Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in January 2016

First take/SOTU

It was an unusual State of the Union speech President Barack Obama delivered on Tuesday night. It held off until the very end, for example, in saying the state was "strong" (the preferred descriptor by most recent presidents).

But there were much more significant elements. A lot of the attention went, as probably it should, to the last major segment, about American politics but more broadly about how Americans see this project of self-government. One of the most disquieting poll results in a long time was the recent report that many younger people don't think it's important to live in a democracy. They should give some thought to what living in another kind of system would be like. And I would say the same to many of their elders who seem so hell-bent on destroying any semblance of a civil society in their orgy of fear and hatred.

Obama offered something else last night, though, in the way he structured his speech. He organized it around four questions:

First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?
Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?
Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?
And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

These, it seems to me, are an excellent set of questions we should consider, and that we demand our candidates respond to, in this election year. They are as good a short summary of the matters that ought to be on our front burner as any I have seen anywhere. - rs

Coffee with an IPO candidate

harrislogo1

I had a nice one hour chat with Independent Party of Oregon candidate for Governor Cliff Thomason this week in Beaverton.

Before I met Cliff, I read his website to see what issues were important for his campaign.

Local Control: This is an issue that Cliff highlighted in our conversation as well. And it seems to be near the top of his list. He wants to return more control of schools to the school districts. And he proposes that a large percentage of lottery dollars generated in each county be returned to the counties as sort of block grants. Now, the lottery dollars are used for economic development programs as directed by the State office in Salem.
Green Jobs: However, the green jobs he’s referring to are more “green” as in chlorophyll rather than “green” as in Solyndra or BETC. He wants to promote the wine industry and industrial hemp. As well as agri-tainment, which would incorporate agricultural experiences and tourism.

A State Bank: A progressive populist idea that is gaining traction statewide. Did I mention that Cliff is an industrial hemp farmer? The marijuana industry needs to have secure, safe, lawful banking services. The idea of a State Bank has been around for a while, and offers some real benefits. With the legalization of Mariuana, the State Bank idea has additional potential uses that no other entity could provide.

Anti Corruption: Cliff’s anti corruption page on his website is called “Kitzhaber Crew” where he talks about the corruption of our system by the good old boys and girls of the Democratic Party.

My first impression of Cliff is that he’s friendly, open and astute. He’s a businessman from Grants Pass. I’ve met a lot of businesspersons from middle class suburban and small to mid sized towns. They are pillars of their communities, members of their Chambers of Commerce and they fill the volunteer positions on city boards and commissions. Regardless of their political ideology, they love their communities and care about their neighbors. They are also much smarter than many urban denizens and deep blue politicos who live east of the tunnel and west of I-205 believe. Maybe it’s the loafers, camelhair blazers and American flag pins on the lapel that confuses some PDXrs.

We talked for an hour and could have talked longer. He was most intense when he talked about the urban rural divide and the need for more local control. And how different Josephine County and Grants Pass are to Portland and the upper valley. He even talked about how different Grants Pass is from rural Josephine County.

He had just come back from a KBOO podcast recording, and was wondering how well he did. He was asked about his position on the minimum wage, which is an escalating minimum wage based on age. We debated that for a minute, I don’t think I convinced him of my position, and he didn’t convince me of his. But at least he has thought about the minimum wage and the need to increase it for working families, while also considering the effect on non metropolitan employers.

I could tell many of his economic ideas were conservative and asked him what differentiated his candidacy from a GOP candidate. He admitted that it was harder to find many economic policy differences, however he said that social issues are not on his agenda or To Do list. He wanted to find common ground, not wedge issues that divide people.

Cliff comes from the “Rindependent” part of the IPO. That is, those slightly to moderately right of center populists who are economically conservative and socially agnostic or even socially libertarian. (As opposed to the “LIndependent” wing of the IPO, progressive populists who prefer Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton. Or to “MIndependent” IPO members who are policy moderate populists who seek to reform the democratic process itself as the way to improve substantive policy.)

Cliff will appeal to a large number of IPO voters from rural and small town areas, especially in southern and eastern Oregon. But his support for a State bank should also draw support from progressive independents as well as the powerful marijuana industry. His anti corruption message will win support from all IPO members. Heck, all Oregonians. But, I’d suggest he refocus it onto systemic corruption that both the Democratic and Republican Parties and their donor bases benefit from. (But that’s the MIndependent in me speaking there)

He should rethink his position on the minimum wage. A better option would be to simply allow local governments to increase their minimum wage to up to $15/hour. And/or an increase in the Oregon earned income tax credit which would focus wage increases on working families living below the poverty level.

He needs to address more of the concerns of urban voters. I get that a lot of rural voters rightly believe that the State Government ignores issues important to them. The way to highlight that is by making sure you talk about urban and rural issues. Show us how it’s done. The cost of housing and homelessness – issues that effect mostly urban areas – are issues that our governor has to address. He needs to remember that he still needs the votes of LIndependents in the IPO primary and moderates and urban voters in the general election.

How will Cliff fare?

With the Democrats offering Kate Brown, and the GOP so far offering just Dr. Bud Pierce, the IPO should be pleased that Cliff Thomason is running for its nomination for Oregon Governor. He certainly represents a large number of IPO members philosophically and has some interesting ideas that Oregonians from all over the political spectrum could support. Particularly his backing for a State Bank and more green jobs.

First take/SOS

State of the State speeches in Idaho or elsewhere usually are broad-based, washing over a lot of topics and never burrowing very deeply on any one. Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's SOS Monday was an exception.

He spent the bulk of the speech on education, and sometimes on unfamiliar aspects of it. He talked at some length about reading proficiency, and said "My budget includes $10.7 million to pay for intervention support for students in kindergarten through third grade who are not yet proficient on the state reading indicator. That will improve the chances for more Idaho students to succeed through high school and beyond."

He talked about other education initiatives as well and, more to the point, backed it up with a substantial increase for public schools, 7.9 percent overall. That won't fully fill back the losses from the recession years, or make up for the absence of progress since, but it's a start.

There was also this: "I had the chance last month to experience a little of what innovative, mastery-focused learning looks like in our classrooms. I participated in an “Hour of Code” exercise with fifth-graders at Boise’s Garfield Elementary. Immersing myself in that environment and watching students do the same, I saw firsthand the difference that individualized learning can make in comprehension, application and ultimately mastery."

Individualized learning likely a way of the future in education, and its mention here was noteworthy. - rs

End it now

raineylogo1

This damned armed stand-off in Burns, Oregon, has got to come to an end. It’s escalating to dangerous proportions. Three more out-of-state gun-toting “patriot” groups have now joined up. It’s got to be stopped. Now!

What started as some far-right nut cases with rifles holding an isolated Oregon, federal game refuge hostage has gone from that to now drawing more right-wing seditionists from other states as a rallying point. And they’ve now taken an entire community hostage - the community of Burns.

Guys with rifles slung over their shoulders are roaming the streets at all hours. People are being directly threatened - including the elderly parents of the Harney County Sheriff. Tires were slashed on the sheriff’s personal car. Schools have been closed for two weeks. Members of a local Native American tribe are being harassed and frightened. Citizens of Burns are literally being held prisoner because of these seditionists.

There’s no local radio station in Burns - only a weekly newspaper. So, the town is filled with swirling rumors and people are having a hard time finding out what’s really going on. Social media has been the main source of information and we all know how reliable that can be.

The sheriff has been extremely patient. But, when he met with the Bundy boys last week, they refused his offer to get safely out of town until all of their “demands” are met. Demands that will never be met. At that point, it would seem, the time for patience ended.

One of the more disappointing features regarding how this situation has been allowed to fester into something more dangerous, is the seeming near non-reaction of government. At all levels. County commissioners are hiding under their blankets. They’ve publically said nothing. Oregon’s governor issued one news release saying how awful this situation is and asking the Bundys and their followers to leave. The feds have been silent. Nothing from the F-B-I except another news release saying “We’re keeping an eye on things.” The only visible law enforcement presence near the occupied federal property was when the sheriff came to talk last week and a couple of vehicles of armed folk followed him in. And silently back out.

The Bundy Bunch is in the small compound of the Harney Wildlife Refuge. They’ve moved federal heavy equipment out front as barricades if attacked. Media is corralled several hundred yards away - out of sight of the place.

The plain fact is the seditionists are free to come and go as they please. And they please a lot. They go to town to eat in local restaurants - buy five gallon cans of gas for their small generators - shop for groceries with rifles at the ready - hit the bars when they need a stiffener. One of them used social media to plead for money to supply his needs “for the struggle,” then took the proceeds to a Burns bar and got blitzed. O’Shaughnesy was his name. Stealing money is his game.

In all previous encounters with these heavily armed “constitutionalists” across the country, government has backed down. No shots fired. No one hurt. No arrests. As a result, the seditionists are getting bolder, more organized, more heavily armed and more of a threat to the rest of us. They feel emboldened each time they “face down the terrible federal monster.” And do it with impunity.

Some government entity - or all of them - needs to act. Shut these bastards down. Block all communications. Turn off all electricity. Turn off all water supplies. Overnight temperatures last week dropped to near zero in the area. No heat, no water and no way to communicate with families or other supporters can become great non-violent but effective “weapons.”

However, if a government push-back produces shots fired from inside the compound, an armed response will be necessary. Required. I’d hate to see it end that way. But these guys are nothing but criminals. They have no legitimacy in the eyes of the law. They’ve committed criminal if not seditious acts. Offered safe passage and a pat on the back, they refused. But leave they must. Peacefully or otherwise.

When I was a kid, like almost all kids everywhere, I used to push my parents and their rules. I learned where to stop just short of their response triggers. That’s what the Bundy’s and their criminal ilk are doing with our government - from county locals to the feds. All previous encounters have ended with figures of governmental authority backing down and walking away. These guys have learned to just “hang in there” because they know no one is going to move against them. But someone must.

The occupation is 30 miles outside an isolated desert community, clustered in a very small compound, well-known to local law agencies and with no non-participants that can get hurt if shots are fired. Such ideal conditions for stopping these guys cold may never exist again. This is where it can end with the least amount of casualties.

One more thing. Something that hasn’t got a lot of media attention. While overwhelming local sentiment opposes the majority governmental land ownership in the area, committees of locals and feds have worked for decades to operate together. To work out their differences. Sensible locals admit relations are better than ever and cooperation has greatly improved. Not perfect. But better. All that work, over all that time, can be blown to bits if these out-of-state terrorists walk peacefully away from this.

There’s more at stake here than getting the Bundy’s and their cretin sycophants out of the compound and out of the state peacefully. Large ruptures of many relationships in Harney County and other western states could be a terrible, long-term price to pay.

The Bundy boys have been given their chance. And then some. It’s time to get ‘em out. Or take ‘em out. Now!

First take/lands

In this time of so much discussion and protest (notably around Burns, Oregon) about the public lands - operated by the federal government - a headline from Idaho ought to be getting more attention than it has.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that two Texas billionaire brothers, the Wilks, have bought 38,000 acres of land around the Joseph territory in Idaho County. (Previously, they had bought around 300,000 acres in Montana.)

The land had consisted of privately-held ranches in the area, and there's nothing legally wrong about the transaction. However, the Tribune also reported this:

"During a recent Idaho County Commission meeting, comments were made that residents believe public access to the Joseph Plains area for hunting and recreation, which has been granted in the past by the previous landowners, has been closed off since the Wilkses took over. The comments took place in a conversation about the proposed Lochsa Land Exchange."

Private means private. Public means you either might have outright access to it, or at least a shot at it.

The massive public lands around Burns are public lands, which have been open for a wide range of uses by members of the public, including ranchers. Turn it private, and some people in Idaho County could tell you what some of the possibilities are. - rs

Better than nothing?

stapiluslogo1

When Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said last week, “It’s not lost on us that we’re dealing with people’s lives here,” he was saying something that needed to be said . . . in that, a lot of Idahoans probably do think concerns about their health care have been lost on the legislators. Or at least on many of them.

When the Idaho Legislature has in recent years discussed establishing a health insurance exchange, something many other states have, the debate has tended to center on a discussion of just how evil the federal government is. The health of Idahoans wasn't a factor, at least in their debate. Sometimes didn’t come up at all.

Lawmakers will get another chance to consider all this beginning Monday, when the legislature returns to town and starts to review a proposal on health care from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Otter has asked committees to look into the subject of expanding Medicare in Idaho as many other states have, and from those panels has gotten back responses in the affirmative. Actually following through remains politically problematic, mainly because the Idaho Legislature has given no indication it wants to go there. Evidently by way of trying to do something that might win legislative support (and it may), Otter proposed last week a $30 million program intended to address the medical needs of the 78,000 or so Idahoans who have no affordable health coverage.

The plan would cover enrollment at a clinic near where people live, and patients there could get an assessment and a plan for meeting their health needs, and maybe a prescription discount. Those are not bad things, and could help some people’s health and maybe reduce emergency room use. But actual substantial medical care, meaning more significant (or expensive) care such as hospitalization, the core of what an expanded Medicaid would provide and the kind of issues that have ruined many lives financially and otherwise, would not be covered.

Idahoans would get a health service some of them don’t have now. But the proposal drew a quick response from a large group of health care providers which pointed out its severe limitations.

Neva Santos, Executive Director, Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, said, “While investing in primary care is useful, as offered by PCAP, it will not provide the needed diagnostic or treatment options to maximally keep patients out of the emergency room or from costly hospitalization.”

Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett: “We’re still paying into the Medicaid expansion program we don’t receive any benefit from, so the dollars go to other states. We’re still taking care of CAT fund and indigent funds in our counties and cities, and now we’re being asked as taxpayers to pay $30 million for a new program.”

Expanding Medicaid would, by some estimates, save state taxpayers $173 million over the next decade.

Hill acknowledged that Otter’s proposal wouldn’t cover near what Medicaid would, but “There are other states that are looking at other alternatives that we may learn from, that we may be able to emulate somewhere down the road. We’ve gone 100 years without providing this service, we want to do it right. And this seems like a good step.”

He and Health & Welfare Director Richard Armstrong pointed out too that enacting this program wouldn’t mean Idaho couldn’t do more – such as a Medicaid expansion – later. And that’s true.

But it’s not hard to image future legislators saying, “We already took care of that,” whenever is raised the subject of actual serious medical coverage for the 78,000.

Reading: WA’s initiatives

From a notice by David Ammons of the Washington Secretary of State's office:

FYI: As WA lawmakers prepare to open their session on Monday, the people’s process of writing laws by initiative got its start Friday.

By mid-afternoon, 24 proposals with the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, including 13 from initiative activist Tim Eyman. His measures deal with making it tougher to raise taxes in Olympia, bringing back $30 car tabs, express lane tolls, and other issues.

Kurt Ludden of Seattle filed seven initiatives, dealing with medical marijuana, and the initiative process. Other sponsors submitted measures dealing with a single-payer health insurance system for Washington, grandparents’ visitation rights, and faculty carrying handguns.

The process of filing is easy — pay a $5 filing fee and submit the proposed wording. History shows, however, that usually only a few actually make the ballot. It takes 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters — and the Elections Division recommends bringing in at least 325k to cover duplicate and invalid signatures. The deadline this year is July 8.

Initiatives are sent to the state code reviser for review as to form, and then on to the attorney general for a ballot title. Ballot titles can be challenges by sponsors or foes in court. After all that, it is up to sponsors whether to actually print up 20,000 or more actual petition sheets for signature collection. Many sponsors do not take that final step, and many do not gather enough signatures to qualify.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kim Wyman has provisionally certified two initiatives to the Legislature as the Elections Division begins the signature-verification process. They are I-732, dealing with carbon taxes, and I-735, petitioning for a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign fundraising.

First take/Natural born

The new birtherism is biting Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate well-liked by many of the people doing the biting.

The old birtherism - the attempt to show President Barack Obama was born somewhere other than the United States, despite the birth certificate and contemporary newspaper listings saying otherwise - was always bunk. The new is different: There is no question about the facts, only about interpretation of law. The catch is, there's no official interpretation of law.

The constitution says that president of the United States must be a "natural born citizen." It does not define the term, and in all the years since the document was written no court - which is where the term would be defined - ever has defined it. My understanding long has been that it means you have to have been born in the land area of the United States, either its states or its territories. That would include people like Barry Goldwater, born in the territory or Arizona, or John McCain, born in the Panama Canal Zone, which was at the time a United States possession. A lot of people have defined the term the same way. But there's never been an "official" definition.

Cruz was born in Edmonton, Canada; his mother was a U.S. citizen. That's not in dispute, and never has been. Cruz has released his birth records, and in 2013 formally a Canadian citizenship he long held on account of his birth location. The facts are clear; but how does that match with the "natural born citizen" requirement in the Constitution?

The senator, of course, maintains that he clearly is qualified, and maybe he is. In looking for a senator of what "naturalized" meant in constitutional terms, a court could seize onto the 1790 passed (shortly after the Constitution went into effect) of the Naturalization Act, which meant to clarify that people born outside the United States to citizens were also considered citizens. And Cruz' United States citizenship never has been in serious dispute.

The reality is, no one knows. When rival Donald Trump calls on Cruz to seek a court declaration one way or other on the matter, he's running some clever (and somewhat exploitative) politics, but the counsel may actually be the right thing for Cruz to do. Trump points out that if the legal question isn't resolved now, Democrats surely will make it a much bigger issue in the general election should Cruz become the Republican nominee, and that is correct. Some of Cruz' own backers are signing on to that line of thought.

None of this is something Cruz would want in the air just as he's trying to lock down a win in the Iowa caucuses. But it may be something that he has to deal with sometime soon. - rs

Labels and apostasy

carlsonlogo1

One of the shameful aspects of modern politics is the tendency of people to define those holding differing views with perjorative labels. For example, in a recent column I complimented a conservative Republican state representative, Luke Malek, for displaying solid judgment and genuine dedication to his public service in a town hall meeting he held.

This was apparently too much for a Tea Party ideological critic of Malek’s, and in particular, Rep. Carol Nillson Troy. Note that I too am using a couple of labels to define the critic. His letter to the editor was a classic case of using the guilt by association and the false syllogism devices as rebuttal. Others might simply call it the “straw dog” device.

To this particular critic it was further proof that these two representitives had to be RINOS, Republicans in Name Only¸because they were being complimented by a “liberal Democrat.” Of course “liberal” despite its derivative from the Latin word liber (to free, to be free) just as libertarian is also a derivative, is now a nasty perjorative.

For the record I have always labeled myself as a business Democrat or an Andrus Democrat - that is a social liberal who is fiscally conservative. By that I mean I believe government has an obligation to help those who through no fault of their own cannot help themselves and government is the only agency that can realistically provide the needed help. However, we have to pay for that government assistance as we go. It is simply immoral to pass debt along to our children and grandchildren, as we have been doing. Both parties are guilty of this.

Thus, I support the solutions of the Simpson/Bowles Commission which came up with a solid set of recommendations that over a period of time would restore fiscal sanity to the nation.

Here’s the real ignorance in calling me a “liberal Democrat.” Even a minimal amount of research would reveal that in the eyes of many Democrats I’m at a minimum an apostate---one who deviates from orthodoxy---if not an outright independent. I vote for the person, not the party. I own firearms and rifles, have a concealed weapons permit and I believe friendship trumps partisanship any day.

I even have a copy of a resolution passed in 1982 by the King County Democrats drumming me out of the Democratic party for apostasy. They were outraged that I had played a major role in forming a Democrats for Dan Evans for the U.S. Senate committee. We bought our own ads and sent a group reflecting our diverse membership barnstorming around the state.

Evans defeated a true self-described super liberal, Congressman Mike Lowry, for the seat held by the legendary Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson. Many observers felt our committeee had been a critical part of the former three-term governor’s success.

I helped because Dan was a friend, I’d served on the Northwest Power Planning Council with him, and he asked.

This was too much for the late Karen Marchioro (Later the state chair) and her associate, Geoff Smith. The day after I received my expulsion notice I received the first of continuing requests for money for the party.

I compounded my apostasy in 1988 when I publicly supported a friend and the mentor to a future partner, the conservative U.S. Senator, Slade Gorton. Because of my role then as a major business figure in the Inland Northwest (regional vice president for Kaiser Aluminum), Slade asked and I cut television and radio ads supporting his candidacy.

Of coure that meant I again supported Slade in 2000 when he narrowly lost (2200 votes out of 2.4 million cast) a re-election bid to Maria Cantwell. When my business partner and former Gorton chief-of-staff, Mike McGavick, challenged Senator Cantwell in her 2006 re-election bid, I supported Mike. Friendship in my book always trumps partisanship and loyalty to those who have displayed loyalty to you is among the highest, and most rarely found, of political values.

It might further surprise readers to learn that the first Idaho officeholder to ask me to be his press secretary was a former Idaho governor and then U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan. While I greatly admired Len, I respectfully declined.

I am a self-described business or Andrus or conservative Democrat. To all those out there who want to label me as something else, go ahead, show your ignorance. Make my day.