Thursday, November 30, 2006

Denial in Downtown

It's funny to see, in the aftermath of the Schumacher Fur announcement that they are leaving downtown Portland, the absolute denial that there is anything wrong with the retail environment in downtown Portland that needs to be fixed.

In today's Oregonian, Steve Duin ridicules Greg Schumacher to task for mentioning that street musicians were one of the reasons he was leaving. The O's editorial page mentioned it also, and went on to insist that Schumacher's problem was "store-specific" and not a sign of a general retail malaise in downtown.

OK, fine. There's no problem when so many streets are torn up to install the latest phase of "smart growth" that you can't drive through the city (much less park) without first figuring out which streets are closed. There's no problem when every 30 steps you are faced with another aggressive panhandler. Or when you drive in fear that the Mayor himself is going to conduct a sting operation on you for rolling into the crosswalk before he has made it to the other side of the street. Or when Critical Mass clogs up the grid every Friday, led by the Mayor himself.

No, none of this has anything to do with the growth of wonderful places like Bridgeport Village, where Schumacher Fur is likely to wind up.

Go to Bridgeport if you want to understand how irrelevant downtown Portland is going to be in a few years. Bridgeport is everything that the Smart Growthers hate: it is completely auto-oriented, upscale, and private. It doesn't want to be "wierd," it wants to create an environment that makes people want to come to and spend time and money in.

And it is fabulously successful.

Who in their right mind would prefer to shop in downtown Portland, hassle with traffic and parking and panhandlers rather than the almost Disneyland-like environment of Bridgeport? Well, fewer and fewer people, it seems, which is what the Oregonian is trying to deny.

The O's protestations notwithstanding, downtown Portland does not exist in a vacuum. It can't treat its retailers and its shoppers as if they have nowhere else to go. Tom Potter's refusal to deal with the fur protesters sends a signal to everyone: if your business isn't in favor among the "smarter than you" set, you are fair game. They don't want you and they won't help you.

They have a vision for Portland. Fine. They can have Portland. Occupied territory. We'll stay out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Irresponsible spending

We read last week that the new forecast for the 2007-09 state general fund is $15.3 billion, up 22.4% from $12.5 billion this biennium.

You'd think that would be enough, but no. Kulongoski's spokesperson said they still need 1) a cigarette tax to pay for expanding the Oregon Health Plan; 2) an insurance tax to pay for more state troopers; 3) an increase in the corporate minimum tax; and 4) keeping the corporate kicker to put into a rainy day fund.

One reason why tax receipts are so high is because the stock market has been strong, and Oregon taxes capital gains as if they were ordinary income. So the new budget will basically addict the state to the current level of capital gains tax.

Guess what? The economy is slowing. Housing starts are way down. The yeild curve has been inverted. Capital gains tax income will almost certainly slide in the 2009-11 budget period, and we will once again have a crisis on our hands.

It is totally irresponsible to addict a state to capital gains tax receipts, but the spending lobby is totally in charge now, so forget about fiscal restraint of any kind, (Not that we had all that much of it when the Republicans were in charge.)

Kulongoski's new chair

Willamette Week reports that Gov. Kulongoski has replaced his chief of staff with Chip Terhune, one of the OEA's lobbyists.

That didn't take long. I guess there is no need to keep up appearances or anything.... the unions are firmly in charge of the governors office, and there is no reason to pretend. He saw how bad it was for him when he didn't do their bidding in his first term.

He's learned his lesson. He's totally potty trained now, that is for sure.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I'm debating at the City Club

I've been boycotting my blog for awhile. I just haven't had much to say after the election.

This Friday, I am going to be debating on the issue of school choice at the City Club Forum. My counterpart will be Dr. Peter Cookson, Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Lewis & Clark. The moderator will be Cynthia Guyer, Executive Director of the Portland Public School Foundation.

Here is the City Club's description of the event . It's at noon, at the Governor Hotel, and if you can't make the lunch, it will be broadcast on OPB.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A life well lived

Milton Friedman was a giant of a man.

I first became aware of who he was in college, as my economics textbooks taught about his monetary policy views, which in the late 1970's were just beginning to win out over the generally accepted Keynesian view of monetary policy.

As a college junior, I transferred to study economics at University of Chicago, where Friedman taught and wrote. Although "Uncle Miltie" had just the year or so before left U of C for the Hoover Institution at Stanford, his shadow on the "Chicago School" was huge, as it remains today.

His list of truly world-changing ideas is phenomenal. There simply is no other economist who has had a more direct effect on the lives of Americans than Milton Friedman. His monetary theory was the intellectual basis for the Volcker Federal Reserve policies of the early 1980's that slew the inflation dragon and launched the U.S. on an unprecedented quarter century of growth.

He was the first to propose school choice. It was 1955 when he first wrote about how vouchers could improve a school system. In 1995 he started his foundation, which works to establish voucher and other school choice programs around the country. I have had the pleasure of working with his staff on various school choice issues.

In the 1980's he wrote the most popular book on economics ever written: "Free to Choose," in which he gave a layperson's intellectual argument for freedom. The book was the basis for a highly rated documentary that still is as fresh today as it was two decades ago.

This is only a small part of his list of professional accomplishments. On the personal side, I think he would tell you his biggest accomplishment is his 70 year love affair with his wife Rose, who is an accomplished economist in her own right. Rose Friedman grew up in Portland.

The world could use more people like Milton Friedman. Unfortunately, a talent like his is extremely rare. One of a kind.

Milton Friedman, a life well lived. We are all richer from it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Kulongoski campaign and the 1st Amendment

The Kulongoski campaign filed an election law violation complaint against BrainstormNW Magazine for having the audacity to distribute its editorial endorsing Ron Saxton for Governor.

I'm not kidding.

A few weeks ago, Brainstorm distributed its endorsement editorial by inserting it into an issue of the Oregonian. Kulongoski claims that Brainstorm should report the amount it paid the Oregonian as an "In-kind" contribution to the Saxton campaign, or as an "independent expenditure."

Here's the problem: BrainstormNW Magazine is a media outlet, and Oregon election law specifically excludes their endorsements and editorials from being classified as "contributions" to campaigns. Here is the relevant statutory language:

ORS 260.007(1):
“As used in this chapter, “contribute,” “contribution,” “expend” or “expenditure” does not include any written news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, or magazine or other regularly published publication, unless a political committee owns the facility.”

Well, that should settle it, right? It couldn't be any more clear. BrainstormNW wrote an editorial, and distributed it through the facilities of a newspaper. Not a contribution, no report necessary.

Sure, if you trust our Secretary of State to follow the law. What if the SOS decides, as he has in the past, to ignore the plainly worded statutes, and rule that BrainstormNW should have reported the expenditure? Well, then Brainstorm would be on the hook for a fine of 1% for each day that the report was late.

The fact that they might dispute the complaint doesn't stop the 1% clock from ticking, so if the investigation and ruling takes 100 days, and the SOS rules that a report is necessary, then Brainstorm is on the hook to pay a fine of 100% of the amount they paid to distribute the editorial!

That is why almost everybody, when faced with a similar complaint, just files the report, and if the SOS later rules it was unnecessary, fine. If it rules the report was needed, then at least they minimized the fine by filing the report on the front end and stopping the 1% clock.

So BrainstormNW has the Hobson's choice of either filing the report now, or betting on the integrity of the most partisan Secretary of State in the history of Oregon, otherwise they could be fined tens of thousands of dollars.

So what is the big deal, you might ask? Just file the stupid report. Well, that is exactly what the Democrats want. They want to be able to portray BrainstormNW as a tool of the Republican party. If they file the contribution report, forevermore the Democrats will be able to dismiss BrainstormNW Magazine by pointing to the "fact" that this media outlet even made a contribution to a Republican candidate for governor!

That is the end game here for the Democrats. Use the election laws to trample all over the 1st Amendment, giving a small conservative magazine the choice: Either "admit" you are a tool of the Republicans or face the possibility of crippling fines.

But wait there's more!

There are two ways that Brainstorm could report the expenditure - either as an "in-kind," or as an "independent" expenditure. Each has definitions.

An in-kind contribution is for such things as if a campaign uses a company's office space or phone system for free. The value of the office space or the cost of the phones are reported as an in-kind contribution by the company, and then is also reported by the campaign on its reports. What Brainstorm did by paying to distribute its editorial hardly falls into this category. They didn't coordinate it with the campaign, and certainly didn't do it at the campaign's request.

So, they could report it as an independent expenditure, right? Sure, if, once again, they trusted Bill Bradbury. The rules for an independent expenditure are that it cannot be coordinated with the campaign. So when someone does an independent expenditure on behalf of a campaign, they make sure there is NO COMMUNICATION between the campaign and the entity doing the expenditure, just so there is no question about its independence.

That is because the penalties for claiming an expenditure as independent when there was some kind of coordination are severe - it is a felony penalized by fines and jail time.

So if Brainstorm was to report this as an independent expenditure, it leaves itself open to Bill Bradbury shenanigans. Obviously Brainstorm had communication with the Saxton campaign - not about distributing their editorial, but about lots of campaign issues over the months.

But if Brainstorm reports this as an independent expenditure, nothing would prevent the Kulongoski campaign from challenging the independent status of the "expenditure," and triggering an investigation by Bradbury, who would then be able to question every e-mail and phone call between Brainstorm and the Saxton campaign, and claim it showed coordination.

Which would be a felony. For being a media outlet.

So what choice does BrainstormNW have? This is basically the government with its jack-boot on the neck of a small business, forcing it to willingly "confess" or face fines or jail time or both.

Led by our Governor.

I guess we should not be surprised. If he is corrupt enough to knowingly involve a child-molester in his administration because of the political influence he brings, then Kulongoski wouldn't think twice about using every instrument of government available to him to stifle opposing viewpoints from being distributed.

Totalitarian? Right out of the left's playbook.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The question the Democrats will not answer

If it is true that Kulongoski knew about Neil Goldschmidt's secret and still involved him deeply in his administration, does it matter?

Over at Jack Bog's blog I asked this question directly to Kari Chisolm of BlueOregon, and he did not respond. (Actually, he responded by saying, "Show me the proof," which is simply a way to avoid responding.

The reason that they won't answer the question is because there is only one answer: If he knew, then he should resign from office in shame.

If the Democrats acknowledge this, then the attention turns to the credibility of the accusation by Leonhardt. I'd love to have an intelligent discussion about the credibility and believability of Leonhardt, and it would be great if the media would do its job and have that discussion in the open. But it ain't going to happen.

The mainstream media is simply not going to cover this story. I've talked personally with Julia Silverman at the AP, Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian, and with more than one TV news desk. The double standard is palpable.

Last week the Oregonian ran a story on the accusations that Ron Saxton hired illegal aliens at his farm a decade ago. There was no evidence at all of the accusation, and the accusation was coming from the Kulongoski camp and his supporters. The story was very prominent, I think on the front page of the Metro section.

Contrast that to the studied indifference to this story. Here we have an accusation made not by a partisan, but by one of Kulongoski's best friends. His story is more than credible (as I have discussed.) And not ONE mainstream media outlet so much as gives it a whisper.

This much is clear: Either Fred Leonhardt is a bald faced liar or Ted Kulongoski is a bald faced lying child-rapist shelterer. This is really the choice.

As citizens and voters, we are asked all the time to make judgments about believability of contradicting stories. There are all sorts of ways we make the judgment: motive of each side; who gains or loses by lying or not lying; the plausibility of the accusation; is the chronology of the events that led to the accusation reasonable; was the accuser in a position to actually know what he says he knows; did he tell anyone else the same thing;

On each and every one of these elements, Fred Leonhardt's story is utterly credible.

You know what? I am actually sad about this, and here is why:

At this point it looks as if we will have another four years of Ted Kulongoski as governor. I know him a little bit and from what I know, I liked the man. Disagreed with him, sure. But I liked him, thought he was honest and had integrity. So even if he won a second term, I thought we'd have a governor who was at least worthy of respect because of his personal and professional accomplishments and his basic decency.

But I believe Fred Leonhardt, and that necessarily means that I conclude that Ted Kulongoski is not only a liar, but that he is lying about something incredibly important. Ted Kulongoski actually knew that Neil Goldschmidt had destroyed the life of a teenage girl by repeatedly raping her over the course of three years, but he decided that his career was more important to him than his pesonal integrity. He decided that the political influence and favors that Goldschmidt could give him was too important to give up by distancing himself from this monster.

So, I am sad because Oregon is likely to have another four years with a governor who I simply cannot respect.

And I am also sad that so many of the folks over at BlueOregon - people who I often engage in energetic debate with, and people whom I also respect - seem to be making essentially the same choice. They are silent on the question of whether Ted Kulongoski knew. They are supporting a person in the governor's office who they know, deep in their conscience, sheltered a rapist, because he is on their team. The political benefits that accrue from being in power are more important.

We often face situations in personal relationships or business relationships where someone deeply disappoints us by some unethical act or malfeasance. I often say at these times: "Well, at least I now know something about him that I didn't know before." It helps to know, because this knowledge informs your future dealings with the person.

That is the situation here. At least I know that Ted Kulongoski willingly traded his integrity for the political gains that would come from a Neil Goldschmidt relationship. And at least now I know that the left in Oregon is virtually unanimous in validating that trade.

These are important things to know.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More on Kulongoski/Goldschmidt

The mainstream media double standard has never been more starkly exposed.

Will the Oregonian cover this story? Will it print Fred Leonhardt's claim that he told Ted Kulongoski about Goldschmidt's secret? It doesn't appear likely.

I spoke with Jeff Mapes to confirm that he actually did have the lunch with Fred Leonhardt where Leonhardt told the whole story about Goldschmidt and Kulongoski. Mapes would not confirm or deny the meeting, and said that he was not going to be talking about the issue with anyone. He said that the Oregonian had already done a "detailed" story on the question of when and if Kulongoski knew about Goldschmidt, and that was that.

Well, that's fine, but all it does is let pajama bloggers like me speculate.

Mapes had the whole story five months before Nigel Jaquiss broke it, and for some reason the Oregonian did nothing. It would be very interesting to know what actually happened. Mapes is a tough reporter - he would have taken the issue to an editor, and at some point up the chain someone had to call him off the story. A guy like Mapes would not just decide not to chase what would have been the biggest story of his life when he had a credible source laying the whole thing out for him.

So the higher ups at the Oregonian probably squelched it. When Nigel Jaquiss broke the story and won the Pullitzer for it, the Oregonian had well-deserved scorn heaped upon them for the kid's glove way they reported Goldschmidt's "affair" with a 14 year old.

But their behavior now is even worse than that. The newspaper's apologist - er - public editor tried to explain away the Oregonian's lack of pursuit of the story because all they had was an "anonymous" source.

That, my friends, is a bald faced lie. There is no definition by which Leonhardt's meeting with Mapes could be described as an anonymous source. He was on record, not anonymous.

As the mainstream media studiously ignores this story, why don't we anticipate some of the reasons they might give for not covering and do a little analysis?

1) This is a "he-said/she-said" controversy, so there is no way of knowing if it is true.

Sorry, that doesn't wash. The media goes with "he-said/she-said" stories all the time. How about the Hastert/Foley issue? There were accusations that Hastert knew about the Foley e-mails and did nothing. Just the word of accusers was enough to guarantee front page coverage for days. The accusers had an obvious political motivation to damage Hastert. Newspaper after newspaper demanded that Hastert resign if the accusations were true.

But in the Leonhardt case, "he-said/she-said" is an automatic trump card. No story here folks, please keep moving.

2) Leonhardt's accusation that he told Kulongoski is not credible

It is hard to imagine a more credible accusation, actually. Leonhardt is a liberal Democrat whose livelihood depends on the goodwill of Democrat candidates. He has nothing to gain professionally - and a lot to lose - by making this claim.

His recount of how he came to know about the rape, the lawsuit and when and why he told Kulongoski has the ring of truth. Ted Kulongoski was his good friend. They both socialized together and dealt with each other professionally. He knew this awful thing about Kulongoski's #1 political patron and when Ted was planning to run for AG, Leonhardt figured he would warn his friend, because if it came out there would be lots of collateral damage.

In fact, here is what would not be credible: it would not be credible if Leonhardt claimed he DIDN'T tell Kulongoski about Goldschmidt's secret. Imagine - your best friend is going to run for statewide office, and you know a dark secret about his biggest patron which, if it came out, would destroy your friend's candidacy, and you DON'T tell him?

3) This is old news, because in 2004, both the Willamette Week and the Oregonian ran stories that included Leonhardt's claim that he told Kulongoski.

This is news now for a couple reasons: First, how Leonhardt learned the secret, and the questionof why, when and where he told Kulongoski is far more detailed now than ever known before.

Second, Kulongoski broght the issue up by taking bows for Jessica's Law. He is casting himself as a protector of our young. If there is a credible accusation that he knowingly involved a child molestor in his administration, that is news.

Third, in the aftermath of the Foley/Hastert issue, the question of elected officials sheltering pedophiles is newly relevant.

None of this will matter to the mainstream media, however. It is almost as if they no longer really care when their bias is on full and obvious display for all to see.

Meanwhile, mysteriously, circulation plummets.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Will anybody ask the question?

Neil Goldschmidt's speechwriter told Ted Kulongoski about Goldschmidt's babysitter rape, and was shocked when Kulongoski ignored it. Read it in his own words, published just today.

When does Ted Kulongoski have to answer the question about why he continued his association with a man that he knew was a rapist and referred to as excrement?

Convinced by Neil's former state police bodyguard [This is Bernie Guisto] in 1994 that the rumors were true, I told Kulongoski, my close friend and at that time Oregon's attorney general. But the statute of limitations had expired, and Neil had obtained a confidentiality agreement from his now-adult victim in exchange for cash.

A child rapist had not only escaped justice and public shame, he cashed in on his government career, becoming the wealthiest and most influential power broker in Oregon. Ted often used a two-word phrase to describe Goldschmidt and others like him who undeservedly attain wealth and power: "Shit floats."

I stayed away from Neil out of disgust, and I assumed Ted would do the same.

But by 2001 when Ted was gearing up to run for governor, he told me that the hardest part of that job would be "keeping Neil at arms length because he asks me to do unethical things."
It turned out to be harder than he thought.

During the campaign, Neil provided political strategy and access to corporate cash. As governor, Ted showered favors on Neil's clients, and in spite of what he knew of Neil's crime, appointed him to the State Board of Higher Education.

This reckless and irresponsible act was more than I could stomach. I took the story of Goldschmidt's crime and Kulongoski's knowledge to the state's leading newspaper, expecting to unleash a firestorm of outrage.

Instead, I encountered a conspiracy of silence and, even more sickening, indifference.
The Oregonian sat on my story for five months until its local rival, Willamette Week, exposed Goldschmidt's past in
an investigative report that would later win its author, Nigel Jaquiss, a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize.

Leonhardt also chides the Oregonian for hypocrisy when it editorialized: "anyone in Congress who protected Foley should be given the boot, period. And that includes (House Speaker Dennis) Hastert himself," because sheltering a pedophile is "a truly odious act."

Short memory at the Oregonian, it seems. Leonhardt himself told the Oregonian about Goldschmidt's crime and Kulongoski's knowledge of it five months before Willamette Week broke the story - and the Oregonian sat on it.

Sounds like "sheltering a pedophile" to me! Will the Oregonian give itself the boot?

Update 4:40 PM:

Go to Jack Bog's Blog and read the response from Leonhardt himself which gives explicit detail on precisely when and where and why he told Ted Kulongoski about Goldschmidt.