Friday, December 06, 2013


I have mixed feelings about this one, but here goes: Fox and other right-wing media outlets are getting worked up about an eleven-year-old girl from Portland, Oregon, who was denied the right to sell bags of mistletoe at a public park and, we're told, was urged to beg instead. Megyn Kelly is on the job, as you can imagine -- she's not overtly selling this as part of the war on Christmas (mistletoe's a bit too pagan, I guess), but she's bringing us the story in the usual oh-so-subtle Fox manner:

I can't embed the video at the link, but here are excerpts from Kelly's interview with eleven-year-old Madison Root:
MEGYN KELLY: ... You were out there trying to earn money to pay for your braces, a security guard comes up to you in a public park, cites a city ordinance saying you're not allowed to sell your mistletoe -- what made you so mad about that?

MADISON ROOT: Well, what made me so mad about that was that he said I could beg, but I couldn't work hard and sell. What has society really come to, teaching these kids to beg instead of work hard and sell?

KELLY ... So the city said no. So now all these people who want to donate to you because they love that -- your personal responsibility and your attitude towards life, but you don't want their donations, do you?

ROOT: Yeah, I would rather have them buy, because I'm all into buying and giving something back for their money....
This kid has her spiel down cold; maybe it's been shaped a wee bit by Fox producers. But watch the clip -- she's hard to dislike.

So what was up with this poor child being prevented from selling her mistletoe by the ogres of Portlandia political correctness? Well, here's the story, according to The Oregonian:
Madison Root of Lake Oswego spent much of the day last Friday cutting and bagging mistletoe at her uncle’s Newberg farm.

On Saturday, the 11-year-old plopped down a box near the Skidmore Fountain at Portland Saturday Market with dozens of beribbonned bags inside. In less than a half-hour, she'd sold seven of them at $4 a pop....

A private security guard for the market told Madison and her dad that they were violating city code (specifically Chapter 20.12.020, "Soliciting For or Conducting Business" in a public park). Under the rule, it's illegal to "sell or offer to sell any article or service" without a permit....
Here's the thing: she was selling the mistletoe at a market where the other sellers had gone through a permitting process. She's an adorable eleven-year-old showing a lot of pluck and initiative, but she was also jumping the line. A couple of commenters on The Oregonian's website made this point:
Ok, that's it. I'm going to have my little girl sell stuff for me at fairs and markets where everyone else has to have a permit. All I need are suggestions on what to sell. How about home-made chicken strips. I'll make sure my little girl does all the cooking though.


It was a private security guard which asked her to leave, not the city.

The Market pays for services, notably security. They have applications available on their website for guest vendors. It wouldn't be fair to the vendors that pay for the space (not to mention the security guard that asked her to leave) for her to remain selling without permits or contributing to the organization.

How many private businesses would be happy for someone to set up shop in their stores without their permission?

Also troubling is their attitude. Yes, she's a child. Her father was there and isn't. It's very telling that he was also trying to make the case that his daughter is a special snowflake that gets to operate outside the law, and rather tedious that he's trying to point fingers. Great, you're better than a homeless person or a drug dealer. You still have to obey the law.
Even a story elsewhere at acknowledges what was going on:
A security guard told her that she had to stop selling due to a city ordinance that bans such activity in a park "except as expressly permitted under the terms of a lease, concession or permit," reported

The guard then told Madison that she could sell her mistletoe outside the boundaries of the park where the fountain and the market are located, away from the crowds, or she could simply ask for donations to cover the cost of her braces.
And it's not as if the security guard was touting the virtues of begging while denouncing entrepreneurialism, which is what Megyn Kelly and other outraged right-wingers want you to believe. Even Glenn Beck, in his interview with Root, thought that was unlikely, as it turned out to be:
GLENN BECK: ... Did he volunteer that you could beg for the money, or did you --?

MADISON ROOT: Well, we asked him about the beggars around us, and he said that, um, they're begging for money, so I could -- you could beg, but you can't sell.
Look, these are two separate issues. A series of Portland mayors have tried to restrict panhandling, but have run up against state laws that anti-panhandling ordinances are said to violate, according to the courts. Meanwhile, the city allows public selling, but it's regulated.

In some contexts, regulation of commerce is regarded as conservative. Here in New York, Rudy Giuliani cracked down on street artists selling their work, and the right was delighted (and disgusted when courts ruled against the mayor). But this is a cute little girl, so the rules should be bent -- even if, as one of the Oregonian commenters notes, that would mean that any unlicensed vendor could show up at the market with a kid and play on everyone's sympathy.

(Did I mention that the Portland Saturday Market has now offered to waive the permit fee for Madison?)

I don't have a problem with Madison Root. I have a problem with right-wingers who don't see any gray here.


And in case you're wondering, pediatric dental coverage is not mandatory in Oregon health plans, even under the Affordable Care Act. Then again, even Canadian single payer excludes orthodontia from mandatory coverage.


Victor said...

Listen, Steve, tit's don't uproar and knicker's don't knot themselves, so the Reichies have to have something jump-start their hate, fear, and loathing.

And what's better than a young girl practicing "Free-market" principles?

Beyotch better stay in line when she becomes a woman, though.
Girls go from "cute" to "slut" so fast these days.

Knight of Nothing said...

I didn't look at all of the source material for this post, but something else doesn't quite sound right about this story: Lake Oswego is an exurb of Portland, wealthiest in the state, and one of the wealthier communities in the country (median income around 81k). I of course could be wrong, but this sounds more like a "project" or "an experiment" than something driven by necessity. You know, like a rich kid being told to get a paper route to pay for something. Just a thought.

Knight of Nothing said...

This is looking fishier to me: she has a custom domain and website. It looks to be a templated site, but it is hosted by a for-profit web services vendor. She has t-shirts for sale as well as her mistletoe.

Roger said...

I hear that prostitution is also illegal in that park.

Freedom means freedom for all.

She doesn't even look like she needs braces, although she can use a tooth whitener.

Uncle Mike said...

More importantly: does her family have granite countertops?

Examinator said...

Fox hypocrisy? or is this just a case resalable audience attention at its base (Cute children are 3rd on the list of attention getters in the media).

Of course the enforcing is in principal sound and well supported by Capitalists. At least as sound as a record company suing a woman for illegally downloading no longer commercial available music for her entertainment.

If anything it's a failure of the parents for not advancing for the said licence. Also for the council or the market entrepreneurs to provide limited access for 'charitable' spaces for free... providing there is no direct conflict of interest or agreement from those stall holders it conflicts with.

Glennis said...

Fuck this shit. I work for a public agency and we have a city ordinance against what we call "vending" in the parks, and the purpose of it, quite clearly, is to prevent people from using public property to conduct commercial business, unless appropriate permits are pulled.

Which is appropriate. "Begging" on the other hand, is a First Amendment protected activity (as long as it doesn't violate other ordinances) and, in fact, our City Attorney does not ALLOW the city to pass an ordinance against it, because, you know, First Amendment and all.

How hard is this to understand?

Glennis said...

She has t-shirts for sale as well as her mistletoe.

Nothing wrong with her selling her t-shirts or her mistletoe. Just get a vending permit.

Glennis said...

even if, as one of the Oregonian commenters notes, that would mean that any unlicensed vendor could show up at the market with a kid and play on everyone's sympathy.

This is the reason we nit-picking petty-minded bureaucrats enforce city ordinances - which were passed via the democratic process, often by idiotic elected officials who don't understand the consequences of their actions - and then we get called nit-picking petty-minded bureaucrats.

Knight of Nothing said...

Of course there's nothing wrong with selling t-shirts or anything else; my point is that this looks like a gigantic PR campaign that was really well-planned for some time. Her website was launched Tuesday, perfectly timed for her debut on Fox News.

Ten Bears said...

Out here on The Oregon High Desert it smells like a carefully orchestrated manufactured incident controversy from start to finish. Young Sarah Palin indeed. Knight, your analysis is as spot on as Steve's reporting. All the moreso from a distance greater than my couple hundred miles.

Of note in particular is that Saturday Market, that stretch of the park, is not a safe place for an inner-city eleven year old girl to be, and certainly not someplace where Mr. Middle-Class from the hoity-toity heights of Lake Oswego will let his pink eyed little church girl hang out unescorted. This is a scam on the order of the Westboro dog-fuckers, who only come around hoping someone will stone them do they can sue the cops fot not protecting their worthless asses.

When the shit hits the fan these animals ate going to roll up and die.

No fear.

Zoetrope said...

This is a PR campaign instigated by the father, Ashton Root, to attempt to resuscitate a failing start-up created by he and his father in 2009. Here's a like to an interview with him from June, in which he describes problems he has encountered launching the company, financial and otherwise.

Knight of Nothing said...

@Ten Bears - thanks!

@Zoetrope - I knew there was more! Thanks for the link. He raised $3 million for his business, but we're supposed to be outraged because his kid can't get braces because the evil Communist People's Republic of Portland are suppressing free enterprise. Or something.

Roger said...

This should piss off the fleeced rubes:

The tyke is going to use her excess dough to start "a web series that interviews successful people like brain surgeons, Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama. Her dad said she may also cut a couple of checks to struggling startups at Portland's NedSpace, a co-working studio of tech companies, artists and creative types."

Unless that surgeon's name ends in "en Carson," she's going to be shitcanned from FOX PDQ.

Ten Bears said...

Mr Middle-class from the hoity-toity heights of Lake Oswego pimping his pink-eyed little church girl. Why am I not surprised?