Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Oregon has a system of initiative and referendum. Frankly, most of the measures that end up on the ballot are more self serving than anything else. But, if you can get enough signatures on a petition onto the ballot they go. Including Measure 65, I think this is one of the good ones.

Republicans and Democrats in this state don’t agree about much but they do agree that making it harder for independents to vote or get on the ballot is a VERY GOOD THING INDEED. So, the very latest VERY BAD THING is Measure 65. This would create an open primary where everybody, no matter which party you belong to, gets to vote on everybody, no matter which party they belong to.

Back in 2005 the legislature passed a bill that makes it almost impossible for independent candidates to qualify. The bill counts a signature on a qualifying petition the same as a vote. In other words if you sign a petition to let Joe Six Pack run for governor as an independent you can’t vote for someone else when the actual primary is held. Of if the independent candidate manages to qualify by petition after the primary and you voted in the primary your signature doesn’t count. Are we all lost yet? Don’t feel bad. I had to read the news story more than once to make any sense of what was going on. Then I got mad. I believe my first reaction was “what the F&*%!” Then it was “you’ve got to be kidding.”

Measure 65 would allow an open primary and the top two candidates for any office would go to the general election. It wouldn’t matter if the top two were Democrats, Republicans or wombats, their names would be on the ballot.

Don’t think of the parties as collections of people, think of them as competing brands; say Coke and Pepsi. They want to protect their market share and want to limit the shelf space of any competing “beverages.” Both parties offer a brand name to donors; that’s how they raise their money. And the donors want to get the biggest bang and the most influence for their bucks, that’s why they prefer “Coke” or “Pepsi” over any competing brands. And, I believe, the biggest reason for this interminable, mind numbing campaign season. The earlier the choices are finalized, the better chance they have of influencing policy decisions.

I’m voting yes on Measure 65. I say, take it out for spin and see how it works. Anything to break the log jam here in Oregon. A Republican can’t get on the ballot here in Oregon without pandering to the right wing of the party. Problem is, once they’re on the ballot they can’t pull enough votes from the state wide center to get elected. Even worse there are some Democratic candidates basically running unopposed. And, in my opinion, this is NOT A GOOD THING.

And if Measure 65 doesn’t work, repeal it. After all, that’s what elections are for.

Cross posted on Women On.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


There was a short story in the local paper's National section this morning and this version was on the net.

TROY, N.Y. (AP) - Who is running for president? In an upstate New York county, hundreds of voters have been sent absentee ballots in which they could vote for "Barack Osama ." The absentee ballots sent to voters in Rensselaer County identified the two presidential candidates as "Barack Osama " and "John McCain." In the United States, the best-known person named Osama is Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida terrorist group. Commissioners for the Rensselaer County Board of Elections say they regret the error but do not acknowledge in a statement exactly what the error is. The botched ballots were first reported by the Times-Union of Albany.

If we had a Whoops award on this Blog this weeks’ would go to Rensselaer County elections officials who mailed out those three hundred or so absentee ballots. It’s been called an innocent mistake. The ballots were supposedly proof read. My little X-Files loving brain is going unh huh.I type for a living and I’m more likely to type an F or a G instead of a B. that S key is a long way away and uses a totally different finger. Faces are suitably red and the ballots will be replaced, but you do find yourself wondering.

Cross posted in Women On.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


This goes deeper than a market meltdown. I don’t think we’re going to be hearing the Free Market at any cost mantra for awhile. I’ve always believed that economics has a lot in common with religion. As long as faith is strong, it seems to work. And work a lot longer than you think possible. But once that faith is shaken, look out below.

A good example is personal retirement planning. We’ve been told it’s our responsibility to make sure our retirement is secure. To invest our money wisely. To increase our savings. We’re also encouraged to buy every new widget that comes on the market. That the two goals can be mutually exclusive is like having an elephant in the living room. You can ignore it all you want. It doesn’t go away and the shit just gets deeper.

I have a 401k account. I picked a mix of funds and bonds that hopefully will not totally tank in the near future. I have not dabbled directly in the stock market; I’m mindful of my economics instructors’ advice of “if you can’t afford to lose it, don’t risk it.” And, like a lot of people, I don’t make enough to risk anymore than my 401K contribution. We have some savings and we’re probably better off than a lot of people right now. Probably comes from being a logging family. We never had three good years in a row, but we managed. And we did pretty well most of the time.

The execs from companies like Lehman Brothers justified their hefty bonuses and extremely generous compensation packages because of the risks they were taking. What risks were you taking Kemo Sabe? It was your investor’s money you were risking and few questions were asked as long as the numbers on the ticker continued to climb and compliant boards of directors didn’t ask inquire too closely. But, what goes up can come down. And right now, well the piper is in town it’s time to pay up.

I learned a fancy term when I took my business classes some years ago. Fiduciary responsibility. Geez, twelve syllables in two words. It has to worth at least five bucks.

Basically it means you manage the money entrusted to your care for your client’s benefit not yours. Now we find that the top execs at Lehman Brothers lied to their investors a week before the company entered bankruptcy. Investors were told that everything was OK. Then boom, the company is history, the employees are out the door, and the grilling before Congress begins.

Questions are good. Asking questions a couple of years ago probably would have been better but apparently no one wanted to be accused of economic heresy and the cows are not only out of the barn they’re on their way to the packing plant. How many other execs have lied? How can I make good decisions when the people who are responsible for managing my investments lie?

Maybe it’s no accident that our MBA president has treated the American people the same way these business execs have treated their stock holders.

Cross posted in Women On.