Month: June 2010

Shakedown

One would hope Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican congressman from Texas, was an outlier last week when he spoke about a $20 billion fund set up by BP  at the president’s behest to compensate those affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill: He apologized. Not to the millions on the Gulf coast whose lives are forever altered, but to a top BP executive. He also said: “I think it’s a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown.” Why might someone say this? As the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee Barton receives hefty campaign contributions from energy firms. But BP gave more money to Obama than any other federal candidate. As would be expected when someone makes such a colossally out-of-touch remark, politicians from both major parties rushed to condemn his statement. What got less attention was a press release from the Republican Study Committee, consisting of more than 100 congressional Republicans, including the Northwest’s own Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington’s 5th District. Headlined “Chicago-style Shakedown Politics” the press release attempted to both insist BP pay for the damage the company has done while also condemning President Barack Obama for taking actions to actually force them to pay up. This statement certainly does not reflect the anger directed at the British oil...

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IN THE RING: What’s your theory on the Trader Joe’s mixup, and do you care?

Each week the Keizertimes asks community leaders a question about current events.  To see more of this week’s answers or answers to past questions log onto www.keizertimes.com and click on In the Ring. Last week Keizer and Salem were abuzz about a Trader Joe’s sign being posted at Keizer Station. Then the sign company said it was a mistake. Down comes the sign. There’s a variety of theories floating around, including: • The sign was preemptive, but there’s a deal close • Just a coincidence – sometimes mistakes are mistakes • There’s not a deal yet, but it was put up to generate buzz So this week’s question is: What’s your theory on the Trader Joe’s mixup, and do you care? Art Bobrowitz, Compass Rose Consulting— Mistakes do happen. As a matter of fact I really like the media coverage given to Keizer Station over the issue. You can’t buy better advertising. If it worked for Trader Joe’s, maybe Keizer Station and city leaders should have a “wish list” for potential tenants. That way we could have a “mix-up of the week” sign. It could read “Make no mistake. Come to Keizer! We sure would like you to move your business here. We need the jobs!” Jim Willhite and Pat Ehrlich, vice presidents, Gubser Neighorhood Assoc.— So sorry we weren’t here to enjoy even a momentary dream of Trader...

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The Swiss model of democracy

By ROSS DAY As the Keizertimes reported a couple of weeks ago, I was invited by the Swiss government to observe elections in Switzerland on June 13, 2010.  The tour centered around Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, the first such system of its kind in the world.  In fact, Oregon’s (which happens to be the first state in the union to have a direct democracy system) unique system of erect democracy was actually “poached” from Switzerland. The tour was eye-opening for me for a number of reasons.  First, Switzerland’s system is demonstrably different from Oregon’s system.  In particular, because Switzerland’s judicial system is a civil law system, and not a common law system like we have in the United States, when an initiative measure passes in Switzerland, there are no courts available to make sure the initiative petition is actually implemented. Of course, in Oregon, the same argument can be said of our court system, only in reverse.  Even though we have a common law system, the courts often times go out of their way to make sure initiative measures are never implemented. But for me the most encouraging aspect of the trip was the overall attitude demonstrated by the citizens of Switzerland, and the politicians of Switzerland, towards their system of direct democracy. In Switzerland, there are often times as many as four elections a year on initiative...

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