Archive for October 2009

I am normally not in favor of punitive justice…

October 29, 2009

…but I’m having an awfully hard time not thinking this is a good idea:

A civil trial is under way in the case of an Oregon State University fraternity member who shot a homeless man.

On Oct. 14, 2006, Dennis Sanderson, 41, was shot in the leg with a .22-caliber rifle behind the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity house at 331 N.W. 26th St.

A fraternity member, Josh Grimes, pleaded guilty in March 2007 to unlawful use of a weapon and third-degree assaults, both felonies. In September 2007, Sanderson filed a civil lawsuit against Grimes and the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Sanderson is seeking payment for medical expenses and pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages.

The one caveat I have with this is that I used to know Cameron Krebs, who was the fraternity president at the time, and I got along with him pretty well.  But that’s about the only caveat.  What happened was disgusting, as were a lot of the reactions either downplaying the incident or trying to put distance between the fraternity and the shooting.  The evidence does not exactly point to Grimes being out of the mainstream of the rest of the frat members:

At least two members admitted to having shot at transients with BB guns in the past. Detectives were convinced at least one AGR member in addition to the shooter knew what had happened. One member took two polygraph tests – and failed them both.

Also, this:

But investigation reports say hewasn’t the only one present during the shooting, and he wasn’t the only one who had shot at transients over the past year.

“Alpha Gamma Rho doesn’t stand for that sort of behavior,” said Josh Wackler, director of chapter development for the national fraternity. “Nor tolerate that sort of behavior.”

Right.  It was a bad attempt at face-saving then, and it stinks now.  I actually think OSU should have banned that fraternity from campus after that incident.  I mean, setting aside how shitty it was for Wackler to hang Grimes out to dry, how would anyone from AGR justify this:

Another fraternity member told police that he was present during the shooting. He told police he was in his room at the fraternity when Grimes went “flying by,” saying to get his gun and go with him. He did get his gun and followed Grimes into another room overlooking the alley. Grimes told him there was a “hobo out there.” A that point Grimes shot and hit Sanderson.

The friend, who has not been charged, told police he didn’t realize at the time the ammunition Grimes used – and which he himself had in his rifle – was so powerful. He thought it was more like a BB gun.

What can I say?  Part of me really hopes AGR gets their clock cleaned in the civil suit.  And I’m a little frustrated that the frat idea as a whole escaped being connected to this, because it was so clearly representative of the mentality of more than one person.

UPDATE Check out this GT story on some of the testimony:

“I don’t accept the premise that there was any culture of animosity toward the homeless,” [AGR Executive Director] Josephson said.

Really?  Seriously?  How does he explain this:

Hayes said a discussion among frat members later revealed that people had shot off BB guns at or near Sanderson.

Hayes also said he didn’t see Sanderson display any signs of a leg injury.

A former cook for the fraternity said she occasionally heard the students shooting BB guns out there windows at leaves or squirrels.

Not only is that evidence that there were multiple incidents involving multiple people, but the implication that shooting at Sanderson was OK as long as they missed him makes me want to throw up.

Sand Ridge rehires administrator who resigned in 2004

October 29, 2009

From the Lebanon Express:

Sand Ridge Charter Schools have a new principal, but he is no stranger to the two campuses.

John Leon was administrator at the school before, resigning in 2004.

He was hired Sept. 15, said director of operations Mary Northern.

Leon declined an interview with the Lebanon Express.

Interesting that he declined a interview.  I think that’s a bad idea given the better part of the last decade’s history between Sand Ridge and the LCSD.  Also a bad idea given the reason he resigned:

According a 2004 article in the Lebanon Express, Leon resigned amid accusations from parents that he “engaged in inappropriate religious activity with students: preaching, reading Bible verses and crying during religious talks.”

He denied the allegations, but said resigning was in the best interest of the school and himself.

In 2005, the Oregon Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Vickie Fleming, on behalf of Superintendent Susan Castillo, concluded that religious activities ceased when Leon resigned his position on July 23, 2004.

Not definitive, but pretty close.  And now he’s back – in a publicly-funded school.

Not only do I think it would be in Leon’s best interests to grant an interview to the paper, so does the Express.  And on top of that, I think the LCSD School Board might want to start paying closer attention to Sand Ridge again.  Unfortunately, despite the advances made elsewhere in the district in terms of relationships and a renewed focus on students, the decision to re-hire someone who resigned because there was evidence they blatantly undermined the separation of church and state indicates that maybe things haven’t changed as much around Sand Ridge as they should have.

Sprenger should know better on taxes

October 29, 2009

Two legislative bills have been referred to the ballot for a special election in January 2010.  Both are tax increases – one on individuals and one on corporations.  Both are relatively small increases; the personal income  tax increase is marginal and only applies to people making above $250,000, and the corporate tax reforms, while a bit more complicated, still leave Oregon near the very bottom nationwide in business taxes (see here for more).  Both increases were proposed as part of a package of cuts and other measure designed to craft a workable Oregon budget in light of the faltering economy.  Both are pretty darn progressive.

And yet Sherrie Sprenger opposed both of them.  Check out the logic:

Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio) voted no on both tax bills.

“I am very concerned about the negative effects these increases are going to have on small businesses in my districts,” Sprenger said. “Especially in my district, small businesses employ the vast majority of folks.”

Sprenger said she thinks it is a “very real possibility” these taxes would cause layoffs.

Both the governor’s office and the Department of Revenue saw increased budgets, Sprenger said.

Let’s unpack this a bit.  Yes, some small businesses are going to see a tax increase – the new corporate minimum for most corporations is going to be $150 a year.

A year.  Frankly, that’s not a whole lot.  Yeah, it’s a big percent increase from the current minimum of $10, but a $10 minimum corporate tax is completely ridiculous – it hasn’t been changed since 1931.

The other proposed change to corporate taxes is the rate paid on corporate profits made above $250,000.  I don’t know what Sprenger’s definition of a small business is, but I’ll assume she doesn’t include businesses with $250,00 in profit (not sales) as small businesses, then she’s being a bit disingenuous.

Given the tax increases, I want to be charitable and say that the minimum increase is really what Sprenger is referring to when she says she’s worried about the increases.  And even then, you know what?  If Oregon businesses – who are already paying the second-lowest corporate taxes in the nation, on the whole – can’t survive this kind of increase, maybe the problem isn’t the taxes.

There is one more statement from Sprenger that I want to address:

“Just like in our household budgets, the state needs to prioritize and decrease spending before it increases the tax burden,” she said.

This is actually what caught my eye first in the story.  Why?  Because it’s a stupid talking point and she should really know better.  Let me say this really slowly:  The state is not like a household.

Again, for good measure:  The state is not like a household. A household?  Private.  Small.  The first line, financially, of keeping a few people afloat.  The state?  Public.  Large.  The last line, tasked with fundamentally making sure everyone has certain minimum levels of financial and other security (the more original interpretation of the welfare state).  And when times get tough for households – i.e. when the economy is doing so well – the state is supposed to step in and help people survive and recover.  The state can’t do that when it can’t fund basic services like police (funny, since Sprenger used to be a sheriff), hospitals, education and others.  When the state’s short money, it – meaning state legislators – are tasked with figuring out what to do, to either cut spending or raise taxes or try and find another solution.

This time around, the legislators did both.  To cover the shortfalls, cuts were made, stimulus money was received, and tax increases were proposed.  Small, progressive tax increases.  And yet Sprenger wants to forgo those tax increases?  I think that’s bad public policy, but that’s her choice.  What I don’t think is OK is using a false, stupid talking point to do it.  I’m disappointed she is misleading her constituents about the role of the state government, and I hope she doesn’t actually believe what she’s saying, but I’m not sure which is worse.

Somebody Buy Joe Lieberman a Puppy…. and then see what he does with it

October 27, 2009

From Nate Silver (I also stole the first half the title of the post from 538), a great post on the current state of health insurance reform in the Senate as it pertains to Joe Lieberman:

But while a Nelson or a Lincoln is liable to have a fairly rational set of concerns — basically, they want to ensure they get re-elected — it’s tough to bargain with people like Lieberman who are a little crazy. In certain ways, he resembles nothing so much as one of those rogue, third-bit Middle Eastern dictators that he’s so often carping about, capable of creating great anxiety with relatively little expenditure of resources, and taking equal pleasure in watching his friends and enemies sweat.

Pretty much.  It’s become clear to me that social class trumps party politics when it comes to Lieberman, who should have been excommunicated a long time ago.  Instead, it’s like watching a small child throw successive successful tantrums, except that people’s lives hang in the balance and fergawdsake Obama’s supposed to be more than an idiot.

 

I guess that’s it, then

October 9, 2009

After the meeting, Faculty Senate President Paul Doescher said the campus is divided about Ray’s vision of the future.

“There are some faculty that are embracing the change, there are some faculty that are skeptical, and there are some that are waiting and watching and debating this change. But ultimately it’s the president’s decision,” Doescher said.

“OSU unveils bold plan, big changes,” October 9th, 2009

The dark side of OSU’s reorganization

October 8, 2009

From the Daily Barometer:

Over the course of roughly the last five months, a small group of people have been moving to realign OSU for the future. Whether in the hands of the committee commissioned by President Ray, or in the behind-the-scenes planning of senior administrators and a few select faculty, a vision has been set, and this vision is being moved forward. Perhaps the vision isn’t so specific as “college x goes here” and “department y there,” and perhaps it is far more specific than most of us realize. But from what I have seen, the vision is, in any event, one of radical centralization, and that is a vision we ought not be comfortable with nor acquiesce to.

I cannot express how excited I am by this piece.  I’ve been thinking most of this for years now, as I’ve watched OSU become less democratic and more corporate.  Finally, someone said something.

Read the whole thing.

Conservative astroturf ‘paper’ sues OSU, plus bonus OSU/Baro commentary

October 6, 2009

The Liberty

From the Gazette-Times:

CORVALLIS – The Oregon State University student group that publishes The Liberty, a conservative-leaning journal, has sued OSU officials, arguing that the university has discriminated against the journal by arbitrarily limiting the opportunities for its distribution.

And from the Daily Barometer:

During the 2009 winter term, OSU removed seven fixed distribution bins they said were in violation of a policy that regulates media publication distribution on campus. The unofficial and unwritten policy confines any off-campus publication bins to an area around the MU.

The only publication exempt from this policy is The Daily Barometer, which the university considers the official campus newspaper.

As you might have noticed, I don’t have a lot of respect for the Liberty, for two main reasons:

1.  The quality of the writing (and, well, everything else) isn’t very good.

2.  Many of the things that appear on their pages make me think they are assholes.

But that’s more or less besides the point (though I did want to make clear where I stand w/r/t to them).  What’s interesting about the case, to me, is the double standard claim that seems to be an integral part of the Lib’s lawsuit.  For example:

“They are not being treated equally. They want to be treated like the other student publications on campus,” [Alliance Defense Fund Attorney Heather] Hackner said. “They are not asking for special treatment, they just want to have the equal right to put their distribution bins out on the greater part of the campus so that people can read what they write, since their whole purpose is to write for students.”

Here’s the thing…. the Barometer, for better and worse, really is a student publication.  It’s written by students, and students go out and sell the ads that support the paper.  (Is the Baro entirely student-funded/run/supported?  Not quite – more on that later.)  The Liberty, on the other hand, is written (mostly) by students, and sells some ads, but also receives money from outside sources.  And it clearly has no problem asking for help from outside conservative groups with lots of money.  For me, this kind of renders The Lib’s claim of being a student paper laughable.  Instead, I think they (like the Baro, actually) are willing to use their claim of student status when it’s convenient but unwilling to be bound by it when it’s not.  They are, in short, an astroturf outfit:  Created by and used as part of a larger movement with explicitly political – not journalistic – objectives.

And let’s not even get into the irony of a conservative group filing a frivolous lawsuit.  I’m too lazy to check the Lib’s archives, but I’d not be surprised to find someone in their pages decried the exact thing the Lib is doing.

The bottom line is that this lawsuit is silly and insulting, and despite how critical I like to be of OSU, I hope this waste of time ends quickly.  However, that’s not the end of the story – there are things to be said both about the Barometer and OSU on this front.  More on those later.

The Daily Barometer & being the ‘campus paper’

Oh, the Baro.  I started reading it the second I got here in September of 2001, and I’m still reading it.  For those counting, that’s eight years now (!)  I also spent two years on the Student Media Committee that supposedly oversees the Baro (along with all other student media outlets at OSU); for 1.5 years of that, I even got to vote on a few things.

The thing that interests me about the Barometer with regard to the Liberty lawsuit is the claim that it’s the campus newspaper.  This is kind of news to me – when I was on the SMC, and paying pretty close attention to the paper, it was the attitude of the staff and the faculty advisor that the Baro was independent of the university.  Surely the Barometer wouldn’t be as cynical as the Liberty and use their student status when it’s convenient?

Of course they would.  But how does the Baro actually relate to OSU?  The first thing of note is that despite being overseen by the Student Incidental Fee Committee, the Barometer does not directly take student fee dollars, or at least they didn’t used to.  They were proud of this fact, and to an extent, they should be.  That makes them independent, right?

Wrong.  The Baro still receives a boatload of benefits from the university, including, as far as I know, free use of office space in Snell, tech support, and the salaries of the faculty and staff that work with student media.  (I believe, however, the Baro buys all its own equipment, which is cool.)  Those are not insubstantial benefits.  In fact, it’s fair to say the Baro wouldn’t survive without them.  Thus, if you ask me, they are not independent of the university.  They have – as it turns out – the blessing of the university as the official campus paper.  These things mean, to me, that the Barometer needs to either give up any pretense that they are independent, because right now, they are not – or, if they want to be truly independent, they need to give up all forms of financial aid and start being really self-sufficient.

That won’t happen, of course, because the Baro has a cushy position:  Some level of administration favoritism and financial support but the guise of independence.  But as it stands, the Baro’s fence-straddling actually gives, in my mind, the Liberty the best argument it has (not that it’s good enough, but still).

OSU

So what about OSU’s role in all this?  Well, for those of you who know what my day job is, when I hear things like the following I get twitchy:

During the 2009 winter term, OSU removed seven fixed distribution bins they said were in violation of a policy that regulates media publication distribution on campus. The unofficial and unwritten policy confines any off-campus publication bins to an area around the MU.

The only publication exempt from this policy is The Daily Barometer, which the university considers the official campus newspaper.

To be fair, this is from the Baro, so I’m not sure how true it is.  But if OSU’s policy on this really is unwritten and unofficial, then a) they might be in trouble, and b) they deserve to be.  “Unofficial and unwritten” sounds a lot like “making shit up to justify what we’ve already done because we don’t want to change our minds.”  Not that I think the Liberty should get distro space on campus, mind you, but that OSU isn’t doing itself any favors with the rather sad defense of its position.