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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Moonshine Magic in Bend Still on the Down Low

Posted By on Thu, Aug 9, 2012 at 6:12 PM

Get ready for our great close-up on the home distilling community out next week in our "Best of" issue.

We interviewed a mixed bag of legal and anarchist distillers in Bend to find out why distilling is so very, very against the law in one's home.

But first we wanted to help you brush up on the technical aspects of moonshining so you're ready for what's to come next week.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Eye Wanders Off Into the Sunset

Posted By on Sun, Dec 26, 2010 at 8:15 PM

I’m really sorry to break the bad news to them during this season of peace and goodwill, but after this week the right-wingers in Bend and vicinity won’t have The Wandering Eye to kick around anymore.

The decision to stop writing this blog was my own, and it was prompted by several factors. One of them is that I’m just tired of being a punching bag.

I’ve been writing editorials, columns and blogs for newspapers and the Web for more than 40 years. I never shied away from controversy, and I drew my share of criticism and angry comments. I thought I’d grown a pretty thick skin.

But the Internet has changed the whole dynamic of the relationship between an opinion writer and his or her readers. Back in the day, if somebody wanted to attack a columnist he or she generally had to write a letter and sign it. The only other options were to call the writer on the phone or confront him in person and chew him out, which took even more guts.

You knew who your critic was, and you could take him on one-on-one. And the absence of anonymity tended to make even the worst crackpots tone down their rhetoric a little.

Now, thanks to our marvelous modern communications technologies, any ding-dong with access to a computer can be as vicious as he wants in complete anonymity and without the slightest fear of any personal consequences.

Being on the receiving end of this stuff week after week feels sort of like standing under a continuous drip of toxic waste. It corrodes the body, mind and soul. At this stage of my life I don’t need it.

The toxic tone of Internet dialogue has a further unwanted side-effect: It repels rational, well-mannered people. I believe there’s a kind of Gresham’s Law at work here – bad posts tend to drive out good ones.

To make things worse, the progressives and moderates seem more easily driven out than the right-wingers. Most of them don’t appear to have much taste for rough-and-tumble debate; they’re barely able to express even polite disagreement for fear of sounding “rude” or (heaven forbid!) “negative.” In Yeats’s words, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

The result is that dialogue becomes more and more degraded, more and more an exchange of snarky and/or crude comments and less and less a worthwhile exchange of ideas.

But is a worthwhile exchange of ideas even possible in today’s political and technological environment? More and more, I wonder.

Decades ago Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan said people were entitled to their own opinions but they weren’t entitled to their own facts. These days, though, a lot of people seem to think they are entitled to their own facts. And thanks to the Internet, at any given moment they’re only a few mouse clicks away from being able to locate “facts” to support whatever crack-brained idea they’ve decided to embrace.

Do you want to “prove” that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim who was born in Kenya? A few minutes with Google will find half a dozen or more sites to fulfill your requirements. Do you seek “evidence” that the CIA – or Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Wall Street or whoever – secretly planted explosives in the World Trade Center towers to bring them crashing down on 9/11? No sooner said than done. Do you want to establish that George Soros is plotting to make himself czar of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of America? Piece of cake.

And thanks to the proliferation of such Internet “news” sources, not to mention TV and radio programming specifically dedicated to particular political viewpoints, you can live your whole life inside an information bubble where you hear nothing but your own opinions endlessly echoed and amplified.

America today is more deeply divided politically and ideologically than certainly at any time in my memory – maybe even since before the Civil War. But at least back in those days people could more or less agree on what they were divided about – slavery vs. abolition.

If the argument over slavery was being played out today, the advocates for slavery would have their own websites, their own news channel and their own talk radio shows, and they probably wouldn’t even concede that the slaves were slaves. They’d call them “volunteer agricultural workers” or some such claptrap.

How can you have any rational debate when you can’t even agree on what you disagree on and each of the two sides has its own separate reality? I don’t know what the answer to that question is. I don’t know if there even is any answer.

All I know is that I don’t want to be part of this non-dialogue dialogue anymore. It’s pointless, it’s unproductive, it’s frustrating, and it’s worn me out.

So this is The Wandering Eye’s last post. To my friends, thanks for your support; I wish I’d had a little more of it. To my foes, goodbye – and good luck living in the kind of country you’re making.


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Sunday, December 19, 2010

DADT, Gay-Bashing and the "Icky-ness" Factor

Posted By on Sun, Dec 19, 2010 at 8:12 PM

For the past week or so, “Zeo” of the NW Republican blog has had his jock strap in a knot over the prospect of Congress repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule.

To hear Zeo tell it, if DADT is repealed and gays are allowed to serve openly in the US military it will mean the end not only of our armed forces but of America, its economic system and civilization in general.

“If DADT is repealed then the cornerstone of the U.S. military's support in the nation, the quiet loyalty of tens of millions in the ‘silent majority,’ will likely slowly fade away, like the air being let out of a tire,” he wrote.

And here’s the best part:

“There is an ‘icky-ness’ about homosexuality that affects everything it touches. The close-quarters service in the military makes the prospect of open homosexuals serving with, sleeping with, showering with those to whom they are sexually attracted – in an unnatural way – even more ‘icky.’ The whole disgusting nature of it will likely turn off many Americans.

“Many Americans who now are quiet supporters of the military, including its funding, will simply no longer carry with on that support. Many middle-class American families who once saw the military as a legitimate option for giving their children a strong start in life, will now no longer see it as a possible benefit to them.”

In one of his follow-up comments on his on post, “Zeo” went on to predict that repeal of DADT “will further erode American moral values and thus weaken capitalism. On the other hand, it will energize the sodomites and the radical left.”

Well, the Senate approved the repeal of DADT on Saturday and President Obama has promised to sign it this week, so “Zeo” will soon get to test the validity of his end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it theory.

Meanwhile, however, we ought to thank him for revealing, in an unusually candid fashion, the true motivation of the gay-bashers.

They’re not really against the repeal of DADT because they’re worried it will destroy the military. And they’re not really against gay marriage because they’re worried it will “destroy the institution of marriage.” Those are just rationalizations.

Their real reason is that they think gayness is “icky.” It disgusts them, they don’t like it, they don’t even want to think about it. And because of that they don’t want gay Americans to have the same rights as their non-gay fellow citizens.

It’s just that simple – and just that stupid.


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Friday, December 17, 2010

A Wake-Up Call for Wyden, and the U.S.

Senator Ron Wyden has announced he has prostate cancer.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 5:40 PM

The news that Sen. Ron Wyden has prostate cancer reminds us of the need for all men over 50 to be screened annually for this potentially deadly disease – and for the United States to improve its health care system.

Wyden, 61, announced yesterday that the cancer was detected when he got his annual physical exam in late November. “After reviewing all the options with multiple physicians, I decided to take a proactive approach and have surgery,” which will be performed Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Wyden said in a press release. “Thanks to routine screening, this was diagnosed very early and I expect a full and speedy recovery.”

Fortunately, prostate cancer has a high cure rate when detected early, as Wyden’s apparently was. Unfortunately it often produces no symptoms until it’s advanced, which is why routine screening can be a lifesaver.

“If anything is taken away from my experience, I hope it is the importance of getting routine physicals,” the last paragraph of Wyden’s press release says. “One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetimes.  Early detection is critical to catching this disease when treatment is most effective.”

As a member of Congress, Wyden has first-rate health coverage subsidized by the taxpayers and has no trouble paying for an annual physical. But millions of Americans forego routine health exams because they have no health insurance and can’t afford several hundred dollars out of their own pockets. This can mean failure to detect not only prostate cancer but also other diseases that can be cured or successfully managed if caught early, such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Maybe some will think it’s in poor taste to use Wyden’s cancer diagnosis as an excuse to plug health care reform, but I don’t think Wyden will mind. Best wishes for a complete and rapid recovery, senator.


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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Census Numbers Tell a Tale of Two Cities

Posted By on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 at 10:39 PM

The New York Times has posted a series of interactive maps based on US Census data, and they seem to confirm the view that Bend really is two cities.

There’s always been an argument over what the real line of demarcation between East Bend and West Bend is. The Parkway? Third Street? The railroad tracks? The Deschutes River? The census people seem to have used the river as the dividing line.

On that basis, the maps (based on the Census Bureau’s latest release of its American Community Survey, not the 2010 census) show dramatic differences between East Bend and West Bend in income and education.

The median household income of the “richest” census tract on the Eastside – an area roughly bounded by Reed Market Road, Third Street and 15th Street – is only a bit more than $52,000. The census tract that comprises northwest Bend, on the other hand, has a median income of almost $75,000, and the one covering southwest Bend has a median income of over $65,000. (The estimated median household income for the whole city in 2009 was about $53,000.)

Since income tends to correlate with education, it’s not surprising that levels of educational attainment also are generally higher in West Bend.

In northwest Bend, 55% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree and 23% have a master’s degree or higher; in southwest Bend, the numbers are 61% and 21%. In the most highly educated census tract east of the Deschutes – an area that might be described as East Central Bend, including the downtown and adjacent residential neighborhoods – only 36% have at least a bachelor’s degree and 10% have a master’s or higher.

That area, incidentally, presents an interesting exception to the more-education-equals-more-money rule: Its median household income is only about $35,000, the lowest of any census tract in the city. My hunch is that a relatively high concentration of young single people working in the service sector accounts for that.

Ethnically and racially, though, there’s almost no difference between East Bend and West Bend – both are almost as white as a fresh dump of powder on the Cascades. Even the most “diverse” census tract, in the northeast area, is 83% white.

FOOTNOTE: Bend merchant and blogger Duncan McGeary makes another interesting point: Google's map of foreclosures in Bend shows "an amazingly even distribution of red dots -- east, west, north or south. ... I'm guessing the financial stress is pretty widespread in Bend, and distributed alike between rich and poor and the middle class."

If anything, I suspect those rich folks in West Bend might be feeling more stress because they paid a lot more for their houses.


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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dudley’s Not Sure About Taking Another Shot

Posted By on Sat, Dec 11, 2010 at 6:05 PM

In his first one-on-one interview since he lost the election, Chris Dudley tells Portland Tribune sports reporter Kerry Eggers that he’s not sure whether he’ll run for governor again in 2014.

“It’s too soon,” Dudley says. “For now, I’ll settle back into normal life. My wife would probably say no [to another run at governor] right now, but time will tell.”

Losing the gubernatorial election to Democrat John Kitzhaber by about 22,000 votes, the former NBA center says, “was like losing Game 7 of the NBA finals by one point. It could have gone either way. [On election] night, we thought we’d won it.”

Some observers said Dudley lost the election by spending too much time campaigning in the eastern part of the state and not enough in the Portland area, but he disputes that analysis: “We spent the majority of our time [campaigning] in Portland. I don’t think that was the reason I lost.”

He also rejects criticism that he didn’t stake out clear positions on the issues: “I felt I was very clear on the issues. We put out policy pieces. We had a 26-point plan on government reform, a 20-point plan on job creation, an 18-point plan on education.”

But he acknowledges that his lack of political and government experience was a liability. Criticizing him for that inexperience was “fair,” he says. “But I had experience outside of government I think could be just as valuable.”

Although I voted for his opponent, I’m hoping Dudley does decide to stick around in Oregon politics because I think he has a lot to offer. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, and moderate in his views – a welcome contrast to some of the far-out right-wingers Oregon Republicans have nominated in the past, like Kevin Mannix and Bill Sizemore.

So here’s some free advice, Chris: Try for the governorship again – but not in 2014. You’re still a young man at 45; you’ve got time to build your resume. Get yourself elected to the state Legislature, serve a couple of terms, establish a name and a track record, and then take another shot at the top job.

To use a basketball analogy, no matter how talented a guy is, he doesn’t just walk in off the street and win a spot in the starting lineup for an NBA team.


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Thursday, December 9, 2010

DeFazio Leads Charge Against Tax Giveaway

Posted By on Thu, Dec 9, 2010 at 9:10 PM

House Democrats have smacked down President Obama’s tax cut compromise with the Republicans, with Oregon’s Rep. Peter DeFazio leading the rebellion.

The House Democratic caucus this morning approved a motion by DeFazio to reject the provisions of a tax deal agreed upon by Obama and the Republicans. Among other things, the bill would extend George W. Bush’s tax break for billionaires and drastically ease the estate tax burden.

“House Democrats are particularly angry over provisions related to the estate tax, which would set a generous $5 million exemption for wealthy estates and a maximum rate of 35% for two years,” the New York Times reported.

In an interview with ABC News, DeFazio said opposition to the deal was “nearly unanimous” in the Democratic caucus and blasted the argument that continuing the Bush tax cuts would boost the economy.

“Look – we did $1.3 trillion of tax cuts between the Bush tax cuts and the stimulus bill,” he said. “Did that put America back to work? Will more tax cuts and trickle down by showering money on the wealthy, will that put America back to work? That hasn't worked.”

After the caucus vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a press conference that she wouldn’t allow the tax bill in its present form to come to the floor of the House. She didn’t indicate what modifications would have to be made for her to change her mind.

“The broad opposition to the tax cut plan among most House Democrats is no surprise, but the potential unwillingness of Ms. Pelosi to bring it to the floor could pose a serious problem,” according to the Times story. “With strong Republican support, the tax plan could easily pass the House with two-thirds or more of Democrats opposing it, but it needs to reach the floor first.”

Oregon’s three other Democratic congressmen – Earl Blumenauer, David Wu and Kurt Schrader – also have come out strongly against Obama’s tax deal.

Obama claims he had no choice but to appease the Republicans to keep unemployment benefits from running out and prevent tax cuts for the middle class from expiring along with those for the rich. But what would have been wrong with this idea: Let the Bush tax cuts expire, then come back in January with a middle-class-only tax cut bill – and DARE the Republicans to block that?

And after watching the Republicans kick Obama around like a soccer ball for two years, how could anybody doubt they were setting him up to get rolled again? “Look,” they’d say, “we have this terrible deficit” – which they just helped make worse – “so we’ve got to cut ‘socialist’ programs like unemployment benefits and food stamps.”

I’m not sure how this will all play out – the Democratic congressional leadership may fold again as it’s done so many times before – but at least temporarily I’m proud of them, and of Oregon’s Democrats in the House.


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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wandering Observations, Post-Civil War

Posted By on Sun, Dec 5, 2010 at 8:42 PM

I’m still recuperating from celebrating the Ducks’ glorious victory in the Civil War yesterday and can’t focus long enough to write more than a couple of paragraphs on any one topic, so here are a few random short takes:

***

Bulletin Business Editor John Stearns has a column this morning about momentum in Bend’s tech sector, which he defines as “software development, information technology, biosciences, green energy and other so-called knowledge industries.”

“In a report Friday,” Stearns writes, “Economic Development for Central Oregon’s executive director, Roger Lee, noted 12 Central Oregon companies that have at least doubled (or are planning to do so) their employment, the lion’s share of them in tech.”

One software developer, GL Solutions, plans to double its workforce by March, Stearns reports. Other local firms expanding include Manzama, G5 Search Marketing, PV Powered, Agere Pharmaceuticals and MediSISS. Bend Research, which was founded in 1975, has “added 50 people in the past eight months and is now at 185,” according to Stearns.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the start of that great exodus of businesses fleeing Oregon to escape from its supposedly crushing tax burden.

***

State Rep. Michael Dembrow, a Democrat from the Portland area, is floating an interesting proposal for Oregon to set up its own single-payer health care system.

Unless we try something different, Dembrow writes on Blue Oregon, “At best, what we’re going to continue to have is a patchwork system. There’s a real danger that people are going to fall through the cracks, middle-class families are going to pay more, and small businesses are going to continue to be hammered” by the cost of health insurance for their employees.

What Dembrow is proposing is “a system like Medicare, but extended to all. Everyone would pay into the system in a progressive manner, and it would relieve the burden on Oregon’s small businesses. Initial projections show that we could create a system that in total would cost no more than we are currently paying as individuals, businesses, and the state — but everyone would be covered, would have access to quality care by the provider of their choice, and the rise in costs could be contained.”

The big question, of course, is how are we going to pay for all this?

The draft of Dembrow’s legislation, called the Affordable Health Care for All Oregonians Act, says the system “will be funded by a system of dedicated taxes, progressive in nature and based on ability to pay. In addition to payroll and personal income taxes, the [governing] board will investigate and consider other potential revenue sources, including a transaction tax on stocks and bonds, a progressive surtax on higher incomes, and a progressive tax on gross business receipts divided by full-time equivalent employment.”

In an era when it’s considered almost an act of treason to even whisper the word “tax,” that’ll be a tough sell. Still, Dembrow’s idea should at least be a starting point for a discussion that this state really needs to have.

***

The Civil War is over and the Beavers put up a gallant, though losing, fight. Now it’s time for all Oregonians – Ducks, Beavers or neither – to join forces for the honor and glory of their state. The Oregon Duck has reached the semi-finals of the Capitol One College Mascot of the Year contest and needs our help to make it to the championship. Click here and vote early and often.


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Friday, December 3, 2010

That Weird Duck-vs.-Beaver Thing

Posted By on Fri, Dec 3, 2010 at 8:47 PM

As tension builds to almost unbearable heights before tomorrow’s Civil War, which by all accounts is even more momentous than the original 1861-1865 version, let us consider a provocative – but, I think, absolutely right-on-the-money – observation made by Jake on UtterlyBoring.com.

In a post headlined “Beaver Fans Are Crazy People,” Jake writes: “I root for all the schools in this state – whether it's OSU, UO, PSU, UP, WOU, EOU, SOU, George Fox, Willamette, Concordia, etc. … whatever – unless they're playing the Ducks, and then I root for the Ducks. Beaver fans, however, want to see the Ducks fail miserably whenever possible and will root for anybody who's playing the Ducks.

“I've watched a few Duck football games with Beaver fans, and they were rooting for the opposition the entire time. When I watch a Beaver game, I root for the Beavers. Beaver fans apparently are incapable of rooting for anybody other than the Beavers, and certainly don't want to see any team in Oregon succeed other than the Beavers.”

There’s a lot riding on Saturday’s game for Oregon – an undefeated season and the chance to play the national championship game. For OSU … well, if they win they’ll have a .500 season and a chance to play in the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl or the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, maybe. (No, I did not make those bowls up.)

But although their team is going nowhere the Beaver fans are out for Duck blood, and plenty of it. They want to wreck Oregon’s unbeaten season and its shot at the national title. They want to make the Ducks settle for the Rose Bowl – and if they do, Beaver fans will be rooting for them to lose that too.

Duck fans, in my experience, don’t have the same venomous attitude. In 2008, for instance, OSU and Oregon faced off in another Civil War game. That year OSU had a shot to go to the Rose Bowl; Oregon didn’t. Although normally a Duck fan, I rooted for the Beavers so that my state would have a team in the Rose Bowl. (It didn't -- the Ducks won in a blowout, 65-38.)

Naturally, the Beavers would like revenge for that drubbing. But as Jack points out, Beaver fans will root against the Ducks not only when they’re playing their own team, but when they’re playing anybody – even a team from that detested state to the south.

Why do Beavers apparently hate Ducks so much more than Ducks hate Beavers? I think it’s because they have a bit of an inferiority complex.

Oregon State, a land-grant university, has a more rural, agrarian history and identity. For a long time, it was perceived as being all about (as a retired OSU professor once expressed it to me) “cattle and cookin’.” Oregon, on the other hand, is seen – rightly or wrongly – as more urbane, more liberal, more intellectual.

In other (Tea Party) words, more "elitist."

Oregon State alumni drink Coors or Miller Lite. Oregon alumni drink micro-brews or chardonnay.

Oregon State alumni drive extended-cab pickups with HEMI engines. Oregon alumni drive Subaru wagons or Priuses.

“As a true Oregonian … I'd be excited if the Ducks and Beavers were both undefeated and this was for all the marbles,” Jake concludes his post.

As a true Oregonian, I agree – that would be one hell of a game. But since that’s not the way things are, I have just two words to say:

GO DUCKS!


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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mr. Merkley Goes to Washington, Kicks Ass

Posted By on Thu, Dec 2, 2010 at 8:28 PM

I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Jeff Merkley when he was running for election. In fact I voted for his opponent in the primary, Portland political activist Steve Novick.

Since going to Washington, though, Merkley has become just about my favorite senator. He’s been a strong champion of health care reform, environmental protection and reining in Wall Street, among other things. And despite his mild-mannered demeanor, he hasn’t been at all shy about jabbing sacred senatorial cows with a cattle prod.

Latest example: Merkley has sent around to his colleagues a memo advocating a number of reforms to Senate rules and procedures. The most intriguing of these would make senators who want to stage a filibuster REALLY stage a filibuster, instead of faking it.

Many people get their idea of what a Senate filibuster is like from watching James Stewart in the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” But that’s a Hollywood fantasy. The way things really work in the Senate, all the minority has to do is announce that it intends to filibuster to block a vote on legislation.

Merkley wants that to change. As he explained the idea to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, he wants the senator or senators who are filibustering to actually stay on the Senate floor and keep speaking – and “if at any moment no one’s willing to speak, that ends it, and we go to the vote” on the bill.

“It’s very important for the public to know why somebody is objecting” to a piece of legislation, Merkley said. “If they say ‘A majority vote isn’t good enough and therefore I’m objecting’ … they should put themselves on record so the public can respond to that.”

True. And it also would be incredible fun to watch Mitch McConnell, John McCain and other GOP geezers trying to keep a filibuster going for hours, or even days. They’d need to stockpile a generous supply of Flomax.

FOOTNOTE: Kevin Drum on Mother Jones has a good explanation and analysis of Merkley's reform idea:

"Merkley's proposal revolves around a single principle: the Senate should always allow debate. So the filibuster should be banned entirely on motions to proceed and on amendments because both are things the promote debate and engagement. Filibusters would still be allowed on a bill's final vote, but it would take more than one senator to launch a filibuster (Merkley suggests a minimum of ten) and senators would have to actually hold the floor and talk. No longer would a single person be able to obstruct all business just by dropping a note to his party leader. ... It's a pretty good plan, and a pretty sensible one. It doesn't eliminate the filibuster, it just eliminates filibuster abuse."


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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Terrorist Threat Gets Too Close for Comfort

Posted By on Sun, Nov 28, 2010 at 8:43 PM

The threat of terrorism came home to Oregon Friday as the FBI foiled an alleged plot to detonate a huge bomb next to Portland’s Pioneer Square during the annual holiday tree-lighting festivities.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old sometime engineering student at Oregon State University, allegedly intended to blow up a van packed with explosives while the square was thronged with some 25,000 spectators.

“Do you remember when 9/11 happened, when those people were jumping from skyscrapers? I thought that was awesome,” Mohamud said to undercover FBI agents, according to an affidavit released by the FBI. “I want to see that, that's what I want for these people. … I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave either dead or injured.”

The FBI had been tracking Mohamed, a naturalized US citizen who’s a native of Somalia, since at least August 2009, according to the affidavit. Undercover operatives contacted him last June, and Mohamud allegedly began talking with them about how he wanted to blow up a bomb in Pioneer Square.

The agents encouraged Mohamud in his plans, even (according to an Oregonian story) going so far as to build a practice bomb and help him detonate it in a remote area in Lincoln County.

Then, this month, the FBI constructed a dummy bomb inside a van that Mohamud was supposed to park near the square and detonate remotely with a cell phone. When Mohamud allegedly tried to set off the “bomb,” FBI agents and police swooped in and arrested him.

Some civil libertarians, of course, are complaining that Mohamud was entrapped by the FBI. For instance, former Portland Mercury News Editor Matt Davis (as reported by Carla Axtman on Blue Oregon) opined on his Facebook page that “this poor young man was entrapped by over-zealous, seemingly equally mentally ill FBI agents. They assembled the ‘bomb,’ for Chrissakes.”

I don’t think I’ll lose sleep worrying about whether the FBI was unfair to this “poor young man,” who, if he was “entrapped,” seemed only too eager to walk into the trap. I’m just glad the “terrorists” he was working with were FBI operatives instead of the real thing.

I also was reminded of a statement Al Gore made after 9/11 that preventing terrorist attacks was mostly a police problem, not a military problem. Gore was ridiculed at the time, but events have vindicated him. The “shoe bomber,” the “underwear bomber,” the package bomb plot in October, and now the alleged would-be Pioneer Square bomber – all were thwarted by good police work, not by sending tens of thousands of troops into the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan.


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Friday, November 26, 2010

Spinning the Census Numbers to the Right

Posted By on Fri, Nov 26, 2010 at 6:51 PM

The right-wing Oregon Catalyst site quotes a study by the right-wing Americans for Tax Reform organization supposedly proving – surprise, surprise! – that right-wing economic policies promote growth and prosperity.

The ATR compared states that will gain congressional seats through reapportionment as the result of the 2010 census with those that will lose seats and found that the gainers “had significantly lower taxes, less government spending, and were more likely to have ‘Right to Work’ laws in place.”

Eight states will gain congressional seats, with Texas and Florida adding two and Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington adding one each. Eleven will lose seats, including New York and Ohio (two each) and Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania (one each).

“The average top personal income tax rate among gainers is 116% lower than among losers,” ATR says. “The total state and local tax burden is nearly one-third lower, as is per capita government spending. In eight of 10 losers, workers can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment.”

As ATR (and Oregon Catalyst) see it, all this “is further proof that fiscally conservative public policy spurs economic growth, creates jobs, and attracts population growth.”

But there’s an old axiom in logic that says correlation does not equal causation. People have many different reasons besides tax rates for choosing to live in one state rather than another. Conservatives look at these numbers through their own ideological prism and see a validation of their economic dogmas; I just see a continuation of the migration away from the Frost Belt toward the Sun Belt that’s been going on for decades.

And I hope nobody at ATR or Oregon Catalyst is going to hold up Florida (11.9% unemployment) and Nevada (14.2%) as shining examples of economic success. As far as that goes, South Carolina (10.7%) and Georgia (9.9%) aren’t much better.


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