Monday, May 31, 2010

Some reading for Madam (almost certainly) Mayor-Elect

A clear, concise, chilling article by my favorite actuary, Gail the Actuary, who does a wonderful job explaining this moment in time and its repercussions in easily understood language.

The illustration above, in a nutshell, is the problem Salem (and everyplace else in America and the industrialized world) faces from here on out, as the blue portion gets larger and larger and larger still, even as the whole pie shrinks.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

O.M.G. -- is there any better example of how catering to cars lobotomizes city officials?

The always-excellent Salem Heritage Network has a truly tragic entry today showing just how low Salem has fallen in terms of destroying its past -- our past! -- to cater to automobiles. Worse, living here now, one finds little evidence that anything has changed in City Hall.

See the pictures there for a truly horrific and revealing display.
In the late 1940s, Salem's downtown had spaces on the street for automobiles to park in front of stores, but did not have parking lots to accommodate the increase in personal cars since the end of the war. One innovative proposal was to demolish the Holman Building (top photograph above) and make room for parking above a new auto maintenance and repair shop. Those residents who were concerned by the loss of Salem's heritage which this building represented, formed the Marion County Historical Society with the mission of preserving it and, more widely, interpreting the city and county's cultural resources. Its first president, David Duniway, led the fight to preserve the historic Holman Building, reminding the public that for the first years of Oregon statehood (1859-1876), the legislature meet here and most of our basic laws were debated on this site. But he was not successful, the building was demolished and the Marion Car Rental and Park (lower photograph) was built this year.

When you visit
The Marion Car Rental and Park is located on the northwest corner of Ferry and Commercial Streets, a busy intersection for traffic entering Front Street going west from Ferry, or continuing south on Commercial. It is diagonally across the street from the Conference Center. To learn more about the Holman Building and the other historic buildings that were once on this important corner of the new city, read the interpretive panel on the stair landing inside the Conference Center.
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Quick, get your state parks pass now

You can bet the prices will be climbing. Salem is blessed to be so close to Silver Falls State Park, a place so beautiful that words can't convey it.

If you get the $50 pass that's good for 24 months -- 25 if you buy it at the beginning of a month, you just have to visit Silver Falls ten times for it to pay off. Even better, the pass is now a card you hang over the mirror of your car, rather than a windshield sticker, meaning that you can give the pass to friends and family for use when you're not using it. We had guests at LOVESalem HQ this week and they're off with our pass now, gallivanting around Oregon.

TIP: When you go to Silver Falls, buy the pass at the Nature Store and the Friends of Silver Falls will get a cut, which goes to help maintain the park. If the entry booth isn't staffed, just drive past it, park, and go to the Nature Store and buy the pass and hang it in your mirror. If the entry booth is staffed, presumably they'll let you in to buy the pass at the Nature Store -- if not, just park outside the entrance for a minute, walk to the store, buy the pass, and you're all set.

It's a heckuva deal, and a great way to get great reminders of what a gorgeous place we live in.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Elephant in the DEIS

Quick, if you were spotted a C and two Os, could you tell what's missing from the DEIS (supposedly stands for "Draft Environmental Impact Statement" but with equal or greater truth could be said to stand for Deceptive Evasive Insidious Scam)? The latest from the "Salem River Crossing" (3rd bridge) boondoggle, the last gasp of the megaproject boondoggle mentality, still limping along squandering millions of dollars while Oregon's budget situation goes from bleak to disastrous:
DEIS Update

The Natural Environment

When the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is released this fall, it will discuss potential impacts to the natural environment. Some common questions that the DEIS will answer include:

  • How will wildlife or fish habitat be affected by building a new bridge?
  • Will air quality in the region be better or worse if a project is built or if construction does not occur?
  • Are there any earthquake hazards that we should be aware of before selecting a preferred alternative?
  • How will the project affect wetlands, vegetation, and wildlife habitat?
  • How will project construction address stormwater runoff?
Schedule Update

The DEIS will provide detailed analysis of the potential natural environment impacts and will show how the impacts are different among alternatives. These impacts, as well as any steps to offset the impacts, will be part of the public discussion for deciding on a preferred alternative.

Since the last email update, staff have been working on completing the technical reports on which the DEIS is based. Most of the reports have been completed and are currently being reviewed and summarized by project staff. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the DEIS and the impacts to the natural environment, along with other impacts, when the DEIS is published this fall.

Please watch for future updates on the Salem River Crossing project and check the website for more ways to get involved later this year. If you have any questions, please contact us. If you would like to be removed from the mailing list, please let us know.
This misbegotten attempt to continue the auto uber alles mindset in Salem is getting ripe for a court challenge should the project backers (primarily ODOT and the construction/highway lobby -- or is that redundant?) attempt to proceed. Now that the Feds have recognized CO2 as a pollutant, a massive $600 million boondoggle that worsens our CO2 emissions is going to have a hard time pretending that it's still the 1950s and 60s.
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Glacier Change and the Future of Sea Level Rise (Free talk 5/27)

Thursday, May 27, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Straub Environmental Lecture Series: Dr. Andrew Fountain

Glacier Change and the Future of Sea Level Rise

Loucks Auditorium, Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty Street SE, Salem

In the old days, advancing or retreating glaciers and ice sheets were viewed as interesting oddities. We now realize that they are a major controlling factor in global sea level change. Understanding how and why these ice masses shrink and lose water to the ocean (it’s not that obvious) is fundamental to our ability to predict global sea level rise. Interestingly, not all these ice masses are reacting the same – and these differences are important. Free and open to the public; no RSVP required. Call or email 503-391-4145 or for more information.

(Further sobering reading on the subject: Storms of My Grandchildren.)

Sad: Schrader votes against Net Neutrality

Your representative in the House [Kurt Schrader] just sold you out to Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

Rep. Kurt Schrader has joined 73 other Democrats in signing an industry-written letter telling the FCC to abandon its efforts to protect Internet users and stop big companies from blocking Internet traffic.

It’s yet another example of dirty politics destroying our democracy, and it has to stop.

Tell Washington: Rep. Schrader Doesn’t Speak for Me

The nasty little secret that everybody knows? Almost every one of these representatives has accepted massive contributions from the phone and cable lobby. Now the industry is demanding a return on its investment.

By signing the industry letter, your representative has drastically undercut the FCC’s ability to get a fast, affordable and open Internet to everyone in America. Your representative is actually taking a position against the interests of rural and low-income communities.

We aren’t going to let this outrageous and unethical behavior stand. Today, we’re asking hundreds of thousands of Americans to sign our own letter telling the FCC and Congress that Rep. Schrader doesn’t speak for us, President Obama or the millions of other Americans who support an open and affordable Internet.

Dear Rep. Schrader : Don’t Let Dirty Politics Kill an Open Internet

That Rep. Schrader would intentionally sell out the public may be hard to imagine. Perhaps these representatives didn’t know what they were signing. Or perhaps this is just business as usual, another D.C. betrayal of the public trust. (Is it any wonder the latest Gallup public opinion poll counts a congressional disapproval rating of 73 percent?)

These members of Congress acted on blind faith that phone and cable companies have the best interests of Americans in mind.

But Comcast and AT&T can no better police themselves to protect the open Internet than BP can police itself to protect the oceans. And we already know how that ends.

Congress can’t hand the future of communications over to these companies. The results would be disastrous.

By taking action today, you’re telling Rep. Schrader that bad deeds won’t go unnoticed.

Thank you,

Timothy Karr
Free Press Action Fund

P.S. Be sure to sign this letter to Washington.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Local governments take note: How to give good directions

If only public information from local governments in and around Salem was as clear and concise as this.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Birthday of Science coming up!

Geometry of a Total Solar EclipseImage via Wikipedia

Oh boy, cake!
On May 28, 585 B.C. the swath of a total solar eclipse passed over the Greek island of Miletus. The early Greek philosopher, Thales of Miletus, alone understood what was happening. The world's first recorded freethinker, Thales rejected all supernatural explanations, and used the occasion to state the first law of science: every observable effect has a physical cause. The 585 B.C. eclipse is now taken to mark the birth of science, and Thales is honored as the father. What troubles would be spared the world if the education of every child began with causality?
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

A truly fine film in Salem this Saturday night

Cover of "Capitalism: A Love Story"A lot of people can take or leave Michael Moore, but this is a film everyone should see. Cover of Capitalism: A Love Story

Salem Progressive Film Series and together present:

Michael Moore's documentary

"Capitalism, A Love Story"

Saturday, May 22 - 7 p.m. (doors open 6:30)
Grand Theatre-191 High St. NE (corner of Court & High), Salem

Filmmaker Michael Moore takes on capitalism’s roots, the floundering U.S. economy, and 2008’s global financial meltdown and subsequent bank bailout in this rousing documentary. Combining stories about those who suffer most from Corporate America’s greed and insatiable thirst for profits and the people most responsible for myriad crises, Moore embarks on another shocking fact-finding rampage.

Discussion to follow: "Making Democracy and Capitalism work for us"

For more info: 503-385-1876 or 971-240-6440
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Green eyeshade type person needed from Cherriots 3rd subdistrict

Magnifying LensCare to examine the money closely? Image by spike55151 via Flickr

Cherriots needs a new budget committee member for its Budget Committee.

A real problem is that they've got this thing set up so that you have to live in Cherriots subdistrict 3. Sad -- there's no good reason to run a transit district board by subdistricts, much less a budget committee. So even if you are the God of Accounting and are dying to volunteer, you must live in the 3rd subdistrict. Dumb.

But, be that as it may, if you do live in the 3rd subdistrict (see map) of Salem-Keizer Transit (Cherriots) and you've got some facility with figures and you want to don your green eyeshades and help keep the bus system's budgeting process on the straight and narrow, this is your chance. If you're interested or want to know more:
Contact Linda Galeazzi or see the website link below for a booklet about the budget process and expectations of the budget committee (pdf file):

Linda Galeazzi, Administrative Secretary
General Manager’s Office, Salem-Keizer Transit
(503)588-2424 ext 2328

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A respite from politics

Community GardenImage by Sbocaj via Flickr

Well, the election is all over but the crying --- whether of the "winners" or the "losers" remains to be seen. Good luck to all those who won office, and better luck next time to those who did not ... though not winning office in these times might actually have been the better luck.

Anyway, now that those are done, let's talk about something much more important and pleasant: growing food right here in Salem:
Garden Resource Connections @ Marion Polk Food Share

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 from 5-7pm – (Organized the 20th of every month)

Come get seeds, plant-starts and seed potatoes for your garden. Meet our Garden Council and other gardeners to learn what to do in your garden this month. If you have seeds or starts to share, bring those along. Trade what you can’t use for something else, and help a fellow gardener grow food.

If you use facebook, please befriend Marion-Polk Food Share and rsvp to the resource connections event here.

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How to make red-light cameras work for safety instead of just revenue?

Red-light running is a serious problem. Yesterday I was at an intersection and saw a truck blow through a red light just like the very first one in this disturbing video:

And a LOVESalem friend has been dealing with some very serious and scary health issues after a couple lawyers plowed into her. And yet, society's response has been lame -- installing red-light monitoring cameras has been a bust, actually increasing accidents (as people who would otherwise have gone through suddenly slam on the brakes and get rear-ended).

There have been a number of studies showing that cities are using red-light cameras as revenue sources rather than safety measures, tweaking the yellow light to increase revenue, which normally is shared with a private contractor who maintains the camera setup. Not only is this cynical municipal response to a real threat disgusting, it also worsens the problem because the it persuades people that the traffic laws are only about cash, rather than safety -- which is the heart of the problem.

What should we do instead? Do we really want cameras at every intersection? What can we do about this threat if not? Is there any way we can make people see that red-light running is as bad as drinking and driving, which has declined a lot since MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) made it notorious.

One thing I know for sure: We need a better insurance system in two respects:

1. A better health insurance system so that anyone creamed by a red-light-running driver doesn't get creamed even worse by their health insurance company (if they are lucky enough to be insured), and

2. Universal auto liability coverage through a pay-at-the-pump insurance premium. In other words, instead of having the widely ignored coverage (which upward of 12% ignored even in the good times -- imagine how much that's gone up now), we need a single state collision insurance fund that pays out whenever a driver causes someone else to experience a loss, paid for with a small premium on gas at the pump. This way, we get 0% uninsured drivers, which eliminates a huge part of the problem, which includes our current screwy system of making the people who do follow the law and carry insurance also buy insurance against the risk of other people not doing so (uninsured motorists' coverage).

Right now, as this is written, there are scores of people driving around in Salem with no insurance, and some without a license at all. They typically have no assets. What they should have is to pay into the insurance fund whenever they gas up their car, so that if they hit somebody, that person is protected, regardless of whether they're employed or insured themselves.

Now that you've voted, one more thing

A plum treeSo many beautiful fruiting trees (like this plum) do well in Salem. Image via Wikipedia

You did vote, right? Shameful how few people have. These spring elections are a problem -- low turnout elections create a systematic bias in favor of incumbents, and spring elections create a systematic bias in favor of low turnout. Hmmmmm, no wonder they persist.

Anyway, now that you have presumably voted, there's another bit of community activism to take care of: Sign up with these folks, either to register a tree or vine for harvesting or to take part (and to take some of the haul!).
Neighborhood Harvest of Salem

To volunteer: contact Amy Barr at or go to

To register a tree [or grape vine, or berry bushes . . . ]: go to or contact with questions.

. . . The program isn't a bad deal for volunteers either because they get to share the bounty they pick. So far the list of volunteers includes five neighborhood leaders and 15 harvesters, but the group is looking for more. Many of the cities with similar programs end up with more fruit trees than volunteers can pick. The Portland group, for example, has 515 trees on its list.

"The number of trees that get registered is astounding," she said.

That's why leadership is critical, Clark-Burnell explained. She helped start the group with friends, and they now work under the nonprofit group Friends of Salem Saturday Market. They need more people who will help organize harvest parties, scout sites and collect the food for the pantries, she said. Harvest parties will begin in July with the start of the cherry season.

What neighborhoods get in return might be more than fruit.

Organizers said the Portland Fruit Tree Project helps build a sense of community where neighbors work together to feed the hungry in their area, care for neighborhood trees and share the harvest. . . .

And major props to the organizers, local heroes all!

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WORD: The price of private health insurance

papersThese are what patient records look like in a system where health takes a back seat to insurance company profits. Image by fsse8info via Flickr

How much would you pay to keep your private health insurance instead of a single-payer system? A thousand dollars? Ten thousand dollars?

How about $350 billion? . . .

Driving this high cost is overhead - plain old ponderous paperwork generated by our private insurance system - to the tune of $350 billion a year. Make no mistake: This money does not pay for health care. It pays for administrators, accountants, billing clerks and benefits managers to transfer our money to health care providers. . . .

It all adds up - to $350 billion.

Clearly filtering our dollars through private insurance companies squanders a lot of money (one dollar out of every three to be exact) before it gets to real-world health care. These losses would evaporate if the U.S. adopted a single-payer system. Mind you, single-payer systems still have administrative costs, just $350 billion less than we have now.

Let's see how $350 billion in paperwork compares to other costs.

It is more than we spend on immigrant health care ($40 billion), defensive medicine ($60 billion), and health insurance fraud ($72 billion) -- combined. It is more than we spend on medications ($261 billion), obesity-related diseases ($144 billion), tobacco-related diseases ($168 billion) or alcohol-related diseases ($96 billion). It's more than we spent on the Afghanistan war ($179 billion). It's more than the annual interest on our national debt ($224 billion).

And it's more than the extra funding needed for comprehensive health care for all Americans ($225 billion).

Curiously, one of America's own single-payer systems, the Veterans Administration, takes care of the sickest patients with the best results at the lowest cost with the highest patient satisfaction in the nation. Can life without private health insurance paperwork be all that bad? . . .

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Overdue still probably too little, too late

logoImage via Wikipedia

but it's a start: Cherriots is proposing a fare increase, with the basic adult fare for a one-way trip slated to go from $1.25 to $1.50 and most every other fare increasing by a corresponding amount.

The only interesting change is for the adult daypass to go from exactly the cost of two rides to the cost of two rides plus a quarter ($3.25).

The more interesting question is whether the Cherriots board has recognized that what they really need is a well-thought-out policy on fare increases so that it's not a big flap all the time -- if they thought through their policy on fares and farebox recovery and recognized the tie between fares and the minimum wage, they could spell out for everyone the conditions that would trigger a fare increase and then we wouldn't have the problem we have now, which is fares too low for too long, dragging the system down into unusability (no weekend service, little late-night service, route cuts).

Ideally transit is entirely fareless --- but until there's public support for that, riders have to pay enough to convince property owners that the system merits ample funding. Right now, Cherriots has allowed itself to get into a social service mode, thinking of its service as providing an option for people with no other options (and, therefore, high resistance to fare increases). That's nice, but it winds up hammering the riders anyway, as their bus service disappears when property owners refuse to pony up, in large part because the fares don't keep up.

So this increase is a step in the right direction if it leads to having some funding to restore some of the routes and times recently cut back -- but if it's just a random stab at an increase (rather than part of an overall fare strategy) or just-enough-increase to keep up with fuel and labor costs, then it's probably not going to cut it. We can hope that this is just the first increase of several that will be needed to get more funding from voters to pay for getting back to a functional, 7-day bus system, a critical service for a sustainable city.
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

What you missed by not being a "Friend of Salem Saturday Market"

. . . some awesome homemade goatmilk gelato, some even more wonderful goat cheese, and a really pleasant, fun, and educational visit to a small family farm in a beautiful, bucolic setting in Dallas, Ore.

Next up (but only for members of Friends of Salem Saturday Market): buffaloes!

For everyone, here's some events coming:

There will be a class every Saturday. Check back for updated schedules!

June 5 - Bike Valet Service opens for the season Free!
June 12 - Knit in Public Day Free!
August 7 - Chefs @ The Market: David Rosales of La Capitale Free!
September 25 - Book Exchange Free!

About that "the Earth is cooling" jive you keep hearing

The "temperature anomaly" is the amount by which the 12-month running average temperature exceeds the average of temperatures from 1951-1980 -- so we're approaching 70/100ths, or 0.7C, just since 1980 alone . . . and to my eye, that curve isn't getting shallower, and it's sure as hell not declining.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"What's wrong with the system, and why can't it be fixed?"

Children in a Primary Education School in ParisImage via Wikipedia

This is part of the hidden costs of the factory/competition model that forces little boys into a model more suited to little girls, groups all kids by age into cohorts that have nothing to do with their actual developmental progress, and damages all children.

We force very young children into academics too early and create a sense of failure in many of them, permanently crippling them for life. On top of that, we waste years infantalizing teens, keeping them in a passive receptor mode when they could be bursting with life and creativity and guiding their own education. We need an overhaul desperately.

Elementary schools need to become much more highly staffed and much less regimented; there have to be enough adults in close contact with every kid that every kid can be helped to win at the critical tasks on a schedule that works for them, not for their mythical cohort. No homework, no grades, just building learning capacity and proficiency. More art, more music, more play, and much more foreign language instruction. Introduction of reading based on each child's readiness. No separate math or science classes -- math and language recognized as different faces of the same task (describing the world and sharing ideas), and woven together -- quantitative descriptions of things woven together with non-quantitative ones from the very start, with increasingly complex quant tools provided just as increasingly sophisticated words are provided naturally, as needed.

The goal should be to "graduate" kids from elementary school on their own developmental timeline -- with this graduation occurring when the child has the capacity to begin directing his/her own learning and his/her parent(s) are ready to sit down with the school and develop a contract for their future learning and goals: what skills will they acquire, what vocations will they be equipped to pursue, and how will they gain those abilities.

Middle school is then one or two-year transition to this student/family led model of schooling; high school is the complete expression, with much higher student-teacher ratios (to prevent lectures and other forms of educational malpractice from occurring).

Don't ALL kids deserve an individual education plan?

Why do we only require schools to consider the individual needs of the "learning disabled?" And aren't many "learning disabilities" simply the result our prior failure to treat children as individuals in the first place?

Or, I suppose we can just keep trying to hammer kids through the standard slots we've defined, like square pegs and round holes, all for the convenience and benefit of the adults and the bus drivers -- and pay the costs such as these below:
Teaching jailed students: What's wrong with the system, and why  can't it be fixed?
. . . Don Austin, sitting in a Hennepin County jail cell, was 15 when he decided he wanted to learn to read — really, really wanted to learn.

In April 2008, he stole a car and caused an accident that killed a woman. He spent the next 20 months locked up in Hennepin jails while the court system worked out whether he would be tried as an adult.

While he waited to go to trial, Austin was supposed to have the same six-hour school day as any other Minnesota child, including two hours of special education. Instead, for much of that time, he got just an hour a day.

In jail, literally captive, Austin fell in love with reading. For the first time in his life, he asked if he could spend more time in class. Minneapolis Public Schools' answer: No.

"He was asking his teacher to let him go to school," said Amy Goetz, founder of the School Law Center in St. Paul and Austin's attorney. "It's incomprehensible that he would be asking for education and not getting it."

. . . Minnesota spends 3.7 times as much per prisoner as it does per public school student. According to census data, the state has the 20th-highest juvenile incarceration rate in the nation, with 259 of every 100,000 children imprisoned.

The National Council on Disability, a federal agency, estimates that 30 percent of children in the juvenile justice system have learning disabilities. Other studies put the figure as high as 70 percent. Poor, minority children are particularly at risk.

About 15 percent of the general population has some kind of neurological disorder that makes reading, writing, processing instructions and other tasks difficult without specialized support. Someone with dyslexia, for instance, can't understand written words the way other students do.

Children with such learning disorders usually are as smart as their peers. Some have another disability, such as attention deficit disorder, autism or behavioral disorders.

More than half of state's jailed juveniles are learning disabled
In Minnesota, more than half of incarcerated juveniles have some kind of learning disability, according to the PACER Center, and a third of incarcerated children have a persistent mental health issue, as opposed to 14 percent of all kids.

Kids in the juvenile justice system are twice as likely to have been abused, and 75 percent qualified for free- or reduced-price lunch, vs. 39 percent of students statewide.

"They often feel frustration and isolation in school," explained Lili Garfinkel, coordinator of PACER's Juvenile Justice Project. "They often have few friends; many are bullied; and they may 'act up' to cover the fact they are unable to participate as equals in their classroom.

"They may not have the language or social skills to navigate appropriate interactions in school," Garfinkel noted. "The behaviors may be serious enough to cause them to be suspended truant, or, in more serious cases, expelled. By not attending school, however, they become further behind and overwhelmed."

Girls with unaddressed learning disabilities often act out by withdrawing, while boys can become defiant or aggressive, experts say. Making things worse, some learning disabilities are accompanied by communication problems and poor comprehension.

"Such characteristics cause children with disabilities to appear 'uncooperative,' 'disrespectful,' 'angry,' and 'irritable,' and act to increase the likelihood that these youths will have negative encounters with the juvenile justice system," a 1995 study found.

The cycle is particularly pernicious for African-American boys, who frequently end up in alternative schools; few of them graduate.

"Almost always when you look at their records, you see kids who were turning over tables in the fourth grade when it was time to read," said Goetz. "As they feel their education program is a failure, they act out. They spill out into the community. Kids like Don feel helpless and hopeless, and there are all those temptations out there."

Once a learning disability has been diagnosed, a student often ends up with a formal plan for services known as an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. School administrators are legally obligated to follow a student's IEP unless they go through a complicated process involving the student's parents to change it. . . .

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Friday, May 14, 2010

And a little child shall lead them

debt = slaveryImage by v i p e z via Flickr

This girl's got more sense than almost every other person in this story. Getting a valuable, basic skill to do work that can't be done via datalink, while avoiding crippling debt? Smart, very smart.

College is way oversold in this country and, as a result, has come to mean less and less. Which causes the next round of inflation, pretending that teachers all need masters degrees, etc.

The best rule for students coming of age from now on is simple: Know how to grow your own food or be necessary/useful/helpful to those who do. The more abstractions fill your education, the more you are setting yourself up to compete with every single smart person on the planet for work. Be warned.

Helping a client the other day, I saw the seamy side of student loans. Client took a $2500 student loan in 1980; with interest ($5500) and late-charges and fees ($2000), client is now looking at $10 grand of completely unshakable debt, debt that survives bankruptcy, disaster, recession, and probably nuclear war.
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Expect a sellout -- Straight No Chaser @ Elsinore Nov. 1

The Trail Band is nice, but the show's getting a little tired -- I expect this one to be a absolute blast though. These guys are awesome.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A must-read that's a bittersweet pleasure to read too

There are a lot of important books that need to be read because of what they say, and a few that are wonderful books because of how they say it, but only a tiny few that need to be read both because of what and how they say it.

And none of that tiny last category have a worse, less-appealing title than Bill McKibbin's new book Eaarth, which ought to get somebody in the publisher's title-approval office slapped.

If you read the book you understand the point he's trying to make (that we no longer live on the old Earth we once enjoyed -- we're now deep into the totally uncontrolled experiment called "Let's dump millions of years of carbon into the air over the course of a few decades and see how bad things get" and we're way ahead of schedule for bad things permanently disrupting and destroying lives - and species - so it seems to someone like McKibbin that Earth is no longer the right name for our little wounded planet, thus Eaarth).

The problem is that, with such an unappealing title, which will make some people think it's a science fiction book (especially with the gigantic black X across the cover, stolen from that great, disturbing Ed Norton movie, American History X), not enough people will read it. And that would be a great shame. It's a beautifully written, important book. Every person at or over the age of 14 and many 12- and 13-year-olds should read this book.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What the Internet is for: Five-Star primer on how predatory lending works (you over)

checks, etc.This is one of the many side doors to Satan's abode. There's another one at every payday loan, check cashing "money" store, "E_Z Auto Loan" and especially furniture rent-to-own places. Image by TheTruthAbout... via Flickr

This is most excellent. Any person who earns, spends, or tries to keep some money should run over there are spend a little bit of time with this most useful rundown, in very simple English, with pictures, showing how many ways the scam payday-loan and "rent to own" places screw you over.

And anyone with teenagers or mature tweeners should definitely sit down and walk through this very slowly with said kids.
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Starts tonight! Great menu of options for Democracy and Education week in Salem

Dumbing Us DownImage via Wikipedia

Democracy and Education Events Begin Today
Please join us on Wednesday, May 12th, at 7pm for a free public forum at the Public Library's Loucks Auditorium, "Democracy and Education."

This event will feature a diverse, bi-partisan panel of experts who will examine the state of public education and alternatives to compulsory schooling with time for questions and dialogue with the public.

Panelists include
  • City councilman and mayoral candidate, Chuck Bennett,

  • Conference Keynote Speaker, former 3-time New York State Teacher of the Year and author of "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling," John Taylor Gatto;

  • Candidate for Superintendent of Public Education, Dr. Ron Maurer,

  • Founder and Director of NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute) Dr. Brian Ray,

  • Willamette University History Professor and former Salem City Councilman, Bill Smaldone,

  • 4th Grade teacher Ron Barnes.
"Get ready for plenty of feisty, thoughtful, blunt, and respectful debate amongst these panelists," encourages Dr. Ray. "I don't think you will be bored with the typical and blasé suggestions about school reform so common in education circles."
In addition to the thought-provoking forum, Salem's first Conference on Educational Alternatives events this weekend are as follows:
Friday, May 14th 7:00pm "Hall of Mirrors: An Evening with John Taylor Gatto" - Mission Mill Spinning Room 1313 Mill Street SE, Salem, OR 97301 Cost: $15-$25 sliding scale.
Saturday, May 15th 9am-4pm Workshops with John Taylor Gatto and David H. Albert at Tea Party Bookshop 420 Liberty St. SE Salem, OR 97302
  • "A Walk Around London: An Introduction to Open-Sourced Education" -John Gatto
  • "Guerilla Curriculum: How to Get an Education in Spite of School"-John Gatto
  • "Learning About Learning: Conversations with My Violin"-David Albert
  • "The Curriculum of Beauty, Happiness and Abundance"-David Albert
  • Cost: $25-$50 sliding - COST COVERS ALL WORKSHOPS AND LUNCH
May 15th 5:00pm-6:00pm Book Signing with John Taylor Gatto and David Albert at Tea Party Bookshop 420 Liberty St. SE Salem, OR 97302.

May 15th 6:30pm-8:30pm Banquet Dinner with John Taylor Gatto and David Albert at the Marco Polo Restaurant 300 Liberty St SE Salem, OR 97302 Cost: $35.

Tickets can be purchased at: or at the door.
For more info contact Michele Darr-Babson or call 503 569-7223.

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Urgent: Sound off about deadly field burning

BEST of SHOW March 2010 - Oregon Society of Ar...Image by rabbits on chairs via Flickr

Small particulates -- "smoke" -- have turned out to be one of the great health risks that we were very slow to recognize. Simply put, smoke from field burning causes crippling and even disabling health problems and sometimes death.

If you'd like some relief, to have a chance for some clean air in your air, time to speak up! The health you save by fighting field burning might be your own.
DEQ is re-opening the public comment for the Proposed Willamette Valley Field Burning Rule Revisions. This comment period begins Wednesday, May 12, 2010, and closes Friday, May 21, 2010, at 5 p.m. All comments must be received by that deadline. The previous comment period was April 1 to April 30, 2010. DEQ is re-opening the comment period to provide the public with additional opportunity to comment on these rule changes.

News Release
Willamette Valley Field Burning website

To submit comments on this rulemaking you may use one of the following options:
  • Email to

  • Fax to 503-229-5675, attention Brian Finneran, or

  • Mail to DEQ Air Quality Division, Brian Finneran, 811 SW 6th Ave, Portland, OR 97204
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And one more thing. Let's be careful out there.

Excited HelmetImage by Clover_1 via Flickr

A comment on a Portland-area blog is a timely reminder:

My brother was riding his bicycle in Salem this weekend, and was hit by a car that right-turned into him across the bike lane.

He's alive today because of his helmet. It cracked in half with the impact, but absorbed the kinetic energy in doing so. The bike is a total loss, as well as basically everything he was wearing - but all he's got is some road rash and a horrifying memory of riding » car hood » windshield » A-pillar » pavement.

The insurance settlement will buy back the lost possessions, and he'll be perfectly healthy again in a week or two.

Anyone who rides a bicycle without a helmet is a Grade-AA idiot.

The ones that kill me -- and who I see far too often around Salem -- are the parents who carefully put the helmets on the kids whilst they themselves ride without one. I always want to ask them:
  1. Do you not know anything about how kids learn?

  2. Do you think that your kid will have a better life when you're dead or a quadriplegic than if you canceled the cable TV or cell phone and used the money to buy yourself a helmet too?
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For the Fall Calendar: Fall Fling - A Gardening Festival

Polk County mapImage via Wikipedia

Not sure if this is free or comes with a fee, but there's a nice-looking event coming up on September 11, 2010, at Dallas High School in Polk County, where the Polk County Master Gardeners have their 8th Annual "Fall Fling," with speakers James (Soil Man) Cassidy, Roger Gossler of Gossler Family Farms, and Salem's own Barb (Chicken Lady) Palermo speaking on "The Chicken Revolution."

There's no same-day registration, and only limited enrollment. The signups close on August 27. Call the Polk County Master Gardeners to register at 503.623.8395.

Note the cute, creative, and informative comic book on making "lasagna beds" (pdf) without tilling, which disrupts the soil life.
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Another petition worth a look

High Speed Rail proposalImage by swanksalot via Flickr

Here at LOVESalem HQ we have lots of reservations about "high speed rail" -- as in, let's prove that we can re-create and maintain the rail system we had in 1910 before we spend too much money and time on a wholly new system. But it seems that the price of getting any attention onto long-distance rail at all is being willing to accept a focus on the "high speed" part -- so there you go, here's a petition to let policymakers know you want alternatives for travel.

The awful oil spill in the Gulf reminded me again why we need to end our addiction to oil.

In fact, we have an option that can reduce our oil dependence, reduce traffic and congestion, create jobs and spur economic growth, by modernizing Oregon's transportation system with fast trains and buses, we won't depend on gas-guzzling cars and trucks to get around.

Imagine riding a high-speed passenger train that gets you from Eugene to Portland to Seattle quicker than driving, is 95% on-time and runs all day, with stops in Salem, Albany/Corvallis and other cities.

Pipe dream? Nope. President Obama has made high-speed rail a priority. Oregon and Washington got $560 million last year to jump-start this exact plan. We now have a shot at getting millions more in the coming years -- but only if Oregonians speak up and show lawmakers that we want high-speed rail.

Please sign our petition of support for a modern Oregon transportation system -- including fast trains.

OSPIRG is launching a long-term campaign to modernize Oregon's transportation system. We need a network of fast trains and buses that connect our state and neighborhoods together. We need more freight options for Oregon's farmers and businesses. And we need to prioritize fixing our current bridges and roads before building new ones, so we invest our tax dollars efficiently.

This is an exciting project, and it should yield great results for Oregon. Please show your support for signing our petition for a modern transportation system for Oregon. And look for more ways you can help soon.

Local Harvest deserves all the attention it gets and lots more

Blueberries at Farmer's MarketImage via Wikipedia

What a nice idea.
. . . The group is affiliated with Friends of Salem Saturday Market. Its goal is to alleviate hunger.

The group is seeking volunteers to help gather unused fruit from Salem backyards to share with needy families.

To volunteer, contact Katherine at

Individuals who would like to have unused fruits collected from trees, vines or berry bushes, can register to do that using the group's online form, or by contacting Dick at

To learn more, go to
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Is Salem likely to see many electric cars?

Tesla Roadster Engineering Prototype at Yahoo!.Like the jewel-encrusted bras that you sometimes see discussed in the press, with a picture of a supermodel showing off the goods, the Tesla is all about keeping the masses fixated on the unattainable to distract them from reconsidering existing arrangements. You are as likely to own a Tesla or equivalent as you are to own one of those bras. Image via Wikipedia

A net-friend asks why, with all the hype about electric cars and wondrous new batteries, Salem would want to invest in transit systems limited by rails or electric overhead power supply lines. Here's part of the answer.

If you didn't go read that fascinating article (really), then here's my cut at summarizing it to reply:
As an engineer, I am quite skeptical of the hype around the modern variants of electric cars, which are unlikely ever to be affordable for the masses, or an efficient solution to moving many people. Had we stayed electric in the first place and never become accustomed to driving hundreds of miles at 75+ mph, we might have had a shot at a saner transport system, but we didn't. Absent a price on carbon that puts all driving out of reach for most people (and where does the will to do that come from in a society that insists on being ferried in a vehicle for all trips more than a quarter mile), we're never going to be able to afford mass adoption of electric cars the way we did with gas powered ones.

You might find this excellent writeup about the history of auto battery technology advances interesting:

It ends thus:
We cannot have it all

Of course, there are many more possibilities than the two scenario's outlined here. It would not kill us to drive at speeds of 20 mph, on the contrary, but there is so much potential in downsizing the automobile that we don't have to go all the way back to the early 1900s to get a decent range.

We could tune them up a bit so that they could get 60 km/h or 40 mph (only sligthly faster than the 1911 Babcock Electric Roadster pictured on the right) and accelerate just fast enough to leave a crime scene or flee from a mad elephant.

At 60 km/h or 40 mph a trip of 600 kilometres or 400 miles would take 10 hours, instead of 5 hours at a common motorway speed. This does not sound like the end of the world. It's definitely a whole lot faster than going by foot (120 hours) or by bike (30 hours). We could also equip the Trev with a somewhat larger battery so that it gets a better mileage at the expense of a somewhat lower speed. Or, yet another possibility: keep the Trev like it is but limit its speed to that of the Fritchle.

If we want more speed, we have to sacrifice range. If we want more range, we have to sacrifice speed. If we want to keep the (energy) costs of the charging infrastructure within reasonable limits, we have to sacrifice speed or size. The lesson to be learned here, is that we cannot have it all: range, speed and size. And yet, that's what we are trying to do.
And that is the a basic truth --- that we cannot have it all. With the already-begun Great Contraction at work, we're not going to see mass adoptions of electric cars, and we're going to see a lot fewer people in gasoline-powered cars on the roads.

Of course, if we wait too long to restore a functioning mass transport system it will be too late -- we will have neither. The time for major infrastructure projects is drawing to a close for a long time, possibly forever. An energy-tight society is not a wealthy one; add the stresses and costs imposed by climate disruption and you see that we are unlikely to be able to afford private autos for many folks.

We can afford mass transit though, if we hurry.
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Already legal in Salem

As we slowly slog towards a rational accommodation for urban hens, it's worth remembering that, in Salem, pot bellied pigs are already specifically allowed -- with no limits on the numbers either. And they can be pretty substantial in size -- here's a Salem Craigslist ad tonight:
Friendly male pot belly piglet, enjoys the company of other animals and good with children. Currently 8 weeks old. Pictured with his mother who is 35lbs, his father is 50lbs, mainly black. Thanks.
The weird bias against hens goes back to the urge to impose a class-based restriction on what can be a pet in neighborhoods --- the bias says that an animal has to be useless, that it have no practical value, to help maintain the fiction that we're all lords of our little estates and that we don't need to work or grow our own food or anything like that ... that's for "those people" out in the sticks, not for us high-class "city people." Absurd as that sounds, that's pretty much the basis for zoning out urban hens when cows and full-size stock animals were zoned out of Salem in the 70's. What's especially noteworthy is how smoothly the zone code was changed to allow a pet for the rich folks who like pot-belly pigs when they became all trendy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Perfect for Salem -- The Electric (Street) Grid

Photo of a new-model trolleybus in Wellington,...Image via Wikipedia

1. Fate of electric trolleybuses hangs in balance
About one-fifth of all King County Metro Transit rides are made on an electric bus, powered by a nonpolluting trolley wire overhead. But the agency hasn't purchased a new trolleybus since 1979, and the day of reckoning approaches. Seattle Times05/09/2010

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WORD: World of hurt coming to a government near you

A necessary point to grasp here: There is no free lunch.

Exceed carrying capacity = no quality of life

Overdrawn at the resource bank is no way to go through life . . . 

Every governmental organization that pretends to have the growth-facilitators-called-"planners" on staff should be tasked with doing some actual planning -- coming up with figure that represents the human population carrying capacity for their region, i.e., the number of people who can live there without diminishing the ability of future generations to live there while enjoying the same level of ecosystem services.

Would be an eye-popping exercise.


POPULATION MEDIA CENTER - "Estimating Impacts of Population Growth on Ecosystem Services for the Community of Albemarle County and Charlottesville, VA," produced by Advocates for Sustainable Albemarle Population, as far is known, is the first such study ever undertaken to examine the effects of a community's projected growth on its ecosystem services, and to suggest projected population sizes at which essential ecosystem services are threatened or impaired.  
This research examined the effects of local population increases on a selection of ecosystem services, including water and air related services 
"At a 50% increase in population (pop.186,429) services within the developing sub-study areas (i.e. Charlottesville, Crozet, and the Route 29 corridor) begin to decline markedly. Up to a 125% population increase (pop. 279,642), degradation of ecosystem services is contained within the developing sub-study areas; as population exceeds this threshold degradation becomes widespread, impacting all of the rural areas. It is important to emphasize that ecosystem degradation occurs unevenly across the study area. While ecosystem services at the level of the entire study area appear to be sustainable up to a 125% population increase due to the continued functioning of the rural areas, this masks the degradation that is occurring in the developing areas.
"The results of this . . . study clearly indicate that if growth continues, planners will have to balance the needs of the human population with local ecosystem health. We note that while careful development can continue in the short term, it clearly cannot be sustained forever without sacrificing important ecosystem services. 
"There are two main lessons that can be garnered from this research. First, . . . the importance of a development strategy that encourages growth and efficient use of land in the developing areas while preserving the rural areas. This kind of strategy has the best chance of offsetting the impacts of future population growth in the short term. A strong urban forestry program is also important for this approach so that residents in the more densely developed areas can benefit from the ecosystem services provided by trees. 
"Second, even with these land use strategies in place, unabated population growth and the accompanying land development will negatively alter ecosystem services across the entire study area, suggesting that the identification and maintenance of an optimal population size should be a goal for local decision makers."

The cynical exercise known as "health care reform"

Description unavailableImage by @mjb via Flickr

Tikkun has a nice summary of the gory details and a prescription for better.

The whole Obama health care reform charade finally removed the mask of the caring health insurance company and revealed them for what they are: mafioso who would rather see us suffer and die miserably with them in the picture than face a world that lets us live well without them.
After the Reform: Aiming High for Health Justice

. . . The Public Option Was Ruled Out at the Start

From the beginning of this process, it was clear that the administration and leadership had developed a strategy based on an outcome they believed they could achieve. The path was predetermined. All of the steps along the way, from the house parties that started during the winter of 2008 to the hearings, to the media spin, were planned so that the resulting "debate" was a drawn out performance of political theater. In order to disarm the corporate interests, the health industries that had opposed previous reforms were included on the inside.

In order to disarm the Right, bipartisanship was at the forefront. In order to disarm the supporters of a single-payer plan, who are the majority, a campaign was developed around a promised "compromise," the public option, and given tens of millions of dollars for organizing and advertising. The public option succeeded in splitting the single payer movement and confusing and distracting it with endless discussion about what type of public option would be effective.

Despite all of the attention, the public option was never meant to be part of the final legislation. As early as March 2009, Senator Baucus admitted that the public option existed as a bargaining chip to convince private insurers to accept increased regulation. And a year later, Glenn Greenwald and others confirmed that the public option had been privately negotiated away, although members of Congress continued the charade and "fought" for it.

Toward the final vote, supporters of the public option were hearing the same excuses that single-payer advocates have heard for decades. We are always told that single-payer is not politically feasible. However, we know that political feasibility can change. We are told to be pragmatic, yet we know that the reform being passed was not practical, in that it failed to guarantee health care to everyone and to be financially sustainable. We are told we are asking for too much and should accept incremental change. However, we know that the smallest effective step we can take in health reform is the creation of a publicly funded health system. Beyond that, there is much more to do in order to create a health system that raises us into the top ten in the world.

Profit-Driven Insurers Cannot Prioritize Care

While politicians claim that we have finally achieved comprehensive health reform and that now all Americans will have guaranteed affordable health care, we in the single-payer movement experience a sense of déjà vu. We have seen the same scenario occur at the state level from Oregon to Maine to Tennessee, and most recently in Massachusetts. Every state that has passed a health reform package has made these claims, only to find that within a few years they were unable to cover the number of people they had hoped to cover and that their health care costs exceeded their budget. The reason for this is that every state, and now our federal government, ignored the data showing that we cannot achieve universal and affordable health care as long as we retain private insurers as an integral part of health care financing. This truth has been documented both in practice and in numerous economic studies.

We cannot control health care costs, without severe rationing, as long as we retain multiple private insurers, because this model wastes at least a third of our health care dollars on areas that have nothing to do with direct health care: marketing, high CEO salaries, profits, and administration. We cannot guarantee that patients will be able to afford needed care using private insurers because the private insurance model is profit driven. These corporations profit by avoiding the sick and denying and restricting payment for care. Their bottom line is profit, not improved health. And no amount of industry regulation to date has been successful in changing that bottom line. Likewise, the new federal legislation is full of loopholes that will allow private insurers to continue to skirt the regulations.

The White House and Congress claimed throughout the process that we must retain private insurance because Americans desire choice, and this has been framed as choice of insurance. However, this is a false concept. No person can anticipate what their health care needs will be or which insurance will be best. Health care needs change the day a patient has a serious accident or is diagnosed with a serious illness. We all need the same health insurance: one that covers all medically necessary care when and where we need it. Those of us who travel and listen find that people in America desire choice of health care provider and choice of treatment: the two choices that private health insurers restrict. . . .

When it comes to health reform, compromise on the fundamentals is unacceptable because the human costs are continued preventable deaths, continued suffering as patients fight for needed care, and continued bankruptcy from medical debt as families struggle to pay for deductibles and uncovered services. In a study published in Health Affairs in January 2008 that looked at the top nineteen industrialized nations, the United States ranked the worst—we have the highest number of preventable deaths (101,000 each year) because we lack a health system. . . .

We Can Still Create a National Health Program!

. . . It is possible to create a national health program in which every person living in this country is able to receive the same high standard of medical care whenever and wherever they need it, without fear of financial consequences. We call this health security. Other advanced nations have achieved this goal. The United States has not, and is currently ranked thirty-seventh in the world for health outcomes. We spend more per capita on health care than every advanced nation, yet leave a third of our
population either completely on the outside or vulnerable to financial ruin should they have a serious health problem.

Physicians for a National Health Program, founded in 1987, educates and advocates for a health system that will improve our health outcomes and provide health security based on the evidence of what has worked in our nation and what is effective in other advanced nations. We envision a lifelong universal health system—much like traditional Medicare—that is nationwide. We envision a system that allows patients to choose where they receive their care, permits caregivers and patients to determine the best course of treatment with assistance from evidence-based data, controls costs in a rational way through simplified administration and negotiation of fair prices, and is progressively financed. Its publicly funded nature would make it transparent and accountable. Because it would be privately delivered, it would allow caregivers to compete based on quality of care provided. Private health insurers would be relegated to a position of offering supplemental plans and possibly providing administrative support.

. . . Please join us. You can learn more at or join the grassroots
movement at
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Survey on Portland-Eugene "high-speed" rail interest

Acela Express power car 2000 at BWI Rail StationImage via Wikipedia

ODOT Rail Website offers High-Speed Rail Survey
Please share your thoughts about high-speed rail between Eugene and Portland by completing this confidential survey. he results from this survey will be used to help update the Oregon Rail Plan. Your input is important to make sure Oregon’s plan meets the needs of its citizens now and in the future. This survey will take 5 - 10 minutes to complete. Please respond by June 30, 2010.

ODOT High-Speed Rail Survey

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