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Posts published in July 2016

Wheels of justice grind

jorgensen

It was just about impossible to escape the news Monday that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted for the e-mail scandal that has hung over her campaign for months.

Conservative activists took to social media platforms like Facebook in mass to express their dismay at the FBI’s announcement. Missing from my particular news feed was any sort of celebration from Hillary supporters. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening; it just isn’t in any of my social circles, apparently.

In the political world, people tend to release favorable information to the public on Monday mornings so it can dominate the news cycle all week long. That was the Clinton campaign’s strategy a few weeks back, when they decided that the contested Democratic primary race with Bernie Sanders was over and no longer worthy of any discussion. Perception is reality in politics, and they wanted to come out of an otherwise sleepy weekend with the public convinced that Clinton’s nomination was a done deal. Near as I can tell, that strategy succeeded. Whether Sanders and his supporters feel the same way, I’m not sure.

These latest developments came shortly after former President Bill Clinton surreptitiously ran into Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona, presumably to talk about grandchildren. Never mind that Lynch was a Clinton appointee, as the former president elevated her to the position of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 1999. Or the fact that we, the people, weren’t supposed to know that such a meeting ever took place. I would chalk it up to coincidence, but I’ve long since learned that there is no such thing when it comes to politics, especially at the higher, winner-take-all level that the Clintons have successfully inhabited for decades.

July also appears to be going well for former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, as the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision vacating his conviction on 11 counts of bribery-related charges. That conviction carried a two-year prison sentence. McDonnell may not be completely off the hook, though, as his case was returned to lower courts and he may still face a second trial.

The news of McDonnell’s courtroom triumph may have been unsettling to some of my fellow Oregonians, as his case was held up as the closest parallel we had to that of our former governor John Kitzhaber. It has long been speculated by Republican activists, operatives and even elected officials that the FBI’s nearly two-year-old investigation into Kitzhaber and his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, may not actually result in any criminal charges being filed. Once again, perception is reality, and seeing Clinton and McDonnell emerged unscathed from the same judicial gauntlet that has given the U.S. the world’s largest prison population is hardly encouraging for those of us who want to believe in the system.

Kitzhaber’s quest to create a perception of innocence has met with a couple of recent setbacks. It was revealed in late June that subpoenas have been issued to officials at the state Department of Energy regarding the controversial Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) debacle that was at the center of his administration’s scandals. Those officials will likely be called to testify around the middle of the month.

Also publicly disclosed around the same time was the tidbit that the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office has contracted with an outside firm to audit the BETC program, which should be concluding in the next few weeks. Documents from an internal review conducted by the Department of Administrative Services into the department’s tax credit programs have also been released, and helped form the line of questioning from lawmakers during the Department of Energy Oversight Committee’s last meeting. So far, that body has heard presentations about every one of the department’s various divisions and why we couldn’t possibly live without them.

All that aside, Kitzhaber is facing a completely different challenge, and it’s on a much deeper level. News reports Monday morning stated that his 18-year-old son, Logan, was involved in a car crash near Lincoln City on the Fourth of July. This was a matter of weeks after the young man graduated from high school. Initial press articles characterized his condition as “critical,” and stated that he was taken by air ambulance to OHSU Hospital, but has since been released to recover at home with his family.

Back when Kitzhaber’s e-mails were released last year, I was curious enough to look through them, seeking clues as to the downfall of the man who had served as governor for most of the 22 years I’ve lived in the state. Most of it was pretty mundane, and centered on his thoughts involving health care and education policy.

But there were some gems hidden among all the back-and-fourth between Kitzhaber and his top aides. Among them was that he is a loving father who cares deeply about his young son. Any time Logan was mentioned in that correspondence, Kitzhaber made clear that his son’s health and well-being was more important to him than any of the political power he had accumulated over the years. As a father, I could relate, and almost felt bad for Kitzhaber when looking at the purely human aspects of what he must have been going through at the time.

A well-established cliché states that the wheels of justice turn slowly. I’m sure it’s been agonizing for Hillary and former governors McDonnell and Kitzhaber to be in the public spotlight amid criminal investigations into alleged wrongdoing. Clinton and McDonnell can probably breathe a little easier than they could last month. Kitzhaber, however, still remains in limbo, near as I can tell. For the time being, he has much better things to worry about, and could probably use a similar bit of good news right about now to offset this more recent tragedy.

Sneak peek

harris

Starting July 4th, 2016 (Ironically Independence Day) the Independent Party of Oregon will begin it’s own online presidential preference poll. In addition, the Party is including it’s annual member survey in conjunction with the Presidential poll.

There are three things to note about this poll/survey.

The Presidential poll will include Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. In addition, it will allow voters to chose “None of the above”
The Presidential poll will be done by approval voting, allowing a voter to select all candidates they may be satisfied with. This will allow a voter for example, to vote for Stein, Sanders and Clinton, so that the can select their real favorite without worrying about Trump benefiting from them voting for a minor party candidate.
The vote and even the survey is open to non affiliated voters as well as Independent Party members. This is a true i/Independent preference poll
For the first time, the IPO will be surveying members on social issues.

HERE’S A SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE IPO VOTERS PAMPHLET AND THE SURVEY QUESTIONS.

The Pamphlet also has instructions on how both party members and non affiliated voters can participate in the election/survey.

Cancer survivor

rainey

Physician examining rooms are usually small and windowless, with no comfortable place to sit. They’re lined with cabinets and drawers you just know contain all sorts of demonic tools with which to inflict pain. Likely on you. The usual minutes go from 60 seconds long to 240 seconds. It seems.

Finally, the door opens, doctor walks in, and the first words out of his mouth are “Hello. You have advanced prostate cancer and if you hadn’t shown up here two months ago, you’d be dead by now.” Word-for-word. Great bedside manner.

He hands you a copy of the biopsy report from last week’s visit. It’s all right there in pictures, diagrams, diagnostics by scale and the lab’s conclusion.

That was my lab report, cooly handed to me on a grey coastal day last Fall. Several depictions were cross-sections - “slices” of my prostate divided into nine regions. The lab used the commonly accepted Gleason scores ranging from zero to five with five being very bad. Mine showed a 4.9, a 4.8 and down - or 90% and 80% positive. No need for a second opinion here. The evidence in my hand was black and white. And conclusive.

I hadn’t made my first appointment with this urologist because of any bodily symptoms. With prostate cancer, there are usually no symptoms you can feel. What got my attention was a PSA score that had gone from 1.8 to 4.8 in six months. PSA means “prostate-specific antigen” and is determined by a normal blood test. Many doctors don’t give it a lot of importance. But it can be a good predictor that something is wrong if it changes radically in a short period of time as mine did. My primary care doc seemed unconcerned. But I insisted on a second test. That second test saved my life. I also got a new primary doc.

There are four major procedures to deal with prostate cancer: surgery to remove the prostate performed either by a surgeon the traditional way or with the DaVinci robot remotely controlled by the surgeon; radiation; chemotherapy; cryosurgery or a combination of two or more of these.

Most often, surgery is not “medically appropriate” - insurance talk - for seniors because of cost, compared to how much longer a senior may live without dying of some other problem. Radiation and drugs are often used in combination. But I’d had previous personal experience with both and knew the bad side-effects. I researched everything I could find, then opted for cryosurgery and hormones.

I took nine powerful hormone shots in eight months. The PSA reading went from 4.8 to 0.01, meaning the drug was killing the testosterone - the life-blood of prostate cancer. It also was shrinking the gland to be a better target for cryo.

Cryosurgery is done with two surgical rods. A cut is made in the lower body area between front and back. Both rods are inserted. One is shoved firmly into the prostate while the urologist watches using a tiny TV camera. During the two-hour procedure, gasses are used to freeze the prostate. First shot is -125 degrees and lasts for as long as the doctor believes necessary. Then wait. The second shot drops to -187 degrees. The idea is to kill as many cancer cells as possible on the first try and weaken the rest. Then, after a warming period, hit the weaker cells even harder. The second rod is a warming instrument to try to protect the bladder, bowel wall and other vital spots from being damaged in the freezing.

None of this sounds very comfortable. But, four weeks after the procedure, there’s been no pain from day one. I’m eating anything I want, bathroom habits are normal, I’ve been housebound but able to walk freely and do most daily activities. I feel great.

Based on his years of experience with cryo, the surgeon believes he got all the cancer. I’ll take the hormone shots for another four months. What we wait for now is a blood test and the PSA reading in about 70 days. We know it’s 0.01 today. If it’s at or close to that on the next test, we’ll have won this round.

One bad issue with prostate cancer is it often returns, no matter what procedure is first used. Maybe a year or two, or 10, or 12. With each return, you have reduced options depending on age. For me, at my age then, if it returns in a few years, the only options will be hormones and radiation. Eventually, the body will figure out how to make testosterone a different way and drugs will be needed to starve it again. May add another one to four years of life at that time.

Prostate cancer is a man-killer. But survival odds are getting better. Cryosurgery, while relatively new, is also improving, as my own experience shows. Medical science keeps working on this universal male problem and is improving the odds for all of us.

I didn’t describe all this to pander for attention. I want to make the most important point - in the strongest possible way - that males - ALL males - NEED TO GET REGULAR PSA TESTING! At least very six months. Especially after age 40. Most insurance plans pay for it once or twice a year. Do it! Pay for it yourself, if necessary! It’s not expensive. Record the results to track the trend between tests. A slight movement up is usually not cause for alarm.

But, if it climbs quickly, as mine did, get to a urologist immediately. He’ll probably recommend a biopsy so you’ll both know better what’s going on. With local anesthetic, it’s painless. And it’s damned good information. Quick and easy life saving information.

Now, GO. You’ve been warned!

Toward 2018

stapiluslogo1

Brad Little, Idaho’s lieutenant governor since January 2009, has filed paperwork toward a run for governor in 2018. In doing that, he has finally done what some observers expected he would in 2014 or even as far back as 2010.

No need now, he was quoted in one news report, to be coy about it any more, which makes definitive that the incumbent governor who appointed him, C.L. “Butch” Otter, will not try for a fourth term. Running for governor, or one of the top offices, has been more or less eventually expected of Little for many years. Even when he was in the state Senate, and before that when he rebuffed suggestions he run for this or that, there was the sense that he would one day be a contender for top-rank office in the state.

Brad Little comes from one of the major Idaho pioneer families, for three decades running his family’s large ranching operations based at Emmett. He has been an actual cowboy – the real thing, not a rodeo enthusiast but a working cattleman. Years ago during a backcountry drive I paused for refreshment at one of the bars at Yellow Pine, and watched as a gaggle of dirty, tired, ragged cattle hands burst in through the door – Brad Little in the middle of them, one of the gang. You’d not easily have picked him out as the corporate and political figure in Boise he also was even then. Or guessed at the scope of self-education and contacts he’s developed, the variety of perspectives he’s absorbed.

He is a more complex figure than most Idahoans probably realize. His profile as lieutenant governor for the last six-plus years has been defined as a rigorous Otter loyalist. He will no doubt have Otter’s support in the coming campaign, and – as the campaign treasurer appointment of Vicki Risch, wife of Senator Jim Risch, should make clear – that of most of the Republican establishment as well. To tag Little as simply providing another term of Otter would be wrong and unfair given his own capabilities, though that is likely how his opposition will describe him.

And there will be opposition. Two names at least have been circulating for quite a while: Representative Raul Labrador and former state Senator Russ Fulcher, who lost the Republican primary – after a hot and spirited contest – to Otter in 2014. Labrador has been mentioned as a prospect almost as long as he’s been in the House, though he may be more likely to continue settling in there than to uproot for the statehouse. Fulcher appears to have kept in touch with his support base, and could be well positioned to renew his campaign if he decides to give it another go.

The governor’s office doesn’t come open all that often, and it almost certainly will be contested.

For the moment, however, Little has good positioning for it, for at least two reasons.

One, taking a tip from Otter’s campaign approach, he effectively announced early. Otter did that in his first run for governor and hoovered up most of the money and support available. Jim Risch, who was seriously considering a run for the job too, finally backed off. Little may be a formidable contender before 2018 even arrives.

Second, if he has to fill in the political role Otter has played, that may not be a liability. Otter, after all, decisively won in 2014 in the face of serious opposition. Little might well be able to appeal to many of those elements that gave Otter his third term.

In 2014, Little was challenged in the Republican primary directly from the Fulcher wing of the party, and defeated Idaho County Commissioner Jim Chmelik with just over two-thirds of the vote. He will not be easy to defeat.

But challenged he almost surely will be, and now the campaign is on.

Corporate taxes down?

From a report by the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

As Oregonians mull raising taxes on large corporations this November, a new study finds that Oregon corporate taxes -- both income and property taxes -- have fallen dramatically over recent decades. The report released today by the Oregon Center for Public Policy attributes the decline to the various ways corporations have "gamed the tax system."

"Thriving communities depend on having well-funded schools and other public services that benefit everyone, not just the few," said Tyler Mac Innis, policy analyst at the Center. "Paying for those services becomes harder when corporations rig the tax system to shirk tax responsibilities."

In terms of income taxes, the corporate contribution has declined as a share of the Oregon economy, the report said. By that measure, the corporate income tax has sunk by more than half since the late 1970s.

The sharp decline is also evident when considering the share of all income taxes collected by Oregon that corporations pay, versus the share paid by individuals and families. The corporate share has fallen from 18.5 percent in the mid-1970s to 6.7 percent today.

"The decline in corporate income taxes has been no accident, but rather the result of corporations gaming the system," said Mac Innis. By "gaming," he referred to corporations lobbying for and winning tax subsidies and loopholes, pursuing aggressive tax sheltering strategies and utilizing new corporate forms largely exempt from corporate income taxes.

Along with the decline in income taxes, corporations have also enjoyed a reduction in their property taxes, the report found. Not only have they won tax subsidies that reduce their property tax obligations, corporations also benefitted greatly from seismic changes to Oregon's property tax system in the 1990s.

First came Measure 5, which slashed property taxes, including property taxes paid by corporations. Then came Measure 50, which locked in property taxes at a time when commercial property was inexpensive relative to residential property, according to the report.

"It's no surprise that Oregon ranks dead last -- the lowest business taxes among all states -- given how far corporate income and property taxes have fallen over the years," said Mac Innis. "We must increase corporate taxes if Oregon is to have the great schools and other public services that make our communities thrive."

In November, Oregon voters will decide whether to raise corporate income taxes. A measure on the ballot would establish a 2.5 percent tax based on the Oregon sales of C-corporations with sales that exceed $25 million. According to Oregon's Legislative Revenue Office, the measure would raise more than $6 billion each budget period, mainly from large, multi-state corporations headquartered outside Oregon.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy (www.ocpp.org) is a non-partisan, non-profit institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax and economic issues. The Center's goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians. (image/DonkeyHotey)