Slant 1-23-2014

• Packed audiences at the local Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations heard speakers from Rep. Peter DeFazio and the UO’s President Michael Gottfredson to Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad honoring MLK’s legacy. Less honorable were the folks who showed up at the Springfield celebration holding a sign that read “‘Diversity’ is a code word for white genocide.” We posted the picture on our blog, which became inundated with defenders of white pride. Despite some comments that many will find offensive, we’re leaving the thread open. Feel free to weigh in.

• The link between homelessness and mental illness is the focus of our cover story this week by Rick Levin. Not having a predictable and safe place to sleep each night would drive anyone over the edge, even so-called “normal” people. And for people who already suffer from addiction, depression or any of the “disorders” described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, being homeless exacerbates those symptoms. 

We’re already doing more than many other cities, but still not enough. Our first priority as a community in dealing with these issues should be to provide warm, safe shelter, free or low-cost. It makes sense morally, ethically and even financially. Phoenix, Ariz., and now Salt Lake City are engaged in a broad-based commitment to end homelessness in 10 years, saying it’s cheaper to provide people with free rooms — even drug addicts and alcoholics — than to pay for their drain on police and ambulance services, courts, nonprofits and hospital emergency rooms.

Kesey Square issues understandably morphed into broader pressing homeless issues at the City Club of Eugene meeting in the DAC Jan. 17. But the proposal came up again that we fill the square with a private building, thus wiping out the public problems at Broadway and Willamette. That’s not a good solution. Eugene can do better than that with precious public space downtown. Panelists were Rob Bennett of Bennett Management Co., John Rowell of Rowell Brokaw Architects, Craig Opperman of Looking Glass and Ben Brubaker of White Bird Clinic and CAHOOTS.

Bump the minimum wage nationally to $10.10? Martin Luther King Jr. said in a 1968 speech, “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?” 

• The controversial artwork “School Days” by Linda Cunningham, which depicts classic ’50s characters Dick and Jane and a handful of shell casings and was censored by the Emerald Art Center, is now on display at New Zone Gallery. The censorship debate and the issue of gun violence got national attention. Also getting national attention in gun-related news is Eugene’s John Zerzan, anti-civilization theorist and host of Anarchy Radio on KWVA. Newtown shooter Adam Lanza may have called into Zerzan’s show — a year before he killed 26 people — to talk about a chimp that had torn off a woman’s face, according to New York Daily News, a media outlet that is known for its tabloid journalism.  

Republicans in Multnomah County planned a gun raffle for their Feb. 15 dinner in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, both victims of gun violence. In response to this idiocy, the church that had rented space for the dinner canceled the rental. This week the Multnomah County GOP sent out a carefully worded press release, not even mentioning the gun raffle but apologizing “if people were hurt by the message being marred by insufficient wording and/or cynical misinterpretation by those who disagree with us politically.” Huh? Adding to the GOP’s insensitivity, the press release went on to talk about how “our freedom to defend our lives under the Second Amendment” is under attack, apparently as some kind of justification for the gun raffle. The Feb. 15 Lincoln Day dinner will go on, assuming a new venue can be found, and no assault rifles, handguns or armor-piercing bullets will be given out as raffle or door prizes. 

Speaking of prizes, gun-packing crackpot Rafael Cruz will be event keynoter. The elder Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz, is on record saying he’d like to send Obama “back to Kenya,” Obama is “just like Castro” and gay rights is a government conspiracy to destroy families. The GOP keeps shooting itself in the foot, but the gun raffle brouhaha has a bright side: boosted raffle ticket sales. Crazy like Fox.

• Surprising robocalls from Obama rang into Eugene last week, and presumably other small U.S. cities, praising Hillary Clinton’s job as secretary of state. After Obama’s words of praise, another voice asked for dollars for her campaign for president in 2016. What’s a president doing boosting a candidate for his job two years out? Not pretty.