On Friday, Sept. 22, I first learned of the controversy regarding Buju Banton's gay bashing lyrics due to emails from members of the community. I was devastated. Not because threats of boycott, Buju's violent lyrics or because I knew it would be next to impossible to convince the Portland promoter, Mike Thrasher Presents, to cancel the show. I was devastated because when I Googled "Buju Banton canceled" and "gay rights Jamaica," I learned about a major human rights problem in Jamaica.
Buju Banton didn't just write gay-bashing lyrics 20 some years ago. He was accused of committing a hate crime in Kingston, Jamaica, and getting off via bribery of government officials. I discovered that Brian Williamson, who founded Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) and was Jamaica's most vocal advocate of LGBT rights, was stabbed to death in 2004 (the same year that Buju and his friends allegedly beat up six men accused of being gay).
Gay sex is illegal in Jamaica, and more than 30 gay men have been murdered since 1997. Because of these atrocities, J-FLAG, amongst other international human rights groups, has called to action the boycott of six reggae artists, including Buju. They are risking their lives asking for our help. I knew our show would incite protest and I was grateful that the least we could do would be to provide a safe, open forum to enlighten and educate our community. Portland's show a few days earlier had 600 patrons and no protesters. Last year's Buju show at the McDonald Theatre had no protesters.
Unfortunately as our board of directors and staff worked to prepare to stand in solidarity with the people of Jamaica and our local community, Sally Sheklow and the EQuality Network worked to prepare their protest of the WOW Hall for the sole reason we hosted an artist with violent lyrics towards gays. I was shocked. Their signs read, "Shame on WOW Hall" and "WOW Hall is not our friend." They sang, "We shall overcome" and chanted, "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go." I get it now. Sally didn't get her way, so she turned her back on us. They were there to make a statement to the press; they left a half an hour before the 220 patrons, the band and Buju even showed up. They did not enlighten the community. They did not educate anybody. They did nothing for the people's efforts in Jamaica.
Kayte McDonald, CCPA/WOW Hall house manager, volunteer coordinator
AN ADMIRABLE MAN
Though you printed an outstanding story (7/13) on the late great Eugenean Charles Gray, few Eugeneans have been fortunate enough to appreciate his remarkably humble, giving nature. Giving up a promising career as a university professor to live the life of Eugene's homeless and hungry, as well as life with the desperately poor and brutalized citizens of Central America, Charles caused many of us to admire and aspire to his principles.
I vividly remember when, while walking up a dark Eugene alley around midnight, Charles heard a noise in a Dumpster. When he opened the lid, a dirty-faced, homeless 12-year-old boy who had been sleeping in the Dumpster for a week stuck his head up through the trash. When the boy's mother failed to come home for a week in Oakridge, their landlord evicted them.
After working for years with the desperately poor, sick and brutalized in Central America, Charles returned home where, after years of working with Eugene area homeless and pleading with the City Council, the council agreed to stop fining and jailing the homeless for being homeless. Charles won permission for the homeless to sleep in their vehicles on civic and church parking lots.
Three months ago, Charles was told he had cancer and the cancer had eaten a hole in his pelvis. Declining an offer to take him to Salt Lake City's Huntsman Memorial Medical Center, now one of the world's leading cancer treatment centers, Charles, looking very tired, informed his wife and friends gathered around his bed, "I'll start a dry diet, and I'll be gone in 10 to 12 days."
On the last day I would see him alive, tears filled his eyes when we kissed each other on the cheek. Seeing my questioning look and continuing to think of others, Charles whispered sorrowfully, "El Mazote," remembering the small Salvadoran mountainside village where American-supported Contras murdered the entire population of more than 600 men, women and children.
Jerry Copeland, Florence
You've hit a new low with Dan Savage's column (10/5), inappropriately titled "Words of Pure Wisdom." While the f-word is certainly a part of my vocabulary and probably many EW readers, the use of the f-word 14 times in his response to a question was uncreative and in poor taste.
Kimberly Howard, Eugene
As Congress legalizes the torture and indefinite detainment of suspected terrorists, my heart is breaking. I'm a child of the '60s — the brave generation that believed we would not stand for the kinds of injustices we knew had taken place throughout our history. But here we are, just like the people who couldn't change things while our government allowed slavery, enforced Jim Crow laws or interned Japanese Americans during WWII. I have always thought that if such a flagrant abuse of power happened on our watch, we would fight hard enough to make a difference. Today, we protest, write letters, make phone calls, and yet we have not moved our elected officials to protect the ideals of our Constitution.
We are still a nation run by greedy politicians who trade money for favors, steal from the poor and then preach moral values as if they are the arbiters of right or wrong.
I am writing this letter to remind myself not to give up. The upcoming election is one of the most important in our lives, not just because we have the chance to take back the state Legislature and Congress, but because it's our turn to push through discouragement or apathy and do the right thing.
Do we have the stomach to continue against all odds, like the Abolitionists, the Freedom Riders, the United Farm Workers? Can we stay in the fight even though we don't see the results we demand? Please stay in the fight. Vote!
Carol Horne, Eugene
YOUR ZEN MOMENT
A defining moment in the race between Democrat Vicki Walker and Republican Jim Torrey for Senate District 7 came during the City Club debate of Sept. 29, when both candidates were asked to describe how they differed from their respective political parties.
The Democrat answered that she believed she did not differ from the Democratic party — that she had been a proud Democrat since she reached voting age because she believed in what Democrats stand for — health care, education, and a fair shake for all citizens, not just the privileged few.
The Republican answered that he differed from the Republican party in that he intended to be independent and to use common sense to find solutions to our state's problems.
Kinda says it all, doesn't it?
Please join me in supporting Democrats like Walker in November. Common sense should not signify a break from your party leadership.
Andrew Ross, Eugene
DENNIS THE TOOL
EW (Slant, 9/28) says the city of Eugene is controlled by the assistant city manager and his department heads. That sounds about right. I figured Dennis from Montana is just their tool, suckered by his devotion to the strong city manager philosophy (the rules say I get to be king, so that's what I'm going to pretend to be, even though I know I'm a puppet of the Old City Hall Cabal). Such a nice man. Too bad.
Now my friend says the reason for the $5 million-plus AstroTurf conspiracy has to be that someone in City Hall has an uncle who is the only dealer in Lane County. What about that? I thought it was power, not money. It's power like Jim Torrey is ex-master of Kidsports, and this was all mandated by Kidsports. Now, it looks to me (I just read the R-G between the lines) like maybe the city in fact is strong-arming the school district into these artificial turf fields so all these non-city amateur sports leagues can use the school fields. In other words, it's driven by the rich people who sponsor/support these private amateur leagues like Pop Warner Football, Kidsports, American Youth Soccer Organization and other groups.
We are being required to hand over another $5-plus million dollars to private organizations. And if you read the article, the school district already spent about $2 million on two fields at middle schools. To benefit private entities. This is the district that doesn't have enough money for art, music, foreign languages, councilors or librarians. Not enough money to pay tutors or substitute teachers a living wage. Stuffs 40 students into a middle school classroom.
I'll vote no on all money measures, now and for the foreseeable future. I derive no benefit from any of this, and neither do most of my neighbors, and we are being sucked dry. Enough is enough.
Ann Tattersall, Eugene
JILLIONS & ZILLIONS
Thank you for printing the recent letters of Mssrs. G. Dennis Shine, Robert McGlauflin and Mark Robinowitz about the size of U.S. fiscal indebtedness. In fairness to all three gentlemen, I think their helpful comments address three discrete, albeit related,topics: U.S. federal budget deficits, U.S. federal debt and associated financial mismanagement/crimes.
The late Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) once remarked, "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money." (He was referring to U.S. taxpayer dollars, of course.) For most of us, especially arithmetically challenged individuals such as myself, billions and trillions, not to mention millions, are really big numbers. So how big is BIG?
I pose a story problem for the aforementioned three gentlemen and your readers to illustrate this question of relative magnitude. Suppose the current President Bush were to limit himself to telling one lie per minute, 24 hours per day, seven days per week. How long would he take to tell a million lies? A billion lies? A trillion?
John Heintz, Eugene
PAYING THEIR FAIR SHARE?
Alan Pittman's article (9/14) raises some interesting questions about winners and losers under Lane County's income tax proposal.
Renters will clearly lose and pay the tax. Landlords will win and receive a reduction in property taxes, even if they pay no income tax.
Judging by their muted opposition, the business community expects to win. It's easy to understand how. Existing property taxes are hard to avoid because land can't be hidden or moved out of the county. Income, on the other hand, is easy to shift. All that is needed is an accountant and a business operation someplace with no income tax.
Tax avoidance schemes won't even need to be legitimate because Lane County has neither the resources nor the expertise to identify, audit and prosecute business cheaters, particularly the lucrative ones who could tie the county up in court for years.
However, Portland's experience suggests that cheaters needn't even bother with avoidance schemes. They can simply not pay. In a particularly outrageous case, Portland General Electric (PGE) collected $90 million from ratepayers per year between 1997 and 2005 to cover income taxes that they owed. Instead of paying, PGE just pocketed the money, roughly $900 million.
Even though businesses benefit from public safety as much as the rest of us, I wouldn't be under any illusions that this proposal will result in their paying their fair share of the cost.
John Hofer, Eugene
IT'S A BFD
First, I'd like to thank Suzi Steffen for writing a lovely piece about something I've worked hard to set up ("Late Night Laughter," 9/28). I hope the Late Night Comedy program is fun had by all and successful to boot.
However, I must complain that I was misquoted. Ms. Steffen writes me as saying, "We're serious about comedy; we don't screw around." I actually said, "We're serious about comedy; we don't fuck around." As any comedian will tell you, there's a big difference between screwing and fucking.
Greg Heaton, Late Night at the Lord Leebrick coordinator
EDITOR'S NOTE: No intentional censorship on our part. Suzi Steffen's notes say "screw."
LEIMAN IS IDEAL
The upcoming election for Lane County Circuit Court judge might escape your attention. That would be a mistake as one candidate clearly stands out above the other. Alan Leiman's experience is complete: pro tem Eugene Municipal Court judge; Eugene city prosecutor; public defender; civil and business trial lawyer. Leiman's unique legal experience makes him an ideal candidate for the Circuit Court bench.
Our judges must possess a variety of skills in their job serving Lane County. They must handle over 23 different dockets and assignments, ranging from small claims to family law to criminal cases. Leiman's range and versatility will allow him to step into any one of these assignments.
Leiman is a community minded person who takes great care to abide by his oath to follow the law and see that justice is served. He has earned the endorsements of elected officials, attorneys and members of the public. These individuals know what I know — Circuit Court judges make decisions that impact many lives, and in this election Alan Leiman is clearly the candidate in whom we should place our trust do this important job.
Howard Epstein, Eugene
I appreciated Dennis Shines' letter to the editor (9/24) and share his respect for both Jim Torrey and Vicki Walker. That said, I think it's unfair and inaccurate to characterize Jim Torrey as having no record of advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities. As mayor of Eugene, Jim was an aggressive champion of full access to the new federal courthouse, going so far as to say that if it wasn't going to be accessible to people with disabilities, he didn't want it in Eugene. He's been a generous and involved supporter of local disability advocacy organizations including Direction Service and Mobility International. I know that he cares deeply about elders and people with disabilities and believe that he should be recognized for his commitment to their well-being.
Marshall Peter, Eugene
I have worked in law offices for over four years, and I've learned that a judge affects the outcome of a case, not just with his or her final decision, but by the way the judge treats the people in court. The average citizen may not be exposed to the inner workings of complex civil litigation or understand the range of skills required to comprehend compassionately the role of both a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. Judge Alan Leiman of the Eugene Municipal Court has the broadest background of the two candidates running for the Lane County Circuit Court bench. He is a former prosecutor, former defense lawyer and former civil lawyer.
Additionally, Leiman has experience as an actual judge. He daily faces the need for judges to overcome the challenges presented by our pressed economy and lack of social services, and he has demonstrated exemplary temperament and an unswerving focus on the rule of law throughout his career. I am voting for Alan Leiman because he is best for our community.
Zefora Alderman, Springfield
ANOTHER FAST ONE
While lower rank personnel are being prosecuted and sent to prison for torture and homicide for acts committed in Iraq, the president and his Republican yes-men have again pulled a fast one on the American public.
The four Republican "dissenters" who supposedly challenged the president about his torture policy relented and allowed the president to run roughshod over habeas corpus and the Geneva Conventions. The "compromise" allows detention without due process, permits the use of evidence derived through torture to be used in legal proceedings, allows the president to decide whether something is considered as torture, gives the administration broad authority to detain people indefinitely without charge, trial or judicial review and may grant immunity to those who have committed torture back to 1997.
This would allow all of the upper level "commanders" who promoted torture in the first place to walk off scot free while those who followed their commands are punished and sent to prison away from the families that they left to fight this awful conflict with the ever-changing mission (WMDs, regime change, spreading democracy, liberation?).
Multiple deaths occur every single day now in Iraq, and many military personnel are now having their deployment prolonged due to a shortage of troops. This pain and suffering is all being imposed by men who have never been in combat.
Voters who are willing to do their part to make sweeping changes absolutely MUST vote in massive numbers or Democrats in November. Your vote for change will really support the troops!
Rita Babauta Kiley, Junction City
HELP FOR DESPAIR
Is love the illusion, or is it hate?
When a man sums up his existence, looks at his probable future, weighs his hopes and memories and then goes into a school and kills children, he is saying that for him, love is the illusion. At some level, under the drugs and alcohol, he remembers his family's/community's response to his shy smiles and silent despair and reacts with horrible utter ferocity, wilding.
When a man sums up his existence, looks at his probable future, weighs his hopes and memories and goes in humility to ask for help for his despair, hopelessness and unbearable emotional pain, he is saying that hate is the illusion. That those who raised him, including those in his school and community, deserve his faith and mercy.
We have built a city, a culture, not on rock and roll, but on both love and hate. Love is a personal thing, an involvement that says one belongs and one matters. Hate is built into our culture, in that it says some children don't belong and don't matter. I think I blame the "college" culture more than any one influence. They have walked away from the suffering, despairing lost people in their community, and have instead profited.
I would prefer a "grandmothers loving all kids" culture rather than one dominated by the preening educated elite.
Hugh Massengill, Eugene
Because of our miserable failure President Bush, the only thing that is blossoming in Afghanistan is a record crop of poppies. This "Taliban white" pure heroin powder is flooding the world market. Because of Bush's "Fire! Aim! Blow back!" policies, America's teens will be able to spend their allowance on the new Taliban drug.
Because of the increased purity, some children are sniffing or smoking this heroin, causing a spike in emergency-room visits and drug related injuries and deaths for middle-school students across our nation. Because of Bush's inability to finish a job, the Taliban has grown from squad-sized units three years ago to heroin-financed 400-plus size battalions today. We are not safe or safer because we now have to fight the terrorist's black market poison in our schools. It is time for all good Americans to demand that President Bush be impeached for dereliction of duty to honor his vow to protect our nation. Because!
Michael T. Hinojosa, Drain
GET THE MONEY OUT
The deadline for registering to vote in the November election is Tuesday, Oct. 17. Oregonians have an incredible opportunity to help clean up corruption in politics by voting for Measures 46 and 47.
Measure 46 amends the Oregon Constitution to allow campaign finance laws. Right now there are absolutely no limits on campaign spending. Oregon is one of five states with no limits. Measure 47 implements limits. It bans corporations and unions from giving money to politicians and limits individual donations. Unions won't be hurt by this measure because small donor committees can be formed.
These measures will help get legislators elected who have the needs of we the people on their agenda, not big money corporations or individuals who only want more, more, more at the expense of everyone and everything else. Cleaner environment, fair taxes, funding for schools, universal healthcare, protecting our virgin forests — you name it. Vote YES and help get bribery out of politics.
Let's get Oregon back on the forefront of blazing trails for protecting our beautiful state and its citizens.
Pamela Driscoll, Dexter
THE WAR ON HARRY
In the middle of the day, on Nov. 9, with people watching, my ex-friend Harry killed my accountant just because I dug up his yard with a backhoe looking for gold. I thought that was excessive behavior, so I burned down his house with his children inside. Harry escaped, and I never saw him again.
Nobody has arrested Harry for killing my accountant, and nobody has arrested me for burning down his house and killing his children. You see, Harry and I are royalty. We don't get arrested. If we want to kill somebody, we just do it. At worst, we don't get invited to someone's bleeding-heart yacht party.
Since I couldn't find Harry and his yard had no gold, I took my backhoe to his neighbor's yard and dug a big hole, in which some passers-by fell in and died. I heard from a reliable source that this guy was a friend of Harry's and he had a great big gun, so I burned down his house to prevent him from ever hurting me if he should ever have a mind to. Some raggedy-ass kids died because they were standing too close to the house. Stupid kids.
Then a bunch of Harry's neighbors got all hopped up and started shooting my neighbor's children, whom I left there to guard my big hole (my kids are in Cancun). Now I shoot everyone who wears the same kind of hat as Harry, just to be careful. I call it "The War on Harry."
If I loudly fart in an elevator, hit my thumb with a hammer or run over a cat, I just shout, "11/9!" Then everyone says, "Oh yeah, that's OK. It's the War on Harry."
Don Beckett, Eugene
Now the spinach scare. Could it be, you know, terrorism? My fellow fearful trekkers through this age of scenario, this universe of evil-doers and the scary stuff they might do, I've another one for you: Culinary Terrorism. Is there not a better target to be struck, to deal a devastating blow to our freedom-loving homeland, than our stomachs? That's right folks, our never-filled, fast food-craving guts.
I've been a food service worker for over 20 years, and the things I've witnessed! We're talking high personnel turn-over, lack of security screening and immigration status ("So, your name is Mustaf Petrpwski?"). Get the picture? Easy infiltration! We must be afraid of dirty burgers as well as dirty bombs; suicide bakers and terrorist tofu-makers. (Thought you were safe, my vegan buddies?)
"We will bring the Infidels to their knees," laughs Osama Bin Laden from behind the mask of the Burger King as he serves up WMDs: Whoppers of Mass Dysentery. Is the Subway sandwich dude Just Jared or Al-Jarod? Must we play Russian roulette with the syrups at IHOP?
I will take one digestional step further, my friend, from our guts to our butts — that's right, tainted toilet paper (think anthrax). Will we be afraid not only to eat, but to shit as well? Aren't we all full of enough shit already?
In all seriousness, I have a soldier son in this crazy men's war, and, in a nutshell, I really don't want him to kill or be killed for such insane thinking.
Eric Burmeister, Cheshire
The County Public Safety Measure, the city Transportation System Maintenance Fee (TSMF) and a new City Hall all conspire to suck more of my hard earned money out of my pocket. And I'm tapped out!
Mayor Kitty Piercy's clarification letter (9/21) infuriated me. After giving millions in tax breaks to big corporations, she wants me to vote for the County Public Safety Measure, even though it's to fund a system she admits is broken. She says I should support it because it earmarks a few funding "crumbs" for intervention and prevention. It's like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound. It looks good, yet it has no effect on helping the patient heal.
The system is broken, unresponsive and entrenched in a outdated model that serves no one. These "crumbs" do nothing to fix the system. Fix the system, stop throwing money at it! And Lane County Commissioners: Do you think I'm stupid? Did you think that by giving the public safety measure a Karl Rove-esque title ("Lane County Charter Amendment to Limit Income Tax") that I wouldn't know that you are trying yet again to pass a measure that has been repeatedly rejected by voters? You only have succeeded in proving to me that you are unresponsive and out of step with what your constituents think is important.
As for the TSMF, I was astounded that the Eugene Budget Committee would think it is fair that a house-bound retiree on a very limited income who doesn't drive or leave their house should have to pay the same fee as someone who owns a $30,000 car and makes over $60,000 a year. It is NOT equitable.
I can't afford any more city or county "improvements."
Ree McSween, Eugene
I just wanted you people (in Eugene) to know that today I broke down and shopped Whole Foods in a rich suburb of Boston. Pretty fancy. Pretty big. Where are the organic oranges though? None. They had plenty of conventional fruits, but barely an organic apple. Where is the bulk green tea, I asked. The guy laughed: "There's no money in bulk tea." Where are the organic alfalfa seeds? More laughter. "Buy them on line; that's your best bet." Thanks for the advice, but I'm here to buy, not get advice.
If you want pastries, though, WF is the place to go. They had miles of exotic looking croissants and doughnuts. Whoopee. Thanks for nothing. They had miles of chocolates, cookies and crackers, bulk candies and sodas. Are you kidding me — it's a diabetic's worst nightmare. They also have all of the fancy, expensive toiletries and chem-vitamins for those with lots of extra cash to burn on nothing of value.
I cannot believe there are more than five dummies in Eugene that believe that WF has anything to do with health. The name Whole Foods reminds me of North American Free Trade Agreement: Driving good, local people out of work for corporate jets and retirement islands for fat-assed Texans. Anybody supporting WF should be taken to the wood shed to meet The Persuader.
Paul LeBlanc, Beverly, Mass.
In the 9/28 issue, you ran a piece about the pre-concert protest and efforts to get last week's Buju Banton show canceled, in which protesters were quoted as saying they "fully support free speech."
Here's how it works: Freedom of speech is especially for speech that is not popular. No matter how personally offensive it may be to me, it is my duty to protect the speech of even my worst enemy. That is the only way to make sure that all speech is protected. Don't like what Buju Banton is singing about? Don't go to the show, speak against him, tell people why you think he's bad. Protest outside his show and tell people that you think he's offensive. But you have no right to try and stop the show from happening.
At the end of the article, it says the mayor "supported this cancellation. This is the city fathers and mothers who want to have a city that protects its people from this kind of thing." I find this horrifying. A city that protects its people from expression? Where are they going to draw the line?
I suppose we'll have the mayor deciding what movies and plays can run in our theaters. And the library? Forget about it, we'll just have to shut the whole thing down because it's full of objectionable material.
Eugene's motto is "World's Greatest City for the Arts & Outdoors." Based on this turn of events, I'm doubting it.
Katie Aaberg, Eugene
EDITOR'S NOTE: The story quoted protester Ann Brown saying "Mayor Kitty Piercy supported this cancellation," but here is what Piercy wrote to the WOW Hall Board: "This is not an issue of political correctness but an issue of human rights consciousness. We have to do what we can to say today and every day that we do not want hate speech in our town."
It's only been four months since I moved from Eugene to Portland and I am outraged to hear about a homophobic performer being allowed inside the WOW Hall where I spent most of my youth going to an extreme number of concerts. This certain group of performers are tearing up the community, and I don't understand why the WOW Hall insisted on letting this group visit my childhood city.
Eugene is such a unique and special city to me, and with the community members getting torn up all because of some homophobic jerks, it's disturbing. Is this really the community where I was born and raised? Has the community in Eugene changed this much? I want to know.
Brian M. Peterson, Portland