Thursday, January 31, 2008

I think it's going to be Hillary

I watched the debate tonight - the first Democrat debate I've seen. Hillary won.

It was pretty clear to me that Obama decided going in that he was not going to challenge Hillary in a confrontational way. I think that is a huge mistake, and I think on the strength of this performance, Hillary will all but wrap things up next Tuesday.

My analysis: Hillary's weakness is that she is often unlikeable. Obama's strength is that he is eminently likeable. Obama should have done everything he could to rattle Hillary so her unlikeability would surface as it inevitably does when she gets pissed. We've all seen it: she gets that shrill, defensive, haughty, entitled "how dare you" demeanor, her face tightens, her frozen smile seems even more phony than usual.

Obama should have tried like hell to bring that out, but instead he softened every blow, and actually seemed to intentionally take passes on chances to give her the old backhand.

So Hillary was composed, almost charming at times, and seemed in control all night long. The crowd helped - it was clearly a CNN (Clinton News Network) crowd, so Hillary got applause line after applause line.

I was disappointed, not because I want Obama to win (I think Hillary is easier to beat) but because I was looking for high political theatre with sparks and gnashing of teeth, and instead we got a civil, almost boring debate where the answers were too long by half and nothing at all inspirational or even remotely surprising happened,

On to SuperTuesday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What a contrast!

A couple weeks ago I wrote about The Funny Paper's insulting and dismissive "Monday Profile" on Randal O'Toole, who is the nation's leading critic of so-called "Smart Growth" transportation and land use policies. Without going over it again, suffice to say that I pointed out that when The Funny Paper does a Monday Profile on some advocate for liberal political causes, they do a fawning fluff piece.

Two days ago we got a great example of exactly what I was talking about. They did a profile on a Lewis & Clark economics professor who is going to save the world. He's going to "re-wire" the planet in order to fight global warming. He plans to completely shift the world's economy from fossil fuel based energy to "sustainable" energy sources.

Uh huh. Good luck with that. Just how will an econ prof from a second tier liberal arts school bring about such massive change on a global scale?

Well, he is going to organize global warming pep rallies on campuses all over the country. That ought to do it, right? He's got 1500 college and high school campuses to hold global warming "teach-ins" tomorrow, where presumably all the mush brained coeds will get their marching orders on what needs to be done to change the world how our megalomaniac Lewis & Clark econ prof thinks is necessary to save the world.

Now, I could go on and on about how idiotic this kind of warmed-over 1960's era activism is, and I could point out how ridiculous it is for publicly funded institutions to be pushing political agendas with our tax dollars, and I could point out how ironic it is that an economics professor would actually have so little understanding of economics that he thinks he could shift the global energy supply from fossil fuels to something else through government action.

But that is not my point in this post. My point here is to show how the Oregonian treats charlatans like this with absolute velvet kid gloves. Nary a critical word in the entire piece. Not a single opposing view on his cause - global warming. Not a single critic on any of the oh-so-ripe subjects above. Nothing.

Just a fawning fluff piece, to make us all realize how wonderful and caring he is.

Contrast that to the O'Toole piece, where they quoted Homer Williams calling him an "idiot," and had PSU's planning pundit Ethan Seltzer saying that nobody should listen to O'Toole, much less write about him.

Apparently The Funny Paper feels no compunction to marginalize an activist who advocates for things they believe in, no matter how Quixotic his quest, no matter how self-obsessed his motives.

So on the one hand you have Randal O'Toole, who just published a thick book with the data supporting his criticisms of Smart Growth, who has had a fellowship at Harvard, and writes for the pre-eminent free market think tank in the world.

With him, The Funny Paper swerves off the road to run him over, the entire piece dripping with sarcasm and dismissiveness.

On the other hand, you have a second tier econ prof who is now writing a memior (why would this guy have a memoir?) called "Fighting for Love in the Century of Extinction. How Passion and Politics Can Stop Global Warming."

Guess which guy gets lionized by The Funny Paper?

The best story line

I decide which football team to root for based on which team has the best, most interesting story line. I like football, but I don't really have any team allegiances. I just want to be entertained, and that, for me, means I have to be interested.

So I root for the team that has the most interesting story. Up until last weekend, that was the Packers. What is more interesting than a 38 year old QB having a career year, making it to the Super Bowl and defeating a world class team that is itself on the precipice of football history? Great story.

But the Packers lost, so now the best story line is the Patriots chance at a perfect season. So I'll root for them.

But this post isn't about football. It's about politics. Presidential politics. I am really, really not excited about John McCain as president. So, like football, I don't really have any "team allegiance" in the presidential race. So maybe now I should root for the candidate that makes the best story, like I do in football.

Looking at the now-narrowed field of candidates on both sides of the aisle, which candidate is the most interesting story line? Here's a hint: the three remaining Republican candidates rank #'s 3, 4 and 5.

The story line of both Hillary and Obama are far, far more interesting than any of the three Republicans. And between Hillary and Obama, it isn't even close.

Obama is the most interesting story, by far.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Void of ideas

If Oregon Republicans are ever going to win back majority status in Oregon, it will be because we present a reform agenda with a portfolio of principles and ideas that make sense to people. When voters want reform, they vote Republican, and when they want government programs, they vote Democrat.

So it makes no sense for Republicans to offer establishment-oriented programs as a way to win the hearts and minds of voters, yet that is what our leadership offers time and time again.

We were treated to another shining example of this lack of vision in a post on today's Oregon Catalyst. The source of the press-release that motivated the post is the Senate Republican Office. If this is what passes for a Republican reform idea, we can look forward to a long run as a minority party.

The Senate leaders, in the press release, try to capitalize on a recent report that gave Oregon a failing grade for "preparing and supporting teachers." Senator Ted Ferrioli delivers the punchline:

“Last session Senate Republicans championed a number of proposals to bring excellence to Oregon classrooms, like professional standards and resources for teachers or ensuring financial accountability in school districts. Unfortunately, those proposals received little attention from the Democrat majority.”


So the big problem in our schools is that we dont have sufficient "professional standards" or enough "resources" for teachers? Is this what passes for vision in our Republican leadership?

Hey, I get trying to score political points on the heels of a national report that shows Oregon's schools in a bad light. But to think that this is an effective way to capitalize - by touting things that would only have served to empower the education bureaucracy (and the unions) - shows an intellectual laziness or a complete lack of understanding about the real issues that confront the schools.

It also reveals an inexplicable lack of courage. In the middle of a presidential election where every single one of the Republican candidates have school choice at the center of his education proposals, Oregon Republicans can only muster this kind of mealy-mouthed nonsense.

Here's what Rudy Giuliani (no movement conservative, he) had to say about "resources for teachers" in a video clip that is front and center on the issues page of his campaign web site:

Rudy: What we need is choice.

Questioner: That is going to bring back public school teachers?

Rudy: “I love teachers, I think teachers are wonderful. There are great ones, there are average ones, there are bad ones …. but I really care about the kids more. Sorry. We should have choice. We should empower parents. They should decide - private school, parochial school, public school, charter school, home school - that will give the parents control over the kids education. I think it's the single largest civil rights issue in the 21st century.”

Why is it that a presidential candidate, with his entire national candidacy at stake, has the courage to say this, and our local Republican leadership doesn't?

Honestly, if this is the quality of the ideas coming out of our leaders, we deserve to lose.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Supporters rally behind Wingard

As reported at NW Republican, supporters have rallied behin Matt Wingard in the face of his abandonment by House Caucus Leader Bruce Hanna.

Standing by Matt are all sorts of local dignitaries - incumbent Representative Jerry Krummell, a former Mayor of Wilsonville (and current Chamber of Commerce chair,) State Senator Larry George, and a host of others.

If Bruce Hanna thought that Matt Wingard would just shrink away when he threw him under the bus, I guess he thought wrong. I kind of feel sorry for whoever it is that they are recruiting to run against Matt.

This race will be about whether District 26 wants the well known candidate backed by local people and local leaders who know Matt and his work on local issues, or the candidate chosen by the big money, out-of-district Repblican lobby who needs a more reliable vote for their various insiders schemes and deals they cook up.

I guess the game is on. I just hope that Hanna's candidate knows exactly what he or she might be waing into.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I support Matt Wingard

You probably read about it on the blogs today, and it will be in the newspapers tomorrow: Matt Wingard, Republican candidate for House District 26 (Wilsonville) pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2001 for striking his son on the top of the head.

I know Matt very well. He ran my campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2001-02, which was when the charges were filed. So I lived through it with him at the time. Before I hired him, he told me what happened and what he was going through legally.

I hired him, and we basically spent 80% of our waking moments with each other for the next nine months. You get the full measure of a man when you spend that kind of time with him in the pressure cooker of a statewide campaign.

The charges filed against him were, in my view, pretty badly trumped up. Yes, he struck his boy on the head. Hard enough to raise a lump. A single moment of frustration, he reacted wrongly and made a mistake.

Our legal system is all-too-ready to take something like this and put a guy through a several year nightmare. In my opinion it didn't come close to rising to the level of anything criminal. But yes, he struck his son. So yes, technically, I guess that is assault.

Matt could have fought the case rather than plead guilty, but he did not have the $20-30,000 his lawyers told him it would cost, and he would have had to have his then seven year old son testify, and be dragged through the trial process. So he pled it out.

So that is it.

I know the other side will make all sorts of hay out of this; there's nothing that can be done about that. But I want readers of this blog to know the full scope and scale of what happened, from the one person who was perhaps closest to him at the time he was going through it.

I am VERY disappointed in the Republican House leadership that they have decided to abandon Matt because of this. I will stand by Matt, whatever he decides to do.

He's still going to run for the House seat, and I will help. I will join the many others: Rep. Jerry Krummel, Rep. Kim Thatcher, Russ Walker, and others - people who know Matt well and have worked with him over the years, who support him and will see to it that he is elected because he is exactly the type of person we want in the Oregon House of Representatives.

I hope Bruce Hanna will reconsider. But if he doesn't - if what the Oregonian reported turns out to be true, that they will run someone against Matt in the primary - well, then I will help Matt beat whoever it is. And I know he'll have plenty of others supporting and helping him as well.

I don't relish or seek out political battles against Republican leadership, but it seems to happen almost every session. I've been involved with several. The House leadership was very angry when we helped Kim Thatcher beat Vic Backlund in the Keizer-area House seat. But it was the right thing to do, and Kim Thatcher is a fabulous legislator - far, far superior to Backlund.

The Senate leadership was apoplectic when Larry George ran against Charles Starr. I supported Larry, helped raise funds, even though I have great respect for Charles Starr, and do to this day. But his time was up. Again, we won. And Larry is an incredibly talented legislator.

So we have some experience with taking on our own caucus leadership when necessary and winning. I am quite confident that it will be no different with Matt.

Matt will run, the leadership will slate another candidate, raise the funds, run the campaign, and we will win. And all will be right with the world. We'll still be friends with Bruce Hanna and the rest of the House Caucus, and Matt will be a productive and teamwork oriented caucus member. And we will have yet another terrific legislator, far better than the candidate the leadership runs, and the Republican party will be stronger and better for it, despite the best efforts of leadership.

I wish it didn't have to be this way, but we did not pick this fight. But we will win it!

I support Matt Wingard.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I know how to cure the recession!

The New York Times is working overtime to convince everyone how bad the economy is. Headlines every single day on the mortgage crisis, the real-estate bubble bursting, developers going banko, etc.

We've seen this movie before - right about 1992 as I recall, when Bush 41 was running for re-election. The economy was in a slowdown, nothing serious, but they had to support Bill Clinton's campaign narrative that we were in the "worst economy of the last 50 years."

It's starting again, right on schedule. With the presidential election 10+ months out, expect increasingly hysterical accounts our of the "newspaper of record" about how awful the economy is, timed to reach a crescendo right about November first.

Those articles on the economy have replaced the articles they thought they would be writing in that space to convince people to vote for the democrat candidate: articles about how bad the war in Iraq was going.

The war, oddly enough, is almost totally off the pages of the New York Times. It's just not very useful for them when casualties are way down and things are looking up.

So they've changed topics, and are trying to make the economy the biggest issue for the election. And that means they have to convince us all we are in a horrible recession.

So, how to end the recession? Simple: have the Surge stop working. If things start going badly again in Iraq, you can bet your bottom dollar the NYT shift gears right back to Iraq, and we won't hear how bad the economy is anymore.

Absolutist interpretation of establishment clause in McKenzie, Oregon

The senior class in McKenzie, Oregon, chose a class motto for their graduation ceremonies that was loosely based on a scripture, Isaiah 40:31. The school district has banned it.

The motto reads: "They that believe shall mount up with wings as eagles."

The original passage reads: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles."

The school’s mascot is the Eagle, and the students thought that if they removed reference to God in the motto, it would be OK. Not so, according to the school district’s attorney, Bruce Zagar. In his formal opinion to the school district, he gave one of the most absolutist interpretations of the establishment clause that I have ever heard.

From the KATU story: “he advised the district that both the U.S. and Oregon constitutions prevent any public entity from taking any action which establishes, sponsors, supports or otherwise condones a particular religion or religious belief.”

Wow. If this is true, how can the U.S. Supreme Court start its sessions with a prayer? How can high school choirs sing Christmas songs?

I know something about this because just a couple weeks ago I asked Dave Fidanque, a lawyer for the ACLU, about high school choirs singing religious based songs in their Christmas programs. He said there really is no problem as long as the program itself does not constitute a religious ceremony.

Clearly, a high school choir singing Handels Messiah would constitute “condoning” a particular religion.

Apparently, according to this lawyer, any motto or expression published by the school that is based on a religious principle is off limits. So I guess they could not have an ethics code published that says “don’t steal.”

This is a ridiculously extreme position to take. It is wrong on the law, and it reflects the hostile attitude toward religion in our public schools.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The next sure thing - must act now!

The lead editorial in The Funny Paper today sounds like one of those breathless mortgage radio spots where the fast talking huckster tells us we will never see rates this low again.

Or maybe like one of those penny-stock broker cold-calls where we are urged to act now, because this company you've never heard of is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The Funny Paper's next "Can't Miss Sure Thing:" Sustainability.

First, with a track record like theirs, one would think they might keep their hubris under wraps just a tad. These are the same people who brought you the bio-tech boom, touting the 10,000 biotech jobs that were sure to come from the half-billion or so public dollar investment in OHSU/South Waterfront.

But there's a reason for my slogan for Portland: "Where nothing succeeds like failure."

The fact that The Funny Paper has been the mouthpiece for every high profile failure in Oregon government over the last few decades is no reason to stop now. They are so sure that Oregon can be the global leader in sustainability that they want to bet the bank - again - to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

They want Portland to create a "major research institute," which would "anchor the emerging 'innovation quadrant' of degree programs" in our universities. Huh? What on Earth does that mean? When The Funny Paper starts talking about "emerging" this-and-that, I think of their touting "creative industiries," "bio-tech," and all the other expensive failures they have shoveled up over the years.

But it gets better. Not content with just throwing public dollars at the latest fad, they want to infuse the fad into all our public institutions: "Imagine, too, a systemwide commitment to infuse sustainability into ALL college-level programs. And yes, to reach down into public schools."

"None of this can wait," they tell us. I can almost hear their heart palpitating. Of course it can't wait. If we wait, we might see that this sustainability craze is just the latest in a long line of fads that The Funny Paper has been suckered by over the years. If we wait, we will realize that most of the so-called sustainable building and energy practices are really not cost effective - that they really involve spending a lot of money to save a little energy, and the only way there will be any demand for it is if government mandates it. (Which of course they support.)

Well, let's call The Funny Paper's bluff. Let's one-up them. Let's embrace sustainability in a major way.

What, I ask you, is less sustainable than the newspaper business? Think about it! It requires cutting down trees. It uses harmful and unnatural chemicals to process the pulp and run the printing presses. It burns fossil fuels to deliver the product to every nook and cranny of the region every single day.

And all this for a product that has a one-day useful life! What could be less sustainable than that?!!

So I propose that we re-raise The Funny Paper in the sustainability game. No more hardcopy daily newspapers - internet only.

It's just not sustainable!

Saturday, January 12, 2008


The Barack Obama meteor has been a very interesting phenomenon to watch.

His campaign is at an interesting juncture right now. In the next three weeks I think it will become clear whether he is a legitimate nomination-worthy politician, or just another mecurial flight of fancy.

I was skeptical from the start of the Obama craze. I read parts of his books and found them wholly without substance, and I doubted that any kind of true political coalition could be built on such a flimsy, cotton candy foundation. At some point, I argued, he would have to dispense with the inspirational but empty rhetoric about "change" and talk about how he would actually govern. And then people would see he is basically your garden variety big-city lefty.

But as he gathered steam and steamrolled Hillary in Iowa, I started to rethink it. I believed the New Hampshire polls, and thought "Holy crap! The Democrats hate Hillary so much they just might hand it to this eminiently unqualified guy!"

But the polls were wrong, and now everything is up in the air again. As much as it was very satisfying to think Hillary was getting a much deserved comeuppance, and that the end of the Clinton era was upon us, I also knew that Hillary is the candidate I want a Republican to run against in the fall.

So it is all in flux now, and that makes things very entertaining. It should remain so right up to super-Tuesday.

On Obama, an editorial today by Rich Lowry put it quite well:

Ultimately, the problem for Obama is that he is promising something that is impossible - a harmonic convergence of the country around what, at bottom, is an utterly conventional liberal policy agenda.

Friday, January 11, 2008

MacPherson disqualifies himself

Rep. Greg MacPherson is running for Attorney General, and he has a tough primary fight on hands. Judging from a recent campain release he put out, he apparently thinks he has to pander to his party's left wing to get the nomination. But in doing so, he has pretty much demonstrated that his legal mind is not competent to be Oregon's AG.

Here's the deal: MacPherson sent a campaign e-mail complaining about the "Washington-based religious zealots" who filed a lawsuit to stop Oregon's civil union law from taking effect, asking that signatures that were disqualified from the referendum petition be reinstated so that the voters would get to vote on the measure.

MacPherson's legal error is that he charged conservatives with only caring about "states' rights" when it suits them, but when a state passes some law conservatives don't agree with, the principle of states' rights goes out the window.

The question I have for MacPherson: Are you that stupid? Or do you just assume that WE are that stupid?

First, there is no such thing as "states' rights." States don't have rights. States have powers. Only individuals have rights.

It is revealing, however, that liberals so often make this mistake. They actually believe that states have rights, just as they often believe that government creates wealth.

But the more significant legal error MacPherson makes, one that cannot be just passed off as a semantic error, is his assertion that the civil unions lawsuit is an example of misguided "federalism."

He gives a couple examples of where Oregon has passed some law but then the federal government stepped in to prevent the law from going into effect. Then he claims the civil union lawsuit is another example.

It's not.

Referendum petitions were circulated to allow voters to vote on the civil unions law. It failed by 95 signatures. More than 20 signatures were excluded by the county elections officials because they supposedly did not match the signers' signatures on the voter registration card.

The petitioners went to the signees, got them to sign an affadavit attesting that it was indeed their signature, and took the affadavit back to the counties. Some counties still refused to allow the signatures to be counted as valid!

For each signature let back in, it results in 19 more valid signatures in the total count, since the procedure of validating petitions is to sample 5% of the signatures submitted.

So the lawsuit is simply asking the question whether the government should have the power to unilaterally disqualify signatures without any check or balance on whether the reason for invalidating it was valid. If it is a question of "states' rights," (states' powers) then the question is whether the state should have the unfettered power to exclude signatures from petitions for any reason whatever.

Apparently MacPherson thinks it should.

And he is running for Attorney General.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Hosting Lars Larson Show today

From 11:00 til 3:00 today and tomorrow I will be subbing for Lars.

Tune in/call in!