Friday, August 22, 2008



The governor makes $93,600 now, and for the chief executive of an enterprise with 50,000 or more workers, that’s low. But other states have nothing to do with it. What do we care what Arizona or Nevada pay?

Because the work is comparable? Because it's really the only thing the governor's job can be compared to? Did he seriously ask that?

In public positions the guiding principle should be: Make the compensation high enough so someone can live on the money, but not so high that people seek office because of what they would earn if they win.

What about paying elected officials enough so they are less likely to be bought off by lobbyists and/or cushy industry jobs while in or when they leave office? Because it needs to be high enough to attract quality candidates? (Not that there aren't other factors, but there is certainly a pay rate that will cause otherwise good candidates to walk away.)

Setting salaries for elected officials is hard because there’s no economic way to settle on an amount. Wages in those offices have no link to the amount the enterprise earns. (They don’t in mega-corporations either, where the principals often get raises even when their enterprise is about to go broke.

Wrong. What he could have said was "the standard rule of thumb regarding linking CEO pay to company earnings doesn't apply here, because a state is not a corporation." Then he could have offered a suggestion as to what metric we might use to look at elected official pay. Since he didn't, I'll offer the obvious: The overall health of the state. Or, to be more detailed, the social, economic, administrative, political, environmental, etc., health of the state.

Jeebus, one almost thinks he wants his readers to be dumber when they're done.

Thursday, August 21, 2008



Some Buzz Saw-style restaurants, even in settings less interesting than the right bank of the Willamette River, have not done well. Witness the demise of the Hereford Steer in Albany, closed several years ago and then demolished, and the recent closure of The Gables in Corvallis. But others, such as Michael’s Landing in Corvallis, are going strong, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what change in society’s eating and entertainment habits caused the demise of some.

If he doesn't know something, he should really either research the topic or just not write about it. The Gables closed because its owners are in their 80s, and even their son, who is close to 50, wanted something else to do. This was basic information in the article on the closing that ran in the GT. Nowhere was it mentioned that they closed due to lack of customers.

And Michael's Landing is not 'going strong'. It hasn't been for years. It's barely scraping by.

One also has to wonder if Hering has noticed the influx of new places in Corvallis in the last few years. I can't speak for Albany, but when Magenta moves downtown, the Waterfront Grill opens up, Iovino's remodels and reopens, Cloud 9 and Downward Dog come to town, Block 15 and Tokyo Steakhouse show up, Aomatsu remodels and adds teppanyaki tables, and Strega (a Tapas bar) opens, well, it's not hard to imagine how there could be more stress on existing Corvallis restaurants.

Jeebus, does this guy do any research for his editorials?


From the DH:

Double Duty: Let's meet our citizen soldiers
By Jesse Skoubo
Albany Democrat-Herald

America is enamored with alter egos: Bruce Wayne is Batman, Miley Cyrus is Hannah Montana, and so on. In the mid-valley there are hundreds of everyday citizens who also have double lives. They are members of the National Guard.

These men and women are our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family. At the same time, they serve and protect our country at home and abroad. We often hear about those deployed overseas, but may not always connect them with the people we see every day.

I have no problem with the DH covering people in the National Guard; that's clearly newsworthy. I do have a problem with the use of the word 'our'. I always thought it was a no-no to put oneself in a news story, Hunter S. Thompson not withstanding. It suggests a lack of objectivity - and given that it doesn't happen often, I think that this is the instance in which it is happening is telling. It risks becoming cheerleading, which is not good journalism.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What if they threw a public input session on a new construction excise tax and no one came?

There was one line from the story in the DH that caught my eye:

Districts should be looking at tax incentives, not hikes, to stimulate a struggling economy, Robertson added...

Funny - I didn't realize it was the school district's job to stimulate a struggling economy. I thought it was the district's job to educate students. That education, of course, costs money, and since the state doesn't provide enough of it (thanks, Measure 5!), districts are trying to figure out ways to make ends meet. Asking those who add new costs to a district by adding students to pay up has a certain logic to it.

Also, can I just say that statement is ludicrous? I am left hoping - sorry, Jennifer - that the reporter got this wrong somehow. The alternative, that Robertson actually meant what he said, suggests he's not the least bit interested in the health or quality of the school district..... or is an idiot. Come on: Tax incentives? At the small-town level, cutting taxes is not going to increase income. Period. The most charitable explanation I can surmise is that Robertson was making an argument that lowering taxes would draw more people to Lebanon, which would ultimately increase tax revenues. The only problem: That doesn't work. At least, it's failed miserably at the federal level; I see no reason that it would actually work with housing on the local level.

Oh, this was a bit sketchy too:

Robertson cautioned board members about adopting an unstable funding source the district might come to rely on.

By sketchy, of course, I mean insulting. It was clear from the last two board meetings that no one thought this was going to bring in much money, or even that it would necessarily be stable. Implying otherwise, in the face of evidence, only makes sense if one thinks the board and district administrators are stupid. Frankly, I don't think anyone involved in the LCSD is that stupid. Lots of other things, but not the kind of stupid that it would take to budget for this as if it was a guaranteed, regular thing. It also suggests that Robertson was not paying attention to what's been said already.

Heck, the OSBA guy proves Robertson wrong a few paragraphs later (by repeating what he said the first time he was in town):

The tax money may be saved over time or used right away, as long as it is spent only for projects such as property purchases, new construction or building improvements, said David Williams, legislative and public affairs specialist for the Oregon School Boards Association.

Don't get me wrong; I understand why realtors don't like this idea, and I do understand that homebuyers are likely going to pick up the ultimate tab (god forbid someone's profit margin shrink). However, if "has to pay the tax" is actually grounds for not taxing someone, we should all just admit the social contract has failed and start killing each other. Face it; either we're all in this together - which means, among other things, that we have to find some way to pay for those things we all use - or we're only looking out for number one. I don't believe the latter is true; even the most hardline libertarian doesn't get very far if they steal from their neighbors. Ergo, someone's going to pay for something that should be considered a public good. Sorry, Mr. Robertson.

... by the way, what does it mean that no one showed up?


are in order. My brother got a job!

What should I get him as a congratulatory gift?

(Hint: The job is in politics.)

Drinking or Driving, But Not Both

You say "duh," I say listen to Atrios. This seems like a good idea:

Perhaps they should consider my cunning plan to let 18 year olds have a drinking license or a driver's license but not both, which would have the added benefit of helping my plot to make everyone move to Manhattan increasing the appeal of less car dependent locations.

What sayeth the commentariat?

Primary Question

The GT has a good editorial today supporting the shift to a top-two open primary:

Oregon’s Measure 65 essentially would change the way candidates advance to the general election for most partisan offices. Here’s how it would work: All candidates, regardless of party designation, would run in a single primary. Only the two top vote-getters would advance to the general election. Both the primary — and general-election ballots — would contain the candidates’ party registrations. But such designations would not necessarily mean that a candidate had the blessing of the party. The ballots also would list which party endorsements candidates have collected.

I've always been uneasily ambivalent towards this move, largely because I never thought it addressed the actual problem, which is that there are only two major political parties (or that there are political parties at all, ha-ha). As well, if we take the existence of political parties as a given, then open primaries are bad, because they don't allow parties to choose their own nominee.... sort of. I suppose a party can still endorse; this just pries open the voting system, and, in a way, creates a two-round election, which is interesting (and very European, natch).

But that's all a digression. My actual question is this: Why not make it a top-three primary?

Here's why I ask: In a top-two system, one of a few things are going to happen:

1) It's going to be two people from the same party, in which case I predict voters from the other party will either stay home, lowering turnout, or bite their tongue and vote for the person who panders to them the most. From the candidates' point of view, this is good, because it means a Republican who is facing a Republican in the general election can eake out a position just to the left of their oppoonent and then rake in the Dem votes, and vice versa. Once elected, that person can then revert to form, thus effectively disenfranchising all those voters who voted for the lesser of two evils. This is not good.

2) It's going to be a Republican vs. a Democrat. This will be the most common if the top-two system ever gets widely implemented. Not much will change here.

3) A minor party candidate will somehow sneak in, probably because of two or more major-party candidates vying for one of the top spots and splitting the votes. This could make the general election very interesting, as some of those who would normally vote for, say, the Dem, would be tempted to vote for the Green, if there is no Dem. The same could be suggested of Republicans and Libertarians or Constitutionalists. This is a good thing for minor-party candidates.

I think it's fair to say that a top-two primary offers a much greater chance of interesting races, and a somewhat bigger chance of the inclusion of one or more third-party candidates.

However, what would happen in a top-three primary? I think it would even more significantly increase the odds of a minor-party candidate getting into the general election, and the very nature of a "we already had one election and Candidate X (from a minor party) was a top-three finisher" would raise the presence and stature of minor parties in general. It would also promote multiple major-party candidates, which splits votes, again making it more likely that a minor-party candidate would advance to the general election.

Let's face it: A two-party system does not do a good job representing everyone. There are far more than two points of view out there, especially when you throw in the added complexity of platforms (for example, who should I support if I'm a free-market social liberal?). Adding more parties to the mix is a good thing, and a top-three primary is a way to do that. Therefore, I'd call for a top-three open primary system.

So why is a top-three primary not an option? Not having researched this, I don't really know, but I have two guesses: 1) Americans think in terms of a two-candidate election. Lots of history and social conditioning there. That's a pretty sad reason ("we do it this way because we've always done it this way"), but I think it's relatively likely. 2) The existing major parties, disliking but unable to prevent the top-two primary, at least managed to limit them to top-two, knowing that it offers the best chance to continue a D-R matchup.

What do you all think?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Albany Police....

From the DH:

An Albany woman is seeking witnesses to an incident in which she says a police officer used excessive force on her 13-year-old son during Thursday’s River Rhythms concert.

Albany police say that any use of force was appropriate and that it was in response to the teenager not following an officer’s instructions.

I really hope that second sentence is a construction of the reporter and not what the officer actually said. Making a blanket claim that any use of force is appropriate is both really bad PR and a really bad idea. What if they had, say, Tasered him? Would that have been OK? What if they had broken a limb of his while restraining him? Would that have been OK? He's a 13-year-old with a skateboard, for fuck's sake.

The police point of view is reiterated in this quote later in the article:

“The force used was appropriate,” Carter said. “The force used was a result of the young man refusing to do what (the officer) said to do.”

That last phrase is the important part: Use of force is authorized explicitly because someone ignored a police officer, not because someone was endangering others. This should be raising a lot of red flags for people - it's a short hop from there to misusing a gun or a Taser or even a badge. In fact, I'd argue that's what happened here.

And no, I don't believe this is fundamentally new behavior. But I have noticed a distinct uptick in the number of times that failure to listen an officer is cited as justification for violence on the part of the police, rather than failure to obey a law. That it is implicit in the former that the latter is also present is not, in my eyes, good enough, because it's often not true.

Almost worse than the story are all the rabid commenters complaining about how unruly youth are. THE KID WAS 13 AND HAD A SKATEBOARD IN A PARK. Call me when he's chucking eggs at cars or stealing or something. Jeebus. And people wonder why kids dislike cops or other authority figures.

Update 8/18 @ 7:15 PM: I should note that there are two things going on here, and I don't want to conflate them. The first is that I think the use of force in this particular case is inappropriate. The second is an idea that I've seen more and more often, that the justification for the use of force is simply because an officer told someone to do something.

NYT Piece on The Daily Show & Jon Stewart

From somewhere in the middle of the piece:

Given a daily reality in which “over-the-top parodies come to fruition,” Mr. Stewart said, satire like “Dr. Strangelove” becomes “very difficult to make.” “The absurdity of what you imagine to be the dark heart of conspiracy theorists’ wet dreams far too frequently turns out to be true,” he observed. “You go: I know what I’ll do, I’ll create a character who, when hiring people to rebuild the nation we invaded, says the only question I’ll ask is, ‘What do you think of ‘Roe v. Wade?’ It’ll be hilarious. Then you read that book about the Green Zone in Iraq” — “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran — “and you go, ‘Oh, they did that.’ I mean, how do you take things to the next level?”

About f***ing time this hit the mainstream. Check it out - if nothing else, the writing in the story is good.

Unexpected Withdrawal

Fine, I admit it: I want more Harry Potter books.


.... please note that while I think JK Rowling is a fantastic writer and storyteller, there were plenty of things I didn't necessarily like about the HP universe... until I saw the first few movies, which made Rowling look like that much more of a genius. Whoever directed the first few movies was terrible.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.