Liberal America, for now

As usual after decisive elections, the commentariat is writing off the losers as headed for the dustbin of history. Chances are the commentators are as wrong this time as they were a few election cycles ago, when they predicted the Republicans would be in charge as far as the eye could see.

Now conservatives are being told they are out in the cold for good -- unless they change their opinions on issues from abortion to global warming. People of principle can't change their opinions just like that. Especially not based on the advice of liberal commentators who misreport what those opinions are and on what they are based.

A writer in the Los Angeles Times, for example, quoted in The Week magazine, claimed that certain zealots had defined the Republican Party as anti-science, anti-feminist, anti-gay and anti-Hispanic. The truth is more complicated. For example, conservatives who value liberty above all else oppose restrictive and expensive energy policies not because they are anti-science but because they believe those policies hurt ordinary citizens and that actual science does not support them. Conservatives are not against gays when they oppose same-sex marriage; instead, they fear cutting our society loose from a long tradition of western civilization, a tradition that gives the individual and the family at least some protection from willful decisions of the state, such as redefining the meaning of words.

The consensus of political journalists now is that this is Liberal America. It may be -- until the next big surprise, like 9/11 or some unforeseen upheaval that again changes our course. (hh)

(Any reaction or comments, let me know via emaill,

Comment from Sid Cooper: "The Liberal America point seems to be about the decline of white males in America. If so, the very words 'liberal' and 'conservative' may no longer be needed. The bicameral political game was "invented" long before we had need of political or race categories, or speculation about their rise and fall.  Standing back and taking a long perspective is sometimes the way to see forward."



How federal regs waste money

Albany City Hall: MPO is required if city wants federal transit funds.

A local story illustrates why there is no hope of reforming our government and reversing the drive for more costly, federal  control. There would have been no hope for such reforms even if Obama had not been re-elected.

Albany and surrounding towns are forming a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for transportation planning. Whether they want to or not, federal law says they have to do this if they want to keep getting federal money for streets, roads and especially public transit.

Albany could say no. But then, it would have to say goodbye to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year that now pay for the local bus system. But since it's saying yes, it probaby will get even more money for the bus operation, small as it is. That's the way the federal system works: It promises local agencies money if they do what Congress wants. If if they don't, the feds take the money away.

It's worked like this since the 1960s, which is why federal regulations now govern just about everything, regardless of what the Constitution says about the federal government's proper role. In the case of local transportation planning, the system also wastes money.

The government will pay the MPO to organize and administer itself -- some $240,000 a year if the Albany and Corvallis MPOs go together on administration. But Albany, Corvallis, their two counties and ODOT already work together on transportation issues. So not only is the MPO not necessary, but the additional money for administration need not be spent at all and is a total waste of public funds. (hh)

Linn. Benton: Polar opposites

If you thought the political differences between Linn and Benton counties would have diminished by now, the general election would have disabused you of that notion. Just take a look at some of the results.

In Linn County, Romney beat Obama by more than 9,000 votes. If the country were like Linn County, Romney would be the next president.  In Benton County, the outcome was totally the opposite, with Obama ahead by more than twelve thousand votes.

In the 4th congressional district, Congressman Peter DeFazio won in Benton County over Republican Art Robinson by more than two to one. In Linn County, it was Robinson who came out ahead, though not by that much. Still, Robinson got about 1,700 more votes in Linn than the long-term incumbent Democrat.

Want any more indicators of opposite political leanings? Linn County re-elected two Republican county commissioners, one with no opposition, the other with a huge margin. Benton re-elected two Democratic commissioners, also by big margins. Then there were the ballot measures. On legalizing marijuana, Linn County said no and a majority in Benton said yes. On canceling the corporate kicker tax rebate, thus giving business in Oregon yet another poke in the eye, Linn County said no, but Benton said yes.

There's a vast number of commercial and personal connections between our two neighboring counties. But in political outlook, the gaps are still huge. (hh)

The Obama market slide

In case voters didn't know it, the stock market reminded us all that the re-election of President Obama was a bad deal for the American economy.

The day after the election, the stock market plunged. It was the biggest decline of 2012, according to the Associated Press. Obama doesn't bear the entire blame. Bad economic news from Europe also played a part. And earnings reports and forecasts from many companies also caused shareholders to sell.

But we could see the Obama effect in driving down stock prices of energy companies and financial institutions. Investors figure Obama will continue to hammer those industries and hamper them with more regulations.

Hospital and health care companies, on the other hand, rose in the market after the election. Investors know that Obamacare now will not be repealed, and it will prove a bonanza for all the companies making money from people who have to obtain medical care. If you think those companies' future looks rosy because they will take in less, think again. They will take in more than they do already. The stock market reaction backs up what skeptics have known all along: The cost of health care will go up under Obamacare, not down.

Other gainers in the market were green energy conpanies. The market figures Obama will keep showering them with public funds, whether they produce anything or not.

Among the losers here are all Americans with a stake in the economy, especially those whose savings are tied to the private market. But evidently there are not enough of these people. Their votes were not enough to prevent this economic slide. (hh)

Sign struggle — sigh! — ends

West's current sign last month.

Albany's prolonged fussing about electronic message signs at schools and the like now seems to be at an end. It seemed to be a lot of anguish over not much.

It started when the booster club at West Albany High School wanted to replace the school's aging sign out front on Queen Avenue with a new one. The new one would have messages that can be changed with a computer keyboard. Turns out, though, that the school is in a residential zone. and signs like that are not allowed.

The city wanted to help. So it proposed an amendment in the development code. But first there had to be an open house. Then there had to be a public hearing before the planning commission. This was followed, in due course, by a public hearing before the city council. The proposal was to allow so-called "changing electronic message signs" for institutions -- such as schools and churches -- that exist in residential zones as conditional uses.

Last month the council balked at some of the provisions. One issue: Should the law allow scrawling or fading transitions in messages? Another: Should owners have to install automated equipment to turn off those signs at night, or should they be allowed to figure out on their own how to comply with the requirement that signs be turned off between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.?

On Wednesday night, this issue was finally laid to rest. Voting 4-3, with the mayor breaking a tie, the council adopted the law change, allowing only static messages, no fading or crawling transitions; and leaving it up to owners how to make sure the signs are off at night.

You can't say the Albany council doesn't take even small issues seriously. But after all this, I wonder if any school club or church will want to go ahead and spend money on a new sign. (hh)

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