Tuesday, October 30, 2007


There’s a scene in the movie 1776 where John Dickenson has gone through a recitation of battles, statesmen, and great leaders from English history. He turns to John Adams and basically asks “if we’re giving up these things, what are we getting in return? You?” Adams didn’t have the greatest rep in the continental congress. Even he admitted he was “obnoxious and disliked.”

Rereading my last entry, I have to wonder. Our English ancestors went through the turmoil and upheaval of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At a time when governments were becoming more absolutist, they hung onto their hard won rights and liberties (even if they would have defined some of those rights and liberties in ways different from our definitions). At times they hung on by the skin of their teeth. They did these things so that their children (us) could bring forth…….W? Cheney? The rest of the useless crew that’s good enough to get elected and not much else?

Has a lion labored mightily only to bring forth…….. a mouse?

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Here’s another entry that grew and took on a life of its own.


Back in 1969 Masterpiece Theater premiered with the costume drama, The First Churchill’s. It was good then, and still impressive after more than thirty years. It was released on DVD a couple of years ago and I finally broke down and bought the set. The twelve part series chronicles the rise of John Churchill through the ranks of the army and the courts of four Stuart monarchs. Churchill was recognized as a military genius and was created Duke of Marlborough by Queen Anne.


The scripts do a fantastic job of telling not only the people stories but the political stories. I’m not sure if scary is the word I would use, but it’s more than interesting to hear problems we have now, being discussed more than three hundred years ago. Religious freedom, the right to face your accusers, the right to be brought to trial or released, the right to bail and the rise of party government. And perhaps the most important, is the ruler subject to the law or above the law? Listening to James II claim in council to be “above the law” had an oddly familiar ring to it.


Rewatching this series only reinforces my belief that teaching US history has to include English history. American history always has an arbitrary feel to it, at least at the beginning. And I’m being arbitrary starting with Henry VIII. But you have to draw the line somewhere or you end up going all the way back to Roman Britain.


Bluff King Hal and his six wives, interesting enough, but how the king’s government worked through the resulting problems is the real story. Despite his reputation, Henry was not really a tyrant. Capricious, mercurial, temperamental, somewhat spoiled, and increasingly cruel he may have been, but all the changes made during his rule were made through Parliament. Of course England’s sixteenth century parliaments were nothing like American representative government.


 But, at a time in history when power was increasingly concentrated in monarch and a few ministers with almost no input from the governed, the English somehow managed to keep some semblance of representative government.  It took a revolution or two, they beheaded a king to do it, and it took at least two centuries to work it out but they did it. Kind of makes me think our job isn’t done yet.


Henry’s position as head of the English church, the break with Rome and the succession were all handled through parliament. The King in parliament, not the king and parliament. When his daughter Mary tried to undo the changes made by her father and her brother Edward, she again acted through parliament. Elizabeth may have been at logger heads with her parliaments over her marriage and taxes but she couldn’t ignore it. James I may have believed in the rights of an absolute monarchy but he knew when to bend when he had to. His son Charles never learned to bend and paid for it with his head.


Incidentally, Charles was a prime of example of the ruler who believes that he has the divine right to rule. Faced with opposition, any means may be used to support that power including lying and deliberate deception. Sound familiar?


I’ll skip the commonwealth and Cromwell for now, but when Charles II was restored to the throne it was at the invitation of his people through parliament. His parliaments’ remembered his father and kept him short of cash. Charles had more than a dozen children by his mistresses, but none by his queen. Louis XIV of France supported his cousin with secret stipends and kept the pot boiling in England with bribes to members of Charles’ parliament. England had their own version of the McCarthy era with a fear of the pope and a catholic heir to the throne instead of the Red menace. Things really never do change, do they?


But, the Habeas Corpus Act was passed during Charles time, and we’re fighting over it still. The act put into written law something that had existed for nearly three centuries. And the complaint of Charles’ successor, his catholic brother James, that the act allowed traitors to go free on bail to plot more treason has a strangely modern ring. Hmmm, I wonder what word we could substitute for traitor in that sentence? And the time between the first uses of writs of Habeas Corpus and the act is longer than the time between our revolution and the present day. Perhaps we should show it a little more respect.


Anyway, England was willing to support James as long as his Protestant daughters were his potential successors. Faced with potential Catholic successor when he finally had a son, the gentry and lords invited James’ daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange to come over.


I suspect the intention was to use William and Mary as levers force James to honor the promises he made when he succeeded his brother and raise his son as a Protestant. When he fled England for sanctuary in the court of his cousin Louis parliament settled the crown on William and Mary. And brought more succession problems. Neither the Stuarts or the Tudors had much luck when it came to legitimate heirs. And the Mary and her husband were first cousins, so I guess they were hit with a double dose of ill luck. Dutch William had no particular love for the English, or they for him. Forcing James from the throne gained English resources for the opponents of French ambitions on the continent and added protection for the Dutch states.


When Mary’s sister Anne also failed to produce a living heir, the succession was settled again by parliament, this time on the Hanoverian descendants of one of James I daughters. Poor Anne, more than a dozen children and most of them didn’t survive more than a year or two. Her grandfather James had married into the Danish royal house, as did Anne. So her husband was probably a cousin too.


Parliaments and congresses are just as capable of acting capriciously and unfairly as monarchs and presidents. But, more knowledge of how we got where we are might help us deal with the problems we have now.


Lines on a map don’t make a nation. A nation is made up of its people whether they all live withing those little lines or not. And a nation comes into being the same way people do. It takes time, patience, and perhaps more than a little pain. Unlike child birth, it has to be done without the benefits of painkillers. And while we can’t do it without human costs, we owe it to each other to keep those costs as low as possible.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007


There have been several accidents and at least a couple of fatalities in the Portland area involving bicycles. The two fatalities involved riders in the blind spot of a truck preparing to make a legal right turn. Amid the calls for new laws I have a few observations gleaned from three decades of commuting, the last eight involving twenty miles both ways sharing the road with trucks and very large pickups and SUV’s.

Assume that you are invisible to every other driver on the road. You may be driving a neon yellow hummer with Oregon colored cheerleader pom poms, but drive as if no one will notice you. The big rigs with the sign on the back that says “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” are there for a reason.

Never assume that the driver behind you will stop for a yellow light. Remember you are invisible and he or she may be not paying attention. Or may be paying attention, and still be an idiot. Actually, if they are riding your bumper, don’t assume they’re going to stop for a red light either. Try and leave yourself with someplace to go, just in case. Go through the intersection or change lanes.

You may have the right of way, but never assume that any other driver is going to honor that. Remember you might as well be invisible to the other drivers. And if they are driving a jacked up pick up, you might just be invisible. I’ve dealt with so many of those drivers who never seem to look down, Or to the side, now that I think about it.

I know the rules of the road favor the bike riders. I also know that they don’t have to have a license to be on the road. They were written when there were fewer trucks, huge pickups and SUV's on the road too. And any suggestion that licensing bike riders might be a good idea, at least in this neck of the woods, provokes an outpouring that boils down to “we don’t need them we're doing you a favor by not using any gasoline.” OoooooKaaaaaay, no license.  Personally, I think if you're going to share the road with me, you should have a license too, but that's just personal opinion. But, how about proof you’ve taken a safety course? One of the first lessons when I took driver’s ed was a physics lesson. A vehicle of x weight, traveling y speed, needs z number of feet to stop. Simple and scary. Especially when you are smaller than almost anything else on the road and virtually unprotected. In a contest with anything that has a motor, the person on the bike is going to come up the loser.

And frankly if you’re going to wear dark clothes, have no lights, and ride a bike at dusk or after dark, you don’t need to pretend you’re invisible. You are invisible.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Apparently some of our home grown conservatives are having a hard time even uttering Al Gore's name in the same sentence as Nobel Prize. If the subject is mentioned at all it's to make a list of all the people or groups they think should have gotten the prize instead of the former senator and vice president.

Suddenly folks who were willing to undercut the experts working for government agencies claim that Al Gore doesn't know what he's talking about because he's a journalist by training and a politician by profession. Heck, he's doing what journalists do. He's researching the story and reporting it as he sees it.

And we've been seeing the results of conflict over scarce resources for decades. It's only going to get worse.

Lines drawn on maps don't matter to people who don't have opportuhnities at home and see them over the horizon. Can any of you think of a country that's having a real problem dealing with undocumented immigration right now? And can you think of a country with a relatively small population that may see good land opening up as the climate warms while its more populous neighbor to the south sees increasing problems with drought and soil loss?


This is one of those “this has been bouncing around the old brain pan for awhile so here goes” entries. I guess this is my answer to the folks that claim that a genetic answer to at least some folks being gay doesn't make any sense. Actually it makes perfect sense to me. And I guess it's coming up right now because the Oregon legislature finally, finally, passed a law okaying civil unions and an anti discrimination measure this year. The signature gathering campaign to keep the laws from going into effect in 2008 and put them to a state wide vote came up short. Although I'm sure they'll keep trying. Goddess, don't these people have anything better to do with their time? At least time is on the side of the angels.

Even though I don’t use it, at least to earn a paycheck, I have a BS in Physical Anthropology. I tend to look at some things from a certain point of view. From a sort of why would this make sense as a good adaptation to help a species survive point of view.

It’s really too bad that we have such a hard time teaching evolution in this country because the misconceptions about Darwin’s theory are legion. Evolution doesn’t really work on individuals, it works on populations. My sisters carry the same genes I do. Even if I don’t have children, if my actions allow them to be more successful in raising their children, I’ve succeeded in passing my genes on to the next generation.

There is increasing evidence that our sexual behavior is part hardwired, part socialization. There seems to be a fairly steady percentage of folks attracted to same sex partnerships in most populations. At least that’s what I’ve read in the press over the past few years. So, why have these genes survived?

Things haven’t changed since our ancestors whacked two rocks together and discovered that a sharp rock or six could make up for a lack of fangs and claws. We still have to grow it, catch it, gather it, or make something to trade with somebody who has an extra basket of turnips to trade. Actually this could include making the basket or pot to put the turnips in.

At a time when extra hunters, farmers, craftsmen (and women), and eyesto keep track of the kids were a valuable resource, relatives who didn’t have kids but were willing to support their relatives’ children, could give your family group an adaptive advantage. Modern culture has more layers between the producers and consumers, but somebody still has to raise it, package it, move it and make things to trade for it.

But, our families are fragmented and that adaptive edge has been lost. Or has it. There are plenty of same sex couples willing to act as foster parents or adoptive parents when they get the chance. They’re still helping the family survive, it’s just a bigger family. And I honestly believe that we hurt ourselves when we try to shut out a part of our larger family for whatever reason.

Now that I think about it, insuring that teaching evolution remains controversial has its uses for the powers that be. If enough children learned to view what we do as a nation from an adaptive point of view, they’d begin to understand just how screwed up most of our business and political policies really are.

Many of the conservative faith groups and intelligent design folks talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk. If we are all the unique creation of some higher being (I lean towards the divine boot in the ass theory of creation myself) they sure don’t act like it. Oh, I forgot. For some folks, it’s their group that’s part of the divine creation. The rest of us are just one level above pond scum.

Monday, October 15, 2007


A short raspberry entry. (as in blowing a raspberry or a Bronx Cheer) An outfit called Garden Harvest has come out with a line of chips that advertises “a half serving of fruit or vegetables (depending on the variety) in every serving.” A one ounce serving is 120 calories.

Uh, guys, I can have full serving of green beans with garlic, tomatoes and onions for about half the calories, and it’ll taste better. Or an apple, a whole apple. Or my baggie of fresh veggies and home-made cheese spread. Of a few pieces of dried fruit. And the complexity of the flavors of something that hasn’t been spindled, folded and mutilated is surprising and welcome.

Someone brought in a bag of the apple cinnamon ones to work. And frankly they’re pretty bad. They don’t really taste like apples or cinnamon and I find it hard to believe that there are real apples in the mix, but the label says that there is. Sorry, guys, I’m eating my lunchtime apple and those chips don’t taste anything like this. Actually the chips taste kind of like Applejacks cereal, only not as sweet.

Heck, for that calorie count I can have half a square of Lindt super dark chocolate and three or four small figs. Or some combination like that. Thumbs down all the way.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


We got out copy of An Inconvenient Truth this week. We sat down and watched it yesterday evening and didn’t get around to fixing dinner until almost seven thirty. And since the cats take their cue from us, they ate dinner late too. Basically fifteen minutes or so after the silver ware quits clattering they start showing up and starting the “I’m hungry, feed me, dance.”


I found the film interesting and compelling. But, then I read Earth in the Balance when it came out several years ago. And it scared the heck out of me then. And that was about ten years ago.


 I get a kick out of reading about this DVD and this one. I had even more fun researching the backgrounds of the folks who made them. I’m not quite sure what qualifies Phyllis Schlafly as an expert on climate change. And two of the scientists named in the description are on the faculty of the same Alabama university. And while I might understand their fears about America losing some of it’s sovereignty to help fight global warming, I question how they don’t seem to be worried about threats to our sovereignty from multi national corporations. Oh, I forgot, most of the big multinationals are headquartered in the US and it’s the rest of the world that needs to be worried.


I can hear the complaints fifty years from now if the ice sheet on Greenland don’t fully melt and the oceans don’t rise up to twenty feet, “he was wrong, neener, neener, neener.” What at least some of these folks don’t realize is that a five foot rise would devastate most coastal areas. Most of Oregon’s beaches would be gone. And I’m not sure what would happen to our coastal artery, Highway 101. Some of the highway runs right along the coast, no further than fifty yards from the ocean in some places. Other parts of the road run along the cliffs. Undercut the cliff and bye bye  highway.


And the CO2 doesn’t have to warm the climate to play havoc with the planet. The increased CO2 being absorbed the oceans is slowly increasing their acidity. Increased acidity may interfere with the life cycles of animals that need to form shells to survive. And many of those animals are a big part of the ocean food chain. An already stressed food chain.


We’re already facing water shortages from depleted aquifers here in Oregon, and two thirds of the state is high plateau and desert. He didn’t name the islands that have been evacuated already since they were only a few yards above sea level in the first place. Some critics fasten on studies that indicate that the glaciers on Kilimanjaro are disappearing more from lack of precipitation that warming. But why have the snows gone away? And they ignore the other glaciers that are disappearing too. In a few decades a certain national park will be the park Formerly Known as Glacier. It’s happening in Europe and South America too. And almost forty percent of the people on the planet are at least partially dependent on water melting from glaciers feeding the rivers they live on.


I’m one of those who tend to be err on the side of caution. I’d rather find out that we’d been too cautios and can ease up, rather than the other way around. And I believe that we have the ingenuity to come up with ways to solve the problem. The most fascinating graph is actually the one where he shows how we can lower CO2 levels using technology we already have. Trouble is, I think some of that technology isn’t in the hands of the folks who stand to lose the most money in the short run. Of course if it turns out that ol’ Al is even half right we all stand to lose in the short run and the long run.


So, I’d say, get the DVD, see it for yourself and make up your own mind. Nice thing about the net,it makes the research easier.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


There are several things that prompted the last two entries. One is watching our sister city of Eugene deal with trying to revive the core downtown area. Back in the early seventies when the downtown pedestrian mall concept was at its peak Eugene decided they had to have one too. They tore up the streets, got rid of the parking, put in some benches, a few food kiosks and a really ugly fountain and they were off to the races.

The planners made two big mistakes. They forgot or disregarded the fact that for at least six months out of the year it is chilly, foggy, rainy or snowy here. Especially during the peak shopping season around Christmas. The most successful downtown, unenclosed malls are either in the south or in cities that may get cold but don’t get rained on. Second, they green lighted the construction of Valley River Center. A nice enclosed shopping mall with lots of entrances, lots of stores, and plenty of parking. And let's not forget the warm and dry part.

This was followed by a giant sucking sound as the lights in down town Eugene blinked out. They tried, oh they tried to keep it going. Slowly sections of the mall were taken over by kids with too little to do and the down and out with nowhere to go.

Location, location, location was never truer than it is down here. We’re part college town, part lumber town and I doubt you can scrape up just over 200,000 people for the whole area. The next largest population hub is Corvallis/Albany. It’s just over thirty miles from here and we don’t have much of anything that they don’t have at home. The U of O has tried hosting a few rock concerts over the years. But, it’s funny how folks who don’t have a problem with all day tail gate parties with unlimited booze frown on drugged up rockers. Never mind that the cops would rather deal with stoned Dead Heads over boozed up football fans.

The Hult center is a nice little theater complex but it’s hardly a large scale destination site. Outside football, basketball and large scale track meets, there is very little to attract outsiders to the area for entertainment.

Over the years the down town limped along as local developers bought up sections of property. A business or two that had managed to keep going saw its quarters sold and the doors shut. The property bull dozed or shuttered. Most of the ones that managed survive owned their own property. It’s an eclectic mix, but not really the type of shops that high end developers want around.

Starting a couple of years ago the biggest property owners tried to muscle the others out and force a multi block, all at one go concept redevelopment of downtown Eugene. Surprise, surprise, the other kids didn’t want to play nice. The businesses that had stuck it out either didn’t want to sell or wanted prices comparable to the values the big boys were getting. The screams weren’t exactly deafening but they were there. The city council flirted briefly with using eminent domain but that idea fell faster than a cooling soufflĂ©. Seems folks in this neck of woods aren’t any fonder of the idea of forcing the sale of private property to sell it other private parties than folks in other parts of the country are these days.

The high end organic supermarket, Whole Foods, was going to be one of the anchors. In spite of the fact that we have a very nice locally owned, similar chain right here in town called Market of Choice. The big boys discovered that a lot of folks are tired of seeing their tax dollars used to lure outside businesses that compete with our own local shops and stores. Whole Foods has since backed out, partly over who was going to build the needed parking structure.

The tug of war just ticks me off. There is nothing stopping the folks that own large chunks of downtown from developing the property they own except their own ambition and greed with a little encouragement from the minority on the city council. The business owners who have kept going through the bad years see no reason to let their property or businesses go for less than other guys want, and I can’t say that I blame them. And frankly those of us who live in Springfield, Santa Clara, and the suburbs need a damn good reason to anywhere near down town Eugene in the first place. Down to Earth is on 5th street and the Mac store is on 8th street. Those are my two reasons to go anywhere near down town Eugene. There is a thriving Saturday Market during a good part of the year but it’s in the park blocks, not down town.

Short of nuking the local shopping malls this is not going to change. Get in some good high density housing and I believe the rest will take care of itself. Quit trying to copy what other cities have done and find a uniquely Oregon way of solving the problem. Make the downtown the place to live, work and shop and maybe the rest of us will come by to catch a piece of the action.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


The second case of the grumps isn’t confined to Oregonians, it’s the pervasive complaint that “I succeeded on my own, with no help from anybody, so it’s not fair for me to ask me, tax me whatever to support anyone else.” Oh puhleeze, give me a freakin’ break.


Let’s start with your parents, who probably should have their asses kicked for bringing such a whiny excuse for a human being into the world in the first place. Two people got together and brought you into the world, Creator/ress alone, knows why. And their parents and their parents, back to the first piece protoplasm that managed to copy itself. And “thought” it was such a good idea, it did it again, and again, until the universe was not only graced with daisies and blue whales, it was stuck with us.


The universe must have really smiled on your parents. They must have been able to afford everything from soup to nuts to insurance from the get go. They were probably filled with hopes and dreams and lucky for you, it worked out. I’ve lost count of the letters to the editor on the theme of people shouldn’t have kids if they can’t afford them.

As I said, you’re young, you’re full of hope, things work out for a lot of years and then things go wrong. They did for my family. Dad was disabled in his mid fifties and mom had to go to work. With a lot of luck, help from friends and family and a lot of hard work we managed to make it. But, a lot of things didn’t work out like they’d planned when they first started our family. And it’s not like you can return a kid once it’s born and things get tough.


Maybe there’s a good reason we haven’t received any visitor’s from among the stars. Any intelligent space faring nation would have planted a swarm of warningbeacons around our system all broadcasting some variation on “enter at your own risk. The natives on that little blue ball are armed and dangerous. If you do plan on visiting, please leave the relevant information on the monitor beacon so we can notify your next of kin, pod brother, clone,” however they handle things out there.


So show a little humility for cryin’ out loud. You didn’t come into the world on your own, you probably won’t go out on your own and in between just about anything you’ve managed to “create” is standing on so many shoulders that if it was a pyramid it would probably reach the sun.


And before I go any further, let’s talk about certain taxes and tax breaks. It’s a constant litany from the development lobbies. We’ve got this great idea for whatever, but we need a break on getting the property together. Tell you what, you buy it with a bond levy or something and sell it us at a good price.  We need a break on the property taxes. We need a break on building roads, sewer lines…..whatever. I think I see a pattern here. When you need help, it’s an investment. When somebody else needs help, it’s a hand out.


Oh my, things kind of got sidetracked. Anyway every greatnew idea that someone comes up with is built on generations of work done by countless generations. Agriculture has an eleven thousand year or so history. Pottery and baskets to store the harvest in, almost as old. Plows and other tools to work the land are almost as old. Weaving and spinning several thousand years at least. And I’d love to know what went through somebody’s mind that allowed them to make the connections for weaving, spinning, looms and spinning wheels.


Smelting and working metals? Probably three to four thousand years of history. And how did someone come up with the idea of mixing two metals together to create a metal stronger than either one. Knocking rocks together? Hundreds of thousands of years. But, the fine stone work, a few thousand years. Metals good enough to build the machines that powered the industrial revolution come from the seventeen hundreds. The earliest calculators that led to computers came in the mid to late eighteen hundreds.


So, no matter what great new widget you claim that you came up with “all by yourself” show a little respect. Isaac Newton said something along the lines of “If I’ve seen further it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.”  If someone manages to go further and better it’s because someone else has done ninety percent of the work.

Monday, October 8, 2007


This entry is a bit along the lines of Lisa’s last entry, but a little different. In my case it’s disgust over a couple of fairly widespread ideas that some folks hold that really bug the hell out of me. I may have done entries on this earlier, I know I’ve thought about it. If I’m repeating myself, sorry. And my description of the hullabaloo of the attempts to tweak Oregon's land use laws is not exhaustive by any means. It would probably take an entire book to do it justice.

Number one. Back in the mid seventies Oregon put in place some fairly strict land use regulations. The idea was to protect farm and forest land from uncontrolled development. We didn’t want to end up as LA north. It was basically a one size fits all set of rules, and the way they weren’t handled wasn’t always fair. But, hey as we’re told from the age of five on, life isn’t always fair.

Having said that, Oregon is not an easy state to build in. Except for Astoria, on the mouth of the Columbia and Bend, just east of the Cascades, all the large cities, and I mean ALL of them are in the Willamette Valley. And most of them are between Salem and Portland. One set of rules for valley area and another for the rest of the state probably would have been a good idea. Heck seventy five percent of the state doesn’t have to worry about sprawl because it’s too dry, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and too far from anywhere else for almost anyone to want to live there. It’s the other twenty five percent that’s causing the problems.

And I have to agree that some of the irritation could have been averted if a way had been found to handle “set asides.” After the owner buys a house or a business the local city or county decides that some kind of easement is needed. Forflood control, or greenway, or something, that in the opinion of the elected or appointed hired help, that is needed to protect a flood prone area, help wild life, etc. Basically the land owner is told, it’s still your land but you can only do certain things with it and we aren’t going to pay for the use of it. Some of these situations could have been handled with a little more tact and probably would have gone a long way to defusing some of the irritation.  

The problem, as it was sold to voters when the land use laws were amended three or four years ago, was that people who bought property (speculated really) before the laws were passed couldn’t do what they intended to do when they bought the land. So, measure 37 was put on the ballot to correct this. The wording the ballot measure was basically let me use the land the way the law said I could use it when I bought it or pay me for the “lost value” due to land use restrictions. Never mind that there are twice as many people living in Oregon now as there were in the fifties and sixties. Never mind that most of the new growth is in the Willamette Valley. (because it’s the only part of the state that’s anywhere near level or has any water to speak of) Never mind that other people have built houses, farms, and vineyards since the land use laws were passed, had certain expectations based on the law, and would see their land values impacted, too. Repeat after me, “once you open a can of worms…….” Many of them are also saying “it’s not fair” too.

And I have to admit that this has impacted people in my own family. My great grandfather moved his family to Oregon in the late 1800’s. He bought property in the Newburg area. When he died the farm was subdivided between three sons. My granddad lost his farm in the twenties. The last of three pieces was sold recently after cousin Ernie passed away several years ago. The remaining section was too small to subdivide under the rules and too large for any single remaining member of the family to buy the others out. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I suspect that if any one of them had wanted to farm the place something could have been worked out with the others. Heck, Ernie hadn’t farmed the place for years. He’d leased the land to somebody else to work.

Anyway, we were shown ads with tearful oldsters who only wanted to build an extra house or two so their kids could live near them. Or they’d planned to sell the property as a retirement nest egg.  Three guesses who paid for the ads. The timber companies, the real estate companies, and developers looking for new land to build on. After all large scale developers are in business to build things and the real estate people are in business to sell them. And the land use restrictions have been making it harder to make a buck. But, hey life isn’t always fair is it?

One of the first things that caused a lot of screaming from supporters of the measure was lack of portability. After all it was sold to the rest of us as “I want to do …….” Not I want to sell the land to somebody else to do, whatever. You’d have thought a bunch of long tailed cats had been turned loose in a crowded rocking chair factory from the caterwauling when that little detail came up.

Anyway after a couple of years of court challenges, 37 was upheld and the claims started pouring in. Incidentally, there were no provisions in the ballot measure for any kind of verification of loss of property value claimed or any funds set aside to pay these claims. And at least one claimant has admitted that they don’t really know if their land is worth what they’re asking but “hey I might as well try to get as much as I can.” And if you can get enough people bidding on a tract in certain parts of the state, the sky is pretty much the limit.

One out of state timber company that had bought out a small local company tried to put in a claim to develop nearly thirty thousand acres in the coast range. That was one of the claims that broke the camel’s back. It has beenwithdrawn, by the way. I know what the press release said, but I suspect that someone from the company came out and actually looked at the property involved. The company is headquartered back east and most of those thirty thousand acres probably looks pretty vertical to somebody not familiar with the state. Most of the coast range valleys are short, narrow, and ten or twenty miles of narrow, curve filled roads from anything that looks like a store, or much of anything else, now that I think about it. Lots of miles of roads with a drop off on one side, a mountain on the other and no, I repeat no, shoulders.

Anyway, last session the state legislature finally rediscovered it’s balls, sort of, and put a measure on the November ballot to fix some of the flaws. It green lights the small scale claims that were used to sell measure 37 in the first place. It also sets up a case by case framework for larger claims. For those the  current owner will have to prove the land is worth what they’re asking for in lieu of the right to develop, take the availability of water and the impact on roads and schools into consideration, and if there is any justice force the developer to shoulder the cost of building the infrastructure needed for the new development.

Of course we’re being hit with the “it’s mine and I should be able to do what I want with it.” God, so many Oregonians sound like a bunch of spoiled brats. Hell, the land wouldn’t even be available if we hadn’t stolen it from the Native Americans in the first place.

After all, I’ve felt for a long time that “it’s not fair” that mom and I should have to subsidize the building of roads and sewer lines so a company whose business is to build mall space or houses and hope they can sell them and make a profit on it don't have to foot the bill themselves. Or, that unlike Washington, developers aren’t charged a surcharge on each lot to help build new schools for the new families coming in, and so on, and so on, until we reach infinity. But then, (all together now) “life isn’t always fair, is it?”

Geez, this got long and it's just number one, so I'll have to say……to be continued. (don't worry there's only two or three things that have really been bugging me every time I run across them) ;-) I mean besides the war, over population, the war, the Current Occupant, the war...............

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Oregon PBS did a little companion documentary to go along with Ken Burn’s documentary on WWII. I watched about half of it and had very mixed feelings. It was a series of interviews with Oregonians who were living in Oregon during the war and either worked stateside or were in the service. That part is interesting. But, the series had an unfinished feeling to it. The stories tended to skip around from the beginning of the war to close to the end. From home front to battle field without following any kind of time line or attempt to put the story in context.


The production jumped from stories about Japanese Americans who found themselves interned for the duration at the beginning of the war to a soldier who found himself fighting in Luxemburg. There was no attempt to say when he was in Luxemburg or where the little duchy is. It’s sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany by the way. And I’d guess the fighting took place sometime between D Day and VE Day. I guess my inner obsessive compulsive would appreciate a little more clarity please. I haven’t watched much of the Ken Burns series for pretty much the same reason.


Although I did get a kick out of a story in the Oregon documentary about a nutrition expert who donned boots and stagged pants to see whether or not loggers could do their jobs eating peanut butter sandwiches instead of meat. He decided they couldn’t so the loggers were entitled to bigger meat rations. From stories I’ve heard about the depression years in Oregon I suspect that a lot of logs got cut on bean power. Or out of season venison and elk.  Dad had a few stories about that too. Most of the old game wardens would look the other way if the hunter was feeding a family and kept it on the QT.


And there was the storyhe told about the feed store owning member of the local draft board up in the Newburg-Swiss Home area who boasted that he’d make sure all the Catholics would be drafted. Three guesses as to the leanings of most of his customers. He wasn’t in business at the end of the war.


Frankly the WWII section of Peter Jenning’s series on the 20th Century, the companion documentary to Band of Brothers, or the old Thames TV/PBS series The World at War are far better, in my not so humble opinion.