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October 12, 2012 03:23 PM

Presidential and VP-debate watching is a apparently best done with a drink in hand for the games (he said 47 percent!) or done the next day after it's been badly lip read or songified.

October 10, 2012 11:59 AM

I have to admit I wasn't following the mayoral race in Ashland this fall. It's a little out of EW's range. But like a lot of  people I get some of my election news from Comedy Central these days. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert from debating Bill O'Reilly to Super Pacs (Making a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow) make elections worth following even for the most jaded of politics-haters. (I'm not a jaded politics hater, but I sympathize). 

So it turns out that a fellow who calls himself Biome Michael Erickson is running for mayor of Ashalnd. Comedy Central has deemed him a "one of a kind candidate" (sponsored by Dr. Pepper). Democracy: It's not just for famous people. Indeed as of Oct. 10, Biome's Facebook page had only 21 likes. 

According to his webpage, here's Biome Michael Erickson's info from his Voters Pamphlet statement.

Occupation: Organic Food Manufacturer, Landscaper, Farm Laborer 

Occupational Background: Handyman, Mendicant 

Educational Background: Penn State University 

Prior Governmental Experience: Researcher, Active Pacifist 

 

He supplies a strong endorsement:

“Over 38 years, living at 19 different locations, in 4 states, I can say that Michael is the best neighbor I've ever had.” -Wayne Perry / Next-door neighbor

Though I will admit it puzzled me a little, since he also says on his webpage that he's spent kind of a lot of time "homeless" (his quotation marks). 

As Comedy Central points out, one of the best parts of Biome's campaign is the statement he provided to the Chamber of Commerce.

The requirements, as I understand them, to qualify for Mayor are these: I had to be an Ashland resident and I had to be registered to vote.  This means, simply, I had to be Human to be Mayor.  My skills and accomplishments are these: I have run the gauntlet of modern American culture and survived.  I have reclaimed my mind from the lies and distortions propagated by the mass media.  I have verified that I am not the machine the public education system wished to make of me, but that I am a living soul, with free will, choosing to align with a higher order.  I have risen above the temptations that mire people in obscurity.  I have accomplished what many others before me have accomplished, and I follow in their footsteps.  I have become ordinary, an ordinary human being who wishes to serve his humanity and his planet to the best of his ability.  These are my skills and accomplishments.  Please accept them as such.

And later in answer to the question of define the role of mayor as it pertains to his position:

My position is that of an ordinary human being.  What else could it be?  I have the same needs as every other creature on this planet.  I breathe, posture, and attitude.  I have a heart, brains, guts, and a spine.  I eat and drink.  I work.  I exercise, play and sleep.   I empathize with suffering and give charity where due.  I share with others what I learn along the way. From a selfish position, I'd prefer if I didn't have to seek elected office.  I'd prefer to just go on living a simple life basking in a one-sided view of bliss.   And from a self-LESS position, I can't help but to sacrifice my personal time, space and energy to bring relief to an imperiled world. … 

As for the definition of the role of Mayor as it applies to my position: the Mayor is, hopefully, also a human being akin to myself.

Indeed, since as he points out earlier, being human and living in Ashland appear to be the only requirements, so he's good to go! For the full Indecision blog post, go here. 

October 10, 2012 09:45 AM

In case you missed last week's presidential debate or plan to sit out tomorrow's VP debate, the bad lip reading version is available. 

October 10, 2012 02:31 PM

On Saturday, Oct. 6, George Washington University hosted a live taping of “O’Reilly V. Stewart 2012: The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium,” in front of a rowdy audience. Unlike the Oct. 3 Obama-Romney debate, the rumble was passionate, informational (at times) and entertaining. Like the presidential debate, there was also a swirl of lies and talking points. Luckily, I watched the full debate for free via YouTube before therumble2012.com made them take it down. Now, you can either watch the debate piecing together YouTube clips or by downloading it for $4.95 at therumble2012.com.

Former Fox News host E.D. Hill (with the prerequisite Fox Barbie blonde hair and body-hugging dress to boot), who at times came off as as if she was hosting Entertainment Tonight, still managed to moderate the sparring TV personalities more effectively than Jim Leher. Although they both brought gimmicks; O’Reilly held up signs to punctuate his arguments and Stewart used an elevating platform, allowing the 5’6” comedian to “look down upon” the 6’4” Fox pundit.

One of the best moments of the night is when O’Reilly and Stewart argue about the social safety net. O’Reilly claims that lazy people mooch the system (“The mind-set is, if I can gin the system, I’ll do it because it’s easy”). Stewart asks O’Reilly about his own father claiming disability from his company. O’Reilly goes into belligerent-drunk-uncle mode, repeatedly yelling, “He had colitis!” followed by “If they genuinely need it, there’s no beef” (“genuinely need it” feels a little too close to Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment).

Stewart goes into breathless-exasperation mode and fires back, “If you take advantage of a tax break, you’re a smart businessman. If you take advantage of something you need to not be hungry, you’re a moocher.” 

October 9, 2012 05:13 PM

Here's a video from New York about not riding your bike in the bike lane. This is exactly why you need to know your rights — don't miss the surprise ending!

In other bike news, the number of bikes sold in Italy has overtaken the number of cars for the first time since WWII.

And in more serious bike news, I don't know that critical mass is the most productive way to advocate for bikes, but these black-and-white dressed people's reaction in San Francisco is not super safe, to say the least:

And this Grist story about the guy trying to mandate bike licenses in Portland is kinda hilarious.

October 9, 2012 06:54 PM

The dramatic music … the dramatic opening. "It is a place time seems to have left behind. A neighborhood literally seen by thousands of eyes every day … yet seemingly noticed by none … a dwelling where death at times is nothing more than an opportunity to recycle life … welcome everyone to THE WHIT!"

I don't think I was supposed to giggle as much as I did. "It's a heartbeat formed by the symbiotic relationships of the inhabitants … " The voiceover kills me. Lots of great Whit cameos as well as Mayor Kitty Piercy, Police Chief Pete Kerns, videographer Tim Lewis and more. 

October 9, 2012 02:13 PM

Perhaps the most famous and lucrative cat celebrikitty, the round-faced Maru (his name does mean "circle" in Japanese) is back trying to figure out his new hot pink wheels. More of his hijinx can be found at maruthecat.tumblr.com and fans can "ask Maru anything," but don't expect full feline disclosure because Maru and his human companion Mogumogu are quite elusive. According to a recent article in Wired:

He is 5 years old and lives in an undisclosed Japanese city that is, by consensual rumor, almost certainly not Tokyo, because no indoor cat in Tokyo has that much space to jump into boxes, especially not the bigger ones. Maru has upwards of 168 million YouTube views and, according to other rumors, has generated enough ad revenue to buy his owner a new apartment. His is the seventh-most-subscribed YouTube channel in Japan.

Many members of the cat viral video world believe that Maru's 15 minutes (what is that in cat time?) are nearly up. Maybe Eugene will be home to the next famous pussy cat...

October 4, 2012 06:29 PM

October 4, 2012 11:07 AM

There were a lot of things to critique in the debate last night. But there was one thing that really stuck  out for a lot of people.

Gov. Mitt Romney not only is mean to dogs. He wants to take out Sesame Street. He told moderator Jim Leher of PBS's NewsHour at last night's debate:

I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep spending money on things, borrowing money from China

Oh yeah? Let the memes and tweets begin.

 

 

According to the Christian Science Monitor

Both public radio and public television get their federal funding (small but crucial percentages of their budgets, administrators say, which are often earmarked for under-served and rural populations) from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, for its part, gets a bit under $500 million in taxpayer dollars a year to distribute.

No small amount of change by itself, but in the grand scheme of the federal budget, not so much. It’s a few days of war in Afghanistan, according to many estimates. Just to put it in perspective.

As to the percentage of that $500 million that Big Bird actually pockets?  Pretty tiny. 

Finally, Jezebel wins for best post-debate wrap up:

 

5. Romney knows all about lying because he's got 5 sons. Wha?

Despite his non-pants-shitting performance, there were still a few moments of off-putting weirdness in the debate. Specifically, this quote:

"I've got five boys. I'm used to people saying something that's not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I'll believe it."

I'm now concerned with Mitt Romney's merry band of sociopaths roaming the country.

Speaking of lies, Mitt Romney used last night to resurrect the idea of Obamacare being akin to a government takeover of medical care, which was Politifact's 2010 Lie of the Year. Yes, Mitt Romney is very familiar with falsehoods that get repeated over and over again as fact.

October 3, 2012 10:22 AM

This evening after the presidential debates, Ramon Ramirez of PCUN, Oregon's Farmworker Union, will speak on the topic of “Worker Justice and Wage Theft in Oregon.”

 

Ramirez will speak at a free bilingual event from 7:30 to 9 pm Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Temple Beth Israel, corner of University Street and East 29th Avenue in Eugene.

 

Event sponsors are Temple Beth Israel, Beyond Toxics, ESSN, Lane County Immigration Integration Network, Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and the UO Labor Education Research Center.

 

Ramirez is the president of PCUN and “struggled alongside Cesar Chavez in the California grape strikes of the 1960s and 1970s,” say organizers. “He has a deep history in the workers justice movement in the Pacific Northwest.”

 

The event notice email goes on to say:

 

“The ethics of social justice, cooperation and human dignity form the framework for learning about the widespread and illegal practice of not paying workers for their work. Oregonians are coming together to call for fair and sustainable agriculture policies.

“Wage theft is the widespread and illegal practice of refusing to pay workers for all or part of their work. Wage theft happens with employers pay less than the minimum wage, don't pay overtime, steal tips, require employees to work ‘off the clock,’ or fail to pay at all.

“In a recent five-year period, over 8,000 wage claims were filed with Oregon's state labor bureau, totaling $24.5 million. This represents only a fraction of the actual incidents of wage theft —thousands more go unreported. In a national study, two-thirds of low-wage workers reported having been victims of wage theft in the last week!

“This widespread problem often flies under the radar — but has a huge impact on the workers who don't get paid, as well as on other workers whose standards are undermined, honest employers who have to compete with scofflaws, communities robbed of local spending, and taxpayers who have to make up for the taxes that can't be collected on unpaid wages.”

October 2, 2012 11:25 AM

The controversial coal train issue is coming before the Board of Lane County Commissioners tomorrow (10/3), according to an agenda item buried under "County Administration." Though the issue has been in the news and is a source of debate among Lane County and Eugene residents, it appears no effort was made by the county to publicize the vote. The upcoming 10/8 Eugene City Council vote on the issue has been a source of controversy and of news stories in the R-G and EW for months.

The county's vote will take place tomorrow at the Public Service Building, 125 East 8th Avenue, and public comments can be made at the beginning of the meeting, which starts at 9 am. Commissioners can also be contacted via phone or email through the county's website.

Click the image to view the agenda on the county's website.

Though as of Tuesday morning, one day before the vote, the  "view materials" link still does not have the information about the vote, EW obtained the supporting documents on the "Port of Coos Bay Bulk Terminal Support" issue (See below). One of them (Exhibit D) is a  white paper summary of the coal controversy and the other (Attachment D) is a resolution that specifically mentions the shipping of coal and  concludes:

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Lane County Board recognizes the responsible development activities of the Port of Coos Bay related to increasing its ability to deliver, store, and transfer bulk commodities to the global marketplace.

ADOPTED this ______ day of October, 2012

 EW has contacted County Administrator Liane Richardson, Board Chair Sid Leiken, Intergovernmental Relations Manager Alex Cuyler, who is scheduled to bring up the issue, and the county public information officer for more information on the coal train vote and its scheduling.

The white paper that accompanies the resolution says:

Coal dust contains heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, benzene, mercury, and lead.  Project developers say they would use a “surfactant,” a sticky spray on top of the rail cars, to limit coal dust.  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway conducted extensive testing on 1,633 coal trains and found that sealants sprayed on loaded coal cars dramatically reduced coal dust – in some cases to zero.  Increased train traffic also means increased diesel exhaust.  In Oregon, over 130 doctors have asked Governor Kitzhaber to order a comprehensive “health impact assessment.”  Physicians opposing coal export are primarily concerned with the effect of diesel particulates on pulmonary and neurological functions.

In Eugene, the Trainsong, River Road, Bethel, and Whiteaker neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable.  Other health and safety concerns include noise pollution, increased railroad mortality, and obstruction of emergency vehicle access.  In addition, the accumulation of coal dust could damage crops, contaminate water, pollute the air, and poison the wildlife.  Coal dust also corrodes and undermines rail infrastructure, so coal trains have a high risk of derailment.  Five coal trains derailed in the U.S. during the summer of 2012, one just outside the Columbia River Gorge in Washington.

But according to the county's proposed resolution, this is mitigated because:

WHEREAS, the Port has clearly stipulated delivery standards that will minimize or eliminate fugitive dust emissions escape from rail cars …

Beyond Toxics, Cascadia Wildlands and other local groups have weighed into to object to coal trains and will likly speak at tomorrow's commissioners meeting.

UPDATE: The county says the documents supporting the Coos Bay Terminal agenda item are now up on the website.

October 2, 2012 07:42 PM

Local coal train opponentswere a little surprised to discover that the Lane County Board Commissioners will be voting on Wednesday Oct. 3 on supporting the Coos Bay Bulk Terminal development and the accompanying planned coal trains. It's a pretty a hot topic, one the public has had a lot of opinions on, and the upcoming Oct. 8 Eugene City Council vote on the issue has been well-publicized. Lane County buried the vote on the planned resolution in an agenda item

EW asked Intergovernmental Relations Manager (or as he says on his Twitter profile, lobbyist) about tomorrow's resolution. Cuyler preferred to respond by email, so here's our questions and his answers.

What significance does the county commission vote have, either by supporting or not supporting the Coos Bay Terminal proposal? 

The County Board of Commissioner will take action on a resolution, which expresses their opinion, but does not carry the same weight as an order.  A resolution is non-binding and unenforcible statement.  The Port may use it as they seek to advance their operations.  As a partner to the Port, the Board has signed a number of letters of support for specific, and more general funding opportunities.  In August 2008, Lane County was at the Surface Transportation Board hearing on transferring ownership (actually the hearing was on opposing the petition of the previous operator to dismantle the line) of the short line railroad to the Port. The Board’s agenda setting team is aware the Eugene City Council will be taking up a related issue on October 8.

The resolution as worded on the website is in favor of support how was that decision made and by whom?

The Lane County Legislative Committee examined the white paper last week. Discussions at that meeting informed the content of the resolution.  For example, staff asked whether the resolution should address coal trains, Coos County’s economic condition, or the Port.  The committee’s focus was on the Port’s bulk terminal expansion proposal.  As with most resolutions and orders, staff drafted the language for the full Board to consider.  Tomorrow, the Board may choose to modify it, abandon it, or adopt it as written.

The resolution mentions things put into place to restrict the coal dust, but has there been anything ensuring that can and will be done? I believe [Congressman Peter] DeFazio said that might have to be done legislatively?

The Port’s documents are clear environmental considerations were one of three “top weighted” issues.  While the Port does not regulate coal dust standards, it appears contractually and operationally, they have committed to minimizing fugitive emissions.  For example, the site design for the bulk terminal involves covered loading/unloading.  The rail car’s being proposed are “rotary dump” with the bottom of the car being completely solid (at one of their early briefings with us, I learned that most “dust” comes from the bottom of a traditional, bottom unloading car).

It’s a pretty controversial issue, why was the public not notified? The agenda item doesn't mention coal trains, though the white paper and the actual resolution do.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners routinely considers controversial issues at its regular, publicly noticed meetings.  The issue at hand is the bulk handling terminal.  The white paper and resolution reference the materials to be handled, including coal.

October 2, 2012 09:15 PM

News about the Bandon, Ore. man that was eaten by his 700-pound pigs has been getting some traction since it broke yesterday. It actually happened last Wednesday, but the folks at the Coos Bay District Attorney's office didn't release the news til it began to leak and they realized , "Wow, people are kind of freaking out."

How did this happen?

DA Paul Frasier tells The Eugene Register-Guard. "For all we know, it was a horrific accident, but it’s so doggone weird that we have to look at all possibilities,” 

The details are little Stephen King-ish.

First, the family member found Garner’s dentures on the ground. He then noticed pieces of Garner’s body scattered throughout the enclosure, Frasier said.

While investigators are certain that the hogs consumed most of Garner’s body, they do not know how he died. An investigation is continuing.

 

Any time someone dies I think it's tragic, but there are so many things ever so wrong with this incident. Vegans might disagree; they might think being eaten by a 700-pound pig is karmic payback for bacon. Or more precisely for the upcoming bacon shortage that was caused by folks going hog-wild and slaughtering their pigs early  thanks to the drought in much of the U.S. and in Europe. 

Let's start with the 700-pound pig thing; that, as the spider writes in the web in everyone's favorite childhood book about a cheerful and plucky swine, is "some pig."

I bet Wilbur would NEVER eat a farmer.

The R-G reports:

John Killefer, who heads the Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department at Oregon State University in Corvallis, called the incident involving Terry Garner both “very unfortunate” and highly unusual.

Although domestic hogs are not typically known to be as aggressive as their feral cousins, “there is some degree of danger associated with any animal,” Killefer said. He added that pigs “are more omnivorous than other farm animals, (such as) cows.”

Killefer said 700-pound pigs such as the ones that Garner kept at his farm for breeding purposes are abnormally large.

And just what was the unfortunate Mr. Garner doing with the 700-pound pigs? According to the news story, he had a boar named Teddy and several rather large sows, and he bred them to sell to 4-H kids. Yup, there are kids in rural, coastal Oregon raising Wilburs of their own, that are descended from Teddy and his fellow human-eating sows. No word in the story as to what to happen to Teddy and his crew, but let's just saying making THOSE particular pigs into pork would be so, so wrong.