Upper Left Coast

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

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Repeal the double-majority law

If you're not familiar with it, the double-majority law says that if a government entity is seeking approval for a taxing measure, it must get at least a 50 percent voter turnout in that election along with the a majority of the votes.

And, voters have approved the double-majority rule twice. It was initially OK'd in 1996 by 62,000 votes (4.5 percent), which placed the law in the state Constitution so it could not be monkeyed with by the legislature. In 1998, the legislature asked voters to repeal the '96 law, but it was approved again by 16,000 votes (2.6 percent).

But now that Democrats are in charge of the Oregon legislature, they have pushed through a measure that would again request voters to repeal the law. Because of those two affirmative votes, I side with Republicans who protest that this is a slap in the face of voters. But really, Republicans are just as guilty of this (see Ballot Measure 51, asking for a repeal of physician-assisted suicide). I also buy the argument put forth by House Majority Leader Dave Hunt that "a majority of voters should have the right to decide the outcome of elections."

Overall, I think the Republicans are skating on thin ice on this issue. The double-majority law is a gimmick, one that indicates desperation and an unwillingness to debate the issue of taxes on its merits. If Democrats came up with such a gimmick -- such as the Senate filibuster -- the GOP would rightly denounce it for its anti-democratic basis. The fact that voters narrowly approved the law a decade ago does not change its gimmicky, anti-democratic nature.

I suppose you could argue that if governments can't convince half of all voters to participate, they don't deserve approval on taxation requests. But that's not how our democracy works. People are voted into office and measures approved or denied based on the votes of those who care enough to participate. We don't call for a recount if a county commissioner gets into office with 15 percent of the vote. We may call it pathetic, but we also call him "commissioner."

If the GOP can't convince a majority of voters to turn back taxation requests based on the merits of their arguments -- whether that majority be 52 percent of eligible voters or 2 percent -- they have no business relying on gimmicks to outweigh the people who are willing to show their desires on the ballot.



Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fatherless Father's Day

This Tuesday, it will be eight months since my dad died, so today is my first Father's Day without a father.

It's been an interesting ride, to say the least. I had no idea that my grief would take the form it has. I expected it would be a long, drawn out affair, which it has. Which it continues to be. Which it will continue, I suspect, without end. But it hasn't been as painful as I suspected.

Don't read that wrong: I'm not saying it's been painless. Perhaps a better way to say it is, it's been a different pain than I guessed. Instead of sharp, unrelenting suffering, it's closer to say it's been a dull, periodic ache. I can go days without thinking about my dad, then for some simple reason (or for no explainable reason) he's in my thoughts.

Like the time recently when I was helping my daughter with her math homework and I remembered my dad's skill with numbers. Like the time last week when I stopped at an intersection and, just before stopping, let up slightly on the brakes so the stop would be gentle -- and recalled that my dad taught me that.

Shortly after dad's death, there was an episode of Grey's Anatomy in which George's dad died. Near the end, Cristina tried to comfort George by noting that she lost her father when she was a child, and threw out this line:
There's a club. The dead dad's club. And you can't be in it until you're in it.
George responded by saying he couldn't imagine a world without his dad. "Yeah," she answered, "that never changes."

Essentially, you don't understand what it's like to lose your dad until you lose your dad, and it will forever leave a void -- perhaps small, perhaps shrinking over time, but a void just the same -- in your soul.

I guess I'm thinking about all this today because it's Father's Day, but also because I expected someone to remember. I figured I'd go to church, and one of my friends would ask me how I was doing on my first Fatherless Fathers Day. But no one outside my family said a word. Maybe it's one of those things that people don't know how to broach, so they figure it's better to say nothing than say the wrong thing. Maybe I'm demonstrating my immaturity by revealing my desire for sympathy.

But the truth hits closer to home. I think we get so caught up in our own lives that we quickly forget the burdens of others. We promise to pray about it when someone we care about is in the deep weeds of a burden, but a few weeks or months down the road the burden is seemingly eased and we move on, regardless of how deep the weeds might still be.

I know I do this. People seem to be fine, and so we figure they are fine. But as my neighbor reminded me not that long ago, being "fine" does not mean all the time, and may not even truly be "fine"; that 80-something neighbor lost her husband five years ago, but still has moments when she misses him terribly.

I look at the newspaper page celebrating anniversaries -- 50 years, 60 years, 75 years (geez, I think, were these people paired up in utero?). I look at the obituaries. Dead at 79. Dead at 92. Dead at 86. And then I consider my parents. Last August, they celebrated 40 years together. By October, Dad was gone, four months shy of his 63rd birthday. In moments of immaturity, I wail that it's not fair.

But, as I tell my kids, life isn't fair. I'll bet my neighbor doesn't think it fair that her husband of many decades was taken from her, either. I force myself to remember that my parents' marriage was and continues to be an inspiration to me in my relationship with my wife. I will myself to remember that if the doctors were correct in their prognosis, dad would have been dead more than five years earlier.

In moments of dark despair, I think about the fact that my father and his sister died of the same tumor, and his other sister will soon succumb to the same fate. I think about the fact that when I'm 60 years old, my girls will still be in their twenties, and my family's apparent genetic disposition might mean I won't be there to celebrate their triumphs and help them with their stumbles.

But I take comfort in the fact that God is in control. That through friends and family, He's taking care of my mom. That my dad is sitting at the throne of God, singing praises to his redeemer in the deep bass voice that was created just for that purpose. That a lot can happen medically in 25 years.

I also recognize that I'm not exactly alone in missing my dad (PDF in second link). That the relationship with my father was certainly imperfect -- in ways that I think about in a jumbled mess of regret and sadness, happiness and laughter -- but it bore no resemblance to the relationship described in that essay by my old Oregon journalism prof, Lauren Kessler: "The bastard. I miss him."

And I believe that God has shown me what it's like to lose a dad so I can use that knowledge to help others when they face their first Fatherless Father's Day. May I never forget the lessons from either dad.



Friday, June 15, 2007

I thought John Kitzhaber was smarter than this

John Kitzhaber knows Betsy Johnson. According to the ex-Guv, Betsy Johnson is a "dedicated" official. Her commitment to the public is "unwavering." She's wealthy -- indeed, she's the head of her family's foundation that has given millions to charities -- but she lives modestly. Her parents worked hard, donating the Metolius River headwaters to the U.S. Forest Service and passing 160 nearby acres of wilderness on to Betsy -- acreage she could seek to exploit through Measure 37 if she wanted, but doesn't.

She sounds like a stand-up lady.

But none of that provides an explanation or an excuse for her recent behavior. It just makes John Kitzhaber look naïve. Or partisan.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

A late thought on Wilson High's 'vandals'

A couple of weeks ago, a group of Wilson High School seniors played a senior prank -- they removed a large circle of grass from the school's front lawn and replaced it with thousands of marigolds, in the shape of a peace sign.

The school reacted by forcing one of the seniors -- who admitted to the deed on local TV -- to remove the flowers or miss graduation. The reaction of the community was quick support for the students and criticism of the school for its "anti-peace" message.

So, a question: if Wilson High School seniors had planted flowers in the shape of a cross instead of a peace sign, would the community have been as eager to criticize the school? After all, the message of Jesus was peace and love and acceptance, wasn't it?

Would neighbors -- who admirably stepped up to help the student remove the peace sign -- have been as quick to help remove the cross? Or would the community instead be calling for the student to be expelled and/or forced into a "sensitivity training" class?

Just askin'.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

I call bull

Earlier this week, John McCain and Rudy Guiliani announced they would not participate in the Iowa's Republican Straw Poll in August. That's August 2007, a full 15 months before next year's general election.

The official reason for both campaigns: they want to focus on the January caucuses. However, there's lots of speculation that this means McCain and Guiliani are trailing Mitt Romney badly in Iowa (Romney's internal polls reportedly show him with a 17-point lead) and don't want to hand Romney an early victory.

Of course, the Romney campaign is playing this up:
Our plan all along has been to play in the Iowa straw poll, and that hasn't changed. Campaigns that have decided to abandon Ames are likely doing so out of a recognition that their organizations are outmatched and their message falls flat with Republican voters in Iowa.

It looks as if we just beat those campaigns in Iowa two months earlier than we had planned on beating them.
Never mind that Romney's campaign is spending money hand over fist to make a good showing in Iowa. Never mind that the Straw Poll is hardly a harbinger of future success. Yes, President Bush won the 1999 poll by 10 points over Steve Forbes, but was followed by Elizabeth Dole and Gary Bauer. In 1987, Pat Robertson won the poll ahead of Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush, respectively. In 1995, Phil Gramm tied Dole.

Shortly after the inevitable Romney victory (heck, even before the poll!), you should expect to hear his supporters spin it as a huge victory and momentum booster. But they're wrong -- this is a lose-lose for Romney. If he posts a spectacular win, the press will dismiss it as a meaningless win against meaningless opposition. If he doesn't win by at least 25 points, the press will ridicule it as a failure in an open field. And if he somehow doesn't win at all, well, Romney might as well drop out.

Romney may win the nomination, but it will not have anything to do with winning the Iowa straw poll.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Quote of the Day: Rudy vs. Mitt

National Review's Rich Lowry, writing about last night's GOP debate, sums up the problem many people have with Rudy Guiliani:
Near the end, Romney talked about "the stool" of the Reagan coalition having three legs — national security, free-market economics, and moral issues. He's absolutely right about and it is extremely important to conservatism that that continue to be our coalition. Rudy, immediately afterward, talked about the "two big principles" that unite us, a vigorous national defense and the free market. He basically wants to cut one leg off the stool which is the greatest substantive weakness of his candidacy.

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