary (as opposed to, say, blasting the GOP for misleadingly trying to pretend low taxes and good public services are simultaneously possible).

The added kicker to this particular tax debate is twofold: first, because as a revenue raising bill it needs 36 votes for passage instead of the simple 31-vote majority, there is interest as to the strength of the Democratic leadership and their ability to sway a few Republicans on legislation the Dems want passed. Right now they have one, Vicki Berger, but as The O's Harry Esteve reports, Wayne Scott is claiming they're not going to get four more.

The other buzz regards the source of the new tax money: smokers. There has been much hue and cry--even among progressives--over the fact that people who are addicted to a substance are being asked to shoulder the burden of paying for child health care. I don't intend to further either the argument or the rebuttal here; as I said there's already been plenty of that.

But posing ethical and financial questions around taxing smokers is definitely the tack opponents are taking, and if Scott thinks he has the votes against it, I assume he is banking on unfairness to smokers to be one of his selling points keeping the coalition together. Rather than asking if he has the votes, I think the more important question is whether he has the popular support. By telegraphing his read of the vote count, Scott is trying to avoid a vote altogether, but in the event of a vote he is calculating that a vote to stop the health care plan will not give his party trouble in local elections in 2008. Is it a smart calculation?

I haven't asked him personally, but I bet if you asked new Democrat Ben Westlund whether taxing smokers to give kids health care was a political winner, he'd say yes. His citizen's campaign to do much the same as Kulongoski proposes failed to make the ballot, but from polling Westlund has been passing along to key players, the problem looks like it was money and not disfavor that killed the measure.

In a bit of a recurring deja vu for us here at LO, Westlund and the rest of the bipartisan campaign team commissioned Moore Information last year for a series of questions testing their ballot title and other formulations regarding tobacco. I don't believe the results were widely released at the time, but about now it suddenly becomes pretty useful. And the very best part is that for once I can offer the entire question text verbatim, in order. I've done so, here on our new Google Docs storage space.

Conducted just over a year ago, the sample of 400 respondents is fairly small, but certainly within about 5-6 points' margin at the 95% confidence level. I'd like to ideally see 800 or 600, but 400 is not so low as to make the result suspect. It's as low as I'd go in sanctioning a statewide survey, put it that way, but acceptable. The sample appears derived from registered voter numbers, since there isn't a screening question about registration. That's also fine, as long as it was a randomly derived sample of numbers from that group.

The only question prior to the ballot title test is a right track/wrong track item, which by the way indicated a 56-32 negative split--actually fairly low even for early 2006, compared to national polling from that time. That's the perfect placement for your keynote question--no other substantive questions beforehand, much less lead-in questions on the topic at issue:
Here is the title of a measure you may be asked to vote on in a future election: "Provides health insurance to all uninsured children under age 19; increases tobacco taxes; funds other programs" If the election were held today, would you vote "yes" to approve or "no" to reject this measure? (IF YES/NO:) Is that definitely yes/no or probably yes/no?

definitely yes 142 36%
probably yes 115 29% (64%)

(DON'T READ) don't know 45 11%

probably no 31 8% (25%)
definitely no 67 17%
You almost could stop right there--the total Yes votes outstrip the total No tally by over two to one. Checking the depth of support, strong supporters outpoll strong opponents, again by a factor of two. Barring some unexplained reversal of attitudes in the last 12 months, there's no mistaking the support for the concept of the Healthy Kids Plan.

Some caveats: the actual amount of the tax and resultant funding (ie revenue) are left unsaid, as are the "other programs." On the other hand, by explicitly referring to (the apparently previously vetted) ballot title, there's symmetry between what they're being asked in the poll, and what they'd face on their ballots. In the legislature's version the tax amount ($.84/pack), revenue (about $85mil) and other programs (smoking cessation, et al) are points for haggling and compromise, but simply on principle the governor and majority legislative leadership are spoiling for the right fight.

The next question is what's often called an "informed ballot test;" it refers to the fact that additional information about the bill's implementation or effects have been provided, and/or those of the alternative (ie, what happens with a No vote). The results actually strongly bolster the original question, because the response breakdown for the informed question are almost exactly the same--meaning that there's little chance of distortion in the first question, where it might have been seen as vague or unclear.

Another common argument against the cigarette tax related to the perception of unfairness is reflected in the rationales for why voters supported the bill (Q4). The top two reasons for support are the need to provide adequate medical care in general and specifically care for children, so the sponsors' rationale for the bill is clear to voters.

The next three reasons cited for support all refer to what bill opponents characterize as an ultimate goal to ban smoking entirely--that smoking is dangerous, cigarette taxes are too low, and that it's fair to make smokers pay for at least some of it--but no single item was mentioned by more than 6% of the sample...hardly a robust complaint in this context. Among opponents, however, the issue IS in fact about unfairness to smokers and the current tax burden, although even these rationales failed to garner support from even one in five opponents.

When directly asked the question abot fairness as in Q22A, voters are actually split, with those finding the tax not unfair holding the slight edge. However, echoing the lack of serious angst shown by most in opposing the bill, response for Q24A and Q25A illustrates that when forced to choose between kids and smokers, voters pretty much pick the kids. A near-majority 49% disagreed that taxing smokers is NOT the way to pay for child health care. Question 27B reinforces that position; almost 60% disagree that the tax's effectively regressive nature (ie, poor people will end up paying more of their relative income on it) is a reason to reject it.

Another protest has been that higher taxes will drive the black market and internet sales through the roof. Oregonians don't seem to think so; 60% disagreed that revenue would be adversely affected.

The only argument against the bill that I've seen that is even remotely corroborated by this poll is this one:

Cigarette taxes are an unstable source of revenue. The state should not rely on cigarette taxes for such an important program as health insurance for children.

Strongly agree 57 29%
Somewhat agree 54 27% (56%)

(DON'T READ) Don't know 10 5%

Somewhat disagree 45 23% (40%)
Strongly disagree 34 17%
I really don't think that even supporters would argue about this; in the end indigent health care should be a fundament of every session's spending bill, with a reliable income stream and a recognition of its supreme importance to the health and welfare of the state. Unfortunately, it also seems wrong to dither and do nothing because the conditions are not perfectly favorable for such changes yet. If this will work for a few years, the moral position is to go ahead and fund it this way temporarily, while seeking a more permanent solution.

It's just one poll--I'm a little disappointed The O hasn't yet paid for Tim Hibbitts to do his own survey in the run-up to the floor voting--but it's a remarkably stable one in terms of the results, and I'm satisfied with the objective construction of the question set. Even if the numbers are somewhat off, they still show statewide support that is well above the majority level. The demographic questions indicate that the sample was well-aligned with reality; the party registration breakdowns (39/36/25) are almost exactly right on. I did find one nod to Moore-ian conservatism; the question on personal ideology featured the answers "very conservative," "conservative," "moderate," and "liberal." I guess moderate is the new liberal, and liberal is the new VERY liberal? Sure, Bob.

[Updated]The two faces of Tom Cox

[Following up on the information below, I spoke a few minutes ago with Richard Burke of the Libertarian Party of Oregon. Burke said that anyone can become a member of the Libertarian Party of Oregon AND be a registered member of another political party. All one need do is pay the appropriate dues and subscribe to the LP's "non-aggression" statement.

The LP is currently transitioning to a representative system to elect their officers. Much like the Dem Party, the LP has county representatives elected by their locality who select their elected party offices. In addition, state party officers also have a vote in the party office elections. Rank and file dues payers to the LP don't have a direct vote in these elections.

However, Burke said that dues paying members may vote for platform resolutions, endorsements, the amendment of the LP Constitution and positions on the Judicial Committee (which settles disputes over party documents).

This process certainly keeps the officer elections from being hijacked, but it still seems odd that these dual members can have such a strong voice in the party infrastructure.]

As the Libertarian Party of Oregon gears up for its convention in Sunriver, it looks like former member and perennial candidate Tom Cox plans to join the fray.

This weekend LO received a tip that Cox, who switched from the LP to the GOP in 2005, will be attending the Libertarian Party of Oregon Convention held March 9-11 in Sunriver. The tip came complete with a copy of a $295 check from Cox to the LP (which I won't be posting here--it contains a ton of Cox's personal information).

So is Tom Cox switching back to the LP?

This comes on the heels of the Libertarian Party's public squabbles over money and power.

I called Cox this morning to verify his attendance. Cox said that he plans to attend the event with his family but has no intention of switching back to his former party affiliation. He did note that he is a dues paying member of the organization, however. As a member, Cox says he has voting rights for party officers and plans to cast his vote along with the other dues paying members.

In addition, Cox made clear that he maintains an amicable relationship with current LP Executive Director Richard Burke. Burke is neck deep in the squabbles and subsequent court issues with the organization.

I asked Cox who he plans to vote for but he says that he doesn't know who is up for election yet.

So Cox is a card carrying member of the Oregon Republican Party but a dues paying member of the Oregon Libertarian Party.

Seem weird to anyone else?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spanning the State--O'Loughlin screws me Edition

Yesterday I schlepped myself out to the Portland Home and Garden Show out at the Expo Center. I love this kind of crap. But getting there this year was a monumental pain in the ass. I took the Hayden Island exit, thinking that if the Expo Center parking lot was full--surely they'd have a sign at the bottom of the ramp. But noooooooo..I drive in crawling traffic all the way there to find out that the lot is full. And if I want to actually go to the Show I have to drive all the way out again and over to Portland Meadows to park and THEN ride a school bus back to the Expo Center. And then I get to let them ream me for admission: $10!

So the lesson here? Take MAX. It will still cost you $10 to get in, but at least you'll get there.

And now, let's Span the State!


I don't know pay much attention to local TV news so I have no idea which of the channels is the most successful. But this morning I noticed that Channel 8 has a new promotion for their morning programming. The Great Crate Countdown is apparently designed to get viewers excited about KGW's morning news show, by promising to open the crate on Tuesday to reveal the show's newest addition. Is it just me--or is this really goofy?

Bend's city councilers are frustrated that city facilities aren't up to ADA standards. Not that the Bush Administration will work to enforce, but jeez.

Baker City is trying to decide whether or not to build a new middle school, and it seems to be causing some serious town consternation.

Is the Polk County newspaper nothing more than a propaganda sheet for Oregon House Republicans?

The editor at the Mac News Register seems to be carefully scrutinizing the Oregon legislature. I'm particularly enamored of his smackdown of those who would keep the corporate kicker intact.

Another stupid assed recall petition in rural Oregon is rebuffed.

Next time you're planning a luxurious vacation with top shelf amenities, think....Silverton?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ruth Bendl, Hysterical Patriot (REAL ID Pt. 2)

In Part One of our discussion on the federal REAL ID Act, we talked about the introduction of Oregon's compliance bill in the Senate by Linda Flores and Kim Thatcher, faithful lapdogs of the xenophobic right--and tried to explain why it's the wrong bill for the wrong reasons at the wrong time. Other states have either rejected the federal mandate or are proposing an outright repeal while refusing to comply, so it's not like Oregon would be placing itself on the fringe by taking a stand here. Notwithstanding the inherent pandering opportunity in the immigration-related part of the bill, I have a hard time seeing it get out of committee--but you never know, and maybe legislators will find themselves transfixed by the testimony of people like Ruth Bendl.

Bendl is perhaps the gadfly's gadfly, as recognizable to Salem legislators and Washington County officials as Cain was to Abel. Herself a naturalized citizen, Bendl has contracted a severe righteous tic about it, and nearly seems to shiver at the gall of others to immigrate without following the rules. She has a colorful past for a little old lady, perhaps most notably in 1998 when she lost an appeal against conservative superfreak Loren Parks for defamation. She got fired as his petitions manager, unfairly in the opinion of the jury and upheld by the appeals court, so she got back wages but not her huge hoped-for payday because her boss yelled at her. (Classic line: The judge ruled that as an employer, Parks was privileged to be rude.)

Another interesting incident from Oregon's halls of administration occurred in 2004, as a result of Bendl's involvement with the Republican Party as an election observer and general busybody about the dangers of voter fraud. At a WashCo Commission meeting after the 2004 election, she used her speaking time to accuse a Commissioner of misrepresenting the ballot handling process, and demanded a "retraction" for the record:
Ruth Bendl, 10980 SW Muirwood Drive, Portland, Oregon, refuted a claim made by Chairman Brian at the last Board meeting, namely, that he had personally seen observers at Elections positioned at each end of a table during ballot separation. She characterized this as untrue...she asked for a retraction on the record of this statement.

She requested that people who did not supply proof of i.d. when registering to vote by mail not be provided a voter i.d. card. Ms. Bendl pointed out that identify theft is a real problem across the country and that providing someone with a credential such as the voter i.d. card seems to be worse than foolish.

Chairman Brian observed that Ms. Bendl’s statements about his inaccuracy are inaccurate themselves. He clarified that he did not say that there were people at each end of the tables; nor did he say that this was the ballot separation area. Chairman Brian read into the record his comments from a transcript of the audiotape of the November 2, 2004 Board Meeting. He indicated that his point was that this was the signature checking rather than the separation. Chairman Brian noted that he did not represent that it was the separation table and that he did not go over to those tables to look.

Ruth Bendl hoped that the Board would change the process and rules in the future so that it is worthwhile for people to give their time to try to do their civic poll-watching duty.
Note the deference she demands for being a good citizen! What's ironic, however, is being a stickler on electoral process while showing a distinct capacity for bending the rules in those very same processes. In the 2006 elections, we received a letter from an observer that said Bendl was working for the Republicans and was worried about major fraud about to happen:
Ruth Bendl consistently stands and hovers over the people who are checking signatures. Ruth and the other woman tend to chat with the workers. There is an observable familiarity developing.

Ruth and the other Rep. observers are apparently taking down information about signatures. You have to stand up or practically be sitting right beside the worker to see the actual envelope signature. I believe what Ruth is doing is writing down names for signatures that she intends to challenge. She sends this list to Bill Bradley. This is information that I acquired by listening to Ruth.

Ruth is concerned about bus loads of illegal immigrants being paid $200.00 @ to use stolen id information to register in "wide-open" Oregon . I have not seen the information that she is writing down but Micki told Dylan and I about the lists she sends to Bill Bradley. I see this as potentially using ethnicity of names to form her lists and a possible attempt to disenfranchise voters.
Nice. These actions caused repeated discussions among electoral workers on what to do about the limit-pushing the Republican observers were engaging in. I can accept that this woman has a right to protect her franchise by making sure the electoral process is followed exactly as written. But there really is only one way to interpret her taking down names to report to the Secretary of State's office: she is seeking foreign looking names and conducting her own suspicionless search to assert a challenge to their citizenship. And I have no doubt her focus was on those surnames that appeared to her to be Hispanic in origin. That crosses a line for me. It's literally ethnic profiling, and it smacks of racism. Bendl is no longer simply overasserting her rights in my mind; she is now abusing them and infringing the rights of others, and that's dead wrong.

So I confess that all of this two-part article on the REAL ID Act is true and worthy of its own discussion, but it's entirely background to the outrageous testimony I watched on Thursday from Ruth Bendl in favor of Oregon's compliance bill. My jaw fell open as she compared voter fraud to something like a polio outbreak--viral, dangerous and requiring immediate, emergency attention. But then it just got funny. This woman is so ginned up by her own sense of propriety and law and order, and fear stoked by self-admitted Fox News watching, that she's become a lampoonable icon of the nativist right-wing in our state.

I considered before writing whether as a nonofficial private citizen Bendl deserved to be publicly called out like this. But I quickly decided that she herself has made a near career out of being a public advocate for her point of view, and those views "for the record" are eligible and subject to fair scrutiny. I bet she is a wonderful grandmother, cooks well and is loyal to her friends and family. But there is an ugly, frightened side to her public advocacy, and people who would oppose those viewpoints holding sway in our government have a duty to object. And honestly, in the following personal transcript of her remarks before the committee, she just comes off as a loon. It's classic wingnuttery, and I had to write it up and share it with you. Cheers, Ruth!
I want to say that all three of us that signed up are fully in support of immediate implementation of the REAL ID Act, at the very least proof of legal presence in the US. All three of us attended the recent immigrant fraud trials. We saw exactly what has happened in these past years because of the negligence of proving credible proof to DMV as to who people were.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a nation of laws and we are after a 9/11 incident. Do we need to wait for the next bomb to drop before we decide that it isn’t too costly to implement the requirements of REAL ID to safeguard our citizenry?

The fact of the matter is, you can hear it on Fox News and on other news programs, the coyotes that bring these people across are being paid by Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda $3000 a head to bring in their infiltrators. Do we want to be the state that makes it possible for them to get that access by giving them those credentials? If nothing else, at least require proof of legal status.

In response to the agricultural needs, in 1994 the voters of Oregon overwhelmingly approved the requirement to put prison inmates to work. Not just by doing laundry in the jails or just shuffling papers. Put them to work instead of giving them video games to pass the time. They can be out there on the farm, with corrections officials with dogs and with a bracelet. And get a work ethic. At the very least first offenders and the people that are out on parole. Put those people to good use no matter what, and then you’ve got no excuse for not implementing REAL ID.

The other thing that I need to bring to your attention which shocks me because I’m from Washington County is that Washington County is doing a program called HELP, which is providing education for Hispanics in drivers education using public facilities, the two sherriff’s buildings in Beaverton and in Hillsboro, Centro Cultural these people only pay Centro-Cultural $30 and they are provided with all this education.

The rest of us have to do the work ourselves, so that there’s a segregated element of the community that are getting this help at taxpayer expense. I would ask you that we want to know for sure that every one of those people would be required to meet the legal presence requirements of the federal REAL ID, that there shouldn’t be any more segregation; I believe there was a vote against segregation for education many many years ago, let’s uphold that even when it comes to driver’s education, and let’s keep it in the language of this country so that people can read their signs.

I ask you to implement at least legal presence requirements in the US at the first opportunity, and let’s stop shuffling around about the cost. When it comes to prioritizing, this is a priority. Thank you for listening.
Prison labor taking over the entire seasonal farming industry from migrant labor? "You can hear it on Fox News?" "Do we want to wait until we're bombed again?" That's good stuff, right there.

Elliott Smith "Rarities" Album Due May 8, Benefits Outside In

Hooray hooray hooray, there is more Elliott Smith material coming out--and it's older stuff:
Larry Crane (of Tape Op magazine and Jackpot! Studios) is Smith’s official archivist, and worked on both selecting and mixing tracks for the new release. A longtime Smith friend/collaborator, Crane aided in the recording of some of his earliest work. For New Moon, he’s written extensive technical and contextual liner notes. Crane had this to say about the family’s decision to work with Outside In in a recent LocalCut telephone interview:

“(Smith) had done benefits (for the organization Free Arts for Abused Children) before, and I think his family, the estate of Steven Paul Smith, felt like it would show good faith to continue on in that direction… Nobody wants this to be seen as making money off our missing friend… we had worked with Outside In at Jackpot. We all certainly agree they do a great job. (Sending proceeds in their direction) wasn’t my doing but I’m really supportive of it.”

Crane also assured LocalCut that New Moon will not sound like a 2006 release, and that his only manipulations of Smith’s original recordings are in the pursuit of making the tracks more audible and clean (as opposed, presumably, to making them flashy, marketable or in aesthetically different in any way). It’s encouraging to know that these tracks are in the best possible hands with Crane at the helm of the project.
I will always selfishly claim Smith for Oregon, both because he did some of my favorite work (from the Either/Or period this new material shares) while he lived here, writing both sardonically and wistfully about Portland. Also, he was a fairly close friend of a relative of mine, and I chanced to see Heatmiser play while visiting in the summer of 1996, right before they broke up and when I decided I had to find a way back to Oregon somehow.

From what I understand Smith always had an affinity for kids with a rough, unstable early life. He seemed to relate. So this seems like a perfect marriage. It could be a benefit for Dick Cheney's heart transplant for all I care though; it's new Elliott.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Charging Ahead Blind and Scared on REAL ID--Pt. 1

I had hoped to catch what was rumored to be one of the final hearings on SB505, the Measure 37 timeout bill, on the Oregon Channel tonight, but it had already ended and the Senate Business, Transportation and Workforce Development Committee meeting was on. There's all kinds of junk that committee sees, but today's session featured a hearing on SB 424, the bill ostensibly designed to comply with the federal REAL ID Act, a rider on military spending bill passed in the last session and purportedly intended to advance national security by tightening identification processes.

Other than changing some visa requirements and paving the way for physical structures to be erected at US borders (which has nothing to do with ID, does it?), the primary tool of the Act was to synthesize individual state driver and ID cards as the de facto token of citizenship. You could use it for planes, at banks, to enter federal buildings, etc. That way, a national ID card wouldn't be needed; your existing driver's license would already suffice. Citizens of states that do not comply are supposedly to lose the ability to use the ID to get on planes and whatnot, which if you ask me is pretty fucked up. You go ahead and try everyone at PDC their license is no longer "secure," Miss Counter Agent.

I shouldn't say de facto, more like de juris--the Trojan horse in the ID requirement was that all states now had to affirmatively check and verify "legal presence," using citizenship documents and Social Security verification in order to clear people for receiving licenses and personal IDs. Obviously this has two pretty direct outcomes: the state department of transportation will become a de facto (used it right that time) agent of the Department of Homeland Security by being the first line of citizenship defense, as it were; and undocumented people in this country will simply begin driving unlicensed and uninsured.

Aside from the theory that undocumented people are registering and voting in mass displays of fraudulence, the belief that the southern invasion can be stemmed by refusing them driver's licenses is a favorite of the anti-immigrant groups. And it's exactly the Mexicans we're talking about; despite the facade of national security concerns, groups like VDare and Oregonians for Immigration Reform never seem troubled to mention undocumented Canadians, Chinese, Russian, Somali, Japanese, Vietnamese--just the Mexicans. Maybe they have it in for the Salvadorans too, I can't say.

It's not exactly clear what they think the Act would result in--would people really leave the country if their driver's license got taken? And those are the ones who even come in to get a license in the first place! What impact on undocumented immigration are we expecting when the DMV starts asking for your papers? How about the impact on the privacy and civil rights of regular old US citizens? And for heaven's sake, how is it better that all these thousands of people are here, and now they are driving cars they're not even licensed to drive, never having been even tested for the ability to read signs for instance? What does that improve?

Like I said, it's red meat for the nativistic crowd, so Linda Flores and Kim Thatcher rolled out a slate of paranoid, fascist-leaning bills earlier this month in order to please, among them the state's compliance version of the Act. They introduced the bill quickly before jetting off to other meetings, but gave it the sell. Flores admitted that REAL ID is not perfect, no one said it was, and should be made at the federal level, urging the legislature to "try to work with our federal partners." Rep. Thatcher deduced that because we have standards for driving, you can have that privilege taken away. The Legislature supported SB640 about identity theft last session, she said, and REAL ID is a logical followup. "We want Oregon driver's licenses to be accepted as a gateway ID."

That's an absurd argument. The reason they are doing this is NOT to uphold standards for driving, as if it's about passing a vision test. And how is citizenship related to fitness for operating a vehicle? And if there really is a logical link between identity theft and making BMV the Border Patrol, send it on a napkin to our offices.

The one thing proponents don't mention is that when it comes to standards, there aren't any yet. This was of significant concern to both witnesses from BMV, but also members of the committee. How can we start compliance with standards that aren't even finalized at the federal level? They're already a year behind, and while the set of standards has apparently been sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review, there's no date set for finalization. Will the Legislature have to revist all of this next year (or the year after that)? If so, why mess with it now? I'll tell you why--because this isn't about compliance with federal security rules for national security's about stemming the brown tide ASAP, or in this case exhibiting to your constituents that it's what you'd like to see happen.

You can build a pretty good argument against this bill just by refuting the claimed benefits of proponents, but there are also some big negatives to implementation that other states are beginning to recognize. Last month Maine became what I believe is the first state to formally reject federal requirements. Their reasons were the high cost (estimated at $185mil over five years), high inconvenience (the bill would force every resident to visit DMV with hard copies of their paperwork), and questionable need for the program.

If Maine's response was a shot across REAL ID's bow, then what Montana is currently working through its legislature is a torpedo right to the engine room:
WHEREAS, some of the intended privacy requirements of the REAL ID Act, such as the use of common machine-readable technology and state maintenance of a database that can be shared with the United States and agencies of other states, may actually make it more likely that a federally required driver's license or state identification card, or the information about the bearer on which the license or card is based, will be stolen, sold, or otherwise used for purposes that were never intended or that are criminally related than if the REAL ID Act had not been enacted; and

WHEREAS, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the National Governors' Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures have estimated, in an impact analysis dated September 2006, that the cost to the states to implement the REAL ID Act will be more than $11 billion over 5 years, and the Motor Vehicle Division of the Montana Department of Justice has estimated that the implementation of the REAL ID Act will cost Montana $2,660,000 to fully implement the Act, none of which costs are or will be paid for by the federal government; and

WHEREAS, the regulations that are to be adopted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to implement the requirements of the REAL ID Act have yet to be adopted and, in reality, will probably not become effective until the spring of 2007, effectively giving the states only 1 year in which to become familiar with the implementing regulations and comply with those regulations and the requirements of the REAL ID Act; and

WHEREAS, the mandate to the states, through federal legislation that provides no funding for its requirements, to issue what is, in effect, a national identification card appears to be an attempt to "commandeer" the political machinery of the states and to require them to be agents of the federal government, in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as construed by the United States Supreme Court in New York v. United States, 488 U.S. 1041 (1992), United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995), and Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997); and

THEREFORE, the purpose of the Legislature in enacting [this act] is to refuse to implement the REAL ID Act and thereby protest the treatment by Congress and the President of the states as agents of the federal government and, by that protest, lead other state legislatures and Governors to reject the treatment by the federal government of the 50 states by the enactment of the REAL ID Act.


NEW SECTION. Section 1. Legislative finding and direction to state agency not to implement REAL ID Act. (1) The legislature finds that the enactment into law by the U.S. congress of the REAL ID Act of 2005, as part of Public Law 109-13, is inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Montana, will cause unneeded expense and inconvenience to those people, and was adopted by the U.S. congress in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the 10th amendment to the U.S. constitution.

(2) The state of Montana will not participate in the implementation of the REAL ID Act of 2005. The department, including the motor vehicle division of the department, is directed not to implement the provisions of the REAL ID Act of 2005 and to report to the governor any attempt by agencies or agents of the U.S. department of homeland security to secure the implementation of the REAL ID Act of 2005 through the operations of that division and department. [emphs me]
Zoinks! Take that, Senator Sensenbrenner! But sadly of course, the reality is that backers in Congress aren't likely to hear. Like Lamar Smith of Texas, they've got terra on the brain:
"Real ID is needed to protect the American people from terrorists who use drivers licenses to board planes, get jobs and move around the country as the 9/11 terrorists did," Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said in an e-mailed statement. "It makes sense to have drivers licenses that ensure a person is who they say they are. It makes the country safer and protects the American people from terrorists who would use the most common form of ID as cover."
Yeah, the only thing that made Mohammad Atta's job possible was his driver's license. :rolleyes: For a local echo of this absurdist line of reasoning, tune in for Part Two, in which I introduce the practices and testimony of Ruth Bendl: Hysterical Patriot.

Update, 2/24, 4:30 PM--
Today's News-Register shows that the debate is not quite as black and white as I've made it out to be, politically speaking. While the House version is being pushed by reliable Republican friends of the anti-immigration crowd, the Senate bill is sponsored by Democrat Rick Metsger. And among listed skeptics of the bill are Republican Larry George, who is nobody's liberal. I don't agree with Metsger's analysis at all, and I think it's unfortunate that he doesn't see the rejection by other states as a clue to the problematic nature of the bill.

Wayne Scott: Permanent Minority Leader

The Big Dog is skeptical that GOP House Minority Leader Wayne Scott has enough votes to keep the (warning PDF) Healthy Kids cigarette tax plan from passing:

Here's the question of the day (and maybe the question of the year): Is Wayne Scott actually doing a count of his caucus members? And if he is, are we sure that they're giving him a true count?

After all, Wayne Scott specializes in retribution and power plays. In Wayne's World, dissent isn't tolerated.

Will anyone be surprised if a handful of Republican legislators are keeping their opinions to themselves -- only to deliver a surprise when the vote hits the floor?

Kari may be on to something.

The Democrats have a 31 vote majority in the House. If all of the Dems vote for the tax hike (which seems plausible), they only need five more votes to pass the tax.

The Oregon House Republicans are ripe for a revolt against Scott on this. A large number of GOP Reps are in districts where in 2002, voters supported a hike in the cigarette tax.

For example:

Scott Bruun (R-West Linn) 73.3%

Chuck Burley (R-Bend) 68.2%

John Lim (R-Gresham) 67.5%

Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville) 68.9%

Kevin Cameron (R-Salem) 65.7%

Vicki Berger (R-Salem) 71.7%

Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) 63.7%

Sal Esquivel (R-Medford)64.8%

Seven additional GOP held districts are also over the 60% mark, including Scott's own district in Canby at 63.3%.

Scott might be able to get away with it in his district because he's dirty enough to steamroll his opponents--although its getting harder. But he's asking the rest of his people to commit political suicide with their opposition to this tax for the purposes of ensuring all kids have access to health care in Oregon.

Its unlikely that attitudes in Oregon have undergone a vast change in the last five years, especially with the escalation in health care costs. Oregonians want kids to have access to affordable health care--and don't seem to have a problem with raising taxes on cigarettes.

Wayne Scott seems to be putting himself into the position of permanent Minority Leader.

Gordly Apologizes to Soldier's Mother

Showing once again that no good deed goes unpunished, this morning Independent Senator Avel Gordly (SD23) released an apology to the mother of PFC Ryan Hill, killed in Baghdad on January 20th and a former resident of Keizer. Although clearly intended as a way to highlight the tragic death of another of Oregon's own, it appears that Hill's mother took offense to his inclusion in a press release that otherwise represent a vote of no-confidence on the Iraq war.

Gordly Chief of Staff Sean Cruz runs his own blog, and reprinted the original release of February 4th that started the commotion:
This morning, the funeral procession for Private First Class Ryan Hill, only 20 years old, began at the front steps of the Oregon State Capitol.

Private First Class Hill was a member of the United States Army and he resided in Keizer, Oregon. He died Saturday, January 20 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Once again, flags will are flown at half staff. Once again, our Governor will stand with a military family at a gravesite.

Once again, Governor Kulongoski will pray that this funeral service will be the last, as he has done more than seventy times since the beginning of the Iraq catastrophe.

Once again, a bereaved family sheds tears that will have no end.

Private First Class Hill was at the front, on the leading edge of the “surge” into Baghdad that you, Mr. President, have ordered our troops to perform.

On the same day that Private First Class Hill was laid to rest, Exxon Mobile announced that it had—for the second year in a row—the most profitable year in American history, and that it did so despite a decline in earnings in the last quarter of 2006.

Your war strategy has depended upon using and re-using the same military personnel and the same military families over and over again, and the nation says “Enough.”
As I said, although I can find no media mentions of her reaction, quite obviously Mrs. Hill was offended, because this is what came out today:
I am prayerfully and publicly offering this apology to Shawna Hill for including her beloved son’s name in a communication from my office in opposition to the war in Iraq.

I understand that this young man wanted to serve his country and was dedicated to the mission in Iraq. I respect that he served honorably and courageously.

I deeply regret that my words caused pain to the Hill family.

I aspire to be impeccable in my use of language, but in this case I failed.

Avel Louise Gordly

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

I gather that Mrs. Hill is unfathomably still a war supporter, even after receiving her son's broken body in a box, with just a folded flag and a salute for her trouble--maybe condolences from the Governor. I can't pretend to know her pain, but it seems to me that both Hill and Gordly feel Ryan's death is a tragedy, and there ought to be more common ground there. Perhaps Mrs. Hill feels that Gordly's opposition to the war demeans her son's service, and while I can't agree with that at all, hopefully the apology will put the matter to rest. Not the war unfortunately, just the controversy.

In other news, Victoria Taft still a blowharding buffoon

Yesterday's tome excoriating Victoria Taft for her accusations against Portland Public Schools has a followup.

The Merc's Scott Moore emailed us yesterday to let us know he was on the trail of this story as well--and was in contact with PPS to get down to the bottom of it.

And so he has:

The email, titled "Monday Rally for schools attracts 1,000+ from Portland, 6 School Board members," was sent by Sarah Carlin Ames, the communications person for PPS. She explained to me--in a lengthy email and voice message (thanks, Sarah)--that this was sent on her day off, but even if she'd sent it from work, it was in no way illegal.

State law prevents public employees from engaging in "political campaigning"--but "the law is very clear that public employees' work time (and public resources) may not be used to advocate for or against a ballot measure or candidate," she wrote. "This was neither--a rally to advocate for funding from the Legislature. Clearly entirely legal, if you check the election law."

Taft really ought to be fired. She's irresponsible and apparently without scruples. But then she is a rightwing radio talk show host. That is their bread and butter. Not that its boosting Taft's ratings.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Snow Smacks Southern OR; More Expected Tonight?

For those of us in the Will Valley enjoying another beautiful 45 degree day replete with intermittent drops of Oregon Sunshine, it may be somewhat of a surprise to learn that it snowed pretty good down in the south end last night. Klamath, Jackson and Josephine Counties got the brunt of the storm, with Ashland receiving about six inches, compared to about three for places like Medford. Up in the passes and mountains, snowfalls ranged from two feet on Mount Ashland to almost three feet around Diamond Lake. (And yes, that's a snowed-over Diamond Lake with Mt. Bailey in the background, pictured at left*). Overnight, it got bad enough that I-5 around the California border was closed due to "blizzard conditions" until about 6 this morning.

If you scroll down through the link to the Trib that I gave you, you can get a pretty decent set of updates starting with today's rush hour, and leading all the way up to tonight's forecast for a couple more inches by tomorrow morning. One blurb I noted with vicarious sadness:
Snow and downed tree limbs have collapsed the cover of the Darex Ice Rink, closing it for the rest of the season, the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department reported.

Officials said the cover had fallen and crews are assessing damage to determine the cause of the failure and whether it can be repaired for future use.

The rink’s regular season was set to end March 4.
Considering how cash-poor those counties are right now, you have to wonder if it will be ready for next year. I don't ice skate, but it strikes me as a terrific form of fun and family-friendly entertainment, particularly in winter when there's less to do outside without heading for the hills.

*photo link courtesy Transworld Snowboarding Magazine Japan

Victoria Taft:Poster chick for the IQ challenged

As a part of her crusade to prove to Portlanders that it takes very little brain power to be a rightwing talk show host, KPAM radio host Victoria Taft has decided to pull some stuff out of her ass to give her listeners something to cluck about:

Why are they sending emails on school time, to school employees and activists, to go to a fundraising event for a POLITICAL GROUP?

[] On Behalf
Of PPS ppscomms
Sent: Friday, February 16, 2007 6:01 PM
Subject: [Key-communicators-list] Monday Rally for schools attracts
1,000+ from Portland, 6 School Board members

According to Taft, this email header is proof positive that Portland Public Schools is sending out emails to get their employees to attend a rally in support of fundraiser for a political group (Stand For Children, presumably).

Firstly, the subject line looks an awful lot like a headline of a write-up about an event that's ALREADY TAKEN PLACE. Its evident that someone was drafting an email about the event to be sent out after it was over. Its an email meant to tell people that a bunch of their colleagues went (past tense) to Salem. It makes no sense to use the word "attends" or give numbers of attendees unless you're talking about an event that's already occurred.

Second, where's the actual text of the email? Taft is accusing a school district employee of an illegal act. Providing actual evidence of the illegal act made in the accusation certainly seems necessary in order for this to have any meaning whatsoever. But when asked to post the content of the email, Taft refuses.

Down in the comments to the post, Taft admits she has the content of the email and even characterizes it:

I have the content of the email. It was sent in advance of the rally. It was an announcement about how successful this rally was going to be. No mystery. Nice try on trying to question the veracity of it. The issue was that it was sent by the teachers/school district. Guess what? Randy Leonard voice: Not. My. Job.

Not your job to report the facts in their entirety, Victoria? I can't believe Fox News didn't snatch you up for "Fox and Friends" ages ago.

The issue is clearly NOT that this was a PPS sent email. The issue is the content. No content, no valid accusations.

So let's see the actual content of the email, Victoria. The only way to find out if PPS was trying to get people to show up to this rally (as you claimed in the first paragraph of your post) is to see what the email said.

Otherwise, you're just Lars Larson with a dye job and heels....and exponentially worse ratings.

(via email from r_equals_bs--who tried over at Taft's blog to get her to post the content of the email)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ousted Pombo Signs on With Anti-Enviro PAC/WEST

Well, look who's coming to dinner!
Former Rep. Richard Pombo of California announced he accepted a job with an Oregon lobbying and public relations firm that specializes in Western resource issues.

The company's clients include the Save Our Species Alliance, which supported Pombo's unsuccessful efforts to rewrite the Endangered Species Act. Those attempts spurred environmental groups to pour money into the campaign of wind energy engineer Jerry McNerney, a Democrat who defeated him in November.

In the Northwest, Pombo was cast as a villain by some environmentalists, but was a champion to critics of federal regulations. For several years in Congress, he blocked creation of a new106,000-acre protected wilderness area, known as the Wild Sky Wilderness.As chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo demanded that some of that land remain open to activities like motorized recreation. With Pombo out and Democrats controlling Congress, the wilderness plan has been revived.
We can only be thankful that Pombo will be based in Sacramento, and that he claims he will not be actively lobbying Oregon officials to advance the cause of "property rights." But make no mistake, Pombo is formally uniting with the very front groups and "natural resource" industry shills who have driven efforts like the Healthy Forests Act and the assault on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as well as everyone's favorite environmental lamb, Artic drilling.

What is PAC/WEST? Headed by Paul Phillips, an Oregon uber-insider whose resume' includes the state legislature, aide to former goobernor Vic Atiyeh and Nike executive, the lobbying firm has become the repository of astroturf groups like "Save our Species Alliance (SOSA)" and "Project Protect," both of which have been described by Tim Wigley (the Executive Director of PAC/WEST) as "grassroots organizations," but which were more simply PR campaigns to advance the the Healthy Forest and ESA projects. According to Environmental Science and Technology Magazine, Wigley appears to have flat-out lied about his activities with Project Protect:
When asked, Wigley shied away from disclosing who financially backs SOSA and who funded Project Protect, saying Project Protect “was a grassroots organization.” He added, “I am not a lobbyist. I think this line of questioning is misleading.”

Project Protect was registered as a nonprofit in April 2003 by Wigley at Pac/West Communications. According to federal records, Wigley became the group’s lobbyist and coordinated his work with the Bush Administration until the project disbanded in 2004, after the 2004 presidential race. In 2003, the address for Project Protect was a MailBoxes Etc. store in Portland, Ore., but the following year, the address changed to the offices of American Forest Resource Council (AFRC).

AFRC’s president, Tom Partin, said the council’s members weren’t really involved in Project Protect, which he said was just a PR campaign coordinated by Wigley to pass the Healthy Forests legislation. [emphs mine]
As for SOSA, Wigley was named the "campaign director" for that project, which was incorporated by Steve Quarles--yet another prominent timber industry lobbyist, whose industry-paid musings on resource management have tended to end up in bills offered by Republicans seeking to erode environmental regulation. And if you've followed the chain so far, we can close the circle by noting that one of those bills was the one to weaken the ESA...championed by none other than Richard Pombo. Pombo liked Wigley's work so much, he recommended Wigley receive an award for his work on Healthy Forests. When Pombo's re-election came up in 2006, PAC/WEST returned the favor by helping sponsor a campaign event for the California Wilsonville. Lots of Pombo-district voters summering in Wilsonville, hanging out at Costco and riding the go-karts at Bullwinkle's, I guess?

So what's the impact to Oregon from Pombo's hiring, other than giving Oregon bloggers another chance to cluck their tongues at the revolving, incestuous door between Congress and industry lobby groups? The truth is that this group of folks is intimately tied to organizations that routinely lavish money on our state political processes, particularly Republican candidates for office. Project Protect, which seemed to disappear after the 2004 elections, churned out almost $3mil in advertising for its cause, according to IRS reports from 2003 and 2004 {both pdf}--chunks of which made its way into Oregon media outlet accounts prior to the 2004 elections.

Wigley's former position as President of the Oregon Forest Industries Council showcased his ability to raise big money from resource industries, and funnel it to state Republican causes. In 2004 the Council distributed over $300,000 in Oregon for the general election {pdf, scroll to document page 65}. Some of it went to Democrats like Senate President Peter Courtney, but most was directed at people or funds such as Chuck Burley ($35K), Karen Minnis and Jim Wright ($20K each), Al Shannon and Ron Sunseri ($15K each), Alan Brown and Linda Flores ($12K each), and the GOP Leadership Fund ($45K), Majority PAC ($15K) and Speaker's PAC ($5K).

The largesse continued in 2006 {pdf} as another $300,000 flowed into candidate coffers, including such big winners as Jim Torrey ($25K), Minnis ($20K plus another $10K into the Speakers PAC), Wayne Scott and Ted Ferrioli ($15K each), and even guys like Billy Dalto ($10K) and Dom Biggi ($5K).

If Pombo's not going to lobby (itself an uncertain promise, given the historic lack of honesty on that subject from this crowd), what will he do? Use his cache' as a former Congressman to squeeze money from the industry and help funnel it to sympathetic causes and legislators, one imagines. California's gain (by denying him re-election in 2006) looks to be Oregon's loss. Turns out Californians don't actually have to move here to fuck up our state; it appears Pombo can continue his assault on Oregon's environment by telecommuting. Aren't we lucky!

Update, 3:30--
The Contra Costa Times has a more filled-out story than the original link I posted from the Seattle Times, with a lot of the same information from EST magazine but in a more objectively written context...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rural/Urban divide: Its getting pissy out there

The Trib has a worthwhile editorial on the timber payments issue--and the major screwing Oregon counties are in for if Wyden/Smith/Oregon Reps can't get the Congress to pony up the dough.

However the Trib's efforts aren't the hook here. The comments left behind are what drew me in. The first:

All of your rural Oregon Republicans are going to get a nice thank you from the Bush Administration for your votes. Enjoy it, you voted for it, and you deserve it.


Whether or not its legit to blame Bush for the lack of payments is reasonable fodder for discussion. But there is merit (IMO) to blaming Republicans in DC. The fever to "cut taxes and spending" in DC without a thoughtful discussion of the serious financial straights of the states (especially with the unfunded mandates handed out on No Child Left Behind and from Homeland Security) is fundamentally irresponsible and shows a tipping point of incompetence. This has left many Oregon counties with no mechanism to collect revenue for even basic government tasks and virtually no time to fix the problem.

But its the second comment that really digs. It reads in part:

Why should we continue to prop up communities that are living in places where there is either no carrying capacity for them or where they are not engaged in economic activity that is derived from the production of renewable resources, organic crops that can be harvested yearly. These harvested crops they could then use to make products that they can trade among themselves and in the region and thus survive.

A derivative of this statement is, I think, worth exploring. If those in the rural areas of the state are unable or unwilling to put up extra taxes/revenue to supplement their schools, roads and other services--why should those in urban areas continue to supplement them as well? Are we really this divided? Or does the supplement that the urban areas provide lift the tide for all boats, making the state better for everyone?

School Districts Suing Counties for M37 Money? Oy

The debate continues to roil in places like Blue Oregon: what's the real impact of Measure 37, and what are the implications for the future? Kari was clever enough to figure out a way to represent part of Clackamas County's Measure 37 claims map in a pictorial format; it gives you a feel for how slapdash and widespread the effect of claims development will be. As someone who lives very near the area pictured, and who takes great pleasure in the unbroken rural character of the land, this is a pretty depressing picture--but it's one that's being repeated across the state.

Courtesy of Peter over at Land Use Watch, the next image is the view of Hood River County, featuring not only some of the most beautifulvistas in the state, but a prime agricultural region where the soil yields bushels and flavor profiles unequaled in the world. I'd have to rewind the Land-Use Fairness Committee hearing from the 13th to give you the fella's name, but he stood as a Hood County farmer and said, "Some say pears are a dead industry in Oregon...but I didn't get that particular memo. I had my best Anjou pear year ever, which came after last year's record year. I got the best price ever for my Jonagold apples, too."

But will those summers (and falls) of great content continue? Hood's map makes the pattern of Clackamas claims look like bird droppings on a page. Large chunks of the southeast of Hood River stand to be completely turned over, and the entire valley's character is under direct challenge from Measure 37 claims. I don't say that without consideration; I'm not laying a value judgement on what the result might be, as much as pointing out that the way things are now are not due to remain. With that kind of development, they simply can't.

My wizardry (cough) with getting loadable images out of pdf's thus spent, I direct you to pictorial versions of the claims in Yamhill County, Washington County {pdf}, both the West side {pdf} and East side {pdf} of Multnomah County, and also Jackson County {pdf}. If you find more maps let me know and I'll link 'em up. And no Measure 37 junkie should hold forth at the next cocktail party, without at least having been to Portland State's excellent M37 database, containing almost every single claim statewide. Do a run on claims for subdivisions, four or more lots, and you'll see just how much those types of claims will play a role, despite the assurances of supporters that much of it won't even get built.

The maps represent broad, summary views of the situation; what I've been watching and reading about the last couple weeks are more often the anecdotal, personal stories from both sides at public hearings and forums, and in the news media. The balance of testimony has seemed fairly equal, but that in itself is a distortive view, given that almost every person I've heard speak out against SB505, the "time-out" bill, has been a M37 claimant. It's their right of course, and some of their stories do make you wonder how all this could have been avoided with some flexibility for owner-utilized development back in the day.

But those with skin in the game are a very small percentage of Oregonians, and almost by nature its wealthiest, given that they own fairly sizeable hunks of land. Even if they're income poor, as many of these retired landowners are, they are sitting on land worth good money. The rest of us, who do not see a direct financial benefit to M37 claims in the abstract, seem to be sitting on the sidelines. Thus the claimants are suggesting the illusion of balance by lobbying Salem in force.

So as long as we're talking anecdotes here, this item from Rogue Pundit is a jaw-droppingly craven example of what the gold rush of M37 has spawned--a rush not drawn from the overwhelming desire of retired Oregonians to 'bring families closer together', but simply to cash out. In the category of cashing out, give this one the prize. The school district in Grants Pass filed a claim against Josephine County, for land originally deeded to it by the county for use in a school forestry program...I'll let Rogue continue:
The forestry program ended long ago, but the school district still owns the land...which isn't far south of town in an area increasingly attractive to those seeking rural homesites. That land would be worth a lot more if it weren't now zoned "woodlot resource," which restricts most development. So, the Grants Pass School District filed Measure 37 claims with both Josephine County and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development. The following excerpts of an article in Thursday's Daily Courier (dead tree only) give a summary of how that's gone.
Denying a Measure 37 claim may have been an expensive decision for Josephine County commissioners.

Last week, the Grants Pass School District filed a $6.7 million lawsuit in Josephine County Circuit Court against the commissioners, the state and the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

The lawsuit asks the court to reverse the Board of Commissioners December decision to deny the district's Measure 37 claims on three properties on Stringer Gap Road and Elk Lane. The district is seeking $6.7 million in compensation for the loss in property value.

According to the lawsuit, the reasoning that a public entity cannot hold private property is not based on law. The district contends it is the nature of the property's use--not the nature of the entity--that should determine whether the property is "private real property." Grants Pass is currently using the property for investment purposes, not public use.

The district is seeking compensation from the state and county because both entities have enforced their land-use regulations on the properties.
Who are they kidding? As Rogue points out, the text of M37 is actually clear on this point; we're talking only about privately held land. Which is eminently sensible, otherwise you might have one cash-strapped entity decide to sue another entity--no matter if that entity is even more cash strapped than yours--as a way to avoid the hard questions of taxes vs closures for another year. You might even sue the very entity that gave you the fucking land in the first place, if you didn't get what you wanted and were calculating enough to go that far. So yeah, that's probably a good idea, to prevent public entities from being able to make claims.

Is this really the behavior we want to encourage? Let's take a time-out and review what should and shouldn't be changed on this nightmare of a law.

Update 1pm--
Courtesy of Peter at Land Watch Use, a couple more maps:

Washington County:

Lane County:

Monday, February 19, 2007

With a rebel yell...they cried "Moore! Moore! Moore!"

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Hence, your Oregon House GOP have decided to trot out their standard bearer pollster Bob Moore to tell us that 70% of Oregonians think state government has enough money.

I'm not the math and statistics guru on this blog--that's TJ's job. But even a mathematically challenged individual like myself can see that this sucker was extrapolated from the shallow end of the pollster pool.

First of all, the announcement lists only two of the questions, #4 and #9. We have no idea what road the questioners took the answerees down before they made it there because they don't give us the survey in its entirety. For all we know, questions #1-#3 were compiled to specifically piss off the respondents before they made it to #4.

Question #4 queries,

“Which one of the following statements most closely reflects your opinion?
State government has the money it needs; it just needs to spend it more wisely, OR
State government needs to raise taxes to fund additional programs?”

Nicely loaded for full impact--"spend more wisely" or "fund additional programs"? C'mon. Of course they're going to say "spend wisely". If the pollster is aiming to get at what's on the minds of Oregonians, ask them if they'd be willing to raise taxes to fund specifics like the rainy day fund or to restore programs that have been cut from schools. This question is deliberately worded to skew the results.

Question #9 is even more heinous:

“Which of the following do you believe is the most serious problem in state government

Wasteful spending: 31%
Influence of lobbying and special interests: 24%
Elected officials who don't listen to voters: 19%
Partisanship: 11%
Inadequate funding for programs: 9%
None/other: 1%
I don't know: 5%

Given how much press the ethics issues surrounding the Oregon Legislature has managed to garner, I find it extremely tough to swallow that this wasn't the top issue. But even if that's completely legit..this is still worded in a ridiculous way. Nobody wants wasteful spending. This poll sets it up as a given that there's a mass of wasteful spending that needs to be fixed.

So I'll bite...where is this wasteful spending? How much exactly is being wasted?

I think it would be great if the Oregon House Republicans would take a real poll, honestly conducted with solid questions, to find out what Oregonians really believe on the issues. But this is bullshit. They should be ashamed to tout this thing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Spanning the State--real sunshine in Oregon! edition

Its a gorgeous, sunny Sunday here at Casa Carla. I spent a good chunk of yesterday out in my garden cleaning up the flowerbeds and filling my compost bin and yard waste container to the brim. I love these sunny winter days that February generally brings Oregonians. Its a needed respite from the cold and rain...and it gives us gardeners a chance to shake off our cabin fever.

So get off your ass and go get some rays. But first, let's Span the State!


Should I put a movie on my "must-see" list if a PSU college student reviewer calls it surprisingly unshitty?

The tiny rural burg of Camp Sherman is finding itself the next battlefront on the war on Oregon's land use system.

Douglas County is preparing its budget taking into account a complete lack of timber funds from the federal government. Officials will be holding a series of town hall meetings to determine from the public what budget priorities should be.

The McMinnville News Register lays some smack down against Democrats in the legislature and the Guv for not coming up with an immediate plan for the alternative incarceration programs. The editorial staff has warmed up to the plan offered by Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) whose plan was developed with Steve Doell of Crime Victims United.

The 18 year old mayor of Union is basking in the glow of public attention.

An example of why "private property rights" can have a negative impact on the overall community.

The Bend Source has a profile of city mayor Bruce Abernathy. The Source characterizes Abernathy almost like a progressive in search of ways to be conservative. Interesting stuff.