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.