“Legislative walkouts are undemocratic.” Nonsense.


In an opinion column in the Feb. 27, 2020 Lake Oswego Review, State Senator Rob Wagner (D-Dist 19) said the walkouts of Republicans in the House and Senate to block Democrats’ climate change legislation “…are an attack on democracy itself.”

“Serving as state senator is a job I take seriously,” Wagner wrote. “I view it as a great honor and a great responsibility. Walking out on the job is irresponsible. Shutting down democracy is irresponsible. Accepting a paycheck while refusing to work is not only irresponsible, it’s unethical and it’s disrespectful.”

Sounds all very noble, a sincere effort to position himself as an honorable servant of the people, an exemplar of moral superiority. The reality is quite different. Legislative history reveals that Wagner is more a political opportunist and a hypocrite.

The fact is legislative walkouts (even jump-outs) by Democrats and Republicans have a long history in Oregon and other states, going back at least to 1840. In December of that year,  Abraham Lincoln, then a state representative in Illinois,  jumped out of a first-floor window of a church a serving as temporary legislative chambers to avoid a quorum call on a Democratic banking bill that he and fellow Whigs fiercely opposed

In Oregon, House Democrats walked out for five days in 2001 over redrawing state legislative districts.  Senate Democratic Leader (now governor) Kate Brown, D-Portland, called the House Democrats’ actions “very appropriate under the circumstances.” Democratic Representatives Mark Hass (current State Senator) and Laurie Monnes Anderson (current State Senator) supported the walkout.

In April 1995, ten Senate Democrats walked out over an award named after the late Sen. Frank Roberts, a Democrat.

In 1971, House and Senate Democrats walked out over voting age and other issues.

The current controversy goes back to voter approval of Ballot Measure 71 in the Nov. 2010 general election. Until that point, the Oregon Legislature was restricted to meeting in regular session only during odd-numbered years.

Measure 71 amended the state’s constitution to add an even-year regular session and placed limits on the length of sessions in both even and odd years.  Odd-year sessions were limited to 160 calendar days, even-year sessions to 35 calendar days.

Proponents of Measure 71 argued that the state was too complex for the legislature to make budget decisions on a two-year basis and some critical policy decisions either couldn’t or shouldn’t be held off for extended periods.

The common assumption was that the short sessions would provide a venue for urgent actions and facilitate a smoother running government while still keeping the longer sessions for consideration of consequential laws of wide public interest.

The 2020 short session is, however, hardly limiting itself to a few urgent bills. According to LegiScan, the session has 283 bills before it. In addition to the controversial cap-and-trade bill (Senate Bill 1530), bills have been introduced with widely varying degrees of apparent urgency. These include bills that would:

  • Prohibit anybody from conducting or participating in a contest, competition, tournament or derby that has the objective of taking coyotes for cash or prizes.
  • Regulate kratom, a tropical tree with leaves that contain compounds that can have psychotropic (mind-altering) effects.
  • Require secure storage of guns and give local governments the authority to decide if guns should be allowed on their grounds.
  • Direct Oregon Health Authority to assess supply and demand of behavioral health professionals in state.
  • Describe evidence that Health Licensing Office may consider to determine if applicant for residential care facility administrator license has earned high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Recognize 2019 Oregon Women of Achievement for outstanding leadership and service to people of Oregon.
  • Makes unlawful practice for place of public accommodation to refuse to accept United States coins or currency as payment for goods and services.
  • Recognize and honor artistic and civic contributions of Michael A. Gibbons.
  • Allow expanded practice dental hygienist to perform interim therapeutic restoration.
  • Recognize University of Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert for outstanding season and remarkable career.
  • Require the Department of Transportation to study development of uniform standards for speed bump height and markings.
  • Congratulate Rogue Creamery for winning top prize at World Cheese Awards.
  • Establish a Task Force to Promote Social Equity in the Cannabis Industry.
  • Establish a product stewardship program for mattresses.
  • Authorize Oregon Business Development Department to award matching grants to membership organizations and business accelerators in outdoor gear and apparel industry.
  • Prohibit abortion unless physician has first determined probable post-fertilization age of unborn child, except in case of medical emergency. Prohibits abortion of unborn child with probable post-fertilization age of 20 or more weeks, except in case of medical emergency
  • Require health care practitioner to exercise proper degree of care to preserve health and life of child born alive after abortion or attempted abortion. Requires health care practitioner to ensure child born alive is transported to hospital.
  • And of course, allow Oregon voters to decide whether to change the constitution so a majority of the legislature constitutes a quorum, rather than the current two-thirds.

The problem for Democrats during this short session is that Article IV, section 12 of the Oregon Constitution says “two thirds of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business.” With the Republican walkout, there’s no quorum, so business is halted.

Just as Congressional rules can be effectively wielded in political battles, it is hardly undemocratic for a party to rely upon Oregon’s constitution to advance or hinder legislative action. Moreover, the Democrats should be cautious in pushing for change. If they convince voters to amend the constitution to consider a simple majority a quorum in the future, that could come back to bite them if Republicans regain control.


Presidential pardons have a long, sad history


Presidents have long been pardoning more than just turkeys.

“The clemency orders that Mr. Trump issued this week were the result of a process that bypassed the formal procedures used by past presidents and was driven instead by friendship, fame and a shared sense of persecution.” That was the New York Times’ take this morning.

In singling out Trump, the paper seems to have forgotten recent history. As contemptible and unwise as Trump’s actions are to many, he is hardly the first president to take questionable actions in this arena.

President Obama issued 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations, including one of a 35-year prison sentence given to former U.S. Army soldier Bradley/Chelsea Manning for the largest leak of classified data in U.S. history to WikiLeaks.

President Clinton, never one to be embarrassed by his actions, pardoned his brother Roger Clinton after Roger served a year in prison after pleading guilty to cocaine distribution charges.

In August 1999, Clinton also commuted the sentences of 16 members of FALN, a Puerto Rican paramilitary organization that had set off 120 bombs in the United States, mostly in New York City and Chicago. The commutation was opposed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Congress condemned Clinton’s action by votes of 95–2 in the Senate and 311–41 in the House.

One pundit recently commented that at least Trump didn’t pull a fast one on his last day in office. That was when Clinton’s did his most egregious pardon. On January 20, 2001, against the advice of White House aides ,he pardoned Marc Rich, a former hedge-fund manager. Rich had fled the U.S. during his prosecution and was living in Switzerland at the time. Rich owed $48 million in taxes and had been charged with 51 counts of tax fraud.

At the time of the pardon, Rich was No. 6 on the government’s list of most wanted fugitives and had been on the lam, albeit a luxurious one, for 16 years, ever since his 1983 indictment by a grand jury.

Rich’s ex-wife had donated to the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton Presidential Library and Hillary Clinton’s New York Senate campaign, raising considerable suspicion about the pardon and leading former President Jimmy Carter to call the pardon “disgraceful.”

A New York Times editorial called the pardon “a shocking abuse of presidential power.” The liberal New Republic said it “is often mentioned as Exhibit A of Clintonian sliminess.” Not that such allegations ever seemed to bother the Clintons.

And the Clintons reaped benefits from the pardon even after Rich’s death in 2013, as Rich’s former business partners, lawyers, advisers and friends continued to shower millions of dollars on the Clintons.

Of course, Clinton isn’t the only “last day in office” pardoner. Remember Peter, Paul and Mary? In 1970, Peter Yarrow was convicted of taking “improper liberties” with a 14-year-old fan, for which he spent three months in jail. On his last day in office, President Jimmy Carter granted Yarrow a pardon.

President George H.W. Bush was roundly condemned for pardoning, commuting the sentences and rescinding the convictions of six people convicted in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal during Reagan’s presidency,

Reagan stepped up, too, pardoning New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner after he pleaded guilty to illegally contributing to Nixon’s campaign.

Then there’s Nixon. In 1974, President Gerald Ford granted a “full, free and absolute pardon” to his predecessor Richard Nixon “for all offenses against the United States.” This broadly unpopular action was the only time a president has received a pardon. It caused a huge firestorm because Nixon was so unpopular and because there was suspicion that Ford secretly promised to pardon Nixon in exchange for him resigning and allowing Vice President Ford to succeed him.

So much for punishing bad behavior.

Hubris will bring down Donald Trump

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

 King James Version of the Bible. Book of Proverbs, 16:18


President Trump was ecstatic. Standing before a crowd of in the East Room of the White House, he held aloft a copy of the Washington Post. “Trump acquitted” the headline declared in bold letters. For about an hour, Trump celebrated and embraced the applauding crowd of administration officials and supporters.

“Now we have that gorgeous word,” said a triumphant Trump. “I never thought a word would sound so good. It’s called: total acquittal.”

What’s next?

Probably overreach and misfortune.

If history is any guide, the president and his sycophantic hangers-on will want to run a victory lap.

The first sign of that has already emerged, dismissal of some of those Trump believes have undermined him and his cause.

These moves were presaged by Eric Ueland, the White House’s legislative affairs director, who said to a group of Capitol Hill reporters, “I can’t wait for the revenge.”

The first targets were Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in the House impeachment hearings, and his brother, Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Both were bounced from the National Security Council and Trump appeared to suggest that the Army should discipline Alexander. Then Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was fired after refusing to resign.

Trump also rescinded his nomination of Jessie Liu, former U.S. Attorney for D.C., who presided over the case against former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, and criticized D.C. District Judge Amy Berman, whom Liu worked with. Stone was convicted in November 2018 on seven counts of obstructing and lying to Congress and witness tampering.

Another likely Trump move will be taking new and excessive risks, with Trump and his most devoted followers sucked into delusions that they are on a roll and are now invincible.

As the writer P. G. Wodehouse put it. “I’m not absolutely certain of the facts, but I rather fancy it’s Shakespeare who says that it’s always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping.”

The behavior of previous presidents is instructive.

For Lyndon B. Johnson, the lead piping that confronted his hubris was the Vietnam war.

After President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Johnson used his political cunning to push a historic civil-rights bill and a massive Great Society program through Congress. Then he trounced Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election, carrying 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

He was on a roll, confident of public support as he simultaneously poured money into the Great Society and ramped up the America’s military commitment in Vietnam. Then the anti-war protests began, small at first, mostly on college campuses, then massive, furious and country-wide.

Eventually worn down and dispirited, the once ebullient Johnson announced soberly on March 31,1968 that he would not seek a second full term.

For Ted Kennedy, it was hubris that led to Chappaquiddick.

On July 17, 1969, he saw himself as a rising star, primed to carry forward the legacy of his brothers, Robert Kennedy, gunned down a year earlier, and President John F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1963.

Then everything changed. On the night of July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy left a party and recklessly drove an Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, killing his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne.

Ten hours later, and only after consulting with his advisors, Kennedy reported the accident to police, To the disgust of many who thought him guilty of much more, he managed to escape with only a two-month suspended sentence for leaving the scene of an accident.

But the fatal accident left a stain that couldn’t be erased.

“(The) accident that killed Mary Jo was the end of the Kennedy moment, when the dreams of Camelot and the deferred hopes of martyrdom went skidding off the road and disappeared into the abyss,” wrote Peter Canellos, editor-at-large of Politico.

Richard Nixon experienced a fall from grace after reaching the mountaintop, too.

After narrowly losing the presidential race to John F. Kennedy in 1960, Nixon waged a successful campaign against Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1968 in a close election.

On November 7, 1972, Nixon reached the peak of his success when he ran against Sen. George McGovern and won in an electoral landslide. McGovern carried only Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

Just 21 months later, on August 8, 1974, Nixon went from the heights to the depths, becoming the first U.S. president to resign his office.


Nixon departing from the White House after his resignation.

Behind his downfall was a paranoid White House more than willing to bend the rules. At one point that included burglarizing the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in an effort to uncover evidence to discredit Ellsberg, who had leaked the Pentagon Papers.

Then there was Watergate. In a 1973 Fortune analysis, Associate Managing Editor Max Ways described the Watergate affair as a failure of management.

“These footless ventures would remain forever incomprehensible unless we turned to the beliefs and emotional patterns of the participants.,” Ways wrote. “Their attitudes were shaped in part by the general ambience that enveloped the White House and the Committee to Re-elect the President, and that ambience included a lot of fear, suspicion, and hostility. Although the word “paranoia,” used by many people, is too strong, it is correct to say that a high level of self-pity influenced the style of the Nixon White House.

The seeds of this attitude were sown long before Watergate. Self-pity was evident, though excusable, in many of Nixon’s periods of adversity, and it had not melted away in the warm sun of ambition fulfilled.”

George W. Bush and his close advisors were also overly confident that the country was behind them and would hang tough after Bush responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with aggressive military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.


U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.                                                                                                                       “After 18 years of war, thousands of lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars squandered, the United States accomplished precisely nothing.”                                                      ForeignPolicy.com

“In considering war on Iraq,” Newsweek said, “the sibling of danger was opportunity…The thinking went that if the United States could change the regime in Baghdad, it might create a new model of democracy in the Middle East. After all, democracy was on the rise globally …”

In concert with that thinking, Newsweek cited a belief in the prowess of the high-tech United States military and its ability to ensure that wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would be “decisive, quick, easy, and low-cost.”

They weren’t.

Why will Trump fall from grace after his impeachment victory? History and his character foretell it.

In his book “Truman,” David McCullough said it was Truman’s character that defined the man.

“He stood for common sense, common decency,” McCullough wrote. “He spoke the common tongue. As much as any president since Lincoln, he brought to the highest office the language and values of the common American people. He held to the old guidelines: work hard, do your best, speak the truth, assume no airs, trust in God, have no fear.”

This is about as far as you can get from a description of President Donald Trump.






The Iowa caucus: What a tangled web progressive Democrats weave

The Iowa Democratic caucus was a mess. Right in the middle of it was Shadow Inc, the developer of the app that malfunctioned big time in reporting on the caucus results. But it doesn’t end there.


Now bear with me.

According to the Poynter Institute’s Politifact, Shadow began as Groundbase, a tech developer co-founded by Gerard Niemira and Krista Davis with an initial investment from another progressive nonprofit, Higher Ground Labs. Niemiura and Davis had previously worked for the tech team on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

According to the New York Times, Groundbase was nearly bankrupt when ACRONYM, a Democratic organization working to advance progressive causes, acquired the company on January 17, 2019. ”Some news this morning,” ACRONYM tweeted. “We’ve acquired SMS tool Groundbase & are launching Shadow, a company focused on building the technology infrastructure needed to enable Democrats to run better, more efficient campaigns.”

Niemira is now Shadow’s Chief Executive. In July 2019, Shadow said, “Since we initially announced our acquisition by ACRONYM earlier this year, Shadow has been hard at work to publicly launch and bring you new tools to help progressive campaigns and causes win up and down the ballot.”

Tara McGowan, ACRONYM’s founder and CEO, worked on the CBS program 60 Minutes, as a digital producer with Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign and as Digital Director for Priorities USA, a super PAC that supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.

Vox reported today (Feb. 5, 2020) that after the Iowa debacle ACRONYM scrubbed its website of mentions of launching Shadow and says it’s just one of multiple investors along for the ride. “Acronym’s decision to distance itself from Shadow — or perhaps lying about it altogether — is making the situation worse, not better,” Vox said.

ACRONYM is a dark money group, so donations received by its 501(c)(4) nonprofit don’t have to be reported. That means who’s donating and how much is a mystery. But ACRONYM’s super PAC, PACRONYM, does have to report contributions to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, independent and nonprofit campaign finance research group, reports on Open Secrets 2018 and 2020 election cycle contributions of $500,000 from movie director Steven Spielberg and $500,000 from his wife, Kate Kapshaw, $2,000,000 from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, $300,000 from ACRONYM, $50,000 from Michael Dubin, founder of Dollar Shave Club, and $100,000 from Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Chairman of Walt Disney Studios and  co-founder and former CEO of Dreamworks.

But wait. There’s more.

Another operation under ACRONYM’s umbrella is a for-profit digital media outfit, Courier Newsroom.

On Jul 24 2019, Vice reported that the Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA, planned to invest $100 million in four so-called “news” outlets put out by Courier Newsroom that would be staffed by Democratic operatives and would publish state-specific information across social media in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin.

The local news outlets would complement national media that are aligned with the Democratic Party such as The American Independent , which describes itself as “the No. 1 digital platform for progressive news” (formerly ShareBlue) and Media Matters For America, which says it is “a web-based, not-for-profit, 501 (c)(3) progressive research and information center.”

Courier Newsroom currently has three properties:  The Dogwood in Virginia, Copper Courier in Arizona and UpNorth News in Wisconsin.

Typical of the stories on the sites is a Feb. 4, 2020 item in UpNorth News: “Trump Gave Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Rosa Parks Day – The conservative radio host has a decades-long history of making racist, xenophobic, and sexist comments. In contrast, Parks, who received the award in 1996, was a key leader in the Civil Rights Movement.”

Courier Newsroom’s homepage initially gives no clue that it’s a highly partisan publication. “At COURIER, we empower individuals and communities through local reporting that helps people understand and affect the issues impacting their lives,” the homepage says. It’s only way down after the listing of staff that this appears: “COURIER is owned and operated by Courier Newsroom, a progressive media company owned by the non-profit ACRONYM.”

What a tangled web progressive Democrats weave.