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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Smith & Shull Need to Go: Letter to Pamplin Media

To the Editor:


Mark Shull’s ugly comments are not a surprise. As someone close to then-Commissioner Ken Humberston’s re-election campaign last year, we saw Shull’s bigoted rant. We had a choice: Do we bring it to the public’s attention as a campaign issue or ignore it? 


At Humberston’s direction, the campaign chose the high road. “We will run a clean campaign,” he said. “Revealing those statements could lead to name-calling and ugliness. That’s not how we work.” It was an honorable and thoughtful decision.


Recent reports reveal that now-Commissioner Shull’s words were not isolated. They were part of a pattern of shameless, harmful bigotry. Voters were unaware, paying little attention to this local, “down ballot” election campaign. We ignored it; voters got suckered. 


In calling for his resignation, citizens should consider: While new Chair Tootie Smith is being criticized for openly defying our Governor on COVID, the other new member of the county board is an ignorant bigot. 

If they don’t resign, both Smith and Shull should be recalled when the time comes. And, as citizens, we’re learning the bottom of the ballot can be just as important as the top. We want the best people in public office, not the worst.


Peter Toll, Lake Oswego

 



 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Capitols Under Attack—How Did We Reach This Point?

 By Bill Street

The sound of breaking glass can be terrifying, be it in the capitol building in Salem, D.C., or in a dorm room in Lenoir Rhyne, North Carolina 50 years ago. Of course when it happened to me, I ran to the windows (which with hindsight was truly stupid) to see a half dozen pickup trucks, about 20 men in white hoods and a cross burning in front of the dorm, the place where I was sleeping.


Their motivation was no different than the deluded Oregonians who attempted to seize our state capitol or those who looted the capitol in D.C. All three groups across both generations and weeks had been convinced (or convinced themselves) that their acts were patriotic. They had to defend this nation from the “other,” from change, from the enemy.


They were and are mostly small men. They are small because they are afraid. They have chosen to follow a leader who offers salvation and gives them someone to blame for their life. They are given simple solutions to complex problems that are, in all three cases, literally black and white.


How did we get here?  Following World War II, Hungarian Karl Polanyi published a book in 1944 that remains as relevant today as it was then. He documented the transformation from a society served by a market-based economy to a society controlled by a market-based economy. He concluded that democratic forms of governance and unregulated markets assist in creating the conditions which lead to the rise of fascism. Witness 20th-century Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan (to a degree), the US (multiple times) and many times since for direct confirmation.


In a society controlled by the logic of the market, profits are more important than people. Given the choice of saving a business or saving a person, society chooses to save the business. When people are put ahead of business, such as during this pandemic, the backlash is large and instantaneous. Government efforts to create economic equity are met with cries for a balanced budget and deregulation. In the midst of a global pandemic, workers are sent into super-spreader workplaces to process hams and chickens where management bets on which worker will contract the virus.


For Polanyi, indicators of a fertile climate for fascism include: “irrationalistic philosophies, racialist aesthetics, anti capitalist demagogy, heterodox currency views, criticism of the (political) party system and widespread disparagement of the ‘regime’.”  Sound familiar?


Even more chilling is his description of the timeline.  


“Yet one significant feature of all its (fascism) organized forms was the abruptness with which they appeared and faded out again, only to burst forth with violence after an indefinite period of latency.”


And abruptness clearly describes the attack on the capitols in Salem and DC. The irrational beliefs fed by years of deceit and fear mongering in terms of the Trump Presidency and the generational fear handed down from father to son in terms of racial prejudice cannot and will not be easily undone. Black lives have never mattered in this country and still do not.


Substantial research tells us that presenting “facts” to conspiracy theorists hardens their belief systems. It is impossible to convince racists that people of color are not the cause of their plight in life. Just as dozens of court cases and audits have failed to convince Trump cult members that he lost an election.


As a political party about to control all three branches of government in D.C. and in Salem what are we to do? Will arresting and prosecuting the leadership of these traitors be enough? If the hatred resides and thrives in the heart of the snake, will cutting off its head eradicate it?


What are our other options? The rise of right-wing, irrational political organizations in Oregon, the U.S. and around the world (it is an international phenomenon, which suggests it is larger than any unique set of issues or actions in any specific country) has followed two longer-term conditions.


One has been the shift of non-university educated voters from alliance with left-leaning political parties to right-leaning political parties. In many EU countries, as well as in the US, and most clearly since 1980, non-college educated voters from the dominant social group, (in the US that would be Caucasians),  have increasingly voted for right-of-center and extreme-right political parties and candidates. Following roughly the same time line has been the dramatic rise in economic inequality around the globe.


One possible interpretation of this data could be that left-of-center and center-left political parties stopped listening to and fighting for those who a generation ago we would have labeled as middle class. Under the rubric of the “big tent,” we have sought to expand our base to college-educated professionals and technical, Fortune 500 staff.  In the process we may have helped undermine the most successful coalition in our party’s political history, the one created by Franklin Roosevelt some 80-90 years ago.


We have reached a point, even within our Party here in Clackamas County, that citing FDR’s phrase of “social justice through social action” has become controversial. With few exceptions, neither in the halls of Salem or DC, do we pass legislation aimed to undo the conditions that create “economic royalists,” another creative and meaningful FDR term.


The 70 million US citizens and 958,000 Oregonians who voted for a demagogue, con man, and serial liar must be helped and policies should be created which alter their economic conditions (not perhaps how they would frame the issues).  


Here in Oregon, Timber Unity is using the same playbook as Trump. Mistakes in how we transitioned from a natural-resource economy to an urban, high-tech one have destroyed the social fabric of rural areas in our county, along the coast and in eastern Oregon. Proposed cap-and-trade legislation is another example of identifying the correct issue but failing to comprehend and mitigate the true costs of the needed transition to a green economy.


If we wish to re-invigorate our democracy we need to develop policies that hold harmless workers and communities in that and future transitions. We can save the spotted owl, late succession-stage forests (i.e. old-growth), forestry workers and their rural communities. We just need the political resolve to do so. For if we continue to allow market forces to determine their fate, then we will also be determining our own fate, a terrible specter with our capitols sacked and armed fascists in the streets.


Simply put, when the rich get richer and the poor get poorer then the latter will harshly and emotionally target the authority and system which they feel has put them in such a horrible place. Polanyi’s book is as valid today as it was 76 years ago. Can we learn from it?


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Clackamas County Democrats Call for Congressman Schrader to Resign

The Democratic Party of Clackamas County stands in solidarity with statements condemning the recent attack on the capitol by white supremacists and followers of Donald J. Trump. Furthermore, the DPCC endorses all calls for Representative Kurt Schrader to resign following his comments comparing the impeachment of President Trump to “lynching” following last Wednesday’s mob attack on the US Capitol.  

Representative Schrader’s remarks following the brutal and violent incursion on the US Capitol by white supremacists display the Congressman’s ignorance concerning the history and tools of oppression used against black folks in the US. His thoughtless word choice reveals that he is unfit to represent constituents of color without causing harm and further trauma.  

 

The United States in general and Oregon in particular have a long history of employing institutional and structural racism to unjustly target people of color for violence, discrimination, and marginalization. Oregon State did not ratify the 14th and 15th Amendments granting citizenship and the right to vote to black Americans until 1959 and 1973 respectively. The state itself was founded as a “whites only” state which forbid black Americans from settling, staying overnight, and owning property. Portland is still the whitest large city in America and was the scene of black student, Mulageta Seraw being beaten to death by the White Aryan Resistance in 1988. 

 

The DPCC has committed itself to dismantling structural racism and increasing the diversity of its participants in addition to establishing grants for people of color entering politics for the first time, creating a Black Caucus and pushing to enact county and state legislation that works to undo and transform systems of racial oppression in Oregon.  


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Mark Shull Must Resign

On Monday, I called newly appointed State Senator Kayse Jama following his historic swearing in as Oregon’s first Muslim State Senator.  

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to congratulate him.  

 

I called to share news stories calling out the unapologetically racist and Islamaphobic posts of newly elected county commissioner, Mark Shull. Kayse was gracious -- this type of behavior isn’t new to him.  


The Trump Administration and Republicans have fueled the bigotry, race baiting and white supremacist violence that have been a shameful part of Oregon’s and the nation’s history. 

 

Like Trump, Shull must be held accountable for his incendiary comments. 


For details, read the articles in the Clackamas Review and the Oregonian.

 

Clackamas County Democrats call on Mark Shull to resign. His lame “apology” is not sufficient. Join us by sharing this call for resignation on your social media platforms. Be sure to add #resignMarkShull


 Mark Shull is wrong and does not represent who we are or who we wish to become. 


--Charles Gallia, Chair


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Overcoming COVID requires More than Rioting and Ignorant Ranting

 By Peter Toll

Back in 1999, a client in my financial practice was concerned. Over the years, between buying and stock splits, she had accumulated nearly $400,000 in Intel stock. It dominated her modest portfolio dramatically. In financial jargon, the portfolio was very lopsided; it needed balance to protect it against big sudden swings in the market.

She first went to her Uncle Fred who had first suggested she buy Intel some years back. Fred advised her to hang on. The stock’s huge run-up, in his view, would just keep going and going, making her richer and richer.

A medical professional, she was used to working with people more trained and experienced in what they were talking about. While Uncle Fred was good at some stock picking, his overall investment understanding and knowledge were minimal at best. Her concern brought her to me.

What to do? I proposed taking the Intel profit and reducing her holdings there some 75 per cent. Putting the money into a broader range of stocks and bonds would better fit her age, income and risk tolerance. She’d think about it, she said. 

After talking to Uncle Fred again, she told me she’d decided to hold on to her Intel stock. “There’s a certain risk,” she acknowledged, “but I feel the stock will continue doing well.” 

Eight days later the tech bubble burst, and her $400,000 in Intel became $87,000. She went with her gut and intuition and not the facts of market history (the Dow had done a similarly sudden but broader crash 15 years earlier, for example.) Her wholly self-made retirement plan was in ruins.

Today’s uncertainty and disappointment grounded in “no facts, please,” are plaguing our body politic. Add arrogance and selfishness, and the result borders on dangerous in a worldwide pandemic. 

We’ve seen in it Trump’s White House, we’ve seen it in the Arizona Statehouse where Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has flaunted the CDC’s COVID guidelines, and we’ve seen it locally in some elected “leaders” (Tootie Smith) who openly defy and challenge Gov. Kate Brown’s difficult but necessary decisions to protect our citizenry.
This is the same crowd of riotous thugs that storms our state capital to specifically and dramatically aims their anger and ignorance directly at what they feel is the source of their problems—an overreaching government and legislature that have disappointed and hurt them, their values, their way of life.

These same well-meaning folks are also putting up signs on rural roadsides calling for impeachment of Gov. Brown for putting an economic stranglehold on Oregon while their leader, President Trump, wants the opposite. “The economy comes first” is a slogan reflecting his view.

Which of these COVID-driven policies work? Are there real data, hard facts behind Trump’s free-for-all approach and Gov. Brown’s clamp down on social gatherings?

Trump’s leadership has made the U.S. a most terrible place to avoid COVID. According to the World Health Organization, the country has more than 20 million cases in a population of 331,002,651. That means this country, which holds about 4% of the world’s population, has at least 20% of COVID cases. The USA’s shameful worst case count in the world is followed by India, Brazil, Russia and France. 
 
Clearly, Trump’s disastrous ineptitude and sloth have caused tens of thousands of American deaths. 
How about at the state level? The CDC reports the most populous state, California, has 97 cases per 100,000 population; it is the worst, followed by Tennessee at 92.9 cases, Arizona with 80 cases, Oklahoma with 68.8, and Alabama is fifth worst with 67.5 cases.

Oregon is doing dramatically better, almost five times better than California, close to four times better than Arizona, and nearly three times better than Alabama.

Of the 50 states, Oregon is near the very bottom, ranked 48th, at 23 cases per 100,00, a place where the low score is best. Only Hawaii with 7.5 cases and Vermont with 13.4 cases are in better shape than Oregon in anti-COVID effectiveness rankings. Washington is next at 23.8 cases per 100,000.

These may be bothersome facts to some people. While they do not include myriad other contributing causes (skin color, economic status, family culture, for example,) simple analysis shows Trump’s policy to look the other way and Kate Brown’s policy to get after it very strongly, is backed up by results. His is the world's worst, and hers is excellent.

Sorry, you Trump believers and thugs, the facts don’t support you. Oregon has one of the very best anti-COVID records in the country. Kate Brown should be praised and not attacked. Sure, she wants to see our Oregon working people happy and productive, but not at the cost of their lives.

Is it only government policy influencing us? A paramedic friend in West Linn puts it sadly but plainly: “If there’s one thing this year has taught us, it’s that Americans are staggeringly selfish. Not just like your meat-and-potatoes ‘don’t want to share’ selfish. This is total apocalyptic ‘I will let you die rather than inconvenience myself’ selfish.”

In other words, wear the damned mask.

Only by applying knowledge and science and hard facts can something as monstrous and horrifying as COVID be beaten. Railing at lawmakers, berating and ignoring scientists and suggesting political calamity and worse for our leadership are not only vain efforts but, just as with my “I like it where it is” client in 1999, they reveal a regrettable and self-destructive ignorance.

Our country and our state have a lot of work to do, starting with making a lot of us much less ignorant.