Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Anonymous Hat Tips and Basic Math Errors--That's Our O

There's been a lot of discussion around the 'sphere over the last day or so regarding SB505, the temporary M37 suspension act going through the joint Land Use Committee. As Carla reported yesterday, Ted over at NW Republican is triumphal with his "I told you so," regardless of whether he's actually correct or not. And in The O, they talk at length about the other Ted's plan, actually doing a fairly good job describing the current state of affairs.

The Governor's office has been talking for some time about the urgency needed to hold up claims while fixes were addressed, and his letter to the Legislature {pdf} makes it plain. Given all the foreshadowing from the counties, prominent legislators and the Governor, the whining from the Republicans about being surprised by this bill is either a political sham or a sign of rank ignorance. Everyone knew something like this was coming--it's the only logical way to address the problems of M37 fairly.

And as we move forward, do NOT let backers continue to use "61%" as their rallying cry. Before last November's midterms, the independent polling firm GQR found a re-test of M37 failing by a 2-1 margin {pdf}, echoed by Senator Metsger's own unofficial polling from his formerly pro-37 district.

That said, I come not to spar with hapless GOP legislators, but to gripe about our paper of record...again. Look at this:
More recently, liberal bloggers have been writing that Republican committee members have a personal stake in Measure 37. Sen. Roger Beyer of Molalla, Sen. Larry George of Sherwood and Rep. Patti Smith of Corbett all have relatives or family businesses with claims. But Republicans and Democrats alike say it's not an issue as long as legislators declare conflicts of interest before voting.
"Liberal bloggers?" Who might that be? Loaded Orygun has done the original research, been a clearinghouse for tips on conflicted legislators, and gotten Thom Hartmann to talk about it. So that's one liberal blogger. And then there's been....who else? Have we just missed it?

This isn't about us, really. In a week where Kos himself wrote a front-page post for his megablog and linked to LO right up top, I feel famous and validated enough already. But that's not the issue. The paper's editors probably think they're being magnanimous by acknowledging that the netroots beat them to yet another story, but they can't bring themselves to mention who it was that beat them, perhaps because that might force them to treat us like any other reputable source that had first brought an issue to the fore. Would it have been so very hard to say "Liberal bloggers Loaded Orygun have been writing..."?

No, we're not seasoned, experienced journalists. We can track down a story and interview the right people, sure--but we're not trying to compete with the traditional media so much as to prod them to do the job we cannot. And when we find useful news they might have missed, there's no need to pout or stand on ceremony; it's OK to say the name: Loaded Orygun!

So that's just a blogger's pet peeve of ours--but the next item is something that should give the O's editors real consternation: their staff can't calculate a percentage. What's worse, they've done it twice in less than a week. See if you can spot the error in Betsy Hammond's piece on Ben Westlund's tax reform bill:
A bipartisan plan to remake Oregon's tax system -- add a 5 cent sales tax, cut income taxes by one-third, add tax credits for the poor, slash the tax on capital gains -- was formally put before the Legislature on Wednesday.

If enacted, it would represent the biggest change in state tax policy since 1929, when Oregon began a state income tax.

But the odds are steep: The plan would have to be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate, and it would have to overcome the deep aversion of Oregon voters and politicians to a sales tax.
Did you miss it? I'll give you a hint: revenue-increasing measures must pass the House (for example) with 36 votes out of 60, representing 60% of the body--or three-fifths. Now read that last paragraph again. Two-thirds? What's a little sad is that at the end of the piece, Hammond actually corrects herself and verifies it with a quote:
Still, Oregon's requirement that three-fifths of legislators agree to any tax changes makes it daunting to accomplish big change.

"Three-fifths is hard for anything," Warner says. [emphs me of course]
I was going to mention the error last Thursday when I spotted it, but everyone makes mistakes, and it seemed a little petty. It doesn't seem so petty anymore after today's story on another GOP whine, about the perceived unfairness of using cigarette tax money for child health care. It doesn't appear in the online version, but the print edition has a sidebar box to the article that prominently notes, "If the bill reaches the House must receive support from two-thirds of the chamber to pass. Even if all 31 House Democrats voted for it, the bill would need support from at least five Republicans."

Repeat after me: two-thirds of 60 is 40. Thirty-six out of 60 is three-fifths, not two-thirds. Here's a tip: I know money's tight, but deleting the calculator function from all your PCs doesn't actually save you any.

Sigh. Is this really what we have to settle for?