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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

American Idiot

As observant readers may have noted, I have taken a special dislike to Betsy Hammond, the Oregonian reporter currently assigned to cover PERS stories. I've never met Ms. Hammond, nor do I want to, but her "over-the-top" coverage of PERS issues has particularly infuriated me. Rarely have we witnessed such blatant examples of media bias than reading Ms. Hammond's recent articles. While Ms. Hammond may not write the headlines to these articles, the articles persist in repeating old canards, distorted choices of "facts", and overall loathing of public employees and their unions. At the same time, she gives a free-pass to public employers who contributed more to the unfunded actuarial liability (UAL) that led to the "crisis" of 2003 than anything done by unions, retirees, or active members. By Ms. Hammond's own admission, the 1991 - 1999 employer rates were artificially low and contributed significantly to the system's shortfall that emerged when the stock market boom turned into a bust in mid-2000. This fact has been carefully omitted from any of the hit pieces done on public employees; apparently, the Public Employers have managed to get the Oregonian to drink the Kool-Aid and the Oregonian's sympathies are obviously with the employers, not the employees. Ms. Hammond (as well as her prececessors) fails to report this crucial detail in any of her recent pieces, but she gleefully repeats the fact that some PERS members retired at more than their pre-retirement income. At this point, who the f*ck cares? It's no longer relevant. Employers have successfully played both sides of the street from the middle - victors and victim simultaneously. Not bad if you can do it. And it is especially sweet if you can get the local newspaper to pimp for you.

Despite repeated complaints (not by me) to Ms. Hammond and to all cognizant Oregonian editors and to the publisher, Ms. Hammond has yet to write a piece that honestly reports how specifically the stock market returns, the reform legislation, the settlement of the City of Eugene case, and all the litigation have dramatically changed the picture of PERS' finances and those of past and recent retirees. Tom Grimsley, a PERS Board member, has protested this persistence of misleading information in an OP-ED piece in the Eugene Register Guard a few weeks ago. I've repeated that in its entirety in an earlier blog entry. In addition, PERS itself just released the 2006 update to its invaluable "PERS: By the Numbers", which you can read for yourself here.

If, in the face of all this updated information, the Oregonian, in general, and Ms. Hammond, in particular, fails to report on this very newsworthy document, it merely underscores its own bias, and earns Ms. Hammond a special place in my "American Idiot" Hall of Fame.

So, Ms. Hammond, are you going to take up the challenge of reporting up-to-date and accurate information about the fiscal status of PERS and the status of retirees since 2003? Or, are you going to keep your anti-public employee chip on your shoulder? Between Bob Caldwell's single-minded decision to have the Oregonian endorse Ron Saxton, and your continued assassination of public employees, it is little wonder that the Oregonian's paid circulation has one of the largest declines of large metro newspapers in the country. Clue: it ain't just the Internet contributing to the Oregonian's decline. Look in the mirror.

P.S. I hope all my readers have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm cooking for a big crowd of friends and family and will be taking time off from my anti-Oregonian crusade until Thanksgiving. But, have no fear. As Ahhhnold says in The Terminator - "I'll be back".

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