Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Democrats Move to Bring Back Cooperation in Congress

The Democrats are moving towards restoring rules that were eliminated by the Republican Congress from 1994 through 2006 in order to give the minority a voice in what goes on.
After chafing for years under what they saw as flagrant Republican abuse of Congressional power and procedures, the incoming majority has promised to restore House and Senate practices to those more closely resembling the textbook version of how a bill becomes law: daylight debate, serious amendments and minority party participation.

Beyond the parliamentary issues, Democrats assuming control on Jan. 4 said they also wanted to revive collegiality and civility in an institution that has been poisoned by partisanship in recent years. In a gesture duly noted by Republicans, the incoming speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, offered Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who is remaining in Congress, the use of prime office space in the Capitol out of respect for his position.

Kos believes that this constitutes a "completely unneccessary act of kindness." He is completely wrong on this count for reasons that I will explain after giving a clearer explanation of what Kos meant.
But on collegiality -- If Pelosi and company are just blabbing about "cooperation" for PR purposes, that's fine. But it should be nothing more than rhetoric. We've already seen that Blunt and Company can't help themselves and even bother reciprocating the empty platitudes. They respond to them with insults and threats of political gamesmanship.

This is an era of hardball politics, and the GOP clearly has no intention to play nice. They aren't even going through the motions or pretending to be more collegial. So while our side can talk nice, their actions should reflect the current political reality.

What Kos is correct about is his contention that the Republicans seem to "have no intention to bother reciprocating." That doesnt change the fact that this is a very smart and good move by Pelosi and company. Regardless of whether Republicans will bother reciprocating, procedure in the House and Senate has been altered dramatically for the purpose of keeping the minority out of the process. That is not how democracy is supposed to work, let both sides come to the table, let both sides offer amendments, and at the end of the day let an honest and open vote determine whether we're going to pass X proposal into law. The oft observed end of bipartisonship and cooperation in American politics in recent years I believe is entirely the fault of the Republicans who have cynically destroyed any ability for the minority party to be involved in the policymaking process. It needs to be changed, and change requires at this time that Democrats be the better men. I dont care if it doesnt do anything for our agenda, Congress needs to return to its roots in this regard. Perhaps Kos, and any Democrats taking his side of this need to be reminded that 44% of the American public voted for Republicans this November. Does Kos really support acting like the Republicans and ignoring 44% of the voting American public entirely? I hope not. Let's take a look at what exactly has gone on in the last 12 years and what exactly is being proposed by Pelosi and Co here.
But to Congress watchers who grew increasingly outraged over Republican conduct of the House during the rule of Mr. Hastert and the majority leader Tom DeLay, the Democrats are definitely heading in the right direction.

“The House has been so egregiously run for a number of years that it was seen as contributing both directly and indirectly to the election results,” said Thomas Mann, a Congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution. “There really is a strong political incentive to try to do business differently.”

Democrats said explicitly that they would abandon some of the most disputed Republican practices. They point in particular to the vote on Medicare prescription drug legislation in 2003, when Republicans refused to shut off a House vote for three hours so they could twist arms and push the measure through just before sunrise. Democrats stipulate that votes should be completed within 15 minutes and not held open simply to manipulate the outcome.

Democrats are developing a proposal to guarantee that lawmakers have at least 24 hours to examine legislation. They have also called for “an end to the two-day work week” and the beginning of a “predictable, professional, family-friendly schedule that allows the legislative process to proceed in a manner that ensures timely and deliberative dispensation of the work of Congress.”

In the House and Senate, the leadership is vowing to conduct full and open conference committees that reconcile differing legislation passed by the two chambers and produce a final bill. In recent years, those sessions have all but disappeared, with senior Republicans hashing out final versions behind closed doors, occasionally adding provisions passed by neither the House nor the Senate. Some of the major legislation approved in the final hours of the past Congress was written in private by just a few lawmakers and aides and rushed to the floor.

Good work Pelosi, as for Kos, I agree with you most of the time, but you're on the wrong side of this bud.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chile Moves for Prosecutions of Pinochet Era Officials

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has moved forward with plans to eliminate an amnesty provision in Chilean law instituted by the now deceased former dictator Augusto Pinochet which would protect officials under his command from prosecution for torture and murder.
“This government, like other democratic governments before it, maintains that the amnesty was an illegitimate decision in its origins and content, form and foundation,” Ms. Bachelet’s chief of staff, Paulina Veloso, said in an interview at the presidential palace here. “Our conviction is that it should never have been applied at all, and certainly should never be used again.”

Ms. Bachelet, a Socialist, took office in March in the fourth consecutive victory for a center-left coalition of Christian Democrats and Socialists since General Pinochet was forced to step down in 1990. In the past, pro-Pinochet right-wing parties have been able to block congressional efforts to overturn the amnesty, but Ms. Bachelet’s coalition has a large enough majority in both houses to make passage of such a bill almost certain.

This is a reasonable next step for Chile, I had many discussions with friends over whether Chile should pursue the Nuremburg model of post-WWII Germany or the Peace and Reconciliation model of post-apartheid South Africa. At the time it wasnt obvious that Chile would pursue either, now it appears that they intend to follow the nuremburg model of prosecuting war criminals. The potential problem with the nuremburg model is pointed out by a right leaning Chilean paper.
“Rather than contributing to social peace and national reconciliation,” the paper said, “this verdict seems to augur the reopening and perpetuation of many causes of division, due to the juridical uncertainty it creates.”

This is a positive step forward for Chile, I think I could support either this or the South Africa model of peace and reconciliation, but the Pinochet era needs to be revisited, it was one of the world's most brutal dictatorships and the full force of what happened during those years needs to be brought to light. This is a good move by Bachelet, as her Chief of Staff points out:
“This was a highly planned system of extermination, not just a solitary person,” said Ms. Veloso, a lawyer and former judge whose first husband was one of the dictatorship’s victims. “So I think the death of Pinochet will not alter the agenda.”

The entirety of Chilean society is a victim of Pinochet's brutality, and closure is needed in order to move past that terrible chapter of Chile's history, good move Bachelet.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Panel Recomends Civil Unions

An Oregon task force on equality appointed by Gov Kulongoski has recomended that the legislature adopt civil unions for gay and lesbian couples much like what Vermont did while Howard Dean was Governor, and New Jersey did a week ago.

I thought (as much as I hated the measure) that this might violate the constitution as amended by Measure 36 in 2004. However, I went back and read the text and there appears to be a loophole for civil unions.
It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.

By specifying "as a marriage" there is a narrow door opened for civil unions. In a Democratic legislature I expect this will at least get a chance on the floor. I dont know if the votes exist to pass it, but at least this will get an opportunity to be debated. This would be a great positive step towards gender equality in Oregon. Kulongoski deserves a lot of praise for his willingness to move forward on this. Other States that have done this have been forced to by the courts, Vermont, New Jersey, and even Massachussetts with their more sweeping reform. Kulongoski is acting out of sheer political will and desire for equality, this goes above and beyond what other States have done if we can pass it, because other States have been forced to action by the courts.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nelson's Fishy Filings

Donna Nelson (R-HD24) has been accused of withholding campaign contributions from July until October in her reelection bid against Democrat Sal Peralta this year. There is good analysis on this over at Loaded Orygun and at Ridenbaugh Press. Nelson claims that she just didnt open the mail until October.
She said any problems might stem from the fact she focuses on constituent mail first. She said "nonessential" mail, including lobbyist mailings that could include campaign checks, sits in plastic tubs until she gets to it - quite possibly months later.

I find it hard to believe that it took her 4 months to open the mail, and as is being argued over at Loaded Orygun, if it actually did take her that long it merely proves that she's a dunce. Nelson built her entire campaign on the theme that "I'm one of y'all, I love you and I love this town." And she seems to be falling back on that same narrative in the face of possibly criminal activity. I'm embarrassed to be represented by this woman, we deserve someone competent in Salem even if it were someone who I had strong political differences with, nobody deserves a completely incompetent Representative. It doesnt matter whether this was deliberate or accidental, it proves either that she maliciously broke the law, or that she's so clueless that she didnt think to bother opening her mail.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Enough With the South!

I bumped into a diary at DailyKos last night which I will use as a jumping off point for something that has been bothering me for quite some time. The diary contended that John Edwards is not the guy to nominate in 2008 because he cant win in the South. This is a questionable claim to begin with, but it builds itself off the premise that Democrats need to win in the South in order to win the Presidency. Its a rediculous argument that a lot of people like to make, I would like to do my part to put it to rest.

After signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson said that he had lost the South for the Democratic Party. That still holds true, the South is by and large a dead region for Democrats. Even in a landslide Congressional victory, the Democrats picked up only two Congressional seats in the South, one in Kentucky and one in North Carolina. In the exit polling data, the South is the only region in the entire Country that the Republicans recieved more votes than the Democrats. So even in a tidal wave election in which the Democrats won by overwhelming margins almost everywhere they still did not do well in the South. This demonstrates that the South is far more hostile to Democrats than any other region in the Country. Yet the myth lives on that Democrats cannot win without winning Southern States and that therefore a Southerner on the ticket is needed. These people like to point to the success of southerners in Presidential elections. However, any Republican can be tossed out as irrellevent to Democratic success because the region is so strongly Republican we can expect them to win it regardless of who they run. Advocates of a southern focus for the Democratic Party point to Bill Clinton's electoral success. This actually demonstrates contrary to what advocates of a southern approach tend to argue, that Democrats dont need to worry about the South

If we look to Bill Clinton's elections in 1992 and 1996 in which he won by large margins with a few southern States. he would have won the election whether he won in the South or not. Arkansas, Louisianna, Kentucky, and Tennessee (and Georgia in 1992 but not in 1996) were bonus States for Clinton, they had no effect on the election. Clinton won 370 and 379 electoral votes, in 1992 Clinton won 47 electoral votes from the South. Subtract 47 from 370 and Clinton still would have won 323 and won the White House with a solid margin. Same holds true for 1996 when Clinton won 34 electoral votes from the South in a 379 EV win, subtract the south and Clinton would have won with 345 electoral votes. The South made no difference to Clinton. He won not because he could win in the South but because he had appeal elsewhere. In both elections Clinton won a couple of southern States on the back of Ross Perot swiping votes away from Bush and Dole respectively. So its clear that a) Clinton wasnt as effective in the South as his reputation and b) that Clinton didnt need the South in order to win.

A winning Democratic strategy should not be built arround the South, it is the most conservative region in the country. For every hour you spend trying to convince Southerners to vote for you, you could have spent 30 minutes to convince the same number of voters in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, or the Southwest. Demographic trends are actually promising for a Southwest strategy rather than a Southern strategy. The US population is increasingly shifting to the Southwest, and long term Democratic success would be smart to focus on Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and even Texas. This is where the US population is moving and this is where there are voters who can be convinced to vote Democratic. As the hispanic populations increase in these States there is a potential for it to become a farely strong region for the Democratic Party. There are votes to be won in the Southwest, not in the South. I'm sick and tired of this claim that the Democrats cant win if they cant win in the South. They can, and any Democrat who wins in the South only does so after they won significant victories over the rest of the country.

Certainly any State that the Democrats can pick off from the Republicans would be positive, and if we pick off some States that happen to be part of "the south" then that's great. Certainly Virginia increasingly looks like a State where Democrats might be able to win. But focusing on appeal to southerners is wrongheaded, Democrats should seek to appeal to States that can reasonably be won with some efficiency like Ohio, Florida, or accross the Southwestern region. Below is an electoral map I compiled based on census data, it shows where electoral power will lie in 2030 if the demographic trends continue as they have. Whoever wins in the Southwest, California, and Texas will likely control the White House in the future.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Oregon Dept of Transp Hates Yamhill County Residents

It seems the Oregon Department of Transportation wants to institute dual tolling on both a bypass road and on 99W.
Don't expect to see the Newberg-Dundee Bypass built unless most motorists are tolled, no matter which route they choose. The question isn't whether to slap a toll on the highway, which has been around since early in the 20th century, but who to exempt and under what conditions, they say.

If that's the case I say no deal, the traffic in Dundee is horrible, but to force motorists traveling from Portland to the coast, Portland to McMinnville, or the other way to pay a toll every time is an outrage. Its essentially a tax on Yamhill County to pay for the profit margin of a private Australian company. The company of course loves the idea.
"That is exactly right," said Nicholas Hann, who represents the Australian conglomerate that hopes to build the bypass. His company, veteran of toll road projects around the world, would finance and build the bypass in exchange for enough toll revenue over a period of 40 to 70 years to make the investment pay off.

If ODOT wishes to contract out a company to build a bypass road at a fair rate for them to make a profit, then fine, if the company wants to charge a toll on the bypass road that's fine, but to toll 99W is death on Dundee, and is taxing us for living where we do in order for a private company to make a profit. If they wont do it without tolling 99W then I say dont build a bypass road, I'll live with the poor traffic flow. Its a bad idea and its incredibly unfair, it shouldnt even be considered.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Return of Duel Tolling on 99W

The Oregon Transportation Improvement group has issued a report suggesting a solution to the Dundee bottleneck problem. Their solution? Gouge the motorists and kill the town of Dundee.
While it throws cold water on the idea of tolling local Highway 99W traffic to prevent motorists from using it as a free alternative, that's unlikely to douse a firestorm of opposition ignited by the idea. In fact, it may actually fan the flames, as it includes several under which through-traffic would be assessed and one under which local traffic would be assessed as well.

The study projects a $1 toll for use of the bypass and a toll of $2 or more for use of Highway 99W, depending on how wide an exemption were to be granted for locals. The wider the local exemption, the higher the toll on other motorists would have to be to compensate.

This is an outrage. If they feel they need to toll in order to pay for it, then the bypass road should be tolled higher and 99W not at all. Once you've got a town (or two, I'm not sure if they're bypassing Newberg or not) on a toll road you create a disencentive for motorists to go to that town for any reason. What this proposal would do is kill the local economy of Dundee. This is a bad idea, and the people of Dundee are right to be angry about it. It doesnt matter if they create an exemption for locals because once you create a barrier to people coming into town all local businesses will suffer. They can place as high a toll as they want on the bypass road and its ok, it would allow drivers a way to cruise from Portland to McMinnville or out to the coast with minimal traffic problems while actually creating a small monetary incentive for motorists to go through dundee if traffic isnt bad. This is a huge problem and needs to be addressed, a bypass is the correct approach, but for god's sake don't toll 99W! Its a lousy idea!

If they follow through with the duel tolling proposal all people in the area, liberals and conservatives, people from Dundee as well as from McMinnville or Newberg or even Portland should gather behind the people of Dundee in opposing this, its an outrageous proposition and I really wish they would stop bringing it back.

Westlund to Take on Gordo?

Today Blue Oregon welcomed State Senator Ben Westlund to the Democratic Party.
State Sen. Ben Westlund, the Central Oregon legislator who left the Republican Party in February and flirted with an independent campaign for governor, will officially join the Democratic Party today.

The switch in allegiance was sparked by a realization that his politics mesh more with Democrats than Republicans, Westlund said in an interview Monday.

There has been speculation before that Westlund hopes to take on Senator Smith in 2008. This would be the perfect preliminary move to doing so. By switching Parties Westlund puts to rest any concerns that he's "not really a Democrat" and generates stronger support than he would otherwise get in the Democratic primary. We already know that Westlund has ambitions for higher office as is demonstrated by his brief bid for Governor in 2006 (he dropped out early while polling under 10%). Then there's the fact, as Russel Sadler pointed out in Blue Oregon, that Westlund would take Smith's fake image as a "maverick" and as a "moderate" and turn it upside down, because here we have someone unambiguously both a maverick and a moderate, who grew so disinfranchised with his Republican Party that he couldnt remain in the caucus any longer.
That leaves Ben Westlund who, I suspect, is about to do that most spectacular of political maneuvers -- a Wayne Morse double reverse with a twist.

Morse was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 1944 and reelected in 1950. He had a falling out with Republicans over foreign policy and McCarthyism and declared himself an Independent in 1952.

Morse became a Democrat in 1955 and was reelected in 1956 and 1960, before Bob Packwood, another Republican maverick, defeated him in 1966.

Westlund won a State Senate seat from Central Oregon as a Republican. He quietly tried to end his party’s fake “surplus” rebates and their reckless “borrow and spend” policies. He was threatened with a purge from the party when he ran for reelection.

Westlund got the message, became an independent and ran for governor instead. When polls showed he could not win, Westlund gracefully retired from the field. Some grateful Democrats are now urging him to join their party and run for Smith’s Senate seat in 2008.

Given the voters’ rebuke of the Republican Party and Smith’s orthodox partisan voting record, Smith can no longer hide in Mark Hatfield’s maverick cloak. Smith is no maverick. Ben Westlund is. And Oregonians love their mavericks.

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

Clearly he did have plans to change his registration. Westlund is likely our 2nd best candidate to defeat Smith. Unfortunately, our best candidate seems to have no interest in running. Westlund might have a shot, but I think Kitzhaber would be very likely to take Smith down. In the absence of a Kitzhaber run, Westlund is a great candidate who can control the real center and contrast it against Smith's conservatism disguised as moderation. I think Westlund is preparing to run, and I hope he does.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bi-ennial Sessions On the Way Out

I've never understood why the Oregon legislature meets bi-ennially, but its good to see some growing support for meeting annually instead. The only real justification I can think of for meeting bi-ennially is that back in the day it might have been difficult for legislators from southern or eastern Oregon to get to Salem, so a bi-ennial session would have made sense to cut down on the amount of travelling. But with modern transportation I see no justification for it anymore.
Senate President Peter Courtney says he senses growing support among lawmakers for giving annual legislative sessions a test drive beginning in January - an idea he believes would help bring the Legislature into the 21st century.

The Salem Democrat said House and Senate members of both parties are open to a session limited to 120 days in 2007, followed by a 60-day session in 2008.

"I'm encouraged by the reception I'm getting," Courtney said at a news conference Thursday.

In a tradition that dates to Oregon statehood, the Legislature has met every other year, instead of annually, as in 44 other states.

Of course some people just dont want the legislature to work for Oregonians, with an attitude like this I dont see why allowing the legislature to meet at all would be acceptable.
Not everyone is pleased about the prospect of Oregon lawmakers coming into session every year.

"If this happens, taxpayers will have to be in a state of red alert every year, instead of every other year," said Jason Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers Association of Oregon. "Every year they will be threatened with more taxes and more regulations."

In any event, I hope this change is adopted, its silly to meet bi-ennially.

UPDATEIn the original version of this post I consistently said "bi-annual", and a commenter pointed out that what I really meant was "bi-ennial" so I have deleted every instance of "bi-annual" and replaced it with "bi-ennial" provided I didnt miss any, which is always a possibility.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I'm not convinced I like the new blogger, maybe I'm just skeptical of changes in general, but right now I'm not a fan. Hopefully I'll just get used to it as I use it more, but I don't like it right now. It just seems wierd.

Oregon on the Road to Universal Health Care

An Oregon State Senate panel yesterday backed a proposal for Universal Health Care in which individuals and employers would contribute to a pool which all residents of Oregon would be granted access to. Private insurance companies would then compete for the ability to cover the people paid into the pool.
The commission's draft bill lacks crucial details, such as costs, but it does outline a broad proposal for dramatically changing how Oregonians would buy and receive health care.

"We are trying to do something that has not been done in this state or this country before," said Sen. Ben Westlund, an independent from Bend who co-chairs the Senate Interim Commission on Health Care Access and Affordability. "All eyes are once again on Oregon."

Commission leaders, who met Friday in Wilsonville, say the plan would give every Oregonian a health card that could be used to buy a complete health care package -- including dental, mental health and vision coverage -- for less than most businesses and individuals now pay.

In addition to the goal of expanding access, the plan includes features to control costs and improve quality. The same three goals for comprehensive reform are being pursued by the Oregon Health Policy Commission, the Oregon Business Council and former Gov. John Kitzhaber's Archimedes Movement.
The Senate commission's plan would require all employers and individuals to contribute money to a common pool called the Oregon Health Care Trust Fund. Residents who earn less than 250 percent of the poverty level would not have to pay to be in the plan. The fund also would include public employee and federal Medicaid contributions.
The plan would collect money, possibly a payroll tax, from businesses. Large companies with self-insurance plans would have their contributions reimbursed.

An 11-member Health Care Trust Fund Commission or board, appointed by the governor, would adopt regulations and administer the trust. Businesses and individuals could choose health plans, which would be paid through the trust with rates set by the trust commission.

The Senate group decided that the trust commission should function like a corporate board, with an executive director and staff. Much of the debate Friday was over who should be represented on the board.

The plan would cover all Oregonians, including the more than 600,000 who now lack health insurance. Individuals who choose not to participate in the plan would lose their personal state income tax deduction. All participants would be required to write an advance directive, describing the level of care they would want at the end of life.

The directive is one of many features in the plan designed to contain costs and improve quality. Insurers, for example, would compete for health-card holders. The state also would increase competition by requiring hospitals and doctors to reveal their charges and costs.

I'm still skeptical that universal health care can really succeed on a State level, but when the Federal Government fails to act, States like Oregon, Hawaii, Massachussetts, and Vermont have no choice but to act. I look forward to seeing how this works out if it passes, but this is definately a step in the right direction.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rupert Murdoch Really is Amazing

Not Murdoch himself mind you, but any publication that is owned by him. The New York Post today is downright comical. To read a publication like that you have to either want a good laugh or be completely divorced from reality. This speaks pretty strongly to the "good laugh" argument. What is disturbing however is that they are completely serious when they say something like this:
The Iraq Study Group report delivered to President Bush yesterday contains 79 separate recommendations - but not one that explains how American forces can defeat the terrorist insurgents, only ways to bring the troops home.

Declaring the situation "grave and deteriorating," the high-powered commission proposed the United States talk directly to terror abettors Iran and Syria to get their cooperation, and commit to removing U.S. combat troops in early 2008.

To write this, one has to be completely unaware of the reality of the situation. It assumes that staying in Iraq is the only possible thing we can do, and that all others serve to "appease the terrorists". To me we've almost reached the point where the only relevent question in Iraq is "how can we prevent US troops from being killed?" I opposed this at the beginning, and for a year after we went in I took the "pottery barn" approach that we broke it we have a responsibility to fix it. But as we approach 3,000 dead American soldiers it seems pretty outrageous to insist on anything but saving American lives, particularly when our presence there seems to be accomplishing nothing positive for Iraqis. Perhaps if something were being accomplished my tolerance would be a little higher, but Iraq is far worse today than it was the day we invaded, and has been on a continual downward slide since that time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Measure 37 Absurdity

What always struck me as strange about Measure 37 is that land use laws exist for a reason. We place these regulations on property in order to accomplish some goal, and Measure 37 completely rejects that. It has also placed a perverse incentive for anyone blocked from doing something to file a measure 37 claim because odds are that by the time all appeals are out, property value will have increased. It merely allows people to be manipulative, and manipulation looks like exactly what this is to me.
Gary and Kathy George have lobbed a hot potato into the Yamhill County Planning Department - a big Measure 37 claim.

The county's most prominent political family - he's a long-time state senator, she was recently elected to a second term on the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners and their son, Larry, won an Oregon Senate seat in November - wants to divide their 394 acres on Ribbon Ridge Road into 20- and 40-acre building lots. Notice of the family's plans was mailed to neighbors and other interested parties Wednesday.

The Georges want to create 12 homesites through a series of partitions over a period of six years or more. That means that the development wouldn't technically qualify as a subdivision, as that's a term with a specific meaning - dividing land into four or more lots within a single calendar year.

In the county's triggering denial letter, Planning Director Mike Brandt indicated that even if the claim were approved, the Georges might not be able to implement their plans, though.

"A successful Measure 37 claim may not allow you to eventually partition the property into 20- and/or 40-acre lots," he wrote. "State land-use laws in place in 1978 may preclude division of the property into such lot sizes."

You know you've passed something absolutely insane when even Idaho, where property rights are more important than human rights, used Oregon as a model for which to illustrate that this is a bad idea when something just like M 37 appeared on their ballot in 2006.

If you don't like the land use laws that doesnt mean you deserve to get paid, it means you should elect people who will change them. Measure 37 is one of the silliest things in existence.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Human Rights and Immigration

America's economic refugee situation has been discussed entirely on the wrong terms. Rather than to try to find approaches to manage the situation in which lots of impoverished people with the initiative to risk everything in order to come here that respect human dignity, much of the policy responses offered have been to crack down on these people who take desperate life risking measures in order to get to this country rather than those who violate the fundamental human rights of others. Person traffickers for example, are amongst the scum of the earth, people who smuggle poor people past immigration officials exposing them to inhumane conditions in order to make a buck. The conditions that person traffickers expose their victems who they claim to help can be seen in todays New York Times.
A truck driver was found guilty of all charges Monday and faces possible execution in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants who suffocated in his airless trailer in South Texas in 2003.
The milk trailer, piled with bodies and 55 survivors, was found abandoned at a truck stop near Victoria, Tex., in the early hours of May 14, 2003.

We are far too used to talking about this issue in terms of "illegal immigrants" which shifts the debate onto people who are in actuality the victems of our present broken immigration policy. A serious approach must acknowledge that the influx of people is driven by a fundamental economic reality, that we hold a unique position in the world, a developed economy sharing a 2,000 mile border with a developing economy. The approaches to this issue need to recognize that, and crack down on those who abuse the human rights of those who desperately seek passage to the United States. We need to crack down on people traffickers and those who employ illegal immigrants. We need to acknowledge that immigrant labor is important to many businesses, particularly in agriculture, and reform our visa policies to grant more visas to those who seek work in the United States so that they dont need to take the treacherous routes to pass into the United States illegally and won't be abused by people traffickers and unscrupulous employers who might pay less than minimum wage and house people in unsafe tin shacks. And finally, we need to expand fair trade and foreign aid with Mexico in order to equilize our economies. This issue is about human rights, and any reforms need to be focused on that reality.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Seattle Integration Case

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Parents Involved v. Seattle School District. In which parents challenged Seattle's K-12 integration program for using race as a factor in determing which children should go to which schools. SCOTUSBlog believes Seattle's policy is doomed.
In order for public schools to try to reduce or eliminate "one-race" schools that largely reflect local housing patterns, they must be able to borrow from the college level the idea that the achievement of "racial diversity" in learning is constitutionally acceptable if based in part on race-based selection. That is the principle established by the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003. And, while Kennedy dissented on the particulars, he had not totally rejected the core principle. On Monday, however, he repeatedly stressed that, for him, Grutter was limited to higher education.

"That case is completely inapplicable" to the K-12 cases now before the Court, he said at one point as the Court heard the cases of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District (05-908) and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (05-915), involving the sometime use of race in picking which school a child may attend in a student-choice assignment plan. The Court, Kennedy, had never said that a school district that was not seeking toi end official segregation can "turn around and use an individual student's race" in assigning that student to a school. He commented that the Court, in the Grutter decision, "went as far as it could away from" the principle that an individual's race cannot be the determining factor in the education setting.

I disagree, while SCOTUSBlog is probably correct about how Kennedy will vote as the swing justice, there are options available to the City of Seattle that can accomplish the same thing, and more for public school equality after the current plan is thrown out.

There was discussion arround the time of the Grutter and Bollinger decisions regarding the Texas plan for higher education, which guaranteed low income students who were in the top 10% (or something like that, its possible I've got the number wrong) in their graduating class regardless of what school they attended, admission to a Texas public University. However, what happened was that UT overwhelmingly took the students from better schools and the students from low achievement schools got pushed aside to less esteemed State institutions. The plan faced problems in its implementation as I just pointed out, and also in the difficulty of using class distinctions for higher education. However, what Seattle could do is continue a program similar to what they are doing now, only using distinctions of economic class rather than race. There is a known correlation between the two, so Seattle would be ensuring a similar racial outcome to what they have under the present system with the added benefit of ensuring that there is diversity of wealth within schools, which will go farther for using education policy as a means of achieving social equity. Once rich kids are attending inner city schools the broader public is more likely to work for the improvement of those schools, rather than being seen as "someone else's problem" they become everyone's. So while SCOTUSBlog is probably correct about the way Kennedy will swing the Court, Seattle will still be able to do as much as they are doing now towards integration and more if they simply replace the emphasis on race with an emphasis on class.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Damnit Kitzhaber!

Well, this is pretty unambiguous.

Kitzhaber is a guest on the KWBP interview program Outlook Portland with Nick Fish, to air Sunday morning at 6:30. A clip from it has been posted on the Willamette Week site. It shows what looks like the closing seconds of the program, when Fish asks Kitzhaber, “If the Archimedes Movement is successful and there’s something to be done at the federal level, would you consider running for the Senate?”

A smiling Kitzhaber replied, “No.”

You could parse the question and maybe find a trap door or two, but the speed and abruptness with which the former governor answered seemed to say it all.

That quote from Ridenbaugh Press. I disagree, you cannot "parse the question and maybe find a trap door or two. Kitzhaber is not running, and its a damn shame. Smith has to go, so, who is going to come forward to beat him? Westlund? Blumenauer? Kitzhaber is doing everyone a disservice by not running, but it does no good to dwell on it. Someone has got to take down Smith, Kitzhaber was our best shot, someone needs to step forward.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Oregon Union Victory

This is certainly good news.
Oregon's largest dairy will start talks with union
Oregon’s largest dairy is expected to begin negotiations with a union representing about 250 workers, Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s office announced Friday.

The United Farm Workers union has been organizing workers at Threemile Canyon Farms near Boardman since 2003, but until now the dairy has refused to negotiate. The battle has been acrimonious, with workers filing lawsuits alleging a variety of claims, including wrongful firing and gender discrimination.
The state has no collective-bargaining laws for farm workers. Legislative attempts to grant such rights over the past decade have failed, usually because unions opposed bills that they described as favoring farmers.

This country, and particularly this State need to make some serious reforms to aid the growth of unions. The intimidation tactics on the part of the dairy described here are not unique at all to this case, and worse is often done. Nationally one of the biggest problems is the presence of unapoligetically anti-labor members of the NLRB, but legislative reform is desperately needed here. We are just not a union friendly country, and Oregon is not a union friendly State. Democrats should use their majority both in Oregon and Nationally to institute some more union friendly policies.

Justice May Finally Be Coming in Mexico

Amidst all the bad news from Mexico today regarding Felipe Calderon's inauguration. Yesterday the New York Times brought forth this piece of good news.
An appeals court on Wednesday cleared the way for the arrest and trial of former President Luis Echeverría on genocide charges in connection with the massacre of student protesters in 1968.

The court reversed earlier rulings that the statute of limitations had long since run out, saying it had two days to go.

The ruling is the final twist in a long battle by the administration of President Vicente Fox to charge and try Mr. Echeverría, who is 84 and in poor health, for his role in the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of students, leftist dissidents and guerrillas in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period known in Mexico as “the dirty war.”

The decision was a victory for Mr. Fox, who leaves office on Friday. He staked part of his political legacy on holding government officials responsible for past atrocities instead of forming a truth commission with no ability to charge people with crimes.

For all the problems I've got with much of Fox's leadership, I really respect what he has done here and with border issues with the United States. Mexico has a long history of oppression, it is that long history that lead to unrest in response to the close election in July (which finally culminated with a legislative fist fight today). Fox's decision to put Echeverria on trial for these crimes is a positive step in moving Mexico from the de-facto dictatorship that it was under the PRI into a functioning democracy.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

What's Up With Russia?

Surely Putin cant be behind any of this, after all Bush looked into his soul.
Yegor T. Gaidar, a former prime minister and architect of Russia’s early post-Soviet market reforms, has been hospitalized with a mysterious illness that his daughter and associates said Wednesday could have resulted from poisoning.

Mr. Gaidar, 50, fell ill in Ireland on Friday, the day after Alexander V. Litvinenko, the former Russian secret agent, died in London following an illness caused by exposure to polonium 210, a radioactive isotope. Mr. Gaidar’s spokesman, Valery A. Natarov, said Mr. Gaidar returned to Moscow on Sunday and remained in a hospital, though neither Mr. Natarov nor others would identify it.
Anatoly B. Chubais, an ally of Mr. Gaidar and chairman of Russia’s electric monopoly, said that Mr. Gaidar appeared to have escaped an attempt on his life. He said the case was linked to Mr. Litvinenko’s death and to the recent killing of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

“This miraculously incomplete lethal construct — Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Gaidar — would have been extremely attractive to those seeking an unconstitutional and forceful change of power in Russia,” Mr. Chubais said in televised remarks from St. Petersburg. He did not elaborate, but his words suggested he did not believe that the Russian authorities had been involved.

Still, the reaction to Mr. Gaidar’s illness underscored the sensation the London poisoning has caused, though the police in Britain have not classified Mr. Litvinenko’s death as a murder case, and the Kremlin has denied Russian officials were involved.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, on Wednesday criticized what he called the “completely unexplainable hysteria” over the cases.

Completely unexplainable. Putin has been grasping for more and more power for a couple of years now. It seems relatively clear that the Kremlin was behind Politkovskaya, probably Litvenenko, and maybe behind this. It will be interesting to see what happens when Putin terms out, if he'll seek a top position in the Duma or if he'll change the constitution to stay in power. But Bush looked in his soul, so he must be ok.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Rumsfeld not Agressive Enough for Bush

President Bush was much hailed after the election for having his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resign. I never thought this was a signal for any change in policy, Bush is far too stubborn and bull headed to change his mind with a changing reality. But his replacement, Robert Gates appears to be even farther out there than was Rumsfeld.
In 1984, Robert Gates, then the No. 2 CIA official, advocated U.S. airstrikes against Nicaragua's pro-Cuban government to reverse what he described as an ineffective U.S. strategy to deal with communist advances in Central America, previously classified documents say.

Gates, President Bush's nominee to be defense secretary, said the United States could no longer justify what he described as "halfhearted" attempts to contain Nicaragua's Sandinista government, according to documents released Friday by the National Security Archive, a private research group.

In a memo to CIA Director William Casey dated Dec. 14, 1984, Gates said his proposed airstrikes would be designed "to destroy a considerable portion of Nicaragua's military buildup" and be focused on tanks and helicopters.

This man does not deserve to be Secretary of Defense, I'm not sure its a prudent time for the Democrats to attempt a filibuster of the nomination however. It really was a cynical thing for Bush to time the nomination this way and insist that he needs a Secretary of State immediately. I would venture to guess that if Bush had waited Gates would not have a prayer of confirmation in a Democratic Senate, however, it seems unwise to make our last act in the minority before the new Congress a filibuster. If a vote can be prevented before the new Congress without appearing quite as contentious as a filibuster would, that would be an excellent idea. I had no opinion on Gates until very recently, but it seems to me as though this man probably has no business being Secretary of Defense.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Lost Scandal of Enron

This weekend I watched, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." I was impressed with the movie and appalled even beyond what I expected at what went on. I knew Skilling, Lay, and Fastow were scumbags, and that Arther Andersen couldnt seem to question what was right in front of them. But what I never realized (at least if you accept the view taken by the filmmakers) the extent to which those individuals running the company were able to influence the entire corporate culture.

This comes accross in the movie as being far more than a few bad apples at the top manipulating earnings and running the company into the ground for their own gain. Skilling in particular seemed to press an attitude so concerned with "I" that it forgot about "we". Even extending to lower level employees there seemed to be an attitude that "if I have to walk over 100 people to make an extra buck I'll do that." One scene discussed Enron's retention and promotion practices in which all employees would vote on each others performance, so there was an incentive to try to force anyone out who might get in the way of individual advancement. This had the perverse incentive of sometimes driving more talented people out of the company. There was a whole series of scenes discussing Enron's manipulation of the California energy market. They were able to obtain audio conversations from the Enron offices from this time for the film, and the conversations were appalling. These people all knew what they were doing to California and Californians, and they acted like it was some funny game to watch people suffer.

Talk about banality of evil, Skilling was able to create a culture that rewarded greed so heavily that everyone in the company knowingly contributed to what any reasonable sense of right and wrong should have lead them to know is unnacceptable. It reversed the moral order to where the goal was to harm people rather than to prevent harm as long as it benefitted Enron and the people carrying out its nefarious activities. It seems like the only person with enough sense to try to change anything was Sherron Watkins, the rest of Enron's employees who knew something was wrong it seemed were too afraid of some harm to themselves or too attached to the benefits Enron was bringing them at the time to make any effort to change anything. It seems that nobody bothered to, as Enron's slogan stated "Ask Why".

I thought it was a very well done and insightful documentary, if you havent seen it you should.

Earmarks Revisited

Les Aucoin commented here yesterday regarding my highly mediocre post about Congressional earmarks. I feel he horribly misinterpreted the post and am thus posting my response as a new post instead of as a comment. Here's what Frmr Rep Aucoin said:
How do you like the MAX light rail lines--from PDX to Gresham and PDX to Hillsboro? Are they cutting emissions? Gasoline usage? Are the helping guide growth?

Earmarks, pal, both of 'em. I know. I helped perpetrate the "crimes."

It's hazardous to speak (or write) in absolutes.

Les AuCoin
U.S. Congressman, D-OR 1st District (ret.)

I didnt realize I was coming accross that way, I said everyone likes them and that this is why it wouldnt change with a Democratic Congress. I do think that some projects (bridge to nowhere) are way over the top. I stated quite clearly that there was a "universal incentive" to keep the pork coming. Yes, I do like the rail lines, and the fact that they and similar projects are so widely favored by constituencies is why nothing will change. Personally I don't know how it comes accross as though I were calling them a "crime"
(your word) and as absolutist argument against pork when I said this:
The fact is that while all legislators may rail about the pork that others are getting, and all voters dislike the pork that other districts/states recieve, all legislators love their own pork projects and all voters love the pet projects in their district that their legislator delivers to them.

Everybody likes the earmarks so there's no getting rid of them even though sometimes they get rediculous, that's the only point I was attempting to make in this post and I don't understand how it came accross the way you evidently read it. Am I critical of some of the projects? Definately, but I think I made it pretty clear that legislators are rewarded for bringing it home, and you're right, a lot of these projects do a lot of good as well. The New Deal was built in large part on these kinds of pet projects as a way to create jobs. Frankly your comment confuses me because I fail to see how it came off that way, but I guess it did. You're right about the light rail lines and about a million other projects just like them, and at no point would I ever have disagreed with you in that regard, hence my point, it wont change with the Democratic Congress.

At worst that was a bad post, and perhaps I should have found better language to make the point. But I feel it was badly misinterpreted in that comment.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Earmarks in the Next Congress

Anyone who expected the amount of pork Congress doles out to change with the Democratic Congress taking office in January had unreasonable expectations. Certainly we need to be reducing the amount of local pet projects that accomplish little, but there's such a universal incentive for them that there's no getting rid of them. The New York Times today has a good discussion of pork in Congress.
Meet the new cardinals, as the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees are known on Capitol Hill. Many have a lot in common with the Republicans they will succeed.

All have worked for years to climb to their posts, where the authority to grant earmarks puts them among the most powerful lawmakers in Congress. Like Mr. Inouye and Mr. Stevens, many have developed unusual bipartisan camaraderie while divvying up projects. By longstanding, informal agreement, the majority typically doles out about 60 percent of the money for earmarks and lets the minority pass out the rest. And they form a united front against limitations on the earmark process.

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat who is set to become chairwoman of the transportation subcommittee, said last fall in a speech defending an Alaska Republican’s allocation of more than $200 million in federal money for a bridge to remote Gravina, Alaska, with a population of 50. It became notorious as the “Bridge to Nowhere.”

“I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next,” Ms. Murray warned. To anyone who might vote against the bridge, Ms. Murray threatened that her subcommittee would be “taking a long, serious look at their projects.” Every Democrat on the Appropriations Committee voted against an amendment to strike the bridge, and after threats from Ms. Murray and Mr. Stevens, only 15 senators voted for the amendment. The bridge’s future is unclear.

The fact is that while all legislators may rail about the pork that others are getting, and all voters dislike the pork that other districts/states recieve, all legislators love their own pork projects and all voters love the pet projects in their district that their legislator delivers to them. It creates an overwhelming electoral incentive to spend on things like the bridge to nowhere. I don't know how you create a culture of responsibility in DC regarding that, but its clear that there is an incentive for each legislator to oppose any changes.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Small Steps Towards Universal Health Care

The Oregonian ran an AP wire report today (which they appear to have not put online) about the Democrats supporting a plan to reduce medicare expenditures without reducing the number of people covered.
Under traditional Medicare, healthcare providers bill the government for the services they perform. But with ''Medicare Advantage'' managed care, the insurers get a set amount per person. Then, the insurers reimburse the people who provide the care.

Medicare is already far more efficient than health insurance companies spending far less on administrative costs. This would limit those administrative costs even more, proving that the private insurance industry cannot adequately supply health care to the American people. This might be able to get through Congress but Bush will veto it, and that's ok, its a good proactive step to show the American people that Democrats are serious about fixing health care in this country without jeopardizing the policy of universal health care at a time when we clearly cannot pass it. 2009 is my target date for something to be done, when the Democrats (warning, wishful thinking) pick up 2 more seats in the Senate, hold their House majority and gain the Presidency. Right now, small steps like this are a good policy for the Democrats to take, things that can make a big difference, that the Democrats can unite behind and the Republicans will oppose. This may well be a futile effort because of Bush's presence in the White House holding the veto pen, but it can send a clear message to the American people that Democrats are interested in solving this crisis where Republicans are not. I don't think the debate over universal health care should begin until we have the structural advantage to pass it, we cant risk losing the debate again when we know from the start that we lack the means to pass the program. I think this is something Democrats should be campaigning on, but we need to have some patience and wait for the moment when we can get it done before pushing legislation for universal health care.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Get back to where you once belonged

In much of the rural United States people have rightly taken offence to the stereotype that they are all a bunch of illiterate, gun toting, dirty, racist, and dumb individuals. Its a viscious stereotype that they are right to take offence at. However, crap like this does not help the cause.
Ordinance 208, passed by the City Council last week, asks Greenleaf's residents who do not object on religious or other grounds to keep a gun in the home.
Jett, a former Canyon County deputy sheriff, said citizens should be armed in case Greenleaf, which sits on high ground, is overrun by refugees in a Katrina-like flood.

The town, about 35 miles west of Boise near the Oregon border, is surrounded by three reservoirs and an earthen dam, Jett said. Plus, Idaho could experience a major earthquake, he said.

"This is not an 'it'll never happen here kind of thing,' " Jett said. "We could get refugees."

Because other Americans fleeing a disaster area are such a threat to Greenleaf. Right. What ever happened to respecting other people? Particularly when you're all citizens of the same damn Country. What is wrong with these people? Is this the lasting legacy of the minute men on the US-Mexico border? That we're all licensed to shoot anyone different who is "invading" our nice quiet town? This is apalling, and the next time the citizens of Greenleaf complain that the rest of the country doesnt respect their values or that they're unfairly stereotyped they deserve to be laughed out of town. I had hoped that the lasting legacy of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco would be a restoration of our social bonds with one another, a renewed sense of community. And maybe it is, maybe Greenleaf is just one little spot in the country that is bucking a larger trend, but this is very disconcerting to me. One of the most horrific stories last September was that police in a town next to New Orleans blocked the bridge that connected the two cities and with guns in their hands turned their fellow Americans back, into that watery grave that was New Orleans, and one would have hoped that Americans everywhere would look at that in disgust and say "No! We're better than that, we wouldnt turn away our fellow Americans in their time of greatest need!" And commit ourselves to reaching out to one another to make sure that our brothers and sisters do not suffer. One would hope that the horrors of Katrina would renew our sense of responsibility towards one another. But I guess not, at least not in Greenleaf Idaho. Disgusting.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanks Bush

I'm certainly not an economist, but this looks ugly.
U.S. home construction plunged in October to its lowest level in more than six years, according to government data, sending a chill through the slumping housing market.

The Commerce Department reported today that construction of homes and apartments dropped to an annual rate of 1.486 million units last month, down 14.6 percent from the September level.

The sharpest drop came in the South, where construction fell by 26.4 percent. That region includes the Washington area.

Construction was down 11.7 percent in the Midwest and 2.1 percent in the West. The only region to show gains was the Northeast, where construction grew by 31 percent.

Fortunately for Oregon there's not much change in the west, and things look really good in the Northeast, but this is not promising. Home construction declines and I think we see big repercussions throughout the rest of the economy. Certainly when I talk to econ professors at Linfield housing prices get cited as a reason that we're probably heading towards a recession. Now that the popping of the housing bubble seems to be materializing in a decline in home construction I think the picture looks ugly. Looks to me like we might be headed for a big downturn just as the Democratic congress is sworn in. Which will be precisely the time that we want to deficit spend. But thanks to Bush's love affair with tax cuts, and his lunatic war we're already running huge deficits. I think the Democratic Congress has its work cut out for it, hopefully this can be managed, but its going to be tough. Getting out of Iraq I think would help a ton just by freeing up a lot of money. That's my amature prognosis, if you've got a good reason why I'm wrong please weigh in, since I'm a political science person, not an economics person.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Injustice in Oregon's Courts

Back at the end of September the NYT exposed the rotton state of justice in small town New York where undertrained and underpaid judges make important decisions regarding fines, warrants, issues of protection, and jail time without any real knowledge or respect for the law. A key passage from the Times article that gives a hint into the behavior of these judges who usually lack a law degree and oftentimes lack even a college education.
A woman in Malone, N.Y., was not amused. A mother of four, she went to court in that North Country village seeking an order of protection against her husband, who the police said had choked her, kicked her in the stomach and threatened to kill her. The justice, Donald R. Roberts, a former state trooper with a high school diploma, not only refused, according to state officials, but later told the court clerk, “Every woman needs a good pounding every now and then.”

I know this article was a while ago and I'm late jumping on board covering it, but I found it interesting and started doing some research. I was interested in the claim made by the New York Times that 30 States have courts just like New York's. It was when I looked through the Oregon State Code that I discovered that Oregon is one of the 30. What I find interesting is how extraordinarily abusive the Courts appeared in the New York Times article contrasted with how little you hear about this issue. So I present two questions. 1) Should town judges be required to be lawyers? and 2) Have you had any experience with a Justice Court in Oregon that is worth telling?

I'm also curious if enough people even read this for me to get a real response here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On Tomorrows Majority Leader Vote

Talking Points Memo discusses Murtha's comments regarding ethics reform.
A Roll Call article today quoted Murtha saying of a Democratic ethics reform package, "Even though I think it’s total crap, I’ll vote for it and pass it because that’s what Nancy wants."

With Matthews, Murtha sounded a call for openness as the antidote to corruption. "Transparency. I think that’s the only way to stop it," said the 34-year House veteran, who earlier this year worked to help kill Democratic lobby reform efforts. "And I think the regulations that Nancy’s in favor of were very important. I don’t mean to imply that they aren’t."

Someone at Blue Oregon yesterday made a comment that made a lot of sense to me, that this was going to be Pelosi's House and Pelosi's agenda, unlike the House under Tom DeLay where Hastert was nothing but a tool for the majority leader. Almost the opposite will be true here, Pelosi will set the agenda, and the Majority Leader will be her right hand man in carrying it out. I think that's what Murtha's comments support here, that Murtha will work for Pelosi's agenda, while I've heard speculation that Hoyer and Pelosi have bashed heads in the past and that Hoyer may subvert Pelosi's agenda. I think Murtha's the right choice, but at the end of the day I agree with Earl Blumenauer.
The next 48 hours are going to be a significant test regardless of the outcome. Will Democrats be able to conduct a decision on leadership in a way that is constructive with a minimum of rancor? Will we get the pieces right for the team and be able to make sure that we emerge stronger rather than weaker?

Jack and Steny are going to be fine regardless of what happens. At a minimum each are going to play key roles in an Appropriations Committee that will be energized under the leadership of Dave Obey and key new members. They both will chair critical subcommittees that will deal with important spending priorities. They will both be very powerful voices in our caucus with a devoted following of people who are their friends, admirers, and supporters.

I'm more interested in this as a test for Democrats than for the leadership position itself. Will people have the ability to deal with the selection and then move on in a way that will be the most constructive for our Caucus? Will we find a way to mute and avoid the tendency in close, hard fought contest to make it personal and make it public? I may well be the only person in the caucus who is not trying to persuade people one way or another. Indeed, I may be the only one who is still thinking about my choice and what it represents.

The recent attacks upon Murtha's history regarding ethics bode ill for Blumenauer's hopes, if Murtha wins this I just hope that Hoyer's supporters don't start undermining Murtha and Pelosi, Murtha will fight for ethics reform, the ethics story is old and not a story. Lets see how the vote comes out tomorrow and get to work whoever wins.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Now is the Time to Go After Smith

DailyKos brought me this insight regarding Norm Coleman in Minnesota.
One of the keys to taking out Conrad Burns in Montana was early efforts by Montana Democrats (using DSCC money) to soften up Burns in 2005.

There's no need to give 2008 Republican incumbents any respite. Hit them hard, hit them early. And in Minnesota, DFLers are chomping at the bit to take out Norm Coleman.
With the wind at their backs, Minnesota Democrats are quickly making Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman their next target.

Following Amy Klobuchar's overwhelming Senate victory last week, Democrats are expected to line up soon in hopes of winning support for a 2008 run at Coleman, a stout backer of President Bush.

"I think the list of Democratic hopefuls for the 2008 U.S. Senate race has just grown exponentially,'' said University of Minnesota political science professor Larry Jacobs. "The reality of Klobuchar's smashing victory is so enticing. It's like honey for bees.''

If we're going to knock off the fake moderate Gordon Smith in 2008 now is the time to really start going after him hard. If we wait until early 2008 to start working hard to expose the fact that he's not really a moderate then it will likely be too late. So I propose a program accross the Oregon lefty blogosphere to start hammering Smith as often as possible over the course of the next two years starting today and doing whatever we can to bring strong smart Democrats like Blumenauer or Kitzhaber into a 2008 showdown with Smith.

Setting the Democratic Congressional Agenda

Kari Chisholm made the following comment in response to my Lieberman post yesterday.
I'm not sure I agree that they need to work in a bipartisan fashion. Certainly not in the US House. They need to punch out a rapid-fire set of progressive policies.

Then, Bush can either sign or veto. If he signs, we win now. If he vetoes, we win later.

I think this holds true on a few issues, Iraq, minimum wage, and tax policy. But I don't think that this is a particularly bright approach for Democrats to take regarding thier 2006 agenda. It is precisely the mistake that the Republicans made that set the stage for our landslide victory this year. This country needs a return to good pragmatic government, and that means not acting like the Republicans have acted for the last 12 years. I wrote a diary at DailyKos last night which is effectively my response to Kari.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What a Moron

Joe Lieberman is truly out of touch. Instead of dwelling on reponding to this bullshit, I'll just direct you to my previous post.

In at least as great a tidal wave election as 1994 Joe Lieberman can get up there and declare that "this was not a realignment election," is amazing. In every such tidal wave the losing party has picked up something, and in 2006 that didnt happen, I predicted that GA-12, but it appears that even that didnt happen, the Republicans were so thoroughly beaten this year that they couldnt even pick up a single house seat from a Democrat, yet Joe Lieberman can get up there and say "voters are equally frustrated with both parties." That's not to say that Democrats dont need to work hard in a bipartison fashion to prove to voters that they can govern effectively between now and 2008 to retain their majorities, but the voters sent a clear message on Tuesday and Joe Lieberman is in lalaland if he can't see that.

Finally, I know I'm a liar, I said I wouldnt go into why Lieberman is a moron, but as the post developed I realized I couldnt restrain myself.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just How Big was the 2006 Tidal Wave?

While much of the discussions about this years elections have centered on the idea of the "sixth year itch" and the undeniable fact that the President's Party almost always loses seats in midterms generally, but sixth year elections in particular, I would contend that this year was a truly huge tidal wave election of impressive magnitude. After the counting is done in the remaining districts it is likely that the Democrats will control 231-232 seats in the House of Representatives. That means that one or two more districts voted for Democrats than in the 1994 Republican Revolution. Yes, Republicans came from a larger deficit to do that, but this is due to fewer gerrymandered seats. The fact is that more Americans are now represented by Democrats in the House than were represented by Republicans in 1994. The gains were short of 1994 levels only because of the makeup and representation of Congressional districts. It took a larger burst for Democrats to win 30 seats this year than it did for the Republicans to win 54 in 1994. Consider this:
Rarely have we had a president so unpopular going into a midterm; when we have, it has led to massive congressional turnover. Moreover, while Democrats have expanded our advantage on key domestic issues, Republicans’ once vast lead on national security has been largely neutralized.
One measure of political instability: the number of Republicans holding seats that vote Democratic for president and vice versa. When big political waves hit, that is precisely where much of the action is. In the two prior presidential elections, Bush (the father) or Reagan had won 30 of the 34 seats Democratic incumbents lost in ’94. Similarly, two-thirds of the Republican incumbents who lost in ’82 were running in districts presidential Democrats had won just previously.

Today, though, there are fewer mismatched seats than at any point in recent history. Going into 1994, 53 Democrats held seats won by Bush in 1992. Today just 18 Republicans hold seats won by Kerry. So, while forces in the political environment push strongly in a Democratic direction, they are acting on a relatively stable structure: Hence the test.

The moral of the story, in 1994 the political system was instable, there were a lot of Democratic seats begging to fall. Not the case with Republican seats in 2006. By my count the Democrats knocked off 8 Republican incumbents in the House this year, and all Senate pickups were against incumbents. The only Republican held Senate seat that was open was Tennessee where Harold Ford nearly shocked the world to win in deep red Tennessee. The Democrats on the other hand had an uphill battle in the Senate. They had to defend open seats in Maryland and Minnesota, the Republicans ran their best possible candidates in both districts, and expected to pick up at least one in Minnesota before this election had materialized. Further, red State Democrats were in potential jeopardy, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, and Kent Conrad were all considered shaky incumbents at the early stages of this election. So the Democrats had to pick up six seats in the Senate from incumbents with only one potentially coming from an opening while defending 2 open races and several at risk incumbent Democrats. Compare that to 5 Democrats retiring in the Senate in 1994. The Democrats had potential turf to defend this year, Republicans in 2006 had only one open seat to defend.

Finally, at the State level Democrats won the majority of governorships as well as controlling at least one legislative chamber of 39 States (Nebraska has no parties). Democrats have single party rule in 15 States now, Republicans in 10. The State-level Democratic gains show that this election was not purely an Iraq protest vote. Americans in most facets of policy do not like the way Republicans have been governing, and that is reflected by the large turnarround at the State level. 275 seats nationwide in State legislatures were won by Democrats last night.

In short, the tidal wave of 2006 should not have happened, the Republicans had all the structural advantages to prevent the massive losses that they experienced. The Republicans had far more advantages in 1994. The 1994 Republicans had open seats to pick off in the Senate, they were defending 1 open seat in 2006 to the 5 that the Democrats were defending in 1994. Districts in 1994 were often represented by members of the opposite Party as the Presidential candidate that they voted for, not the case in 2006. Finally, more Americans will be represented by a Democrat in 2006 than in 2004, the difference in gains only represents a difference in the number of seats held prior to the election. This tidal wave was not small, it was huge, as big as the 1994 tidal wave if not bigger.

American voters gave Democrats a chance on Tuesday all accross the nation. They want change, not just on Iraq policy but accross the policy agenda, and they made themselves quite clear about it. Now is the time for Democrats to govern and prove to voters they can do better.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Exit Poll Number Crunch

Some observations from the exit polls via CNN. I'll probably post this again into some conclusion, right now I just want to get some of the data I found interesting out there. These are based on the House information because House of Representatives was the one office that everyone who voted would have had on the ballot. These are in no particular order, just the order that I noticed them when I looked through the exit polling.

1) The media talking point has been that this election was all about Iraq-however, those who said that Iraq was "not at all important" to their vote went more strongly Democratic than any other response. Admittedly only 10% of the electorate said Iraq was unimportant, but Democrats were very strong amongst those whom Iraq had no effect on.

2) Evangelical voters, who had been rumored to be unlikely to turn out comprised 34% of the electorate. Up 1% from their 2004 electoral share, so evangelical voters were no different than the rest of the electorate in terms of sitting this one out.

3) Voters in 2006 self identified as 2% less conservative, 1% less liberal and 3% more moderate than in 2004.

4) The more important terrorism was the more likely voters were to vote Republican.

5) There was no substantive difference between voters who said that local issues were more important and those who said national issues were more important.

6) Those who disaproved of GOP handling of the page scandal went heavily Democratic, though not very much more than those who dissaproved of Congress in general.

7) Voters with a union member in their household voted 5% more strongly for Democrats than they did in 2004 and comprised a nearly identical share of the electorate.

8) Just as in 2004 there is a clear level by level correlation between income and vote. The wealthier you are the more likely you are to vote Republican, this holds at every income level.

9) Those who attent church weekly voted far less Republican in 2006 than in 2004.

10) A plurality of 2006 voters voted for Bush in 2004. Democrats won the votes of 15% of them

11) Those who said the economy was "extremely important" to their vote voted strongly Democratic, those who said the economy was "not important at all" comprised almost no share of the electorate but voted Democratic.

12) The more important corruption was, the more likely a voter was to vote for a Democrat.

13) Those to whom the Saddam Hussein verdict was "extremely important" were won by a small margin by Republicans and were a surprisingly large portion of the electorate at 18%.

14) The less you approved of the war in Iraq the more likely you were to vote Democratic.

15) Those who wanted troop withdrawels from Iraq voted heavily Democratic, those who did not voted heavily Republican.

16) 59% of the electorate said the war in Iraq did not make the United States safer and that 77% of them voted Democratic.

17) Most of the electorate thought that "most illegal immigrants should be offered legal status" and voted strongly Democratic.

18) Any gains made by Republicans amongst hispanics in 2004 were lost in 2006 as hispanics voted heavily Democratic. However, hispanics represent 14% of the US population and only comprised 8% of the electorate.

19) Democrats won amongst big city voters, small city voters, suburban voters, and small town voters. Republicans only won rural voters who comprise 18% of the population.

20) Democrats lost in the South and won everywhere else.

21) Nearly 90% of voters voted the same way in their Senate race as in their House race if there was a Senate race.

Montana Goes to Tester

Yes! Montana goes to Tester! Virginia may be in recountville for a long time but I feel good about saying that we have a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate.

In other news, last night I posted a "Peralta wins" post, which I took down as soon as I realized my mistake. I looked at the Oregon Secretary of State page and saw Peralta 49% to Nelson 46%, the page gave no indication of how many votes had been counted and I assumed it was finished. Upon further investigation later in the night I realized that they were in fact not done counting and removed that post. If this confused anyone I apologize. Peralta is currently 200 votes down with what appears to me to be 2/3 of the votes counted.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Exit Polls

East Coast Exit Polls here. Looks really good for Democrats, surprisingly close in Arizona, close in Tennessee, ahead in all other key races in the US Senate.

The Countdown Begins

It is officially election day! Less than 3 hours until polls open on the east coast.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Mail in Voting is Genius

Here in McMinnville its been a torrential downpour all day, the last few days really, but worse today. Without mail in voting McMinnville voters would have to go through the worst conditions imaginable tomorrow in order to vote. Thanks to mail in voting only a few procrastinators must face this daunting task. Voters would need boats to get to the polls in these conditions.

2006 Election Predictions

Here are my predictions for tomorrow, US Senate, US House, Oregon Governor, and Oregon House and Senate.

US Senate:
-Democrats pick up 4 with little doubt, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Montana. Missouri and Virginia go to McCaskill and Webb respectively by tiny margins that take the whole night to finish counting. Lieberman will defeat Lamont, Cardin and Mendendez hang on in Maryland and New Jersey. The Senate will be comprised of 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans.

US House:
-Democrats pick up 34 seats and lose one. The new House of Representatives will be 201 Republicans to 234 Democrats. Democrats lose one seat in the Georgia 12th as Conservative Democrat John Barrow is unseated. Democrats pick up seats in the following districts:
NH-01, NY-24,NY-20, CT-05, CT-04, PA-06, PA-07, PA-08, PA-10, OH-01, OH-15, OH-18, VA-02, NC-11, FL-16, IN-02, IN-08, IN-09, KY-03, IL-06, IA-01, MN-06, TX-22, CO-04, CO-05, CO-07, NM-01, AZ-05, AZ-08, ID-01, WA-05, WA-08

Surprise wins of the night in the CO-05, WA-05, and ID-01.

In Oregon Governor Kulongoski will be reelected by a 5-7% margin as Oregon Democrats take a sigh of relief. Democrats sieze a bare majority in the State House of Representatives 31 Democrats to 29 Republicans, upset of the night, Sal Peralta unseats Donna Nelson. Democrats retain their majority in the Senate.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Health Care Crisis: Oregon Edition

Short little AP report I just found in the News Register (McMinnville) which is very upsetting.
A new study found that health care premiums in Oregon rose nearly six times faster than median earnings since 2000.

Consumer health group Families USA found that health care premiums for insurance provided through an employer rose 82 percent during the six-year period while median earnings rose 14 percent.

The average total premium in Oregon is $12,125 and median earnings are $25,537.
Nationally, the study found that premium costs outpaced earnings 6.4 times faster, on average.

Tough to find the key paragraphs in a 4 paragraph article. To some extent we should have already known this (though its nice to have hard data to back it up). The evidence is increasingly compelling that we must establish a single payer health care system in this country. It is morally right, it is in the public health interest, and will be cheaper for everyone. Yet as soon as we start to seriously discuss it again, the insurance companies will scream "No! That's socialism!" which its not, but they'll probably win with that argument. As for Oregon itself in the absense of national action, I don't know. I have mixed emotions about dramatic State-level changes. Unless health care costs are controlled nationally costs within a single State aren't likely to drop, so a single payer health insurance program would probably be too expensive for a State to maintain. In any event, this can't be sustained much longer, it is time for this to change. This shows a truly sorry state of affairs in Oregon and an even worse picture nationwide.

Charlie Cook's 6 Day Out Analysis

The November 1st election analysis at Cook Political Report really struck me hard. Cook tends to be on the conservative (football conservative, cautious) side of things, and the nature of his analysis really struck me hard. It seems right to me, but I tend to be optimistic about these things, I thought Kerry would beat Bush for example. Cook tends to try to avoid sticking his neck out, and at this point a few days from election day things look so bad for Republicans that Cook is predicting a massive tidal wave, which means one of two things, either for some reason Cook decided to stick his neck out when he usually doesn't, or things look so bad for the Republicans that he's not sticking his neck out at all and is following his usually cautious prognosticating pattern.
In the House, it would take a miracle for the GOP to hold onto their majority. The losses look very likely to exceed 20 seats, and a 20- to 35-seat loss is most likely, but we would not be surprised for it to exceed 35 seats. The vulnerable GOP seats are there, the wave is there, maybe it happens, maybe it doesn't.
Many have commented, quite correctly, that the biggest variables are turnout levels among independents and Republicans. If independents show up in their normal, relatively low midterm election levels, GOP losses will tend to run on the lower end of those ranges. But if there is a significant uptick in independent turnout, the losses could go much higher, as Democrats show huge leads among independents (20 points in some cases) in many races.
While the president is different, the party is different and the issues are different, this is not too dissimilar to 1994 when voters were upset about tax increases, the Clinton health plan and the crime bill (read guns), others were upset about several years of congressional scandals, the House Bank and Post Office, Jim Wright, David Durenberger, the Keating Five and Tony Coelho, to name a few. Republican turnout soared, Democratic vote plummeted, and while some credit the GOP "Contract with America," that is largely revisionist thinking. At the time voters were angry with President Clinton, Democrats and Congress, and they wanted to send a message. They wanted to throw some people out of office.

National polling continues to show a wave of at least the same magnitude of 1994, looking at right direction/wrong track, Congress and presidential job approval and the generic congressional ballot test and maybe even worse. At the same time, it is certainly true that the playing field of competitive districts is smaller, though significantly bigger than 30, 60 or 90 days ago, the number of Republican retirements is lower than average and Democrats are running, though not by design, fewer battle-tested candidates with records of winning tough races.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this election is that Republicans are having to fight and spend money in states and districts where few Democrats have dared tread in recent years, like in Idaho-01 (Butch Otter), Nebraska-03 (Tom Osborne) and Nevada-02 (Jim Gibbons). While this election started out as largely a fight in Northeastern and Midwestern suburban districts, the more recent additions to the competitive race lists have been disproportionately small town, rural and small cities, though not as many in the South but many in the West.
The bottom line is that at this stage, Republicans should consider themselves lucky if their net losses stay in the 20-25 range in the House, four or five seats in the Senate, and between five and eight governorships. It would be a tough election, losing their majorities in the House and governorships, but it would fall short of the devastating losses that are possible. But the chances of this thing going bigger -- far bigger -- still exist, and there are quite a few veteran Republican strategists, people who have done tons of races in all kinds of states and districts for many years, who are bracing themselves for that distinct possibility.

I really hope this is right, and being a cautious person Cook left himself an avenue for the lower end of what he thought possible. The moral 3 days before the election could not be clearer. We need to get Democrats and independents to the polls in big numbers. There is much work to do still to make the alleged tidal wave of 2006 a reality.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

HD 24 Debate Video

After much trial and error, and many technical difficulties the video for the Oregon House District 24 is now up on YouTube. I certainly learned a lot about video formats and youtube trying to do this, but it is now up, unfortunately YouTube would not allow me to put the whole thing up in one piece, I was limited to 10 minute segments, so I divided it into sections based on beginning of a question, the debate is in 9 parts.

A few things I forgot to mention about the debate in my previous post on the topic before I get to the video itself. It was a testiment to her inability to talk about public policy even on a most elementary level that the two questions that in my mind weren't especially useful she began her answer by saying "oh, that's a great question." One of them was "have your political views changed in the last 10 years," and the other "what would you like us to remember about you when we go to vote?" The second served as a nice way to bring the debate to a close with a question that served as a means for the candidates to make a closing statement, so it was ok even though I really don't think it was a good question. I would kind of like to say a few more things about it, and about how bad Nelson looked, but I'll ease off since she had a heart attack on Saturday, it seems kind of heartless to lay into her completely in light of that. So I shall let the video of the debate speak for itself.

Opening Statements:




Health Care:

Change in Political views (god I hated this question):

Campaign Finance:

Closing statements:

I can include the complete file (watch out its big), if anyone wants to see the whole thing uninterrupted, if you do, please say so in the comments and tell me how to do it and I will update this post to make that available.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sarasohn on Saxton's Magic Efficiencies

In yesterday's Oregonian, David Sarasohn wrote an excellent collumn about Saxton's magic "efficiencies." Saxton claims that Kulongoski is wasting money right and left, and that eliminating this so-called "waste" will allow him to cut taxes and increase/improve services at the same time. Sarasohn effectively calls bullshit. It seems Saxton thinks he can find so many "efficiencies" that he can allow Oregon to remain nearly last in the country in public education funding yet have a top of the line public education system.
So when Gov. Ted Kulongoski supports raising the $10 minimum corporate income tax to offer Head Start to all qualifying Oregon preschoolers, Saxton opposes the tax but supports expanding the program. He can get the money, he says, from efficiencies.

Saxton also opposes the governor's proposal for a car insurance charge to raise the number of state troopers. His new TV spot worries about the drop in the number of troopers, but he's confident he can find money to hire more in "efficiencies."

And he's just getting started.

Saxton has emphasized his skill at finding efficiencies in education, which he says could be improved without spending more money. But he supports strategies that would cost more money, such as increasing starting teacher salaries. His favorite education idea, advanced in multiple TV spots, is merit pay for teachers, which although controversial and complicated might conceivably save some money. But Saxton's campaign manager Felix Schein explained last week the program was meant to reward teachers who "went above and beyond" for their students -- meaning that it's likely to cost more.

By last week's debate, Saxton was talking about "an approach to education that involves more money" -- while the budget space to find his efficiencies gets tighter and tighter.

Maybe he needs an asterisk.

Saxton might need more than one asterisk to cover another of his positions: "Change is needed so we can insure the 600,000 uninsured Oregonians."

If you're going to do that with efficiencies, we've gone beyond medicine to miracles.

The list of things Saxton claims to be able to do while cutting taxes is rather incredible. After his appearance at Linfield I called Saxton the "free lunch candidate," Sarasohn sees the same thing. Unfortunately, Saxton's distance from reality might be why this race is even close. It seems that time and time again voters love the candidate who is going to do the impossible, increase and improve public services all while cutting taxes.