14 October 2006

Stretching The Facts

Mea culpa, I suppose. Or not mea culpa. I'm on record as not liking the manner in which Alan Pittman slants the facts to fit his preconceptions. He and I got to town in the same year, and he's always practiced a brand of journalism that I find offensive: the belief that you have to "goose" the facts to make your case more compelling.

It's OK to come to a conclusion: sadly most journalism today avoids ever making any sort of conclusion that would imply judgment, which is why you get these weird news stories where sanity and lunacy are given "equal time" in the name of "fair and balanced." "Fair and balanced" is a trademarked advertising slogan for a channel that likes to "goose" the facts the other way.

But it's NOT OK to goose the facts to prove that conclusion.

I've speculated about a possible Koch connection. It seems logical. It fits the facts. But I have no smoking gun -- just a lot of coincidences -- and I won't go to press over mere innuendo. So, believing that I am probably among the unnamed bloggers to whom Pittman refers, I can only say that it troubles me that the Koch brothers, Charles and David -- after buying Georgia-Pacific (Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups and products, paper, lumber, etc.) last December -- suddenly hold vast tracts of private logging lands that might well benefit greatly from the passage of "takings" initiatives in many of the states that Rich & Friends have "takings" initiatives in: Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Maine.

That's just a coincidence that troubles me. But this isn't any way to report that suspicion -- whether it's true or not.

And, I've sent a copy of each blog entry to the WEEKLY (hometown paper and all) just as I've sent it to the Register-Guard, the Salem Statesman Journal, the Oregonian, and other regional and national papers. So, whether I'm one of the "online bloggers" who "speculate" or not, well, you be the judge.

(Oh, and note the gratuitous smear tossed in at the end. Talk about your clinching arguments!)

from: The Eugene Weekly, October 12, 2006
Buying Initiatives
Rich out-of-state right wingers would radically change Oregon.

Howie Rich wants to dramatically cut Oregon school and public safety funding. Oregonians may ask, so what, who's Howie Rich?

Rich is the New York City real estate speculator behind Measure 48, the Oregon state spending constitutional amendment now on the ballot. Rich and conservative non-profits linked to him contributed $2.78 million for paid signature gatherers in Oregon, according to an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle into the web of right-wing groups that gave $14.6 million to fund anti-government initiatives in a dozen states.

Rich-linked money also went to get Measure 45 on the Oregon November ballot. The term limits measure would throw half the current Legislature out in the next two years.

But while reporters have tracked the secretive money trail as far as Rich, it may go further into much deeper pockets. Online bloggers speculate that Rich is a front man for the ultraconservative Koch brothers, oil magnates worth $12 billion each.

The Koch brothers inherited their fortune from their dad, a founder of the far-right John Birch Society. They continued the family tradition, founding and bankrolling the far-right Cato Institute, and a host of other ultra-conservative anti-government groups. Their company Koch Industries (oil, refining, chemicals) became the nation's largest privately held company when it acquired Georgia-Pacific (logging and paper mills) last year with profits from high gas prices. Koch is an alleged major polluter and thief of federal oil and has escaped millions in fines and penalties, and had regulations changed through campaign contributions to the Bush administration, environmental and campaign finance reform groups have alleged.

Rich has been involved in many of the same anti-government causes and groups the Koch brothers have funded. Rich worked for David Koch as part of Koch's self-bankrolled run for vice president on the Libertarian ticket in 1980. Rich has refused to say how much of the initiative money is his or came from outside sources such as the Koch brothers. Rich and the Koch brothers have a history of evading campaign finance disclosure laws by laundering money through non-profit shell groups, critics charge.

In Oregon, the front man for Measure 48 is Don McIntire. At the Eugene City Club last week, McIntire argued that 48 was "a very benign measure, it is a warm fuzzy."

But the Defend Oregon Coalition — a broad group of parent, senior, teacher, business, union and good government groups — argues that Measure 48 could decimate the state. If it had been in effect since 1990, it would have cut state funding for schools, health care, public safety and other public services by 25 percent, according to a state analysis.

Measure 48 limits state spending increases to inflation plus population growth. But that formula fails to account for student, senior, and prison populations that are rising faster than general population growth and for rising health care costs that exceed inflation, the Coalition points out.

A similar measure in Colorado resulted in that state dropping in rank to near last for K-12 and higher education spending and high school graduation rates, according to a study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Colorado voters voted last year to suspend the tax limit.

But McIntire argues that the state economy did well under the Colorado measure. "Their limit was very good for them."

McIntire calls Measure 48 the "rainy day fund" initiative and argues that it will create an emergency fund for the state to tap during deep recessions.

But Ben Westlund, a Republican state senator who recently turned independent, disputed that at the City Club Debate. "There is nothing in this measure that sets up a rainy day fund."

McIntire admitted that "this measure does not say it creates a rainy day fund." He said that the Legislature could elect to create such a fund by diverting some of the tax cuts in the measure.

The Defend Oregon Coalition is also opposing the anti-tax Measure 41, part of the "double whammy" on the ballot that they say is targeting funding for critical school, senior, health and public safety services. The complicated Measure 41 cuts income taxes for the wealthy and would result in a $800 million hit to the next biennial state budget as well as $151 million in retroactive cuts, according to the coalition.

Measure 41's front man in Oregon is Bill Sizemore, but the measure was largely funded by Nevada conservative millionaire Loren Parks, the sugar daddy for Oregon conservative causes. Parks, who made millions on medical equipment, has allegedly boasted that he can hypnotize women into becoming "sex machines" and has been sued for sexual harassment.
The writer -- a former second-grader -- stretches a little to make that last compelling point.



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