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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 6, 2003 12:13 AM. The previous post in this blog was He's back. The next post in this blog is Say cheese. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, March 6, 2003

Eve of destruction

The Beaver State is in trouble, and I mean real trouble.

Its court system is falling apart.

Remember what was said in your eighth grade civics course: Without three independent branches of government, the American Way won't last. "Checks and balances" are essential to the functioning of a democratic republic -- sound familiar?

In Oregon, the phrase may soon become a historical footnote. Consider the three different sets of threats to Oregon's judicial branch, all now rearing their ugly heads at the same time:

1. Starvation for funds. The Oregon courts are broke. They've laid off several dozen workers in the last year, and attrition accounts for dozens of additional lost positions. The county courthouses throughout the state are now closed every Friday for lack of funds. Courts are refusing to hear cases against those charged with property misdemeanors, because they don't have the resources to process the cases. That's probably o.k., because most county prosecutors don't have staff to handle the cases, either. And funds to pay lawyers to represent the poor in criminal cases was cut off, and then reinstated at a puny level.

I kid you not: If you're busted for burglary, shoplifting, car prowling, or prostitution in Oregon today, you will be arrested and released. Your first court date will be July 1 (when the next budget year begins), or later. That's four months from now. It sounds like science fiction, but it's the unfortunate reality.

The funding picture may change come the new state fiscal year that starts on July 1, but don't count on it. The outlook for the two-year budget cycle that begins on that date is not good. Four-day-a-week trial courts and amnesty for thieves and prostitutes may become permanent fixtures in Oregon.

2. Issue-oriented, political campaigns for judgeships. Oregon is one of 39 or so states in which judges have to run for re-election. Their terms are for only six years, not for life as they are in the federal courts. Current Oregon rules forbid judicial candidates from running for office based on promises of how they will rule on particular issues. The idea is that judges should be elected on the basis of their character, intellect, and integrity, and not financed and promoted by special interests looking for favors from the bench.

All that is about to change. The U.S. Supreme Court just last June struck down Minnesota's rule that limits what judicial candidates may say during their election campaigns. By a vote of 5-4, the High Court said the state's rule impermissibly restricted the candidates' rights to free speech. That rule banned judicial candidates from announcing their views on political and legal issues likely to come before their courts.

The Supreme Court ruling may sound good at first, but it isn't. The idea of having three branches of government is to have them balance each other off. If judges can run on issues, they will become nothing more than another legislature, jumping at every gyration in the opinion polls. Electing judges at all is a risky business. The Founding Fathers knew this, which is why federal judges -- including the U.S. Supreme Court justices -- are never subjected to a popular election, the way they are in most states. Allowing candidates for the bench to make promises to voters about how they will rule will be fatal to the whole checks-and-balances system.

The Supreme Court's dimwittedness on this issue is nothing new. Its controversial 1976 decision that campaign contributions are "speech" protected by the First Amendment has led to the intractable campaign finance mess that we face as a nation today. And under the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, there is no way out. Money talks in America, and its right to do so is guaranteed by the Court's reading of the U.S. Constitution.

Now the special interests also have been given a constitutional right to run candidates for judgeships who will publicly bow to the campaign donors' wishes. How unwise. If you thought previous Oregon judicial elections have produced some bad results, wait until you see what happens under the new Supreme Court decision. Imagine a State Supreme Court with seven Ed Fadeleys on it. It will be here within a decade or two.

3. The constant drone of anti-judiciary ballot measures. Last fall voters statewide rejected two ballot measures that would have hurt the state's judicial system pretty badly. One would have required that all candidates in judicial elections run against "none of the above," and if "none" won, the judicial position would remain vacant unless and until someone eventually beat "none" at the polls. The other measure, less pernicious but still highly disruptive, would have required the appeals court judges in Oregon to be elected by district. For the first time, every region of the state would be legally guaranteed to get a State Supreme Court justice, even in eras in which the most qualified candidates for the job might hail from elsewhere. "None of the above" was defeated pretty handily, but the districting almost passed (and probably would have if its companion measure had not dragged it down).

The campaigns for these ballot propositions were particularly nasty. Proponents of the measures, which were largely bankrolled by one rich, angry right-winger, pulled no punches in attacking the state's judges. They blamed them for all kinds of societal ills, including decisions made by federal judges regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and Klamath Basin water rights. The Oregon jurists, of course, were not organized, wealthy or brazen enough to buy ad time in their own defense. And although the state's lawyer organizations opposed the ballot measures, they didn't make much of a splash. Many attorneys are afraid to speak out in ways that might alienate their clients.

Unfortunately, the bad ballot measures will be back. For example, Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day and already nominated by me for Nitwit of the Year honors, will apparently push another districting measure onto the ballot, and who knows? Perhaps this time it will pass. And we probably haven't heard the last of "none of the above," either, not to mention other ill-advised ballot measures to which voters are likely to be subjected regarding the state's justice system.

The clear thrust of these measures has been to destabilize the courts and politicize judicial elections, and combined with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, they are as dangerous as dynamite.

In sum, it doesn't look good for the judicial branch in our fine state unless the average person gets moved off his or her couch, and soon. If we want democracy here, we need to (a) push for better funding for the courts; (b) reward judicial candidates who take the high road in campaigns, and punish those who run on particular issues; and (c) fight the ballot measures that will continue to threaten the vitality of the judicial system.

The courts of Oregon have been functioning just fine until now, and they certainly don't need these horrible changes. Quite the contrary.

Can I get a witness?


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In Vino Veritas

King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2012
Decoy, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Marqués de Murrieta, Reserva Rioja 2010
Kendall-Jackson, Grand Reserve Cabernet 2009
Seven Hills, Merlot 2013
Los Vascos, Grande Reserve Cabernet 2011
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Forlorn Hope, St. Laurent, Ost-Intrigen 2013
Upper Five, Tempranillo 2010 and 2012
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Topsail, Syrah 2013
Jim Barry, The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013
Robert Mondavi, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2012
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2014
Boomtown, Cabernet 2013
Boulay, Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Domaine de Durban Muscat 2011
Patricia Green, Estate Pinot Noir 2012
Crios, Cabernet, Mendoza 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Dehesa la Granja, Tempranillo 2008
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #15
Selvapiana, Chianti Ruffina 2012
Joseph Carr, Cabernet 2012
Prendo, Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti 2014
Joel Gott, Oregon Pinot Gris 2014
Otazu, Red 2010
Chehalem, Pinot Gris, Three Vineyards 2013
Wente, Merlot, Sandstone 2011
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2012
Monmousseau, Vouvray 2014
Duriguttti, Malbec 2013
Ruby, Pinot Noir 2012
Castellare, Chianti 2013
Lugana, San Benedetto 2013
Canoe Ridge, Cabernet, Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Arcangelo, Negroamaro Rosato
Vale do Bomfim, Douro 2012
Portuga, Branco 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2009
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Kristina's Reserve 2010
Rodney Strong, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Bookwalter, Subplot No. 28, 2012
Coppola, Sofia, Rose 2014
Kirkland, Napa Cabernet 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Napa Meritage 2011
Kramer, Chardonnay Estate 2012
Forlorn Hope, Que Saudade 2013
Ramos, Premium Tinto, Alentejano 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Rutherford Cabernet 2012
Bottego Vinaia, Pinot Grigio Trentino 2013
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2011
Pete's Mountain, Elijah's Reserve Cabernet, 2007
Beaulieu, George Latour Cabernet 1998
Januik, Merlot 2011
Torricino, Campania Falanghina 2013
Edmunds St. John, Heart of Gold 2012
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
Locations, F Red Blend
El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2010
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
Locations, F Red Blend
El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2
If You See Kay, Red 2011
Turnbull, Old Bull Red 2010
Cherry Tart, Cherry Pie Pinot Noir 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet, Oakville 2012
Benton Lane, Pinot Gris 2012
Campo Viejo, Rioja, Reserva 2008
Haden Fig, Pinot Noir 2012
Pendulum Red 2011
Vina Real, Plata, Crianza Rioja 2009
Edmunds St. John, Bone/Jolly, Gamay Noir Rose 2013
Bookwalter, Subplot No. 26
Ayna, Tempranillo 2011
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Haley's Block 2010
Apaltagua, Reserva Camenere 2012
Lugana, San Benedetto 2012
Argyle Brut 2007
Wildewood Pinot Gris 2012
Anciano, Tempranillo Reserva 2007
Santa Rita, Reserva Cabernet 2009
Casone, Toscana 2008
Fonseca Porto, Bin No. 27
Louis Jadot, Pouilly-Fuissé 2011
Trader Joe's, Grower's Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto 2012
Vintjs, Cabernet 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White 2012
Rainstorm, Oregon Pinot Gris 2012
Silver Palm, North Coast Cabernet 2011
Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer 2008
Rodney Strong, Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Canoe Ridge, Pinot Gris, Expedition 2012
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rose 2012
Dark Horse, Big Red Blend No. 01A
Elk Cove, Pinot Noir Rose 2012
Fletcher, Shiraz 2010
Picollo, Gavi 2011
Domaine Eugene Carrel, Jongieux 2012
Eyrie, Pinot Blanc 2010
Atticus, Pinot Noir 2010

The Occasional Book

Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria Dermoȗt - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 86
At this date last year: 131
Total run in 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269


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