Upper Left Coast

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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Merry Christmas to Oregon

Phil Knight has sold 25 percent of his Nike stock in the last three years -- more than 30 million shares -- and those sales have brought in almost $2.4 billion to the company founder.

No wonder he can give hundreds of millions of dollars to the Ducks.

But as part of that windfall, he's paid $215 million to the state of Oregon in the form of capital gains taxes.

Two hundred and fifteen million dollars. One man paid for more than a week of public schooling for every kid in the state of Oregon.

But the rich don't pay enough taxes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Don't blame us, we're just the teachers

From today's Willamette Week:
Outgoing Portland Association of Teachers President Jeff Miller doesn’t mince words in his essay for the May 9 union newsletter, The Advocate. Trying to explain why social and economic forces outside schools shape student achievement as much as what happens inside classrooms, Miller writes, “No one is fooled by the mantra that ‘all children can learn.’ Teachers know that some children learn less well than others because of poorer health or less-secure homes. Ignoring such truths leads only to teacher cynicism and disillusion.” Marta Guembes, a Latina advocate for students, called the remarks “upsetting” and “not OK.” Miller, whose term as head of the 3,000-member union ends next month, tells Murmurs that teachers have given him positive feedback for what he wrote about classroom instruction not accounting for why some students struggle. “Everyone who thinks about this honestly knows that,” Miller says.
I have no trouble accepting the idea that outside influences affect some students' ability to learn, but I have tremendous difficulty accepting -- from the head of the teacher's union, no less! -- excuses that point at every external factor without acknowledging that sometimes Johnny struggles in school because his teacher isn't up to par.

God forbid anyone should suggest that some teachers are unqualified and need to find a new career path. God forbid anyone should promote the idea that teachers receive continued employment based on the quality of their educational output. Anyone who does so should expect the wrath of the teacher's union upon their head because they dared to question the all-teachers-are-outstanding-and-aren't-paid-enough mantra or the motives of the union behind the mantra.

Hold on, education advocates -- I'm happy to acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of teachers are first-class, and they deserve our praise, our support and, yes, our tax dollars. But why is it OK for Jeff Miller to blame Johnny's home life and absolve all teachers of responsibility?

To paraphrase Mr. Miller, ignoring such truths leads only to parent cynicism and disillusion. Not to mention the unwillingness to support future funding requests.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Speak to me, God

One of the great frustrations in my attempt to follow Jesus over the past 16 years has been my inability (unwillingness? lack of discipline?) to hear God's voice and direction. I can look back over my life and see how God was guiding me, but when it comes to discerning His will in current decisions, I find myself taking stabs in the dark like a man who has lost some of his senses:

I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.

I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.

It's that last part that I have trouble with. When David wrote that in the 38th Psalm, he knew God would answer; I sometimes wonder.

I've found myself voicing that frustration several times recently, and then this morning I found a devotion by Philip Yancey speaking of this very issue:

When Elijah stood before the Lord on Mount Horeb, he didn’t meet Him in the wind, earthquake, or fire. Rather, God spoke in a “still small voice” [the NIV calls it "a gentle whisper"].

I’m more convinced than ever that God finds ways to communicate to those who truly seek Him—especially when we lower the volume of the surrounding static.

God, help me turn down the noise and hear you.



Friday, May 16, 2008

Kevin Mannix vs. Mike Erickson

Between a big work project and a nasty cold, I haven't had the time to think much about the Mike Erickson-Kevin Mannix kerfuffle. But in light of today's developments, I forced myself to carve out a few moments on Blogger.

My first reaction on reading that Mannix had released accusations that Erickson had fathered a child and then paid for his girlfriend to abort the baby?

Ewwwwwww. I clearly don't have the stomach for this level of politics, and the whole thing made me squirm in my seat.

Ewwww for Erickson, who has a nasty problem that has been exacerbated by his insistence on denying everything, calling the charges "smear tactics" and refusing to answer questions about it.

Ewwww for Mannix, who (I agree with a commenter at NWR about this) should have found someone else to release the information but instead made me squirm at what he's willing to do to win this seat, including throwing labels like "political sociopath" at Erickson.

And Ewwww for Hairy Reed over at Northwest Republican, who has been so obviously in-the-tank for Mannix that I squirmed a bit with his choice of photos on this post, which included over-the-top repudiations of commenters ("Erickson Campaign Staffers -- Is that the best your campaign can come up with in response?") who expressed discomfort over the release.

I read somewhere (though I can't find where now) that Oregon Right to Life (ORTL) had this information but declined to release it, so Mannix made the choice to do so himself. Right now, ORTL looks like the only grown-ups in the room.

Maybe it's because it's a federal seat and the stakes are higher, but I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of Mannix or ORTL's Gayle Atteberry as they made the calls on what's fair game and what isn't.

All that being said, however, I noted that ORTL called on Erickson to drop out of the race because he is now denying even those things he admitted to them just two years ago (taking his girlfriend to the "doctor's office" and giving her money).

And then, lo and behold, he changes his story -- oops, I guess I did give her money, and I did drive her to a doctor's office. But I didn't pay for an abortion! I didn't know what kind of doctor it was! I didn't pay attention to the sign on the building! I didn't know she was pregnant! I don't even remember her last name! And I broke up with her just after that! Really!

The words of a desperate man.

You may be considering a vote for Erickson because you fall into my camp -- you have some discomfort with Mannix's tactics in releasing this information. But if that's the case, consider what Jack Bogdanski wrote last night:
What's that smell?

Is it pants on fire?

I hope this guy wins the primary, because he'll be cream chipped beef on toast by Fourth of July.
If you don't think the Democratic Party will find a way to bring "Tawnya" in front of the cameras before November to pour out her sob story about Mike Erickson, think again. And when they do, Jack is right -- Erickson is toast.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Our leading minds explain:

The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a CHANGE! The chicken wanted CHANGE!

My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure -- right from Day One! -- that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.......

We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road...

Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

To die in the rain. Alone.

Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? That's why they call it the 'other side.' Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media white-washes with seemingly harmless phrases like 'the other side.' That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.

It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

I have just released eChicken2007, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of the Chicken. This new platform is much more stable and will never cra...#@&&^(C% ........reboot.

Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

I invented the chicken!

Where's my gun?

Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

Monday, May 12, 2008

You're not paying enough to operate your car

As if the prospect of gas at $4 a gallon isn't enough, get ready Portland -- the region's leaders think you need to pay more.

Yesterday's Oregonian reported that statewide gasoline use decreased by more than 4 percent in January compared with the previous January. That's good, right? It means less fossil fuel consumption and lower carbon emissions.

But it also means that gas tax revenue has decreased to the lowest level in more than two years. So what does that mean? It means that when the Oregon legislature convenes in 2009, you should be ready to hear how the state's transportation grid is in shambles and the state doesn't receive sufficient taxes through gas purchases to finance repairs. You should be ready to hear Gov. Ted Kulongoski, in his last biennial legislature, call for a new tax on miles driven -- a new tax based on mandatory installation of GPS devices in our cars to track mileage. And you should be ready to hear the sound of crickets from people who would otherwise complain about Republican efforts to invade their privacy.

Oh, and if that wasn't enough, we have today's Oregonian editorial. You have to read to the last two paragraphs to see that our region's leaders are planning an additional vehicle registration fee to fund transportation maintenance ($54 per vehicle, but it doesn't say if that's a biennial fee to match the DEQ fee). And it ends by noting that legislators "haven't managed to raise the gas tax since the 1991 session. That's something of which every single one of them should feel ashamed."

Ignoring the amount of tax money spent on mass transit options that serve a disproportionately small percentage of the public, it may be that the gas tax should have been raised over the last 17 years. However, I doubt anyone is currently "ashamed" by that when we're already paying through the nose at the pump. No one, that is, except the Oregonian and the regional leaders who never overlook a chance to make you pay more to the government, even when the problem is exacerbated by inaction and ineptitude on the part of the government in question.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

A rare moment of judicial candor

Hollie Pihl, a Washington County judge for more than four decades, offered a bit of surprising candor as he discussed the judicial race between four-month incumbent Keith Rogers and challenger Andrew Erwin.

Pihl said he is supporting Rogers in the race because, as paraphrased by Tigard Times Forest Grove News-Times reporter Christian Gaston, "the very prospect of a deputy district attorney challenging a sitting judge raises eyebrows among those on the bench." The surprise comes in the 26th of 29 paragraphs, quoting Pihl:

All the other judges are saying, ‘Oh my God, if this kid, with 9 to 10 years on the bar, came out of the blue and defeated an incumbent judge, where am I in the next election?’

In other words, Rogers has garnered support for his newly-minted judicial position because the other Washington County judges are afraid for their jobs. If Rogers, a sitting judge (albeit for just 16 weeks) can be supplanted by a "kid" with just a decade of prosecutorial experience, any of them might be similarly vulnerable. And we can't have that, can we?

So to rephrase: Rogers has the support of many colleagues not because they think Rogers is the best choice, but because he's now part of the Good Ol' Boys' Club of Washington County Judges, and they don't want some punk messing with that.

If that's not a good reason to vote for Andy Erwin, I'm not sure what is.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Oregonian writes off Rick Dancer

What's wrong with this picture, taken from the Oregonian's website today?

I'll give you a hint: here's a portion of the Republican primary ballot:

Evidently, The Oregonian is so in love with Kate Brown that it's endorsing her for the general election, too. Don't tell Rick Dancer -- who apparently has the mistaken impression that he's running for Secretary of State on the Republican ticket -- and be sure not to mention it to Vicki Walker or Rick Metsger.

UPDATE: Now that someone has called the O on its, um, omission, what does the paper do? It deletes any mention at all to the Republican candidate. They didn't do that for the essentially-uncontested John McCain and Gordon Smith. They didn't do that for Oregon House District 38. Heck, they didn't even do that for the attorney general's seat, which doesn't have a GOP candidate.

But there was one other person they left out: Third Congressional District candidate Delia Lopez (a hopeless case against Earl Blumenauer, for sure). Is this the O's way of saying they think Rick Dancer is hopeless?

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