Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
DeFazio plans to ban deadly toxins
Happening People: Lynn and Ken Schilling
EXAMINING FAIR TRADE
Can the fair trade movement have a significant impact on how products are grown, marketed and sold around the world?
Organic coffee available in the U.S. during the 1980s was not too tasty, so the Eugene-based coffee company Café Mam was created in 1985 to export coffee from a farmers’ cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, said Brad Lerch, who co-owns Café Mam with his uncle dahinda meda and cousin John Lerch. Their first lesson in fair trade, a movement seeking more equitable pay for workers in developing countries, came a few years later, when they had to pay more to compete with the cooperative’s European customers, Lerch explained at a UO panel discussion on fair trade Nov. 1.
“Europe is about 10 years ahead of the U.S. on fair trade,” Lerch said.
Café Mam chose to undergo the costly process of applying for fair trade certification in the mid-1990s after the business had grown to the point that the owners no longer knew all their customers, Lerch said. The company has continued to work with the same cooperative in Chiapas and visits the farmers regularly.
“Dealing with one specific group has allowed us to make more of an impact,” Lerch said, adding that the daughter of one of the farmers he works with is now the first member of her family to attend a university.
UO economics professor Bruce Blonigen said the main goals of fair trade are to improve the salary and working conditions of workers in developing countries and to ensure environmentally friendly business practices in developing countries. He sees its advantages as helping poorer farmers control their participation in the market and making the trade process more efficient by removing the middleman.
But the underlying problem in international trade, Blonigen said, is that living and working conditions in developing countries are so bad that people will work for multinational corporations at wages most in the U.S. would consider unfair. He questioned whether fair trade could do enough to fix this problem.
Most fair trade products currently are specialty items that make up a small portion of most people’s budgets, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas and crafts, Blonigen said.
Coffee, as Lerch said, is the world’s second largest traded commodity after oil. Blonigen said that the demand for coffee, like the demand for oil, tends to be inelastic, or not very vulnerable to price fluctuations. Other items might not handle a 10 to 15 percent premium charge as smoothly.
“I’m cynical about [fair trade’s] ability to mainstream across enough products that developing countries would take off because of it,” Blonigen said. “Let’s face it, the average American consumer drinks Folgers.”
Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, which is based in Germany, reported that consumers worldwide spent 1.6 billion euros (approximately $2.3 billion) on fair trade-certified products in 2006, a 41 percent increase from 2005. For comparison, the World Trade Organization reported that world merchandise exports totaled $11.76 trillion in 2006, so fair trade works out to about 0.02 percent of the world’s total trade for 2006.
Two UO student organizations, the Sustainable Business Group and the International Business and Economics Club, hosted the event after Café Mam contacted them about doing something for Fair Trade Month in October, said SBG President Binh Lu.
“A lot of people think sustainability is just the environment, but it’s not,” Lu said, adding that she defines a sustainable business as one that is consciously aware of its impact on the environment, the community and the people it works with. — Eva Sylwester
SPENCER’S BUTTE GETS REHAB
Don’t be offended if next time you hike Spencer’s Butte you find some trails blocked off and a fence in place. The Southeast Neighbors have teamed up with the city of Eugene to repair deteriorated trails and flora near the top of the butte.
Southeast Neighbors received a matching grant from the city to fix the butte, but they’re worried other hikers may mistake their butte-friendly project for the city getting in the way of their right to hike. Local residents have been concerned about erosion on the east side of the butte and dangerous hiking conditions created by steep cut-through trails that deviate from the switchbacks on the official trails.
Tom Halferty, a geologist and biologist who’s a member of Southeast Neighbors, says the project will involve transplanting vegetation and placing downed logs across the problematic trails, creating a natural barrier and allowing native plants to re-grow. The groups also plans to install a 40 to 50 foot wooden fence and signs to help decommission the trails. The fence may come down later once the trails have blended back into the landscape.
The group welcomes more volunteers for their workday on Spencer’s Butte, which will take place at 10 am Saturday, Dec. 1. Volunteers will meet in the Spencer’s Butte parking lot off Willamette Street, and Halferty suggests being ready for “challenging physical work on steep slopes.” For more information, contact Halferty at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-2646. — Camilla Mortensen
INJUNCTION FAVORS WATADA
Army Lt. Ehren Watada this week got at least a temporary reprieve from prosecution. Watada had refused to deploy to Iraq to participate in what he said was an illegal war and was facing a second court martial after his first trial earlier this year was declared a mistrial. Watada’s lawyers argued that the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, or being tried twice for the same crime, prevents him from being court-martialed again.
U.S. District Judge Benjamin H. Settle agreed that the lawyers’ argument has merit and issued a preliminary injunction halting any further court martial proceeding. According to a statement from Judge Settle, “This case concerns an alleged violation of the Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy Clause, which cannot be said to fall within a set of affairs that are peculiar to the jurisdiction of the military authorities … The same Fifth Amendment protections are in place for military service members as are afforded to civilians. … To hold otherwise would ignore the many sacrifices that American soldiers have made throughout history to protect those sacred rights.”
Watada’s attorneys described this injunction as “an enormous victory,” according to a statement from the family. “But the case is not yet over and has not yet ripened into a permanent injunction, though the judge did indicate that the attorneys have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.”
The judge’s order did not indicate what the next steps will be, but he stated that no trial proceedings could occur until his further order or until this injunction is modified or dissolved by him or by a higher court. For more complete information and updates, visit www.thankyoult.org
When does legitimate criticism of Israeli policies “cross the line” into anti-Semitism and denial of the Holocaust?
Three UO professors and a local rabbi spoke Nov. 8 at a campus symposium about Holocaust denial. More than 100 people attended the event.
The Robert D. Clark Honors College, the Department of History and the Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies sponsored the event. It was held in response to the Pacifica Forum’s bringing of Mark Weber, director of the Institute of Historical Review, to speak on campus on Nov. 3.
The Institute of Historical Review said on its website that it has “published detailed books and numerous probing essays that call into question aspects of the orthodox Holocaust extermination story and highlight specific Holocaust exaggerations and falsehoods.”
Associate professor of history David Luebke said at the symposium that even the Institute of Historical Review does not deny that many Jewish people died in World War II and suffered a great catastrophe. They are classified as Holocaust deniers, Luebke explained, because they adhere to the following articles of faith:
1. There is no evidence the Nazis had a plan or policy of exterminating Jewish people;
2. There is no evidence of homicidal gas chambers;
3. The figure and of six million Jewish deaths is an exaggeration.
“They amount to a denial of all the things that made the Holocaust a genocide,” Luebke said.
In contrast, Luebke said, all professional historians believe that the Nazis plotted to kill Jews, that they used gas chambers in addition to other weapons to kill Jews and that six million Jews were deliberately and systematically killed.
Luebke said historians debate other issues, such as when the Nazis developed the intention to commit genocide, but not whether there was intentional genocide. Even Nazi official Adolf Eichmann didn’t deny that genocide occurred — he only denied that he was responsible for it.
“If the perpetrators of the Holocaust admit that what they did was genocide, why should we not believe them?” Luebke said.
Shaul Cohen, associate professor of geography, described the story of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust as “something that comes down to me through the remnants of my very truncated family.” Among other tragedies, one of his great-grandmothers died of typhus in a concentration camp.
“I will not accept the explanation of Mark Weber that her death was of natural causes,” Cohen said.
Cohen said some Jewish people marginalize critics of Israel by calling them all anti-Semitic.He said Weber similarly lumps all Jewish people together, while in fact there is a wide range of opinions within the Jewish community on the subject of Israel.
Israel is a sovereign state recognized by the U.N., and Cohen said it is possible and necessary to be critical of any state when its policies are problematic. Criticism of Israel only becomes anti-Semitism when it turns into vilification of Jewish people everywhere, he said, and noted that Holocaust deniers show much more attention to the problems of Israel than they do to similar problems in other sovereign states.
“They willfully, knowingly cross the line,” he said.
The rabbi who spoke was Jonathan Seidel, who serves at Or haGan, Light of the Garden Jewish Community in Eugene and is an instructor in the UO Judaic Studies program. He also said criticizing Israel does not always equal attacking the legitimacy of Israel, and that while supporting Israel was considered a major part of Jewish identity while he was growing up, that’s not so much the case now. He said it is still important for all people, Jewish and otherwise, to learn about the Holocaust.
David Frank, a professor of rhetoric in the Honors College, said he was concerned that debating Holocaust deniers might give them undeserved legitimacy or cultivate the false idea that there was a debate going on.
“Confronting Weber and the Pacifica Forum makes me feel filthy and dirty,” Frank said.
However, he said that while most people can recognize crude anti-Semitism, sophisticated anti-Semitism such as that of the Institute of Historical Review is easier for people to get sucked into. — Eva Sylwester
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 3,860 U.S. troops killed* (3,849)
• 28,451 U.S. troops injured* (28,171)
• 130 U.S. military suicides* (128)
• 304 coalition troops killed** (304)
• 933 contractors killed(accurate updates NA)
• 83,541 Iraqi civilians killed*** (83,029)
• $468 billion cost of war ($466.1 billion)
• $133.1 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($132.5 million)
* through Nov. 12, 2007; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to one million
Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, EW will publish a day earlier than usual, on Wednesday, Nov. 21. EW offices will be closed Thursday and Friday. Early deadline for reserving display ads for our Nov. 21 issue will be 5 pm Thursday, Nov. 15. Classified deadline will also be early at 5 pm Friday, Nov. 16. For the following week’s issue, Nov. 29, the early deadline for reserving display ad space will be 5 pm Wednesday, Nov. 21.
• Eugene’s Duck footballers deserve congratulations and caveats for working their way up to a lofty #2 ranking in the national polls. Most prior occupants of the #2 slot this season have stumbled badly and faded out of contention for the national championship. Rankings, fancy uniforms and ESPN hype are all nice, but it boils down to making plays and winning games. Let’s hope the Ducks charge over the Wildcats, Bruins and Beavers and right into the national championship game. That’s scheduled for Jan. 7 in New Orleans, for those of you already penciling out your 2008 calendar.
• Still thinking about the election? We imagine there’s still a bit of head scratching going on at City Hall and at the R-G following the resounding defeat of the Eugene urban renewal measure Nov. 6. Last week in this column we wrote about people’s lack of trust in city government. But there’s another related factor at work here. Both the city government and our daily newspaper are painfully out of touch with the people of our community.
Let’s start with the city staff and the council. Working on behalf of the citizens last summer, they decided to charge ahead with a big urban renewal expansion to subsidize redevelopment downtown. Did the council and staff think the taxpayers wouldn’t notice or care about inflated options, historic buildings, existing businesses, guaranteed profits for developers, parks and open space or big subsidies for chain stores? Small business owners and others revolted and started an initiative drive that forced the city to put this $40 million gamble on the ballot. We’re seeing a pattern of disjointed, cart-before-the-horse city actions. Some examples: The people want public money spent on public amenities, not chain stores downtown, but a park was only added to the redevelopment plan as an afterthought. The city is spending $1 million-plus getting public input into a new City Hall before even asking if people want a new City Hall. The voters have twice turned down new police facilities, but the city is going ahead and planning one, and not downtown where we need redevelopment — and cops.
As for the R-G, the fortress on the outskirts near Springfield is isolated and out of touch with the people. Why else would the editorial board consistently endorse second-rate candidates and lost causes? You could say the R-G editorial board is simply standing up for who and what they think is right, but more likely their key sources for information in the community are themselves out of touch. The Chamber of Commerce, for example, has for years been disconnected from Eugene’s small business community. And the country club clique is out of touch with working people who vote.
• Speaking of the R-G, the daily paper lost at least one subscriber this month due to its coverage of the urban renewal fiasco. City Councilor Bonny Bettman canceled her subscription Nov. 1 with a letter to the editorial board complaining about what she calls “a new low in biased journalism.” She cites a series of unfair news stories and multiple editorials and columns favoring the measure, with minimal input from the opposition. “I have become accustomed to low standards of local reporting by the R-G, and of course I never expect them to agree or support a position that I have taken,” she wrote. “But the bottom line here is that they have a responsibility, as our only community daily paper, to provide balanced information to the public. The R-G‘s posturing on this issue has been extreme, and extremely manipulative. Apparently they don’t trust the voters to weigh relevant information and make an informed choice. The paper has proven to be utterly biased and uninformative on local issues. For regional, state and national issues there are other newspapers.” See the full text of her letter at blogs.eugeneweekly.com this week.
• One item that might have escaped attention in recent stories about the renegotiated city purchase options for the Broadway project is that Jack Roberts, whose family owns the Taco Time building, agreed to sell his building to the city for nearly $83,000 less than its assessed market value of $1.28 million. Connor & Woolley, on the other hand, agreed to sell their Centre Court building and adjacent pit, valued at $1.07 million, for $2.8 million. Find all the numbers on Alan Pittman’s blog.
And where do we go from here on downtown redevelopment? We hear interim City Manager Angel Jones has been spending time in Portland meeting with developers KWG and Beam, and a council workshop has been set for Nov. 27, and a public hearing is planned for Dec. 3. But we also hear that Jones has not received any marching orders from the council on how to proceed following the defeat of Measure 20-134. What’s going on?
• Apparently Huskies are less interested than Beavers in cutting trees. OSU’s College of Forestry has been undergoing a “strategic realignment,” and it appears that the powers that be have decided that as part of the realignment, the Department of Forest Resources might get the ax. That is the one program that teaches forest policy and nature-based recreation as opposed to simply growing and harvesting trees. OSU Forestry’s big competitor, the University of Washington, is going another route: UW is planning to include forestry in its proposed College of the Environment, “producing informed, environmentally conscious citizens and leaders.”
• Norman Solomon is returning to Eugene this week (see our News Briefs last week), and, as always, he provides us plenty to ponder regarding American culture, media and our addiction to violence as a foreign policy. He’s talking at 1 pm Thursday, Nov. 15, in the Forum Building on the LCC campus and will show his new documentary at 7 pm Thursday at the UO Knight Law School, room 175. His talk after the film showing will be broadcast live by KOPT 1600 AM.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, email@example.com
LYNN AND KEN SCHILLING
Ever since his childhood in Nyssa, Ore., Ken Schilling has had a special rapport with dogs. “I trained my first dog when I was 7,” he notes. Schilling joined the Army after seeing a recruiting poster for the military dog detachment. “At first they sent me to an artillery unit,” he says. “I harassed them until I got transferred.” When he got out in 1976, Schilling trained at Madelyn Kennels in Bakersfield, Calif., and then built a kennel in San Benito, Texas, where he met his wife, Lynn. He studied curriculum design at Texas A&M to develop a course for police officers working with dogs for tracking and narcotics detection. In 1995, the Schillings moved to Oregon and opened Schilling’s Northwest Law Dogs in Eugene, offering classes in obedience, personal protection and assistance for handicapped people. In 2001, Lynn joined the business full-time to add daycare, aka the K9 Social Club, to the menu. “Problem dogs have been my specialty,” says Ken, whose training method balances praise, reward, and discipline to develop a partnership between dog and owner. Learn more at schillinglawdog.com