Monday, January 29, 2007

Bailing Out the Speculators

Not long ago there was talk about convening the Oregon Legislature every year, instead of every other year. This, of course, requires a change to the Oregon Constitution. As one might expect, most of the people weighing in on the subject objected to the proposal, ostensibly because more-frequent legislative sessions would give legislators more opportunities to commit legislative mayhem by giving more bad ideas the force of law.

Now that I’ve had ample opportunity to grok the idea (as Heinlein’s Martians were wont to do when a vexing problem asserted itself), I’d like to weigh in on the subject, too. I think it’s a helluva good idea—with one stipulation. Instead of meeting every year to enact new legislation, why not use the newfound time to review legislation passed in prior years? Why not use that time to rectify past mistakes?

Not all laws are good laws, and most laws are subject to the law of unintended consequences. When laws prove burdensome to the people, there should be a relatively quick and easy process to strike those laws from the books. Laws that benefit a few at the expense of many must not be allowed to stand. Measure 37 is such a law.

Voters passed Measure 37 by a substantial margin, giving some property owners a way to get around zoning restrictions that were imposed after they bought the property. Property owners would either be allowed to develop the property in ways that were legal at the time of purchase or receive compensation for the loss of value if the waiver was denied, at the government’s discretion. Oh, what a great idea that turned out to be.

With some 6,000 Measure 37 claims now on the books, various government entities find themselves on the hook for millions of dollars, or at risk of making policy decisions that make a mockery of zoning laws. Oops! The taxpayers just shot themselves in the foot—again.

Buying property is about more than just making an investment; it’s also about speculation. When you buy real property, you hope that its value goes up. That doesn’t mean that taxpayers should bail you out if it doesn’t, or that you should be compensated whenever property zoning laws change. You gamble. You win, or you lose. Place your next bet, or cut your losses.

If we treated other investors/speculators the same way that Measure 37 treats a certain class of property owners, we’d quickly find that there’s not enough money in the entire world to cover all the claims for compensation or dispensation. Anyone and everyone could speculate without fear of loss.

While measure 37 is a testament to the power of democracy, it also attests to the reason why democracy can’t endure. Most people aren’t smart enough to live in one.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Does Bush Have a Hidden Agenda?

The Neocon Fundamentalist wing of the Republican Party keeps insisting that President Bush (or Duhbya, as he’s sometimes called in certain other circles) was right to invade Iraq. They also think that Bush is doing a good job of executing the war in Iraq, proving once again that Neocon Fundamentalists are willfully ignorant and terminally, if not criminally, stupid.

What is Bush’s agenda in Iraq? We already know that it wasn’t to destroy Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction; he had none, and Bush was aware of that fact prior to the invasion. It seems unlikely that Bush intended to bring democracy to Iraq because he’s systematically destroying democracy at home. What, then?

Could it be that Bush wants to exert control over Iraqi oil? At the onset of the war, that seemed as plausible an explanation as any. But, now, as new theories come to light, I’ve been given cause to change my mind.

After reading, today, an AlterNet article and the many responses to it, it seems just as likely that the Iraq war is but a subterfuge, a catalyst to initiate a US attack against Iran. Maybe what Bush is really after is total dominance, by the US and its Israeli ally, of the Middle East.

There’s another theory that’s been circulating for awhile (although its received scant attention and thus avoided much serious debate) that paints a scarier and more chilling picture of what might actually be the true Bush agenda. What if Bush is not quite as inept as most people think he is? What if Bush’s real goal is to bring down the US to fulfill his father’s vision of a New World Order?

With the nation running on credit and the nation’s credit running on empty; with the nation’s treasury depleted and it’s social and political infrastructures in disarray; with the military overextended and the nation losing face in the court of global opinion, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that that’s been Bush’s objective from the beginning.

If, indeed, that’s the case, and Bush continues to follow the course he’s set for himself and for the nation, then I’ll give him credit for being closer to success than he’s ever been. In fact, I’d say his success is imminent.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Lynch Mob Justice

One thing I noticed about Saddam Hussein’s execution was that Saddam, faced with imminent death, maintained a higher degree of poise and dignity than did his executioners. While Saddam, like all tyrants, deserved his fate, I couldn’t help but feel that his hanging was more like a lynching than it was an administration of justice.

And did anyone else notice that Saddam looked so alone as he stood on the gallows platform, awaiting his plunge through the trapdoor? If killing Iraqi civilians was the crime for which he was hanged, then I can think of at least three others, who were complicit in the deaths of far greater numbers of Iraqis, that should have been hanged at the same time. Saddam probably would have appreciated the company.