Your Weekend Reader for Dec. 10-11

by | Dec 10, 2022 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

It’s been a very rough three years for Oregon’s hospitals, and now they face a new crisis: A huge surge in cases of the respiratory disease RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), which primarily affects children, again has hospitals at the breaking point — especially when combined with expected surges in COVID and influenza cases. Lynne Terry and Ben Botkin, writing for the Oregon Capital Chronicle, have the details. And, if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to put that mask back on when you’re out in public.

Oregon legislators met for a few days this past week in the state Capitol, working to set the stage for the 2023 session. During a hearing before the House Rules Committee, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan asked for $2 million to hire staffers to combat election misinformation and to dedicate more staff to election security. The secretary of state’s office already has done good work to battle election misinformation, and has been a useful resource to journalists seeking to explain why the state’s vote-by-mail system is the gold standard in the United States. Fagan, by the way, likely is the only secretary of state in the United States with a “VOTE” tattoo on her right forearm.

Moving on to another voting matter: Blair Bobier, the Corvallis lawyer who’s been instrumental in making the case for ranked choice voting here and throughout Oregon, read last week’s Weekend Reader about how ranked choice played out in the race for Corvallis mayor (hey, I’m grateful that somebody took the time to work through my math). But Bobier took exception to this sentence from last week’s Reader: “Ranked choice voting is meant to give an edge to candidates whom voters view as more moderate than their opponents.”

Bobier wrote: “I would say that RCV produces winning candidates who have the broadest appeal.  That, by no means, makes those candidates ‘moderates’ (whatever that actually means; there is a fair amount research and debate on the subject).

“If RCV is used in an overwhelmingly conservative area, it would likely favor conservative candidates. Conversely, in a progressive jurisdiction it would be left-leaning candidates who would have the best chance of winning.”

I think that’s a more accurate way of making a point that I was trying to make in a clumsy way. But I would add this: In a race in a conservative area, a candidate with the broadest appeal might be the one whom voters perceived to be closer to the middle (whatever that means) than further out to the right. And the converse would be true in a liberal area; the candidate with the broadest appeal might be the one that’s closer to the middle than further out on the left wing.

In the meantime, you likely noticed that Portland voters decided this November to begin using ranked choice voting in 2024. If you think, as I do, that it’s been fascinating to watch ranked choice voting play out in Corvallis, buckle your seat belts to watch it go to work in Portland.

Speaking of being wrong: College football fans might remember that in last week’s Weekend Reader, I quoted writers at The Athletic, the sports website owned by The New York Times, as saying that the Beavers likely were headed to the Sun Bowl. But I hedged my bets by noting that Jon Wilner, the premier Pac-12 reporter in the country, was floating the notion that the Beavers might end up in the Las Vegas Bowl next Saturday, Dec. 17. I should have ignored The Athletic — Wilner, of course, had it right. The Beavers will play Florida in Las Vegas, and the Beavers are 10.5-point favorites as I write, in part because Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson has declared for the NFL draft.

And speaking of Wilner: In one of his recent columns, he did something I wish every sports columnist would do. He went back to look at his preseason column in which he predicted the win-loss record for each Pac-12 team, and graded his picks against how the season actually played out. Overall, Wilner gave himself a B grade, and that’s fair, but he was three games off in his prediction for Oregon State’s season: He had the Beavers at 6-6 instead of the 9-3 record the Beavs actually put together. Wilner’s assessment of his prediction is about the nicest tribute I’ve seen to Beavers coach Jonathan Smith and his staff:

Essentially, we failed to place complete and total faith in Jonathan Smith and his staff. In fact, had you told us prior to the season that the quarterback play would be below average, our response might have been to forecast a sub-.500 season, not a nine-win breakthrough. But the other pieces fit perfectly, were coached brilliantly and produced weekly. (Note to self: Next summer, calculate a reasonable win total for the Beavers, then add two for the coaching.)

I do like the idea of sports columnists grading their own work: I have long pushed for a federal law under which sports commentators who failed to predict even one of the participants in the Super Bowl in their preseason picks would be barred from saying or writing anything about the game in the two weeks before it’s played.

By the way, we’ll know later this week if the regents of the University of California system will block UCLA’s move to the Big Ten in 2024. My guess would be that they’ll clear the way for the move. USC, of course, is a private school and so the regents have no say there.

Moving on now to the end of the world, this item from the Pew Research Center caught my eye: Nearly 4 of every 10 Americans believe that humanity is living in the “end times” — that is, that the destruction of the world as we know it is near. Christians are about evenly divided on the question.

I wanted to check in to see how it was going for you with your watching of “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles,” the movie that recently topped the influential Sight and Sound poll of the greatest movies ever made. Last week, I encouraged readers to watch the film and we’d discuss it. But, you know, it’s the holiday season, and we have all those chores to tackle, and I myself am only about an hour into the 201-minute film. So let’s take an extra week and come back for that discussion next weekend.

An alert Weekend Reader reader called my attention to this piece from The Atlantic’s Tom Nichols, in which he shares many of the same sentiments that animate my yearly columns about holiday songs that should be enshrined in a Holiday Music Hall of Fame. And that reminds me: The nomination process for this year’s Holiday Music Hall of Fame will open this weekend; watch my blog for details. This year is interesting in that I have no clear-cut favorites for inclusion, so your nominations could make the difference. If you don’t want to wait for the official opening of the nominations, here’s a special offer to Weekend Reader fans: Feel free to nominate a favorite holiday song or two in the comments section below. Just don’t waste your time nominating “All I Want for Christmas is You” or “Wonderful Christmastime.”

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