Eugene Weekly : Letters : 7.2.09


Do you know what high-wire artists and politicians have in common? They both perform balancing acts. The balancing act for high-wire artists is between glory and injury or death. For politicians it is more mundane: the will of the people vs. the money of the special interests. 

Politicians need the people for their votes, and they need the special interests to fund their campaigns.

This balancing act is currently playing out under the Washington Big Top as — afraid to offend their corporate benefactors — all Republicans and some Democrats refuse to support a strong public option in a health care reform bill. Their hedging comes despite 72 percent of the American people favoring “offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health plans,” according to a recent New York Times/CBS poll.

Do you want your elected representatives to represent you or the medical/industrial complex? Now is the time to write or call President Obama, Sens. Wyden and
Merkley and Congressman DeFazio and tell them to stop clowning around and enact real health care reform with a strong public option. And if they don’t stop their foolishness, then show them you are serious at the next election.

Do you know the difference between high-wire artists and politicians? High-wire artists have courage.

Benton Elliott, Eugene


Too few Oregonians had the privilege of meeting Dr. George Tiller, recently murdered in Kansas. Those of us who were lucky enough to have heard him speak about his work knew we were in the presence of a man of great compassion and sensitivity.

Only a person totally dedicated to expanding women’s choices and improving their lives could continue the work he did, year after year, in the face of the intimidation and harassment he routinely faced. The astounding costs of the legal battles he had to continually fight should dispel any notion that he was in it for the money.

It is indeed a tragedy that his voice has been silenced. For those of us who knew him, the memory of his profound empathy and commitment will continue to inspire.

Gerald Morsello, Eugene


 With President Obama’s strong stand against West Bank settlement expansion, his speech in Cairo advancing the need for a state of Palestine living in peace alongside the state of Israel and his recent visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp, he has underscored his commitment to survival, security and dignity for both peoples. 

Islamist rejectionists of Israel, leftist purists, Christian Zionists opposing any territorial compromise by Israel and American Jewish rejectionists of a Palestinian state have something in common: They tend to see only one side’s sins. These groups are challenging President Obama’s helpful diplomacy at this time, risking more death and violence for generations to come.

 It is crucial that U.S. Jews and our allies — those who support the national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians — come forward now to make our voice heard. Visit and click on the “We’ve Got Your Back President Obama” logo to participate in Brit Tzedek v’Shalom’s pledge campaign.

Ellen Rifkin, Eugene-Springfield Chapter Leader, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom


As a longtime private security
professional who has made hundreds of citizen’s arrests for a wide variety of retail crimes, a martial artist of 16-plus years, and an on again/off again social activist concerned about issues surrounding personal safety and self-defense, I have become troubled by an apparent absence of discretion regarding responsibility in relation to personal safety that has developed among many of Eugene’s protesters.

For better or for worse, there are social norms by which average Americans view the world. As laws tend to support these norms, by definition, law enforcement can and should be expected to maintain them. When they are flouted, even when done so without malice or ill intent, it should come as no surprise when cops respond to the act.

Ultimately, only you are responsible for your own safety in life. This doesn’t change when you attend a protest. If you argue that the police get paid to “protect and serve” and shouldn’t cause you harm for expressing your First Amendment rights, I would like to point out that the Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement has no constitutional responsibility to protect you. 

If you fear being unjustly arrested, or if you fear becoming a victim of police harassment or excessive use of force, think about what you can do, regardless of a police presence, to avoid the event entirely.

Police behavior and the training that develops are relatively predictable and largely appropriate for the environment and people they regularly encounter. 

David Pirie, Eugene


Hippie hoodlums terrorize Eugene with dangerous protests and crazy antics. It sure is a good thing Officer Judd Warden was around to save the day by using excessive force and arresting the wicked Ian Van Ornum last May. Does that display Officer of the Year material? Warden’s comrades seem to think so because he received the award. Some of us are reminded of a pepper-spray incident back in 1997 on nonviolent protesters, which led a brutal force-using officer into the award light. What if we rewarded every officer who used excessive, painful force on nonviolent protesters? Do we want this behavior to continue and escalate until we’re in a world like George Orwell’s 1984, where the role of police isn’t enforcing the law anymore, but controlling and overpunishing? No way, José.

I originally thought moving the cop shop out of downtown would be a bad idea because of how much of the city’s reserves it will eat up, but it’s starting to sound better and better. They couldn’t hastily bust up a nonviolent protest and hurt innocent people in a matter of a few minutes. When they do act out with excessive force, it kind of makes me wonder what The Man is up to. Why can’t people get together and voice their opinion? Is free speech going to be taken away entirely?

Let’s not dwell on a doomed future if we can change the present! Alone, I am one kid, but with you and YOU and YOU we can email, write letters, make signs, speak on the street (watch out!), talk to friends, make a petition, do whatever it takes to revoke Judd Warden’s unjustly received Officer of the Year Award and set an example that Eugene citizens respect and deserve peaceful means of dealing with peaceful matters.

Haley Wagnon, Veneta


When I worked at a U.S. courthouse as a night janitor, there was armed private security, backed up by the Federal Protective Service. FPS involvement in brutalizing Van Ornum might not have been such a raw abuse of power had it not been for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

Although I did not know any specifics — such as which date — I knew that a plane was to be hijacked, because I knew the method utilized was to be used.

About a year before that day, I was thinking of taking a flight. The airline brochure read that some knives were permitted. So under the federal Freedom of Information Act, I pulled documentation from the FAA as to what those regulations were.

I was aghast to learn that the only regulation was blade length. I’ve done enough construction to imagine what a utility knife could do to human flesh. So I called the FAA and was put through to one of their federal agents. I told the agent what was going to happen; his reply was, “You let us worry about that.”

I regret that I did not do more; I did all I thought of at the time.

Kevin Russell, Eugene


There used to be a day when you could join the school football team or be in the school band or in art class (or even have enough materials for school work), but soon you won’t. The Oregon Legislature reduced the amount of funding for all the schools because the state is bringing in less and less money. In the last year alone, Oregon’s school funding cuts have reached into the billions.

I am currently enrolled at Network Charter School. I’ve been enrolled for two years. My school’s main building is the space above the A&W/Taco Time on Broadway in downtown, but classes are also held at Eugene Glass School, Nearby Nature and the World Café. Even before the budget cuts, my school had a hard time supplying the things we need like paper and pencils, computers and textbooks.

And now, Eugene is going to use $16 million to build a new police station when the one in this town is just fine and only needs $6 million to fix the problems. Why can’t any of the Eugene schools get any money? The children you see today are going to be the leaders of the world tomorrow, and we need all the schools and materials we can get.

I agree with Leslie Weinstein (“Painful Choices” 5/28) that the rich corporations and people should help with the welfare of our schools.

Steven Morris, 4J Student, Eugene


RE: Alan Pittman’s excellent article (5/28/09) on the centuries-old debate between the architectural merits of schools vs. prisons, I offer the following two pertinent 19th century quotations:

“It is acknowledged that neither convict prisons, nor the hulks, nor any system of hard labor ever cured a criminal.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky (hulks were vessels specially built to serve as a prison and not for sea service.)

“Better build schoolrooms for ‘the boy’ than cells and gibbets for ‘the man.’” — Eliza Cook (gibbets were beams used for the purpose of hanging someone.)

Terry Heintz, Eugene


Comparing the job of a Eugene police officer with that of a cashier is over-simplifying at best.

1) If a cashier is rude to you or gives you poor service, you are free to go to another store. You are not lying on the ground with a concussion being Tasered.

2) If a cashier is rude to you, you can easily complain to the manager, knowing that in retail the customer comes first and your complaint will be taken seriously.

If, however, you were mistreated by one of Eugene’s finest, you will have to try to file a complaint with the very same Eugene Police Department, or try the police auditor’s office, which has been harassed by EPD since its conception and has yet to bring a case against the EPD.

3) If a cashier grabbed my son by his long hair and smashed him to the pavement at a peaceful protest, I would be within my rights to sue his or her pants off! If at any time during that protest Eugene police officers feel that my little hippie is “slowing traffic,” they have the right to grab him by the hair, smash him head first into the ground, shout orders at him while preventing him from complying with those orders and then shock him repeatedly.

As far as judging the entire police force by a few bad apples, I for one would be glad to see the EPD stop supporting and protecting those bad apples, start cooperating with the police auditor and the Citizen Review Board and make a change to protecting rather than harassing the people of Eugene. And maybe they will get some of the support they have not been getting from us.

Mechelle Coburn, Eugene


What ever happened to the good old days when the worst things we had to fear on the Fourth of July were traffic jams and wayward fireworks? According to the USDA’s Meat & Poultry Hot-line, this year’s top threat is food poisoning by nasty E. coli and Salmonella bugs lurking in hamburgers and hot dogs at millions of backyard barbecues. The Hot-Line’s advice is to grill them longer and hotter. Of course, they don’t bother to mention that the high-temperature grilling that kills the bugs also forms lots of cancer-causing compounds.

Luckily, a bunch of enterprising food manufacturers and processors have met this challenge head-on by developing a great variety of healthful, delicious, and convenient veggie burgers and soy dogs. These new foods don’t harbor nasty pathogens or cancer-causing compounds. They don’t even carry cholesterol, saturated fats, drugs or pesticides. And they are available in the frozen food section of every supermarket.

This Fourth of July offers a great opportunity to declare our independence from the meat industry and to share wholesome veggie burgers and soy dogs with our family and friends. 

Edward Newland, Eugene




Many years ago a friend of mine made a quip. If it was OK to have a store called Ruby Chasm, then he wanted to open one called Throbbing Tower.

Of course, he never opened such a store. That’s not how men do things. Instead, men offer bike stores like Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life, which just expanded into the space recently vacated by Ruby Chasm.

I liked Ruby Chasm. It was a reliable place to get gifts for the women in my life, but that degree of specialization has had its day. How much better for us all that a bicycle shop, an utterly gender-neutral enterprise, is doing so well.

Welcome to the future.

Meanwhile, this paper is continually making decisions about its editorial policy. What does gender politics look like today? How has it evolved in the last 40 years? The last 10 years? Can it afford to lose readers who might grow impatient? Are the people still living in the ’70s enough to keep it going?

My friend, now in his 40s, continues to work in bike shops. He’s a great dad, partner and friend. He’ll never see this letter, of course. He doesn’t read the Weekly.

Steve Downey, Eugene


It is useless to berate politicians for selling out to corporate interests and ignoring the public’s protests as long as we have an electoral system that requires most of them to do that in order to get elected. As Molly Ivins used to say, “You gotta dance with them what brung you.” Relatively few represent areas where they have a practical choice, with a “secure” seat and a supportive activist population.

If the public is to own the system, there is no choice but to pay for it. Publicly financed elections would not be cheap, but compared to the financial industry bailout extravaganza and the miseries of a depression, they would be a bargain. The “Just 6 Dollars” campaign ( estimates that as the per-person cost of publicly funded federal elections. Compare that to the thousands in per-person debt we have recently acquired thanks to our government-by-and-for-the-big-spenders.

Karen Carlson, Eugene


The recent nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court by President Obama is showing an unprecedented reaction by the radical, extreme right wing of the Republican Party exhibiting classic misogynist and racist behavior. Why are so many upset about the promotion of a Latino woman who brings equality to the white, male-dominated Supreme Court? Don’t you think it is about time that the old, white male steps down from his lofty perch, a position he has had since the beginning of our dear nation? Women are the now majority of the population and within less than 10 years the Latino population will be the majority.

What are American men so afraid of? Perhaps it’s the fear that the new majority will treat them badly? A new America was born when Obama was elected. The radical right wing is a dinosaur that will have to be taken down kicking and screaming because it has had the advantage and control for so long.

The Newt Gingrichs and Rush Limbaughs of the world are showing the rage and frustration of a party that has not opened up to include everyone. The untrue remarks about our next Supreme Court justice should be considered a crime. Hate crime legislation should include such hate speech.

That same hate was manifested in the killing of Dr. Tiller in Kansas in his place of worship. All Americans deserve equality and that includes gays and lesbians who are just as worthy as people that marry opposite sex partners. How would you feel if the law was changed so opposite sex partners could no longer marry and could only have civil unions?

Diane DeVillers, Eugene


While I completely understand Bob Saxton’s frustration with Obama’s performance (letters, 6/4), it is not true that Obama has been bought by the rich and powerful. That is because the rich and powerful surreptitiously placed him in the presidency to perform the exact role he is playing.

Obama’s role is two-fold. One, is to provide “left cover” for the activities of the financial industry while U.S. taxpayers are, as stated by MIT’s Simon Johnson in many media venues including PBS’s Bill Moyer’s Journal, played for “chumps” (they are chumps) and two, to be the fall guy and take the hit if and when things really get ugly.

The GDP of the U.S. is $14 trillion per year. So far bailouts for Wall Street banks and insurance companies have been about $12 trillion to $13 trillion, roughly equal to the total combined economic output of every man, woman, child, small business and corporation in the entire country for one year, all that money to the very few well-connected financial institutions in New York and Europe while Obama continues spewing what is essentially empty campaign rhetoric.

The financial crisis of 2007 evolved into the economic crisis of 2008. All along the way the “smiley faces” representing the financial oligarchs, whether it be Bush, Obama, Bernanke, Geithner or whoever, have assured us that everything is under control. Clearly, things are not under control. Further, there is one more phase in evolving worldwide economic turmoil that must be addressed and that is the emerging U.S. dollar currency crisis, the grand daddy crisis of them all in that it has the potential to bring the teetering U.S. economy to its knees.

If you liked the financial and economic phases of the crisis process, you’re going to love it when the currency crisis hits (possibly as early as the fall of this year). Just don’t expect Obama to attempt to do anything about it.

That’s not why he’s there.

Vainamoinen Iittala, Creswell