Saturday, March 31, 2007

Loitering and Pestering in Salem: A Day at the Capitol, Part One

I had planned to take a day and spend it in Salem (and Woodburn returning faulty shoes, to be completist about it) for a number of days, and had the whole idea pretty much cemented by last Tuesday night for the next morning...everything, that is, except a final draft of my pending testimony on fusion voting before a House committee.

I had a strong draft worked out late the previous evening, but some edits definitely remained and I needed to get them done by about 745 to arrive in time to get a good seat and good slot to testify in. And then I recalled that if you provide written testimony, they typically want 15-20 copies. There was no time for Kinko's, but the home copier was painfully slow. I slogged through the 40 pages total, and careened out of the house by 8. Traffic was actually pretty light, and the option for getting to the Capitol provided by the Legislature put me right past the metered parking visitors use, just as 8:30 rolled around.

Give yourself time to park and walk. On a typical day, you've got a good couple blocks to hoof it unless you are lucky by circumstance as you pass a space opening up. And bring three bucks in change if you're going to stay three hours. If you know you'll be there longer and you have time to get it at the start, Room 49 in the basement will sell you an all-day pass to put in the window for $6. It cost me another 10 minutes to get inside, wander all the way around the foyer rotunda and find Hearing Room E.

I slipped inside, put my name at the end of a list of maybe 8 or 9 people, which I figured would give me plenty of time, since HB 3040 was 2nd on the agenda. Then I had to hit the head, which was in retrospect sort of a mistake not to claim a space with my jacket--because when I got back, a short man with an earpiece asked me if I had a seat. I said no, and was pointed to a set of folding chairs around a TV in front of the johns...the overflow "room." I underestimated the support for this rather esoteric bill; several Teamsters in logo jackets were inside, as well as people from the Libertarians to the Greens and good government types like Building Votes in between.

It was also a big deal to the national fusion movement apparently, because three people came from out of state and another called in from Connecticut. The co-author of one of the primary sources I cited in my testimony was there, as were statewide officials elected by fusion. There were only two rather flaccid statements to the contrary; both the county clerk's association and Elections head and general curmudgeon John Lindback headed to the Capitol to moan about the terrible complexity, cost and time pressure involved in making changes. They might have gone better had they not followed people with empirical experience in fusion, who said that it was easy to implement and understand, and had minimal cost.

Then again, maybe nothing could have saved Lindback, who has a fairly sour reputation under the dome with legislators and their staff. He's known as a bit of a wet blanket in committee meetings, not so much giving a straight evaluation of what is an isn't feasible, but rather simply making everything seem like more hassle than it's worth to him. As I listened he raised points that did seem like concerns on how to proceed, but they weren't intractable problems or things that couldn't be addressed without prohibitive cost.

Rep. Kim Thatcher seemingly was trying to poke holes in the idea as others spoke, but she didn't egg Lindback on, and everybody sat back bemusedly while Rep. Vicki Berger gave him a piece of her mind. To my recollection, after he had complained that technology and programming stood in the way of implementation, Berger said "I really resent that you are telling us not to pursue policy because of technology. That idea really rankles me." It was pretty great, and while Lindback did make himself neutral on the testimony list, it was clear his official position was thanks, but no thanks.

Richard Burke, head of the Libertarians in Oregon and the subject of a positively uh, unique series of posts and comments, took a seat on the panel and was by far the most animated, common-sense oriented, entertaining witness I've seen this session, with the possible exception of John Kitzhaber talking health care. Burke, as we noted in the fusion thread, refused to believe the idea that Oregonians would get all confused by fusion voting. He explained why fusion would obviate the biennial rite of spoiler development by major parties, and made his case with the flair of a motivational speaker.

Unfortunately, Lindback to the bad and Burke to the good had swallowed up quite a bit of time, and as Burke closed his remarks the Members got their call for the opening of the House session. I got bumped like Pat Paulsen from Carson, so that was a lesson--getting there early not only gets you seated, it gets you heard. I gave my copies to the committee staffer seated at a PC desk joined to the Members' horseshow, and went off to find a friend in one of the offices for coffee, and to see if I could exploit whatever meager influence capital I had to make sure my little rant got read, for what it was worth. I did like that no one else delved into the historic tradition of fusion and progressive reform that Oregon has; hopefully it added something to the discussion.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Rove+Gordon Smith=Hatch Act violations?? Is Walden involved too?

A diarist at Kos named JLFinch has done some superb dot-connecting on the issue from a few years back of the Klamath River basin water/salmon fight.
The piece asserts that Karl Rove inserted himself into the decision making process of the Interior Department when it came down to deciding what to do with either irrigating fields or saving salmon runs. Rove allegedly worked to ensure that Gordon Smith would have the appropriate photo ops and news clips to buffet his reelection campaign, complete with Interior Secretary Gail Norton in tow.

Interestingly, the Interior Department cleared itself last week--making sure the announcement made it into the weekend news dump--where it was sure to be lost among the mass of other stuff.

The Interior Department appears to be susceptible to this sort of political maneuvering, as one of its deputy assistant secretaries is on the hot seat for possible violations of federal rules for sending internal agency documents to industry lobbyists--as well as attempting to overrule agency scientists and lawyers on science based policy issues.

And then there's the mess at Justice with the firing of the US attornies because they weren't towing the White House's political line.

If they were willing to do this kind of thing for Smith--now I'm curious if they've been doing similar things to help Walden. Granted, Walden isn't nearly as vulnerable. But is there an issue where the White House/Executive intervened in a way on an Oregon-based issue that clearly benefitted Walden?

Update: The DOI cleared itself in 04, not last week. I confused the date with a different article from the LA Times dated last month (lousy reading on my part--sorry), discussing the problems with with what happens to other species when salmon disappear.

Not my shining moment of blogging here, sorry.

Give us your hungry, your poor, your huddled masses...

....yearning for Cheap Eats!.

With all due deference to the WW news folks..this is the BEST part of Willy Week for me.

I love the twice annual Cheap Eats guide. Not that I follow it religiously. But its a map of great places to dine when you're low on cash (or like me, you need to feed two hungry teenagers too). Virtually every time I've tried a new place based on the reviews from this guide, I've found several other cool places nearby to visit. Sometimes its another restaurant. Sometimes its a cool shop or boutique I wouldn't have stumbled upon otherwise.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gordo AWOL as Timber Payments Passes

As many may know by now, the deal crafted by Ron Wyden and other Western Senators for extending county timber payments has passed into the Iraq Supplemental Bill, which itself passed today and was sent for likely veto by the President. Wyden appears cautiously optimistic that the deal will survive into another bill if the supplemental is vetoed, perhaps even a standalone now that the current version has 75 Senators supporting it.

But a curious thing happened as members debated and then voted on the amendment. Keep in mind, we're talking about over a billion dollars on the line for Oregon and some of its poorest counties. And the discussion was ongoing in the context of the most monumental Congressional funding bill in quite a long time. The Senate doesn't rebuke the President on an active war every day, you know.

So it was a pretty eventful afternoon, with issues of grave importance to Oregonians being decided. Where was Gordon Smith, avowed moderate and helpful public servant? Where was the guy who staged a lamely planned filibuster on the issue earlier this year? Where was the guy who couldn't find a mike or a notepad fast enough when the subject came up AFTER the 2006 elections (as opposed to before)?

If you can produce tape of Smith on the floor during the time over two days when the county payments amendment was being debated--all the way up until the time that he responded to quorum and voted Yea--please let us know. We never saw him, and our inquiries to sources on the Hill found no evidence that he was there...which is might curious, given the unpredictable timing with which the amendment came up. For him not to be there for ANY of the discussion, much less to speak on behalf of the program for Oregonians, would have required a level of luck and circumstance I'm not necessarily willing to grant him. Frankly, I think he bailed on it, and us.

Why? Because I think poor Gordo is not probably sleeping well these days, trying to reconcile what's left of his spine and brain with the express train into hellish political defeat that George Bush is conducting. He may also be pissed that the Democrats put together a plan for the payments and he wasn't part of it--although we hear that he was actually offered a space in the negotiations, and simply never responded. (Which raises a whole host of other questions--why the hell would he suddenly not want to be involved, in order to burnish his theoretical moderate cred?)

I haven't looked extensively, but I've read three stories on the amendment's passage and Smith doesn't provide a quote for any of them. WTF? He couldn't have been afraid of his caucus; they voted for it by and large as well. So what? Anyone? Bueller?

Update, 3/30 9AM--
OK, now I have looked more extensively--and still no sign of Gordon, in stories here, here, here, here, and also here. And if you're looking for more information about how the deal shakes out, Wyden's got a good primer on the deal at Stand Tall for America. And finally, I said Oregon has over a billion dollars on the line, but that's not quite accurate--what I should have said is that they have nearly TWO billion on the line, at $1.8bil over the five years. Think about that again--two billion dollars, and our junior Senator goes all Patrick Swayze in Ghost on us? Or wait...you could actually SEE Swayze in that movie. Nevermind.

1351 words

This piece by blowhardian radio host Jeff Kropf (who rules the 6-9AM weekend slot on KXL since he bailed out on his House reelection bid) uses 1351 words to explain why alla us anti-Iraq War/Occupation folks are all wet.

Honestly, I can see why he's on radio instead of print media. Why use 1351 words when you can just use 7?

"You're all a bunch of traitorous bastards"

If one distills down his piece to its putrid essence, that's really all it is.

Same shit, new day. Your GOP at work.

What Scott said

Ding!

State Senator Doug Whitsett(R-Klamath Falls) has just sent out a “capitol update” trumpeting House Republicans’ support for Senate Bill 798 and House Bill 3535, which would set aside 1 percent of the state’s general fund to increase the number of state troopers on Oregon highways.
The State Police Patrol Division has been reduced by over half of its patrol officers during the last 25 years, while Oregon’s population has increased by 38%. This bill provides a budget of nearly $140 million for the Oregon State Police Patrol Division, an amount almost double what they received in their last budget. This provides the long overdue stable revenue source necessary to restore the patrol division to a force adequate to serve Oregon’s needs.

Anybody who’s seen Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9-11 knows that Oregon’s state patrol department is laughably underfunded—to the point where it’s a wonder it even exists at all. But what Whitsett fails to mention here is that it was Republican leadership who slashed the state patrol division’s budget last session, cutting 20 patrol positions. The chair of that budget committee was then-majority (and now—ha ha!—minority leader) leader Wayne Scott.

Whitsett was around in 2005—you’d think that if funding for state troopers was such a top priority for him this year, he might remember who it was that royally screwed them two years ago.


The backstory scuttle here as I know it is that the cuts were made because Scott had a personal gripe with the head of the Oregon State Patrol. Scott's retribution for this gripe was to slash the OSP.

Now we're all supposed to believe that the blessed GOP has had a fundamental change of heart and should get credit for deciding to be on board for funding now.

Oddly--they're on board for this--but don't seem terribly concerned about where the revenue is going to come from. In fact, the ORGOP has been bellyaching about tax increases since before the session started.

So in essence, they're happy dancing about more money for the state patrol--but kinda vague when it comes to actually collecting taxes to do it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

TJ Testifies for Fusion Voting

[I got bumped from being able to give my testimony orally; too many people and not enough time. I did submit the following to the committee as written testimony, however...]

Testimony Before the Oregon House Ethics, Elections and Rules Committee
2007 Session
Pertaining to HB 3040, On Fusion Elections

Chair Rosenbaum, Members of the Committee:

I travel to Salem to testify today in support of House Bill 3040, which would reconstitute the principle and practice of fusion- or cross-endorsement voting in Oregon. I repeat that it would reconstitute the process; as in so many other areas of political life, ours was once one of the prime states in which fusion voting, among other practices of the burgeoning new progressive and populist movements, led to increased participation from a broader spectrum of the populace and the electorate, including vibrant minor parties who regularly influenced elections either on their own merits, or as cross-endorsers of candidates from another party.

Before most states had fully converted their electoral process to the centrally controlled “Australian secret ballot” that we know today, fusion voting was common across the country. Ballots were physically produced by parties, not government, and multiple endorsements or viable minor candidates were common, especially down-ticket.

The Pacific Northwest was a particular crucible for electoral reform; Idaho, Washington and Oregon all had very active minor parties in the last 15 years or so of the 19th Century. According to the Center for the Study of Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington, the Populist Party and movement rose from rural farming concerns in the face of a new manufacturing economy. Populist candidates garnered as much as 30% or more of the vote in major elections during the period; Populist candidate General James Weaver garnered 16% for President on the ticket in Oregon in 1892, and Populist legislators occupied seats in Salem. Among its champions was Abigail Scott Duniway, the famous Oregon suffragist, who worked for populist candidates and causes while seeking the broadening of the political process to include women.

Perhaps the most notable local Populist was Washington governor John Rogers, elected in 1896 despite not earning a plurality of votes on the Populist line—the Democrats as the minor party of the day in Washington had cross-endorsed Rogers, offering their party’s voters to him. The Populists also took over the state legislature in the same fashion. Vibrant minor parties such as the Prohibition, Democratic People’s, Populist and Social Democrats offered one of several choices to voters looking for a new way. It was a period of electoral experimentation and reform, its legacy seen in now-common features such as the citizen’s initiative, the citizen’s recall, direct primaries and of course suffragism for women, in 1912.

Whether to cure corruption, as the major parties charged, or to re-secure power and control over elections as the farmers and their urban working class allies claimed, by the end of the first World War almost no state remained to allow cross-endorsement voting.

Today in Oregon we see much the same political landscape as Duniway did then—a terrain often hostile to newcomers, minorities and women, those without means, farmers and other rural voters, with few outlets to serve their specific interests other than the major parties. A swing has occurred where non-affiliated voting in major parties reached as high as 38% in the 2004 elections, according to the American National Election Survey. In Oregon, currently more than 22% find themselves so ill-served by the existing parties that they have no affiliation at all. In many cases they may want to participate on a broader level, but prefer candidates to parties and in some cases would rather not vote than endorse a candidate with whom they weren’t 100% comfortable.

Enter cross-endorsement or fusion voting. By allowing multiple parties to endorse a single candidate (as long as the candidate agrees to the endorsement), voters who may not otherwise have participated will find that their vote now has measurable value. A candidate who in the past won his or her election on the backs of Libertarians or Greens who voted for the major candidate not wanting to “spoil” their vote, would never quite know the extent that these otherwise disaffected voters had in her victory.

But if the Greens cross-endorse the Democrat (or the Constitution Party fuses with the Republican candidate), and earn them five percent of the vote in a race decided by fewer than five points…suddenly there is a quantifiable accountability the candidate-elect must now recognize, and hopefully heed. As parties developed, another entirely plausible scenario would be multiple minor parties fusing to elect a single candidate that would outpoll both major candidates.

In the second situation the benefit of fusion is more obvious, but in either case a vote for the minor ticket is neither wasted nor unnoticed. And even when candidate election is not at stake, the concerns of minor parties register more loudly in the issues that are prioritized and debated. New York’s Working Families Party claims to have been pivotal in bringing an increase in the minimum wage to passage in the state legislature, based on its influence at the ballot box.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, evidence from study of fusion voting indicates that it increases turnout to a certain extent, and to the extent that it doesn’t, politicians nonetheless tend to behave as if it does. To the degree that minor parties choose to cross-endorse other candidates, it also reduces the likelihood of distorted plurality victories, where a more extreme candidate might benefit from vote splitting among two competing moderate candidates. Voters gain more information about candidates based on the narrower ideological frame a minor party typically holds. Even single-issue parties like Right to Life or an environmental party can gain access to power by wielding their influence as a recognizable group.

Contrary to some assertions in the electoral marketplace, fusion voting does not enable extremist elements to take over government, unless they alone receive a plurality of the vote—at which point they cease to be extremist by definition, themselves becoming the mainstream by their number. Fusion does not undermine the third party; in fact the history of our country shows a strong correlation between fusion voting and the presence and vitality of minor parties.

And perhaps most pertinently to the entire body of legislators before me who hail from major parties, fusion does not undermine the two-party system. That system is an inevitable result of single-member representation for a district, where the winner must only receive a plurality. The most effective way to achieve a plurality in that situation is to seek a large bloc of votes at once, something only available to the major parties. While it is true that fusion voting may dilute the power of the two-party system in determining the outcome of our elections, I think that in fact is its strongest selling point. Fusion makes voting more tangibly worthwhile, which increases participation, which makes voting more worthwhile—a delightfully vicious circle.

Thank you for your time, and I urge a yes vote on HB3040. Let’s restore Oregon’s place as a model of full electoral participation.

Thank you,
(TJ)

Cutting off your nose with a double edged sword

We've had issues here with local newspapers not getting correct stories that we broke here at LO. Its frustrating and irritating.

We've also had folks come to our defense for not getting proper credit for stories we broke.

Its nice to get a pat on the back when someone picks up a story we've dug up--no doubt about it. But if the story has incorrect elements, then what?

When our Dom Biggi story was completely flubbed by the O, we griped. But I think we were careful not to bite the hand that can potentially pick up more of our stories and get them out there.

This seems like its close to hand-biting to me.

Its possible that J-Bog contacted Nick Budnick and gave him the corrections and Nick still didn't get it right. In which case I'd say Jack is perfectly justified in venting all kinds of public frustration at Nick. But it looks (from the outside peeking in, obviously) that Nick got it wrong rather than talk to Nick about it one-on-one, he popped off on his blog and in the Trib's comments.

Not that I'm under any delusion that the Trib won't keep fishing at Jack's place as part of their effort to get to local stories. They're practically joined to his hip. But I'm wondering if the reporters won't be so eager to tackle Jack's pieces if he won't at least give them a good faith chance to make corrections before his goes ballistic on them.

And then again I could be completely talking out of my ass because I don't know all the nuances of this story. Heh.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How many licks does it take to get to the Bill Sizemore center of the GOP Senate primary?

Gordon Smith trying to pad his "moderate" cred:

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., was one of two Republican senators voting against an amendment that would have removed a provision from an emergency appropriations bill that sets a timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq

Smith was joined by Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who has spoken out against the war.

"The Iraqis must govern their country and American forces must be positioned to fight Jihadists," Smith said in a written statement.

The amendment was rejected, with 48 senators voting in favor and 50 voting against it.

-- Jeff Kosseff


The guy that runs Rino Watch is gonna have a coronary when he finds out.

Run Bill run!

Loving Cheney means never having to say "support our troops"

Last week, this AP story on problems in VA clinics around the country crossed my desk.

The piece offers up this tidbit of information:

Some of the more striking problems were found at a VA clinic in White City, Ore. There, officials reported roof leaks throughout the facility, requiring them to "continuously repair the leaks upon occurrence, clean up any mold presence if any exists, spray or remove ceiling tiles."

In addition, large colonies of bats resided outside the facility and sometimes flew into the attics and interior parts of the building.

"Eradication has been discussed but the uniqueness of the situation (the number of colonies) makes it challenging to accomplish," according to the report, which said the bats were being tested for diseases. "Also, the bats keep the insect pollution to a minimum which is beneficial."

Lawdy.

I did see where KOIN managed to find out that the batshit shows no signs of disease. This appears to be their main coverage of this story, as far as I can tell. Jeez.

So we're not getting rid of the bats at the White City facility because the bats are managing the insect population inside the building? This is the best that the Bush/Cheney Administration can do for our veterans, apparently.

Truly disgusting. Hard to believe that its the supporters of this crowd who were calling the rest of us traitors.

This is a region of the state that came out strongly for BC04. White City is not far from Medford, about 9 miles.

Cheney visited Medford in 2004 on a campaign swing. The AP reported about 3000 attendees to that rally.

Jackson County voted overwhelmingly for Bush/Cheney in 2004 as well.

One wonders how many of those folks wish they would have voted for Kerry/Edwards instead, given the ineptitude and disregard for their fellow countrymen who risked their lives in service to their nation.

C-Span Update--Timber Payments Amendment

Hey folks--Ron Wyden's people have alerted us that the amendment to the Iraq Supplemental appropriation, to cover rural county timber payments on a decreasing scale until 2012, is scheduled to be up for debate now on the Senate floor. Catch the action live on C-SPAN-2, as soon as they get back in session.

Here's the release from Wyden's office about the deal:
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, joined by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and others, will offer a multi-year proposal to restore funding for county payments as an amendment to the 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill tomorrow [Tuesday].


The Wyden-Reid-Baucus-Bingaman amendment, which was announced last week, includes about $5 billion for rural schools, counties and communities through 2012. More details on the amendment, including details on the funding mechanism, will be available tomorrow. The Senators also hope to announce bipartisan cosponsors at that time.


11:25--Wyden is speaking on the amendment now, filling time until protocol allows him to introduce the bill formally...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Torrid on Hartmann Tuesday Morning, KPOJ @ 730

I'm doing another pop-in on Thom Hartmann's Portland show Tuesday morning right around 7:30 AM, and we'll be talking about the robocalls sent in David Edwards' district, {.wav}* along with the oh-so-coincidental complaints {pdf} sent to the Secretary of State and Clerk of the House on the same subject. We'll sort out the bullshit from the truth, unless there's no truth at all in which case we'll just excoriate the bullshit.

Tune in at AM 620, or if you're out of range you can live stream it.


*hat tip to Nothstine for file storage!

Speaking of Walking the Walk

There's something that's at the end of every newsletter I get from Avel Gordly:
NOTE regarding reproduction and distribution of Senator Gordly’s newsletters:

Senator Gordly’s newsletters are public property. There are no restrictions on copying or distributing these newsletters. Each newsletter is also posted to Senator Gordly’s legislative website at www.leg.state.or.us/gordly and all information on that website is also public property. There are no restrictions on downloading, copying or distributing this information. [emph orig]

Gordly went to the extent of seceding from the Democratic caucus because their meetings are still closed, and pledged full sunshine on all of her legislative activities. So it's commendable to see her making good on committments of her own, as more than just so many promises. More than that, though, this is a great example of voluntary renunciation of ownership and copyright, a common-cause declaration reminiscient of the copyleft movement (and to a lesser, some would say more reasonable extent, Creative Commons.)

Kudos! Who else in the legislature wants to match it? Rep. Macpherson, you have a pretty spiffy and regular newsletter; are your emails fully reproducible? Say so! How about you guys at the Speaker's Office? Peter Courtney, please pick up the President's special Blogger hotline...*



*not happening, but it has such a great Commissioner Gordon vibe to it.

Purgatory. LPO style.

Little did I know that when I stepped into the brouhaha between factions of the Libertarian Party of Oregon, that I would find myself in a kind of purgatory. Emails, phone calls and meetings from various folks associated with the LPO mess have permeated my existence lately. And its been like trying to wade through a yellow jackets' nest.

The most contentious of the issues contributing to the purgatory is a Gmail chat that I originally characterized as "alleged", but it has in fact been confirmed by Richard Burke himself. The chat did take place and the copy I previously posted is correct, if incomplete.

The chat shows LPO Executive Director Richard Burke attempting to gain information from the national Libertarian Party through this chat. Burke says that he in fact was doing just that. He also stated that he was entitled to the information and provided pages of an LP manual to back up his assertion. Unfortunately, the national LP isn't eager to call me back to confirm that these are legitimate, so I can't verify. It looks however like Burke is entitled to the information. However, he didn't go through the appropriate channels to obtain it, as stated in the manual. Burke says he was trying to refute charges against him and couldn't wait for the manual's stated time period. So he attempted an end-run around the national LP structure to get it from a worker.

The chat also contains some sexual content, which Burke has claimed is cybersex "satire". To buffet this claim, Burke provided me with a third page of the Gmail chat, which he believes demonstrates that the sex chat wasn't at all serious (Warning: the chat contains some non-explicit sexual content that some might find offensive). In context, I don't necessarily agree that its completely satirical--but readers can make that determination for themselves by reading it.

As I understand it, there is a fourth page to the chat--but neither my original source nor Burke offered it to me. Burke says it isn't relevant to the charges against him.

No doubt this will be a catalyst for another round of "Anonymous" commentors, supporting Burke. Its curious how those who comment here that don't support Burke leave a name..while those who support him continue to be "Anonymous"..but I digress.

Burke also made it very clear to me that he doesn't do chat at while at work. Oddly, the date/time stamp of the Gmail chat says Thursday, December 14 at 2:38PM. While its plausible that Burke wasn't at work in the middle of the week during the middle of the day, it doesn't seem likely.

A second charge leveled against Burke has to do with the appointment of Stephen Pearson to the Tualatin Valley Water District, which you can read background for here. Burke is a TVWD commissioner. Burke says no conflict of interest occured on his part because the LPO oversight board in which Pearson conducted a job performance review of Burke no longer
existed when Pearson was being considered for the position.

That may be, but the commissioners who appointed Pearson didn't know that he'd conducted oversight of Burke in his job. Burke also claimed that the water commissioners knew well in advance that Pearson was the Chair of the Washington County Libertarian Party. But TVWD Commissioner Jim Duggan said he knew of neither when Pearson applied and was subsequently appointed. Duggan said that he knew Burke and Pearson were "well acquainted", but that was all. Duggan said that it wouldn't have changed his vote, but that he would not be in favor of Pearson holding a job performance review position over Burke at the same time they served together on the water board.

Another issue for Burke appears to be a trip he took to the Ukraine last year. Burke told me that the trip was approximately from August 31-September 13, 2006. He characterized the trip to me as a "vacation". But Burke mentioned the trip to at least one other person as a "privately funded tour of water facilities in Ukraine." While certainly not illegal (and some could argue not necessarily unethical) it does seem to add fuel to the fire that Burke is dishonest.

Further, I could find no evidence of a water conference taking place in the Ukraine in July, August or September. There was an international water conference in Kiev, Ukraine that took place in October. Now its entirely possible that Kiev is a big host for water conferences--and that every few months they host one. But again, doesn't seem likely.

There is also the matter of a forgery charge sent to the SOS Elections Division by LPO member Wes Wagner. Burke says that he indeed affixed the party treasurer's signature on to official documents sent to the SOS office, but he did so because the documents would have been late otherwise.

The SOS replied to Wagner earlier this month, saying that forgery is outside of the purview of the Elections Division. For the SOS, the matter is considered closed.

However, I asked Becky Miller (former Sizemore C&E guru--who really understands how this works) about this activity. Becky said, "In the era of fax machines, this notion is ridiculous on its face. You could fax the signature page to the treasurer and get it signed, then fax it back and it would be accepted by the SOS. I would have to wonder if they're telling the truth that the treasurer "forgot" to sign it. Maybe the treasurer didn't actually prepare it or maybe he/she did, but then it was altered without his/her knowledge and the new report didn't have his/her signature."

There is also an issue surrounding Burke's use of the LPO debit card in order to pay for gas and meals. Burke says he is contracted by the LPO to be a political consultant as well as their Executive Director. His contract allows him to charge the Party 43 cents per mile. A check register of the LPOs official checking account for September 05-September 06 shows about a weekly gasoline charge (which looks like a filling of a tank) as well as various meals whose charge range from around $5 up to about $8. That looks to me like a meal for just one person--rather than paying for a lunch meeting--which is what Burke's contract apparently also allows.

When complaints were made to the LPO State Committee, the Committee changed the rules to allow Burke to use the card for meals and gas--outside what his contract states. Those who agreed to this change appear to be the group most loyal to Burke, and that would certainly be their call. But it does seem odd that they'd remove this easy oversight of their party funds. Requiring a contracted person to justify their mileage and expenses seems pretty basic to me. Allowing Burke to use their debit card without that justification seems outside of what most groups would allow.

To boil this down to its essence, I can't find anything that Richard Burke has done that's prosecutable. I highly doubt any DA would find reason to lock him up over these series of charges. But I do see where those who have a problem with him find him unscrupulous, unsavory and essentially dishonest. I can't imagine a party leader with the Democrats or Republicans being able to withstand such conduct.

Incidentally, this will hopefully be my last entry on this topic. The research has been exhausting and having to sift through the "he said/she said" of material is utterly ridiculous. I would imagine the screeches of "yellow journalism" and other such synonyms will find their way to comments--it is what it is.

This is as an objective a look at this situation as I think anyone without ties to either "faction" can give. Chips will fall where they may.

***FYI: Any highlighting or writing that you see on documents linked here weren't done by me. They were handed over to me and I scanned them exactly as you see them***

Robocall in HD 30 against David Edwards--duck for the backfire

Last week, beleaguered constituents of House District 30 were treated to another ridiculously stupid phone call against Democrat David Edwards.

I have a .wav file of the call, but unfortunately I can't get it published on this Blogger format. If you'd like a copy of the call, I'd be happy to send it to you via email.

The call was left on the answering machine of an Edwards constituent. It begins thusly:
Hello. I'm calling with an important message about our State Representative David Edwards. First, David Edwards voted against a ban on accepting gifts from lobbyists.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzt. Nope. David Edwards voted against the minority report that the Republicans tried to pass on the changes to the House ethics rules. The minority report would have banned all gifts of any value--whereas the Dems bill made the limit a $10 maximum. Edwards voted for the Democratic bill (Edwards himself accepts no gifts from lobbyists whatsoever, according to his office). Misleading, at best.
Now he's being investigated for possible violations of rules prohibiting campaign contributions during the legislative session.

This is a complete fabrication. I called the SOS office this morning. No complaints have been filed against David Edwards. He's not under investigation for anything at all with the Secretary of States office or anyone else, that I can find.

A complaint was filed by the Oregon Republican Party with the Secretary of State's office against Our Oregon, who sent out a mailer inviting people to a legislative town hall in Edwards' district. Our Oregon isn't "under investigation" either. The Oregon Republican Party filed a complaint, which means that the SOS is checking the rules to see if there's a possible violation.

For Our Oregon to be "under investigation", the SOS would have to refer the issue to the Attorney General's office. I spoke with the Elections Division this morning. They're drafting a letter to the Oregon Republican Party on this complaint and sending it out later today. If I had to guess at the content of the letter, I'd say it says something like, "Stop wasting our time with your petty bullshit". Although I'm sure its more wordy and without the "bullshit" part. But I'll bet they wish they could say that.

The call then winds down:
Call David Edwards at 503-986-1430 and tell him to clean up his act. Thank you.


Interestingly, whoever made the call didn't leave their name. They also had their number blocked for caller ID--so they quite obviously don't want to be held accountable for what they're doing.

Clearly this doesn't pass the smell test. Which means it probably came from Republicans.

Steady Goes the Ship Towards M37 Compromise

It surprises me a bit that the McMinnville News-Register seems to have scooped everyone--at least The O, S-J and R-Guard--on this story about fixing Measure 37
Developments this week raised hopes for a workable compromise. Reports circulating at the Capitol this week have had Garrard, Prozanski and the younger Macpherson basically locked in a room with fellow committee members and staffers, Camp-David-style, struggling to reach a land-use compromise before the session's clock runs out.

"We are slogging through very difficult issues," the younger Macpherson said, tight-lipped, after a recent committee meeting. Rumors swirling about the Capitol early Tuesday indicated the negotiations had broken down, perhaps irreparably. But a Tuesday evening meeting reportedly ended in handshakes. Contacted Wednesday, Prozanski called Tuesday's exchange a "wonderful discussion." In fact, he went so far as to say, "The parameters are set."

Garrard's office confirmed both the report of progress and the positive tone.

Prozanski said announcement of a deal could come as early as next week, but declined to discuss specifics Wednesday, saying that would be premature. He said concepts still need to be reduced to language acceptable to both sides.
This seems like a good thing to me. There's no reason for the Democrats to ram changes through the Legislature unless they've already been brokered by the committee. Oregonians want the law changed, but they don't want to see the government appearing to disregard the will of the voters in so doing. While it's theoretically possible that a full rollback or very narrow rework could get past both houses, it's more likely to fire up a moribund GOP that is backpedaling so far this session. And a voter referral of the repeal might be upheld, and it might not, depending on how clumsily it was handled.

The Democrats obviously have the votes on committee, so unless Macpherson and Prozanski aren't terminally stupid they will eventually take the better end of the deal in some fashion. The reality is that what they can most feasibly and safely give away while maintaining land-use control as their main goal, is happily also the compromise that both sells best with the public and leaves M37 proponents with little room to maneuver: limited personal lots for family houses.

I'm one of the people who has believed it would come down to a debate over the number of lots--anywhere from 2 to 7, depending on how negotiations went, with 3 to 5 most likely. The fact that no one on either side that I've asked over the last couple of months has wanted to come close to answering that question, tells me that I'm probably right. And here we are.

But it's not necessarily a bad decision. The core gripe of many Measure 37 proponents is that people who bought land and had it go farm- or forest-exclusive in the 70s, now have land they were going to give away to their children or sell off that they can't use. A lot of regular folks made retirement plans on that idea, and while I think they really had plenty of time to make alternate plans since 1973, I understand the idea that something of value was lost to them. I think if you honestly look at the grand scheme of land use planning and inject the right for family-owned housing into it, the grand scheme doesn't exactly shudder to a halt. I think it actually stabilizes rural areas in a manageable way that needn't tax resources or infrastructure.

The people who didn't show up to plead their woeful case in hearings were the developers and the people with major subdivisions (well, a couple subdivision people did, but they sure didn't sound as sympathetic as the doddering people with 80 acres of scrub "farmland.") It's those people who could wreck the system and forever alter the landscape, and it's those people who (I hope) are sacrificed in the agreement. You shouldn't get transferability for speculative use, and that will put the kaibosh on most major development waivers--no resale value. And really, the idea that you were ever guaranteed a return on your investment in land despite any rules laid down by the common on it--so 18th Century!

Our good friend Peter Bray at Land Use Watch is not amused at what's going down, and takes aim at Rep. Macpherson pretty hard (if I understand the usage of the word 'disaster'):
[Macpherson's] lack of spine in regards to things that truly impact Oregon for the long term, such as Measure 37 reform, has led to the crappy SB 505 proposal, which went nowhere, and then another crappy SB that gives M37 claimants even more rights. What’s scary is that he presents himself as a thought leader and counterpoint to M37 proponents. You get a sense of how idiotic it is to have Macpherson serve as a spokesman for M37 reform when you look at his actions (or lack thereof).
Harsh charges. It's quite possible that Bray hadn't seen the News-Register piece on the "Camp-David"-style effort Macpherson is apparently giving, but one doubts that would have made much difference in his evaluation. One of Mac's staffers responds in comments:
My name is John Atkins, and I’m Rep. Macpherson’s legislative assistant. I’m sorry you feel the way you do. I’m not sure you understand what is going on in this building, but I know better than to argue with somebody on their own website. Instead, I suggest that you call up our office–503-986-1438–and schedule a meeting with the Representative in the next week or so. If you can’t make it down to the capitol, I’m sure I could arrange for you to speak with him by phone. I really wish you had at least made an effort to make contact with us–to give us a chance to explain what you see as weak leadership–before you posted. Any real journalist would have done at least that much.

Oh, and Rep. Macpherson has no control over who sits on his committee. Senator George was assigned to the committee by the Senate President.
Boo-YAH! He gave him the ultra smack...no, hang on a mo, he didn't. Well, maybe the "real journalist" part, yeah. But still, minutes with the Representative is a fair offer that Bray does not respond to. (Hey John, can you give me time with him this Wednesday? Seriously.)

I definitely part company with Bray when it comes to Macpherson; while I may agree that a more combative and defensive attitude towards anything less than a repeal might have earned a repeal, that isn't necessarily the best way to go--and I certainly wouldn't impugn Macpherson's work on the committee so far, especially pending a substantive deal that fixes the law's major flaws but lets family-based rural home ownership continue. I think we should be able to live with that.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spanning the State--"Scared Straight" Edition

Thanks to TJ, there's no need for me to hype up today's Oregon v Florida Elite Eight matchup. But if you didn't click on all the links, be sure to visit The Tao of Tajuan Porter by Brian Hines. I'm not someone who generally cares much about basketball, but after reading Brian's piece I'm intrigued by this player who is shorter than I am--but manages to put a crowd of college basketball fans into an excited hush.

But before I tune in to watch the game, let Span the State!

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::gong:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

A third grader at Shady Cove Elementary School was "arrested" on Tuesday by the local sheriff at the request of her parents. The girl had been caught stealing for the second time. Her parents say they wanted to teach her that if she continued to break the law she'd end up in the juvenile justice system. The mock arrest included handcuffs and a ride home in the police car for the girl.

Officials from FEMA are headed to Astoria to assess damage from a landslide thats putting a strain on local services. Heavy rains have caused the slide which keeps disrupting water, sewer and power. Given the continual post-Katrina problems in Louisiana, it'll be interesting to see if FEMA is able--if they're willing at all--to help the locals in Astoria.

Baker County is seeing a curious exodus from the local bee population. Not only are honey producers concerned--but those whose orchards rely on bees to provide the appropriate pollenation are also alarmed. Last month, the New York Times had a story about the loss of bees from all around the country which includes possible reasons for the losses.

The Bend Bulletin has a profile and interview with Kris Helphinstine, a biology teacher from Sisters who was fired for deviating from the approved science curriculum for Sisters, according to their school board. The Bulletin says Helphinstine "showed a class of freshman and sophomore students pictures of naked corpses, a Nazi swastika and Charles Darwin in a PowerPoint presentation." Helphinstine went on to ask students what the pictures had in common as well as requiring students to visit answersingenesis.org which says it is "dedicated to enabling Christians to defend their faith, and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively." He says his teaching was to promote critical thinking among students.

I didn't know that someone could be arrested for intimidation. Not that the guy in question didn't deserve the arrest--but I had no idea that this is something one could be officially charged with.

Students in John Day are taking their park back from vandals.

Embattled US Army officer Lt Ehren Watada addressed a peace rally in Eugene last Saturday. Watada is set to undergo a second court martial (the first was declared a mistrial) for refusing to deploy to Iraq.

A Beaverton police officer is going to court to fight a photo radar citation she got while patrolling on duty. Officials say that the officer wasn't responding to a call and had no reason to speed. The officer says she's being penalized because she's female and because her union opposes photo radar.

Of Ducks and Beavers and Blazers On a Sunday

Two great stories for a quintessentially wet Oregon spring day today: first and most obviously, the Ducks men's basketball team meeting Florida in a regional final for a berth in the Final Four. There are several stories on this team, from the formerly and ridiculously embattled Ernie Kent detailed above, to Tao master TaJaun Porter, the 5'6'' guard who is suddenly the darling of the tournament after going unconscious during the UNLV game.

As Brian noted, when he got into the zone it was obvious--his movement was so spontaneous and smooth as he hovered like a hummingbird, 3-plus feet off the ground, 20+ feet from the basket, launching only the sweetest of nylon-kissing shots, time after time. Even on TV you could feel the crowd sucking in its breath watching Porter about to pull up and pop. It was magical. Almost forgotten now (!!) is Aaron Brooks, who only carried the team through the regular season and from it has built himself a major NBA payday later this year as a potential 2nd round pick.

There's a Madness bracket I'm in where I'm running at the top of the pack but to have a shot at the whole enchilada I need Florida to make the final. My heart's not really in it; even though I'm not any kind of loyal Ducks fan, this particular team is just a delight to watch, and both the coach and the program should receive the favorable national attention that comes with being a Final Four team and playing on national TV for huge stakes. I guess I win out either way, but I'll be favoring the soul over the pocketbook this afternoon.

While college hoops winds down college baseball is in full swing, and up the way from Eugene Pete Casey's boys from Corvallis are at it again. The Beavers are simply destroying non-conference play, currently 21-3 and ranked 4th in most polls, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year after winning the championship in 2006. It hasn't been a creampuff schedule either; the Beavers have outplayed a number of tough southern teams so far and look as dominating as ever.

Oregon has almost out of nowhere become a fertile farm for young hands, spawning careers like that of Jacoby Ellsbury, top draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2005. Ellsbury has been the hit of camp, showing skills impressive enough for legend Johnny Pesky to compare him to Fred Lynn, who was only Rookie of the Year and AL MVP his first season. Ellsbury will start in Double A, but will be a regular at Fenway no later than next season.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't tip the hat to the young Blazers who look like they're going to be an extremely exciting team next year. Brandon Roy is already the league's best rookie, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez are right behind him. The latter in particular has simply electrified the team the last few games, and even though it comes on the heels of a pretty frustrating collapse that ended realistic playoff chances for this year, it gives great hope for next season. Can you imagine what a Greg Oden or Kevin Durant would do on that team? Yikes.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tootie Smith gets her homophobia on

Molalla resident and former GOP Deputy House Majority Leader Tootie Smith is getting her full court homophobia on. According to the front page of this week's Mollala Pioneer (not available online yet), Tootie is part of a group attempting to scuttle a Gay-Straight Alliance club at Molalla High School. See here for LTEs on the issue.

I called Tootie a little while ago to verify her participation. "No club based on sex should be in school", Smith said. She characterized herself to me as a "concerned parent with a daughter" attending the high school. I'm guessing Tootie is worried that her daughter will become a lesbian if this group is meeting at the school. Can't have that.

When I asked her if she'd ever attended a Gay-Straight Alliance meeting at any Oregon school, she said that she'd heard about the group from others and didn't want it at their school.

So in other words, no.

Not that Tootie gives a rip, but the Gay-Straight Alliance has a 3 point mission:

1. create safe environments in schools for students to support each other and learn about homophobia and other oppressions,

2. educate the school community about homophobia, gender identity, and sexual orientation issues, and

3. fight discrimination, harassment, and violence in schools.


Hmmm...not a single thing about how to have gay (or straight) sex.

I'm curious how any person with knowledge of this organization could oppose what they're doing. Creating safe school enviornments? Learning about how some people that are different from you could be oppressed? Fighting discrimination and harassment?

Perhaps Tootie just doesn't know what the group is about. I have a suggestion.

Tootie is the owner/operator of The Prairie House Inn, a bed and breakfast in Molalla. Perhaps Tootie just needs a few folks to send her information on the organization.

The email address for the Prairie House Inn is Prairiehouseinn@molalla.net. Perhaps some well-mannered, respectful emails letting Tootie know the importance of ending harassment and discrimination in schools for all students will help her understand.

Or perhaps a more tangible showing is in order. On Thursday April 12 at 7:30 the Molalla School Board will be holding a meeting where Tootie says this topic will be discussed.

Road trip, anyone?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Oregon House works to piss off Michelle Malkin

Despite Michelle Malkin's assertion that the Japanese-Americans who were interred during WW2 got what they deserved, the Oregon House is attempting a small step toward making amends.

House Bill 2823 would allow Oregon colleges and universities to award degrees to students who were enrolled but forced out because of internment.

No word yet if Wayne Scott plans to block the bill to puff up his cred with his party's fringe base.

Wyden & Reid Video on Timber Payments: Gordon Who?

By now most of you should have heard about the deal wrangled by Ron Wyden with Majority Leader Reid and Senators from other Western states receiving significant "county timber payments" money. It really is a magnificient deal, one that in my view should--once and for all--indicate to rural Oregonians which Senator is talking the talk, and which one is walking the proverbial walk. It does cut Oregon's share of the total pie, but not until year four of the five year extension--and this year gives counties about 80% of what they were getting. Considering that they were preparing to deal with 50% or even 30% in a best case scenario, they have to be doing cartwheels at the moment.

Sure, with the newfound power of the majority it became easy to shut Gordon Smith out of the discussions and thus deprive him of a selling point for his re-election campaign, and to the uninitiated this may seem like a petty political move that fails to recognize Smith's own committment to restoring the payments. But the truth is that it DOES reflect his committment--virtually nonexistent until he had personal skin in the game (ie, it had direct bearing on his 2008 campaign).

Think about it: Smith had roughly 5 years where he was in the majority and the payments needed either an extension or a rework. Where was he on the news then? And when Wyden was bringing his bills up in 2005 and 2006, did Smith join him on the bill or on the media's dais talking about his support for rural counties? Hell no. But suddenly after the 2006 elections, he was all over the news about it, even going so far as to pull the meaningless filibuster stunt in January, essentially forcing Wyden to do the same. Did he actually do any work trying to scare up Republican votes for this or other legislation as part of a trade or compromise? Doesn't look like it.

So the fact that a deal was reached entirely among Senators with Ds after their names isn't surprising, nor is it untoward. There's still more work to do to get it passed into law, but I think Wyden's confident now that it will end up somewhere else if the Iraq supplemental fails or is vetoed. And that's the bottom line that should drive the partisan evaluation of this issue:

*Republicans did nothing, and Smith seemed unconcerned, when they held the majority.
*Once Democrats got the majority, a deal got done.

Here's a short video of Ron and Reid {.ram file} that talks a little bit about what went into the process, how urgent things really are, and the great cooperative result that emerged. And not a sign of Gordo! Nice try, but you won't get this particular feather to put in your cap and tickle the electorate with next year. As it should be.

Please Santa--I've been a very good girl this year (mostly)

All I want for Christmas is for Bill Sizemore to challenge Gordon Smith in the Oregon GOP Senate primary.

Walden bends over and takes it up the backside for W

Constitutents of the 2nd Congressional District can rest easy--Greg Walden is still grabbing his ankles for Bush:

March 23, 2007 - WASHINGTON, D.C. -
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today issued the following statement regarding his “no” vote on the House version of the Iraq War emergency supplemental funding bill, which tied county payments funding to a firm withdrawal date of U.S. troops regardless of the assessments of commanders on the ground in Iraq:

“Until the majority Democrats in the House and the Senate work out language in the war supplemental that the President will sign, this measure will not become law and our timber-dependent counties and school districts will not receive the emergency assistance they need. Hopefully, by next week we will have a revised measure before the House that does not include an arbitrary withdrawal date of U.S. troops regardless of the assessments of commanders on the ground in Iraq, is not overloaded with non-emergency spending, and is one that I therefore can support.”

Congressman Walden represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District, which is comprised on 20 counties in eastern, central and southern Oregon.


Translation: Until the House and Senate Democrats bend over and take it up the ass for Bush the way that I do--there's no sense in even bothering. After all, Iraq is a long-term quagmire that's putting billions of US dollars into the hands of corporations that grease GOP skids. Why would I vote against THAT? Timber payments be damned! Who the hell cares if my constitutents have emergency services and schools if my President can't continue unabated in Iraq?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Iraq and the Death Spiral of the Oregon GOP

[I apologize to anyone who saw an earlier draft of this. I published without a proper edit and left several sentence fragments and truly awful material on display. Out of my own shame I have excised the more egregious parts. Blogging isn't T.S. Eliot, but you deserve something the writer at least went over...]

I watched almost all of the House debate Tuesday on HJM 9, the Iraq withdrawal bill, while home sick. On many days you can watch the Oregon legislature and not even notice that there are Republicans involved; unless you know the faces, when you watch them in committee and listen to them on the floor talking about mundane bills, you wouldn't be able to tell if they were Republican, Democrat, or Avel Gordly. But on any of the touchstone issues that divide this country, it's like someone flips a switch and all the preprogrammed wingnuts start lurching into action.

Sure enough, people like Gene Whisnant and Kim Thatcher and Scott Bruun on this occasion had their moments, and we'll get to those. But before I get going on the lampoonable members of the Oregon Republicans, I point to their esteemed colleagues Brian Boquist, Vicki Berger and John Lim, all of whom refused the talking points handed out in the caucus meeting and voted Nay Yea. Lim's testimony went several different places and I wasn't sure until the end how he was voting, but while he stood very firm in his support of the President (we'll let that go), he admitted, "but not on this war." Berger did not speak to my knowledge, but Boquist--a co-carrier of the bill--was devastating in his critique of the hapless "myths" against the bill, as he called them.

After Shields made his opening statement on the bill and Boquist crushed the GOP myths on discussing the war*, Whisnant, the rumped delegate from Sunriver, wheezed into action, and began asking a series of baffling questions that reminded me of John Cleese trying to throw off Graham Chapman in a job interview by tinkling a bell and singing, "Goooooood niiiiiight, a ding a ding ding ding!!!" He started by asking when exactly in 2008 the withdrawal was supposed to begin. (It begins in FISCAL 2008, meaning this coming October 1st). He asked what the reference was to the part that said the military people don't want the escalation, and Shields deferred to Boquist, who explained the reliance on the ISG Report.

Whisnant moved on to the part about legality, and asked what the source was for that. Then he asked about the advisory capacity that was authorized to remain in Iraq after a withdrawal began--and asked about the contradiction. Shields and Boquist puzzled for a moment, and discovered that Whiz was asking why they were withdrawing, and THEN putting in "military advisors." Boquist explained that the Reserves and the National Guard would not be doing any advising, and thus would be coming home. Whisnant persisted that there was a contradiction afoot, until Shields literally refused to yield to more questions. Whizzer read them out anyway. And that was just the question segment.

When he finally got to the bill, Whisnant rambled through the speaking time of six members in opposition, taking care to throw up just about every weak talking point Fox had surely handed him. (It was very kind of Whiz to do that, playing into Boquist's mythbusting speech perfectly.) The entire thing was incoherently strung together, and was punctuated by a poorly read "tribute" to the fallen Oregonians, framed entirely in his strongly if incoherently worded support of the Iraq war. He'd gotten through about a third of them when the Speaker stopped him: the House Parliamentarian had questioned whether Whisnant's testimony to the bill was not germane if it was just a list of names. Whisnant complained that it was his whole POINT to read them, and nobody seemed to want to further disregard the people being named by putting up a fuss.

About 1/2 the way through, Whisnant read the name David Johnson, at which point a woman (later identified as activist Leah Bolger) shouted "How DARE you use the name of someone you've never met to justify your political agenda!" before Merkeley gaveled her to silence. Ever notice how much bigger Jeff's gavel is than Pelosi's? Or is the desk just bigger? Whiz finished his list, rumbled something vaguely conclusatory, and sat down amidst his giant sheaf of sweaty pages.

One of the more interesting things he said was that it was wrong to question the Commander in Chief when it comes to war. That's not interesting by itself, of course; it's just another one of the talking points. But it seems that Whisnant has changed his mind about that subject in the last few years, given his comments to American Legion magazine in 1999:
I STRONGLY CONCUR with your recent call to withdraw immediately from the Balkans. I served as the Defense and Air Attache to Yugoslavia from June 1990 until October 1992. I know the truth about what is happening in Yugoslavia. What my country is doing is a crime against humanity and a crime against international law and the U.N. charter. Congress has failed to provide the leadership to stop or even question our commander in chief and the State Department. From first-hand observation, portraying the Serbs as evil and everyone else as good is dishonest. This is a media-generated tragedy and to finish it may take the blood of our service men and women. Again, thank you for speaking out and asking for the true facts. Gene Whisnant, Sunriver, Ore [emph mine]
Whoops! If you're out there Gene, I'd love to hear from you on your change of heart.

Scott Bruun was just as programmed as Whisnant, but had the weapon of being understandable and clever in his critique on his side, an arrow Whizzer apparently didn't bring in his quivver. Bruun rousted a surely overturned Tom Paine from his grave and reminded the body about "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots," and rattled off the party line with confident authority.

Uh, wazzat about sunshine patriots? Mitch Greenlick made his way slowly to the podium, and began even more slowly with a personal recitation about his days in the mid-60s. And then it became a story about the day President Johnson announced the Gulf of Tonkin attack, and Greenlick was all hot to go nuclear on the Vietnamese. A friend suggested that maybe it was all made up to start the war, and Greenlick was incredulous. But he soon came to see that his friend was right, and that the war, if it ever had served one, served a purpose no longer.

Greenlick reflected on his own culpability for the men lost in Vietnam, because he believed his government and helped even just a little to push his country to war. And he'd be damned (which he didn't actually say) if he was going to sit quietly as his government lied to him again. Finally, he tore into Bruun by noting that given Greenlick's status as s a co-sponsor of the bill, apparently Bruun felt he was a sunshine patriot, a summer soldier, and that he was aiding and abetting the enemy, which of course we know by the name treason. Pointing that out, that to take Bruun seriously one had to believe he was calling bill supporters traitors, was a smart move. Where Boquist tore down the pretended rational excuses for the war, Greenlick exploited the weakness of the puffed-up emotional blackmail in the GOP's attitude. Treason? I mean, really. That's like, DeLay-worthy smearing nonsense.

Speaking of puffy, Kim Thatcher dissolved into tears while talking about how very, very sad she was about this bill. She pointed out American heroes and traced her military lineage, which is of course very honorable (assuming they were, too). And then...she trotted out the same bromides as all the other strung puppets.

I mean, as a Republican, how bizarre is it to reject as liberally dangerous nonsense the report issued by James Freakin Baker? {pdf} As Boquist spoke, in that moment the gathered Republicans considered their options: get out (Westlund), get beat (Dalto), get wise (Boquist), or...continue to test the limits of cognitive dissonance absorbed in one lifetime. How long can they take it before they crack?

Remember it next year: 25 of your state House legislators voted for unceasing war in Iraq.



*I really, really wanted to get my hands on Boquist's floor remarks, because they reflect a high degree of credibility and experience, and as I said they represented a strong critique of the lockstep way in which most of his colleagues are viewing the conflict and particularly the effort to end the war. As of yesterday afternoon, Boquist's staff was going to email me a copy, which I was told "was still sitting right on his PC."

By today they suddenly refused to email it, citing a protocol they could not describe and offering only regular mail as a form of delivery. I made it clear I was ready to publish and was only waiting on his remarks to excerpt--to no avail. I have no idea why they rejected my attempt to get them in a timely fashion. Did they think we'd trash him? On the contrary, obviously. It's too bad; I guess you'll have to listen to the audio of the session {.ram file} to hear what he had to say.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The O's Editors Toot Their Broken, Tuneless Horn

I'm still having trouble figuring this one out, two days after I first read it. The second editorial in Monday's O seems to be an attempt to puff their chest about how they called out Portland's "clean candidate" public finance policy for the scandal-ridden scheme it was, and tooted Anna Griffin's* horn for "dilligent"-ly finding out that Ukranian immigrants said they knew nyet about it when a reporter came to ask about signing papers.

The O had two ways to go with this piece, spurred by recent meetings of the oversight commission set up to watch the process in action and then work to improve it. They could have applauded the commission for addressing the most egregious concerns raised by the paper's reporting, being alert enough to hold the process accountable, and keeping tabs on the money being spent. Or, the editors could have used the meetings as a prop to talk about how great it was that they busted the story WIDE open, and that for the love of God, why won't City Council just put it up for a vote? Guess which tack the editors chose.

Only it's as if they asked some new guy to write about a story that happened before he came on staff. The curiosity starts immediately with the first few words: "Several years ago?" Mates, the policy was adopted in 2004 and used once, for the 2006 elections. It's charitable to take it back to 2005, but less than 'two' years will never be 'several.' What we're really talking about all happened in spring of 2006, so let's not pretend we'll need an archaeologist to discuss it.

Then they act as if the entire program was simply rife with pitfalls, asking "how did they know where to start?" and claiming "so many" problems to pick from. Of course, they only come up with one--the one now apparently being recommended for a fix by the commission. The proof-of-support process for collecting signatures and money was indeed flawed, as Council hoped to allow as much participation as possible on the grounds that residents are affected by politics even if they don't vote. However, allowing non-registrations to sign and contribute made residence verification extremely difficult. There's no doubt about that, and a simple shift to registered voters as the only eligible signers solves the large majority of the problem.

But that's not The O's angle. Like their in-the-tank endorsee Ginny Burdick, the paper hated the idea from the start, calling it "half baked" and worse in their endorsement editorial and beforehand. Now that the program just might be improving for the next go-round, the editors just can't resist taking another swipe, since Burdick has long been thrashed at the polls and returned to a safer job in Salem, leaving them to hold the flag aloft.

The flag has the words "let the people vote" on it, and the editors refuse to stop waving it. It's an ironic whine to make, because it ignores an awful lot of information--information that, as I said, must be unknown to whoever wrote this, because otherwise it'd be a lame distortion of events and selective memory used to boost a weak argument. And they'd never do that at The O.

I've pointed out that Burdick was their candidate, and that's no surprise, since the primary thing Burdick said during the campaign was that public financing was bad, and anyway the people should vote on it, and while they're at it they should vote to make her commissioner, too. The election for that seat became almost entirely a proxy affair on public finance against Erik Sten, with Burdick fronting the establishment agenda of the popular business alliance, teamed with The O to try and bring Sten's uppity Portland career down.

But what The O conveniently fails to recall is that Team Burdick also ran a side game, trying to get a repeal question on the ballot, all while candidates were using the program for the first time. The signature effort failed to qualify for the ballot, a victim of too many duplicate entries. In other words, a group of very powerful and wealthy people tried to rally interest in striking down a public financing scheme...and couldn't even get enough signatures to make the ballot.

So let's review: the candidate The O backed a candidate who made public finance the centerpiece of her campaign. The O railed against the idea regularly, and endorsed her specifically in part because her opponent was the program's co-architect and main proponent, as well as the first incumbent to avail himself of its benefits. At the same time, the same people also tried to have the policy repealed by the voters. The O's candidate lost, badly, and the repeal effort failed, badly.

Now, in whose rational mind would this sequence of events lead to the conclusion that more appeals to the electorate were needed? What other signals were they looking for? The guy who helped create it and used it to be re-elected, got re-elected. The woman who hated it and tried to stop it, failed. How many ways would Ginny and The O like to hear vox popular? I'd offer the board kudos for not being afraid to return to a subject which so thoroughly caused them embarassment, but my suspicion is they don't actually see it that way, through their Bog-colored glasses.



*I'm not trying to knock Anna here; I just think her bosses went overboard on her behalf. Still, it seems like the whole discussion about why individuals signed for several people (apparently in Ukranian culture the husband does that routinely, and not necessarily with the explicit permission of family members) got mentioned once and then disappeared. It doesn't change the flaws in the system, but what sounds like a cultural norm that was politically exploited, in the media quickly became an active plot to defraud the system. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't--we never really got the chance to find out.

7 Oregon GOP legislators vote to continue discrimination in Oregon

I've had to be at my paying job for a good portion of today--so I missed the live vote in the Senate on SB 2, which prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation.

Shamefully, SEVEN State Senators (all Republican, natch) voted against this bill, according to Amy Jenniges of the Merc:

By my notes (it went fast), Senators Beyer, Starr, Ferrioli, Gary George, Larry George, Kruse, Starr, and Whitsett voted no.


Note she has Starr on there twice. Maybe he was especially egregious with his vote, eh?

Here they are, your murderer's row of shame:


Beyer


Ferrioli


Gary George


Larry George


Kruse


Starr


Whitsett

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How to find the pricks in a crowd of 10,000

[Editorial note--a full photo album of the effigy and flag burning pictures can be located here...]

Whether this bullshit is rightwing agent provocateur crap by righty blowhards trying to taint the peace march or a bunch of showboating anarchists trying to piggyback, here's my message: FUCK YOU.



Anybody who would burn a soldier in effigy is an asshole of the highest order. The fact that you would use a peaceful, nonviolent demonstration to draw attention to how fucking disgusting you are only emphasizes my point.



I hate everything you stand for. You make me sick to my stomach with your lack of shame and scruples. You are invertebrate scum whose moral compasses are just short of bone dry.

Crawl back under your rocks and do what you do best...bitch about the world and how bad everything is..and then do absolutely nothing to fix it. Whiny scumbag crybabies..all of you.

Update, 3/23 3:30pm--
Welcome little green footballers, coming from the comments of a story there on this unverified account of another gross moment from the march, by the P-Trib. Feel free to comment. You can't be any worse than our homegrown trolls!

BREAKING: OR House Passes Iraq Withdrawal Bill, 33-25 After Gallery Outburst

The title says it all--more analysis later...but I will say there was an incident during debate, as a woman who appeared to be the mother of David Johnson, an Oregon servicemember killed in Iraq, shouted "How dare you" at Rep. Whisnant for using Johnson's name in a roll call of the dead, used in her estimation to "support [his] political agenda." The father of Johnson, Steve DeFord, spoke at the committee hearing in support of the bill.

LPO: Burke responds; you decide

Beginning with last Friday morning, I attempted to get information from LPO Executive Director Richard Burke (via emails and phone messages) on the story I finally published yesterday morning on allegations of nefarious activity by Burke.

Monday mid-afternoon Burke finally called me back and we talked about the allegations mentioned that morning.

Burke made it clear that he believes these allegations are nothing more than a product of infighting between two factions of the Libertarian Party of Oregon. He said that the Gmail chat was in fact not about soliciting the donor list from the national LPO, but to verify specific information to prove false other allegations made against him having to do with falsifying member lists.

Burke claims that if he really wanted to know who the big shot donors for the national Libertarian Party, all he'd need to do is check FEC records.

This may be the case, but it still doesn't explain why the national Libertarian Party didn't want Burke to have that information and why the woman in the chat felt the need to hide what she was doing from her boss.

Burke further contends that the chat itself is only partially authentic and that someone "broke into his account". He wasn't specific about which parts of the chat may have been altered in terms of adding material--but he says that the end of the chat was left off, which provides context for some of the other things that were said. I invited Mr. Burke to send me the chat in its entirety so that I could view it (and would post it here with his permission). He said that he would look through his Gmail and see if he could find it.

In terms of the sexual nature at the end, Burke referred to his relationship with the woman in the chat as "a personal friend" and her use of the "MrsRBurke" chat name as "an inside joke". He characterized the sexual material as authentic (meaning he in fact did write those things) but it was meant "tongue in cheek". He says if the chat were seen in its entirety, this would be evident.

Mr. Burke and I also spoke about the Tualatin Valley Water District allegations proffered by Tristan Reisfar of KPOV in Bend. Burke said that Pearson's position on the oversight committee for Burke's LPO Executive Director job wasn't a conflict of interest because the committee was disbanded on December 16, 2006, well before the previous TV Water Board commissioner died, leaving the job open (and Pearson's subsequent seating to the position).

There's more to this story in terms of allegations and proof (or lack thereof). I'm not convinced that the whole truth here has yet been told.

It does seem rather odd that the Libertarians have a party in the first place--that seems so anti-Libertarian to me. But perhaps that explains in part the viciousness of the fighting here. And why the group is so factionalized.

More on the Libertarian Days of Our Lives to come.....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Oregon Libertarian Party--sex, money and political wrongdoing?

Richard Burke, the Exec Director of the Libertarian Party of Oregon, is a man under a magnifying glass. Most party leaders are. But Burke's scrutiny may be getting a little too close for comfort.

First was a lawsuit brought against the LPO citing mismanagement and failure to adhere to party bylaws. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.

Burke now faces a new series of problems which directly challenge both his party authority and his personal integrity.

Last Thursday, Tristan Reisfar of KPOV community radio in Bend, opened up a new can of worms on Burke. Reisfar discovered a series of allegations against Burke which include romancing a national Libertarian Party worker in order to gain access to donor information. But perhaps more damaging is an allegation that Burke helped an LPO member loyal to him obtain a seat on the Tualatin Valley Water Board.

Appearing on Reisfar's show to offer testimony into the first allegation was Bruce Knight, former LPO candidate for Congress and party activist. Knight printed a Gmail chat allegedly held between Richard Burke and a young woman working for the national Libertarian Party.

The chat includes what appears to be Burke trying to pump the young woman for information on donors who give large sums of money to the Libertarian Party. The end of the chat clearly indicates that there is some sort of romancing (or at the very least overtures of cybersex) between the two of them.

Knight published the Gmail chat in a newsletter that he generates called The Oregon Libertarian.

According to Knight, Burke's Executive Director LPO contract gives him a 50% cut of all donations he brings in.

Reisfar also discovered another possible problem for Burke: He may have paved the way for his LPO crony to gain a seat on the Tualatin Valley Water Board.

On February 7, Steve Pearson was appointed to a seat on the Tualatin Valley Water Board. Pearson replaced former member Gordon Martin, who died January 6 from cancer. Pearson's appointment lasts through June 30, 2007.

Reisfar said he noticed a Google groups (must be a member to access, unfortunately) announcement reprinted from the Oregonian announcing Pearson's appointment. The O piece is here. Interestingly, the search process for that piece also yielded an LTE from a Washington County resident, who is unhappy with Pearson's appointment to replace Martin.

Reisfar also located Pearson's LPO bio which makes his relationship with the organization easy to understand.

Reisfar says he then contacted Wes Wagoner (who I attempted to track down, but couldn't find current contact information), a Clackamas County LPO state committee member. Wagoner is the guy who filed the dismissed lawsuit that I mentioned in the second paragraph of this piece. Wagoner allegedly told Reisfar that Pearson was on the Executive Directors performance review committee, along with Wagoner and former Chair Adam Mayor. Wagoner quit the committee along with Mayor. Pearson apparently gave Burke a stellar review.

Reisfar also says he spoke with TV Water Commissioner Jim Doan, who told him that he was unaware of Pearson's role as Washington County Lib Party Chair. I spoke today with Todd Heidgerken, the press liason for the Commission, who said that Burke disclosed Pearson as a member of the Libertarian Party, but that he wasn't sure if Burke or Pearson had spoken more indepth about Pearson's various party roles. Doan also allegedly told Reisfar that he was further unaware of Pearson's Review Cmte job and that Pearson helped determine Burke's LPO compensation package.

Heidgerken explained that the Board met the requirements of advertising for the position, reviewing the applications and holding deliberations--all within public meetings. He noted that Pearson had been a member of the TV Water Board budget committee and that the Board was looking for someone with financial expertise to put into this seat. Pearson won the seat on a 4-0 vote.

There is apparently a complaint filed with Oregon Standards and Practices against either the LPO or Burke--I havent' determined which--still investigating that angle. There are also more sexual harassment allegations having to do with the Libertarian Party as well as mishandling of funds by Burke for weird business stuff--which I'm also still looking into.

I've left several messages both on voice mail and email for Burke, he has so far not responded. I've also attempted to contact Bruce Knight--who hasn't responded either.

Stay tuned.

Chip Shields, The Progressive's Champion

There's certainly no shortage of liberals in the Oregon legislature; that seems self-evident given the high number and proportion of liberals living in Portland, who then send liberals to represent them in the House and Senate. I mean, any legislature where Ginny Burdick is considered a DLC-type sellout must have some fairly liberal members.

I could pick out several of them and point out the good work they're typically doing, but one person's name keeps popping up in the action as we watch the 2007 session unfold: second-term Representative Chip Shields, from North and Northeast Portland. Despite his clean-cut, Cal-Chico Law Review kind of look*, he represents a fairly gritty section of the city: anchored by MLK and Grand Streets going north-south through areas hampered by decay and crime, District 43 roughly rivals the outer SE area around 82nd Avenue for worst in the city.

Whether in recognition of those conditions or not, it's no surprise that Shields is part of both the Ways and Means Subcommittees on Public Safety, and for Transportation and Economic Development. During the session Shields has been prodigious in his support of legislation from across the spectrum {pdf}, putting his name on over 100 bills, certainly in the top third or so in the House.

Many of the proposals he supports, particularly those related to his legislative specialty in public safety, seem to have in common a concern for the kind of people who live in his district, and the circumstances many of them tend to live under. There is a proposal to give those being terminated from workmen's compensation more notice, and one to help grant workmen's comp for home health workers, a common lower-middle class occupation. When development does come to his district in the form of condo developers, Shields has a plan to protect renters in those buildings being converted. Good development, in the form of minority, female or 'emerging' small business projects, can expand without undertaking expensive public works bonds.

On the straight law and order tip, Shields worries about the ridiculously anti-Constitutional "exclusion zones," offering legislation to curb their use on arrested persons not yet convicted. He wants every county to have a civilian review board as a check on their police. He also wants to establish a specific ethnic and racial impact statement for any corrections-based legislation, similar to an environmental impact statement for development-based bills. But Shields is also sensible about the reality of criminal activity; he's seeking to set limits on the number of high-risk offenders supervised by one caseworker, and to study the further use of "ignition lock" devices for preventing drunk driving.

That's the nuts and bolts of legislating, and it's the kind of assistance and championing that Shields' constituents definitely need. But as someone who lives out of district, I'm most impressed by the big statements he makes. There is something to be said for "the vision thing;" the sense that it is important for legislative bodies to make statements of belief and of moral duty, and to advance a set of principles that Oregonians can rely upon as they meet the future. Three of those big picture bills stand out.

The first is one we've discussed several times here, declaring opposition to escalation in Iraq and seeking withdrawal beginning this autumn. One's sights don't get any bigger than that as a state legislator, to weigh in on federal foreign policy--but despite some criticism for taking Salem's time on an issue that only Washington DC can solve, Shields has stood firm in his belief that the exploitation, abuse and death of dozens of Oregonian lives makes it their business, and is a necessary statement of record to show history that indeed, some spoke out. His bill will receive debate and a vote tomorrow; its likely passage is a testament to its careful crafting and Shields' dilligence in putting the measure before his colleagues, as he did in 2005 (when of course it died under the heel of Karen Minnis and Wayne Scott).

The second "big idea" bill is another
sweeping statement of principle:
Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity and there is an obligation for the state to ensure that every legal resident of Oregon has access to health care as a fundamental right. The Legislative Assembly by law shall adopt a plan that incrementally expands health care coverage so that every legal resident of Oregon is able to obtain effective and affordable health care on a regular basis.
It's a very few progressives who don't see health care as a fundamental human right. It's also a philosophical pedestal on which to place all further discussions in the state on how to secure those rights, even if only incrementally. With all of the plans and ideas being bandied around to fix Oregon's health care system, why not start with the conviction that concern for human rights demands that we do something?

Finally, a bill that I'm personally thankful for but which may not be as entirely popular in many circles: a proposal to place a moratorium on executions in the state, establishing a task force to evaluate the entire efficacy and cost of the death penalty process. As I am, Shields is personally opposed to the death penalty for a number of reasons, but the easiest ones to sell to others are that it's costly and doesn't work besides:
‘I do think it’s time for Oregonians to take a look at the death penalty and make sure that it is the best way to fight crime and increase public safety,’’ said Rep. Chip Shields, D-Portland, a death penalty opponent who is backing the bill. ‘‘I certainly have my doubts.’’
It may continue to be true that a majority of Oregonians favor the death penalty, but I'd be very surprised if that support hadn't atrophied over the last five to ten years. Other states have placed moratoria on their own death row, worried about studies showing racial and ethnic discrimination and the ultimate nightmare--innocent people awaiting execution. It's a good time to stop and reassess whether being part of the Third World club of nations that still kills its own people is where the US, and particularly its most enlightened states, wants to be.

So, a tribute to Chip Shields, D-Portland--the progressive's progressive. Not too lofty to get his hands dirty with mundane legislation; not too wonky to miss the forest whilst working among the trees. If you support the things he's working to provide for his people, drop him a line and tell him. And tell him we said so.

Update, 7pm--
Over at the Merc, they're discussing the Senate bill Shields is part of regarding exclusion zones. Seems Mayor Potter is actively fighting it, which runs in line both with his law and order background, and his apparent support for other quasiconstitutional vagrant-nudging policies like sit/lie. Merc-man Scott Moore says that Commissioner Sten is on Shields' side, seeking a similar resolution at the City level that goes most of the way towards the principle of due process. What's either quite coincidental or a brilliant application of another Shields bill, is that Sten wants the exclusion process to have an oversight board that reviews data along racial and ethnic lines to track the law's use, a form of "racial impact statement" that Shields augurs for. Let's hope Potter loses this one.

*He only looks like a lawyer; his degree is actually a Master's in Social Work from PSU.