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Eugene Weekly : Letters : 9.9.10




DENYING THE NAKBA

The Al-Nakba Awareness Project spent a gratifying two days at the Eugene Celebration in the Community Causeway section. We distributed lots of literature and had a fun contest to see who could draw the best one state flag for the Holy Land.

Unfortunately, our local “Israeli Defense Network” decided to organize against us both days, distributing a sheet I was told had been written by a rabbi at Temple Beth Israel for the Jewish Community Relations Council. It included a lie about us which they have been previously informed is untrue, falsely claiming that we “advocate the elimination of the Israel (sic) as the homeland of the Jewish people.”

Anyone taking the time to read our mission statement knows that we advocate Israel/Palestine as a homeland for both peoples who should live together in absolute equality.

The back of their handout sheet is revealing. It recommends a narrow range of resource organizations from AIPAC to J Street but none representing Jews who reject Zionism — a substantial proportion among the younger population — and none representing a one-democratic-state solution such as the Electronic Intifada. I had previously suggested to one of the rabbis that they include the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, but their list implies that only Zionist Jews would feel welcome at this synagogue. There are both religious and secular Jewish anti-Zionist organizations, but none are listed.

Israel has established a formal strategy to discredit and sabotage Palestinian solidarity activists. Three Israel lobby groups, Hillel, StandWithUs and J Street, organized conferences over the summer on how better to promote Israel, particularly on campus, so I expect the campaign against us to continue.

We received strong support from both exhibitors and passersby. Many people thanked us for being there. There was an ugly incident when an angry, ranting Zionist became so threatening, loud and abusive that passersby complained to him and someone called security which asked him and his friends to leave. Security apologized to us.

These events illustrate an ongoing problem of Nakba denial in our community and “hate speech” defined as individuals/groups advocating that a minority or oppressed people give up their human rights, in this case the right of return for the Palestinian refugees.  Denying the Nakba — the original and continuing 62-plus year Palestinian dispossession — is every bit as offensive as Holocaust denial. Nakba denial also includes the refusal to acknowledge that Israel is the homeland of the Palestinian people.

Mariah Leung, co-director, Al-Nakba Awareness Project, Eugene



TERRIBLE PROJECT

Thank you for covering the Alberta tar sands story (“Rage Against the Machines,” 9/2). With so little media attention paid to the issue, and with a permitting process so covert, it’s no wonder most people in the Northwest have been unaware of the connection between our largest watershed — the Columbia & Snake River basin — and this terrible project. 

The Kearl Module Transport Project, brought to you by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and other friends of the Earth, will turn the Columbia and Snake River corridor into the main transportation route for what is currently the largest intentional environmental disaster in the world. The tar sands extraction project is already expanding into Canada’s boreal forest, the world’s largest terrestrial carbon storehouse and home to the largest forest wetland ecosystems left on the planet.

To make matters worse, many members of the Northwest congressional delegation are either not paying attention, already rolled over to Big Oil or are actively working with these companies to ensure a dirty energy future. As the article points out, Congressman DeFazio is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. I hope he stays on this issue and pressures Transportation Secretary LaHood and Idaho’s congressional delegation to do the right thing and stop this horrible plan from proceeding. 

Jennifer Siler, Eugene



APOLOGY NEEDED

Shame on you for your front page smear in the Aug. 19 issue: “Do Not Come Downtown.” Downtown businesses and the city of Eugene have worked hard to create a viable downtown. Many improvements have been made and there will be more to come. According to library patrons and 10th Avenue businesses, the “lines” do help. I am in downtown Eugene frequently, and now feel more comfortable walking down 10th.

How many ads inside this issue are from downtown businesses? Without counting, I would guess half of them. Seems like you are “biting one of the hands that feeds you.”

Several people have responded to the inside story, so I won’t waste time doing that. However, you do owe downtown Eugene an apology and a full front page retraction.

Peggy Bierma, Florence



PRIORITIZE RAIL

With one million new residents moving to our Willamette Valley over the next few decades, increased traffic, gas prices and air pollution will squeeze the tight budgets of our businesses and fellow residents. The region already faces record unemployment and a $2.7 billion dollar budget deficient, and cuts are felt in our schools and services.

 As hard economic choices are made, we must focus on long-term solutions that get the regional and state budget back on track, while improving the economy. By prioritizing Oregon’s transit system and investing in more extensive, reliable, faster and efficient rail, the Willamette Valley can prepare for the consumers, businesses and farmers who rely on cars and trucks to commute and move goods and services.

But we need to prioritize transit, especially rail, now. The Pacific Northwest received $590 million for fast rail projects, but Oregon only received $8 million of this. Why? Because we weren’t ready: We did not have a statewide transit plan, we did not complete the required studies and we did not have committed funds. As Oregonians, we cannot let this happen again.

It is prideful that outsiders consider the Willamette Valley the “transportation Mecca,” and I want my children to experience the same great system. However, to remain sustainable for the future, Oregon needs to continue to move transit forward. Let’s start by prioritizing fast and reliable rail.

 Jessica Stein, Eugene



DPSZ NO BIG DEAL

Everyone up in arms over the Downtown Public Safety Zone needs to take a step back and look at what they’re really protesting: not damaging property, not creating a shamefully unsanitary condition (it’s been a long time since I’ve taken a government class, but I don’t seem to recall which portion of the Constitution preserves the right to shit in an alleyway), not behaving violently or uncivilly. How are these things out of line to request from members of a community in exchange for access to the public services that being part of a community grants?

The furor (real or manufactured) over the DPSZ is a picture-perfect example of the type of reactionary ignorance that blossoms from the rights of the individual being elevated to the detriment of the whole, which may be the most conservative thing I’ve ever said. Too bad it’s true. 

Comparing a city requesting its residents to follow only the most basic tenets of living in a society to Apartheid, the Jim Crow South and the Holocaust is ridiculous and insulting to anyone actually affected by those real injustices. Rick Levin’s whole article took the tone of a ninth grader finishing The Diary of Anne Frank and writing an editorial for the school paper protesting the inhumanity of Meatloaf Tuesday. If the Weekly wishes to be respected as a source for valid journalism, I might suggest they decide that such phrases as “jittery yuppies” and “Orwellian fashion” are better left on the floor of the editor’s office.

Altman E. Studeny, Eugene



CATCH-2010

A contractor in Oregon may not work without a license, which requires insurance, bonding and a license fee. Since the big financial crisis my masonry jobs became very few and far between until there were none at all.

Eventually I could no longer afford the above requirements, so my license was suspended until I can afford to ante up again.

The catch is obvious to everyone but the Construction Contractor’s Board and the Legislature which mandates it. I can’t afford to reinstate my license until I get work, but I can’t work unlicensed.

This absurdity would be humorous if it were not a matter of livelihood, with a $5,000 fine for working unlicensed. So this morning I explained this to my first prospective client in months — and the opportunity to work vanished.

Seems that contracts between individuals in a “free country” would not require insurance and bonding, especially since I have had no complaints against my work in the 30 years I’ve been in business. But the insurance industry has a hold on the Legislature and this freedom to contract person to person does not exist.

So with all this talk in the Obama administration about stimulating small businesses to grow and re-start the economy, government, in my case, is the problem, not the solution.

Michael Mooney, Pleasant Hill



SQUARE FOR BOXES

I happened to be in the Downtown Public Safety Zone (DPSZ) for a little shopping. The first thing I noticed was that someone had recently defecated on the sidewalk very close to where I nearly stepped. I go in the store where I am hoping to find something for my grandchildren. Not having any luck, I leave the store and begin walking down the sidewalk. I’ve not gone far when I’m stopped by two young men. One is pushing the other in a wheelchair. “Do you have a $1.50 so we can get on the bus?” they say. “What brings you to this situation that you need money for the bus?” I ask. They reply that they just want to go over to the other guy’s house to hang out for a while. I thought panhandling for money to be for the really down and out. These guys just wanted to play and on my dollar. “No, I don’t think so,” I reply and go on my way. I turn the corner, and in front of me is a man playing the guitar. He is somewhat disheveled with a dirty hat sitting in front to collect coins. I keep on walking. 

Today I didn’t see anyone smoking pot or passing it around as I frequently do. The new “boxes” allow me to walk to the bus or library freely without feeling like I’m busting up groups of kids doing things I don’t want to see and saying things I don’t want to hear. I like them because they allow people who want to walk on the sidewalk to do that and they allow people who want to sit on the sidewalk to do that. Everybody’s happy!

My goal is to have a downtown that works for everyone with no group left out. If it requires “boxes,” no smoking zones and visible policemen, I’m for it. We may have to change our own behavior to respect ourselves and others to make it work, but it’s worth it. 

Carol Adolph, Eugene



WHATEVER IT TAKES

I consider myself a compassionate liberal. However, I do not see any reason why the city of Eugene needs to provide more public restrooms for people who just hang out there for long periods of time for no good reason. If I had a business downtown and caught someone “relieving themselves” outside my business, I would take extreme measures to make sure they wouldn’t come back again. If someone is down on their luck and trying to sell their crafts, I can understand, but people selling drugs, getting high, harassing customers is different.

Giving tickets, expulsion, road crew or whatever it takes to get them out is a step in the right direction. I never even go downtown anymore the last few years, because the places I used to go for live music let customers smoke despite the law, and I don’t like being afraid to walk back to my car, let alone the fear that it’s been broken into. It’s sad, but to me downtown has become a Third World kind of place. There isn’t anything there I want to buy that I can’t find someplace else and not have to pay to park.

Dorothy Markham, Eugene



CALL FOR ART

To all the late night artists, quick wits and armchair activists, the Magic Box is asking you a very intriguing question: What would Banksy do? 

Melissa Mona, Eugene



SLOW FOOD QUEEN

We are thrilled to be one of the beneficiaries of Queen Slugasana’s reign this year. However, I’d like to correct a misimpression EW readers may have gotten from last month’s article (8/26) on the Queen. While Slow Food Eugene has been an active and generous sponsor of the School Garden Project for many years, we are an independent nonprofit and have been so since 2001. This year we are serving more than 800 students from 15 local schools through our garden-based education program, helping numerous schools start cafeteria composting programs and coordinating a Garden Educator workshop series for teachers and community volunteers. Watch for Slug Queen appearances at School Garden Project events this school year!

 Jared Pruch, executive director The School Garden Project of Lane County, www.schoolgardenproject.org



GET INSPIRED!

Next time you feel upset about the way modern culture is trashing the Earth, channel this energy into becoming part of the solution. 

If you want a green future for our children and the earth, you must do what you can to be part of the solution. All of us can make a contribution to a better world in our own way. Here’s a start:

Make a personal pledge to take a 15-20 minute walk from your home or office today, and during that walk consider the following: 

1. In what ways does the health of our air, water and land and the public’s health go hand in hand? 2. Do you feel more or less inspired after spending time walking outdoors? 3. What are you inspired to do for the Earth? We would be interested in hearing from you. Please check our website at http://wkly.ws/qk for upcoming outings, volunteer opportunities and events in your area.

Cathleen Corlett, Outings Chair, Sierra Club Many Rivers Group 



POWERFUL ASSET

I would like to express my personal feelings in relation to the possible closing of the Tamarack Pool situated in the south hills of Eugene.

I have been a client for almost 20 years, attending it first as the Easter Seals Pool, secondly as Stewart Aquatic Center, and now as Tamarack Pool. It is desperately in need of financial assistance to continue its operation.

The pool has been a lifesaver for me. The warm waters have made it possible to exercise when it is difficult to do so anywhere else due to physical limitations.

The experience has made the pool my very own personal anti-depressant.

Exercising at the pool encourages social interaction, increases relaxation, alertness, flexibility and muscle tone. The staff has always been friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.

It would be a tragedy to clients such as myself, and the community at large, to lose such a powerful asset. 

K. G. Sanders, Eugene



TEA PARTY PLOT

If anyone still believes that the Tea Party is a spontaneous grass-roots uprising, read Jane Mayer’s article, “Covert Operations,” in the Aug. 30 New Yorker. Libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have underwritten a large network of foundations, think tanks and political front groups since the 1970s. One of these is Americans for Prosperity, which has worked closely with the Tea Party since it spontaneously sprang up all over the country in April, 2009. Others are the Cato Institute (1977) and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University (mid-1980s). I found this article chilling, but it did not surprise me.

Dina Wills, Eugene



SHIFT BUYING HABITS

It seems to me that a case can be made that our political system is, to borrow a phrase from Tom Waits, either dead or not feeling very well. The blather from Washington seems like a lousy reality TV show, clamoring on endlessly, distracting us from the real action.

A naive belief in the ballot box and representative government is less tenable every day. Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the corporate entities that supply our goods and services are in charge. The Supreme Court’s recent decision to grant corporations many of the same rights as individuals seals the deal. Here’s a little secret: Citizen/consumers still hold the power. Your money is your vote, you get to choose where to spend it and it matters. Corporations cease to exist without the stream of dollars from the purchasers of their products. 

If it irks you to see big bonuses paid to bankers who were moaning for mercy a mere 18 months ago, move your accounts to another bank. Buying a shirt? Read the label: Where was it made? If you’re uneasy about the exploitation of poor people in sweatshops, then stop buying those products. 

Informed, organized consumers have enormous potential to influence public policy. Western Europe has largely outlawed the sale of genetically modified foods even though it’s not clear that these foods are harmful. In a potent display of consumer power a mere 5 percent shift in buying patterns following mandatory labeling of these foods was so significant that the foods have virtually disappeared. Capitalism is here to stay; make it work for you by supporting the corporations that reflect your values.

Kevin Reilly, Eugene



FLOUNDERING DOG

7:30 pm on a beautiful summer evening, crossing the Knickerbocker Bridge on our bikes, watching people floating down the Willamette on their inner tubes. One person is swimming between a group of floaters, head bobbing just above the surface. But wait, that is not a person at all, it’s a dog. 

We look for the empty tube on which the dog floats. There is none. We wait for one of the floaters to lift the dog onto their tube. None do. The dog, weary from swimming for who-knows-how-far-or-how-long, heads to the river’s bank. There is none. The dog turns back towards the people, straining. Again towards the bank and again back towards the people. The current is increasing and the rapids approaching. 

We yell, “Whose dog?” We hear, “The girl’s.” We see the dog overwhelmed by the current and pulled into the rapids. Its head goes under. It frantically paddles to resurface. And again, under and up. The girl, relaxing in her tube with beer in hand, bobs through the rapids oblivious to her dog’s exhaustion and panic. We yell and point, “Your dog!”

She yells, “The dog’s all right,” and floats on as her dog barely makes it to the bank. 

A dog is not an accessory or a toy. If this is the best care you can give your dog on a beer-soaked float down a river, it’s time to give your dog up for adoption and get a cactus.

Dana Vion, Molly Sirois, Eugene 



SATAN IN SCHOOLS

I am writing to EW because, although the attack to which I am responding appeared in that daily paper from the north side of the Willamette, the editors of that paper do not publish my letters about my experiences as a public employee or about anything on which I have some expertise, such as global warming. Evidently, one columnist is all they need to explain the science of global warming, and no one is needed to defend public employees.

Their latest attack on public employees comes from a writer who recited a lot of half-baked claims that because judges and legislators are members of the Public Employee Retirement System, therefore Oregon government is all against the people of Oregon and is robbing us blind. Schoolteachers and college instructors and custodians are robbing us blind, and everyone has to be treated fairly, that is, the private sector has to be treated fairly. The private sector, that is the owners, should be able to keep all their money so they can hire all the immigrants they want at starvation wages, which is just fair. Teachers aren’t “everybody,” they are agents of Satan who teach against God and Jesus. We should have more Jesus and less teaching in the public schools. 

So it is said.

Ann Tattersall, Eugene



SCIENTIFIC TRADITION

I wish to thank Gail Karuna (letters, 8/19) for increasing the power of her understanding of the real world that we all see differently. My tradition is simple: science.

Bob Saxton, Eugene



 

NOT A HEARTLESS BITCH

Here I am, once again, defending myself against a slew of angry letters directed towards me (8/5). This time my letter addressed the problem of homelessness in our community. I'd like to respond, collectively, to what three separate letters said.

First of all, I have suffered a life-threatening medical condition. No, I wasn't insured at the time. Since it's a chronic condition, it affects my family and me every day. 

As a result of this condition, I've had a difficult time rejoining the workforce. I am actively seeking employment, but we all know how difficult it is to find meaningful, good paying jobs here in Eugene. No, I don't live on welfare. I don't spare change. And I don't live in some little safety bubble, as one letter implied. My husband and I scrape by and make the best of the obstacles hurled our way.

Next, what's so wrong with having an opinion on things that I feel are a detriment to society? No, I don't like the OCF. I've seen and heard about more negative activity than positive. So what? Who cares anyways? It's my opinion. Last I checked, this is America, and I'm entitled to it. Besides, I only write the letters because it ruffles so many feathers.

You're right, Mr. Kirkpatrick, I don't have compassion for most homeless people. You obviously don't live in my neighborhood, where they are violent, aggressive and menacing. Perhaps you're fortunate enough to live in a nicer 'hood where they just collect cans and keep to themselves. I've volunteered for many local causes and organizations, including White Bird, and I know the difference between someone who is mentally unstable and someone who is just a jerk. If every person who criticized my anti-homeless tirades took the time to volunteer or reach out to a homeless person — with a reference to a shelter, job, or food box — or allow one to pitch a tent in his/her backyard in exchange for labor, then I'd have nothing to say. Tossing a dollar to someone on the street is not really compassion, and it doesn't address the problem at all.

I'm not a heartless bitch. Just a bitch.

Eve Cienfuegos, Eugene

 

TAKING OVER OUR FOOD

John Flanery's letter last week (9/2) about the Food Safety Act about to hit the Senate floor warns of a tipping point in our rush to a corporately controlled state. SB 510 will give ex-Monsanto vice-president Michael Taylor, now the FDA "food czar," nearly total control over every aspect of the U.S. food supply, including any produce or product from your garden or farm you wish to sell. 

Under SB 510 farmers' markets will be crippled by expensive fees and onerously difficult reporting requirements. Michael Taylor will be empowered to decide how you will be permitted to grow each different crop in your market garden. Unbelievable but true.

Sen. Jeff Merkeley sits on the committee which reported out this frightening bill. Several amendments have been proposed to ameliorate certain features, but make no mistake: SB 510 is an aggressive corporate takeover of local food systems. The Senate vote on SB 510 is immanent.

Fergus Mclean, Eugene