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Posts published in July 2015

First take

Is Oregon really "allowing 15-year-olds to get state-subsidized sex-change operations”, as Fox news has it? And thereby unleashed an uproar among the gotta-have-something-new-to-be-angry-about-today crowd? It's one of those cases, one of those many cases, where there's a piece of truth surrounded by misinformation. You'd get this impression from the article that this is a new ruling by Oregon liberals gone wild. The medical age of consent in Oregon has been 15 since 1971 - a long time, and without significant debate - and, the Oregon Health Authority told KOIN-TV, "Patients should be able to demonstrate the capacity to make a fully informed decision and to give consent to treatment, regardless of age. However, nothing in Oregon law requires a health care provider to provide medical services to a minor or safeguard the confidentiality of a minor. In most cases, providers will encourage (and in some cases require) family engagement and supports unless it would endanger the patient.” Are gender-changing medical procedures included in procedures covered by the Oregon Health Plan? Yes. But stopping there ignores that the nearly 500 procedures are prioritized, meaning that in most cases procedures toward the bottom of the list won't make the cut - and this one is close to the bottom of the list. And so on. Such facts are more reflective of reality, but don't fit so easily on a bumper sticker. (photo/"PortlandTramCar3" by User:Cacophony - Own work.)

Scofflaw sheriffs


His name is Dennis Dotson. Probably doesn’t mean anything special to you. More than likely you couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Unless you live in Lincoln County, Oregon. Here, it’s Sheriff Dotson to us. At the moment, he’s giving me reason to doubt my vote in our last election.

The Good Sheriff is just one of more than a half dozen in our little state to renounce a new Oregon law he doesn’t believe in and has promised lax- if any - enforcement. Seems he’s a practitioner of a sickness that’s been sweeping the country lately: elected officials turning their backs on laws they don’t like or agree with.

In Dotson’s case, it’s the result of a new law requiring - requiring - nearly all gun sales in our state include at least a cursory background check. Even sales between private individuals. Seems like a damned fine idea to me. But not to our High Sheriff. And a few others.

No, he’s pissed. While not saying he’ll ignore our new legal requirement for gun sales, his reaction was “We’ll put enforcement on the back burner because we’ve got a lot of other things with higher priority.” In other words, law be damned. In more other words, “I’ve got to run for re-election soon and I’m not going to enforce a law that may return me to private life and no pension.” Or something to that effect.

This is not the first time Oregon sheriffs - and to some extent sheriffs nationally - have decided they don’t like their chances of re-election if they enforce an unpopular law. Several years back, the U.S. Attorney General emphasized federal authorities can step in and enforce gun laws if local representatives of any stripe don’t. Or won’t. Not only did many sheriffs throw a hissy-fit that someone from “outside” might make them live up to the oaths of office they’d all taken. Some even promised to arrest and jail the legally-constituted feds.

Now a tidy number of Oregon sheriff’s have joined county clerks in other states who’ve also become law breakers; clerks refusing to honor a U.S. Supreme Court decision by issuing marriage licenses to LGBTs. Clerks, all of whom - like the lawmen and law women - had taken an oath to perform all legally prescribed duties of their offices. Oaths of office, they’re called. Oaths. Promises to uphold all laws.

So now, as a nation, what the Hell do we do? Is someone in authority a step or two above these miscreants going to have to go from state to state - office to office - to force compliance with our laws? Do legally constituted authorities - a link or two up the food chain - step in and jail ‘em? Do we have recall drives for every recalcitrant sheriff and clerk?

Many of these lawbreakers - badged or not - claim no one can remove them from office but voters. They hide under a claim that they’re “constitutionally elected” which gives them some sort of perceived immunity from being forced to do something. Or to be responsive.

At the same time, you and I know, if some of these sheriffs who won’t enforce a gun law - even a simple, common-sense gun law - faced a recall, they’d beat a recall vote. Gun owners, many of whom haven’t been to the polls since WWII, would show up en masse to support anyone they believed was being “forced” to uphold “unjust” laws regarding guns. If the feds stepped in, there’d be shots fired.

I was raised to believe laws are not government suggestions. They aren’t informal directions to help us get along with each other. They’re requirements for a certain behavior - do something or not do something because it’s a law.

So, what do we do? Should I take a page from our local sheriff and drive 60mph in a 35 zone because my personal belief is that 35mph is far too slow and I’ve got important things to do? Should I drive 20mph above posted limits through high school speed zones because I believe kids that age are old enough to take care of themselves? If I find prices charged at the county landfill are too high - maybe onerous - can I just dump my trash along some deserted road?

If constitutionally elected law men - and law women - openly declare which laws they’ll enforce and which they’ll ignore, what becomes of our society? If legislatures can write laws - if cities and counties can enact ordinances - if congress and the president create a law - what happens when the rest of us turn our backs and act as if nothing has changed?

And, if I want to fly my confederate flag in your face, who’s going to put a stop to it?

Election to public office confers no “above-the-law” or “laws-don’t-apply-to-me” exemption. Yet that’s what these folks who won at the ballot box are telling us. Sheriffs. Clerks. Legislators. Member of Congress.

What do we do about it?

First take

There's some prospect that the days of simply locking up people who have addiction problems - people who ought to be treated, and if they are may present no problem for society - might be moving behind us. Part of the reason could be a change in view on this subject in both political parties, as the signing of a Washington bill from a Republican legislator by a Democratic governor demonstrates. From the legislator's press release:

On June 11 the state Supreme Court ruled that the costs for pre-trial drug and alcohol monitoring fit under the statutory meaning of “pretrial supervision,” limiting the ability of courts to order these protective measures in cash-strapped counties. By July 6 – just 25 days later – a bill to address the consequences of the decision had been introduced, passed by the House of Representatives and Senate with large bipartisan majorities and signed by the governor.

“The practical effect of the ruling in Washington v. Hardtke is that courts could no longer impose reasonable, pretrial supervision, intended to protect victims and the public at large,” said Sen. Mike Padden, who sponsored the bill and chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “This new law will allow judges in counties without funds to pay for monitoring costs to once again require reasonable supervision that is critical to public safety. I am pleased that we were all able to come together so quickly to solve this problem. It’s unfortunate that the state-budget situation has forced the Legislature to remain in session so long, but that at least put us in position to take action now instead of waiting until 2016.”

Senate Bill 6134 clarifies that a $150 limitation on costs for pretrial supervision does not apply to costs for pretrial electronic alcohol and drug monitoring, which is critical in protecting the public and victims from DUI and domestic-violence defendants. Under the new law, upon conviction, a court may require a defendant to reimburse the county or other agency for the costs of the electronic monitoring or alcohol-abstinence monitoring ordered prior to trial.

‘Here we have Idaho’


On July 3rd some Idahoans celebrated the state’s 125th year since admittance to the union of states. Idaho’s star was the 43rd added to the flag. With each passing year though it seems fewer folks even know or care about this great state’s past or its future.

This is partly due to the incredible mobility of today’s society and the ability, often the necessity, of moving to where meaningful, decent-paying work can be found. Because of its relatively inexpensive cost-of-living, Idaho continues to attract in-migration from California, and many are retirees.

In little more than a decade these newcomers changed the political demographics of northern Idaho from staunchly lunch-bucket Democrats to staunchly conservative Republicans.

One used to be able to tell a native Idahoan from non-native. The native could tell what county a car was from by looking at the license plate.

Native Idahoans had memorized the alphabetical order of Idaho’s 44 counties, ten of which start with the letter B, when first exposed to state history in the 4th grade. They also learned the state song, and not just the chorus. In later life, if one were a member of a Rotary Club, following the pledge of allegiance, everyone remained standing and sang the state song.

Since returning to my native state five years ago I’ve been a guest speaker at five different Rotary Clubs. Only one, the Twin Falls Rotary, sang the state song. These are small things but they serve to unite the people of this state and establish a common identity.

I admit being a state chauvinist; Idaho hands down is the best state in the union, with unmatched beauty and a diverse mix of people who work hard for their pay, play hard in the state’s mountains and forest, and on her lakes and rivers, acknowledge their Creator, and care about their fellow citizens.

As Idaho grows increasingly urban, however, it won’t be long until over half the voters will reside in the two counties of Ada and Canyon. When Cecil Andrus was first elected governor in 1970 he captured only 14 of Idaho’s 44 counties, but those 14 represented a solid majority of the electorate and included a couple of north Idaho counties, Kootenai and Nez Perce.

Today, Nampa and Meridian compete to be second to Boise in population. For years it was Pocatello competing against Idaho Falls.

Andrus was the last governor to come out of north Idaho and he defeated an incumbent Republican governor, Don Samuelson, from Bonner County. That was the last time Idahoans had a choice for governor between two north Idahoans. In modern times besides Andrus and Samuelson, there has been only two other governors to call north Idaho home: C.A. “Doc” Robins, the first governor from north Idaho, was elected in 1946 and was from St. Maries. His successor, Len B. Jordan, came from Grangeville where he moved to after spending almost ten years raising sheep in Hells Canyon,.

Today not one statewide elected official nor any member of the congressional delegation comes from the ten northern counties.

Another characteristic of Idaho’s major office-holders is almost all have deep roots in the state. It used to be voters wanted to know that the candidate knew the state and many of its prominent citizens. Additionally, voters expected to and often did meet in person their elected representatives. They could size them up and with unfailing accuracy could spot the phonies. Today this kind of interactive sizing up is much tougher to do when an offficeholder can only be judged through the television medium.

Idaho voters in the past also felt better about voting for someone for higher office if they’d already been vetted by the voters for some lesser office—usually the State Legislature. All the members of Idaho’s congressional delegation today cut their teeth in the Idaho Legislature: Senators Crapo and Risch were in the State Senate and were in leadership; Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador were in the House where Simpson rose to the Speakership.

Three of the four know Idaho and her people well. They have built and nurtured relationships all across the state for years.

The exception is Labrador, who just may be the tip of the spear in the “Californication” of Idaho politics. There’s no question he is a talented , telegenic, articulate, ethical and a colorful member of Congress. However, he is relatively new to Idaho, was not viewed by fellow Republicans as much of a team player while here, and simply hasn’t had the time to get to know his own district well let alone the entire state.

There is speculation he may run for governor in 2018 which would set up a donnybrrok of a primary between he and Lt. Gov. Brad Little. If that happens, bet on Brad. He’s built his stock the traditional Idaho way traveling the state extensively and shaking hands. It is basic retail politics and it still beats wholesale, at least for a few more years.

When they debate, if challenged to name all 44 counties or sing all the state song, bet on Brad doing it easily while Raul struggles.

First take

You don't turn around a battleship in an hour or two, which is why the clear signals from Microsoft about its smartphone division are so interesting. The Redmond giant spent $7.2 billion a little more than a year ago buying Nokia, the big smartphone maker, which many people took as an indication that Microsoft planned to move into the field. It promptly laid off half of Nokia's workforce, which may not have been a shock since the corporations did have some overlap. But the new "restructuring" announced this week, in which the smartphone staff is cut by half again, is a clearer indicator. The move into smartphones was launched not long before his departure by former CEO Steve Ballmer; current CEO Satya Nadella has moved away from them. PC World interpreted: "The write-down is essentially an admission that Nokia’s phone business is worth practically nothing to Microsoft." In other words, on one hand, we're changing direction, fast. On the other - $7.2 billion thrown to the winds?

IPO on the edge


The May, 2015 voter registration statistics were posted by the Secretary of State, and because of the IPOnormal May off year election inactive voter purges, the IPO numbers shrank. The IPO is now only 72 members above the Major Party status mark. Another month like May and the IPO will lose the right to be on the May 2016 primary ballot. Remember, the IPO opened it’s primary to non affiliated voters, so that means that if the IPO loses 72 members between now and August 15th, 2015, over 640,000 oregon voters, or about 30% lose the right to vote in the May primary.

Are The Democrats and Governor Brown, who passed the Motor voter law to get more voters registered concerned? Yes the are. They are concerned that the IPO will maintain major party status and are doing everything they can – even making league with their Republican Party opponents – to kill the IPO. And in effect, take a vote away from 640,000 Oregonians.

First the Oregon House Rules committee, chaired by a State legislator who thinks she should in charge of all Oregon elections, ambushed IPO leaders when she called a hearing – with less than 48 hours notice to the IPO – to examine major party organizations and how they engage their members. You can bet the Democratic and Republican party leaders were given plenty of notice of the hearing and subject matter.

That hearing was followed within 24 hours by a joint Democratic and Republican press release that claimed to prove that the IPO was a fake party. A March 2015 (!) poll paid for by the Democrats showed that over half of IPO members know they are IPO members. This actually disproves what Democratic operatives have been claiming for YEARS; that almost all IPO members mistakenly joined the IPO when they thought they were registering as not affiliated with any party. The Poll actually shows that only 24% of IPO members thought they were registering a non affiliated. No wonder the Democrats didn’t release this poll in March. The timing of the poll also shows it was commissioned shortly after the IPO reached major party status. No coincidence that.

The Democrats in particular are very concerned that the IPO could shake things up. Because right now things are working very well for them, and change brings uncertainties and unkowns. But IPO leaders and Democratic operatives have been aware of the dynamic the IPO could bring to Oregon elections for some time and how it could threaten the Democratic party’s special interests grip on power. Particularly the Public employee unions grip. And It’s why for the past few years as the IPO has grown, it’s the DPO that has become it’s main adversary.

Todays (July 3rd, 2015) Oregonian Editorial Board praised the IPO and encouraging non affiliated voters, and disenchanted voters of all parties to join the IPO in order to preserve the IPO’s major party status. It recognized that given the current state of the law, and with Democrats in control of the legislature, the IPO offers the only way independent voters can participate in the May primary. And make no mistake, in Oregon’s highly gerrymandered state, in 90% of al legislative races, and all of the statewide races, and all of the federal races, t’s the primary elections that decide who will be elected in November.

In fact, the OEBs argument on the importance of the IPO maintaining major party status was so compelling that several people who commented after reading the opinion volunteered that they had just registered with the IPO. And not one to ignore his own advice, the presumed author of the opinion, OEB Editor Erik Lukens, also posted that he had registered with the IPO to help preserve its major party status.

First take

This sounds about right: A difference in speed limits in Oregon east and west of the Cascades. West of the Cascades, limits about where they are, relatively low. East of the Cascades, open it up a bit, to 70 mph (from 65) from The Dalles to Ontario, and 65 (from 55) on many rural highways, with a special 70 mph limit on the long, open, flat, and lightly travelled US 95 in the southeast corner. The bill, from Ontario Representative Cliff Bentz, has passed both houses of the legislature; Governor Kate Brown has yet to act on it. But this feels about right. Eastern Oregon has some vast open spaces that easily could accommodate a little more speed. (photo/Ken Lund)

Oregon’s sine die

The Oregon legislature, which normally runs longer than Washington's or Idaho's, has adjourned. (It was a little later than expected, but not by a lot.)

Here's what the House leadership cited as the session's accomplishments.

Investing in a Strong Education System

A $7.4 billion investment in public schools will provide stable budgets for most school districts while also funding full-day kindergarten for children throughout Oregon for the first time.
A $35 million investment in Career and Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education (CTE/STEM) will help increase high school graduation rates and better prepare Oregon students for high-wage jobs.
Students seeking higher education will benefit from boosts in funding for public universities, community colleges, and student financial assistance (Opportunity Grants) – including a new tuition waiver program for qualified community college students and a requirement that public universities justify any proposed tuition increases above 3 percent in 2016-17.
New investments in early childhood education – notably Healthy Families home visiting, relief nurseries, and quality preschool – will help ensure children arrive at school ready to succeed.

Expanding Opportunities for Working Families

The Sick Leave for All Oregonians Act will make sure most working Oregonians can accrue a reasonable number of paid sick days each year – a basic workplace protection that will make a major difference for families across the state.
Oregon Retirement Savings Accounts will give more families the opportunity to save for retirement via an easy, effective, and portable savings account.
Prohibiting employer retaliation for discussing what you earn will help combat wage disparities and help women who currently do not get equal pay for equal work.
Strategic investments in the Employment Related Day Care Program and the Working Family Child and Dependent Care tax credit will increase access to quality, affordable childcare for working families.
A landmark investment in affordable housing construction will help thousands of families and begin to tackle Oregon’s statewide housing crisis.
Removing questions about criminal history from job applications, commonly known as “ban the box,” will help Oregonians get back on their feet once they have served their time.

Supporting Job Creation and Local Economies

A $175 million bonding investment will enable seismic upgrades to K-12 schools throughout the state, and an additional $125 million in bonds will help school districts across the state to fix outdated, dilapidated, and hazardous facilities.
A $90 million investment in Oregon’s transportation infrastructure will provide much-needed upgrades, including $35 million to improve the safety of some of the most deadly intersections and dangerous stretches of highway in communities across the state.
Strategic investments will create jobs and spur economic development across the state, including: investments in multimodal transportation through the ConnectOregon program; pivotal resources for community-based initiatives through the Regional Solutions program; and support for converting unusable brownfields such as abandoned gas stations into development-ready lots.
The implementation of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program will provide Oregonians with more choices at the fuel pump, cleaner air to breathe, and more jobs in an emerging industry.
Rural economic investments include $50 million in grants and loans to help meet water storage and conservation needs, resources to improve sage grouse habitats and maintain grazing lands, and funds to manage and build a market for Western Juniper.
A fix to Oregon’s centralized property tax rules will provide certainty for technology companies that want to build data centers and create jobs in rural Oregon.

Improving Public Safety for Oregon Families

A package of common-sense regulations will guide a safe and successful implementation of the voter-approved Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
The Oregon Firearms Safety Act will help keep convicted felons, domestic abusers and people in severe mental crisis from buying guns online or through other direct private sales because criminal background checks will now be required for those transactions.
Barring domestic abusers from possessing guns and ammunition will help protect victims and keep families safe.
Establishing long-needed rules to define and prohibit racial profiling will help rebuild public trust in local law enforcement and make communities stronger and safer.
Doubling the statute of limitations for first degree sex crimes from six years to twelve years will give victims a voice and a real chance to seek justice.
Improving the state’s capacity to respond to accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials will make our communities safer.

Promoting Healthy Communities

Significant investments in mental health care and alcohol and drug treatment will strengthen communities throughout the state, including $20 million to build supportive housing for Oregonians impacted by mental illness or addiction.
Pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe and dispense birth control and insurance companies will be required to cover 12 months of prescription coverage – both of which will increase access to contraception and help reduce unintended pregnancies.
The Oregon Toxic Free Kids Act will require some manufacturers to incrementally phase out dangerous chemicals from kids’ products.
Cover Oregon has been abolished as a public corporation, which will add much-needed transparency and accountability to Oregon’s health insurance marketplace.
Vulnerable patients (victims of domestic violence, for example) will be able to keep their sensitive medical information private by having their “explanation of benefits” information mailed to an address that is different from the policy holder’s.

First take

I would have expected a little longer wait before this would have shown up on Wikipedia, or at least a shorter list. But here we have long articles on the endorsements to date in the Democratic and Republican campaigns for president - endorsements from political figures, organizations, celebrities, news media and more. They're extensive lists.

On the Republican side Jeb Bush and Rand Paul seem to be fighting it out for the longest lists, but just about all of the candidates have someone. Among those that caught my attention: radio shouter Michael Savage for Donald Trump; Dave Mustaine of the band Megadeath for Rick Santorum; Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for Marco Rubio; John Stossel and Geraldo Rivera for Paul; just one (a New Hampshire state senator) for George Pataki; Chuck Norris and Tony Orlando for Mike Huckabee; John McCain for Lindsey Graham; Adam Carolla for Ted Cruz; musician Kid Rock for Ben Carson (the only endorser listed for him); businessman T. Boone Pickens for Bush.

There's a longish list for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, maybe in part because she still has such a presumption of getting the nomination. There's a long list of actors, singers and others in the entertainment area, and businesspeople from Warren Buffett to Larry Flynt. Her competitor Bernie Sanders has a fair-sized list too, though. His backing from Portland radio host Thom Hartmann, singer Neil Young (made famous in his recent dustup with Trump), musician David Crosby, comedian Lewis Black, radio host Ed Schultz, writer Matt Taibbi, and among organizations (though I'm not clear how they organized enough to endorse anyone) Occupy Wall Street.

Anyway, the lists are there. Check 'em out.

First take

That was a challenge, but it may pay off - well, in a lot of ways, surely already has . . . On June 5, a fire burned down four businesses in central Idaho City, a small and rustic (a proper present-day descriptor in this case) town that doesn't have but so many more than four businesses. This happened not far in advance of the 4th of July, which ordinarily is a big day for business and visiting in Idaho City. Would this be just a day of mourning? It turned out not. Some at least of the business owners had made a commitment to reopen at some point, and the Trading Post, which long has been one of Idaho City's larger businesses, did reopen just in time for the 4th - a cause for celebration, in addition to the national one. "Just to have people come and see that we're rebuilding ourselves and that we're moving forward I think that it's just wonderful," the Trading Post owner was quoted as saying. A path has been marked for the way back. Good luck.