The OC Blog Back Issues Our Mission Contact Us Masthead
Sudsy Wants You to Join the Oregon Commentator
 

Archive for June, 2007

Plaid Pantry rescinds support of Gordon Smith

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Plaid Pantry CEO Chris Girard says he will no longer support Sen. Gordon Smith, financially or personally, due to the senator’s support of a cigarette tax increase. Girard signaled the end of his and Smith’s relationship through an official Dear John letter, lamenting thus:

“We never expected you to ‘like’ tobacco and alcohol … but we also did not expect you to abandon your commitment to small businesses, selling legal products to customers who do enjoy using these products.”

Smith is also no longer privy to complimentary hot dogs and issues of “Jugs,” and his picture has been placed on every Plaid Pantry’s ”wall of shame,” which lists shoplifters, 86′d patrons and tax-and-spend politicians. Not really …. but probably.

Brains 2: Taxation Bugaloo

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Having read the full paper that I mentioned here, I think some of my initial reservations, which were based on a synopsis, were a little misplaced. Which, frankly, should come as a shock to no one. Maybe the reviewers at Science know more about good science than I do, whoda thunk it? In any case, Harbaugh and his co-authors were looking for the hedonic rewards granted by both voluntary giving and mandatory transfer. They were doing this in an isolated, controlled environment Essentially, by examining the activity in the parts of the brain known to be associated with feelings of satisfaction, they worked to understand the different neural effects of giving to a charity and being made to give to a charity.

By doing this, Harbaugh et al*. were able to look at whether a motive of pure altruism existed, or if the data were consistent with the “warm glow” theory of giving (a good feeling from the sense of agency associated with voluntary giving). Purely altruistic giving may be reduced by government spending, where warm glow giving wouldn’t be. Why people give to charity, therefore, is an important question when it comes to the provision of public goods. If we provide them through taxation, and people are purely altruistic, then you’d expect them to quit donating to private charities as a result. On the other hand, if they are motivated solely by the good feeling they get from the choice of giving, you wouldn’t expect charitable giving to be reduced by taxation.

(more…)

Democratic Debate III: The Last Temptation of Toxie

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

The next question is about Katrina.

This is the most boring question yet. I know, I can’t believe it either. The candidates all agree: The Bush administration screwed this up. Duh!

Edwards talks about how he personally rebuilt New Orleans. But then he talks about how we need to pay the citizens of N.O. to rebuild their own damn city.

(more…)

Democratic Debate III: The Dale Earnhardt Story

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

What the hell is the deal with the microphones. Seriously, they keep going in and out. What a bunch of crappy PBS production values.

(more…)

Democratic Debate III: The Art of War — Live Blogging Edition

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

** Just as I suspected, OPB isn’t carrying this shit, so I have to watch the live webcast. Hooray for technology!

Jesus Christ, this is going to be terrible. What the hell am I doing? I’m sure I have better things to do, like eat dinner or take a shower. But I guess the whole point of blogging is that you don’t have to shower, so I’m all good.

(more…)

Unseen Senate Efficiency

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Whether it was lack of issues to rule on or a glimpse of utopia, today’s Senate meeting was amazingly swift. Ted asked me to join him in covering the meeting, and he was planning on leaving soon after it began. He never got the chance, however, since the meeting itself took a mere 18 minutes.

We got into the meeting a bit late, but the issues that were covered by the summer Senate were re-allocation of funds for the U of O Pre-Dental Club and the re-allocation of unused funds from the Student Payroll to Student Leadership Fund for stipends for summer Senators for June. Also, Sen. Kate Jones briefly mentioned the ethics reform that the Campaign for Change would like to implement, and gave everyone a list of examples of Codes of Ethics.

The re-allocation of funds for the Pre-Dental club was passed unanimously.

Re-allocation for the stipend failed, with 3 of the senators voting aye, and 3 abstaining. When I heard the motion come to the table, I instantly perked up. What I heard from the table was: 627 unused dollars? Let’s pay ourselves with it.
While I understand that the money would ‘go to waste’ if it was not used, I’m sure there’s a better place for it to be allocated to. The three senators that abstained did so either because they were the ones that submitted the motion, or they were not sure if they liked the idea of giving themselves money.
Don’t worry, you’ll get comfortable with doing that, soon. But I commend you for not letting yourselves get bullied into voting aye.

Examples of Codes of Ethics:

www.state.ar.us/dfa/accounting/pdf/ethics_example.pdf

www.michiganffa.com/association/membership/sample_ethics_code.doc
This is an example of how badly ethics reform is needed in the Student Senate: We’re getting tips from Future Farmers of America. Perhaps its time that some senators learn some agriculture, too.

Guidance for writing a Code of Ethics

www.ethicsweb.ca/codes/coe3.htm

Senate Ethics Manual

ethics.senate.gov/downloads/pdffiles/manual.pdf

Supreme Court to schools: “Integrate this!”

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

The Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision against school integration plans in Louisville, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington; the decision is a precedent that could be used against hundreds of similar diversity programs in public schools across the nation.

Chief Justice John Roberts summed up the majority opinion when he said, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Ironically, both sides of the court used Brown vs. Board of Education to bolster their opinions. The dissenting minority argued that forced integration and diversity plans were in accordance with the landmark 1954 ruling, while Roberts and the other four justices claimed that such attempts flew in the face of what Brown vs. Board of education meant. Clarence Thomas, the only black justice on the Supreme Court, offered this:

“What was wrong in 1954 cannot be right today. The plans before us base school assignment decisions on students’ race. Because ‘our Constitution is colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,’ such race-based decisionmaking is unconstitutional.”

It’s too bad Nate Gulley and his squadron of oppressed minority students weren’t around to accuse Thomas of “forgetting where he came from.” Of course, this doesn’t affect the University of Oregon, where we have our own little diversity plan, nor does it overturn the 2003 Supreme Court ruling that upheld consideration of race in college admissions. (more…)

Portland Picks Oden First Overall …

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

instead of Durant. Personally, I think they made the right decision, though Portland has been known to make some egregious draft choices.

Democratic Debate III: Forced to Fight

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

If you are anything like me, you’re probably wondering to yourself: What the hell! There’s another presidential debate? Tonight?

Yep. This one will focus on minority issues and will take place at Howard University, giving Hillary Clinton another opportunity to spread her phraseological wings. Tavis Smiley will moderate, and the whole 90-minute snoozefest will suposedly air on PBS (though I’ve seen no listing for it).The law of diminishing returns is certainly doing a number on these debates: First they appeared on basic cable, now (possibly) PBS. We’ve got a year and a half of this nonsense left, so expect the debates a year from now to appear on cable access, nudged between Hemp TV and That Show In Which Trashy Kids In Springfield Endanger Each Other Practicing Professional Wrestling Moves.

I will liveblog this event for your pleasure. Unless I forget, or if I run out of beer.

Grier to Harbaugh: “Please Stop Asking Questions”

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Universities are supposed to be proud bastions of inquiry and understanding, but apparently this principle now only applies to those who agree with the University Administration. Economics professor Bill Harbaugh has been asking questions all year long about the Administration’s diversity building efforts, only to have his reasonable, sensible critiques met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Now, in a letter from UO General Counsel Melinda Grier, the administration has made it abundantly clear that any questioning of the accepted approach to diversity building will be ignored to the extent that the law provides.

This isn’t all that surprising, given the fact that Harbaugh has already had to file ethical complaints against President Frohnmayer in order to get access to (supposedly) public documents on the affirmative action plan, but it’s almost bitterly amusing to see a University attempting to squash discourse and inquiry, the cornerstones of it’s institutional raisons d’etre. The only real reason given for breaking off discoure with Harbaugh is that answering all his questions would “consume a tremendous amount of time,” which is hardly a compelling argument coming from an institution which is heavily invested in long-term research projects such as nanotechnology and sustainability. The real message that the Administration is sending with this letter is that current diversity building efforts can not be improved through discourse and debate, and that trying to improve them is not in the institutional interests of the University of Oregon.

Interesting Research: Brains May Like Taxes

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Late to the party as always, I’d like to point out that University Economics Professor Bill Harbaugh has a new paper on paying taxes in Science a couple of weeks ago. First of all, congratulations to Professor Harbaugh on getting this interesting piece of research into a leading journal. Go Science! Secondly, I’d like to move on to my amateurish and maybe misplaced critique.

Unlike a lot of right-leaning folks, and especially unlike many libertarians, I’m open to the possibility that paying taxes does make people feel good in some way, some of the time. If you think of a nation-state as a really large tribe, and think a little about how important intra-tribal generosity can be in an evolutionary setting…well, maybe even compelled generosity can make people feel good. But, even if the conclusion is right, I don’t think it really has much implication for the proper relationship between man and the state: the proper role and function of government is unaffected by what makes people feel good. In fact, I would argue, that due to the extremely difficult problems we face when we try to aggregate preferences, and the strange behavior of voters, that we will never be able to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all or even most citizens in a given nation-state. Therefore, the philosophical position that a minimal state achieves the most freedom and allows individuals to pursue their own ends with minimal interference which allows the best outcomes given the constraints of the real-world, is still fairly compelling, I think. Furthermore, if voluntary giving and compelled giving stimulate the same area of the brain it seems that allowing people to keep their money and donate to charity as they see fit would achieve similar ends to forced giving through a state system. Additionally, perhaps paying taxes doesn’t offer the same kind of hedonistic reward as relevant alternatives, which would mean it isn’t the best choice in many instances. Science’s summary seems to say that much is true:

The sense of well-being in the voluntary giving condition surpassed that seen when subjects were taxed.

In any case, I have a few questions about the study in general:

1) As the ODE story points out, only 19 people were sampled for this study. That’s a pretty small sample to draw conclusions from, and it could be biased, so I wonder if this paper should really serve as a jumping-off point for larger sample studies in the future.

2) Is compelled donation to a local food bank really a good proxy for taxation? A local food bank is an easily identifiable good, and one that has fairly measurable effects that participants in the study can see or at least read about in the local paper. Taxation, on the other hand, helps and hinders a variety of activities by a variety of people at a fairly large remove from the taxpayer which could, I suppose, reduce the effect if people feel more tribe-like affinity for their city than they do for the country as a whole. So I’m not sure that a local food bank is exactly the right proxy for taxation as it is actually practiced. I wonder if a better proxy would be something like a rich compact of Hawaiians in Maui.

Maybe those two issues are addressed in the full paper, but I’m not made of money so I don’t have a subscription to Science and I can’t seem to find a working-paper version anyplace on Professor Harbaugh’s website. Anyway, it is a pretty interesting bit of research and I’d be interested to hear answers to the above.

UPDATE: A friend of mine has graciously provided me with a .pdf of the entire paper, which I will read tonight after work and may post about after I’ve had a chance to {attempt} to digest the whole thing.

One thing we do have in common with Taliban suicide bombers…

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

…is long, boring graduations. Screw the lei and the stole of graditude, I’m bringing an RPG to my commencement!

Hat Tip: Daily Dish.

Free The Beersicles!

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Why is that as soon as someone comes up with an idea which has the potential to usher in a new age of peace and understanding, some pissant liquor regulator has to come in and screw things up for everyone? Does it get any more joyless and misanthropic than denying frozen beer treats to hot, thirsty alcoholics? Has anyone been to Virginia in the summer? Oh, the humanity! (Hat Tip: The Agitator)

“Thanks to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Oregon has become less democratic”

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Commentator Alum Bret Jacobson had an op-ed piece printed Tuesday in the Register-Guard. According to Ian, here is the Money Quote:

The problems associated with trading traditional democratic elections for a petitionlike process shouldn’t be a surprise to Kulongoski or to Congress. (more…)

f-theliberalsapedia

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Conservapedia, “the trustworthy encyclopedia” that fights the good fight against the uber-liberal bias of Wikipedia and Google, was featured in the L.A. Times on Tuesday.

“We don’t make false claims of neutrality, as Wikipedia does. We have certain principles that we adhere to, and we are up-front about them. Beyond that we welcome the facts,” it says on the website. This all sounds great, until you realize that those certain principles spawn from the Christian right-wingers.