Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


A coworker is on vacation this week, so I'm doing his job along with mine. As such, posting has been (and will be) light -- and perhaps non-existent.

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Oooh, deja vu!

I always wanted to be cute...

What Veggie Tales character are you?

Thanks to Brian for the quiz.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bradbury's a partisan hack, but the judiciary is fair. No, really...

Today's Oregonian editorializes about the conflict of partisanship in the job of Oregon's secretary of state, Bill Bradbury, particularly the appearances of partisanship in the recent hubbub over Mary Starrett's place on the Fall ballot. The editorial asks if Bradbury's decision to keep Starrett on the ballot -- which would certainly help Democrat Ted Kulongoski because Starrett will take votes from Republican Ron Saxton -- is a political decision.

The answer? There's no way, short of an admission by Bradbury, to know. In the process of exploring this question, however, the editorial makes one key admission and one key omission.

The key admission was admitting that Bradbury -- a left-wing Democrat who chaired Howard Dean's 2004 Oregon campaign -- has used his office to deliberately help Democrats and hurt Republicans, which was no more apparent than in the 2000 redistricting process:
Republicans have been furious at Bradbury ever since he sketched an overtly partisan redistricting map that helped Democrats reclaim the state Senate.
Read that again. It didn't say Republicans "accused" Bradbury of sketching such a map; it said he dunnit, and that it was done to help his party take control of the state Senate. Thanks to the Oregonian for confirming what the rest of us have been saying for six years.

The key omission comes when the O laughably ignores its own evidence to proclaim the independence of the judiciary.

In exploring the best way to run elections in Oregon, the O notes that "Oregon could make its secretary of state a nonpartisan job, but whoever won the post would presumably still have a political background, and political leanings."

In other words, making the position nonpartisan doesn't change the politics, it just tries to hide them a little better.

But in the very next next paragraph, the O concludes (emphasis mine):
Attorney Kelly Clark, a former Republican legislator who filed the election complaint for his clients, said he may ask a judge to examine Bradbury's decision. At least there is one place in Oregon to go in search of a nonpartisan elections ruling.
My question is, how come a nonpartisan secretary of state would "presumably still have a political background, and political leanings" that could color his or her judgment, but a nonpartisan judge -- who presumably also has a political background and political leanings -- is believed when he says he can ignore those leanings and issue a nonpartisan judgment?

Much like a reporter who says he doesn't have biases, a judge who claims he can issue a ruling without bias is a judge who should be watched very carefully. Just like Bill Bradbury.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto demoted to dwarf status


A study in contrasts

Let's look at different headlines in different newspapers for the same issue -- a court ruling that allows dredging in the Columbia River:

From The Oregonian:
Court gives go ahead for dredging
From the Corvallis Gazette-Times, running the Associated Press version:
Appeals court refuses to block dredging of Columbia River
From Oregon Public Broadcasting:
Court Refuses To Halt Columbia Dredging
And then there's Reuters, which is off in its own little world:
U.S. court OKs study on deepening Columbia River
The point? Does it sound to you as if the people who wrote the AP and OPB headlines are a little disappointed in the ruling? Kudos to the Oregonian headline writer -- that headline is the least judgmental of the bunch.

Brave man

Chris Muir, aka Mr. Day by Day Cartoon, has waded into (perhaps) our country's most enduring social disagreement.

This is gonna be good.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mary Starrett's apology

RINO Watch posted an apology from Mary Starrett this morning, concerning Starrett's efforts to discredit Kelly Clark. I must admit I wasn't crazy about her playing the gender card or comparing the major parties to the mob (I don't recall hearing about any Kulongoski or Saxton hit squads, so claiming "they will stop at nothing" is mostly empty rhetoric). That said, I'll only add one other thing:

Thank you, Mary.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Is anyone down there? United States Marines!"

On the morning of September 11, 2001, an unknown United States Marine ran toward the World Trade Center as it collapsed, and spent days climbing dangerous wreckage with a fellow Marine to find any living survivors. He helped locate and rescue two New York policemen trapped under 20 feet of concrete, the story of which you can see in the new Oliver Stone movie, World Trade Center.

Then, without telling anyone who he was, he vanished.

Five years later, after watching a commercial for the movie and seeing himself, he's come forward to identify himself. Just from his actions on Sept. 11, we knew he was a brave man and a testament to the good of America. Now, we know a little more about him, and there's even more to admire.

God bless Sgt. Jason Thomas.

Quote of the Day: Polygamy in the GOP primaries?

Today's quote of the day comes from Kate O'Beirne, writing on NRO's The Corner:
The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Governor Mitt Romney's great-grandfather had multiple wives and two great-great grandfathers had 10 wives each. The article allows that Romney "is a confirmed monogamist of nearly four decades and polygamy has been absent from his family going back two generations." While some might note the upside of generously sharing those handsome Romney genes in the past, current history is noteworthy. Should Mitt Romney join a 2008 race that included John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and George Allen, the only guy in the GOP field with only one wife would be the Morman.

Someone's been reading my notes

After reading Mary Starrett's rant over at RINO, I was going to make time this weekend to criticize her. I was going to say:
  • The efforts to remove her from the ballot are, of course, petty;
  • Dredging up Kelly Clark's history is a lame attempt at character assassination. Clark's crime was awful, but he was caught and punished; and this has nothing to do with removing Mary Starrett from the ballot. It's Clintonian politics -- ignore the issue and demonize the messenger;
  • Throwing Packwood and Goldschmidt into the argument makes Starrett look no better than Ron Saxton in his attack on Loren Parks, or Parks in his attempt to link Saxton to Goldschmidt. The implication that this was the latest chapter in the history of three womanizers makes Starrett look desperate;
  • Overall, the response shows a remarkable lack of class from a woman asking voters for a four-year trip to Mahonia Hall.
And then Coyote over at Northwest Republican beat me to it.

I'd just add one thing: a headline in today's Corvallis Gazette-Times said that "Starrett doesn’t mind ‘spoiler’ tag." My translation of that headline:
Despite the fact that Oregon Republicans haven't had gubernatorial leadership in two decades, and despite the fact that Ron Saxton won the Republican primary by 12 percentage points in a field of eight candidates, I think Oregon Republicans are too stupid to make a good choice. Saxton is too ideologically impure. I will probably contribute to tipping the election in favor of Ted Kulongoski, but I don't care. I and my Constitution Party members are smarter than you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bumper stickers: the perfect complement

Seen on a car down the street from me, two bumper stickers:

Bumper Sticker A:
Keep Wal-Mart Out!
Bumper Sticker B:
Proud member of the Intellectual Elite
I couldn't have made up a better story if I'd tried...

National Review on the Oregon governor's race

In today's NRO, writer John Hood provides a nationwide roundup of the fall's races for governor. Here's what he has to say about Oregon:
A GOP opportunity in the Pacific Northwest? The national red-blue dichotomy leads many to overlook the competitiveness of Washington and Oregon politics at the state level, which is evidenced by Republican Dino Rossi’s narrow “loss” for governor in 2004 and Democratic incumbent Ted Kulongoski’s vulnerability in this year’s Oregon gubernatorial race. After posting a less-than-stellar performance in the Democratic primary, Kulongoski still has a lead over Republican nominee Ron Saxton in most polls, but the governor’s support is only in the low to mid 40s. Saxton, however, ruptured party unity when he came out against a spending-cap initiative on the November ballot that Oregon Republican activists have endorsed. This may confuse voters on the tax issue, which Saxton has tried to use against Kulongoski by criticizing the governor’s support of a failed 2004 tax-hike measure and talk of creating a state sales tax.
I'm not so sure about "ruptured party unity" over the spending limit (though I'd like to hear from Saxton why he plans to vote against the ballot measure) but it's interesting nonetheless.

Quote of the Day: Tim Hibbits on voting

From KATU's website, Portland's premier pollster is asked his opinion on how to improve voter turnout. Here's part of his answer, which I love:
I see that Arizona is toying with the idea of giving everyone who votes a lottery ticket. What an embarrassment. If we have to induce people to vote by offering them a chance to win money, then I think we are in even deeper trouble than I thought.

Abortion rights for "women"

From today's Oregonian, we learn where Oregon's gubernatorial candidates stand on various measures on the fall ballot. Among these is Measure 43, which would require parental notification before a minor child could have an abortion.

In the story, it says Republican Ron Saxton supports the measure. As for Democrat incumbent Ted Kulongoski?
Kulongoski opposes the measure as an abridgment of a woman's unfettered right to have an abortion.
That's a funny position to take, considering we're not talking about "women." We're talking about girls -- 15-, 16- and 17-year-old girls.

If you think this distinction is splitting hairs, go walk the halls of your nearest high school and tell me how many girls you can find that qualify as "women." Tell me how you explain to her parents that they shouldn't know -- ahead of time -- about their daughter's elective surgery.

And that's not even counting the fact that the United States Supreme Court has ruled there is no such thing as an "unfettered right to have an abortion." Restrictions like parental notification, the Court said, are perfectly legal and appropriate.

I'm back!

My computer is fixed, and I'm back among the internet-connected.

If you're a Macintosh user in the Portland area, let me heartily recommend MacForce in the industrial southeast. They are far more knowledgeable, helpful and cool than some of the other Mac stores in town, and are well worth the drive from wherever you live. My house is within spitting distance of perhaps the area's biggest Mac store, but I will not set foot in there again (e-mail me, and I'll explain).

I drive across the bridge to MacForce anytime I need something, and I recommend you do the same. Ask for Todd.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


An elected official in New Jersey has ethics issues? How could that be?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The world is coming to an end!

OK, not really, but my computer may be on death's door. I'll find out in a couple of days. In the meantime, blogging will be light.

I know that breaks your heart...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

What the heck is drum corps?

If you don't know, go here to read a little about it.

(Short description: roughly 65 horn players, 30 drummers and 30 color guard running and dancing their butts off, playing incredibly difficult music, and all while running -- marching, yes, but also running -- in precision around a football field for 10 straight minutes. Oh, and they're all under the age of 22.)

It was my consuming passion for four summers in my youth, and provided some of the best experiences of my life -- good friends, hard work, great (non-material) rewards, and a bus-level view of our country that I'll never get any other way.

Congrats to the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps of Rosemont, Illinois, which last night in Madison, Wisconsin won its seventh national championship in 15 years. (The Cavvies are one of only two all-male corps left in the world of drum corps, along with the Madison Scouts of Wisconsin.)

Next year, the championships will come to the West Coast for the first time in modern drum corps history . . . and for what sounds like the only time for at least a decade. Watch your TV listings for the championship re-broadcast, which usually happens on a Saturday night in September; it was on PBS for years, but recently moved to ESPN2. And if you get a chance next year, it's worth attending the local show, which is sponsored by a local corps at Hillsboro Stadium around the first weekend of July.

(Cavaliers photo by David Rice, Drum Corps World)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A nice Saturday ride

When we were at the Washington County Fair a couple of weeks ago, I got a free map (thanks, Metro!) showing all the bike-friendly roads in Washington County. One of them caught my eye: the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

The trail used to be an old railway that carried lumber in the 1920s, but was abandoned in the '70s and the state took ownership in 1990.

I found an actual PDF map for the trail on the Oregon Parks website, and we scoped out our plan. Considering I would be pulling the bike trailer with the little tyke inside, we had no intention of riding the entire 21-mile length. We would start in Vernonia and ride down the trail to the Beaver Creek Trailhead (a distance of roughly 4.5 miles), which the map said had picnic facilities and restrooms. There, we'd eat the lunch we packed and head back to the starting point.

So last weekend, my family loaded the bikes onto the car and made the drive to Vernonia. Highway 47 is a beautiful, somewhat curvy drive north from Highway 26. It's a longer drive than we realized, even from the west side of Portland, but as you drive north, you can see two of the old railway trestles, as well as lots of rural countryside. (Accompanying photo of the Buxton Trestle found on the website of William L. Sullivan. I doubt if the trestle is actually accessible, despite the pedestrian in the photo.)

Little did we know that the Vernonia Friendship Jamboree is scheduled for the first weekend of August. We got to Vernonia and found that every human being -- not to mention every hot motorcycle and vintage car -- in the nearest three counties had gathered in this sleepy town that is usually home to less than 3,000 people.

After crawling through town at slower than pedestrian pace, we found that the Banks-Vernonia Trail head (Anderson Park) was also the epicenter of the Jamboree, and it was closed to vehicles. Also, there was no parking to be had. So, we decided to crawl back through town and drive to the Beaver Creek Trailhead, where we'd have lunch before hitting the trail. From there, we could follow the trail south until we ran out of pavement (about three miles), then turn back.

"Picnic facilities" turned out to be a somewhat generous description -- it meant there was one picnic table -- but we had no human competition for the table and we wolfed down lunch. As we got on the bikes, we met a couple coming from the direction we were heading, and one said to the other, "We got down here a lot faster than we did going the other direction. It must be a little bit uphill."

And they were right. It was a steady, but not steep, uphill climb to the end of the pavement (the state parks department plans to have the whole trail paved by sometime next year). The trail parallels Highway 47, so there is some highway noise, though that was probably louder than usual due to the jamboree up the road. But you rarely see the highway. Occasionally you'll see a farm or a road (be prepared to drive around roadblocks intended to keep the trail free of motor vehicles), and there are a couple of areas that have been clearcut in recent history. But there's also some lush forest, and a little bit of wildlife (nothing big -- we saw a squirrel, a small snake sunning itself on the pavement, and lots of birds).

The pavement runs out at milepost 7, so we stopped there and turned back, but I'm guessing that the prettiest part of the trail is the unpaved section, which runs for about eight miles beyond that point. That section, according to the map, crosses five rivers, and it's also the only section that doesn't follow the highway. That part is most easily accessible from the Buxton Trailhead, which is no more than a couple of miles north of the Sunset Highway.

Once we turned back, the incline worked to our advantage, and the trip back was an easy glide. We are not regular bicyclists, but we ended up going about eight miles for the day and none of us -- including our 8-year-old -- had any trouble with the ride.

Overall it was a very nice day, and I think the trail will be exceptionally beautiful once the fall leaves start changing color. We ran into no more than 10 people the entire day, so it's a very peaceful ride other than the occasional vehicle noise. If you're looking for something to do on a sunny day, this isn't a bad option.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I'll never vote for him in a million years

(Early warning: this is long, and will probably ramble a bit. You've been warned...)

OK, now a little quiz, based on the following statement:
I won't vote for him in the primary, and if he somehow wins the primary, I won't support him in the general election. He's not a real Republican. His history shows little consistency on issues important to Republicans, and he's even supported Democrats!

Does this statement refer to:
A) Ron Saxton
B) Dave Frohnmeyer
C) John McCain
D) Rudy Guiliani

For some, the answer would be E) All of the Above. For me, the answer is F) None of the Above.

Why am I saying this? Let me explain with a bit of history. During Oregon's recent GOP primary, some of the state's conservatives (myself included) declined to support Ron Saxton for governor. He had too many question marks, and too much history of questionable decisions and positions.

Saxton won that primary, of course, and will take on incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski in November. Despite Saxton's victory in the primary, however, some of those same conservatives have made it clear they have no intention of supporting Saxton now that he's the GOP nominee.

He's not a conservative. He's not even a Republican. He's supported Democrats. He's supported tax increases. He's, he's, he's John Kitzhaber in disguise!

I can understand that line of thinking, because there is some truth to many of the charges. Well, maybe not the Kitzhaber part...

But in explaining why some won't support Saxton, there's another line of thinking that I can't understand, and it goes something like this: Ron Saxton is a RINO, and his true nature will be revealed once he gets into office. If he wins, it will set the state GOP back by decades in its efforts to get a real Republican into Mahonia Hall.

I guess I just don't see that as likely. Frankly, I don't see it in our society as a whole. If Saxton wins and is revealed to be squishy, that may cost him any chance at reelection. Voters may support his opponent because of dissatisfaction over his leadership. But four years later, a different Republican will run, the voters will have forgotten about Ron Saxton, and the state will make its decision based on who it sees on that ballot.

Let's assume again that Saxton wins and proves to be squishy. The same line of thinking I quoted above (setting the state GOP back by decades) would suggest that Saxton will fail miserably in his reelection attempt. However, I even have a hard time buying that. For every conservative who might be ticked at Saxton's squishiness, there's another independent voter who will be pleasantly surprised that Saxton isn't fighting to lead the Republican Theocracy of Oregon.

Yes, if he wins (once or twice), it will be that much longer before a "real" Republican might be elected. But tell me -- how many "real" Republicans have been elected to statewide office in Oregon in your lifetime? Why reject an opportunity for a different direction, even if it's not exactly the direction you would choose?

And again, most people will vote based on who's on the ballot. They will compare the candidates, their records and their rhetoric, and vote accordingly.

Oh, that reminds me of a related thought that I can't grasp: I'd rather vote for a Democrat than a squishy Republican, because at least then I know what I'm getting.

I simply don't know what to say to that. I would argue that a marginal Republican is still better than a consistent liberal, because at least you might get some issues to fall your way. I would also argue that aiming for ideological purity is a futile ambition. (Real life example: who would you rather have in the U.S. Senate: Gordon Smith, or his 2002 opponent, Bill Bradbury? Or perhaps 1996 opponent Tom Bruggere?)

Maybe I'm just projecting what I think should happen onto the state. I think people should vote in every election, and even if they aren't jumping up and down about a candidate, they should pick the one that most closely matches their political values. Not what the previous candidate of the same party did. Not based on the national political situation. Should. I know that's unrealistic in a state where two-thirds of voters didn't bother to participate in a mail-in primary election.

Looking at it on a national scale, the United States will vote for a new president in two years. Even if our nation selects the Democratic candidate because of its weariness over the current administration, the 2012 campaign will be waged on the ideas of the Democratic administration vs. the Republican challenger. Not over what George W. Bush did in the previous decade. (I realize it's not quite that simple, as issues raised during Bush's presidency will be discussed long after he's gone; but I do feel that, by and large, the debate will be on how the 2012 candidates address those issues, not what Bush did with them.)

While I respect much of what George W. Bush has done as president, I'm certainly not enamored of his presidency as a whole, particularly his spending habits. But does that dissatisfaction mean I would consider supporting a Democrat in the next election? Get real.

I will not vote for John McCain in the primary, but if he somehow earns the presidential nomination, I will (barring something unforeseen) vote for him in the general election. Why? Because the alternative -- whoever it is -- will be less desireable. Regardless of whether it be Hillary Clinton or John Kerry or Al Gore or whomever, there is no one on the Democratic side of the aisle who is a better choice than McCain.

I know, I know . . . McCain foisted campaign finance reform upon us (leading to the domination of 527s in the last election), held several judicial nominees hostage with the Gang of 14, and has not been the favorite person for the Immigration Right.

But multiply that many times over with a Democrat in the White House.

Now, let's pretend that McCain not only wins the GOP nomination but the presidency as well. And let's assume that he's as squishy a president as he has been a senator. Will I be thrilled with him? Will I hope for "four more years"? Almost certainly not. But if he runs for reelection, barring a challenge from a Zell Miller Democrat, I will vote for him again. Just as I did for Bush in 2004. (And besides, a Zell Miller Democrat will never escape the Democratic primaries.) I will vote for him because the Democratic Party has shown itself (evident most recently in Connecticut) to be firmly in the grasp of the loony left, and a candidate of the loony left will be dangerous to America.

So a few months from now in Oregon, we will vote for a governor. If Ron Saxton wins, I hope he turns out to be a solid conservative. If he doesn't, there is nothing in my wildest nightmares that makes me think any Democrat will be preferable. And in 2010, barring the unimaginable (a successful primary challenge, a conservative Democrat, or a decision not to seek reelection), I will vote for him again. If he loses to a Democrat, the state will look at the incumbent in 2014 and compare him (or her) to the Republican challenger, and make a decision based on the candidates. Not what Ron Saxton did in the previous decade.

And I would argue that those who vote against Saxton (actively or passively) because he's not sufficiently pure, in a state where the last Republican governor left office while Ronald Reagan was still president, are shooting themselves in the foot.

Again, maybe I'm projecting unreasonable expectations, but that's how I see it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The loony left owns the Democratic Party

At least they think they do, after Ned Lamont's victory over Joe Lieberman last night.

If you doubt it, read Michael Moore's missile aimed at the heart of the Democrats (emphasis mine):
Let the resounding defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman send a cold shiver down the spine of every Democrat who supported the invasion of Iraq and who continues to support, in any way, this senseless, immoral, unwinnable war. Make no mistake about it: We, the majority of Americans, want this war ended — and we will actively work to defeat each and every one of you who does not support an immediate end to this war.

Nearly every Democrat set to run for president in 2008 is responsible for this war. They voted for it or they supported it. That single, stupid decision has cost us 2,592 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. Lieberman and Company made a colossal mistake — and we are going to make sure they pay for that mistake. Payback time started last night.

I realize that there are those like Kerry and Edwards who have now changed their position and are strongly anti-war. Perhaps that switch will be enough for some to support them. For others, like me — while I'm glad they've seen the light — their massive error in judgment is, sadly, proof that they are not fit for the job. They sided with Bush, and for that, they may never enter the promised land.

To Hillary, our first best hope for a woman to become president, I cannot for the life of me figure out why you continue to support Bush and his war. I'm sure someone has advised you that a woman can't be elected unless she proves she can kick ass just as crazy as any man. I'm here to tell you that you will never make it through the Democratic primaries unless you start now by strongly opposing the war. It is your only hope. You and Joe have been Bush's biggest Democratic supporters of the war. Last night's voter revolt took place just a few miles from your home in Chappaqua. Did you hear the noise? Can you read the writing on the wall?

To every Democratic Senator and Congressman who continues to back Bush's War, allow me to inform you that your days in elective office are now numbered. Myself and tens of millions of citizens are going to work hard to actively remove you from any position of power.

If you don't believe us, give Joe a call.
The party of Michael Moore has no desire to compromise. After watching almost two dozen favored sons of the Loony Left fall short in election after election, Moore and his compatriots now taste blood, and the Democratic Party's soul -- not to mention the nation's security -- will be the victim.

The future of the Democratic Party

With Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut, what does it portend for the future of the Democratic Party?

This picture tells thousands of words to answer that question:


Why Measure 37?

Anyone who still doesn't understand how the land-use law passed so overwhelmingly, or fails to recognize the passion behind it, should just read this. It tells you everything you need to know about out-of-control land-use laws and the officials who enforce them.

Journalists who fool no one but themselves

Periodically, I see a journalist proclaim that he (or his profession) doesn't allow bias into his reporting, that he wouldn't dream of injecting his personal opinions into a straight news story.

The latest journalist living in that dream world is Randy Cox, the senior editor of visuals at The Oregonian. Writing on the Oregonian's editor weblog last week, Cox responded to readers who were concerned that the paper's choice of photos made certain people look "unflattering."

Cox wrote (emphasis mine):
Sometimes, in the heat of deadline, choices are made too quickly and can leave readers with the impression that we have an agenda in that selection.

I can assure you, though, that these choices are not attempting to reflect in any way our preference. In fact, we have no preference. That's the arena of our editorial page folks, but not our news employees.
In fact, we have no preference. What a load of horse droppings. If Cox had said they try not to allow their personal preferences to intrude into news judgment, I could have accepted that (though I still wouldn't believe they could succeed at such a task). Instead, Cox tries to portray himself and his coworkers as robots without opinions, instead of human beings with biases that they might not even be aware are intruding into their decisions.

Of course, Cox is hardly unique in his mistaken defense of his craft. Here's a recent example of the denial, as recorded on MSNBC's Hardball last year:
Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes: Look, at the end of the day, if we’re worried about too many conservatives in the White House press briefing room, this is a discussion that’s not, that’s not gonna resonate with the American public.
Host Chris Matthews: You think it’s mostly packed with liberals? Are you saying most of those people who are paid to be journalists in that room are lib-labs, they’re liberals?
Hayes: Yes, of course....Is there a debate about that?
Matthews: Well, there’s Helen Thomas, who I would call liberal. But who else is in there? Seriously. There are a lot of straight reporters in that room.
Time’s Margaret Carlson: I think they’re mostly straight reporters. And I don’t think you can keep your job otherwise....Elisabeth Bumiller reports for the New York Times, which has a liberal editorial page, but she plays it straight down the middle.
Straight down the middle. Who do they think they're fooling?

Fortunately, despite decades of denial by the journalistic establishment, the facade of neutrality is starting to crack (though I suspect it's a deliberate and futile attempt to hold off its critics and hold on to the power referred to by Howard Fineman below). Here are a few examples of admissions to the contrary:

CBS commentator Andy Rooney on Larry King Live, July 28, 2002:
There is just no question that I, among others, have a liberal bias. I mean, I'm consistently liberal in my opinions. And I think some of the -- I think Dan [Rather] is transparently liberal. Now, he may not like to hear me say that. I always agree with him, too. But I think he should be more careful.
New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent, July 25, 2004:
Headline: Is the New York Times a liberal newspaper?
First paragraph: Of course it is.
Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, writing on January 11, 2005:
The notion of a neutral, non-partisan mainstream press was, to me at least, worth holding onto. Now it’s pretty much dead, at least as the public sees things. The seeds of its demise were sown with the best of intentions in the late 1960s, when the AMMP [American Mainstream Media Party] was founded in good measure (and ironically enough) by CBS. Old folks may remember the moment: Walter Cronkite stepped from behind the podium of presumed objectivity to become an outright foe of the war in Vietnam. Later, he and CBS’s star White House reporter, Dan Rather, went to painstaking lengths to make Watergate understandable to viewers, which helped seal Richard Nixon’s fate as the first President to resign. The crusades of Vietnam and Watergate seemed like a good idea at the time, even a noble one, not only to the press but perhaps to a majority of Americans. The problem was that, once the AMMP declared its existence by taking sides, there was no going back. A party was born.
Former New York Times reporter Steve Roberts, on CNN’s Reliable Sources, March 27, 2005:
I worked for the New York Times for 25 years. I could probably count on one hand, in the Washington bureau of the New York Times, people who would describe themselves as people of faith....I think one of the real built-in biases in the media is towards secularism....You want diversity in the newsroom, not because of some quota, but because you have to have diversity to cover the story well and cover all aspects of a society. And you don’t have religious people making the decisions about where coverage is focused. And I think that’s one of the faults.
ABC News correspondent Terry Moran, on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, May 17, 2005:
“There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it’s very dangerous. That’s different from the media doing it’s job of challenging the exercise of power without fear or favor.”
As blogs and other alternative media gain power and credibility, it will take more than a few candid admissions for the public to trust the Old Media. A good start would be something that is happening in the blogosphere -- complete transparency about the writer. And that includes party affiliation and voting history.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

IKEA vs. Wal-Mart

Today's Willamette Week has a story sub-headlined, "IKEA shows Wal-Mart how to be a big box with little opposition." It then goes on to highlight the working conditions, environmental impact, economic impact, and cultural niche of the respective chains, somehow reaching the conclusion at the end that "IKEA comes out looking like your friendly neighborhood store compared with Wal-Mart."

But if you look at the evidence from each category, you'd be hard-pressed to understand how reporter Jacques Von Lunen came up with that conclusion. Here's the tale of the tape -- Von Lunen's info followed by my comments:

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jennifer Holder says its Oregon employees make $10.44 an hour on average, which would work out to about $18,450 a year for a "full-time" employee (as Wal-Mart views anyone working 34 or more hours per week). About 70 percent work full-time, and benefits are available after a six-month waiting period. Wal-Mart critics say the company drives up average-wage data by including managers' salaries and exaggerating its percentage of full-time workers.

IKEA doesn't release pay or benefit information, but spokesman Joseph Roth says, "Co-workers are paid a living wage," with no waiting period for benefits. Fortune magazine reports that IKEA salespeople earn $18,300 a year. Unlike Wal-Mart, IKEA regularly makes Fortune's "Top 100 companies to work for" but slipped from No. 62 to No. 96 this year.

A side note: Both list China, nobody's top choice for worker-friendly conditions, as their No. 1 supplier.
Comment: That $18,450 figure is for a 34-hour worker; someone working 40 hours would earn $21,715 a year, which is almost 20 percent higher than an IKEA salesperson; even a 34-hour worker earns more than those salespeople.

Von Lunen nicely allows Wal-Mart's "critics" (of which they are legion) to accuse the company of exaggerating wages by including managers' salaries and lying about the number of full-time workers. Von Lunen conveniently leaves out some information: Who are these critics? And what is their evidence? And how do we know whether IKEA's definition of a "living wage" is the same as those who hoot and holler about Wal-Mart's supposed low pay? IKEA won't release wage data, so we don't.

Advantage: Slight advantage to IKEA because they offer benefits immediately, but points to Wal-Mart for paying better average wages.

IKEA's Portland store will be 280,000 square feet, making even Wal-Mart's largest Supercenters (185,000 square feet) feel downright cozy by comparison. But the combined total of all seven Portland-area Wal-Marts is 959,000 square feet.

IKEA gets enviro props, proclaiming it "only buys wood from managed forests, never from natural forests." Roth says all new IKEA stores, including the one in Portland, will seek LEED green-building certification by meeting energy and environmental standards. Wal-Mart has moved recently to improve building and truck fleet efficiency and has become the world's biggest seller of organic milk and organic cotton. IKEA doesn't offer organic cotton in its line of bed-wear.
Comment: IKEA's Portland store will be 50 percent larger than the biggest Wal-Mart store, and if IKEA had seven stores in this area, the total would be twice as large as the Wal-Mart running tally -- not counting parking. But really, the footprint of these stores is irrelevant -- the store locations are zoned for commercial use, so it's not like someone will try to grow a managed forest on any of the lots.

However, it is interesting that IKEA builds one location and forces any would-be customer to drive there, regardless of their distance from the store (be honest, how many people have driven to Seattle to visit the IKEA store?). Yet Wal-Mart, with seven locations, is likely a much shorter drive, and is much more accessible for the walker, the biker or the mass-transit rider. So on a per-capita basis, who's burning more fossil fuels? And don't fool yourself -- the fact that IKEA is adjacent to light rail is meaningless; no one is going to cart their new bedroom set home on MAX.

All new IKEA stores will seek green-building certification? What does that mean for the older ones? And if Wal-Mart has moved recently to improve building and truck fleet efficiency, why is that seemingly meaningless to the chain's critics? C'mon! It even offers organic cotton, something IKEA does not!

Advantage: a wash.

Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, employing 1.3 million in the United States and more than 10,000 in its 29 Oregon stores alone. IKEA has about 10,000 "co-workers" in all its 28 U.S. locations.

On its biggest day, the day after Thanksgiving 2002, Wal-Mart grossed $1.43 billion, nearly as much as IKEA took in that entire year. IKEA's U.S. earnings were $2 billion last year, barely 1 percent of Wal-Mart's $191.8 billion.
Comment: Just a question: how much does Wal-Mart -- with 130 times the number of employees as IKEA and 96 times the earnings -- pay in taxes to the various state and federal entities compared to IKEA? Wanna bet who pays more? A ton more?

Oh, yes, they drive the mom-and-pop stores out of business. Well, sometimes I'm sure that's true. But I'm willing to bet we don't hear the many stories of mom-and-pop stores that either make changes to survive, or already have a loyal customer base that allows them to continue on just fine, thank you.

Advantage: Wal-Mart by an Arkansas mile.

IKEA offers salmon plates and Swedish meatballs in its cafeteria-style restaurants; Wal-Mart rents out space to McDonald's and Subway. IKEA toys include "Ratta," the stuffed rat, and "Krabba," the stuffed crab. Wal-Mart offers "Barbie's Jammin' Jeep Wrangler" and John Deere toy tractors.
Comment: What the hell is a "cachet," anyway? And how is this category relevant to the discussion? Actually, it is helpful -- the definition is "an indication of approved or superior status," and that word beautifully illustrates the elitist attitude of Wal-Mart's opponents.

Disadvantage: Willamette Week, Commissioner Sam Adams, and those people coming to my door hoping I'll sign petitions against the next Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

With apologies to James Taranto

Kennewick man found dead in a Lane County reservoir

That's funny, I thought Kennewick Man died about 9,200 years ago near the Columbia River.

(A point of explanation: Taranto does Best of the Web on OpinionJournal.com, where he frequently points out headlines and gives them an amusing twist. I make no claims to equal his talent or humor.)