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Letters to the Editor: 1-15-2015

HUMOR AS THE ENEMY

The Charlie Hebdo shooting is another example of lunatics with guns and bombs who think that killing or maiming people will solve the world’s problems. The perpetrators in this case are Islamic fundamentalists in Europe, but we see this same kind of violence all over the world from both state and non-state actors. In the U.S., we’ve had people like Timothy McVeigh and the Tsarnaev brothers or, arguably, George W. Bush when he launched the war in Iraq.

The Charlie Hebdo shooting is also an example of attempts by both governments and insurgents to silence journalism and cartoonists. In Pakistan, India, Russia, Mexico, Egypt and many other countries, being a journalist or a cartoonist is a dangerous job. Each year, the Cartoonist Rights Network gives out courage awards highlighting some of the harassment and violence faced by cartoonists around the world. There’s Akram Rasian, a Syrian cartoonist who hasn’t been heard of since he was arrested in 2012 by the Assad regime, or his colleague Ali Ferzat, who was severely beaten and had both his hands broken for drawing cartoons critical of Assad. There’s Mexican cartoonist Mario Robles Patiño, who was beaten up for drawing cartoons critical of the governor of Oaxaca. There are also cartoonists from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran and India who’ve faced arrest, intimidation and violence. See http://wkly.ws/1w8.

People don’t want to be criticized and laughed at, but accepting criticism and laughter are important for our growth as individuals and our growth and development as a society. It’s important that we don’t let violent bullies stop the presses or stop the laughter.

Andy Singer, “No Exit” cartoonist, Saint Paul, Minnesota

 

PRIORITIES FOR EPUD

As a longstanding member of the Emerald People’s Utility District Board, it is with deep concern and caring that I want to apologize for anything that I may have said or done that might have contributed to the recent upheaval at EPUD in numerous articles printed by the local newspapers. I sincerely believe that much of the information was overstated, taken out of context and greatly misinterpreted. 

I have devoted a great portion of my life, more than 20 years, to serve and promote the betterment of the utility. It is second nature to me to promote good policy for you, our customers. That is why I serve in official capacities at the national and regional levels: to help guard and protect all of us against those who would diminish our rights to all of the benefits afforded us through public power. 

Our staff is the best. They have always had my support. I will continue to make sure they have the appropriate resources to provide the best service possible. With the recent election and a new board member, I see possibilities to once again show prominent leadership among public utilities by continuing to provide innovative services and reasonable power costs. 

Customers are indeed my first priority and concern. I cherish your support now as I always have through the years. Please be assured that I will keep your best interest at heart and do what’s best for you, the customer, as we go into the future. 

Katherine Schacht, Eugene

 

TAKING THE LEAD

Jan. 19 brings us Martin Luther King Jr. day, followed by the five-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision Jan. 21. MLK died for speaking the truth about justice and American power — a truth buried by the Roberts Court, which seems determined to sell out what’s left of American ideals to a new corporate oligarchy.

As the stock market hits one record high after another and the U.S. labor force participation rate falls to a 38-year low, wealth is continually funneled to a smaller and smaller elite class. Over 90 percent of all economic gains since the bankster-fueled economic collapse of 2008 have gone to the richest 1 percent of Americans, with 60 percent of those gains going to the top .01 percent super rich, a rate which in Lane County would largely benefit 10 families at the expense of 99,000 — the 99 percent. MLK’s vision is sorely missed, and no answers are forthcoming from Washington, D.C.

But state legislatures are rising to the occasion. Three states — Vermont, California and Illinois — have passed legislation demanding Congress convene a constitutional convention to get big corporate money out of our political process. Two bills presently in Oregon’s 2015 Legislature would do the same.

To learn how you can help Oregon become the fourth state to call for an Article V constitutional convention, join We the People-Eugene at 3:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 13th and Chambers for a forum called “Reclaiming the Dream of Democracy: Five Years of Citizens United Is Enough,” starting off with a talk by Pastor Dan Bryant called “Has the Bend Toward Justice Been Broken?” 

Fergus Mclean, Dexter

 

COUNTING CALORIES?

I was somewhat perplexed to discover that in the Jan. 8 issue, an article on eating disorders and body image was followed two pages later by a brief article listing apps that can help people count calories both eaten and burned. Though I am aware that such apps may — in some cases — be beneficial for people who truly need to lose weight for medical reasons, it seemed like an odd contrast to the preceding article in which one young woman described how, at age 13, she would obsessively count calories on a daily basis, feeling like a failure if she ate more than 1,000 calories. 

I am not claiming that calorie-tracking apps somehow cause eating disorders, but I was somewhat troubled by the first sentence describing the MyFitnessPal app — the sentence suggesting that what makes this app so effective is its ability to make you feel bad for “eating a McMenamins hamburger.” Is equating food with guilt and shame truly a worthy goal to be promoting?

As I can attest to from personal experience, constantly monitoring one’s caloric intake can become an unhealthy and dangerous habit. Also, I firmly believe that the calorie content of a particular food item is far less important than the ingredients it contains: A bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter may have more calories than a Slimfast bar, but the oatmeal also has far more protein, fiber, healthy fats and other nutrients than the preservative and corn syrup-laden diet bar. Perhaps I am simply overreacting because of my own experiences with restricted eating, but I am sure there are other people who share similar sentiments. 

Kendra Lady, Eugene

 

FUTURE OF HIGHWAYS

EW’s year-end issue Dec. 31 discussed some dreams for the region’s rivers; here are two extra topics that are usually ignored. 

ODOT is plotting an 11-lane-wide Beltline bridge over the Willamette River. The city of Eugene and Lane County are collaborating with this scheme, which is estimated to cost over a quarter billion dollars.

According to ODOT, traffic peaked in Lane County in 2003, yet the Beltline study claims it will increase nearly a third over the next 20 years. Will we have traffic jams after the low-flow shutdown of the Alaska pipeline and the decline of the fracking bubble?

The millions allocated for this bogus Environmental Impact Statement would be better spent directly on the Beltline “low-build” safety alternative to fix the Delta/Beltline interchange.

One response to energy depletion and climate change would be better intercity rail. Funds to widen Beltline would be better spent replacing the worn-out railroad bridge across the Willamette between Junction City and Harrisburg. Details at peaktraffic.org/beltline.html. 

Perhaps the biggest damage to Oregon’s rivers is from corporate clearcuts and helicopter herbicides. While National Forest logging gets some scrutiny, the bigger problem of corporate cutting and spraying is rarely mentioned. This damage is permitted by our Democratic governor via the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Deforestation doesn’t only harm water quality, it also disrupts the hydrologic cycle, one of the factors behind climate change. Forestclimate.org has video from the “Clearcutting the Climate” conference that was held in Eugene in 2008. 

Mark Robinowitz, Eugene

 

A ZOO FOR DRIVERS

Portland is “highly livable” (Slant 1/8)?? Have you tried to drive in and around Portland in the last couple years? It’s a zoo!

 Jerry Ritter, Springfield

 

WYDEN’S BACK-PATTING

I was reminded at the town hall with Sen. Ron Wyden Jan. 5 of why I have no trust in the man. The town hall was advertised as a place where citizens can ask questions or talk about concerns. The event started promptly at 2 pm but the question and comment segment didn’t start until 2:20 and was over by 3:40, but Wyden claimed it went on for two hours. 

The audience was about 300 students and 100 voting adults. When a question was asked, Wyden used this as a time to pat himself on his back and to explain to the students what each issue was about and then going off on unrelated tangents. In other words, a lot of hot air. There were about 15 people who got to ask their questions and/or make comments. Most left with questions and concerns unanswered. I expected our legislator to stay until all of our voices were heard. 

My guess is he spends a whole lot of time with the timber barons of Oregon on how to craft a logging bill that will be sold as a win-win for the timber industry and the natural world, but will, in fact, clearcut over 1 million acres of some the best forests left in western Oregon, otherwise known as the O&C bill. 

In my opinion, Wyden is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who really doesn’t give a dang about the people or our precious natural resources and future generations. It would be really nice to have a public servant who serves the public and not billion-dollar corporations for a change. It seems we always come back to campaign finance reform, doesn’t it?

Pam Driscoll, Dexter

 

INSURING THAT CAT BITE

Regarding Robert Bolman’s “The $818 Cat Bite” letter Dec. 31: Nowhere in Bolman’s letter does he indicate whether he has health insurance. Nor does he say whether or not he will pay his bill(s). If he does not, he becomes part of the non-payer problem the rest of us subsidize. If he does, he can probably afford insurance. 

The Oregon Health Plan is available if he is a low-income resident of Oregon. Coverage under The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is required by the federal government and subsidized for low-income folks. Presumably, either would have covered most or all of his ER visit. I agree with Bolman that a one-payer system is long overdue in our country. Obamacare is one step in that direction, a step Bolman should take immediately if he hasn’t already.

 Tom Arnold, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: We checked with Bolman and he tells us he is on Obamacare but has a $5,000 deductible so he’s stuck with the full $818. He will be in small claims court in February arguing that the bill, four times the cost of a comparable urgent care visit, is “absurd and should be reduced.”

 

AVOIDING THINKING?

Had to laugh some at Robert Simms’ letter Dec. 31 in which he castigates the fact that much of the aid for the homeless comes from religious sources and that those who reside at The Mission are “forced” to listen to a sermon before dinner. What I found particularly amusing in an ironic way was his statement: “Religious faith is merely a lazy person’s excuse for not having to think.” Along similar lines every time I see a healthy looking person on the street corner with his hand out, I think to myself how panhandling is merely a lazy person’s excuse for not having to work.

 Karl Stout, Eugene

 

HIGH-RISE SLUMS

Eugene Weekly often complains it has no room for important news items. Find some room anyway. UO has announced a new vague plan to spend about $45 million on a new dorm that may be located near 17th and Moss Street. Ever since Amazon housing got destroyed by UO in the 1990s local media have instead focused on sporting events, global whining or debating which jock should get the most worship or dress up in pink for various causes. Crooks like [former UO athletic director Pat] Kilkenny have been enabled to create high-rise slums like Skybox and Courtside as UO continues to trash the Fairmount area and remove low-income housing. 

Zachary Vishanoff, Eugene

 

PERPETUAL HATRED

The shootings in France are first and foremost the result when a racist “us vs. them” mentality is applied between people. Historically, there has been an ongoing crusade against Eastern Islam from Western Christianity for centuries, right up to the present, unending animosities that both sides justify by violence.

America’s Civil War highlighted the divisions and violence between North and South, and the civil rights between blacks and whites; this country was founded on the violence and near extermination of a Native population who, eventually having to defend themselves, to a great degree actually welcomed and assisted the white man in the Natives’ traditional homeland.

France, Britain and the U.S. were and are colonialist empires still dealing with the blowback of their expansionist arrogance, looking only to exploit and humiliate resources and people. Democracy was, and is, not involved.

When the U.S. government decides to find, and fund, comedy in the assassination of another country’s leader, simply because they are different, what does that say about our government? How about the folks who flock to the movie in its support? Should we, too, be outraged and/or deserving if what happened in France were to blowback on us as a result of such racist propaganda?

As Einstein so eloquently stated: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the level of thinking that created them.”

Sean S. Doyle, Corvallis

 

 

SLOWING THE ‘NET

Last week I wrote about Big Telecom’s plans to stop providing landlines as a public service. This week, I’m encouraging each and every American to learn more about Telecom’s plans to slow down access to your favorite websites at stoptheslowdown.net.

This is just one more way that corporations want to control what we see and do, and charge us more for the privilege. FYI: This country already has much slower internet speeds than most of the rest of the world, especially Asia.

Reclassifying internet services under Title II of the Communications Act is the only way to guarantee that the Internet is a fast and open playing field. Any decision-maker who does not support reclassification should be held to account.

The FCC could make a final decision within weeks! Ensure net neutrality by contacting Peter DeFazio, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden in Congress and let them know that you want the internet to speed up, not slow down. If you use the internet, you need to do this. Please don’t assume someone else will do it for you!

Robin Bloomgarden, Eugene

 

WYDEN’S MIXED MESSAGES

Recently I attended Sen. Wyden’s Eugene town hall. The meeting was held at 2 pm at Sheldon High School, difficult for many Lane County working residents to get to, I realize. It was Wyden’s only Eugene appearance and there are some important current issues to address.

 Wyden’s logging legislation recently passed in the Senate Energy Committee. His bill will increase logging in Oregon over double current levels on O&C lands. He promises to deliver 400 million board feet of lumber annually for the next 50 years. This is roughly equivalent to 700 miles of logging trucks bumper to bumper each year! Wyden’s legislation will also allow a one-time review for five years of timber sales as well as set limitations on community legal action — a tactic that has thus far curtailed timber sales in areas of critical habitat and essential ecosystems in current years.

I am calling Wyden out for his self-congratulatory remarks he made at the town meeting. He pats himself on the back for getting Oregon mills back up to speed while also protecting old growth. I debunk these statements because there is plenty of work, mill operation and revenue that could be created before any increase in extraction is allowed. For example, lumber exports could be stopped or at least reduced and the huge tax breaks given to Oregon’s timber elite could be eliminated. Additionally, regular environmental reviews instead of one review for five years’ worth of sales would create jobs.

As for “saving old growth,” Wyden’s legislation gives protection to trees 150 years old. Let’s “unpack this,” as he might say. Trees live in communities. A tree, or even several trees, do not make a forest. As incredibly complex and essential ancient self-regulating symbiotic ecosystems are in a forest, one 150-year-old tree does not live by itself. 

Wyden has also attached a rider on the 2014 Farm Bill that suspends the clean water act for logging operations all across the United States. So, as much as he acts like a down home working family democrat, Wyden is another Oregon Democrat working for the extraction industries elite at the expense of our future.

Lydia Scott, Dexter

 

MENACING RADIATION

A worldwide movement is coming to Eugene. People all over the world are starting to ban digital electric and water meters. These microwave-emitting smart meters have now been around long enough for people to discover the many negative impacts these meters are having on their lives and on the environment. 

Utility customers are seeing their bills spike upwards. There have been many documented fires, due to faulty meters encased in cheap plastic. There are potential privacy and rights issues including hacking, surveillance, the unwarranted harvesting and selling of private information through wi-fi monitoring, and the ability of utilities to remotely control usage. Then there are the serious hidden health issues documented by science and experienced more directly by sensitive people. 

It’s like having a mini cell tower attached to your home or business that broadcasts more than 100 feet in every direction. 

EWEB has been fully informed of these issues with documented evidence, but they still insist on going ahead with their plans to install these dangerous devices. 

This is why Families For SAFE Meters has drafted an ordinance placing a moratorium on digital meters and has presented it to the Eugene City Council for passage. It is the duty of the council to protect the health, safety and rights of the people of Eugene. These meters, as well as neighborhood cell towers, are a menace to our community.

Abraham Likwornik, Eugene