Friday, March 23, 2007

News Alert: We Need More Roads!

We read dual articles in the Oregonian and the Tribune today that the business community thinks we have a critical shortage of road capacity, which hurts the economy by restricting freight mobility.

This fascinating conclusion came from a study that Oregon Business Council and Portland Business Alliance commissioned that looked at the cost of congestion.

The answer, of course, is to raise gas taxes to fund a road construction program.

Anyone want to guess what was missing from the articles?

That's right - any mention whatsoever of the $5 billion we have spent on light rail rather than road improvement, and whether maybe, just maybe, if all that money was spent on increasing road capacily we wouldn't have found ourselves in the situation we are in now.

Steve Clark, publisher of the Tribune, is the point person to carry the message to the public about the congestion issue. The Tribune has cheerleaded the light rail agenda virtually since its start in the year 2000.

They really think we are stupid, don't they?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


There was a hearing yesterday on the House bill to eliminate the CIM and the CAM. Almost completely uncontroversial - everybody agreed that it is time to "move beyond" the CIM.

What a difference a couple years makes. I ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2002, and one of my main issues was ending the CIM. I was opposed on this issue by every education establishment group in the state.

In the 2003 session, I wrote a bill that would have eliminated CIM and replaced Oregon's tests with nationally normed tests. There were days of hearings, road shows, everybody from Associated Oregon Industries, Oregon Business Council, Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, the ODE, the OEA, the OSBA - you get the idea - were lined up against the bill.

Then Education Committee Chair Vic Backlund headed off our bill, which he knew was extremely popular with the regular folks (we had more than 3,000 signatures on an on-line petition, more than 250 of them public school teachers, school board members or administrators) so he created an alternative bill that made cosmetic changes to the CIM, and used his gavel to make sure his passed rather than mine.

I was proud to be a part of the team who helped Kim Thatcher challenge Backlund in the next primary, and partially because of Backlund's conduct on that bill, she wiped the floor with him, ending his political career.

In 2005, we again mounted an effort to kill this monumental waste of time and money. Rep. Jerry Krummell headed the House Audits committee, and he had the committee undertake a review of the CIM/CAM program. That review ended in the committee voting to recommend eliminating CIM/CAM and replacing Oregons tests with tests developed by an independent testing company.

Again, the entire business and education establishment lined up against this effort. We did get the bill through the House, but it died in the Democrat controlled Senate.

With that background, the hearing yesterday was very anticlimactic. It's as if all the energy supporting CIM and been spent. The tide had turned. Superintendent Susan Castillo was on record saying the CIM had to go, and everybody ran.

The hearing yesterday lasted one hour. Nobody spoke in support of CIM. We did hear COSA and the OEA actually claim they had supported eliminating the CIM for the last three sessions! Others said what wonderful things came from the program, so really it wasn't a waste anyway.

And it ended. Almost like the way Eastern-bloc communism fell - there was no defining battle, it just imploded on the weight of its own internal contradictions.

It's kind of eerie, really. And once again, fifteen years of wasted money and effort, supported all along by the education establishment, and it disappears with nobody held responsible.

Oregon. I love this place.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We need your help!

Charter schools are under attack in the legislature.

Senate Bill 621 is scheduled for a hearing next Thursday in the Senate Education Committee. Among other things, it would require charter school teachers to be unionized, and would restrict students from attending a charter school across district boundaries.

We have posted an on-line petition opposing the bill, and we want to have as many signatures as possible to present to the committee at the hearing.

Please take the time to go sign the petition.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On-Line testing suspended

I think we have not heard the whole story on why the ODE had to suspend on-line testing this year. Willamette Week's Beth Slovic has done a good bit of sleuthing on this, and it is clear that there was some kind of dispute between the testing company and the ODE which caused the whole mess.

I'll suspend judgment until more is known.

I can't believe they make this argument with a straight face

On Sunday, there was another suicide bomb in the Oregonian's jihad against Measure 37.

The argument goes as follows: When land was zoned Exclusive Forest Use or Exclusive Farm Use, it is true that people lost the ability to use their land for other purposes (such as development.) But they were compensated for that loss by having their taxes reduced.

Therefore to compensate folks again, through a Measure 37 claim would compensate them twice.

This argument is akin the government told you that you could no longer use your car, but you will be fully compensated for the loss of use because you no longer have to pay the gas tax on the fuel you would have bought for it had you been able to use it.

See why I call these arguments "suicide bombs?" They are blowing up their own credibility.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The response to Inconvenient Truth

If you have an hour and a half, watch this video.

It systematically destroys the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, through explanations by climate scientists, many of whom are on the IPCC panel. It shows that CO2 levels to increase. (Al Gore, in his movie where he shows the temperature graph and then superimposes the CO2 graph, showing they are highly correlated, left out the inconvenient truth that there is an 800 year lag between when the warming happens and when the CO2 levels increase.)

The video shows the data on solar output cycles and correlates them to global mean temperature. Very highly correlated, with no lag. It shows how the satellite and weather balloon data measuring the temperature in the upper troposphere completely contradict what the global climate models predict. The source for this: a lead author of the IPCC reports, Prof. John Christie, who is the scientist most responsible for taking the troposphere measurements.

The video explains how and why the global warming alarmist crowd have gained such traction, and has scientists talk about how skeptics are imtimidated.

This is a compelling video, full of scientific detail, but wholly accessible for the layperson.

Wonder how many schools will show this after they show "An Inconvenient Truth?"

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Congrats South Medford

What a great game. South Medford wins the state basketball title, beating Kevin Love's Lake Oswego Lakers in a rematch of last year's final.

Although my kids go to Lake Oswego, I thought South Meford would win this game because they have two legitimate division 1 players. In fact, the game was won not on the strength of the fabulous Kyle Singler, who is headed to Duke, but because Michael Harthune, a Junior, did what I thought he might: he scored 20+ points and was I think 6 for 6 from the three point range.

This kid is amazing. Lake Oswego could not defend his 23 foot pull up off balance shot that was just money.

Congratulations to South Medford. Lake Oswego lost two games this year - both to South Medford. It is not a mystery who was the best team this year!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Students get suspended for praying in school

You probably saw it in the Oregonian - the story about the students who were suspended from Heritage High School in Vancouver because they defied the administration by refusing to form a club for the purpose of meeting in prayer before school.

There were several details that the story did not answer that would be very relevant to judging whether the administration acted reasonably or not. Victoria Taft interviewed one of the students a couple nights ago, and Victoria had the sense to ask the relevant question: were the students causing any kind of disturbance or disrupting in any way the education of the other kids?

From what the student said (which has really not been contradicted by the school officials at all) there was no disturbance being caused by these kids. They were gathering in the student commons before school, and praying.

Apparently what the principal was worried about was other kids who were offended by seeing the Christian kids praying, and so they started taunting them and threatening to conduct Satan-worship sessions next to them.

Afraid of some kind of altercation, the principal told the kids they had to form a club for their "meetings," and hold their sessions in a room set aside for the club. The kids refused, took a stand, prayed in the commons, and were suspended.

Here's where the principal was dead wrong: imagine if a bunch of gay students met before school in an informal group to support each other and prepare for the day. Suppose they held hands and talked with each other about the challenges they would face that day and hoped for the strength to meet them.

And suppose some other students taunted them, and threatened to hold anti-gay sessions next to them each morning.

Do you think the school administration would respond by telling the gay students they had to form a club and take their meetings into a private room?

No way - they would deal with the taunters, and protect the rights of the gay students to associate in public, as they well should. But there should not be a double standard for the Christian students.

The district here is in very shaky constitutional ground, and I assume they know it.
Expect a total capitulation, and soon.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The energy consumption Nazis

There was a prototypically vapid article in the Oregonian today about Portland's goal of cutting fuel consumption in half by the year 2030.

It was written by Stephen Beaven, a fellow I have not met. I'm not sure where he learned to be a journalist, but wherever it was, it seems these days that the Oregonian gets all of their reporters from there.

So the City Council is going to pass this resolution saying Portland (and not just the city government - they are talking about residents too!) should cut fuel consumption in half. Now why should we do that?

The article answers: it is to "head off predictions of a looming oil shortage."

Now, if this prediction did come true, then the price of oil would go up, right? And then the consumers' response would be to consume less of it, and oil subsitutes would be more viable, and life would go on as it always has. Why do we need city government to intervene by coercing people in all sorts of ways to decrease their oil consumption?

Well, of course it is because this is another way to push the same agenda they have been pushing all along, which has not done what they said it would. For years they have tried to get us out of our cars by building light rail and making sure roads are congested. Has it worked? Nope. Vehicle miles travelled per capita is higher today than when they started.

So they have to control more things to meet their goals.

I can't believe that a reporter would write some of this stuff with a straight face. First, how do the know oil prices are going to skyrocket? Whose prediction is it? Peak oil? Wouldn't a serious journalist challenge that assertion, especially since it is a "prediction" that appears to be the basis for dramatic public policy initiatives that will change the way we all live.

But there wasn't a single word in article devoted to investigating the veracity of this prediction.

Then, the article says:
"But Commissioner Sam Adams said the future of fossil fuel requires a fresh approach."

Adams sees a bigger investment in mass transit to limit one-person car commuters. That could mean expanded streetcar lines, more marketing for car pools or more buses. It could also mean a freeway toll lane.

Portland is known for redevelopment projects that include housing and retail and thus limit driving. Adams said the city might push that type of development further.

A FRESH APPROACH??!! This is precisely what they have been doing for a couple of decades, and it has not worked as they said. Did the reporter challenge Adams on this point? Apparently not. In the Oregonian school of reporting, you simply print what the politicians say, no critical inquiry necessary.

If that wasn't bad enough, Beaven follows this up with pure editorializing:

"...everyone knows, dependence on fossil fuel isn't sustainable, especially with predictions that say the global production of oil could peak in the next 10 to 15 years."

This is incredible. Everyone "knows" no such thing. And these "predictions" are straight out of the peak oil propaganda and have nothing to do with reality. For a newspaper to print this stuff in a news article is simply stunning.

Conspicuous in its absence was any quote from a single person who might be skeptical of either the problem or the solution being proposed. So here is a major public policy initiative being proposed, one that would have significant ramifications on the way people in Portland live, based on "predictions" and policies that have demonstrably failed in the past, and the crack reporter Stephen Beaven didn't feel the story warranted so much as a single skeptical voice.

Is it any wonder why the Oregonian has become such a joke?

Sen. Morse gets it, House Republicans don't

Word is that Sen. Morse, in the Republican caucus meeting, railed on the House Republicans for their "compromise" plan that raised corporate taxes by a couple hundred million dollars more than the Democrats wanted.

The problem for Morse, as I understand it, is not so much keeping the corporate kicker. Rather, Morse's problem is the new corporate minimum tax proposal, a tax based on gross proceeds rather than profit. The proposed tax is so screwed up that a company with negative net income could find itself with a $50,000 tax liability.

This is a devastating piece of public policy for job growth and capital formation. Start-up companies regularly lose money in the scale-up years. To burden them with this kind of tax liability during their start-up years will simply make many new companies decide to base the business somewhere other than Portland.

Sen. Morse understands this because he is a businessman. I have no idea why Wayne Scott, who is also a businessman, supports it. But the real damage is that Rep. Scott is strongarming the House Republican caucus to go along with the plan, which is putting them in a horrible spot.

This plan is a disaster not just for the economy, but also for the Republican party. Where is Vance Day and the party structure? Are they doing anything to oppose it?

It doesn't look like it. I'm told the Republican Party legislative update circulated recently didn't even mention the kicker deal! Looks like the party is taking a pass on this issue.

Here's the question: will the Senate Republicans stay united and defeat this dog? Democrats need only a single Republican vote to meet the 2/3 supermajority. Will Senator Morse succeed in keeping his caucus united, or will the D's succeed in culling a wobbly Republican senator from the herd?

Stay tuned. If the Republicans allow this to go forward, we will be the minority party for a long long time.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Must see this inspirational story

ESPN ran this ten minute story about a Lake Oswego man with Lou Gehrig's disease who has become an integral part of Lake Oswego High School's football coaching staff, and has inspired the kids with his message of perseverence and hope, even in the face of debilitating physical ailments.

My son plays on the team, and I've watched as this man has taught these kids something that no one else possibly could.

If you have ten minutes, I guarantee it will be worth your while to watch it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

.... but is it a tax increase?

OK, so the Republicans went along with a "compromise" that keeps the corporate kicker for all but the smaller businesses, raises the corporate minimum tax and cuts the estate tax between the $2 and $3 million level.

Yes, they caved. Republicans should not raise taxes. First, it is the wrong thing to do, but second, it is a stupid political thing to do. Standing for lower taxes is the party's best and most popular position. We should never give it up.

So I am disappointed, although hardly surprised.

I am surprised, however, that the liberals are arguing over at BlueOregon that this deal is not a tax increase! Reminiscent of Clinton's hedging over the definition of "is," the Bloregonians are whining about FreedomWorks sending out postcards in Democrat districts telling voters that their newly elected Democrat legislator just backed a $250 million tax increase.

"Foul play!" they say. "it's not a tax increase!" "That is a juvenile political tactic!"

Huh? Informing people about Democrat positions is a juvenile political tactic? And what planet must you be from to argue that this is not a tax increase?

Here's a clue: if you change the tax code and the result is an increase in government revenue, it's a tax increase. It is really not all that complicated.