Politicians Hiring Private Investigators to Dig Dirt on Opponents

Eric Ohlsen and his three staffers hang out in their new office space on Southeast Morrison Street in Portland, looking like guys with high-tech startup dreams.

Electronic gear is scattered about and it doesn’t look as if anyone has worried too much about the decor. Rounded and pale, Ohlsen looks like he spends a lot of time inside staring at a computer screen.

Ohlsen is indeed a tech geek, but his focus is unearthing the hidden backgrounds of political candidates, not figuring out another smartphone app. He owns an opposition research firm, these days as much of a must-hire for campaigns as media consultants and pollsters. […]

Ohlsen happens to work for Democrats, but opposition research is an ecumenical affair. While Ohlsen is working for the Oregon House Democratic caucus this year, Republicans hired an Oregon City private investigator named Scott Castleman. Financial disclosure reports show that both Castleman and Ohlsen are busy researching candidates involved in several House races.

Full Story: The Oregonian: Oregon opposition researcher finds paydirt in political dirt

Did the FBI Thwart Its Own Plot in Oregon?

I was out of state when this happened, otherwise I probably would have covered this sooner. As usual, Glenn Greenwald delivers the goods:

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise. Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction. Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary. […]

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts. Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture: that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence. And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse: that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

Salon: The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

It’s entirely reasonable to assume that the FBI agent’s recording gear malfunctioned or that someone made an honest mistake in configuring the equipment, as anyone who has worked with recording gear can tell you. But from a strictly legal standpoint, it seems like that should be a big strike against the FBI. Unlike Greenwald, I’m not a lawyer, though, so I don’t know.

From what little I know about the case, it does seem that Mohamud was motivated to commit violence. But the specific plot and access to weapons was furnished by the FBI. Even taking the FBI at its word, its difficult to see Mohamud as a great threat on his own. Still, it’s clear that there are some angry people in this country willing to do violence to our citizens, and as Greenwald points out, there’s relatively little discussion as to why. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m no friend to Islam, but it’s clearer every day that US foreign policy is a bigger driver for terrorism than religion.

Update: My friend Johnny Brainwash has taken a look at the affidavit and has a post on it:

The specific notion of a car bomb was Mohamud’s, but he had no clue how to go about it. Not a single operational detail would have happened without the FBI. He did buy some of the bomb components, sure, but with money and a shopping list provided by the feds. He also provided some Google Maps images and a disguise, both also at the request of undercover agents. Beyond that, he couldn’t even get to Portland if the FBI didn’t give him a ride.
This alleged plot, like nearly every alleged jihadi plot in the US, amounts to nearly nothing. Not that the kid is blameless or should get off scot-free, but he wasn’t much of a threat. Not compared to people who have committed genuine terrorist acts on American soil in the last couple of years, and certainly not enough to justify the feramongering that has gotten an added boost out of this. The story isn’t “OMG America under attack!!1!” It’s more like “look, another dumbass with fantasies of jihad- at least this one didn’t set his nuts on fire.”

He adds in the comments:

I don’t necessarily ascribe such specific intent to individual FBI’ers, or to the agency as a whole. It’s their job to catch criminals, and their budgets and prestige depend on it, so they’re going to catch them even if it takes some wishful thinking to create them. I think lots of law enforcement types, like lots of other folks, buy into the narrative of terrorists lurking under every bed, and so they don’t always realize when they’re going overboard.

I think others of them probably do realize, though.

I’m sort of leery of ascribing intent these days, preferring to describe observed behavior. Remarkable how it untangles things sometimes.

See also Mr. Brainwash on who is and isn’t a terrorist.

Oregon tech companies better off now than during dot-com bust. Plus: Oregon companies bucking the trend

In relative terms, this recession has been much less hard on Oregon’s high-tech industries than the dot-com and telecom busts were early this decade. And though the state’s technology manufacturing base continues to erode, a new cluster of Web services companies have sprung up and created a vibrant culture around social-networking technology.

Hopes are high they could lead Oregon technology out of this latest downturn, though their economic impact is muted.

Many of these small companies have set up shop in previously rundown buildings downtown or on Portland’s inner east side. They share a passion for social media, which connects people online through a series of tools including wikis, blogs and the instant-messaging service Twitter.

Prominent examples include Jive Software, AboutUs and SplashCast. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of even smaller companies are bootstrapping themselves with just a handful of employees and their laptops, using low-cost open-source software to launch their businesses with a minimum of startup costs.

OregonLive: Oregon’s high-tech better off now than in dot-com bust

The article’s side panel lists a few companies that are “bucking the trend” during the recession:

Ensequence Inc.

Jive Software

TriQuint Semiconductor Inc.

Do Lap Dances and Humiliation Treat ADHD — and Should Public Schools Pay?

Mount Bachelor Academy regularly uses intensely humiliating tactics as treatment. For instance, in required seminars that the school calls Lifesteps, students say staff members of the residential program have instructed girls, some of whom say they have been victims of rape or sexual abuse, to dress in provocative clothing — fishnet stockings, high heels and miniskirts — and perform lap dances for male students as therapy. […]

But because the programs are privately run, what happens within their walls is largely a mystery. No one knows whether the programs succeed or fail. […]

Mount Bachelor’s executive director, Bitz, says her school uses widely accepted psychological treatments to help children overcome their problems. “We also use a psychodrama-treatment approach designed to do one or both of two things,” said Bitz in her statement, “get a student to embrace qualities of their character (such as beauty or courage) about which they have doubt or assist them in recognizing qualities that are unproductive (such as selfishness or conceit) about which they have little insight.” […]

“They told me I was dirty and I had to put mud on myself for being raped,” she said in reference to another Lifesteps session. “They basically blamed me for getting raped.”

Bitz dismissed Jane’s story and called it “very suspect” in an interview with the Bend Bulletin, which also spoke with Jane. “We know that some current students have made a conscious decision to lie about our school, hoping that it will be closed as a result, and that they would then be sent back home,” Bitz told TIME. […]

Synanon began as a drug-rehabilitation program before morphing into a controversial cult and is credited with putting forth the idea that confrontation and boot-camp-style breakdown tactics could cure teen misbehavior and addiction. Synanon’s confrontational techniques influenced est and LifeSpring, which began selling weekend seminars designed to prompt emotional breakthroughs in participants.

Time: An Oregon School for Troubled Teens Is Under Scrutiny

Interesting article on a number of levels:

1) The potential Synanon-inspired abuse of kids right here in Oregon.

2) The implications of the court case for students and school districts.

3) Problems with private schools in general.

4) Problems with public schools, education, and therapy in general.

There’s a follow-up form the author of the article at HuffPo.

(via Metafilter thanks to Trevor Blake)

Oregon subsidizes Wal-Mart to the tune of $4 million

Out fucking rageous:

I received an email late last night from the Governor of Oregon.

I had written to Governor Ted Kulongoski asking him why the taxpayers of his state were subsidizing Wal-Mart with a $3.7 million tax break they didn’t deserve. “Thank you for sharing your ideas and concerns,” the Governor told me. “I believe citizen input is vital to a strong and healthy society and I urge your continued involvement.” […]

According to the Beaverton Valley Times, Wal-Mart received a fat subsidy at taxpayer’s expense by buying a tax credit from Solar World, a German company that makes photovoltaic solar panels. The city of Hillsborough, Oregon was able to attract this large solar production plant, and its 1,000 jobs, by offering a candy store of tax-subsidized incentives to the manufacturer. But some of the profits ended up in Wal-Mart’s pocket instead, because of a bizarre arrangement that allows manufacturers to sell their tax credits to companies who are doing nothing valuable for the environment, like Wal-Mart.

According to the Valley Times, Solar World was given an $11 million renewable energy tax credit. Solar World was then allowed to turn around and sell that credit to Wal-Mart for only $7.3 million, two-thirds of its real value. The full $11 million value of the credit was 51% more than what Wal-Mart paid for it. Wal-Mart can now use the full credit to reduce its corporate income taxes on profits owed to the state, earned at Wal-Mart’s 32 stores across Oregon. Wal-Mart can spread this $11 million tax credit over the next five years. Oregon taxpayers lose out on $11 million in income taxes that the corporation would have paid, and Wal-Mart makes $3.7 million for merely buying up the credit. […]

For Solar World, the tax credit had more value as a commodity to sell—than as a tax break, because Solar World only pays the state minimum tax of $10 per year. The tax credit was worth little to the company—unless they sold it. “A tax credit’s only good for those people who have a tax liability,” explained a representative of the Oregon Department of Energy.

Huffington Post: Wal-Mart Becomes Oregon’s Welfare Queen

Esozone: The Other Tomorrow

October 3-5, 2008. Portland, Oregon.

Turning Kids into Sex Offenders

Imagine how DeMarcus Blackwell felt when he was told that his son Chris had engaged in “sexual contact and/or sexual harassment” at school. School officials in Waco, Texas, said Chris rubbed his face in the chest of a female teachers’ aide.

Well, before you can imagine this father’s reaction, you need to know one other fact: His son was 4 years old when the “sexual” incident occurred.

What got Chris into trouble was giving the aide a hug. Only after DeMarcus strenuously complained did the school change the boy’s record from “sexual harassment” to “inappropriate physical contact.”

At least Chris wasn’t sent to jail, as were 13-year-old Cory Mashburn and 12-year-old Ryan Cornelison of McMinnville, Ore. The boys were charged with five counts of felony sex abuse in the first degree because of their conduct toward some 13-year-old girls at their middle school.

Full Story: Town Hall.

(via ifeminists.com).

See also: Classically Liberal’s coverage of the Matthew Brady case.

Two states, two directions

Bill Graves a great front page story comparing Washington and Oregon in last Sunday’s Oregonian. The good news for Oregon:

Drawn by Portland’s strong neighborhoods, openness, affordability and proximity to wilderness, more than 40,000 young adults, many with college degrees, have poured into the city in the past 15 years.

The influx promises to boost Portland’s economy by fostering innovation and giving businesses an edge in the coming scramble for skilled workers as baby boomers retire, says Portland economist Joe Cortright.


Oregon’s sportswear, wine and semiconductor industries show promising growth. The state is making its mark in nanotechnology research and open-source software, ranks among the top 15 states in per-capita exports and ranks in the top 10 states for new patents per capita.

Oregon Live: Two states, two directions.

There was a good piece on Portland’s economy a while back in Willamette Week.

Drowning Rat camping trip coming soon to Oregon

Drowning Ran is a Burning Man inspired camping trip this weekend in Oregon:

Drowning Rat is simply a camping trip in the rainy, miserable, cold woods of Oregon, happening the weekend after Mother’s Day. We make a rat (out of branches, last year) and do a little ritual, and drown the thing.

There’s also hot springs, whiskey, fire, pirate songs, feather boas, George Bush in the forest with a disco ball and the Golden Pee Pot. Eating feasts, and pies that appear to be covered in rat turds. It ain’t a festival. It’s in a regular campground, exact location TBD.


Interview with Jim Goad

Here’s a fascinating piece on Jim Goad: unrepentant misogynist, editor of ANSWER Me! author of Shit Magnet: One Man’s Miraculous Ability to Absorb the World’s Guilt. He spent time in prison for assault, but now he’s out and telling his side of the story.

Jim Goad may in fact be the bad man his wife, his girlfriend, the State of Oregon and numerous others said he is, but he’s also a man of principle. You may disagree with his ethics, they may even repulse you, but you can’t deny that he’s thought them through, can articulate them with unusual clarity, tries to live by them more faithfully than you live by yours and if you debated him on them he’d probably kick your ass.

New York Press: Jim Goad is a Bad Man

(via Robot Wisdom)

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