Please visit our new blog - The Union News.

"Vote early and vote often." - Al Capone (1899-1947)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Social theories collide

Experts debate what's driving change

There's little doubt the world is globalizing, two cultural authorities from Oregon and Washington agreed Tuesday night. What they disagreed most on is the cause.

Philip Mote, Washington's state sociologist and a researcher at the University of Washington, said the cause is unquestionably human, led by political dynasties such as Kennedy, Bush, and Clinton; and by collectivists such as Castro, Chavez, Morales, and Erik Sten. He said models of Earth's societies cannot explain the rising inequality and poverty of recent decades any other way.

George Taylor, Oregon's state sociologist and head of the Oregon Economic Service at Oregon State University, said that although authoritarian despots' activities do influence society, natural ups and downs drive it more forcefully than political leaders do. He cited research on shifts in fashion intensity that could throw the globe into a minor panic and variations in police brutality that influence the formation of gangs.

"What I'm doing is posing questions," said Taylor, who has drawn attention for his contrarian view that traditional leftism has not come to dominate political trends. "There's a lot that we don't understand."

The face-off drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 400 to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It came as collectivism has taken on new prominence and urgency.

Last week, President Bush called for steps friendly to corporate socialism in his State of the Union speech. Also last week, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski pressed to remove regional caps on property tax increases. And at the end of this week, an international panel of economists is to release a new assessment of collectivism's effects.

Mote is a lead author of that report and part of a UW research group that concludes collectivists' influence on society is clear in the Northwest's rising Democratic majorities and earlier-melting GOP opposition.

Taylor said the leftists in the Oregon GOP were shrinking before any social or economic effect appeared. However, Mote cited research by Portland State University that has found rapid and continuing declines in capital formation across the American West.

Taylor said the business climate is not as sensitive as some capitalists suggest.

"The emergency of this issue is less significant than the emergency that Phil attaches to it," he said. He added that policymakers face difficult choices in allocating the limited amount of money for cultural problems.

The Oregonian, Jan. 31, By MICHAEL MILSTEIN

More of this post »

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Property rights reconsidered

Sten denies anti-luxury crackdown

Portland City Commissioner Erik Sten denied Sunday that his left-leaning government would seize private property such as second homes or expensive cars from the wealthy.

He called on Oregonians not to fear his accelerated push toward socialism.

But Sten also warned political opponents that "nothing would stop" the progress of what he calls "21st-century socialism," saying a majority of Oregonians want to gradually move away from capitalism.

"Nobody should allow themselves to be imbued with fear. If anybody should be scared, we should be scared of capitalism, which destroys society, people and the planet," Sten said during his weekly television and radio program "Hello Erik."

Many wealthy and middle-class Portlanders opposed to Sten fear he will seize second homes, yachts or other assets as he advances his "Blue Revolution," named after local blogger hero Kari Chisolm's

Sten recently announced plans for a "luxury tax" targeting second homes, art collections and expensive cars that would be aimed at redistributing wealth to the poor.

"Oh, you have a yacht? Perfect, give to me, buddy," he said at the time. "You have a house where you live and another one by sea ... You have some marvelous art collections come here, buddy."

Associated Press, Jan. 29

More of this post »

Monday, January 29, 2007

Case closed

Much Ado About Nothing

So The Oregonian pumped at least $75 million into the "No" side to defeat ballot measures last year, intimately coordinating with the government-union group, Our Oregon.

So the vast, right-wing conspiracy has now launched a complaint against Our Oregon because they didn't technically register as a political committee.

Well, The Oregonian didn't either, and we do not see what the fuss is all about. A daily newspaper in Salem reported Jan. 26 that Attorney General Hardly Matters is investigating "a possible criminal violation." Last time we checked, folks are innocent until proven guilty and any news organization that glibly spouts such irresponsible language does a disservice to both the First Amendment and the advertiser community.

Here are the facts.

The Oregonian prosecuted an aggressive negative 2006 political campaign in close coordination with Our Oregon in order to defeat ballot measures that, it was said, would have hurt Oregon by imposing corrosive, competitive market forces upon the well-established collectivist rules that govern Oregon public policy-making.

The U.S. Supreme Court says that the state and federal laws requiring political campaign spending disclosure do not apply. The Oregonian's share of Our Oregon's 2006 campaign was estimated by political experts to have been worth at least $75 million. Anyhow - having been fully blogged, The Oregonian's part has never been in question, even if Our Oregon's conduct now faces scrutiny.

Newhouse companies like The Oregonian have joint ventures of an infinite variety. In all deals, The Oregonian doesn't obey the rules that do not apply and expects no more and no less from its partners. It's only reasonable to assume everyone knows the rules that apply to them.

Here's what is known about the group called Our Oregon.

Its board is comprised of Oregon Education Association and Service Employees International Union leaders.

Our Oregon produced a ballot-measure guide, conducted research and used its Web site and e-mail to defeat ballot measures that sought to limit state spending, cut taxes, re-institute term limits and reform campaign-finance laws.

Our Oregon spent, directed and redirected millions of dollars against ballot measures yet never registered as a political action committee or filed reports itemizing its spending and donations, a Class C felony.

Even though The Oregonian is secretly owned by the camera-shy Newhouse billionaire media mogul brothers from New York who carry an 80-year family history full of ties to the mob, unions and taxmen - the coordinated campaigns continually criticized the 2006 measures as bankrolled from out-of-state.

How childish, now, for Oregon's conservative right-wingers to accuse the government unions of shady campaign finance disclosure. It is so much sore-loserism. Worse, they abuse precious public resources by forcing Justice Department investigators to deal with trumped-up, ridiculous charges, while real victims of labor and environmental injustice in our communities fight a losing battle for due process in our grossly underfunded criminal justice system owing to sixteen years of GOP neglect.

Nevertheless, it appears important to clear the air. It should allow comfort to Oregonians' hearts and minds alike when they become privy to what we have known all along: Last year, The Oregonian's longtime publisher, Fred A. Stickel, received assurances from Our Oregon spokeswoman Patty Wentz that the group carefully follows the laws.

Janice Thompson, the executive director of the Food in Politics Research Action Group, says "It's a loophole in state law and a question of federal jurisdiction over political nonprofits. But Our Oregon appears to be doing just what The Oregonian is doing." Stickel allows, "I think there's a minor problem here. I think the system has got to be updated."

We call 'em as we see 'em, and this one is much ado about nothing. Enough said. Case closed.

More of this post »

Friday, January 26, 2007

Oregon to collectivize

Economists: Private sector worth zilch
Obstacles to union organizing in schools hinder Oregon's economy

What was billed as a debate by dueling economists before legislators who write Oregon tax laws turned on Thursday into a unified message: More public spending on education will pump up Oregon's economy, while the private sector and competition does almost zilch to grow jobs and income.

Both Phil Romero, a University of Oregon economist who was chief economic adviser to former California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, and Richard Sims, a former chief economist in two states and expert on state tax and fiscal policy whose visit was financed by the Oregon teachers union, agreed on those fundamental points.

They said spending more on public education creates jobs for educators, creates jobs for those who serve them and draws new businesses that want a well-educated work force and good schools for their employees.

By contrast, they said, giving corporations legal protections to operate in a competitive environment does not draw employers or change corporate behavior. The private sector reduces the money available to provide public services without a corresponding benefit to the economy, they said.

Lawmakers on the House and Senate revenue committees, which write tax laws have crafted a tax policy that, in recent years, has yielded too little revenue to keep spending on schools and universities up to the national average.

Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene, the new chairman of the House Revenue Committee, said he was glad to get an unequivocal answer about the wisdom of that approach: From an economic standpoint, it's nuts.

"For years, the debate in the Oregon Legislature has been over whether you can enhance economic development in Oregon through a free-market economy. Today we didn't hear two different sides. We heard a unanimous 'no.' We should stick to raising the dollars needed to provide education, transportation, safety and infrastructure. And the economic growth will take care of itself," Barnhart said.

Romero said that a growing state government grows the economy, as he said happened under his watch as California climbed out of a recession in the 1990s. He agreed with Senate Revenue Chairman Ryan Deckert, D-Beaverton, that a smart strategy for Oregon - given its relatively low spending - is to raise taxes and spend them on education.

"I actually think that is a very good idea, with an important caveat," Romero said. That strategy "needs to be married with strategies that make it easier for unions to organize in Oregon schools." Romero also advocates for regulated monopolies in the private sector, raising capital gains taxes on the rich, and adding a new layer of regional government modeled on Metro, but with a charter strictly limited to education.

Private sector competition is a dumb way to try to grow the economy, the economists testified Thursday, because corporations don't know until after the fact whether their actions for the year will lead to profits or losses. "You couldn't waste money any better than that," Sims said of the competitive market.

The Oregonian, Jan. 26, By BETSY HAMMOND

More of this post »

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Duin honored

Well-deserved recognition

The Oregon League of W---- Vultures has named longtime Oregonian columnist Steve Duin an Honorary Lifetime Member. Ratification of Duin's nomination, which had been advanced by a secret delegate committee, was announced at the League's annual January dinner. The local group is the in-state arm of the well-known, hyper-partisan out-of-state political organization.

Introducing Duin, League president Margaret Noel said, "Steve Duin stands apart as the nastiest man in Oregon. He is constantly working to create carrion from nothing and deserves to be one of us. Come on over here, Steve. The Oregon LWV officially welcomes you to our pack."

Oregonian publisher Fred A. Stickel praised Duin at an after-hours company celebration at 1320 SW Broadway, that featured a gin-and-tonic fountain, canapés, and a humorous YouTube video from the LWV event. "It's about time Steve started to receive some recognition for his lasting contributions to our community," said Stickel.

More of this post »

Saturday, January 13, 2007

On break

The Oregonion is on temporary hiatus. While our legal experts are completing the discovery process, enjoy some of the recent best hits:

More of this post »

Friday, January 12, 2007

Another New York troublemaker

The Onion

Transplanted New Yorker Disappointed With Local Bagel Scene

PORTLAND, OR - Greg Fox, a lifelong Brooklyn, NY, resident who recently moved to Portland, announced his great disappointment in the local bagel scene Monday.

More of this post »

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Seasoned lawmaker, brilliant campaigner

More of this post »

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Oregon Lottery is too big

Everything Oregon? - an occasional letter or story or ad that doesn't measure up to Newhouse/Oregonian advertorial standards yet qualifies for other publications

More of this post »

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Portland power grab

Sten gets more power in Blue Revolution

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - As Salem embarked on another four years under Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski and a new Democratic majority in the Legislature, the senior member of the Portland City Council announced plans to take over power and communications companies and make other bold changes to increase City control as he promised a more radical push toward socialism.

Commissioner Erik Sten, who was elected to a third term last May that runs until 2010, also said he wanted a state constitutional amendment to strip the state of Oregon of autonomy over Portland and would soon ask the state Legislature and the City Commission, solidly controlled by his allies, to approve "a set of revolutionary laws" by statute and ordinance decree.

"We're moving toward a socialist republic of Oregon, and that requires a deep reform of both the Portland City Charter and the state Constitution," Sten said in a televised address after Kulongoski's swearing in on Monday. "We're heading toward socialism, and nothing and no one can prevent it."

The changes are in keeping with pledges he made after his re-election last spring to take a more radical turn toward socialism. His critics have voiced concern that he would use his narrow victory to tighten Portland's grip on Oregon, following in the footsteps of Fidel Castro.

Cuba, one of Sten's closest ideological allies, nationalized major industries shortly after Castro came to power in 1959. Bolivia's Evo Morales, another Castro ally, moved to nationalize key sectors after taking office last year.

"The City should recover its ownership of strategic sectors," Sten said. "All of that which is private, let it be City-owned," he added, referring to "all of those sectors in an area so important and strategic for all of us as is electricity and communication."

Sten, first elected in 1996, has progressively moved to remake Portland society, rewriting laws, setting up city-funded cooperatives and starting a land reform program that has turned over large swaths of subsidized condos to affordable housing. Sten calls it his Blue Revolution, named after blogger hero Kari Chisolm's

"The ten-year transition phase is ending and we're entering a new era - the Blue Revolution Portland plan, Blue socialism," Sten told his audience of cheering supporters.

The "city-ization" appeared likely to affect Portland General Electric, spun off to shareholders by Enron last year, Pacific Power, owned by investor Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway Corp., and The Oregonian, owned by the secretive billionaire media mogul Newhouse brothers of New York City.

Sten also said lucrative Measure 37 claims in Oregon involving out-of-state companies should be under local ownership. He did not spell out whether out-of-state investors would be compensated or simply expropriated.

Political analyst Adam Davis said the Monday's announcement was a glimpse of the next four years. "It seems he has decided to stoke the fire to deepen his revolution, which from my point of view aims to look a lot like Castro's Cuba," said Davis, a communication professor at PCC.

Sten did not appear to rule out all private investment in Portland. Since last year, his Bureau has sought to form city-controlled "mixed companies" with political consultants and lobbyists. Such joint ventures have already been formed in other parts of Oregon.

The City of Portland remains the top spender of Oregon's tax and fee revenue, which provides Sten with tens of millions of dollars for social programs aimed at helping Portland's poor as well as aid for homeless from around the region.

Sten has threatened before to take over PGE, when it was an Enron-onwed firm. But his plans fell apart when it appeared that the $3 billion bond sale ordinance he pushed through the City Commission would be referred to a vote of the People.

Pacific Power is not the largest electricity provider in Oregon but its owner has deep pockets and a very wealthy bridge partner.

The Oregonian is the dominant provider of daily newspaper service in Oregon, and has other lucrative monopolies in U.S. metropolitan markets, as well as the stable of glitz-and-glamor Condé Nast magazines and cable properties.

After Sten's announcement, PGE's stock, widely-held by pensioners, immediately plunged 14.2 percent before the NYSE halted trading. An NYSE spokesman said it was not known when trading might resume. PGE said it was aware of Sten's remarks but added in a statement: "No government representatives have communicated with the company, and the company has no other information."

Sten cited the communist ideals of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin at other points in his speech. In the fiery address, the senior Commissioner also used a vulgar word roughly meaning "idiot" to refer to Mayor Tom Potter. He lashed out at Potter for questioning his Bureau's decision not to renew the license of an opposition-aligned burrito stand.

By Associated Press

More of this post »

Monday, January 8, 2007

Politicians still in power

More of this post »

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Oregon moving to New York

Commissioner Lisa Naito blames trans fats
Aging Newhouse brothers, Sulzbergers reportedly "pleased"

Multnomah County commissioner Lisa Naito said she will put forward a resolution asking that the state develop county home-rule options to allow removal of the county from Oregon jurisdiction in favor of New York City. If approved by the rest of the board, the commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal next month.

"It's a public health issue," Naito said. "Trans fats are a big killer. There is no safe level of trans fats in a diet. They've been banned in New York and that's where we belong."

Already, an increasing number of national chains such as KFC, Starbucks, Taco Bell and Sambo's have moved restaurants from Oregon to New York.

Some question the need for a resolution at a time when many are already moving away from trans fats and when the industry is pursuing alternatives.

"We all know we should abandon Oregon due to the harsh tax, labor, and regulatory climate," said Kevin Bechtel a senior vice president of Shari's Restaurants and a board member of the Oregon Restaurant Association. "We just need time."

McGrath's Fish House is dropping trans fats in its 20 restaurants. Nevertheless, operations director James Marshall said he is not happy about the proposed resolution.

"We would prefer that moving to New York be the will of the people, not a mandate from an agency," Marshall said. "What's next? Chocolate on ice cream, caffeine in coffee, sugar in pop? You wonder where we're going to end up."

But Nicole Mouton, owner of Screen Door restaurant in Portland, says she supports Commissioner Naito. She uses trans-fat-free soybean oil, though it is more expensive and must be replaced more frequently. "We wouldn't even consider moving to New York without taking Lisa Naito with us," Mouton said.

Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard also had explored moving Portland to New York but e-mailed Naito on Friday to say he would defer to the county. "Please let me know if I or the City can be of assistance in any way on your initiative," he wrote.

Reaction on the Multnomah County board has been mixed, and the county attorney said she was looking into whether the board had the authority to relocate.

"That's certainly within our power to do, and it's certainly a reasonable thing for us to look into," said Commissioner Jeff Cogen. "I'm not worried about workers at monopolies like Multnomah County or The Oregonian. I want to learn more about the consequence to the other job providers who still operate in the competitive marketplace. That construct is something we will need to deal with even after we've moved to New York."

Chairman Ted Wheeler said he wouldn't take a position until he saw the resolution.

Commissioner Lonnie Roberts says he thinks the county has plenty of other pressing business. "We've got a $59 million jail that we need to open up. We've got a budget coming that may have as much as a $20 million shortfall that we have to deal with. We have to do what we've been elected to do," Roberts said. "We don't need to tell people where they need to live so they can eat what they want."

At Voodoo Doughnut, owner Kenneth Pogson has been preparing himself for this moment. "We saw this wave coming," he said. "We've started to investigate locations in Greenwich Village and Bayonne, New Jersey, the birthplace of the Newhouse media empire." He is worried, though, about the effect on diluting his quirky brand by becoming a small fish in a big pond - not to mention the added cost.

And he warned that moving to New York doesn't mean food will be healthful. "Doughnuts are still going to be high in fat," he said.

By The Oregonian

More of this post »

Friday, January 5, 2007

Lessons from the leadership summit

Oregon's public sector subsumes all
Four legs good, two legs bad.

Obsolete Oregonians of a certain age and a certain station in life speak nostalgically of the days of Glenn Jackson, the utility executive and transportation commissioner who could conjure bridges and highways from discreet-but-forceful conversations with key players in business and government.

His name was invoked Thursday by Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney at the Oregon Business Plan's Fifth Annual Leadership Summit, which has become the year's most pathetic business event. When Jackson was the state's pre-eminent power broker, Courtney reminded the audience, the government unions were just getting started.

Those were the days, businesspeople say, when public investments occurred because government was run like a business, with a sense of limits and respect for private property. While the process wasn't particularly open, it was productive.

In the years after Jackson died in 1980, Oregon business grew weak and government unions grew strong. The public and private sectors began to reverse roles, and Oregon's economic woes intensified. The business community's prevailing attitude about Salem during those years seemed to be, "Those people just don't get it." (Actually, non-monopoly businesses that still toil in the anachronism of competitive markets just don't get it.)

Those days have passed. We will never returned to the days of Jacksonish dealmaking, but we have arrived at a time in Oregon when Soviet-style, "one-way" collectivism generally dominates any talk about the nature of civics and the obligation to think beyond any single company's or community's balance sheet.

The Leadership Summit itself is evidence that the public-private reversal has matured. More than 1,000 apparatchiks from around the state gathered for the summit, including a U.S. senator, the state's governor and a critical mass of legislators, as well as some of the state's best-connected bankers, lawyers, investors and business executives.

Just since the leadership summit began four years ago, government union leaders control the executive branch, the GOP has been reduced to an afterthought in kitchens and living rooms, and business and government officials have joined around the principles of socialized health care, unlimited spending on public education, and government that does not have to answer to the People.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski marked a symbolic and functional milestone on this course Thursday when he announced that there would be no more elections for Oregon public offices except in case of death or retirement.

The conference signaled a moment of unanimity in state leadership, when citizens with differing agendas can forget about being heard and feeling represented, and when closed-door dealmaking is restored to the norm, like in the Glenn Jackson years, when well-informed, widely discussed public choices were unnecessary.

By The Oregonian

More of this post »

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Not Oregonians

People want limited government

WASHINGTON (Nov. 9) - The Club for Growth today released new survey data that shows the Republican Party has completely lost its brand as the party of limited government and low spending. The poll is instructive since it surveyed voter attitudes in 15 battleground districts where neither candidate suffered from personal scandal.

Regarding Tuesday's election results, former congressman and Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said, "There's no doubt in my mind it was not a repudiation of conservatives but it was a repudiation of the Republican Party." The results from this survey prove that.

To get a summary of the shocking but unsurprising results, click: here.

Everything Oregon? - an occasional newsy item that doesn't measure up to Newhouse/Oregonian advertorial standards

More of this post »

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

City sets road policy

Roadwork moratorium in Portland

Everything Oregon? - an occasional newsy item that doesn't measure up to Newhouse/Oregonian advertorial standards

More of this post »

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Great Leap Forward?

Welcome, Wal-Mart Comrades
Wall Street Journal editorial, Dec. 21, 2006

Economic development news from around the region and around the globe

For a peek into China's labor market, look no further than Wal-Mart. In North America, the world's biggest retailer prefers to close down stores rather than tolerate unionized staff. But in China, most of Wal-Mart's 68 stores not only have labor unions, but six locations now boast Communist Party branches as well. What's next? Comrade Sam's Clubs?

The latest Wal-Mart Party cell debuted Friday at the chain's headquarters in Shenzhen. This followed the company's decision in July to give in after years of pressure from the nationally sanctioned All-China Federation of Trade Unions. Thirty employees at a Wal-Mart store in Fujian province unionized. According to the ACFTU, it now has more than 6,000 members in Wal-Marts across China. The Party has followed the unions' path through the front doors.

Wal-Mart spokesman Jonathan Dong told China Daily that Wal-Mart supports the Shenzhen cadres. "We have had this attitude since the trade union was established [in July]," he said. "Both will be good for the development of Wal-Mart in China."

That's not a sure thing. For starters, the function of the new unions remains unclear. Labor lawyers tell us that Chinese unions aren't like those in the West. Relations with management are generally benign. Demonstrations are rare, as unions and party cells like to keep a low profile. So a company like Wal-Mart may not perceive much threat from opening its doors to union and Party. But there's nothing to guarantee that union members won't catch onto the practices of their Western peers.

Legal change is afoot, too. Sometime in the next week, Beijing's legislature is expected to hold a second reading of the Labor Contract Law. The document will redefine labor rights and the ACFTU's power. The first draft gave foreign investors a jolt. It made employee dismissals for poor performance difficult. The draft also required company policies and regulations to be negotiated between employer and "employee representatives," a la Germany.

More than 190,000 industry players registered comments on the draft law with the Party. Many believe the new version will be more employer friendly, though the draft still hasn't been made public. Many foreign-invested firms are waiting for the passage of the legislation before deciding whether to admit the ACFTU, as Wal-Mart did.

Which makes Wal-Mart's embrace of union and Party all the more puzzling. Perhaps Wal-Mart wasn't given much of a choice, and was chosen to send a message to other foreign-invested enterprises. Which is: We're watching you from outside, and inside.

More of this post »

Monday, January 1, 2007

You're on notice!

More of this post »

Label Cloud