Moving all the HOPE and CHANGE
Paulie Brading

Cramped together in the Volunteer Center at the Democratic Party of Oregon offices 49 people from every nook and cranny in the state gathered to begin the task of preparing for 2010. We have a wide open governor's race, local elections and the delicious task of redistricting to look foward to over the next two years. We have a legislature tasked to lead Oregon to a better future in the midst of a recession/depression.

Statewide we experienced a blue wave of new Democratic voters, non-affiliated voters, and Republicans who supported Barack Obama. It is clear to me that most people didn't vote for the Democratic Party of Oregon when they voted, they voted for their candidates. Yet, presidential candidates, statewide candidates and local candidates all turn to the local county Democratic organizations in the state for support. We are the legs on the streets, phoners and organizers who work to prode the rest of you to vote and to volunteer.

This is your chance to advise the county and state leaders.

How to we move all that HOPE and CHANGE into the county organizations? We want your suggestions and your criticism. Tell us what the DPO or your county organizations need to do to attract you. How do we reach out to Obama volunteers and Merkley volunteers?

Your turn.

December 7, 2008 | Paulie Brading | Comments (6 so far)
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Oregon's new U.S. Attorney: probably not Josh Marquis
Carla Axtman

One of President-elect Obama's privileges as the incoming Chief Executive is the appointment of U.S. Attorneys. Oregon's current U.S. Attorney is Karen Immergut, appointed by Bush and was Gordon Smith's personal selection for a federal judgeship. Immergut was subsequently rebuffed for the judicial appointment after it was disclosed that she'd interrogated Monica Lewinsky, via Kenneth Starr.

Obama is highly unlikely to continue to retain her services. Thus there's a line of Democratic attorneys in the wings for the job.

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis has expressed at least some interest in the position, but according to Wally Edge at Politickeror, is too out of step with Obama on the death penalty.

As it happens, Marquis has butted heads with at least one of Obama's close circle on the issue: Joe Biden.

In front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2000, Biden challenged Marquis on whether indigent death penalty defendants were all receiving adequate counsel. Biden looks to take Marquis to school on the topic, at least from what I've managed to view so far from that hearing (the total is four hours). Here's a clip:

Marquis may have also ruffled the feathers of another of Obama's advisors, Charles Ogletree. Ogletree spoke at an Oregon death penalty conference in 2002, which Marquis attended. Marquis later complained about the conference, and the scuttle is that Ogletree was annoyed.

Two strikes and yer out, Josh?

December 7, 2008 | Carla Axtman | Comments (13 so far)
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75 Years Since Prohibition's End
Jeff Alworth

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in the US. Oregonians, with our breweries, wineries, and microdistilleries, have special reason to celebrate.  We have as rich a market for home-grown hooch as anyplace on earth. Yet not everyone is marking the day with joy.  Maureen Ogle is a beer historian (I like to call her the Doris Kearns Goodwin of beer history), and she has an interestingly darker take about what Prohibition means.

But when repeal came in December 1933, lawmakers celebrated with an orgy of regulations designed less to generate revenue than to maximize the barriers between Americans and alcohol. States, counties, and municipalities burdened manufacturers and retailers with complicated licensing requirements. Lawmakers separated manufacturers from the public by inserting distributors between the two. A welter of laws restricted the hours and days that people could buy drink. New state-owned liquor stores oozed the "alcohol is evil" message. Bottles of gin and wine, and the clerks who sold them, stood inside grilled enclosures that resembled miniature jail cells for the evil spirits. Customers browsed a row of empty containers on the counter—samples of the inmates, slipped money through a small opening, and received the corrupting goods in exchange. Children who accompanied their parents on those trips got the intended message: This stuff is bad!

Put another way, repeal institutionalized the demonization of alcohol. Per capita alcohol consumption did not reach pre-Prohibition levels until the 1970s and then only because the sheer number of baby boomers temporarily elevated it. In the 1980s, the national appetite for drink drifted downward again, prodded in part by a new generation of dry agencies and activists, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the federally funded National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

She concludes that this attitude has resulted in an dysfunctional drinking culture that fosters unhealthy habits of consumption:

Still, squabbles over restrictions on retailing and wholesaling focus on who gets how much of the revenue, rather than on the values that originally shaped the constraints. It's a vicious, and lethal, cycle: As long as we remain addicted to demonization, we avoid serious discussion about those values. The longer we avoid that conversation, the longer we pass on the booze-is-bad message to our kids, who grow up to pass the message on to their kids. And as long as we teach children to fear rather than respect alcohol, we'll interrupt the silence with periodic spasms of hand-wringing and finger-pointing about campus drinking, binge drinking, underage drinking, and the like. But here's the truth: The "alcohol problem" is of our own creation. We've got the drinking culture we deserve.

Continue reading "75 Years Since Prohibition's End"

December 5, 2008 | Jeff Alworth | Comments (43 so far)
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Looking into Sizemore's "get out of jail" paperwork
Carla Axtman

Bill Sizemore's ass landed in jail this week because he hadn't filed his 2006-2007 tax forms for his American Tax Research Foundation. So to get out of the clink, Sizemore had to file the forms.

Here they are. (WARNING: VERY big PDF)

The understanding and deciphering of tax records/forms is absolutely NOT in my wheelhouse, so my analysis of any of this should be taken with heaps of salt. But here are a couple of things that stand out to my layperson's eyes right away:

On page 2 of the PDF, the net asset/fund balance at the end of the 07 calendar year is listed at $624,539. Yet the "fixed assets used to conduct charitable activities" number is only $9,682. I'm no charitable organization financial genius, but if you're taking in over $600k for the charity and spending just $10k on the actual work you said your charity is doing...that should raise some eyebrows. Where's all that money going?

Part of the likely answer to that question shows up on page 12 of the PDF, which shows payments of $117, 624 to CBS Consulting of Klamath Falls.

And who owns CBS Consulting? Cindy Sizemore, of course.

On page 13 of the PDF, the "no" box is checked next to the question, "During the year (2007), has the organization attempted to influence national, state or local legislation including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum? Does filing a shit-ton of ballot measures and using it for earned media for your sugar daddy's pet causes not count? Just asking.

Page 20 of the PDF shows a contributors list which includes the Parks Foundation, with a Klamath Falls address. The Parks Foundation listed at the Secretary of State's office lists Loren Parks as the registered agent--but the address listed there is in Aloha. Did Mr. Parks relocate his "Foundation" to K-Falls?

Finally, it while the organization doesn't seem to be doing much in terms of the supposed charity-type stuff it lists, its got a pretty nice stash of gold coins to the tune of almost $10k.

December 5, 2008 | Carla Axtman | Comments (26 so far)
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Stuff that gets my grouch on
Carla Axtman

I would have thought that the gorgeous, sunshiny day we experienced in the Portland area would have buoyed my mood today--but alas, Google alerts foiled that effort. It seems like every time I opened a news alert today, something was in it that pissed me off.

The first thing I saw this morning was yesterday's Blogtown post by Dan Savage, noting that 31% of black Democrats in America say homosexual relations are morally acceptable. This is roughly equivalent to the 30% of Republicans who agree. By contrast, 61% of nonblack Democrats who say homosexual relations are morally acceptable. (All of this via Gallup). So civil rights are cool and neato if you're black, but not if you're gay? Lovely.

Based on a 4-word quote in the New York Times, Glen Greenwald (who I generally find to be a very good blogger) tries to say that Wyden is loosening his moral compass on torture. Previously, Wyden had said that the Army Field Manual should be used to compel Bush not to torture people. But now that we have a President with an actual set of morals who is articulating against Bush's policy--Wyden says that he'd like to give Obama a chance to put together good policy--within the limits of the Geneva Convention--legal, humane and noncoercive. The full statement from Wyden's office in response to Greenwald is here. I don't agree with Wyden on every issue--and if he capitulates on torture then I'll gladly flay him right here on this blog. But up to now Wyden been excellent on this. It's just plain silly to go after Wyden based on lazy New York Times journalism. Greenwald should know better.

The culture wars always seem to get a rekindling around Christmas--and it always irritates the snot out of me. Fortunately my friend David Goldstein of HASeattle was on Bill O'Reilly this week to wish him a Merry War on Christmas:

Speaking of the culture wars, Chuck Currie is doing the yeoman's work of shoving back against an elder at the New Hope Church in Clackamas. New Hope Teaching Elder Greg Harris sent out a letter to clergy around the area, hoping to stoke outrage via a film called "Come What May", an anti-choice film. Read the Harris letter and Currie's response to it here.

Finally, the Oregon House Republican's foundering is just not going away. They sent out a lame and whiny press release, pissing and moaning about not enough budget cuts in Kulongoski's budget proposal. Yet they're strangely silent on Guv K's request from today to cut the current budget by 5 percent.

In closing, to honor all of this irritating stuff that's bugged the hell out of me today, I give you Oscar the Grouch (in a duet on Sesame Street with James Taylor). It just seems to fit.

December 4, 2008 | Carla Axtman | Comments (79 so far)
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The Electors Vote
in the news

There's just one vote remaining in the presidential election--and you can watch it in Salem on December 15th.

The seven Oregonians who really and truly vote for president of the United States will gather at noon on Monday Dec. 15 in the Oregon Senate Chambers to formally cast their ballots.

The seven are Oregon’s Electoral College delegation, selected for the task when a majority of Oregon voters cast their ballots for Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 elections. They each signed pledges, as required by state law, to vote for their party’s candidate.

The process is simple. Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, the state’s chief elections officer, will preside over the meeting. Bradbury, who leaves office in January, will officiate over the gathering for his third and final time.

The seven electors then fill out their ballots, which are signed, sealed, certified and sent to the vice president, the archivist of the United States and other designated federal and state officials.

Oregon’s presidential electors this year are: Michael J. Bohan, Beaverton, Shirley A. Cairns, Oakland, Frank James Dixon, Portland, Bernard Gorter, Milwaukie, John C. McColgan, Joseph, RP Joe Smith, Portland, Meredith Wood Smith, Portland. The event is open to the public but seating in the Oregon Senate gallery is limited.


December 4, 2008 | in the news | Comments (5 so far)
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Federal Estate Tax - 1 in 250 and Shrinking
Chuck Sheketoff

Only a handful of Oregonians are subject to the federal estate tax, and their ranks will shrink further next year, according to a new study by Citizens for Tax Justice.

Only 111 Oregon estates paid the federal tax in 2007, according to the new analysis of Internal Revenue Service data. The estate tax is typically paid in the year following the death, and preliminary data from the state’s Public Health Division shows that there were 30,415 deaths in Oregon in 2006.

Thus, just four out of every 1,000 deaths in Oregon triggered the federal estate tax, according to the Washington, D.C.-based research institute. The ratio was 13 per 1,000 in 2000, before cuts to the estate tax were enacted in 2001 under the Bush Administration.

If you attended 250 funerals in Oregon in 2006, odds are only one estate would have been subject to the federal tax. With its generous exemptions, the federal estate tax affects no one but the extremely wealthy, and even many of them avoid it with tax planning and charitable giving.

The amount of assets in an estate that are exempt from the federal estate tax has grown under the Bush Administration’s tax cut scheme passed in 2001. That law increased the exemption to $2 million per spouse, $4 million per couple, in 2006 and will increase it again, to $3.5 million per spouse, $7 million per couple, in 2009. Citizens for Tax Justice notes that the 2009 increase in the exemption level means fewer estates will be subject to the tax.

Under 2001 law, the federal estate tax will disappear entirely in 2010 for one year. If Congress does nothing, in 2011 the estate tax exemption will revert to $1 million, the level it would have been at if the 2001 law had not been passed.

People have joked that "2010 is the year we throw mama from the train." But it’s more accurate to call it "the year we throw what’s left of tax fairness out the window."

The sunset at the end of 2010 and return to the law that existed before the 2001 changes are forcing the hand of Congress to act soon. I'm optimistic that Congress will settle the estate tax debate in 2009. I’ve yet to meet someone who truly believes the 2010 repeal and the 2011 return to earlier tax levels are appropriate.

Oregon’s congressional delegation will need to step up and help protect the estate tax in 2009. With routine estate planning, couples with more than $7 million in assets can still avoid paying much or all of the federal estate tax upon death. The $7 million per couple exemption is generous enough, and Congress should go no further. It would be costly, unfair and unwise to weaken the federal estate tax to the point that even fewer pay the tax, and those who do pay contribute less than they would under the terms set for 2009.

Given the challenges now facing our country that require substantial new investments, this new report from CTJ makes the case for Congress to maintain this important revenue source that applies only to extremely wealthy households.

America’s wealthiest individual, Warren Buffett, also thinks Congress should maintain a healthy estate tax. Testifying before a congressional committee last year, Buffett said, “Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward a plutocracy.”

The federal estate tax was created nearly 100 years ago to avoid creating dynastic wealth that squelches opportunity for most Americans. Warren Buffett understands the role of the estate tax, and so should Oregon’s congressional delegation.

Ocpp_final_1 Chuck Sheketoff is the executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.   You can sign up to receive email notification of OCPP materials at

December 4, 2008 | Chuck Sheketoff | Comments (10 so far)
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Kitzhaber says he's "doubtful" for Interior Secretary.
guest column

By Patch Adam Perryman of Milwaukie, Oregon. Patch is a novice writer, health care professional and native Oregonian with rural roots.

In an interview conducted by the Associated Press former Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber, dismissed rumors by admitting that he had not been asked to fill out any of the lengthy paperwork that accompanies the vetting process to fill cabinet posts.

Gov. Kizthaber stated, "I think people back there know that I wouldn't be willing to set up permanent residence in Washington because of my son. I would expect that's a deal breaker for them."

Despite Mr. Kitzhaber's lengthy list of accomplishments and credentials (two-term Oregon Governor, State legislator, emergency room physician, avid rafter and family man) which could add to the post of Interior Secretary, his rationale of dismissal makes perfect sense. It also adds credibility to his potential nod to other positions should they come to be offered.

Since Election Night, theories of who and what, where and when on Mr. Obama's cabinet positions and highly-visible appointments have been rampant -- not least of which were the inclusion of many Oregon supporters that endorsed then-Senator Obama in the early days of the campaign. These highly sought-after Cabinet positions become even more attractive given this time of enormous opportunity and wild flux in our nation's social, political and economic systems. That the former Governor was even considered in the top rung of the rumor mill is quite the accomplishment unto itself.

So we get to keep the Gentleman, for a while longer, until comments begin anew as to his next title: Governor? Surgeon General? HHS Council? Clearly doubts can be overcome given the proper assurances for family and public good.

December 4, 2008 | guest column | Comments (13 so far)
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Sizemore: A roundup of the good stuff
Carla Axtman

Billsizemoreperpwalkportlandmercury(Photo: Matt Davis, Portland Mercury)

Unless you've been living under a rock the last couple of days, you probably know that Oregon's very own racketeer ballot initiative wingnut Bill Sizemore spent some time this week on the business end of the Multnomah County jail system.

Sizemore was released yesterday and was joined by his wife. The two of them offered some especially choice quotes for Oregonian reporter Ed Walsh:

He called his 24-hour detention "political," and his wife described him as "a political prisoner." Sizemore also chided Multnomah County Circuit Judge Janice R. Wilson, who on Monday held Sizemore in contempt of court for a fourth time and ordered him jailed until he signed and filed the tax forms as required by an earlier court injunction.

I think its more accurate to say that Bill Sizemore has been holding us as his political prisoners..and this is might very well be our clemency.

"It's a pretty hopeless life that those people are living," he said of his fellow inmates. "I'm actually thankful that I got a chance to meet some of them and see what their life is like. I walked out of here with a sense that there are some lost souls out there that really need some attention and some help that the current system is failing to give them."

(So will Sizemore now introduce a measure to raise taxes in order to rehabilitate prisoners.....? Not a great way to make a buck..and continue to ingratiate yourself with the antitax-at-all-costs folks, eh?)

And the best quote of all...

Waiting for her husband's release, Cindy Sizemore approached a group of reporters and TV photographers in the lobby of the Justice Center.

"Are you guys here to interview the political prisoner?" she asked. "That's what he is, a political prisoner. We're in the communist town of Portland."

Yeah...justice is communism. I'll bet they voted for Bush both times too. Whatev, as my teenager would say.

The judgment itself is a 46 page jewel: extremely well-written and thorough, which you can find here.

And finally, for a dish of the best analysis on Sizemore's comeuppance, Becky Miller at Preemptive Karma serves it up. If you haven't made the time to read Becky's must-read take, its well worth it. Becky was once Sizemore's right-hand woman. She testified against him in 2000 during the racketeering lawsuit. I've had several very long meetings with Becky. She is an encyclopedia on the mess Sizemore has made for himself--and nobody has more right to feel vindicated than Becky. Good for her.

Note: Photo by Matt Davis, Portland Mercury

December 3, 2008 | Carla Axtman | Comments (22 so far)
Permalink: Sizemore: A roundup of the good stuff

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F-you, you grinning idiot.
T.A. Barnhart

Anyone who bicycles on a regular basis has experienced this: You're cut off, or driven at, by a car that appears not to see you until the last moment. Suddenly, the driver spots you and, with a sheepish grin, waves. "Sorry."

And continues on their merry way.

There are two ways you can take these events. One, the driver for damn sure did see you but, feeling a bit guilty for being an asshole, pretends it was a mistake. "Sorry! My bad (not really, heh heh)."

And continues on their merry way.

The other is that they really did not see you until the last moment and the sheepish grin is genuine. "Sorry. Wow that was close. My bad."

And continues on their merry way.

I much prefer the first. Someone being an asshole at least has me in sight and is not likely to actually make guacamole of me. The person who truly does not see me is the real danger; I ride in fear of those morons every time I pedal out of my driveway.

But that's not what has me pissed off. It's the stupid wave-and-grin as if that makes any damn difference. Guess what, sunshine? To quote Agent K, it means exactly dick. Nothing is going to make me forget that you aimed your car at me or cut me off with no apparent understanding that your one-ton lump of plastic, steel and cheap aluminum could have pulverized me with just the tiniest slip of your tiny brain. Waving with that shit-eating grin only tells me you are completely oblivious to the gross incompetence you just demonstrated.

And then you drive away as if a smile and a cheery wave as if that makes it all better? Screw you, Magoo. It makes it far worse.

Continue reading "F-you, you grinning idiot. "

December 3, 2008 | T.A. Barnhart | Comments (80 so far)
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The Whole Foods boycott starts now
Leslie Carlson

I'm spitting mad about Whole Foods' latest, thuggish attempt to mess with Portland food retailer New Seasons. You may have read the Oregonian story or New Seasons' CEO Brian Rohter's post about the subpoena asking for proprietary and confidential business information. The subpoena sent to New Seasons is part of a screwed-up merger that Whole Foods has been trying to execute with rival Wild Oats for the past 18 months.

Apparently, Whole Foods thinks that New Seasons' weekly sales figures, internal emails, marketing strategies and studies about where to open stores are integral to proving their case that the merger won't create a monopoly. They promise that the information won't go beyond their lawyers, but this is the second time that Whole Foods has tried to get confidential information out of New Seasons. Last year, Whole Foods tried to get the same information and promised that only lawyers, consultants and top management would take a peek.

I know Portland is a small city, but we're not complete idiots. This looks to me like a brazen attempt to get a leg up on New Seasons and maybe even put them out of business.

I'd rather shop at New Seasons any day, and in that I think I'm not alone. New Seasons is locally-owned and carries a wide variety of products from our regional foodshed. Whole Foods can't match their friendliness nor their local selection. I have tremendous brand loyalty to New Seasons (OK, it helps that their 7 Corners store is only a few blocks from my house, but still...) In many years of shopping there, I can't remember ever having a bad experience.

Whole Foods, on the other hand, appears to be a pretty wacky--maybe even unethical--company. You may remember last year, when CEO John Mackay got caught extolling the virtues of his own stock on a Yahoo message board under the pseudonym "Rahodeb." It wasn't his brightest moment.

In the past, I have occasionally stopped into Whole Foods. That ends today. Threaten my favorite locallly-owned grocery store, and I promise to never darken your door again.

December 3, 2008 | Leslie Carlson | Comments (45 so far)
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Diane Rosenbaum: The minimum wage is good for Oregon

Two weeks ago, the Oregonian published an editorial by Dave Lister - in which he slammed Oregon's minimum wage.

Minimum-wage jobs in the past were available for students who were interested in making some money to help with their expenses, or for stay-at-home moms who wanted to supplement the family budget by working a few hours a day while the kids were at school. Minimum-wage jobs were the conduit for young people just entering the work force. Through such jobs, they could gain experience and expand their resume. And the employer offering the jobs wasn't subjected to great risk in the case of an employee who didn't work out.

Is it really realistic to pay a high-schooler scooping ice cream or a sign twirler outside of the local mattress emporium $8.40 per hour?

On Monday, Senator-elect Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland) responded with an editorial published on the Oregonian's blog. Rosenbaum was the chief petitioner on Measure 25 in 2002, which established the inflation-adjusted minimum wage in Oregon.

Lister's piece is filled with factual errors and anecdotal myths as he tries to prove the case that Oregon's minimum wage -- approved by voters in 2002 to adjust annually for increases in the cost of living -- has been a drain on Oregon's economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. ...

Perhaps Lister's most egregious error is his stereotype of minimum-wage workers. It must have been in the 1960s when Lister last entered a fast food restaurant if he thinks minimum-wage jobs are filled by "stay-at-home moms" or "a high-schooler scooping ice cream."

Stay-at-home moms and teenagers? There are 143,000 Oregonians working at minimum wage jobs who are struggling to support themselves and their families. It's true that 59 percent of these workers are women, 79 percent are adults, and that many have children. Today's mom is an equal partner in paying the bills, often working multiple minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. Those wages are going right into the family coffers to pay for food, medicine, rent and utilities.

Especially in these tough times, minimum-wage jobs are the backbone of our economy. These workers represent 7.5 percent of Oregon's workforce, and they perform some of the most difficult and important jobs in Oregon. In addition to growing and serving our food, they also care for our kids in child care centers and our elderly parents in nursing homes.

As Rosenbaum notes, Oregon's minimum wage is hardly generous:

Lister is right about one thing, though. The minimum wage is not a living wage. Even with the increase in January, a full-time worker at minimum wage will earn only $336 a week -- that's barely $1,400 a month before taxes. That's hardly a living wage and barely a subsistence wage in today's economy. Yet 143,000 hard-working Oregonians are trying to support themselves and their families on this amount.

Oregon voters were right when they adopted this sensible economic strategy. Nine other states have followed our example and passed laws that provide annual cost-of-living adjustments, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Vermont and Washington. We should take pride in our minimum-wage law that stands for the principle that no one who works full time should be forced to live in poverty.


December 3, 2008 | elsewhere | Comments (33 so far)
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