Friday, May 25, 2012


It's a good thing special interest groups are watch-dogging the government to prevent new taxes. A good example is right here in Oregon, where it looks like the Oregon Association of Realtors (OAR) will have a measure on the November ballot to prohibit any new taxes on real estate sales. To my knowledge, there are no proposals to impose new taxes on real estate sales; this is a preventive measure that would amend the Oregon Constitution to require a public vote on any proposed real estate transaction tax. The OAR lobbyist, Shaun Jillions (seriously, I'm not making this up), explains that the basis for this action is the 2010 approvals of ballot measures that increased the taxes on corporations and wealthier Oregonians. This made the realtors so nervous that the OAR wanted to get an oar in the water now (sorry - couldn't help myself) to prevent the state from generating revenues from real estate transactions. Oh, did I mention that the OAR has gotten money from the National Association of Realtors and assessments on individual realtors in Oregon ($1,000,000 spent so far) for this anti-tax measure?

So, in summary, the realtors are spending millions and Jillions to keep their OAR house in order.

We citizens are lucky to have this kind of help; I mean, who wants more taxes. I'm thinking there are a lot of other special interests out there who will be weighing in soon, for example:

- no new taxes on hair cuts, sponsored by the ABC (the Association of Barbers and Cutters), and their lobbyist "Curly" Q. Ball. This measure is likely to be opposed by the Brotherhood of Alpine-Like Domes (BALD); their lobbyist, Harry Less, claims that his constituents would favor a tax on hair cuts: "It's no hair off our skin!"

- no new taxes on toilet flushing (includes public urinals), sponsored by Citizens Representing all Personal Processes of Elimination and Removal (CRAPPER). The CRAPPER lobbying team of Ima Terde, I. P. Daley and John Flushing has been working for months, and has assured this blogger that their measure is "ready to drop."

- and finally, the word on the street is that CO2 (Community for Open Oxygen) is preparing a no-new-taxes-on-breathing amendment to the Oregon Constitution that would prevent any municipal or state levy on breathing. The husband and wife lobbying team N. Hale and X. Hale, who represent breathers throughout the state, are emphatic that government has no right to tax the air we breathe. "We've heard from reliable sources that regulators are working on a plan to monitor air consumption by citizens, based on the number of breaths per day" was the word breathed to me by the Hales.

No New Taxes!! That is the rallying cry being heard from border to border to border to border (there are four, after all) in Oregon. Thanks to all the organizations and lobbyists out there who are protecting us from our government.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Yesterday, May 15, was election day in Oregon. Very few people bothered to vote. This worries me.

Yes, this election was the primary election; the "real" election is in November. But a lot of important decisions were made in this primary, and these decisions were made by a minority of the eligible voters.

Let's look at the primary election for Mayor of the City of Portland. Portland is mostly in Multnomah County, but small parts of the city are in Clackamas and Washington Counties. Of registered voters, 28.5% voted in Washington County, 35% in Clackamas County, and 28.1% in Multnomah County.

A total of 86,893 votes were cast for the position of Portland Mayor (numbers as of this morning as per web sites for each county election office). I could not find the number of voters registered in Portland for this election, so let's use the number I did find: 352,041 registered voters in Portland for the 2008 general election. Do the calculation and we get 24.7% of the registered voters bothered to cast their votes. Pathetic!! 

There were three real contenders for the position of Portland Mayor in this primary election; Eileen Brady, Charlie Hales and Jefferson Smith. Here are the results (again, as of this morning, as per the web site for each county): 

          Eileen Brady:          21,482 (24.7% of the votes cast)
          Charlie Hales:        36,226 (41.7%)
          Jefferson Smith:     29,185 (33.6%).

Let's look at the vote for each candidate as a percentage of the eligible voters, shall we: 

          Eileen Brady:           6.1%
          Charlie Hales:       10.3%
          Jefferson Smith:      8.3% 

So about 1/4 of the eligible voters determined who will be in the run-off election for Portland Mayor (the top 2 candidates: Hales and Smith). The candidate with the most votes, Hales, got votes from 10 percent of the eligible voters; hardly a mandate. 

I don't get it. Why don't people vote? This election decided a number of local, state and federal positions, as well as some local ballot measures and bond measures. If one-fourth of the voters bother to cast a ballot, what does that say about democracy? 

I've always thought that we should have a law that determines who has a say on government issues. If there is a public hearing on a specific topic, only people who have voted in the last election should be allowed in (with the exception of those too young to vote). Letters to elected representatives should be tossed if the writer didn't vote. Living in a democracy should have conditions - if you vote you have a say in things; if you don't vote - you have no standing. I've often wondered about people who show up for public meetings and hearings and give angry testimony against this or that - did they vote? 

I voted; I always vote. For me, voting is how I participate in the governance of this country, state and city. It's messy, and I worry about the big money and special interests involved these days, but I prefer this to the alternative.

Did you vote? I hope so.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Today, Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America - my President - your President - our President - made an historic statement; here are his words in an email I received from him today (many of you also received this): "Today, I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry." 

This is truly a major moment in the history of our country. The momentum for this has been building for years, thanks to the dedicated efforts of many in our communities who have worked tirelessly to break down yet another barrier that has kept some of us separate and not equal under the law. This battle is not won, not yet; we need only look at the shameful votes in places like North Carolina that are last-ditch efforts to maintain discrimination. 

I celebrate this action by President Obama, taken at a very crucial moment in his career. His statement has now drawn a very distinct line in the sand that is the democratic footing of our nation. He has put the nation, and the world, on notice that the President of the United States of America will no longer tolerate or support indecision about this fundamental right for people to be treated equally by the laws of our country. The preludes to his statement were the decisions by his administration to not actively support the Defense of Marriage Act, and to end the shameful Don't Ask - Don't Tell policy of the United States military services. It is interesting, and amazing, that President Obama made the statement now, in the thick of a heated election campaign, and in the aftermath of the North Carolina vote (and previous similar acts by other states). 

Unfortunately, although many of us feel that this position is long overdue, it is very timely, and sends to each of us an urgent call to action. The position taken today by President Obama makes him an even larger target for the right wing, particularly the religious right in this country, to un-elect him in November. The Romney campaign will have to ratchet up the rhetoric and the attacks on Obama, using same-sex marriage as the cudgel. Even worse, the religious-right and other extreme right Super PACs will dump many millions into negative ads focused on same-sex marriage. 

Fellow citizens - it is time. It is time to stand behind our President - strongly, vocally, actively. Not just about this issue, but about all of the issues that are part of our core beliefs: excellent health care for all citizens, excellent education for all of our children, jobs (jobs!), equity - including the super wealthy paying their fair share, solid and tough regulation of the financial industry; you know the list.  

Finally - in case you aren't on a first-name basis with our President, and don't get all those personal emails from him like I do (and from Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and all the rest), here is the rest of Barack's email to me today. Enjoy it, and be proud to be an American today! 

I hope you'll take a moment to watch the conversation, consider it, and weigh in yourself on behalf of marriage equality:

I've always believed that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally. I was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes. And I thought civil union laws that conferred legal rights upon gay and lesbian couples were a solution.

But over the course of several years I've talked to friends and family about this. I've thought about members of my staff in long-term, committed, same-sex relationships who are raising kids together. Through our efforts to end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, I've gotten to know some of the gay and lesbian troops who are serving our country with honor and distinction.

What I've come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.

Even at my own dinner table, when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn't dawn on them that their friends' parents should be treated differently.

So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


[Blogger's note: if we lose our sense of humor, the terrorists win. Mine is still intact.]

By now you are all aware of the CIA foiling a plot by terrorists to detonate a newer, more modern underpants bomb on a plane bound for the USA. What is this world coming to? Who puts on exploding underpants (not to be confused with exploding in your underpants)? Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

Who are these guys, and how do they let themselves be talked into this? I'm picturing the recruiting posters used by Al Queda: "Blow your nuts off for Allah!" "Jihad your Junk!" "More than a Tickle Test for your Testicles!" Do these guys read the fine print? I mean, if you're signing up for martyrdom and the promise of 1,000 virgins waiting for you, don't you think about how pissed-off you'll be when you show up where all these virgins are waiting and suddenly realize you've just turned your equipment into millions of tiny droplets of flesh and blood?

If this wasn't so real it would be funny. Picture a movie about a bumbling terrorist trying to get his exploding underpants on without setting it off, having to use the men's room at the airport but the underpants bomb doesn't have a fly, sitting down oh-so-carefully in the waiting area, and etc. If it wasn't real, it would be funny.

Another part of this news story - really - is that this new Jockey Rocket has no metal in it. The experts think that the newer body scanners in the US might detect the Boom Boom Boxers, but the European scanners won't. This makes me reach the conclusion that the Portlander who was recently arrested for completely undressing at Portland Airport security (he claims he finally just had enough already) was on the right track. We will all be flying naked soon. Or at least we'll have to drop trou to prove that we're flying sans undies.

Remember the thing about boxers or briefs? Now it's boxers, briefs, or da bomb.

Oh well, I guess I'm the butt of this joke.  See you in the Friendly Skies.

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Fact 1: politicians pander. Fact 2: we accept it.

I think that "panderer" has become an accepted part of a politicians job description. Pandering is most visible during election season, and it is in full bloom right now. Mitt "Etch-a-Sketch" Romney is a weather vane twirling in the winds of interest groups. Nicolas Sarkozy has taken a sharp right turn to the on-ramp to anti-immigrant and anti-Islam land in an effort to save his bid for a second term. Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, Dubya - they all pandered to their base and any other group with electoral muscle. Many of us voters recognize this, but we shrug it of as part of the game.

The column by Frank Bruni in the Sunday NY Times made me stop and think about my acceptance of political pandering. Bruni writes about Marsha Ternus, a former Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court. "Former" because she was unelected three years ago, along with two other justices, because the Iowa Supreme Court they were part of ruled unanimously that an Iowa statute banning same-sex marriage violated the equal protection language of the Iowa Constitution. This ruling resulted in a firestorm fanned by out-of-state anti gay organizations that funded the campaign to toss these judges at the election box. Ms. Ternus was not a crusader for gay rights; she simply looked at the facts and made a logical decision based on a very strong legal foundation.

I understand that judges and politicians are different species, but the story of Justice Ternus made me realize that I long for political leadership that is based on logic and truth, not on the number of votes. I've seen the movie in which the political candidate or the elected official finally reaches the limit of tolerance and stands up for the truth, thereby dooming her/his chances. Reality is different, we say, because in order for "good" people to get or stay in office, they need to get the most votes. And part of  playing the Get the Most Votes game is pandering to as many voters as possible without doing an unacceptable amount of damage to one's principles. After being elected, a politician can do the etch-a-sketch shake and put the election persona back in the box until the next election.

There are politicians who don't play the pandering game; I personally know some. But perhaps this is only possible because they have a clear majority of voters in their districts who clearly support them. In presidential politics, the voters are all over the map (literally and figuratively), and the game is won by those who pander best (and raise more money, of course - but this is also largely a result of pandering to the big money interests).

Is there a different and better way?