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Archive for February, 2005


February 16th, 2005 by Tyler

Yay. For some reason, we received complimentary issues of Out Magazine, which were accidentally sent to the ODE. Will the perks of this job ever cease? But I must ask: Why would the Emerald give up such fantastic reading material? Don’t they want to know how unhung men cope?

Blatant Self Interest … Redux

February 16th, 2005 by Tyler

For those who missed my radio interview with Victoria Taft, you’re in luck. I’ve been invited back to discuss Ward Chruchill. It should be interesting.

I’ll be on at around 6:45, 860 KPAM (simulcast on the web here).

New Issue

February 15th, 2005 by Tyler

Check it out. The new issue is out, and it’s filled with wonderful journalistic droppings.

Pfeiffer at the Gates of Dawn

February 15th, 2005 by wwb

Former OC writer, ODE writer, student senator and roommate Eric Pfeiffer’s new daily web column debuted at National Review Online today. Bookmark it, and check in regularly. You’ll never read Wonkette again.

In other Washington journalism news, the Big O got the back of Jack Shafer’s hand in Slate this week:

The [New York] Times obviously competes with the other national dailies — the Journal, USA Today, and the Financial Times — but increasingly its target will be the anemic local daily, such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer or the Oregonian.

Anemic? Local? Daily? I can think of a few more broadsheets that fit the bill.

Ward Churchill: Felony Violation Of Godwin’s Law

February 14th, 2005 by olly

Ordinarily, a pack of wild pigs would be incapable of dragging me to a symposium entitled “Homeland ‘In’Security: Race, Immigration and Labor in Post-9/11 North America” – so I’m saddened by the news that embattled University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill will not be attending.

This is a wise move on the part of the organizers. Churchill’s participation would have swamped whatever the meeting was supposed to be about, as people quizzed him on precisely how he justified describing the people in the Twin Towers as “little Eichmanns”. I was certainly curious to hear him try to dig his way out of, or more likely through, that one.

Here, by the way, is the comprehensive Volokh discussion on academic freedom that followed in the wake of the original story.

The FIRE to UO Administration: “We are committed to using all of our resources in support of students’ expressive rights”

February 11th, 2005 by danimal

It’s not all doom and gloom out there. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has just dispatched a letter to Frohnmayer and every other UO Administrator reminding them that funding us fairly is their job, and it is far past time to step in and clean up the mess that Quiroz et al have made in the sandbox.

You can read it by clicking here. (Pdf)

Does This Look Familiar?

February 11th, 2005 by Timothy

Check out the October 2004 cover of the Dartmouth Review:

Now…tell me if it’s similar to something you might have seen before:

Heh. Now tell me where the real geniuses work. That’s right, The OC.

Torches and Pitchforks Provided?

February 11th, 2005 by melissa

This has just been brought to my attention:

A Student Forum will be held on February 15th (this comming Tuesday) to discuss the Oregon Commentator, safety on campus, the usual stuff ad nauseum. It is sponsored by The Office of Student Life, the LGBTQA, the Women’s Center, and the MCC.

There will be a conflict resolution specialist and, if it is at all possible at this point, two neutral observers.

One question: was the Oregon Commentator and/or our supporters invited? We seem to be off of several invite lists lately, especially when it comes to discussing us in safe, neutral forums.

42 U.S.C. § 1983: Apparently The Only Reason The Commentator Isn’t On Double-Secret Probation Right Now

February 9th, 2005 by danimal

Hot off the presses! UO Administrators “applaud” and “support” the illegal and arbitrary behavior of the Programs Finance Committee, while tossing a grudging bone to Southworth and that whole damned First Amendment thing.

Now, the fisk . . .

Statement re Oregon Commentator and ASUO Program Finance Committee by Dr. Anne Leavitt and Dr. Greg Vincent

The UO student community is engaged in difficult and controversial discussions around the content of recent editions of the Oregon Commentator, and the ASUO Program Finance Committee’s budget recommendation for that publication. Some focus on the offensive and objectionable nature of material that they feel targeted an individual student leader and the community the student represents. Others focus on principles of protection for speech that may be offensive and hurtful but is not illegal.

We write to recognize the significance of these discussions to the quality of life in our campus community. There are individuals who feel less welcome, less respected, and less safe because of these dialogues.

Yes, Mason Quiroz has been physically intimidating our student group; thanks for noticing! Oh, wait, you’re not talking about that?

There are individuals who find some material in the journal, and the Commentator staff’s convictions that they are entitled to publish speech that may be offensive, almost unbearable.

We write at this time to acknowledge how hurtful biased speech can be to our community.

Pull over. Look at how vague that statement is. ALL speech is biased, and all political speech is failing in its essential purpose if it doesn’t “hurt.” What you mean to say here is “bigoted speech,” so say so. (Of course, to do so invites a vigorous and truthful response from us: We are none of us bigots.) Otherwise you come across sounding like a lilly-livered enemy of free speech. I’m sure you’d hate to give that impression.

We have as a campus community committed to a culture of respect that honors the rights, safety, dignity, and worth of every individual. We have affirmed that respect for the rights and well-being of all members is essential to promoting the diversity of opinions, ideas, and backgrounds that is the lifeblood of the university. We have recognized, as a core value, our commitment to cultural diversity, and we have recently affirmed the protections we afford gender identity in the UO’s non-discrimination statement.

This community must preserve the freedom of thought and expression of all its members. It is important at the same time to speak out, forcefully and directly, when members of our community feel targeted by speech that is racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise biased, whether in words or in images.

Sure, it is important that someone speak out. Community members engaging in the marketplace of ideas, most preferably. Excoriate the Commentator in print. Vilify us all night on the radio. Rally and march down 13th howling for our blood. We welcome the challenge!

Just don’t try to defund us. Do not turn the engines of government against our content and try to silence us. That is illegal.

And please, speaking now directly to Drs. Leavitt and Vincent: don’t encourage students to violate the Constitution by trying to defund us. We don’t appreciate it. At the very least, shoot us an email first.

We applaud the leaders of the ASUO for supporting a vigorous dialogue, for recognizing that the Commentator’s subject matter has deeply concerned a number of students, and for encouraging PFC members to preserve our right to speech and to properly fund the Commentator.

Nice of you to acknowledge the Constitution, finally.

We support student leaders who have expressed their concerns about this subject matter, and its chilling impact on our campus climate.

You know, the phrase “chilling impact” is usually…oh, never mind.

We support students, both from the Commentator and others, who have reminded us of important protections to free speech, even as we react to speech that offends us.

Our offices are supporting a number of individual students and student groups participating in these difficult dialogues.

One “student group,” however, has recieved exactly zero “support,” or even a word of communication, while “participating” in these difficult dialogues. Can you guess which one?

The Bias Response Team has provided educational programs on civility and free speech, and offers “QAC: Queer Ally Coalition” training.

We propose that the University’s Bias Response Team, in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, Student Affairs, ASUO, and the Program Finance Committee, sponsor a forum or town meeting, later this term, so we can come together to discuss how bias incidents and hate speech can divide our community.

Far out. Don’t forget to forget to invite us. Will there also be discussion of how censorship incidents can divide our community? And why is the PFC invited? I’m pretty sure this is about four miles outside their bailiwick.

We will work with student leaders to design a meeting with structure to ensure inclusive, respectful and productive dialogue.

In the interim, we urge all participants in these student government discussions to recognize the importance of a safe community that is respectful and protective of diverse points of view and life style.

You might have also urged all participants to obey federal law. They, like you, need those kinds of reminders.

Dr. Anne Leavitt, Vice President for Student Affairs

Dr. Greg Vincent, Vice Provost Institutional Equity and Diversity

February 9, 2005

*42 USC § 1983: Civil action for deprivation of rights

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

Portland Indymedia Endorses Genital Mutilation Of Heterosexuals!

February 9th, 2005 by olly

OK, that headline was a cheap shot. On the other hand, observe. The site they link to actually provides links to interesting information on vasectomies and tying of tubes… but that’s not what I think when I hear the phrase “spay and neuter”.

Here’s the thing: I think the “Spay and Neuter your Heterosexuals” site is a pretty funny idea, although their execution of it is somewhat lacking in subtlety. I imagine the Indymedia folk would roll their eyes and defend the site on the grounds that the heterosexual/pet comparison is an obvious joke, and you’d have to be an imbecile to read it and conclude that the author is calling for people to, well, spay and neuter their heterosexuals. I would agree wholeheartedly with this. And then I would give them a meaningful look and say well, exactly.

Mt. Commentator: Dormant, Active, or Just Plain Hot?

February 9th, 2005 by melissa

The rage agaist the Commentator continues. As far as I know this hasn’t been posted yet.

The laughable quip about the hateful monsters who constitue the Oregon Commentator staff is here, on Portland Independant Media Center’s website. Under (ha) anti-racism, because according to Portland imc, everything is racism.

The posting itself is not much, but one of our biggest Scalia quotin’ fans is taking over comments. Without a Caps Lock or a Shift key.

Fisking DeFazio (and Cuniff while I’m at it)

February 8th, 2005 by Timothy

As the holder of an economics degree that WWB consulted for this by now blogosphere-famous post, I figured I ought to toss in my own two-cents. Unfortunately, Don Luskin already made all of the substantiative points I was going to make. The only thing I’d add is that it’s pitifully easy to beat the long-term bond rate. I can get a CD with a rate higher than three if I shop around a little. Further, bond interest rates are inversely proportionate to prices, which is something to keep in mind.

None of this matters, of course, to Peter DeFazio of the House (D-OR) and Meghann Cuniff of the ODE (PAPER-UO). DeFazio and Cuniff get so many things wrong it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll start from the top of this lovely piece. ODE text in plain, my own in trixy italics.

President Bush’s plans for revamping the Social Security system, still being unleashed, have raised questions about the future of the system under the proposed changes and have sparked a flurry of debate across the country about the state of the current system.

Still being unleashed? Shouldn’t that be “unveiled” or “introduced” or any number of other less loaded verbs?

Bush touted his reform plan during his Feb. 2 State of the Union address, and this past weekend wrapped up a brief five-state tour dedicated to promoting the plan.

This paragraph is right.

Under Bush’s proposal, workers would have the option of diverting up to two-thirds of their payroll taxes into a private account that could be invested in stocks and real estate rather than contributing to the Social Security trust fund.

One, workers cannot divert up to two-thirds of the FICA to a private account. The FICA is 12.5%, half is paid by one’s employer. The proposal calls for up to four percentage points of the FICA into a personal account, which is about one third of 12.5%. It’s two thirds of one’s own contribution, true, but that’s not what the article says. I think we’ll cover the bit about the “trust fund” in a minute.

Created in 1935, the Social Security system was designed to provide an assured retirement fund to all workers. All employees and their employers in the United States pay a 6.2-percent tax that goes to the trust fund.

This entire sentence is factually false. First of all, as it was conceived by FDR in 1935, SSI wasn’t supposed to be a retirement benefit for all workers. It was originally designed as a Widows’ fund and for those of extremely long age. The life expectancy in 1935 was 64 years, benefits started at 65. The system never anticipated the growth of life expectancy, nor that the ratio of workers to retirees would fall so dramatically. Secondly, any surplus in the FICA is not “paid” into any trust fund. That money goes into the general fund and is used to prop up other spending. The “trust fund” is an accounting fiction, a tally of all the surplus money owed to Social Security by the rest of the federal budget. Plus a modest (3%) interest rate. The surpluses that Social Security has collected over the years are not anywhere, that money is long since spent.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts the trust fund will be depleted by 2018, leaving a pay-as-you-go system that, by 2052, will only have enough funds to provide about 73 percent of the promised benefits. The Social Security Board of Trustees predicts that will come in 2042.

Social Security is currently a pay-as-you-go system. Current workers pay for current retirees, the whole pay-as-you-go thing is why we’re having this big damn problem in the first place.

“With each passing year, fewer workers are paying ever-higher benefits to an ever-larger number of retirees,” Bush said in his Feb. 2 address. The administration claims the current system is in crisis, and the only way to salvage it is through reform.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., refuted this claim during a town hall meeting Saturday morning at the Eugene Water and Electric Board Training Center and Community Room, saying Bush’s proposal will do nothing to the Social Security system except “accelerate its depletion time.”

DeFazio held a series of town hall meetings Saturday and Sunday across Oregon to give citizens a chance to ask questions about Bush’s proposal and hear DeFazio’s own proposal for Social Security.

DeFazio’s plan for Social Security would lift the tax cap from $90,000 to $94,000, meaning anyone making less than $94,000 would have to pay Social Security taxes. The increase in taxes would be more than enough to cover the projected shortfall.

The main problem here is the last paragraph, the others are purely informational. Everyone, regardless of income, pays the FICA. The system is capped such that only the first $90,000 of income from anyone is subject to the tax. DeFazio’s proposal makes the first $94,000 subject to the FICA.

“The power elite does not like my idea,” DeFazio said in a phone interview.

More than 300 people attended the meeting and about 100 were turned away because the room was filled to capacity.

DeFazio fielded questions and urged attendees to write letters to the White House voicing opposition to Bush’s Social Security outlook, which he said is based on the most pessimistic of economic assumptions.

More like realistic assumptions that don’t rely on continued growth in immigration. Also, DeFazio doesn’t realize that the current promises are only going to get larger, in real terms, as SSI benefits are wage indexed.

DeFazio’s argument is that the Congressional Budget Office’s statistics do not signify a crisis, and the shortfall that has been projected to happen in about 40 years could easily be quelled with minor changes to the existing system.

DeFazio had various charts and a packet of handouts explaining his view on Bush’s Social Security proposal and detailing his own.

DeFazio said Social Security is a crucial program in the United States: “That’s why I want to, beyond a doubt, provide assurance that it will be there.”

Of course you do, gnome, but do you want to make Federal Employees subject to it? What’s that? No? Very interesting

Eugene resident Charles Fischer called a chart DeFazio used to explain the reduction in benefits that would occur under Bush’s plan misleading because it fails to take into account the amount of money that would be diverted to the proposed personal retirement accounts.

Fischer, an investment adviser with IMS Securities Inc. in Eugene, said in an interview that he feels both political parties have been misleading the public with distorted information about the Social Security system and the different reform proposals.

“We need to have a real honest debate and pull ideas from both parties,” Fischer said Monday.

Fischer said it is wrong to say the system is not in crisis when the trust fund will be depleted in less than 15 years. The assets needed once the trust fund is gone are not there, Fischer said — they only exist in the form of government “IOUs.”

“The federal government has taken all the money out and spent it,” Fischer said. “To claim that the money is there is wrong.”

DeFazio said the claim that the money is not there fails to consider the true meaning of a government bond.

Right, an investment professional misunderstand the nature of government debt…uhuh. Where is the goddamn money to pay back those bonds going to come from? A bond is an IOU, and if the government is going to have to start doing a major pay-down on bonds issued to SSI in order to keep the system afloat, the money is going to have go come from someplace. Eventually, that’ll be in the form of taxes, all sorts of taxes.

“If you believe the United States is still going to have a government, that the U.S. is still going to exist in the next 40 years, then there should be no doubt in your mind that Social Security will be there,” DeFazio said in a phone interview.

Actually, I have a lot of doubt that SS will be there by the time I retire, but I’m glad of that. Today’s young workers have virtually no expectations of the system, and those who will retire after 2052 are mostly children. Now is the time to reform while we can.

University political science professor Joel Bloom said the claim that a depleted trust fund will put the Social Security system into a crisis is an erroneous one that ignores reasonable thinking.

“If you can’t count on government bonds, then the entire national debt is worthless,” Bloom said.

In a way, that’s true, but it still ignores that the money to pay back the bonds has to come from somewhere. Read: general fund. Also, why in the hell is a poli-sci prof (an adjunct, at that) the one to be interviewed for this? Bloom does mostly public opinon and survey studies, and despite is work in that area I doubt he knows much about the sorts of projection models used by the CBO and SS Trustees. Why not somebody in Economics or Finance whose work is more related? Say, Mark Thoma about projections (easily the best econometrician at the UO, and that’s saying something because we’ve some good ones), maybe Chris Ellis or Peter Lambert about the public choice and taxation aspects? Why this guy?

DeFazio said the methods used by supporters of Bush’s proposal to explain the crisis the system will undergo are illogical and aimed at manufacturing a crisis when one does not exist.

Illogical? To use numbers and data? For shame!

Fischer said DeFazio’s plan to raise the tax cap is not an adequate way to tackle the problem and ignores the fact that if the economy does grow, wages will increase, which will subsequently increase Social Security benefits and accelerate the trust fund’s depletion rate.

That’s exactly right, with wage indexing real benefits grow over time. If the economy expands, so do SS benefits, which could make the system even more likely to become insolvent.

But opinions on the state of the system differ greatly, as some say that, with inflation rates and economic growth considered, the amount of benefits that will be available in the system will never fall below inadequate levels.

“Even without a trust fund in 2042, even with only getting 70-something percent of the promised benefits, you guys, your generation, is still going to get more money than your grandparents are getting right now, and that’s supposed to be a crisis,” Bloom said.

Oh, they quoted this guy because he’ll say the right thing. More money in what sense? Will 70% of promised benefits in the future be more or less than real benefits today? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, like the interaction of benefit growth and inflation. Will 70% of the future wage-indexed benefits be more than 100% of benefits today? I’ll tell you when I can borrow Prof. Bloom’s magical economic prediction ball. Furthermore, will the difference between what we pay in and 70% benefits in the future, in real terms, be more or less than the difference between our grandparents’ contribution and benefits in real terms? It’s goddamn impossible to tell. And people say Monetarism is “voodoo-economics”. Sheesh.

The President said last week his plan would not solve the Social Security system’s projected financial problems but added that doing nothing would do even more harm.

Fischer said many people have been disillusioned by the seemingly corporate control of the stock markets and are worried Bush’s plan for private, personal accounts would benefit investment advisers like himself. But Fischer said the accounts would be controlled by the government, leaving no room for investment advisers to benefit from them.

However, Bloom said the problem with investing money rather than contributing to the Social Security trust fund is that it will accelerate the fund’s rate of depletion and allow for risky investments that could jeopardize an individual’s retirement savings.

“It’s inherently more risky. Nobody knows what the stock market is going to do between now and four years from now,” Bloom said.

First of all, I trust a Certified Financial Planner a hell of a lot more than I trust some DC bureaucrat to run my retirement. I can meet, talk with, and explain my objectives to a Financial Planner. Can I call up the SS office in DC and talk to them about the P/E ratio of their funds? I thought not. That aside, so what if Financial Planners benefit from being able to help more people with their retirement? That’s a good thing, it both reduces the size of government and helps folks plan for the future. Furthermore, only a complete idiot will lose an entire portfolio barring fraud or complete meltdown of the financial system. Fraud from your Planner or Broker can be a problem, if you don’t use reputable servicers. Schwab, Fidelity, JP Morgan Chase, American Express, AIM, AIG, and a host of the other big names are about as likely to commit fraud as the Pope is to commit apostacy. Those institutions are highly regulated and watched by the most anal-retentive auditors ever to have sticks in their asses. Expecially after a bunch of foolish Enron employees invested their entire 401(k)s in Enron stock and lost their shirts. That’s a lesson, never put any of your own 401(k) contribution in own-company stock because the company match will be own-company anyway. So as long as you deal with reputable people and companies, barring complete economic collapse you’d have to be a moron to lose everything. Bloom is also only talking about stocks, there are other places to put money: Bonds (federal, state, municipal, corporate, international, etc), money market funds, CDs, mutual funds, futures, index funds, commodities…there are any number of investment options with varying levels of risk and reward. When you’re young, invest aggressively for growth; as you accumulate assets shift the approach to modest growth and asset maintenance; and when you retire concentrate on maintaining your assets exclusively.

The cost of setting up these private accounts is also up for debate. Critics have also questioned how private accounts will affect those dependent on Social Security for disability and survivor benefits. Bush has not said how diverting money from the fund will affect the amount of benefits available to those dependents, DeFazio said.

Private accounts will have beneficiaries like IRAs or 401(k)s do. If you die, your stated beneficiary will recieve the full benefit of your personal account in addition to the SS benefit that is still being paid by the government (You know, that 9.5 percentage points of the FICA everyone is forgetting to say is still going to go to traditional SS).

The debate over Social Security is expected to rage for many months as the President continues to unveil his plan. DeFazio vowed to hold more town hall meetings after Saturday’s meeting drew more attendees than any previous town hall meeting.

Fischer said he is hopeful both parties can forgo their political ideologies to examine the state of the system and form a game plan for the future.

“Instead of Bush out there supporting the PRAs at this point and DeFazio saying we don’t have a problem, we need to start from square one,” Fischer said.

Wow, the truest thing in the whole article comes at the very end, I am not surprised.

Blatant Self Promotion

February 8th, 2005 by Tyler

Hey, everybody. You can catch yours truly on the Victoria Taft show tonight at 8:15 PM — 860 KPAM in Portland (simulcast on the web). Ill be discussing all issues pertinent to viewpoint neutrality or the lack thereof at the University of Oregon.


February 7th, 2005 by Tyler

Take this with a grain of salt people, but our sources tell us that the PFC has been dismantled at least temporarily.

The Con Court has reviewed our grievances against Eden Cortez, Dan (Theres A First Amendment?) Keifer and Mason Quiroz, placing injunctions against each one. This means that the PFC, left with only three members, is incapable of reaching quorum.

Apparently, and this is hearsay at the moment, a Con Court Justice marched into the PFC hearing and announced that Eden, Mason and Dan must step down and that PFC business could not resume until the court made a ruling. In light of this news, we do not know when our next PFC hearing will be held.

Also, our next issue will be postponed a day in order to find out what exactly happened. Stay tuned to find out all the gory details about the PFC.

Dinner with Hitch (Not the One Giving Dance Lessons to that Fat Guy From King Of Queens)

February 7th, 2005 by pete

Portland blogger (and frequent Suicide Girls Contributor) Michael Totten recounts his night drinking with Christopher Hitchens and arguing with angry Iraqis.

And yes, yes, yes, we all remember this. Totten isnt the only Portland native to hold his own with Hitchens.