Eugene Weekly : Letters : 3.6.08


It’s headline stuff, shocking and confounding, happening more and more. But no one, left or right, seems to have much to say on the subject.

In the summer of 1966, Charles Whitman left a suicide note, climbed a tower at the University of Texas and shot 14 people to death. In the ensuing years, the term “going postal” emerged, referring to a slowly rising incidence of workplace killings. But in the past ten years –– since Kip Kinkle at Thurston in 1998 –– suicidal multiple-homicide rampages have become commonplace. Columbine ’99 and a quickening recent string: e.g. Cho at Virginia Tech last spring, the 19-year-old Omaha mall shooter in December, the honor student at Northern Illinois University last month. Four school shootings in one week in February, in fact.

The “explanations” are so weak as to be barely even voiced. “It’s about too many guns.” I was brought up in the 1950s in a household containing many firearms. No one went to school to shoot other children. Guns have been everywhere in this culture, but the shootings are a current, deepening reality. “It’s due to the closure of mental health facilities.” As if in the past such individuals would have been institutionalized? Most of these individuals showed no psychotic symptoms at all. If everyone on anti-depressants were suspect, millions would have to be on locked wards.

No, there’s a pathology abroad that is too much to contemplate within the dominant discourse. Too much is implicated.

So many, many words about terrorism. All the terrorism, the threat of terror attacks. Those Islamic suicide bombers; hey, let’s not forget those “eco-terrorists.” Of course, one is far more likely to be a victim of gunfire at a school, in a mall, at the workplace, than to be blown up in War on Terror hostilities. The real terror, increasingly, is that of daily life in mass society.

Meanwhile, many are consumed by the latest cycle of electoral nonsense and manipulation. Can you imagine any politician touching the shootings epidemic with a thousand-foot pole? Denial still reigns, but it is being stalked in a grisly way. The rot at the core of industrial life is now rotting all the way through. The decomposition is far advanced and exposed for all to see.

What’s happening in society is the flip side of the rapid destruction of the biosphere. There has been a very disturbing jump in the number of parents killing their own children. On Feb. 18 the CDC reported that the suicide rate among middle-aged Americans has jumped 20 percent in the past five years. In recent months a county in Wales has endured an explosion of teen suicides. And so it goes. Stress, depression, insomnia, anxiety are on the rise. People with no hope are signing out and taking others with them.

The “crisis of meaning” is not just a postmodern catchphrase. We find ourselves adapting and justifying, as meaning, texture, community, freedom slip away from our lives. Isaac Asimov’s Robots of Dawn describes a technoculture in which the face-to-face has all but vanished. Sound familiar? Welcome to the Dead Zone and its no-future, where only one of the delusions is that life in this industrialized technoculture could ever be green, sustainable or healthy. Time to wake up and smell the gunsmoke.

John Zerzan, Eugene



It appears that Alan Pittman has joined our conservative friends in their habit of self-righteously preaching solutions that are simplistic, printable as “sound bites” and wrong. A case in point is his statement on the News Briefs page of the Feb. 21 EW on 4J School Choice. (Strange, I thought Ted Taylor, the EW editor, wrote editorials and Pittman wrote news. That distinction seems to have disappeared.)

Nowhere in this statement does he mention the demographics that motivate Russell’s plan to close one of three South Eugene neighborhood elementary schools within less than a mile of each other. Nor does he mention that Russell himself has said on a number of occasions that one of those schools must be closed no matter where Eastside ends up. And of course he would never think of mentioning the 2006 recommendations of the board-mandated and approved Eastside review report to continue Eastside “as a strong, viable and effective alternative school and preserve its distinctive strategy as part of a district program of school choice.”

Has any of the three neighborhood schools been reviewed recently? Is there an explanation of why Harris’s enrollment continues to drop while Edison’s and Parker’s don’t? School diversity is a complex issue which Eastside is facing head on. Unlike Pittman’s simplistic approach, the Eastside community has developed a comprehensive plan. When coupled with policies on marketing, recruitment and transportation that only 4J has the authority to implement, the diversity of Eastside’s population will increase significantly.

David R. Sokoloff, Eugene



On Feb. 28, environmental activist Jeff Luers’ 22 years and 8 month sentence was reduced to 10 years. Mr. Luers was resentenced to 90 months for an admitted June 16, 2000, arson that caused $50,000 of reparable damage to three trucks, and to 30 months for an alleged, but denied, May 27, 2000, attempted arson that caused $0 in damage.

If Lane County Assistant DA Hasselman had decided that Luers could serve the 90 months for the admitted Romania fire and the 30 months for the Tyree non-starter concurrently, he would have been free to leave the courtroom with the rest of us at 9:30 am because he has been incarcerated since his June 16, 2000, arrest, 92 months ago.

But Hasselman argued that Jeff should serve the 90 and 30 month sentences consecutively. Judge Billings agreed, even though he described Luers’ statement as the most impressive he’d heard in 35 years as a lawyer, compared him to a returning war hero and heaped praise on Luers’ male lawyers, Hugh Duvall and Jesse Barton. Judge Billings did note Luers’ female lawyer, Lauren Regan.

As a resident of Lane County, I am disgusted that Luers did not walk out a free man on Feb. 28. It is not surprising that Luers was the most thoughtful defendant Judge Billings has encountered in 35 years — Luers was the most thoughtful and honorable man in the courtroom on Thursday.

Deborah Frisch, Eugene



I watched the local evening news recently and saw a piece on how homeless people are being blocked off of areas under bridges where they go for shelter. They found needles and trash and fecal matter there. (Oh my!) Well, how about some compassion? How about getting compost toilets and trash bins under there? How about donating tents and sleeping bags?

Or even better, let’s donate vacated buildings and hire building managers. Hire some of the homeless who need jobs? We could stop subsidizing the oil companies to pay for a federal program! Or get rid of the tax loopholes for billionaires! There are many communities which believe everyone should have a home for safety and shelter. What would Jesus do? Share stuff and love one another.

Pam Driscoll, Dexter



Last week’s (2/7) EW had a fabulous article about the connections in the “web” of life by Mary O’Brien (my heroine). A few pages later appeared the Forest Dwellers notification about upcoming aerial spraying of herbicides, the “Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule.”

In less than 10 minutes of researching on the net, I found studies that showed that Triclopyr ester — being sprayed near Lorane Elementary school by Reforestation Services — remains for as long as one year on foliage, and that deer and rabbits retained about 10 percent of the chemical they ingested, in their fat. I also learned that Atrazine, being sprayed by Weyerhaeuser near two Mohawk schools, caused tumors and “feminization” of frogs. (By the way, aerial sprays can drift for miles, and the cancer doesn’t show up for 20 years or so most of the time)

Most research that establishes “safe levels” of chemicals has been done with increasing doses of the same chemical to produce toxicity. What about synergistic effects with the other 147 chemicals the “average American” now has in her blood? What are the effects of the “chemical soup” in human bodies? Where do these chemicals come from? Our food? Toxic chemicals from burning gas and coal? Our personal care products? The tons of OTC and prescriptions we take? All the plastics in our food?

Mary wrote about Tasmanian devils and flame retardants, polar bears and loons all dying from our poisoning of the planet. If we don’t care about these animals, do we also not care about our children?

Chief Seattle is right. “What we do to the earth, we do to ourselves. All things are connected like the blood of one family.” I echo O’Brien’s closing question: Can we humans become more than all the damage we have done to the web of life? How?

Debra E. McGee, Eugene



For the record, Jeremy Ohmes’ very negative preview (2/14) of the Blue Cheer show at John Henry’s Feb. 16 was way off. Blue Cheer fully rocked. They were awesome, as in “inspiring awe.” Eugene was blessed to have them. I regret that Ohmes’ dumb and vicious write-up of the show probably scared off some people who would have otherwise benefited from the xxxtreem rock. Mr. Ohmes’ error did a disservice to the community.

“Maybe live, though, the music will be so loud you won’t notice how bad it is,” he wrote (among other things). Lame, lame, lame, wrong and lame. Did I mention “lame”?

Please relieve Ohmes of his music writing assignments and allow him to go listen to his trendy fashionable crap instead. I do not want any more of his advice. And please do not modify my spelling of “xxxtreem” in the preceding paragraph. That is the correct spelling in this context.

Honey Vizer, Eugene



I find myself dismayed by the letters and “news” stories surrounding Eastside and alternative schools in your paper. To say that Eastside’s students were “cherry picked” implies a system of selection that does not exist. Potential students are picked by lottery, not selected for their financial portfolios and skin color or cultural background.

Because it is a lottery system, the relatively homogeneous make-up of the students is most likely the result of which people are deciding to put their child’s name in the hat in the first place. Many people who want their child in an alternative school will re-enter the lottery every year until they finally get in.

Even at that, it must be a relatively small number of people actually applying. My son goes to school at Eastside with three other children from a play group he was in as a baby and toddler. The odds of that happening would be pretty small if all the people complaining about “unfair, elitist, alternative schools” put the names of their children in the lottery system instead of wringing their hands about how they could never get in.

I will admit that there are some elitist attitudes among a few of the parents I have encountered, but they are squarely in the minority. I have not noticed any such attitudes among the students I have encountered.

I went to Eastside myself when I was a child and I was low income. My parents felt it was an important thing for me to be in that kind of learning environment, and they did what they could so I could attend.

Now my son goes there and, guess what, I am low income. I never once got asked by the school board to show the contents of my wallet before I was allowed to put my child’s name in the lottery!

People complain about how the alternative schools allow wealthy people to get a private education at taxpayer expense. I don’t look at it that way. I see it as possibly the only chance a poor child has of getting a private school-type education, period.

Adam Campbell-Kaswell, Eugene



I’ve lived in this area for about 20 years, raised two children here, worked hard and paid a lot of taxes. Over the past few years I have attended and benefited from several educational programs at Dharmalaya. I’ve been consistently impressed with the generous and truly inclusive nature of the occasions, inspired by the quality of the programs and have only ever seen happy, healthy people interacting in constructive ways around worthwhile topics.

I have never witnessed anything that made me feel concerned for the health or safety of anyone attending. It has always been a pleasant, cooperative atmosphere. never loud or rowdy, and I’ve never seen any use of alcohol or drugs — never. (Much unlike the Eugene Celebration.)

Every occasion I have attended at Dharmalaya appears to have been well organized with careful, thoughtful integrity, authentic concern for the well-being of attendees and the selfless promotion of human and community benefit.

I appreciate the city’s guidance with regard to matters of public safety and health, I really do. But beyond that, I’m left with a feeling that the city is overstepping its usefulness. A useful role for government in this situation would be to encourage, support and guide innovative efforts — especially in the face of multiple converging challenges we all face with regards to energy, environment, economics, etc. — not thwart or punish constructive efforts to adapt to oncoming changes.

Heading down that path, the path of discouraging or suppressing innovative efforts, will result in the government losing its relevancy and legitimacy to lead the people.

The spirit of Dharmalaya is alive in the hearts of many in this community whose lives have been touched and enriched by their programs.

Don Schneider, Pleasant Hill



In regards to the “review” of The Gourds in the Feb. 14 issue of EW: Wow, I’m impressed that the author of this review can get away with spending much of the article discussing how little effort she put into researching the subject of the article. She discusses the lack of an up-to-date MySpace page, which I find intriguing, since I happen to be a MySpace “friend” of the band. Maybe you should have tried clicking on one or two of the other dozen or so MySpace profiles with the display name of “The Gourds.” To save you some time, here’s their profile address: Strangely enough, this one has listed the show they played in Eugene on Feb. 16! And songs from their new album!

I’m making this point because I am routinely disappointed in the lack of interest EW appears to display towards roots and Americana music. Another example that comes to mind is from a year or so ago in a disrespectful review of an amazing Portland old-timey band — Foghorn String Band. I can understand if the reviewer doesn’t like the music, but in this case, they began the article by saying something along the lines of “I don’t usually listen to country music.” Such a comment is totally irrelevant and displays general ignorance of the various genres of roots music. And one really doesn’t need to know much or research much to learn the difference between modern country music and old-timey string band music. The author then made it worse by justifying his ability to write the review with something like “but I have friends that listen to country.”

Another reason I highlight these two examples is that the shows that these two reviews directed their readers to were two of the best shows I’ve seen in my four years living in Eugene.

Sean Bemis, Eugene


THE 400

Recently a TV news story said it took four hours to respond to the shooting death of a dog with a child nearby as there were only three officers covering all of Lane County because the Sheriff’s Office (SO) is so understaffed. The SO has about 400 employees!

The news report should have been asking, “Why, on a weekday, were there only three officers on duty?” Just where are those 400 employees allocated? How many management positions can be cut and the money be used for additional employees that actually provide services to Lane County residents? Instead we’re supposed to just conclude that the SO needs more funds for more officers. It’s the same every year. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!

For that matter, just how “top heavy” are all county departments? Do we really need all this management when we are being told that either funding will be cut for other essential services or they need us to pay more taxes?

This brainwashing attempt is just a prelude to what we will be subjected to over the next few months as the county will be asking us yet again for additional tax revenues. They need to start by streamlining county department structures, removing the top-heavy status quo and actually removing employees whose job performance is substandard, not to mention showing us that they are good stewards of the tax money we do give them.

Tamara Barnes, Eugene



I attended the play Telling at the Veterans Memorial Hall on Feb. 8. The play drew me like a huge magnet, and I want to thank EW for putting the story on the front page (2/7).

I want to thank the veterans for speaking out, the director and writer for a unique play experience and the Vet’s Club for donating the time and space for the play to be produced.

War is so unreal that is it a great, connecting, awesome experience to see, hear and meet people who have been to Iraq. The more I hear their stories, the more I can reality check my own opinions.

I had my usual feelings of dismay about how young the people are who go to war, about how grueling their military lives are, how old and worn out a story it is that we must have wars.

I felt such kinship with the storytellers, how it feels to put voice to deep emotion, how there are no words to adequately express the complex feelings that go with forced actions towards goals maybe one’s own, maybe partly the unexplained goals of someone else. How many guts it takes to be public with who you are. Bravo.

The best part for me was after the show when I asked one of the vets, “How is the transition going?” (back to civilian life), and he responded “It’s a long process; it’s like comparing apples to oranges. There’s no similarities, but it’s all experience, life experience.”

If we can all view the intense, sometimes horrific, always human experiences of our lives this way, we can live. We can speak out, we can embrace our lives and our humanity and we can survive. Collectors of experience, we can make it back or forward without undue harm. Thank you again, veterans, and welcome home.

Kathleen Hogan, Eugene



As a 30-year resident of the River Road area, there are many issues that draw my attention. But as a retired registered nurse and property owner, I am particularly concerned about the health risks associated with the Union Pacific railyard pollution in my neighborhood.

The toxic underground plume resulting in groundwater contamination and the potential danger of highly toxic chemicals leaching into the soil of residents’ yards and under their homes has been deeply troubling for some time now. Despite numerous public forums with the DEQ, railroad officials and concerned residents, our current north Eugene county commissioner has been conspicuously absent, and I do not feel that we are being adequately represented.

The time is ripe for responsible leadership to take acting to protect the public health of those of us living in the affected areas. I believe that Rob Handy, candidate for north Eugene county commissioner, would be highly effective in implementing responsive outcomes. He has a long history of working tirelessly for the community, and I am confident that he has the necessary skills and dedication to achieve solutions to a situation that threatens to undermine our long-term health.

Barbara Suter, Eugene



On Jan. 18, BLM Director Jim Caswell met with members of the Associated Oregon Loggers Inc. to discuss the plans for the upcoming WOPR (Western Oregon Plan Revisions). I am currently a student at the UO and am working with a group on campus called “Keep it Wild” that hosted a WOPR Forum Jan. 22 on campus.

We have invited the BLM to every forum. Their excuse: “We have nothing left to say.” I have found this very disrespectful to the students and the “nonloggers” of Oregon. What exactly does “We have nothing left to say” mean?

We are students who are paying a lot of money to attend this university to pursue a major of our choice and to learn as much as we possibly can about important issues that obtain to our major. All we are asking is for a member from the opposing side of this issue to come and talk us, the students, in person about what is currently happening with this very important issue.

“Keep it Wild” has been doing a lot of work informing students about the WOPR. We are asking Sen. Wyden and Congressman DeFazio to use their power and take a strong stand against the WOPR. In addition, there is going to be a large rally/march at noon on Friday, March 7, to protest the WOPR. Oregon cannot afford to lose anymore old-growth trees. We need to protect our remaining mature and old-growth forests on public land, not clear cut these natural treasures.

Ian van Ornum, Eugene



Once again, the U.S. has flaunted international law. In a precedent-setting move, the U.S. encouraged Kosovo Albanians to proclaim independence from Serbia and then recognized it in violation of U.N. Security Council’s resolution #1244. That resolution recognized Serbia’s claim to Kosovo and brought in international administrators to govern.

This has become a familiar pattern used by the U.S. government: Support international law when it suits your interests but violate it when it doesn’t. In 1991, the U.S. justified its attack on Iraq by claiming to uphold the U.N. charter, which states that borders cannot be changed by force without the consent of all parties involved. Then this week, after violating that principle in Kosovo, it supported Turkey in its move across an international border to attack Kurdish rebels fighting for independent Kurdistan.

Why allow Albanians in Kosovo to secede from Serbia but not allow Kurdish independence from Turkey? Why can’t Serbs in Republica Srpska secede from Bosnia as Croatia did from Yugoslavia? Why ask the U.N. to uphold the rule of “international law” in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Belgrade but ignore the U.N. when you unilaterally invade Iraq or bomb Serbia?

The answer is simple. Albanian Kosovars will allow the U.S. to keep a huge military base in Kosovo (Camp Bondsteel), and Serbs won’t. Croatia will allow U.S. warships to use its ports in the Adriatic while Yugoslavia wouldn’t. Turkey is our NATO ally while the Bosnian Serbs aren’t.

So much for the “rule of law.”

Pete Mandrapa, Eugene



I’ve been following the Eugene Police Department’s frequent request for more expensive officers, and it occurs to me that law enforcement is only one aspect of the crisis network. Some other aspects are crisis intervention and de-escalation, drug and alcohol treatment, rape crisis counseling, safe houses for battered women and hunger prevention.

A few of the organizations doing this work are White Bird/Cahoots, Buckley House, Sexual Assault Support Services, Womenspace and FOOD for Lane County. While the presence of the Eugene police can be needed in violent crime and in traffic related crisis, they can’t be expected to manage all aspects of crisis nor are they qualified to. When it comes to distributing funds, it could be effective to strengthen the entire crisis network rather than lean too heavily on one specialized part.

Kari Johnson, Eugene



I’ve been reviewing UO land use tricks for quite a while, and the easiest way to understand the UO president’s action relating to his arena proposal is to accept that the underlying intent is to reconfigure and dramatically expand the UO campus.

The arena proposal has nothing to do with serving the needs or interests of the fans, students or surrounding community.

UO President Frohnmayer’s failure to include parking provisions shows the chaos strategy that the president hopes will enable him to sustain acquisition of parcels which surround UO and UO Foundation land.

It is the goal of our governor, Nike, Frohnmayer and UO Housing Director Mike Eyster to establish an elite riverfront research live/work urban village “renaissance” to replace the businesses, housing and natural areas that now exist near Franklin Boulevard. That is what the Kilkenny-funded study called the Farkas Report calls for.

The recent change to completely public financing of the arena is likely to ensure that Frohnmayer retains the ability to utilize eminent domain to seize properties that Phil Knight determines necessary for his architect’s master planning. By keeping the arena categorized as a public project, private interests can help to steer the UO land annexation surge and gain control of property using the university as their acquisition tool.

Zachary Vishonoff, Eugene