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Posts published in August 2015

Women and Trump’s appeal

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Over and over in the last few weeks a cycle has kicked in. Donald Trump will say something, usually about women (a person in particular or more generally) which generates outrage, and comments surface to the effect: Okay, this is it, he's jumped the shark, he's over and done, stick a fork in him. And then polling results comes back showing him either losing no significant amount of support, or maybe even gaining a little.

The latest shot at Fox host Megyn Kelley, for example, on Friday, when - seeking to convey the idea she was being irrational - he referred to "blood coming out of her wherever", evidently a reference to menstruation. (He was a little vague, but if that wasn't the intended reference, I'd like to know what it was.) Lots of response to that, much of it suggesting that no presidential candidate can get away with that. Especially coming on the heels of his regularly recurring comments about women, which are no new thing; those quotes stretch back over years.

How does Trump survive this?

Simple. There's an audience happily glomming on to it. Trump's comments about women specifically are finding an audience for which that's an important statement as a positive qualifier for president. More important, in fact, than whatever he has to say about social policy (which has been, over the years, much more a mixed bag, some of it relatively liberal).

Here's one way we can be sure of this: The reaction to Megyn Kelly in the social media. She has been drawing support, of course, including from many people who have little positive to say ordinarily about Fox News or about her. But there's also a sudden, and large, bump in the social media commentary to and about her which is stunningly pejorative.

An article on the site Vox put some of this together. It presents a chart showing the number of tweets in recent weeks describing Kelly as a "whore" or "bitch" or other perjorative; it took a drastic rise just as the Trump-Kelly battle (which isn't the right word since Kelly, wisely, hasn't much fought back) took off.

Vox writer Max Fisher noted, "Trump, in response to the controversy over his comments, a backlash that has included condemnations from many in the GOP establishment, has not backed down one iota. Rather, he has encouraged the wave of online sexist hatred against Kelly, for example by retweeting this seemingly random twitter user who calls Kelly a "bimbo"."

There's a real streak of hatred against women out there. That much is not especially new. What is, is that it's metastasizing into a political movement, one which is forming a large part of the base for Donald Trump. How large is that movement? Is it now at a floor or a ceiling? Many political stories in the months ahead may turn on that question.

First take

The new Oregon gun background check law kicks in today after years of effort to put it on the books. There have been arguments against that it will be onerous, that it will hard to enforce, and so on. It will not be a perfect run, to be sure. For one thing, there are exemptions in it. (In-family transfers are exempted.) And the number of guns simply floating around the population, in the hundreds of millions, is too vast to get much of an official handle on. Still, it may make some violence a little less easy. A KGW report notes that "Supporters of the new law also cited research which found states that require background checks on all handgun sales saw 48% fewer gun suicides, 48% fewer law enforcement officers killed with handguns and 46% fewer women killed by their domestic partners."

Of another subject

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Nine years ago, the Oregon Supreme Court threw out a 1971 law aiming at limiting advertising along highways that promoted any product not available on the premises. The idea was to allow, for example, a farmer to advertise at roadside his crops for sale, but disallow advertising for a motel or store located far away. The intent of the law was to limit the number of billboards without damaging local businesses.

The court killed the law because, it said, “The state may not enact restrictions that focus on the content of the speech, and this restriction does just that.”

That’s a central thread also running through the U.S. District Court decision last week throwing out the Idaho “ag-gag” law, which seeks to ban video recording of treatment of animals; the new offense was called “interference with agricultural production.” The recorders were compared to “terrorists” and “marauding invaders.” Critics said that the law made the penalty in Idaho higher for exposing evidence of animal abuse than for actually abusing animals.

District Judge B. Lynn Winmill looked at the law more broadly. He started by saying it “seeks to limit and punish those who speak out on topics relating to the agricultural industry, striking at the heart of important First Amendment values.” The law, he suggests, might have barred Upton Sinclair from researching and writing his great novel about the meat-packing industry, The Jungle.

Winmill moved on to this: “A person, such as an employee, would not violate §18-7042 if he or she stood in an agricultural production facility and surreptitiously filmed the agricultural facility owner having a private conversation with his spouse. This same employee, however, could be prosecuted under §18-7042, and face up to a year in jail, and be liable for reputational harm to the owner, if the employee, without the owner’s consent, filmed his fellow workers repeatedly beating, kicking, and jumping on cows, or using a moving tractor to drag a cow on the floor by a chain attached to her neck. In other words, ... law enforcement authorities would need to view suspect video or audiotape to determine whether a particular recording violates the statute. The recording prohibition is therefore a classic example of a content-based restriction.”

There is more: “The recording prohibition gives agricultural facility owners veto power, allowing owners to decide what can and cannot be recorded, effectively turning them into state-backed censors able to silence unfavorable speech about their facilities.”

What the “ag-gag” law seeks to do, at base, is stifle a participant's side of an argument – to say that one side cannot be expressed, but another can. Winmill: “The central problem with § 18-7042 is that it distinguishes between different types of speech, or conduct facilitating speech, based on content. As already discussed in the context of the First Amendment claim, an employee can make an unauthorized recording of an agricultural facility owner’s children visiting the facility without running afoul of § 18-7042, but the same employee could not make an unauthorized recording of workers abusing animals. Likewise, an undercover journalist who misrepresents his identity to secure a job at an agricultural production facility so he can publish a laudatory piece about the facility would not violate the statute. But an undercover journalist who misrepresents his identity to secure a job at the same facility seeking to expose illegal, inhumane, or unsafe behavior would violate the statute. The operative distinction is the message the employee or undercover journalist wishes to convey.”

Where else in human history have we seen governments allowing legal free access for one message, while banning its counterpoint? Legislators might do well to consider that when they return to session to take up this issue again.

A dream deferred?

From a report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a stirring call to end racial segregation, was also a plea for economic justice. Dr. King headlined the speakers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an event that sought to bring attention to the lack of economic opportunity faced by millions of Americans, particularly people of color.

Sadly, a little more than a half century after Dr. King’s speech, Oregonians of color generally are still worse off economically than whites by many measures.

In 2013, 16.7 percent of Oregonians lived in poverty. As bad as the poverty rate is for Oregon as a whole, it was worse for Oregonians of color.

In 2013, 15.5 percent of non-Hispanic white Oregonians lived in poverty. By contrast, 27.5 percent of Latinos, 30.6 percent of African-Americans, 31.2 percent of Native Americans, and 31.4 percent of Pacific Islanders lived in poverty. The poverty rate for Asians – 17.6 percent – was not significantly different from the white rate.

Aside from Asians, Oregonians of color were about twice as likely to live in poverty than whites in 2013.

In 2013, the typical (median) Oregon household earned $50,251. The income of the typical household of color, with the exception of Asians, was significantly less than that of the typical white household.

The income of the typical white household was $51,972 in 2013. This exceeded the incomes of the typical Latino, Pacific Islander, African-American and Native American households by about $13,000 or more. To put that in perspective, $13,000 is more than enough to cover a year’s worth of tuition, fees, books and supplies at Oregon State University. Only Asians had a median income higher than whites.

Work is hardest to find for black Oregonians. In 2014, the unemployment rate for black Oregonians was 13.6 percent, twice the white rate of 6.8 percent.

The unemployment rates for Latinos (9.6 percent) and Asians (4.4 percent) were not significantly different from the rate for whites.

Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data does not include rates for Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Oregonians of color are less likely to own a home than their white counterparts. From 2011 to 2013, 62.9 percent of white Oregonians owned a home outright or through a mortgage. By contrast, 58.1 percent of Asians, 47.7 percent of Native Americans, 39.2 percent of Latinos, 33.1 percent of African-Americans, and 23.6 percent of Pacific Islanders owned a home.

Lawmakers can take steps to ensure all Oregonians, regardless of the color of their skin, have an opportunity to get ahead. Some of these include:

Raising the minimum wage. People of color make up a disproportionate share of the minimum wage workforce.[4] A full-time minimum wage worker does not earn enough to meet a family’s basic needs. Minimum wage workers need a substantial raise.

Making it harder for employers to steal wages. Too often employers commit wage theft by forcing workers to work off the clock, stealing tips or not paying their workers at all. Given that wage theft more commonly affects low-income workers,[5] it disproportionately harms Oregonians of color. Lawmakers need to put in place new rules that make it harder for dishonest employers to engage in wage theft and easier for workers to recover stolen wages.

Ensuring all children have health insurance coverage. Children need access to quality health care if they are to grow up healthy and succeed in school and life. In Oregon, about 17,600 children lack health insurance because of their immigration status. Lawmakers should enact the Cover All Kids legislation to ensure all children in Oregon have access to quality care.

Investing more in education. Oregon children sit in some of the nation’s most crowded public school classrooms. And about half of Oregon children arrive to kindergarten without having attended preschool, which helps prepare children to succeed academically.

First take

The most surprising thing about the Republican presidential debate was the questions, and how tough many of them were. Most especially the questions aimed at Donald Trump. Those were so fierce - not least the calling-out on an independent candidacy at the beginning, which ostensibly wasn't aimed at a single candidate (though it really was) - that a clear goal on the part of Fox of seriously damaging Trump was evident. If Trump's constituency were of a different kind, it might have worked, too. The questions hit home on such matters as party loyalty, violation of core party stands and more, matters that would kill off most candidates. But while the questions highlighted, they did not unearth. Trump's threat to run a third-party candidacy has been in the news, as had nearly everything else the Fox questioners brought up. Was Trump damaged by the debate? We'll find out more soon in the after-party polling, but I'd guess not. I think it's more likely Fox drove a wedge between itself and some of Trump's constituency, which may be led by the candidate to now view Fox as just another part of the establishment. And did other candidates gain? Maybe Marco Rubio, a little, since he came cross as polished at least and got some easy questions. In the kids' table debate, Carly Fiorina was described as projecting a strong presence, but she's way back in the pack to start. Jeb Bush did himself little good - he didn't crash, but he came across like a dull corporate attorney. Did the debate change the contours of the race? Probably not much. And on to round two.

In our household when we turn to "the news" on television, that has for many years meant Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert - no other regular "news" TV programming need apply, so poor has most of the quality gotten. (CSPAN is welcome, and scattered individual programming, but nothing else on a nightly basis.) So this has been a significant year: First Colbert and now Stewart, as of last night, have departed. The news won't be the same. But the future beckons. Larry Wilmore, while not yet the equal of either of those two, has been gaining some strength. And while we as yet have no idea of what job Stewart's successor will do, we do know that others can do the job well: A year ago, John Oliver did a terrific job filling in for three months, and he was promptly grabbed away to do his own program elsewhere. So good luck to the new order.

Curing cancer?

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In a legislative body it is called asking for suspension of the day’s business in order to make a personal point. Today, I rise in like manner and ask a reader’s indulgence to hear me out.

The “Big C,” as some call cancer, can strike any one any time in one’s life cycle and just about any part of one’s body. Because actual cause is hard to pinpoint, for many it is seen as a “death sentence,” a disease without a cure. Many fear hearing the word ever cross their doctor’s lips. The same cancer can effect people differently, and move aggressively in one while slowly in another. Only God knows why.

Because of research advances and various techniques involved with early intervention, one’s cancer can often be stalled. Some call it “remission,” but one doesn’t hear the word “cured” too often anymore. Used to be if one went five years without a recurrence they were pronounced “cured.”

Too many instances of the “cured patient” being struck again have occurred, however. Used to be also that when one contracted cancer, after a battery of tests, most doctors, if asked, would give one an estimate on how long they had before all the sand is through the top half of their hour glass. That just doesn’t happen anymore.

For example, in November of 2005 when I was diagnosed with Stage IV (meaning “almost gone”) of a rare form of a neuroendocrine cancer, I was told I had six months left. I’m obviously still here ten years later.

Like most folks, once one gets over the initial shock, my wife and I did our research. We discovered the world’s best hospital for treating this type of cancer was M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. I bundled up all my CT’s, all my MRI’s, my blood tests, my colonoscopies, shipped them off to this world-renowned hospital and asked for them to see me and to provide a second opinion.

A few weeks later I received their answer---“no.” I was bluntly told I was too far gone, that it was hopeless, and I should go home to prepare to die. I was stunned. I’d never heard of one being denied a second opinion.

I called the managing partner of a large, prestigious Houston law firm---Bracewell & Patterson. One of his major clients was the Texas Medical Association. Thus, a call went to the director of M.D. Anderson from the head of the major medical association in Texas. The director refused to over-rule his doctors.

Things happen for a reason, however. On the advice of two friends I turned to a relative new Cancer Center, The Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. I met with their team of doctors and we drew up an aggressive attack strategy which so far has worked for almost ten years.

I confess though I’ll never feel that M.D. Anderson is as good as they claim to be. Nor will I ever recommend them to anyone. When asked, I’ll suggest folks look into the Mayo Clinic or Huntsman.

This lament is prompted by a spate of ads currently running on major news channels like CNN in which MDA comes awfully close to claiming they can cure cancer. How else is one to interpret the last scene in which they strike through the word cancer following a succession of “talking heads” the last couple which say cancer has lost..

The field of cancer care is becoming increasingly competitive simply because there are vast profits to be made. This is no justification, however, for strongly implying that they have or will beat cancer.

I’ve had almost ten years of successively holding my always fatal form of cancer at bay. I’ve never claimed to have been cured nor in a state of remission, because I’m not. Like many others, it is a day to day, 24/7 battle. Some of us are lucky enough to keep fighting for a long time.

My experience suggests that unless and until doctors can alter one’s DNA before birth there will never be a cure for cancer. Why? Because I think all cancers are part and parcel of the natural dying process we all undergoe. We can stall, stymie, hold at bay for a long time in some cases, but in the end the Grim Reaper claims us all. In all candor people should understand cancer in that context. Acceptence of our mortality, strangely enough is one of the keys to enduring longer than predictions.

The folks at M.D. Anderson should be honest enough to say that.

First take

For 20 years, the top sector of the Oregon agricultural economy was nurseries - not something most people would have guessed, but there it is. This week, the state Department of Agriculture is reporting that order of finish has been upended, as cattle/livestock has moved into first place. This comes at a moment when a number of the state's larger cattle operations want to expand the head of cattle they can have. (The largest examples are in the Tillamook area, which is already is the state's biggest dairy center.) Here's some material from state Ag's statement on the economic order:

For the first time in 20 years, there’s a new leader among Oregon’s diverse agricultural commodities in terms of production value. Cattle and calves has regained the top spot with a record breaking year in 2014, overtaking greenhouse and nursery products. It was 1994 when greenhouse and nursery supplanted cattle and calves as number one.

Newly released statistics from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) provides a preliminary picture of last year’s crop and livestock value of production. The numbers indicate that Oregon agriculture continues to be a major economic contributor to the state. The overall estimate for total production value in 2014 is about $5.4 billion, which is roughly unchanged from the past couple of years. Some commodities have shown tremendous increases while others have declined. The successful ones rely on a formula of good production and high prices for what was sold.

With Oregon producing more than 220 commodities as part of its agriculture, there will always be some winners and some losers any given year. In general, the results of 2014 show more pluses than minuses. The value of agricultural production in Oregon last year includes a top ten list that reflects the new leader, but most of the names are familiar. ...

In addition to cattle and calves swapping places with greenhouse and nursery products from the previous year’s list, wine grapes cracked the top ten while onions dropped out. All top ten commodities showed an increase in production value from 2013 with the exception of wheat and potatoes. For the first time in history, Oregon had two commodities above the $800 million mark in production value and four commodities valued at more than a half billion dollars. Onions, Christmas trees, and blueberries just missed the top ten list yet still eclipsed $100 million in production value.

“It was generally a great year for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers,” says Kathryn Walker, special assistant to the director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “When you have so many commodities with a production value above $500 million, that’s impressive.”

By far, the most dramatic rise in production value in Oregon comes from cattle country– a nearly 38 percent increase from 2013 to 2014.

“That industry hasn’t been number one since the early 90s, so I’m sure it’s exciting to them to be a leader once again,” says Walker. “There have been some very strong cattle prices the last couple of years and that is reflected in the value of production for cattle and calves.”

The cattle and calves category is also approaching a status enjoyed only once by an Oregon agricultural commodity– the billion dollar club. Greenhouse and nursery products reached $1.039 billion in 2007. A year later, the economic recession took its toll specifically on nursery products and grass seed. Nonetheless, greenhouse and nursery is making its way back and recorded an increase of 11 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Commodities with other increases in production value in 2014 include milk (+23 percent), pears (+14 percent), hay (+11 percent), wine grapes (+10 percent), grass seed (+9 percent), and hazelnuts (+7 percent). Wheat (-22 percent) and potatoes (-3 percent) were the only commodities on the negative side of the ledger.

Some commodities outside the top ten recorded large increases in production value, including sweet corn (+29 percent) and blackberries (+18 percent). Blueberries, which occasionally reaches the top ten, saw a healthy increase (+8 percent) and continues to show strong gains each year.

Off the info grid

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We've been off the information grid for nearly a month now. Oh, we've still got electricity, the internet, the gas and water and sewer connexions, but a month ago the satellite went away at our command, so no more government and corporate news at 6 p.m. or the Sunday morning food-fights.

I do miss Charles Osgood and Gwen Eifel but that's about it. These are offset by the welcome losses of Judy Woodruff, Brian Williams, and all of Fox News and all of the Spokane happy news. We don't like being barked at by news purveyors who've never been in a street fight or spent a night in jail, whose only claim to the august positions they hold is based on race, sex, or a tawdry journalism degree from some tawdry college.

Can't much stand our local Shruggles News-Press, either. It seems content to republish police reports and how the local cheerleaders are doing. The new paradigm. Newspapering is now a stenographer's job.

For news in the morning, it's a quick surf through Drudge, who is the premiere old-school news editor, then a deep read through the Washington Post's op-ed page, which seems to be the only surviving newspaper willing to air a variety of actual thinking on topics of import. I read Will, Gerson and Krauthammer on the right, and Dione, the robotic Robinson, and Milbank on the left, then maybe some Samuelson for balance. (For $10 a year the WaPo is the best real newspaper left on the web.)

Back to the central point. We're not missing anything. The dish, with all of its channels advertising faux diamonds and Vego-O-Matic gadgetry and hatred-spewing from Fox and MSNBC, just wasn't worth $80 a month. I don't really give a crap who the next president is going to be, because nothing's going to change. They're welcome to duke it out, but not on my dime, nor my time.

Television is entertainment. Regrettably, the news model has fit itself into the entertainment game and these sissified boys and girls at the anchor desks have capably adapted.

So I turned them off and haven't missed a bloody thing. The sun still rises and sets. The dog, cat, Better Half and me are still healthy. Blood pressure has dropped by many points.

What the Dow does to-day has no impact on our real lives. It's a handful of speculators, mostly banks, trying electronically to out-guess each other. Who really should care? Does caring about it pay my rent? But it's front-page news – a bloody distraction.

The Mid-East burns. Let it. They've been doing this to each other for 6,000 years. What gives us the hubris to think we can fix that? And if you think the U.S. is without guilt there, visit what Kermit Roosevelt did in Iran when he organized the toppling of a duly elected president to install the Shah of Iran in the early 1950s, all to protect British oil interests. Thirty-some years later, we got the blow-back.

Good books and good movies are the way to go. In fiction, nobody lies.

First take

Something seemed likely to happen this year on the Boulder-White Clouds area, because of the pressure on for a presidential declaration of a national monument in the area if no congressional action happened. And, though not much mentioned this week, that prospect seems to have lit a fire under certain people associated with (or in opposition to) the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill long pushed by Representative Mike Simpson. That doesn't, of course, diminish the proper credit Simpson should get for the bill; it just helps explain why it slipped through the House and Senate this year when it failed in years previous, during times when it seemed to be forever stuck. Part of good legislating is persistence, and Simpson demonstrated that, keeping after the bill through good times and back, and skillfully striking when the opportunity arose. It was a demonstration of pure legislative skill and on a topic important to Idaho. A question: Has there been a congressional action specific to Idaho of greater significance since the designation of the River of No Return Wilderness (since renamed to include Frank Church) more than three decades ago? Passage of this bill may give Simpson the clear edge as the most consequential member of Congress for Idaho in the last generation. - rs (photo/"Alice Lake" by Fredlyfish4)"Alice Lake" by Fredlyfish4)