Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Funny Paper

I've been feeling left out. All my talk show comrades have a clever name for the Oregonian. Lars calls it the "Fishwrapper." Victoria calls it the "Zero.' I felt left out because I wanted my own nickname for the paper! Something that is both clever and as dismissive as an Ohman cartoon to a conservative.

Today, reading the paper, I kept laughing at what I read. The darn thing is so often actually funny because of how transparently agenda-driven their news reporting has become. So it struck me:

The "Funny Paper!" That's it! So from now on, that is my nickname for the Oregonian.

Well, there were a couple of terrific belly laughs in the "Funny Paper" today.

First, front page Metro, we read about a new "Report" that lauds the "new idea" that is Measure 49. Wow! Now there are objective outside onlookers researching this issue and giving us their findings! And they say M49 is terrific!

Duh. More made up news in support of the Funny Paper's agenda. The "report" comes from Henry Richmond, a long time land use gadfly in these parts. This guy actually founded the 1000 Friends of Oregon! Hardly an objective source. That his opinion on M49 should warrant front page above the fold Metro story is further proof of the shocking and shameful deterioration in their journalistic judgment and integrity.

I mean, come on. Do you think for one second if the Cascade Policy Institute had released a report by John Charles critical of M49 that it would warrant coverage by the Funny Paper? Not a chance. Yet a concocted report by a known supporter of Oregon's land use system is splashed across the pages as if it is some kind of surprising result.

Or, another equivalent: Imagine a report published by an Oregonians In Action non-profit spinoff, say, the Family Farm Association, that pointed out all the deceptions of M49. Do you think for one New Jersey second that The Funny Paper would tout it on the front page as a "report" critical of a "new idea?"

The fact is, The Funny Paper just unblinkingly re-prints press releases from organizations with a like agenda, And today, the press release was helped along by a companion editorial telling us all how "fair" M49 is to everyone. (They didn't mention how fair it was to tell 7500 M37 claimants that all their time and money was for naught, and they would have to start over from scratch.)

The Funny Paper. I'm starting to like the moniker.

Next, I flip to the editorial pages, which is always an excursion is Funny Paper mirth. We read a wonderful op-ed piece from Robert Everhart, some former dean at PSU, on how global warming requires not just minor changes in our behavior, but a "revolution."

Now, maybe it is just me, but I get a little bit nervous when 1960's era Marxists who spent their careers cloistered away in higher education find some new cause that they say requires a revolution. Their radical impulses, it seems, don't disappear - they just go dormant and resurface whenever they find some excuse to trot out their totalitarianism.

Everhart whines about how much trash we generate, blames our unbridled consumption for the melting glaciers, and then likens the green revolution to the American Revolution. What unbelieveable hubris!

And then the money line. I read his piece and kept waiting for it. At some point, I knew, he'd reveal himself. Sure enough:

"Each of us must look within ourselves [sic] and change our personal paradigms regarding consumption. And we need also to demand that governments at all levels change the way they approach the issue of climate change -- including forcing us, if need be, to act is if our future depends upon it."

There you have it. He wants government to force us to live the way he wants us to live. It's for our own good, you see.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

State to citizens: "Don't prosper!"

The worst thing we, as citizens of Oregon, can do to our government masters, is to prosper. You see, prosperity brings with it all sorts of inconvenient problems for those who have "goals" for how we live.

Prosperity means people buy large houses and have nice yards. Prosperity means people buy all sorts of consumer products that result in waste that must be dispensed with. And worst of all, prosperity means people use their cars to come and go as they please.

Our state government has all sorts of targets and goals for how they WISH we would live, and our prosperity is running headlong into those goals. For years, they have had targets for per-capita vehicle miles travelled, for recycling percentage, for average tonnage of waste per capita, and now they have even added carbon dioxide emissions targets.

We are oh-so-ungratefully failing to meet their expectations.

You see, to the regulators' dismay, Oregon citizens don't generally share their priorities. Most people don't see the big deal in buying a consumer product, and putting the resulting trash in the garbage, which they then pay to get hauled away. Most people don't think driving their daughter to her soccer game on a rainy Saturday morning is a sin.

But for DEQ, this is a problem. You see, the more prosperous we are, the more consumer products we buy, and hence the more trash we create. We keep missing the goals our regulators have set for us in how much trash we generate.

Now, why this is such a problem, they never seem to be able to explain. What is the big deal with putting trash in a landfill in Arlington? Our garbage fees pay the cost of trucking it all out there, so what is the big deal?

But they have these targets, you see, and we are not cooperating. In fact, far from reducing our trash generation as the DEQ wants, we have actually increased it by 43% since 1995! And that is so very embarrassing when the regulators attend their conference, where they are so used to getting awards for Oregon's famed sustainability! We are ruining their professional reputations!

So, DEQ has figured it out. They have found the culprit, and they are going to take care of it. We read all about it in the Oregonian today. The villian: consumption.

If we just wouldn't consume all those products, we wouldn't make so much trash, and our regulators could meet their targets and get the awards they are due from their comrades back east.

So DEQ has a plan to induce Oregonians to decrease their consumption. We haven't seen the whole plan yet, but apparently it involves "education" and maybe at some point "taxes."

They want us to consume less, and they seem perfectly willing to use the blunt instrument of the state to bludgeon us into submission. Of course, totally lost on these numbskulls is the fact that every little thing that is consumed must first be produced, so saying you want to cut consumption means you want to cut production.

That, last I looked, means fewer jobs - not just manufacturing and packaging jobs, but sales jobs, management jobs, transportation jobs, accounting jobs, and on and on and on.

But our regulators went to a different economics school. David Allaway, who is DEQ's chief "waste prevention" guy, uttered perhaps the stupidest thing I have read in a major newspaper this decade. He actually said: "Where are the businesses who have a financial interest in telling people to buy less stuff?"

Uh, buddy, that isn't really a very good business model.

Of course, if YOU spent 17 years working for DEQ, you probably would be as clueless as Allaway about how the real world works.

The problem is that Allaway and his ideological allies are running this joint, and they have the power to really screw things up. When their "education" efforts fall short of convincing us all to live like they want us to, you can bet your last dollar (which will be all you have left by the time they are through) that more coercive tactics will follow. You think they will stop at 30 second public service announcements stressing the importance of recycling?

No, of course not. Coercion is their currency. They know we don't want to live the way they wish, and they won't be at all shy about using a little, shall we say, "persuasion." Recycled content mandates. Renewable energy percentage regulations. Carbon taxes.

You see, it is necessary for them to meet their targets - carbon emissions goals, trash tonnage, miles travelled, you name it. If your prosperity has to suffer for them to take their bows in Boston at their annual "Sustainable Practices Conference," well, that is your duty to the collective.

After all: the planners just know that Oregon's new economy will be based on our leadership in sustainability. Heck, maybe DEQ's Allaway has it right! Maybe telling people not to consume IS a successful business model!

That is, if your business is government.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oregonian caught red handed in biased reporting

When I read it for the first time I did a mental double take. It certainly didn’t sound like something Dave Hunnicutt would say to a reporter at the Oregonian. He’s far too experienced and savvy to say something like this, which would play into their hands as they try to marginalize him and anyone who cares about property rights.

It was in yesterday's Oregonian -the story about how the “Big Look” committee was being disbanded. The real reason, of course, is obvious: now that the Dems are in control, they don’t need any Big Look committee out there that they don’t control, which might actually call into question the D’s power plays such as gutting Measure 37. So they de-funded it.

So the reporter talks to Hunnicutt, and here is the quote:

David Hunnicut, president of the property-rights organization Oregonians in Action, said the task force was a good group, with "none of the usual suspects," which to him means knee-jerk liberals.

When I read it I thought: Did Dave really say to this reporter that the usual suspects are “knee-jerk liberals?” Or was that blatant editorializing by the reporter?

I kept reading, thinking that he must have said something of the sort, because even the Oregonian wouldn’t allow such blatant bias. Wrong again.

Today the Oregonian published a short and very, very vague retraction:

“David Hunnicutt, president of the property rights group Oregonians in Action, said the membership of a "Big Look" land-use planning task force contained "none of the usual suspects." By that he meant people from both sides of the issue who usually fight about land-use planning. A Metro cover story Monday incorrectly ascribed another meaning to his statement.”

Notice how they didn’t actually print what meaning the reporter DID ascribe to his phrase “none of the usual suspects.” That would be too revealing.

What a bunch of hacks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The "Healthy Start" program

You might have seen the front page article in the Oregonian today singing the praises of the 'Healthy Start" program. Healthy Start was first funded in the 2001-03 budget as a high priority of Gov. Kitzhaber.

In his budget proposal that session, Kitzhaber described Healthy Start as a program to "Screen every first born child in Oregon for medical and psycho-social risks." Then, when risk factors are present, Healthy Start basically becomes a partner in helping the parent bring up the child.

According to Kitzhaber, up to 60% of Oregon families have some risk factor that warrant some level of services from the Healthy Start program.

Does this sound like the appropriate role of government? The government is going to insert itself as a partner in 60% of Oregon homes because it deems the parents to be in some way deficient?

When you start digging into the details of the Healthy Start program, it gets downright scary. The roots of the philosophical underpinnings of the program are overtly totalitarian.

Here's how it works: Healthy Start workers hang out in maternity wards, and pop in on the new mothers, bearing gifts of useful things like breast pumps, baby bottles, diapers, etc. The worker conducts a "verbal screen," by asking a series of intrusive questions about the mother’s marital status and history, education, socio-economic status, family background, and the like.

If the worker identifies any "risk factors," a followup home visit is scheduled, where a more complete risk inventory is conducted based on information the worker gleans from more intrusive questions and by observing the home environment.

There are a few different instruments the workers use for this inventory. One of the most widely used is called the Kempe Family Stress Checklist (KFSC) which is a list of ten invasive, open ended questions that are asked of both parents, and is supposedly geared toward identifying parents who are predisposed to child abuse.

The KFSC, as the name implies, was created by C. Henry Kempe, who was an interesting fellow. He wrote the 1968 book "The Battered Child," which brought child abuse to national attention. He was an unabashed proponent of the view that children are the property of the state, and he proposed a universal, compulsory home visitation program to keep an eye on what parents were doing with their children.

The model he proposed back in the 1970's was endorsed wholeheartedly by Hillary Clinton in her book :"It Takes a Village," and is basically the framework for the Healthy Start program in Oregon and other states today.

Kempe believed that parents are essentially just agents of the state in the upbringing of children, and thus their custody could be ended by the state at any time. He was clearly an admirer of totalitarian societies:

"Where the state is supreme, the particular problem is easily managed; in a dictatorship each child belongs to the state and you may not damage state property. The really first-rate attention paid to the health of all children in less free societies makes you wonder whether one of our cherished democratic freedoms is the right to maim our own children."

Of course he was dead wrong about the "first-rate attention" kids got in communist countries. The orphanages in Soviet controlled Romania were horrifyingly squalid cesspools where thousands of children died of malnutrition. The Red Chinese government run orphanages had a mortality rate of at leasat 72% according to Human Rights Watch - Asia in 1989.

Dr. Sam Watson, who co-wrote a book about home visit early intervention programs, once said:

"Kempe, despite his reputation as a great humanitarian, praised totalitarian states and urged that we adopt a totalitarian child care policy. The seed of Kempe’s vision has been planted, it has been watered with taxpayer money. Whether it will grow to fruition depends upon the American public. It is vitally important that we educate families and parents about the dangers of home visitation programs, and the totalitarian nature of the vision behind those programs."

OF COURSE the Oregonian would try to help it grow by watering it with a paean of praise.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Which adversary shall we pull for?

You may have seen the news of the dust-up: The Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) is trying to hold onto about $50 million that has accumulated in a reserve fund dedicated to defraying health care premium increases for Oregon school districts.

The money comes from the OSBA’s health care trust program, which will now disappear because of a bill pushed by the teachers union last session. The whole situation is worth explaining, because it is a case study in power politics between opposing interest groups.

The OSBA is one of the organizations in what I would describe as the “ education leviathan.” They ostensibly represent the political interests of school districts in Oregon, which they do through lobbying and through legal assistance on regulatory and contracting issues. As such, they are on the other side of the table from the teachers unions during collective bargaining contract negotiations.

On the other hand, the OSBA is often on the same side as the OEA on a host of other issues: they for years jointly fought our efforts to kill CIM/CAM; they lobby with the OEA on tax increases, school funding increases, and anything else that protects and defends the public school monopoly.

The health care trust program provides about half of the OSBA’s five or six million dollar operating budget. Basically they act as broker to about 100 school districts for health insurance, and take a skim off the top. Pretty easy money, and by most accounts, they actually save districts some dough as well. (This is disputed, but I really don’t know which side is correct.)

The OEA saw an opportunity to stick a dagger in the OSBA’s chest this session, given their newfound influence among the new Democrat majority. All they had to do was mandate that all districts had to purchase their health insurance from a similar trust run by the state, and presto! Half of their enemy’s operating budget would disappear!

True, the OSBA and the OEA are allies on lots of issues. But no issue is more important to the OEA than their collective bargaining contracts, and this is where they are always fighting OSBA-led negotiating teams. So if they could peel off half their budget, the OEA figures, it would weaken the OSBA’s ability to prevail in contract negotiations.

The Democrats in the legislature were only too willing to carry the water. The bill sailed through the legislature. It was one of several public employee union power plays we saw this session as Kulongoski and the D’s paid off their chits.

The OSBA had been accumulating the $50 million reserve fund for years and years, and now that substantial amount of money looks like a pretty good buffer for them to keep their budget whole while they figure out some other way to plug the $3 million crater the OEA blew in it. So they announced that rather than use this dough to defray premiums for their members for the next couple years (until the state trust is fully enrolled) that they would use the money themselves, to “provide services” to those same members.

The OEA is screaming about it, and will surely sue. My guess is they win – that money is for health premiums, not services.

My take: I like it when two of my adversaries fight. On charter schools, the OSBA has been a huge pain in the butt, because we constantly find ourselves on opposite sides of the table from them, and they constantly pull all sorts of shenanigans that I have chronicled in this blog and elsewhere.

The OEA is not anywhere nearly as much a pain in the butt. They hate charters, for sure, but outside of trying to kill us in the legislature, their tools are pretty limited.

So in this one, I’m pulling for the OEA!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Does Clark County want Metro?

The lead editorial in the Oregonian today is pretty funny. They want to expand Metro's territory to include Clark County, Washington.

They didn't come right out and say it that way. What they said was this: "The time has come for officials on both sides of the river to begin talking about Washington voters directly electing representatives to the Metro Council."

Why would Clark County elect representatives to Metro unless Metro's authority included them? So the Oregonian wants Oregon's regional government to actually cross the border and include yet more municipalities, in another state no less.

Are they gullible enough to actually do this?

Jeff Merkley Interview

We had Senate Candidate Jeff Merkley on Kremer & Abrams Sunday. He was booked for a full hour, but when he got there he changed it to just half an hour. By the time he left, I'm sure he was glad for that.

It wasn't so much that I came after him, but that he was so clearly unprepared to defend his statements and views when challenged. Instead of explaining his position, he got flustered and defensive.

I was astonished. Here's a guy who is not a dim bulb. He is a Stanford grad, long-time representative, Speaker, and now Senate candidate. And he acted as if nobody had ever challenged his pronouncements before.

Which got me thinking: nobody probably has! Here in our one-party state, Democrats say whatever they want and nobody ever calls them out. A certain type of mental atrophy sets in, and it clearly is advanced in the Merkley brain.

It started when he gave the usual Democrat talking point abou health care being a fundamental right. I challenged his understanding of the definition of "right," pointing out that properly understood, a right is something the government cannot do to you, not something that the government must do for you.

I told him that the notion of individual rights are a founding principle of this nation, and that he should be careful not to change the meaning of what a right actually is.

He looked at me with that haughty indignation that Democrats always have when you point out that their philosophy is essentially the opposite of what our nation was founded upon. And he went right to their default response - try to take the moral high ground by talking about children and needs.

And boy was he flustered. So much so that my co-host was shaking his head after Merkley left.

It's a long way to the election, but he better improve if he expects to impress people. Very, very weak.