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Updated: 2 hours 38 min ago

Marijuana is now legal and for sale in Washington. Will Oregon be next?

July 8, 2014 - 11:00am

As Oregonians get ready to consider legalizing marijuana, we get a chance to see how the process unfolds for our neighbors to the north.

The first retail shops in the state are opening today, with a pair of shops opening their doors just across the state line in Vancouver tomorrow.

Of course, there appear to be some real problems with the legal supply of marijuana for the retailers. From NBC News:

The state faces a huge backlog for licenses. There are only 18 license reviewers sifting through thousands of applications. The first approvals for growers didn’t go out until March, which left at most two growing cycles to stock the shelves.

That's created an inescapable shortage of product, and a growing population of desperate, irate business people. Some have already gone under as opening day was delayed again and again. Others are trying to sell or hold on long enough to break even. ...

As a result the price of a gram could exceed $30 dollars, compared to half that or less in the park around the corner or the medical shop a block away.

Of course, once it gets really going, we'll see what the impact really is. In Colorado, sales -- and thus, tax revenues -- have been well below expectations.

And yet, I can say from personal observation this spring, it seems that half the people walking around downtown Denver are stoned.

My question for you: As marijuana legalizes in Washington, what will you be watching for? Is there a real-life result that would change your mind from No to Yes, or Yes to No?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Great news! The Hobby Lobby ruling does not apply in Oregon

July 7, 2014 - 3:00pm

By Michele Stranger Hunter of Portland, Oregon. Michele is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon

After last week's ruling on the highly anticipated Hobby Lobby case, the country is on high alert. In a shocking 5-4 vote, for-profit companies can now use religious objections to avoid paying for contraception coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. This is the first time the Supreme Court has granted for-profit companies the ability to discrimination based on religious beliefs.

From the moment the ruling was announced, the conversation began to swirl, “how does this ruling affect women in Oregon?” Our coalition partners, ACLU of Oregon executive director Dave Fidanque and legislative director Becky Straus gave us the best news! The Hobby Lobby ruling does not apply in Oregon. Oregon once again protects women!

The ruling pertained to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, enacted by President Clinton, which prevented laws that burden how someone can exercise their religion. This only applies to actions by the federal government, the portion of RFRA that applied to the states was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997 and the decision to enforce was left up to each individual state. Oregon is 1 of 19 states that has not passed RFRA.

In addition to Oregon not passing the RFRA, Oregon did pass a law in 2007, the Access to Birth Control Act (known nationally as a contraceptive equity law), making all prescription methods used to prevent pregnancy covered by any health plan that includes prescription benefits; (see ORS 743A.066). Insurance plans must comply with Oregon insurance law which requires all plans with prescription medication coverage to cover birth control.

The second element at play in keeping Hobby Lobby decision from Oregon is that the Religious Freedom Restoration Freedom Act (RFRA) only applies to actions by the federal government. The portion of RFRA that applied to the states was overturned by the Supreme Court soon after it was passed by Congress. Oregon is 1 of 19 states that has not passed it. Insurance companies therefore have to comply with Oregon insurance law which requires all plans that cover prescription medications to cover birth control.

Birth control is basic health care for women and Oregon law says so, and Oregon elected officials agree. In 2007, when Governor Ted Kulongoski signed the contraceptive equity bill into law he said the new law "is fundamentally about women being able to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families." And the Affordable Care Act should have made gender-based health care discrimination a thing of the past but the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision calls out women’s health care alone. The case that Oregon makes now is that yes, the Hobby Lobby decision is discrimination.

Shortly after the Hobby Lobby ruling, Senator Jeff Merkley -- who was instrumental in getting the contraceptive equity bill passed in 2007 as Speaker of the Oregon House -- released a statement calling out this discrimination:

“The Supreme Court decision will make it more difficult for women to make critical personal health choices and shows just how far we still have left to go to ensure total equality for women in the workplace and, unfortunately, even in the doctor’s office.”

Jeff Merkley is up for reelection this fall and his opponent, Oregon US Senate hopeful Monica Wehby, had a different opinion. Monica Wehby says that she supports their decision on Hobby Lobby. Wehby said that she doesn’t see a problem with the Hobby Lobby decision. She has been very clear that the same Justices who came to this misguided ruling are the ones she would confirm to the Supreme Court if she were a member of the US Senate. Wehby said that as long as every women still has access to contraception through a third party, she doesn't see a problem. Wehby clearly does not understand the full implications of the Hobby Lobby decision. No one should have to access third party benefits for basic health care.

Monica Wehby is personally against a woman’s rights to choose, and she would confirm anti-choice Supreme Court justices who want to overturn Roe v. Wade. After an editorial board interview with the Willamette Week, Monica Wehby described Justice Samuel Alito, the architect of this week’s ruling, as the Supreme Court Justice she “likes best of all.” She also describes Justice Antonin Scalia, perhaps the Court’s most conservative justice when it comes to women’s health, as her “ideal.” Justice Scalia believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and says “it can and should be overruled.” Scalia has called the Court’s decisions related to a woman’s right to choose, “utterly idiotic.” Monica Wehby wants voters to think she’s not going to Washington to change laws, but her embrace of the court’s most conservative justices says otherwise.

It is no secret that 99% of women use contraception sometime in their life for a variety of reasons. Denying a woman certain health care coverage is denying her fair payment for her work. A women works for her paychecks and part of her earned wages is her health care coverage, so telling her what prescription medications she can have access to, is no different than a boss telling her how to spend money each paycheck.

Starting in 2006, the Oregon House has maintained a pro-choice majority. Oregon has ensured health care access for all Oregonians, and they don’t suggest women get basic health care through a third party. In Oregon, women’s health care is protected, and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon will work to keep it that way. Bosses should stay in the board room and not the bedroom.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Confused by the Oregonian's GMO Confusion

July 7, 2014 - 2:21pm

That didn’t take long.

Three days after GMO labeling supporters turned in over 155,000 signatures to put their initiative on November’s ballot, and four months before Election Day, the Oregonian editorial board sounded the alarm: “GMO food-labeling mandate would sow only confusion.” The labeling they fear would be worded “Produced with Genetic Engineering.”

Let’s do a little survey on a few other federally mandated labels for everyday products:

“Contains orange juice concentrate” (Minute Maid): Confused?

“Irradiated” (Wegman’s Ground Beef): Puzzled?

“Calories - 150” (Pringles): Mystified?

“Product of Thailand” (Trader Joe’s Whole Cashews): Bewitched, bothered and bewildered?

If you answered no to all of the above, I’m guessing you’re part of a vast majority of Americans who emerge from grocery stores mentally intact. Neither have I seen any reports that consumers in 64 nations requiring GMO food labeling, including Germany, Japan, Australia, UK, even Russia, have succumbed to the Oregonian’s labeling-induced befuddlement.

No, it’s not the food labels that are confusing, it’s the Oregonian’s editorial. A few tidbits:

“Mandatory food labels should display nutritionally relevant information, not ideology.”

Well, we all agree that basic nutrition information is necessary and valuable. But there are several mandated food labels that have nothing to do with nutrition or ideology, as most examples cited above, yet are important and useful to millions of consumers.

“You can find a hodgepodge of arguments (for labeling) . . . They include environmental concerns, labeling requirements in other countries, a desire to protect organic farmers in Oregon, even consumers’ undefined ‘personal’ reasons.”

So the Oregonian cites several valid reasons for labeling and then decides to reject them. Their justification? The FDA feels “there is simply no scientific or nutritional basis to do so.” Again, the Oregonian ignores the inconvenient truth that the FDA has other reasons for labeling, such as country of origin and processing methods.

Then, mocking the concerns of anyone who dares question the government about GMO food safety: “Horrible things are just around the corner, in other words. Just wait.”

Just wait? Here’s a list of eight foods, such as bromated flour and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST), the FDA allows that are already banned in other nations. Obviously, these countries, in some cases dozens or hundreds of them, have found recent scientific research very troubling. The contentious debate on GMO’s and other foods, not to mention hormones in meat, is quite colorful: Where the FDA sees green lights, other countries see red flags.

History provides ample reason for concern. The government assured us DDT, PCB’s, mercury, dioxins and lead in paint and gasoline were safe, only to ban or restrict them later. The FDA has withdrawn approval for hundreds of drugs it once allowed, among them DES, which caused cervical cancer and infertility, and Vioxx, which caused tens of thousands of fatal heart attacks and strokes.

In fairness, the FDA and EPA, underfunded and understaffed, have a lot of dedicated employees and have done a great deal of good. But throughout our history, early critics of questionable substances have been routinely dismissed by “the experts,” who are typically paid by corporations producing the substances or by a government agency highly influenced by them.

In the past few months, New York Times and Consumers Union polls both found over 90% of respondents wanted GMO food labeled. These results represent millions of consumers, on all sides of the GMO safety argument. The campaign has supporters of all stripes. Proponents simply feel that no matter where you stand, you have the right to know what’s in your food. The Oregonian, on the other hand, contends that an additional four-word label will be just too much for our brains to handle.

In other words, the largest purveyor of written information in the state has taken the stance that we need to be less informed. No wonder I’m confused.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Equality on Independence Day

July 4, 2014 - 3:38pm

In the rousing beginning to the substance of the Declaration of Independence, the first political idea and value introduced is equality.

The rights that follow, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, rest on a foundation of equality.

The purpose of government, to secure those rights, with powers derived justly from the consent of the governed, can only be carried out by securing the means to enact them. Securing the right to life means securing to the governed the means of life, of livelihood. Securing the right to liberty means securing to the governed the means of living freely. Securing the right to the pursuit of happiness means securing to the governed the means of pursuing happiness.

A great deal of the history of the United States, subsequent to the Declaration, has involved struggles over tensions between the foundational principle of equality, and the right to livelihood, without which liberty and the pursuit of livelihood are meaningless, versus the rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, when those rights in the hands of persons who possess the means of livelihood, conflict with the right to life and livelihood of persons who don't fully possess the means to that right, making contingent their own rights of liberty and pursuit of happiness.

The Declaration rejects permanent inequality.

In 1776, that meant rejecting hereditary aristocracy, which justified denying the right of pursuing happiness and the means of doing to most of the people, and denying the right of liberty and the means of living freely to most of the people, and even denying the right of life and the means of securing a living to persons, if it conflicted with established inequalities.

In our time, there are twisted arguments that the liberty of some to acquire great wealth justifies permanent class inequalities, including denying the means to the right to life and the means to the right to pursue happiness to many. These twisted ideas purport to elevate the right to liberty above the foundational principle of equality on which it rests.

These twisted ideas have been systematically promoted for the past thirty five years, while conjointly the principle of equality has been systematically denigrated, driven to the margins, passed over in silence, and ignored.

Those ideas are wrong. It is time to raise up the centrality of equality in our intellectual, cultural, and political life as a nation again.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Monica Wehby brings Hobby Lobby close to home

July 2, 2014 - 2:27pm

The decision issued by the Supreme Court Monday in what is now known as the Hobby Lobby case has left many progressives simply horrified. After President Obama, and progressive senators like Jeff Merkley, pushed for a broad mandate to ensure that every woman could have access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act, five male Justices formed a majority, yanking this access away. They stated that closely held corporations could claim that their religious beliefs were paramount to the health of their employees and their most personal of decisions. Now, to be clear, it’s their female employees they want to police, as both vasectomies and Viagra are still covered. Of course.

Justice Alito was specifically concerned about any fines that these restrictive corporations might face from the federal government, calling them potentially a “substantial burden.” Substantial burden…right. As Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her scathing dissent, the costs of an IUD can be up to one month’s salary for some women. Indeed, this decision makes it so much harder for women struggling to make it on an hourly wage to get the healthcare they need. Apparently, these substantial burdens, those of low and middle income women, don’t count.

Why does all of this matter to us here in Oregon?

Well, Monica Wehby, current Republican candidate for the US Senate, thinks this Hobby Lobby decision is just swell. According to her campaign manager, Michael Antonopoulos, Dr. Wehby “doesn’t see a problem with the ruling.” This, despite the fact that she’s a doctor and has no doubt seen the way in which family planning is perhaps the most fundamental of healthcare services a woman needs.

Make no mistake – the ACA continues to survive only because progressive senators continue to fight for it. And, if Congress passes a law to mitigate the Hobby Lobby decision, it will be because of progressive senators.

Progressive leadership is not just important to protect family planning, though. Think about it. A religious exemption to federal laws? What’s next? The minimum wage law? Anti-discrimination laws? Environmental regulations? Already there's blowback to President Obama's recent Executive Order requiring federal contractors to extend equal benefits to their LGBT employees. The implications of this historic precedent may be felt for years to come.

I’m a feminist through and through…and I delight, exalt, in supporting women, those who serve as courageous leaders, and as fierce advocates for our health care, our families and our futures. We need more women in every elected office in the state and in our nation. Yet, in this case, supporting women and their families means ensuring that Monica Wehby does not get elected.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Paging Charlie Hales.

July 2, 2014 - 9:00am

Let's see here.

Portland has 603,000 residents. Boston has 635,000 residents. Our city budgets are roughly on par with each other. We both have robust technology industry sectors.

So, why does it feel like they're the ones living in the future?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

All Families Are Equal But Some are More Equal than Others

June 29, 2014 - 5:04pm

Looks like a headline for a Pride Month column? Nope, I'm dialing it back to topics that should be less current: who “deserves” to have children. Apparently we didn't get past it as a nation when the Supreme Court ruled against compulsory sterilization in 1942 (Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S 535). According to Elizabeth Hovde's column in the Oregonian yesterday, we shouldn't be providing paid maternity leave because the current proposal for funding it through a Social Security type mechanism would “fund maternity leave on the backs of other hardworking parents and people who planned when to have kids and afford them without government help.”

Apparently we should not join just about every other industrialized economy in providing paid time to recuperate from childbirth and care for infants because some people deserve to have kids and others do not. Those who do allegedly can afford to have them without government help because they engaged in prudent planning. Everyone else just has to figure it out. Is it alarmist to analogize this to eugenic sterilization? Perhaps, but since it is one of only two substantive arguments, spread across about 4 sentences in the 760 word article, I want to consider the implications of the policy position. The bulk of the article is devoted to generic snide comments about President Obama, who has not endorsed the specific funding proposal.

Hovde's second argument against paid maternity leave is it “might make useful family planning happen even less”. Hovde does not define “useful family planning”. Does she mean poor families would suddenly start having more kids because of the generosity of having some percentage of their low wage jobs paid out to one parent for twelve weeks? After which the parent would return to a job that may or may not offer sick days to care for the child for the rest of its dependent years, may or may not pay enough to cover daycare costs, and quite possibly does not pay enough to keep the family out of poverty. Clearly people are willing to raise children in all of the above circumstances, so a spike in the birthrate from a paid parental benefit is pretty unlikely.

Millions of American children have been born without a paid parental leave policy and will continue to be. The outcome of doing nothing, as Hovde would prefer, would be to continue leaving families economically vulnerable for procreating. Our status quo is: well educated, well compensated classes (a rapidly diminishing percentage of the U.S. population) have children, take a parental or sick leave with benefits (or use up the six, twelve or more weeks of income that they are presumed to have saved up). Others take 12 weeks if they qualify for FMLA, use paid sick leave if they have it (many people do not even have unpaid sick leave), use disability if they have it (many do not) and vacation (if they have it) and the rest of the time they are just on their own: no income comes in. Or you lose your job. A woman recuperating from a C-section (a surgery with potential for severe complications) or any other major birth complication simply loses wages (or that job) until she can go back to work. If the infant is born prematurely or with other challenges, anyone taking care of the infant simply loses wages.

This state of affairs affects those most vulnerable: low wage workers, temporary workers, single parents. However, Hovde says such folk don't deserve a benefit “funded on the backs” of those who “planned” their children and can do it without government help. Hovde may also be assuming everyone who has a child actually plans to do it exactly when they would find it most economically convenient (no surprise third babies because the birth control failed). She also suggests people with employer provided benefits (or the means to take time off work without severe adverse financial consequences) are raising children without governmental help. This discounts tax preferences for employee benefit plans, tax credits or anything else. (The annual tax benefit for having a child is small compared to the cost of raising one, but may be comparable to a one time per child salary replacement).

So this leaves the argument that some people - specifically poor people- just should not be having kids. If they do, as a society we should not be validating or subsidizing it. Hovde casts this as just one of those tough choices that responsible people have to make, but given the numerous things that we do choose to subsidize and endorse as a society, that argument is not persuasive.

Up until now, we have largely chosen to let poor children and their parents flounder, all talk of “pro-family” aside. Unless one is born into a family in which one parent makes enough for the other parent to stay home, we apparently don't care whether a woman has to choose between paying her rent and going back to work with a newborn. That is not identical to systematically eliminating the physical ability of poor women, women of color and other people deemed unworthy of reproducing to actually give birth, which we have a history of doing. But how much better is deliberate indifference to the welfare of children, newborn and ever after, whose births are deemed “less worthy”?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

DeFazio: Every time gas prices go up, Republicans pass imaginary legislation. It's Groundhog Day in June!

June 28, 2014 - 2:00pm

Remember "Drill, Baby, Drill"?

Well, over the last three years, domestic oil production is up nearly 50% since 2011. Nonetheless, the House Republicans are back with legislation that would remove a bunch of the restrictions on even more drilling -- offshore and on-shore.

Well, you can count on Congressman Peter DeFazio to blowing the whistle on this nonsense. Check out the video.

What's the craziest part of the nonsense?

The legislation, which passed 229 to 189, would actually allow Big Oil to -- wait for it -- ship American oil overseas for export sales.

What?! You read that right. The whole idea behind "Drill, Baby, Drill!" was to make America energy-independent of foreign oil. Now they want to export American crude overseas? That doesn't make us energy independent. That does the exact opposite.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

To improve health care, let's at least ask the right questions, OK?

June 27, 2014 - 9:00am

By Samuel Metz, MD. Samuel is a private practice anesthesiologist, HCAO representative from the Portland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, and founding member of Mad As Hell Doctors.

Oregon’s HB 3260 study of health care financing: The life you save may be your own.

Oregon’s unpredictable health care system is a lot like our unpredictable weather: everyone complains, but no one does anything about it. Now Oregonians can finally do something about our unpredictable health care system (our unpredictable weather remains a problem).

Oregonians should support the HB 3260 study of health care financing. This study is the next and most critical step toward providing all of us with the care we need at a cost we can afford. And every Oregonian needs health care – if not today, just wait a few years.

What does this HB 3260 study have to do with health care? The short answer can be found at OregonStudy.org. Here’s the more complete answer.

The world is filled with health care systems providing better care to more people for less money than our American private insurance industry. Unhappily, most of those successful health care systems are outside our borders. But domestic or international, all successful health care systems have much to teach us, if we are willing to learn.

Lesson one: Before you enact health care reform, know the alternatives. That’s where the HB 3260 study comes in. This measure, unanimously approved by Oregon’s House Health Committee and passed with bipartisan support, authorizes the Oregon Health Authority to study at least four methods of financing universal health care in Oregon. Upon completion, the OHA will send the results to our legislature with its recommendation of the best method to provide comprehensive care at the best price.

Lesson two: Credible information promotes wise choices. This makes HB 3260 study especially important. State legislatures in Vermont and California passed measures establishing universal statewide health care that expanded benefits and reduced cost. Vermont will implement its plan in 2017; the California legislature saw its measure vetoed by then Governor Schwarzenegger (the California legislature passed the measure again, and the Terminator vetoed it again). In both states, a study of health care financing authorized by the legislature provided critical information that motivated legislators to take positive, and reality-based, action.

Let’s put the lessons together. The HB 3260 study enables Oregon to provide better care to more people for less money.

So, what’s the catch?

Our legislature did not fund the HB 3260 study. Finding the money is up to us.

This study will cost $200,000. Considering that Oregonians spend over $30 billion annually on health care and that the study results potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars while improving access, that’s a good investment.

Contributors will be in good company. Supports of the study include the Oregon Medical Association, the Oregon Primary Care Association, the Oregon Public Health Association, the National Physicians Alliance, the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, and many business owners and private citizens. But we need more.

How can we promote the study? Three ways:

  • Contribute directly at OregonStudy.org

  • Spread word about the study through, Facebook, Twitter, and email. Be sure to mention OregonStudy.org. For Twitter-heads, mention #universalhealthcare and @singlepayerOR.

  • Tell your legislator to support the HB 3260 study. Then tell them you expect legislative action when the study is complete.

Few states have the opportunity that Oregon has right now. We want better care to more people for less money. Oregon’s HB 3260 study finally does something about it.

Oregon’s weather, well, that’s a problem for another legislative session.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

A Quick Fix to the Portland Street Fee

June 25, 2014 - 4:38pm

By Jamie Woods of Portland, Oregon. Jamie is an economics professor and former school board member from East Portland.

Now that the decision about the residential part of the street fee is pushed back to November, it gives us some time for a cooler and more considered assessment of what can be accomplished.

Yes, the proposal, in spite of the reduction for lower income Portlanders, is regressive. The fees are regressive because we were all going to be charged the same price for different services. People that live on well paved roads, with safe intersections, in walkable neighborhoods will pay the same as those on a gravel road, near an intersection that kills a few people every year.

This focus on transportation service where folks live is different than what the city council has been considering. They have been focused on trips traveled and heavy vehicles. People value what they see every day, not abstract transportation services, but the physical items near them and their property.

Start with the current, postage stamp fee, and then give a household a discount if they front on an unpaved road. Give them another discount based on how many people are injured at local intersections. Give them another discount if their neighborhood is not walkable. Give them a discount if their street has less than five years of useful life.

You get the idea.

On top of that, give them a discount for being low income. If we do it right, a low-income person living on a bad road with dangerous intersections will get a check from the city -- along with an apology.

This small change addresses a lot of the criticism directed at the current plan.

This system has the advantage of aligning revenue collection with services provided. If the bureau of transportation wants more revenue for a bridge and other project, they don't go to the city council, they improve walkability in East Portland or pave a road. If they want more revenue for a public transit related project -- they fix a dangerous intersection. Traffic related deaths in the neighborhood bring down neighborhood fees and will be more quickly addressed.

For the economists reading this, I'm making an emotional appeal for an incentive compatible contract, between the citizens and the city, for services.

Linking the fees to performance also address the fears expressed in the survey that the fees can be siphoned off for other purposes.

The performance linked fees will supplement an advisory board, something the current proposal lacks, is advisable, but advisory boards come with risks. Advisory boards depend on outside, well-motivated, knowledgeable individuals to participate. East Portland and other underserved areas don't have those kinds of experts to advocate for them. That is why these mechanisms work well for well-educated and well-served communities but fail for others. The revenue costs of parochial decisions will put a damper on some of the worst aspects of an advisory board.

I say, keep the fee, but make a few adjustments to how it is paid.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Summer Hunger: more than waiting for the ice cream truck

June 23, 2014 - 10:53am

Editor's note: Today, we welcome Elleanor Chin to the ranks of BlueOregon's regular contributors. She's an attorney and activist. Read her bio, and see the links to her earlier guest columns. Welcome, Elleanor!

Public school in Oregon is out for the summer. No more homework, no more worksheets and no more free and reduced price school lunches. Over a quarter million Oregon public school students (approximately half of all students) are eligible for free and reduced price lunches. For many students, this means they do not get enough to eat in the summer. Federal subsidies for feeding hungry children and families include not only free lunch, but free breakfast and backpack programs that provide children with food to take home on weekends and school breaks.

Oregon is a state where both food culture and agriculture play a significant role, but we still have a significant population living in poverty, including 23 percent of children. Despite living in one of the most technologically advanced and wealthy countries in the world, poverty in the United States means food insecurity – the basic inability for all people in a household to have enough food to live an active, healthy life. This includes children living in households with one or more parent working.

Food drives get considerable publicity in the winter months, particularly during the holiday giving season, however, there is still a substantial need in the summer months – as the more fortunate are planting their gardens and going to farmer's markets. Oregon hunger relief programs have multiple summer feeding sites. In the Portland area that includes school affiliated sites and the Rockwood branch of the Multnomah County Public Library.

There are many opportunities to support anti-hunger programs in the summer, including volunteering at the Oregon Food Bank learning gardens, and supporting food banks and other programs by Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. In Portland New Seasons Market is partnering with hunger relief organizations throughout June and July, including Sisters of the Road, which has a work and barter focused program.

However, hunger relief is still not hunger prevention. Consider also the underlying causes of hunger: inadequate wages, unstable employment and high costs of living. Hunger is a secondary effect of poverty and as a society we can make choices at the local, state and national level that reduce child and family poverty. These include mandating wages that do not require a family to choose between eating, rent and transportation. In some parts of the country that can be as high as $22.00 an hour, but it makes an immediate and significant difference. Parents need to not only make living wages, but to be able to keep them, meaning having access to affordable childcare and having the ability to take a paid sick day to care for a child. Creating a society in which working families do not require food assistance should be a basic priority.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

PSU discovers and digitizes long-lost tapes of historic speeches

June 23, 2014 - 6:00am

This is extraordinary. At Portland State, they've discovered hundreds of reel-to-reel tapes that contain speeches by historical figures stretching from the 1950s to the 1970s.

According to KGW, it's all thanks to a curious university archivist:

Christine Paschild, PSU’s university archivist, said she was wandering around the warehouse one day and "noticed a bunch of cardboard boxes labeled ‘reel-to-reel.’”

She found some amazing stuff -- and 275 hours of it has been digitized for your listening pleasure.

For example, there's Linus Pauling, speaking the same year that he became the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes. There's Stokely Carmichael, the leader of the Black Panther Party on institutional racism (a term he invented.) And Henry Kissinger, speaking in 1960 on military planning and foreign policy, years before he became Nixon's National Security Advisor and Secretary of State.

There's also Oregon's Senator Wayne Morse speaking in 1968 about the Gulk of Tonkin -- and why he was one of just two Senators to vote against the resolution authorizing war in Vietnam. And Oregon Congresswoman Edith Green also in 1968, one of the authors of Title IX, speaking on education.

And of course, there's the long-lost 1968 campaign speech by Robert Kennedy, two months before the Oregon primary election of 1968 and just 10 weeks before his assassination. Listen to it here (he starts speaking at about 5:30, immediately flubbing the name of the university!):

Amazing stuff.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

George Will Should Not Be in the Oregonian

June 19, 2014 - 9:38pm

On June 5, 2014, the Oregonian ran a now infamous column by George Will, in which he mocked the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses and stated that rape victims enjoy a “coveted status,” enviable among other women. Will further implied that women are making it all up (he doesn’t buy the statistics that 1 of every 5 women on U.S. college campuses experience sexual assault), and that definitions of assault are “capacious” for including unwanted touching.

Apparently not done offending pretty much everyone, especially assault victims, he went on to patronizingly suggest that trigger warnings, sensitively afforded for victims of assault, served only to prevent a ruffling of a “student’s entitlement to serenity” and that the true victims were, wait for it, the universities themselves as they faced demands to provide a safe environment for women.

Pretty gross. And absurd.

Rather than contributing to valuable debate on an important topic, Will demeaned, ridiculed and diminished what is, in reality, a pervasive problem on our college campuses and a real and undeniable horror that women face. In short, he was not one bit aware of or interested in what women experience in the way of sexual violence in this country.

Not surprisingly, there has been a significant backlash to Will’s sexist diatribe. Women’s organizations, including the National Organization for Women, have called upon the Washington Post to fire Will. While the Post has so far stood by their man, others have not been so willing. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has dropped Will, stating “The change has been under consideration for several months, but a column published June 5, in which Mr. Will suggested that sexual assault victims on college campuses enjoy a privileged status, made the decision easier. The column was offensive and inaccurate; we apologize for publishing it."

Now it’s time for the Oregonian to make the same decision. All of us, men and women, deserve a paper that doesn’t print dangerous ideas diminishing sexual assault and real trauma. We deserve columnists that promote real debate, not hatred and condescension. We deserve writers and thinkers who can raise delicate and controversial issues respectfully and who have a better sense of the world around them than Will has. Surely there are other options that would be a better fit for Oregon readers?

What say you, Oregonian? Can you do that for the community you serve and purport to influence?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Biotech's Losing Game of Whack-A-Mole

June 18, 2014 - 11:35am

When I was a kid going to amusement parks, they would typically have a “Whack-a-Mole” game. Armed with your mallet, you’d pound the heads of pesky moles popping up all over the place, trying to drive them back under the surface.

Biotech, agribusiness and Big Food, led by Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), are now unwillingly engaged in their own Whack-a-Mole game with legislators, farmers and consumers challenging genetically engineered (GE or GMO) crops and food. This time the moles aren’t plastic and the playing field isn’t an arcade, but the entire country.

There are two major types of actions, banning the growing of GMO crops and requiring the labeling of GMO food. Last month, Jackson County sent a nationwide shock wave, passing an initiative banning GMO crops by a whopping 66%-34% margin. This is after being outspent 3-1, with some of the most powerful biotech and food corporations in the country dropping nearly $1 million trying to stop it. In bordering Josephine County, voters approved another GMO crop ban in another landslide, 58%-42%, defying a state law pre-empting such measures that had excluded only Jackson County. If Benton County can get enough signatures, a November initiative there would be next.

The most recent epicenter for GMO crop bans is Hawaii. Last year, Kauai enacted an ordinance that restricted, but didn’t ban, growing of GMO crops. Now residents are proposing a county charter amendment that would ban all GE cultivation unless biotech corporations could demonstrate that their pesticides aren’t harmful to public health. Also last year, Big Island residents passed a law banning GMO crops except papaya. Biotech firms have sued both counties. On Maui, a similar voter initiative could ban GMO crop growing if it passes this fall.

On the labeling front, Vermont’s state legislature led the way by passing a law last month that would require labeling GMO food starting in 2016. The GMA and other trade groups waited all of a month before announcing they would sue to stop the law from taking effect. Earlier, Connecticut and Maine had also passed bills requiring labeling, but they’re contingent upon other states passing similar bills. In all, 25 states are considering legislative action to label. Worldwide, 64 nations already require GMO food labeling.

Enter Oregon - again. After near-misses of labeling initiatives in California and Washington State that both lost 51%-49%, a coalition of consumer advocates, farmers and businesses are mobilizing to place an initiative on the ballot for this November. Signature-gatherers all over the state are going to farmers’ markets, libraries, grocery stores and big events to sign up the 87,000 + voters required. Meanwhile, a similar initiative is gathering steam in Colorado.

In short, we’re witnessing a massive popular uprising against GMO’s and the lack of transparency in our grocery stores. Indeed, a Consumers Union poll just released found that 92% of Americans want GMO food labeled. The labeling campaigns’ common sense resonates with virtually everyone: We have the right to know what’s in our food.

Monsanto and friends’ responses so far have been to spend millions to fight the initiatives through saturation TV and radio ads and millions more on lobbyists in state capitals to block legislation. If that fails, they bring on the lawyers. And behind it all, they go to Washington, DC to get the fed’s to pre-empt any state or local action. In other words, stamp out grass roots democracy.

Up until a few years ago, they usually won. But a critical mass of energized advocates has emerged – organized people have started to defeat organized money. No one knows how all this will play out, but for now, the biotech giants are facing their worst nightmare: Too many moles, not enough mallets.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Why is Greg Walden screwing over farmers in his district?

June 17, 2014 - 10:33pm

Over at the Daily Astorian, they're wondering aloud about a very good question: Why is Congressman Greg Walden bottling up immigration reform legislation when a key constituency -- a usually reliably Republican one -- really wants reasonable, comprehensive immigration reform to happen?

Of course, as you might expect from a member of the House GOP leadership, he pointed the finger at anyone but himself:

When Oregon Congressman Greg Walden was pressed on the issue of immigration reform he blamed the impasse on (guess who) President Obama. Walden did that in spite of the bipartisan Senate immigration bill which has been sitting in the House since one year ago.

On Fox News Sunday Walden said: “How do we know he’ll enforce something that we do go forward on? And so that causes a lot of distrust at the grassroots level and in the Congress, frankly, if you look at all the laws he’s waived, parts of laws he doesn’t like.”

With a Senate bill awaiting action in the House, Walden’s excuse is empty.

And about that key constituency? We're talking farmers...

It is especially galling that Walden plays this game since Eastern Oregon farmers in his congressional district are desperate for pragmatic immigration reform. The lack of an updated law is hurting them financially. One of the most puzzling betrayals in American politics is how Republican congressmen have kissed off the farmers, a traditionally Republican constituency.

What Walden is really saying by blaming Obama is that he (Walden) is unwilling to be a leader.

Here's hoping that Aelea Christofferson can make it a race. Tough sledding, but someone needs to hold that guy accountable for being an absentee legislator.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

For Monica Wehby, last week didn't go so well.

June 16, 2014 - 9:45pm

Monica Wehby was surely hoping that last week was the week that her campaign got back on target.

It started on Monday when she finally, at long last, addressed the media about those troublesome police reports. But her explanation caused guffaws from coast to coast. In her own words, as reported by the AP's J.J. Cooper:

"I think that the thing to learn from that is that I am a person who will stand up for what I believe in," Wehby said of the police reports. "I'm a person who doesn't easily back down. I will fight for Oregonians with very strong conviction. I'm a very committed, determined person."

As Daily Kos's Jed Lewison put it, "GOP Senate candidate cites harassment allegations as key qualification".

Or as Wonkette put it:

In fact, Wehby is doubling down on the whole thing and explaining that her stalking and harassing show a strength of character and oh dear god we love this woman so much already because we are gonna write about her forfuckingever.

Also, Wonkette noted that Wehby said, "But you know, I kind of like people who aren’t perfect; they’re easier for me to relate to."

Which probably means that her pollster isn't going to get fired. Because hey, who needs polling that's accurate? You see, the next day, her campaign said they had an internal poll that showed she was down just two points to Jeff Merkley -- 41 to 39.

That would be a bit of good news, but the next day's news brought another, much more reliable poll into the conversation. On behalf of KATU, SurveyUSA found that Senator Jeff Merkley was beating Wehby by 50% to just 32%, including a lead -- notes The Hill -- "in every gender, age, education and income group tested".

Of course, her pollster probably keeps his job because bad polling seems to be endemic to the Republican Party. Tuesday, of course, was the day that Rep. Eric Cantor lost to his primary challenger, after his pollster said he was winning 62 to 38. As GOP uber-pollster Frank Luntz put it:

Right now there are 230 House Republicans who are waking up praying that they do not have Eric Cantor's pollster. Honestly, and I'm one of them, we Republican pollsters suck. We have no ability to be able to analyze the electorate.

And then, there's the not-exactly-friendly reaction that Wehby's health care "plan" is getting from some erstwhile allies. Here's what conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru had to say:

I read Wehby's plan more than once. No matter how many times I read it, though, I couldn't make it make sense.

And then, in another column, this time on National Review -- the sort of publication that would normally be jumping up and down with glee about Wehby -- Ponnuru wrote:

So here’s where Wehby has stood on replace vs. fix, in chronological order: On the campaign website it outlined a plan of “fixes” with no mention of replacement; the campaign manager then said that Wehby was for replacement; and now the campaign is approvingly tweeting an article that commends her for not wanting a replacement. The tweet itself describes her plan as “reforming Obamacare.” All clear?

So, in short, bad public appearances, bad polling, and bad policy. Can it get worse for Wehby?

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Enough is enough. Tell our legislators to commit to action on gun safety.

June 12, 2014 - 7:00am

This week, another child in Oregon died of gun violence. What happened at Reynolds High School breaks my heart.

Enough is enough. Twice in two years, the Oregon Legislature has considered gun safety legislation -- but hasn't even managed to bring these reasonable proposals to the floor for a vote.

Please join BlueOregon Action and Oregon National Organization for Women in calling on our legislators to commit now to take action.

It is time for the Oregon Legislature to act to reduce gun violence. We know that no single law will end gun violence, but we can act prudently to reduce violence and save lives.

Our children should not fear going to school. These are preventable tragedies and the time for excuses has come to an end.

Sign the petition and tell the Legislature that enough is enough. Commit now to pass reasonable gun safety laws.

We're better than this.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs

Heartache for Emilio Hoffman and the entire Reynolds HS community

June 10, 2014 - 11:32pm

I've been searching all day for the right words to say about what happened at Reynolds High School today. I still don't have the words.

So, I'll turn it over to Congressman Earl Blumenauer who, joined by his colleagues in the Oregon delegation in the U.S. House, spoke on the House floor today about the shooting at Reynolds High in Troutdale.

There will be time -- perhaps as soon as tomorrow -- for our shock and our outrage and our sadness to turn to action. Here at BlueOregon, I'm fairly certain I speak for our entire community when I say that we must do something.

But for now, I'll just leave you with these photos of Emilio Hoffman, who left us far too early. At school. Just fourteen years old.

Our hearts ache for Emilio's family, his friends, the entire Reynolds HS community.

Categories: Blue Oregon Blogs