Thursday, November 30, 2017

Making sense of the tweets

Trump tweets to show he is a fighter.   He picks his enemies.  He hates what his team hates.

Sometimes the little things make the big things understandable.  It isn't about true or false.  It is about tribal loyalty.

Amid the big news happening in the world--a North Korean rocket test which strongly suggests they could bomb any city in the world at will, plus a tax plan that eliminates the inheritance tax and reduces corporate income taxes--there were tweets.

There was the big tweet distraction.  The tweets that got most notice were Trump's re-tweets of some videos of Muslim violence.  They were mischaracterized by the British right winger who published them and Trump re-published them. The White House justified the re-tweets, saying that although they were described inaccurately, they show Americans are justified in being fearful of Muslims.

Trump: "Unsolved mystery."
The big message is simple: Trump doesn't like Muslims and neither do a lot of Americans.

Then there was the little tweet distraction, the one that confirms that what this is really about is tribal loyalty.  Trump celebrated once more about the resignation of Matt Lauer from the Today Show, then added that NBC should fire Joe Scarborough and brought up a conspiracy rumor from two decades ago, implying that then-congressman Scarborough was complicit in the murder of a staff person.

This is so strange and from out of nowhere.  The accusation caught the mainstream media and even the Hollywood tabloids by surprise.  It was bizarre.  It gives insight into Trump's methods, rather in the way that a "Freudian slip" offers insight into a person's true thinking.

Trump fights to win.

Trump's rejects the constraints of the rules of honesty, consistency, decorum. The premise he communicates is that the system is rigged, therefore he need not play by dishonest rules. He is a fighter who will lie, cheat, finagle, or use any mean at his disposal to win for his team.  His team wants him to win.  The fact that he risks criticism and embarrassment with the outside world--the enemies--is what they like about him.  

He will do anything. That isn't bad.  Its good.  Say Joe Scarborough is a murderer?  Why not?  He is the enemy.

Donald Trump demonstrates he is standing by his friends and attacks enemies, in this case the morning competition to Fox and Friends early mornings on the Fox network.  Fox viewers are constantly reminded that they are the good guys, under assault by the full weight of anti Christian, anti-American, elitist, fake news enemies.  Joe and Mika are the competition.

Trump is sending up signals of tribal loyalty. The fact that Trump will lie and look silly on their behalf is why they like him.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Big Picture: Trump's Brand is "Scoundrel"

Americans voted for a scoundrel.  On purpose. 

That's why when he is shown doing outrageous, embarrassing, hypocritical, dishonest things it doesn't hurt him.  He never claimed to be good. Being a self-serving finagler is his brand.   He is playing a role.  In professional wrestling he is "the Heel", the Bad Boy.

"He is a fraud and comfy with it."
So what, if it is hypocritical.

Enough Americans in the right states to win the electoral college voted for the guy who positioned himself as the tough, politically incorrect, anti-elitist bully, who openly and flagrantly trafficked in lies and conspiracies.

Trump never promised virtue.  He promised he was on the side of regular Americans.

Democrats haven't yet figured out that Democrats and Trump are playing by different rules.  What Democrats see as outrages of head-shaking proportions are actually brand strengtheners among his base voters--a base big enough to be the majority of the majority party.

The news is all aflutter with new Trump outrages of the past 24 hours: Trump speculates that the Access Hollywood tape is faked, him calling Warren Pocahontas, him re-tweeting anti Muslim photos immediately shown to be faked, him demanding the Deep State investigate Hillary, his calling for NBC to fire "Morning Joe" Scarborough for low ratings, his empty threats to North Korea, and his unseemly celebration of the firing of Matt Lauer, all while telling voters to vote for Roy Moore.

Could Elizabeth Warren respond in kind?  She shouldn't.  She has a different brand.  This blog speculated that Elizabeth Warren might demonstrate her standing as a Trump opponent by counter-punching in kind, perhaps calling him "President Bone Spurs."  

There is a problem with that.  One correspondent said, "Getting in the mud with Trump is like jumping into a shark tank. She is a fraud faking virtue, he's a fraud and comfy with it. She loses big time in any head to head with him, like all he's vanquished."   Thad Guyer.

Another said, "Her lame claim [to Native American heritage] is just too apt a metaphor for the identity politics that Trump's supporters hate so much. While infantile, Trump's caustic joking about it is almost funny and is truly excellent (by his standards) as a negative brand for the senator. Nonetheless, Senator Warren is not infantile, and she should not stoop to adopting any Trumpian behaviors, including responding 'in kind.' Warren should stick to her own authentic brand, which is as a serious, passionate, progressive advocate for citizens' rights." Tony Farrell

"Nature Boy".  #1 Bad Boy of Wrestling
Both correspondents point out the branding problem.  In the big picture matchup there is room for one "bad boy" and that is Trump.  Impolite, un-civil behavior by Elizabeth Warren undermines hers.   

It is unfair and un-symmetric.  Trump can be bad; Warren must be good. 

Outrageous and flagrant dishonesty by Trump doesn't hurt Trump, but an unprovable assertion that she is partially Native American by Warren is the basis for branding her a fraud.  Why?

Trump is not a fraud when he lies or is flagrantly hypocritical. He can grab crotches but call Franken a pervert; he can manufacture clothes in China and condemn people who do that; he can say it is wrong to hire foreign workers while simultaneously hiring foreign workers at Mir a Lago.  He doesn't hide his self-serving behavior.  Paying no taxes makes his smart, not unpatriotic.  He shows contempt for Muslims?  So what; lots of people share his contempt.  He is who he is.  He is the bad boy who the Establishment cannot control.  

As Guyer said, "he is a fraud and comfy with it."  For now a great many people are enjoying the show.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Question: Why would Trump make a sneering reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren, calling her "Pocahontas"?

Answer:  It is part of a technique that works.

We are watching a battle of brands.  Trump: "Her whole life was based on a fraud."

Trump is playing the long game.  He is working to diminish and de-legitimize Elizabeth Warren as a worthy head-to-head rival.  Politics is branding.  Trump is positioning his brand versus the Warren brand.  Trump does not want a contest between equals.  He wants a contest between the big strong guy on top versus the pipsqueak wanna-be.

Click Here: 35 seconds
Calling Warren "Pocahontas" is part of the technique. By demonstrating open disrespect and contempt, Trump is solidifying his status. She isn't worthy of respect.

Trump inserts a contemptuous comment on Warren at a White House ceremony, then (under a portrait of Andrew Jackson) turns to the Navaho WW2 veteran code talkers and says he likes them, real Americans who have actually been here a long time and who love their country.

Trump has branded Warren as "Pocahontas."

The Pocahontas term is an appeal to white resentments over minority affirmative action. The presumption is that minorities get unfair advantage in getting good jobs over "regular white people."  Trump's claim is that Warren cheated and claimed privilege she did not deserve. Warren, a native Oklahoman, had understood she has partial Cherokee extraction in her applications to teach at the University of Pennsylvania and at Harvard, and was apparently listed as "Native American" in at least one law directory.  She has little, if any, Native American heritage, and in any case is unable to prove she has it.  This is an opening for Trump. Trump is de-legitimizing and branding her as a fraud:

"She’s got about as much Indian blood as I have. Her whole life was based on a fraud. She got into Harvard and all that because she said she was a minority.” 

Readers who viscerally dislike Trump sometimes have a hard time acknowledging his abilities. Trump is good at branding himself and others.  Trump is not just accusing her of fraud.  He is branding her as a fraud, making it a substitute for her name.  Everyone in America knew who he was referring to when he said "Pocahontas": Elizabeth Warren.

Diminished and possibly lost in the Pocahontas brand is her achievement as a Harvard law school professor, as a champion for consumers vs. bank miscreants, as an articulate spokesperson for progressive causes.  Her brand--as promoted by Trump--asserts a fraud and has become her name.  It is ugly and cynical.  It is genius.

Elizabeth Warren responds.

Click Here: 53 seconds
In the past 24 hours I have watched Warren in multiple venues.   She ignores the real reason Trump uses the term, the personal insult and his branding her as a fraud.  She is attempting to re-define what is going on.  

1.  She calls it a "racial slur" rather than a personal one.  It isn't, but she says it is.  Make Trump try to argue that, no, he actually likes Indians, it is just Warren and people who cannot prove they are Indians.  

2.  She transforms the supposed purpose of the insult into one of trying to silence her.  "He thinks somehow he going to shut me up with that?  It's just not going to happen.  It didn't happen the the past and its not going to happen in the future."   I have seen her referring to "silencing me" multiple times.  She is attempting to drive this point home.  By making it an issue of silence, not legitimacy, the proof of Trump's ineffectiveness is in her hands--by continuing to criticize him.  Much better for her to argue that the bully didn't win--see, I am still talking--than to argue that, no, I am not really a fraud. This is smart of her.

3.  She uses this as a document of Trump's lack of self discipline.  "President Trump couldn't even get through a ceremony to honor these men without throwing in a racial slur."  Warren emphasized the "couldn't even get through a ceremony", her way of branding Trump as childish and weak.

The Trump brand is vulnerable on this point, and it is a core part of the Trump brand.  She is defining Trump as actually weak, not strong.  Trump wants his brand to be the dominant, tough bully, fearless defender of "regular people" against the politically correct liberals and their unfair rules that disadvantage "regular people."  Trump maintains this brand through insults, twitter wars, tough talk, and choosing enemies that exemplify the battle lines on identity and inclusion.  Trump's efforts have always run the risk of looking petty, silly, distracted, juvenile, and risky in a nuclear-armed world.  

Warren is emphasizing Trump's negative.  "He can't even get through a White House ceremony " without losing attention and going off message.  This positions Trump as distractible and weak. It is effective in part because it re-defines what Trump does to build his brand, so Trump's actions boomerang. Those insulting tweets aren't strength, in Warren's view; they are the weakness of immaturity.  Warren says to tweet all you want, since it proves how weak and distractible you are.  Go ahead and insert insults where they make no sense since it proves you are unable to carry out the simplest of tasks.

This is a good response for Warren.  She appears unafraid and utterly unapologetic.  It would be better if she actively embraced her Pocahontas brand.  "You bet people in our family have thought we were part Cherokee, just like a lot of good, hard working Oklahoma people who don't have family trees, coats of arms, and bone spurs. We are proud of it and proud to tell anyone.  I will tell you one thing about my heritage Donald Trump can count on: when a bully tries to push us around we push right back."

Trump is ahead of the game so far.  The "Pocahontas" brand has stuck.  That is a big advantage for him--so far.  But Warren is responding by getting in his face, not backing down, demonstrating that she is a peer rather than an upstart.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Trump gives people an excuse to believe the unbelievable.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"   

The quotation is by Upton Sinclair, who got a hands-on lesson in politics, by running for governor of California and "getting licked."

Click: 20 seconds. "Who are you going to believe. . . . "
Donald Trump is giving the American people a long-form lesson on political messaging, by showing us the power of sticking to ones story, even in the face of direct, obvious, unmistakable evidence to the contrary.   

The line, "Who do you believe, me or your own eyes?" is from Duck Soup, a Marx Brothers comedy, but the technique is deadly serious and effective in politics.  Trump does it.  Like Groucho, he is brazen.  Like Chico, dressed as Groucho, he stands tall and asserts his story.  Click.  It's funny.

The Rufis T. Firefly character gives people a basis for believing what they want to believe, not what their own eyes tell them. He denies what she has just seen.  Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump are demonstrating how to do it in their messaging on Senate Candidate Roy Moore.  Give people the tiniest, least probable,  but still possible, basis for questioning what they see.  Roy Moore denies it, they say.  Therefore, who know's what is true?  There is a basis for doubt.  

Trump kept raising doubt and questions regarding the Obama birth certificate.  No evidence was dispositive.  He kept alive the desire of his base to deny Obama legitimacy, until near the election when he reversed course 180 degrees and said he was a hero for ending this ugly birther smear, and asserted it was all Hillary's idea.  Then he stuck to that story.   It worked. He seemed so confident.  Who do you believe, me or a long record of videotape to the contrary?

Maybe you don't have to believe what you are hearing.
This weekend's news--that Trump is now raising the question whether the Access Hollywood tape is actually legitimate.  

This is new.  

His immediate response to the Access Hollywood tape had been unique in the Trump approach to messaging: he apologized.  He minimized it: just "locker room talk." 

Minimization is not a version of denial.  It is the opposite of denial.  Minimization denies its importance.  True denial denies its reality.

Trump is now attempting a do-over, a political version of a golf Mulligan, regarding the Access Hollywood video.  Maybe the tape was not real, he is reported to have said to Mitch McConnell and others.  Maybe it was doctored.  

This changes things for his supporters and takes a document off the table.  His supporters are not stuck with that piece of evidence, after all. If they can transform what they heard from a stipulated document, from something they must incorporate in their thinking, into something merely "questionable"  and disputed, then they can mentally dismiss it. What a relief.  

It is what his supporters want to think.  The tape is fake, maybe. The jury of his supporters are getting the excuse they needed and wanted. If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit.  The tape is just more fake news.  Forget it.

Trump cannot openly support a guilty Roy Moore.  He can support Roy Moore only if he can maintain a fig leaf--an arguable basis--for saying maybe it is not true that Moore dated and attempted sex play with 8th, 9th, and 10th grade girls.  The evidence of Moore's own minimizing of it, "generally no," in a taped interview with Sean Hannity, makes outright denial implausible, but Kellyanne Conway and Trump have their strategy: hold onto that fig leaf of doubt. Forget what you heard Moore say. Moore denies wrongdoing, therefore it is questionable, therefore it can be wholly dismissed.

The fig leaf of doubt makes Trump wholly justified in condemning Al Franken. There is an arguable distinction between Franken and Trump.  Al Franken admitted wrongdoing.  Moore and Trump are denying wrongdoing. 

Shockwaves are going through our political system. Women are coming forward. There is a period of bloodletting and it is unlikely that the punishments will fit any kind of proportionality.    Which officeholders lose their positions will depend on the success of the messaging, not on their degree of misbehavior.  If Roy Moore is elected and Al Franken is pushed from office then politicians will observe a bright, unmistakable signal on how to proceed in the future:  Deny, stick to the story, trash the woman.

Don't believe your eyes.  Vote for Moore in good conscience
Of course it is cynical, dishonest, morally indefensible.  But this isn't Sunday School.  Evangelical voters have made clear that church can be church and state can be state.  Vote your interest, not your conscience.  And to make it easier, we will give your conscience an escape route of arguable doubt.

We will see if theTrump formula is the one that works: give your partisans some basis for not seeing what is right before their eyes.  That would be the message.   Deny and win; apologize and lose.

Trump and Moore are providing a field experiment on what strategy might work, and it is playing out in real time.

    Sunday, November 26, 2017

    The Political Uses of NIMBY

    "Not In My Back Yard" is a potent force and tool.

    People want their own private property respected.  "It is my land."

    NIMBY is about ones neighbors' private property.  "He should be stopped."

    Of course it is inconsistent and unfair.  But politics is not a study of logic.  It is the operation of what people in a community want.  What they want is the freedom to do what they want themselves, and to control what their neighbor can do.   Simple as that.

    Politicians need to deal with that strange reality.

    This blog has profited enormously from the criticism I have received from people regarding marijuana. Citizens who would normally and predictably feel one way about something--freedom--reverse themselves when issues of personal nuisance come up.  

    Thirty five years ago, when I was a Jackson County Commissioner spending about half my time on land use issues, NIMBY was a weak force. I remember one instance in four years when NIMBY rose up.  A group of neighbors got together to protest the application for a mega-church facility to be built on agricultural land near their homes, in the area between Medford and Jacksonville.  The church would have a school, commercial kitchens for weddings and other events, dormitories for youth camps, and services most evenings.  The neighbors complained that it wasn't a church; it was an event center.  The applicants argued that big successful churches have events as part of their church mission.  They said marriages, funerals, prayer breakfasts, elementary and high school education, RV overnight parking,  and concerts of spiritual music were all part of their church-based spiritual practice.  The neighbors said it was too much--on rural agricultural land--and the commissioners agreed.   

    That was it for NIMBY back then.  One clear instance.

    Now people feel far more entitled to object to a neighbor's use of his or her land. Neighbors are protesting the actions of other neighbors all the time.  Someone wants to do something permitted on their land a mile away, but it might increase traffic. Oppose it.  

    Ashland Tidings News story: September odor
    And now the marijuana issue. People appear to have accepted the notion of marijuana dispensaries. Their work takes place behind closed doors.  The problem is not the end product; the problem is the production.  It is the classic problem: people want meat but not slaughterhouses.  People want wooden houses but not timber harvest.  They want production to take place far away.  Marijuana production is the controversial part.

    Marijuana has a smell.  Medford citizens voted 2 to 1 to prohibit outdoor marijuana grows, inside the city limits.  It makes sense.  City life puts people up near other people. It is one of the reasons people live in cities: the quiet enjoyment of their home free from nuisance.

    Rural land plays by different rules.  It is land for production. Outdoor grows of marijuana are legal on private property in rural resource zones (farm and forest.)   In previous decades the citizen attitude would be that each landowner should mind his own property and his own business.  If a farmer plants a smelly crop (onions, garlic, livestock) it is his own business, not the neighbors'. Things are different now, especially with marijuana. NIMBY.

    This blog got comments complaining about neighbors and this blog's lack of sensitivity to their concerns:
       ***using water
       ***creating smells
       ***creating allergens
       ***using grow bags that will end up in landfills
       ***using fertilizer that comes in bags that will end up in landfills
       ***employing people
       ***employing people who might be armed
       ***adding to vehicle traffic
       ***changing the view with new plants
       ***changing the view with new structures

    All of the above activities are legal--but all affect the neighbors.  Should there be large set-back requirements away from neighboring dwellings or property lines?  That would essentially take land out of production, and it would treat marijuana different than onions, but there may be a political consensus that neighbors need more rights and protection. 

    Editorial: Capital press, Oregon's agricultural press.
    Should neighbors within a certain distance of a grow site be entitled to financial compensation?  That would tend to democratize the income, it would be expensive, but there could be an upside for the grower.  It would create a kind of license for the grower. ("I've paid you the nuisance fee, so quit your bitchin'.)  In the past there would be no expectation that a neighbor should get income from the activities on a farm next door. The widespread acceptance of the NIMBY attitude has changed this.  

    This blog has taken the position that farmers should have the right to farm, since their right to subdivide has been taken away from them. But this ignores the rise of NIMBY attitudes, and maybe it underestimates the change in political climate.

    Should marijuana production become a "conditional use," not a permitted use, in farm zones?  That would empower neighbors to require a hearing and protest a neighbor's marijuana crop. Counties would need to set up rules for who can protest, distance from the subject property, and the basis for an objection.  There would be an avalanche of cases and the county would need to set up a special marijuana hearings body.  It would increase neighborhood tensions, pitting the livelihood of one person against the conveniences and amenities of neighbors. I can imagine enormously disputatious hearings, neighbor against neighbor, quibbles about nuisances back and forth--and yet those hearings would be reflecting the current reality of the empowerment of neighbors. It would likely require a change in the state's "right to farm" law, but if that happened county commissions could set up local rules. Debate over the wisdom of such a rule puts the issue squarely in the laps of candidates for both state and local political office.

    Greenhouse for vegetables, ok. For marijuana, neighbors object.
    Previous office holders--back in my era in local office--were dealing with the political fallout from downzoning rural land.  We took away the profit and flexibility of land divisions, and we declared they were sitting on a precious farm resource, so we tried to be consistent.  You cannot do anything but farm, so go ahead a farm. This blog has agreed.

    But this is a different era. Neighbors feel entitled. The understandings and promises of the past may not have significance today. Then it was about the farmers' rights.  Now it is NIMBY.

    There may be political room for a politician to reverse the primacy of the farmers' right and replace it with the rights of neighbors to decide what they want to live near.  I consider it unjust, but the politics have changed.  There are more neighbors than farmers, and more people who are bystanders to the marijuana industry than there are participants in it.

    Saturday, November 25, 2017

    Why so little young blood on the political bench?

    Older people are filling the slots and plugging up the system.

    First, a personal note.  I am 68.  I feel great.    I don't think of people in their 60s or 70s as old.  I think of myself as young.

    Democrats have a bench problem which becomes a messaging problem.

    Click here to operate chart. Who is older than you?
    The people who are visible in presenting themselves as Democratic spokespeople in opposition to Trump are Hillary Clinton, still.  Plus Joe Biden.  Plus Elizabeth Warren.  In the House there is Minority leader Nancy Pelosi.  College classmate Chuck Schumer is the Majority Leader.  Bernie Sanders is a progressive spokesman.

    They are all my age and older, 67-76.  

    The problem is not that old people cannot do the jobs they hold.  They in fact do the jobs they hold and appear, to my eyes to be perfectly able to do it.  But my own eyes are skewed by my situation. 

    Reality:  Only 5% of the US citizen are the age of Joe Biden (75) or older.  In 2020, it will be 4% if he runs at age 79.  Nancy Pelosi looks great and healthy at her current age of 77; only 4.5% of the population is her age and older.  Bernie Sanders is 76.

    Boomer childhood
    I do not consider myself age-ist.  This blog is not judging them to be too old to serve.  However, this blog does look carefully at unsaid, body-language messaging.  

    The message being presented by the Democratic Party--via the very appearance and bearing and biography of its leading spokespeople--is that we are the Baby Boomer (and older) generation.  

    mid 1980s

    We understand the adjacent photos to communicate retro.

    Yet people of my generation hold positions, do them well, and are eager to serve.  Why not?  We have the time, experience, reputation, and good health.  

    Those are good answers.  But it leaves a messaging problem.   

     What about this photo of the man reading a newspaper?   

    People my age see nothing particularly surprising about a man reading a newspaper.  In the eyes of most voters, that image is as retro as the image of the old phone

    Most young people do not do what he is doing.  Retro.

    Democrats have two problems.  One is that older people are plugging up the holes for the next generation.   The visible positions for spokespeople are the positions most likely to create national reputations. 

    The second problem is messaging: people of my generation cannot avoid communicating that we are "old business."  .  It does not matter how great that brick phone is and whether it still works or not,  it still communicates "old".  If the man with the newspaper looks to you as a reader as "a normal guy", you are absolutely right.  But you (and I) are absolutely communicating that we are part of a generation that reads newspapers, not one that gets news via tweets, podcasts, Facebook, and phone news feeds.

    Who are those young people?  Voters.

    My past two blog posts have given utterly un-solicited advice to State Senator Alan DeBoer.   If he runs for re-election he will face a Democratic opponent.   

    One is Kevin Stine, a 32 year old Medford City Counselor.  I see his active tweets and Facebook promotions.   Another in Jeff Golden, my age, a college classmate of mine for a time.

    We see an interesting generational divide here.  Jeff Golden is visible on Public TV, with a show that started locally and has gone national, Immense Possibilities.  Jeff is a veteran of old cultural wars.  People attempting to recall him from office published a photo of him with long hair from the late 1960s; just look at that hippy!!  Jeff is authentic, in a time when voters value authenticity.  He communicates the authentic life path of a certain generation, a person born about 1950, who was part of a college protest scene at age 18, a back-to-the-country scene in his 20s, then life in a college town expressing liberal environmental politics.  I am comfortable with that biography; it is an archetype, almost a caricature, of a Baby Boomer liberal.  What is the problem?  I am no longer a "normal voter;" I am older.  So is Jeff.  

    We are "retro" whether we want to be or not: a brick phone.

    Golden, right, doing an interview.
    Meanwhile, Kevin Stine gets criticism for being young, ambitious, and liberal.  I believe those are fair descriptions of Stine.  Stine is an active user of new media: twitter, Facebook.  He is making outreach in a very different way than is Golden.  

    Alan DeBoer, like Jeff Golden, and like me: are all about age 68.  It is a good age.  

    A few years ago I had a memorable conversation with a local business leader. The business leader said he was making changes at his own large firm because the older people need to get out of the way.

    He said it is easy to stay too long, and if you do, you hurt the organization or system you spent a lifetime building.  The best people, the people with ambition and talent, get impatient if they see that all the opportunities ahead of them are plugged with people holding the roles above them.  They move to the competition or they change industries, but in any case you lose them.  Just because you can do the job doesn't mean you should do the job--not if you care about the organization or cause you represent.
    Kevin Stine and family

    I reflected on that, and it was part of why I decided to retire when I did.

    All of the Democrats at the national level are in the prime of life.  Alan DeBoer and Jeff Golden and I are in the prime of life.  I am not saying Alan or Jeff should step aside, nor am I saying that Pelosi and Schumer and Warren and Sanders and Hillary should. They all have every right to fulfill their own goals and ambitions.  

    There are consequences to plugging the holes for the next generation.  My successors at my Financial Advisory practice might not have been available had I waited 2 or 4 or 6 more years. I opened up a hole.

    There are consequences to what Pelosi and Sanders and Schumer are doing.  They are plugging a hole.

    [Note.  Regarding that business leader;  I am describing my own memory of a pleasant, brief conversation with Sid DeBoer, the older brother of Alan DeBoer.  Truth is, the source of the wisdom about opening up holes and enabling ambitious people space to advance, is unimportant.  Still, it is an interesting coincidence that the memory of advice comes from Alan DeBoer's brother]

    Friday, November 24, 2017

    Field Report: Senator Alan DeBoer addresses Marijuana

    State Senator Alan DeBoer is a pro-business, good-government Republican.  But on marijuana he reverses himself.

    Marijuana jumbles the normal politics of small business, entrepreneurship, economic development and regulation.   

    He could fix this.

    Southern Oregon marijuana
    Wine is now thought good.  The politics of wine make sense.  Southern Oregon politicians love the wine industry.  They invite wine tourism, they accommodate the zoning, land, and water needs of the wine industry, cities advertise they have vineyards, and politicians run interference to make sure the regulatory system accommodates the needs of the industry.

    Marijuana has politicians confused.  Alan DeBoer's talk at Rotary was a prime example.  He is on the wrong side of history.   He is even on the wrong side of his own politics.

    Apparently, we grow world class marijuana here. DeBoer's senate district is the epicenter of the outdoor cannabis industry.  We are to marijuana what the Napa Valley is to wine, and the Silicon Valley is to technology.  Apparently we are the right latitude, the right mix of sunlight and water, the right mix of growing expertise and processing technique.  The industry recognizes this region, a small Golden Triangle.

    A local grower informed me he just got a report back from a national processor on his crop producing CBD, the oils with medicinal and non-psychoactive properties.  They said his product was extraordinary, offering him the highest end of the market.  Locally produced marijuana finds itself in Amsterdam, labeled as "Jackson County origin", fetching the highest prices in their display case.

    It is a multi-million dollar industry. Rural land here is dotted with outdoor marijuana "grows" and greenhouses.  Local architects are busy designing processing facilities, and contractors are backlogged building them.  We had full employment all growing season for anyone job-ready.  Workers doing the planting, tending, pruning, harvesting, drying, trimming are well paid.  It is an industry dominated by small entrepreneurs of largely local people.  Margins are high.  Businesspeople are getting wealthy.  Money is pouring into the area.  Ambitious, hard working young people are employees for a year or two to learn their craft, then make arrangements to go into business themselves.  

    We are witnessing opportunity, ambition, and wealth creation. Land is productive, people well paid. It sounds like the American dream.  

    One would think politicians--especially pro-business, car-dealership owning, Republican politicians like Alan DeBoer--to be thrilled with this.  What we witness is hesitation and contradiction.
    Senator DeBoer

    Senator DeBoer's talk at Rotary displayed a reversal of expectations.  He was reserved-to-negative about an industry that is bringing tens of millions of dollars and full employment into his senate district.

    He responded at length to a question on marijuana asked by a local wine grower.  

    Everything Alan DeBoer said about the industry was essentially negative.  He voiced problems, not opportunities.  Instead of describing local rural land dotted with outdoor grows and greenhouses as a good thing--rural land productive, small businesses thriving, people employed--DeBoer's comments implied that all those grows were a kind of public nuisance, unwelcome change and pockmarks on the otherwise serene landscape.  (One would normally expect a pro-business Republican senator would welcome new businesses in his district, and see those grows as positive.)

    He noted that when he got off an airplane at the Medford airport at harvest season he smelled marijuana.  He said he hears from complaining neighbors, unhappy about marijuana grows that change their views. (One would expect a pro-business Republican senator to defend job creators and the property rights of business people, not echo the nay-sayer critics.  Those are jobs one smells, local land being productive.)

    He referred to high numbers of people being employed, and cited that workers made $18 an hour, a number he criticized both for being too high and it being paid in cash.  He said those $18/hour jobs create a problem for employers who want to find employees who will work for much less, and expressed concern for those low-wage employers. (One would expect a pro-business Republican senator to be thrilled at family wage jobs and demand for employees.)

    He complained about high number of applications for new grow sites that was burdening the bureaucracy in Salem.  All this new business was putting demands on the system the state was not prepared for, he said, expressing this as a problem. (One would expect a Republican businessman senator to be thrilled at the rush of new businesses in his district, and unhappy that government bureaucracy was impeding economic development.  He would change the bureaucracy, not criticize "too many" new businesses.)

    He complained about Colorado and Oregon being leaders, getting ahead of the federal government on cannabis. Oregon, he said, should have waited for the federal government before allowing an existing underground marijuana industry to be legalized. (One would expect a pro-business Republican senator to welcome state leadership and innovation that leads to a high margin new industry in his district.)

    He complained about the federal government banking laws that essentially prohibit the industry from doing normal banking.  (One would expect a pro-business Republican would propose a state solution, e.g. a state bank or other accommodation to work around this impediment rather than say the industry should disappear until government gets its act together.)

    1967 was fifty years ago.
    Senator DeBoer needs to clarify what side he is on and what decade he is in. He may not realize it, but he has chosen sides in a culture war, and he has chosen the minority side, the one that is defensive, not hopeful, the one that is stuck in the past.  It is not 1967.  Some people disapprove of marijuana per se.  There is a constituency for DeBoer if he wants it.

    It is likely there are some senate districts in Oregon where one could take the position that marijuana is bad, that the jobs it creates aren't worth it, that he disapproves.  He could make Rotary speeches there and lean against the industry, as he did this week in Medford. 

    Alan DeBoer's senate district is not one of those districts.   If DeBoer wishes to remain a state senator--something that is not altogether clear to me that he does--then he has an opportunity to clarify his thinking and presentation. He needs to be his true self: a pro-business, pro-entrepreneur, pro-economic development, socially progressive, modern and open minded man.

    He is currently siding with the nay-sayers, the people who imagine marijuana users and producers to be buzzed stoners, not ambitious entrepreneurs.  He is siding with neighbors who don't want landowners to use their land.  He is siding with people who don't particularly care if small businesspeople make money.  He is siding with employers who like having ample choice of employees to hire at poverty wages.   The public votes in Oregon and elsewhere demonstrate that a majority of people have moved on and are looking ahead.

    DeBoer needs to decide which side he is on.

    The cannabis industry is an industry that creates wealth and opportunity in his district.  It would be natural for a state senator from that district to be an advocate, not a nay-sayer by implication.  He could support the industry while working to help resolve the negative externalities it creates.  It starts with a presumption that profitable new entrants in the industry are a good thing, not a bad thing.  It starts with a presumption that any regulations are not intended to kill the industry through regulation, but rather to make the industry safer to continue and grow.

    Supporting the industry would be the archetypal pro-business, pro-economic development, pro-growth attitude.  DeBoer could do this.  But in public at a Rotary meeting Wednesday, he did the opposite.  He sided with the nay sayers.  

    He can fix this if he chooses to. 

    Thursday, November 23, 2017

    Field Report: State Senator Alan DeBoer speaks to Rotary

    State Senator Alan DeBoer is operating well below his skill level.

    He is mature, accomplished, and prosperous.  He should be good at this.  He knows what he thinks, yet does the opposite.  Strange.

    Field Report: State Senator Alan DeBoer 

    Taxes and Marijuana.  Two missed opportunities in his talk Wednesday at the Medford Rogue Rotary Club.  

    Today we look at how he dealt with the tax issue.

    Alan DeBoer had an opportunity to clear up some confusion on Measure 101, a tax issue that will be on the ballot for Oregon voters in late January.  The Oregon Legislature voted a bill to generate the money that would serve as the match for a much greater amount of federal money.  They money would help fund the Oregon Health Plan, the local name for Oregon's Medicaid program.  As a newly elected State Senator, DeBoer supported the tax plan, which makes sense given his political orientation as a "good government" Republican with a record of supporting public services.  (He has been an Ashland mayor, on a school board, a leader in protecting and growing the YMCA, the Historical Society, the Transit system and other civic institutions.)

    The plan is a 1.5% tax on revenues, to be paid by health insurers, and a .7% tax on providers.  The providers themselves favor the tax. 

    Why would anyone like being taxed? 
    Because the money it raises gets matched several times over by the federal government, then comes back to them.  

    It mean hundreds of thousands more Oregonians will get health care.  It means that local hospitals will get reimbursed for providing emergency care, rather than providing care to uninsured people which gets written off as uncollectible.  Without it, Oregon hospitals bleed money, which they were doing prior to the ACA.  Expanded Medicaid plugs that hole. It brings money into Oregon and pays for itself.

    Non-partisan ballot explanation here:  Explanation by Ballotpedia

    Alan DeBoer explained the complexities and background of the initiative on the January ballot, but left out the important thing: clearly saying that he planned to vote yes and thought his audience should as well because it would bring money into Oregon, protect Oregon jobs, provide healthcare for vulnerable people, and keep our hospitals financially sound.

    He believes that.  He understands that.  He had an opportunity to lead and advocate.  

    It is part of a pattern for DeBoer on this issue.

    In the legislature he actually voted "no" on the tax.  He supported the legislation, but voted no.  He explained after the vote in the legislature that he saw it was going to pass thanks to other Republican votes, and since his vote wasn't needed to tip the outcome in the direction he wanted, he voted against the outcome he wanted. (Say, what?  Yes.  Really.) 

    He explained that by voting "no" he hoped he got some credibility points as a team player with opponents of the tax.  His no vote suggests faux solidarity with a team, and it games the voting record score-card system.  

    It is difficult to explain why a person as accomplished as DeBoer is in other avenues of life (business, civil leadership, trade associations, philanthropy) can be so weak in messaging on this issue.  One theory is that he is misplaced as a Republican, and he feels an obligation to his party to play a role he doesn't fully believe, so he does it reluctantly, inconsistently.  Another theory is that he is, at bottom, a conflict-avoider in the wrong job, hoping to split differences. 

    It doesn't make sense.  DeBoer is operating well below his skill level.  

    He represents a Senate district that has a strong Democratic lean. He showed promise as someone who could represent his district well, a Republican in a Democratic district, but now he appears more vulnerable.  Democratic candidates are lining up.  He is handing them an issue that undermines his greatest asset, his reputation for being a mature, accomplished leader.  

    He is weakening his own brand.  It is unnecessary and self inflicted.

    Tomorrow: Marijuana.  How Senator DeBoer handled that one.