Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Hero(in)es!

"We know what you read, and we're not saying."

WORD: Pundita commits truth in print -- on the way out the door

Sad to see her go, but there's no way she can stay in the obese media after she dares to write stuff like this:

Longing for a middle class

WASHINGTON -- The challenge of our time is to re-create America as a middle-class nation.


The idea does not find voice in the cacophony of the 24-hour news cycle. It has no place in the media’s daily digest of gossip, false controversy and ideological cant. It is barely mentioned in the halls of power, where the very officials who capitalize on the economic angst of working people to win election forget that this raw anguish -- not the sophisticated arguments of lobbyists and campaign donors -- is supposed to motivate them every day.

It is easy to blame the financial crisis, Wall Street’s breathtaking bonuses or the culture of excess that glittered until we found ourselves on the precipice of a second Great Depression. In truth, we’ve been dismantling the economic foundation of the middle class for more than three decades.

How many of you, having previously held a presumptively secure job with a solid company, are now working as a “contractor” or “consultant“? The trend toward taking employees off the payroll only to hire them again as contractors -- without health benefits, pensions, sick days, vacations -- began in the 1970s with janitors, construction workers and truckers. Now highly skilled technology workers who helped transform the global economy are among the downsized, the outsourced, the contracted-out.

When IBM was an icon of American enterprise, I could not imagine that I would one day follow veteran IBM workers through the halls of Congress as they buttonholed lawmakers. They’d been stripped of their promised pensions and told to make due with a less generous “cash balance” plan that effectively reduced benefits for the most experienced and loyal workers. Nor could I anticipate that after a fatal airline accident we would learn -- as we did after the crash of a Continental Connection flight near Buffalo last February -- that overworked pilots on regional carriers earn $20,000 a year or less.

No one could have foretold that eight years after 9/11, hundreds of thousands of rescue workers and residents of Lower Manhattan would suffer serious, chronic -- and often deadly -- diseases from their exposure to the hazards at Ground Zero. Many are unable to work and have lost their health insurance. Others have fought for workers’ compensation in a system that offers none to independent contractors -- or to those whose labor was subcontracted to so many companies that no one firm is held responsible. Some are now impoverished.

“While you’re waiting for your workers’ comp, and you’re waiting for your Social Security disability, you have no money,” says John Feal of Long Island, an injured 9/11 construction worker who started a foundation to help others. “You don’t even have gas to get to the doctor.”
They were heroes, we said. But now they are just cogs in a new economy in which business seems to have unilaterally rewritten the rules of the workplace.

Example: Hundreds of companies stopped making contributions to employee 401(k) retirement plans in the wake of the financial crisis. There is no way to force a resumption of funding when the economy rebounds.

The government has abetted all this with decades of hands-off regulation. Example: At current staffing and budget levels, it would take the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 133 years to inspect each workplace under its jurisdiction one time, according to a recent study by the National Employment Law Project.

Soon the political discussion will shift from the need to keep propping up the economy to the need to reduce the deficit and debt. Then we are certain to hear that Social Security and other “entitlements” are the problem and must be curtailed. In fact, Social Security has sufficient funds to pay full benefits through 2037 -- a cushion no other government program can claim. Medicare, while under financial strain, has done better at containing costs per beneficiary than private health insurers, according to government studies.

The myths that led us to this pass did not materialize by chance. They were conjured up by conservatives intent on dismantling the New Deal society that reigned through the 1960s -- a society that produced the world’s most robust middle class. They are fed by lawmakers in both parties who depend on campaign contributions from powerful interests.

Fight the myths. Break the back of the corrupt campaign finance and lobbying systems. These are hard political tasks. But being pushed further down is harder, still. Because no one knows where the new bottom lies.

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This is my final column. Thanks to my loyal readers and dedicated regional editors who have kept a place in their papers and in their minds for the kind of journalism I have worked to provide.

Get ready to coop-erate one last time! The final push for urban hens in Salem

October 26. Be there, aloha. Tireless urban hens advocate Barb Palermo writes:
Thank you to everyone who sent the Mayor an email. Many of you forwarded copies of your letters to me and they were all wonderful. Again, thank you so much! If you haven't sent one yet, please consider doing so in the next two weeks. Mayor Taylor's email address is: The more she gets, the better, and hopefully these will help to win back her vote (she voted for chickens in the past, then changed her mind).
According to the City Recorder, two different draft chicken ordinances will be discussed and voted upon on October 26. City staff will provide the councilors with the two proposed chicken ordinances they requested and, if I understand correctly, one of the following three things could happen that night:

1. They could vote for the proposal that would allow 3 hens (as livestock) but they would be taken out of the Land Use section of the code and put elsewhere. This would mean amending the city's code, which could require another public hearing before chickens become legal.

2. They could vote for the proposal they are calling "The Cannon Beach Approach" which would allow 3 hens (as pets) but they would still be regulated under the Land Use section of the city code. This would not require an amendment to the code and therefore would not require another public hearing.

3. Both proposed chicken ordinances could fail to get enough votes, in which case Salem will remain one of the few cities in Oregon that does not allow backyard hens.

This coming Friday afternoon a copy of the two above-mentioned proposals will be
available online and I will forward that to you. The councilors will also receive these materials a week in advance, but there will be do discussion or vote until October 26th.

I know it's a lot to ask you to come to city hall once again (this will be our 9th presentation), but this is the most important one. I was able to get more notice than usual, so we have two weeks to arrange our schedules so that we can have as many people there as possible. I will make a point of asking everyone who supports chickens to stand. When council deliberates, they will feel the pressure with all eyes on them and seeing a room packed with eager chicken supporters could get us that last vote we need.


Monday, October 26 at 6:30 pm
Salem City Hall - 555 Liberty Street - Room 240

Interesting series at Mission Mill

Mission Mill MuseumThe once (and future?) source of fine woolen goods. Image by Travel Salem via Flickr

The Mission Mill Museum is a Salem treasure . . . and, possibly, a serious resource with an already-installed water power source for a lower-energy future. They're offering an interesting series on the "other" settlers we don't often hear so much about:
Mission Mill Museum’s Sesquicentennial Fall Speakers’ Series
Immigrant Experiences in a Multi-Ethnic Oregon

Though much has been written about those pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trail to start a new life in the Oregon Country, these were not the only people who traveled many miles, facing trials and tribulations to settle in our State. This lecture series, starting October 17th at 2 p.m. and running for six consecutive Saturdays, will present to the audience some of the ethnic/immigrant group experiences in Oregon. This lecture is made possible in part by a grant from the Marion Cultural Development Corporation. Admission to each lecture is $5 for Non-Members, $2 for Museum Members, Children (17 and under) and students (with IDs).

October 17th, 2 p.m.
Immigrant Experience: Kam Wah Chung Archaeology with Nancy Nelson
In the community of John Day, Oregon, we find a historic Chinese medicinal herb shop, which was operated by Dr. Ing Hay and Lung Ong from the 1870s through the 1940s. Archaeologists conducted investigations on the grounds of the Kam Wah Chung within the last few years, and evidence of John Day’s “ China Town” will be highlighted. This story is presented by Nancy Nelson, an archaeologist for Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department. She received her education from Oregon State University and the University of Oregon in Anthropology.

October 24th, 2 p.m.
Immigrant Experience: Mexicanos in Oregon with
Erlinda Gonzales-Berry

The number of Latinos residing in Oregon has increased dramatically in the last decade, leading one scholar to speak of the “browning of Oregon.” This, however, is not a new phenomenon, for there has been a settled-out, Mexican-origin population since the 1930s. Erlinda Gonzales-Berry explores the seventy-five year history of migration and settlement of Mexicans in Oregon, highlighting their sustained practices of community building, struggles for integration, and contributions to the cultural and economic landscape of the state.

October 31st, 2 p.m.
Immigrant Experience: Finding Freedom - African Americans in Oregon with Elizabeth McLagan
Economic opportunity and personal liberty were dreams common to westering immigrants. Free land was available. Barriers of class and perhaps gender and even ethnicity and race might be lifted. However for African Americans, as presented by Elizabeth McLagan of Portland Community Collage, the adversities went beyond the struggle of the journey and the difficult road to prosperity. We will examine some of the special challenges and remarkable achievements of Oregon’s African American citizens.

November 7th, 2 p.m.
Immigrant Experience: Jewish Oregonians with Ellen Eisenberg
Gun totin’ rabbis? Jewish homesteaders? In popular culture Jews are so strongly associated with New York that western Jewish images strike some as oxymoronic. Yet Jews have, since before statehood, been Oregonians. This talk by Ellen Eisenberg, the Dwight and Margaret Lear Professorship in American History at Willamette University, explores who they were, why they came, and the reception they found here. Several snapshots of Jewish Oregonians will be used to illustrate their experiences as immigrants and as native sons.

November 14th, 2 p.m.
Immigrant Experience: The Japanese in Oregon with June Schumann
Immigrants from Japan were among many groups from throughout the world…across the Atlantic as well as the Pacific Ocean who settled in Oregon and were participants in the growth and development of the state through the years. Through historic photographs from Oregon families, June Arima Schumann, the former executive director of the Nikkei Legacy Endowment, gives us an overview of early Japanese settlements and touches on one of the important chapters in American (and Oregon) history. This talk explores how the history of people of Japanese ancestry is part of the larger American experience. It also suggests how this history is relevant to discussion about civil liberties, how we understand our country’s past, and how we might better understand issues facing us today.

November 21st, 2 p.m.
Immigrant Experience: Swedes in Oregon with Lars Nordström
Swedes began filtering into the Oregon Territory with the first wave of white settlers. At first, their numbers grew slowly, but after 1883, when the railroad connected Portland to the national grid, the flow accelerated. Swedish-American author Lars Nordström will explain that by1910 Swedes were the second-largest foreign-language immigrant group in the state. The influx diminished by the end of the 1920s, and ever since, Swedish immigration toOregon has been a tiny but steady trickle.

Mission Mill Museum 1313 Mill St SE Salem, OR 97301
(503) 585-7012 fax (503) 588-9902
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