Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oregon Measure 74 - Guest Commentary

Steven Casey, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) member, offers another perspective on Measure 74, previously addressed in my commentary Voting in Oregon - 2010.

We have a number of issues put to us for a vote. Our voters’ pamphlet tells us that in addition to arguments pro and con, appointed “citizen panels” provide “impartial” explanations of some proposals. Yeah, sure. Methinks the “citizen panels” were loaded pretty heavily to the port side, but maybe that’s just me.

My favorite this election season is Measure 74, a reasonable adjustment of Oregon’s medical marijuana law. Let’s start here: Medical marijuana is already legal in Oregon. Under current law, holders of medical marijuana cards have to grow their own weed – difficult under most circumstances – or obtain it from a grower who can supply no more than four people. The ballot proposition would allow “dispensaries” where holders of medical marijuana cards go to purchase their mary jane – and such dispensaries would be regulated and taxed by the state.

Some don’t like Measure 74 because they don’t like the use of marijuana – for medical or recreational purposes. One argument says this is merely the camel’s nose under the tent of legal-for-all marijuana. I say “So?”

Many people do not like alcohol and tobacco, on moral, medical or religious grounds. But we don’t outlaw those substances. We tried Prohibition once. How did that work out for us?

It’s time for a little reality, here. Our nation has squandered billions of dollars on a hopeless “war on drugs.” That war is over. We lost. Our biggest accomplishment has been making huge numbers of the world’s most vicious monsters unimaginably rich – so rich they can buy entire countries and corrupt or intimidate justice systems throughout the world.

While many police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors oppose Measure 74, that’s hardly persuasive – it’s expected. They are in charge of the drug-fighting machine, and sincerely believe they are on the side of the angels. As someone who has spent the better part of a career in law enforcement and prosecution, I take a different view, as do many others who have been soldiers in the war on drugs.

Marijuana – medicinal or recreational – is here to stay and it is high time, you should pardon the expression, we treated it as an herb to be regulated, quality-controlled and taxed. Let us get marijuana revenue working for our citizens, not enriching murderous thugs.

The results of this election, in Oregon and around the country, will be fascinating. Our votes for candidates and measures are our exercise of democracy. Some fear that H. L. Mencken was right: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” Sure hope they’re wrong.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010: No incumbents, no exception!

In a WSJ article Rep DeFazio said he “is facing the fight of his political life.” Considering that this “professional politician” is seeking reelection for an ELEVENTH term, this might be a good time for him to consider returning to real life as a private citizen and give someone else a chance to work on behalf of Oregon’s 4th district. While I applaud DeFazio’s military service and charitable donation, like many politicians he has been in the business of politics far too long. Undoubtedly many will continue to vote for him simply because they have the impression that he “brings home the bacon” and has simply become a decades-long habit for voters. To this proponent of fiscal responsibility, smaller government with intense dislike for earmarks=pork, he just does not represent my views of representative government. Fortunately we finally have another option to consider with Art Robinson.

Robinson Art Robinson, Mr DeFazio’s challenger, seems earnestly interested in serving and impressed me with his common sense approach and straight (read non-politico) talk. Listening to him twice as he came through our little fishing village of 1,200 potential voters I was certainly intrigued enough to want to learn more. “Art Robinson has tried hard to paper the landscape with his campaign signs” one local letter writer derisively stated recently. Indeed, the number of property owners willing to display campaign signs for a conservative candidate, especially in this liberal area, has been a surprising new show of assertiveness, not to mention the many campaign signs he has on display throughout the district.

Far from striking me as extremist, as he has been described by many in the media, I actually find Robinson’s real life experience as a businessman, scientist, and educator encouraging. Not conforming to the public image molded by the professional politicians we have become so used to for decades is actually a plus for any candidate. Contrary to what that same letter writer describes as “extremist views”, quite a few enthusiastic local voters seem energized at the prospect of a fresh approach by a regular guy with apparent common sense and considerable life experience. The letter claims that Robinson’s website shows his extremist views, such as advocating the abolishing of public schools as a “communist plot.” What I found on was the following platform statement about education: “We need to restore the excellent locally-controlled public schools that Americans were once privileged to attend – instead of the failing union-controlled government schools promoted by the District 4 incumbent.”

A further claim was that Robinson holds that “oil companies should not be taxed or regulated.” What I actually found on the website was “The high taxation, invasive regulation, and budget-busting over-spending of taxed, borrowed, and printed dollars voted for by the incumbent have failed. We cannot expect the same people and policies that lost our jobs and depressed our economy to fix these problems. We must get government off our backs, out of our pockets, and out of the way, so that we can get our country going again” and “We need a low-tax, moderately regulated free industrial environment in which our industries can build needed new energy generation installations without tax subsidies and without government favors or impediments.” I could go on, but apparently we are not looking at the same website.

Incumbent DeFazio recently accused Robinson of undisclosed suspicious campaign contributions, so I compared both candidates’ FEC reports next: the graphs are illustrative of their general funding situation, with DeFazio listing a remarkable number of PACs (and unions) supporting him to the tune of nearly $390K, almost all of these special interest groups related to transportation and infrastructure, perhaps because DeFazio sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and chairs one of its subcommittees. While Robinson appears to have negligible PAC support, his FEC report shows nearly $370K from a long list of individual contributors (more on that later).

Robinson’s views on these and other issues are specifically addressed on his website, in his campaign ads, forum speeches and interviews, all available on his website. His now infamous interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is certainly anything but a typical slick politician fawning over conceited media personality nor is he using the usual trite politico-speak - but see it and decide for yourselves. It did not strike me as a professional journalistic interview, but more of a forum for the interviewer to argue and debate her own positions with cherry-picked tidbits disguised as earnest issue questions. Her thinly disguised "I just want to get to know you!" approach prevented bringing out a discussion of the candidate's actual positions on issues relevant to voters. It served voters poorly and added nothing to their understanding of this candidate's position on issues.

Meanwhile, if I can catch Robinson between campaign stops, I intend to ask a number of follow-up questions about his views on term limits, his intended legislative approach, individual contributors, etc.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Voting in Oregon - 2010

Having just received my voters' pamphlet, I spent yesterday reading up on candidates (19 pages) and yet another slate of measures (fully 69 pages).  I found a few interesting tidbits: the VP now includes details on the seven officially recognized political parties in Oregon (Constitution, Democratic, Independent, Pacific Green, Progressive, and Republican).  Reading about their core visions and platforms was quite enlightening and virtually every one of them included something to like and not to like.  Equally enlightening were these parties' endorsements awarded to various candidates. 

My current political attitude is best expressed by NO INCUMBENTS NO EXCEPTIONS, so it should be obvious for whom I will not vote.  I will not devote space here to argue for or against specific candidates, since most registered voters will likely vote for their party's candidate or probably have already decided on their favorites based on other factors.  The six measures, on the other hand, moved me to make some general observations. 

In today's economy, it is especially helpful for the responsible voters to find information about the estimated financial impact of these proposed measures. And, with fully 69 pages dedicated to arguments for and against, some interesting trends emerged.  Measures 70, 71, and 76 only included "arguments in favor", leaving me wondering about any "arguments in opposition."  Measures 73 and 74 included a "citizens' review statement" - an interesting newly established voters panel about which I hope to learn more. 

These three measures really caught my attention with their "furnished by" endorsements, since these literally screamed "special interest":

Measure 74, The Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System: a rather lengthy "act" clearly drafted by a committee, included numerous endorsements in favor furnished by Oregonians for Responsible Regulation of Marijuana. Only two statements in opposition of the measure were included, but one carried great weight, since it came from the Oregon Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police, and District Attorneys. 

Measure 75, another verbose ballot proposing to authorize a private casino in Multnomah County, included 11 statements in favor furnished by a Good for Oregon Committee or by someone directly associated with the location of the proposed casino. 

Measure 76, the last text-heavy proposal, seeks to extend lottery funding of parks and other recreational areas.  Of 42 endorsements in favor, fully 33 were furnished by Oregonians for Water, Parks & Wildlife, a Project of the Conservation Campaign, the rest by union groups.

But YOU decide - now go vote responsibly!