Tuesday, April 28, 2015

'Unintelligible at any speed'

That phrase about sums up an era that ended decades ago.

Evidently, Jack Ely, the singer of the ultimate party song "Louie, Louie" performed in 1963 by The Kingsmen from Portland, has died just up the road in Redmond.

I remember the song well as it was considered dirty and you were somehow breaking some taboo just by listening to it.

It was rumored at the time to be investigated for its questionable lyrics.

Well, it was confirmed later that yes, indeed, the FBI made an exhaustive probe of the "obscene" lyrics and issued a 455-page report that determined the words were "unintelligible at any speed."

Is that not hilarious?

Of course, if you survived the Sixties, it was further proof that those in power had no idea what was going on and deserved the upheaval that followed.

Actually, "Louie, Louie" was more representative of the 1950s than the 1960s. The song, by Richard Berry, first came out in 1957.  Yes, another case where a song by an African-American becomes iconic after a lily-white band performs it.

By the end of 1963, everything would change. The Beatles second album, and it's first to be released in the U.S., came out on Nov. 22 of that year. What a day that was. By the time The Beatles landed in America in early 1964, this country would never be the same.

"Louie, Louie," in its own misunderstood way, represented an end of innocence, when harmless lyrics could provide such controversy.

The song lives on through countless versions and immortality in "Animal House," which was, coincidentally, filmed at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

With Ely's passing, the song's main line stands out: "We gotta go."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

OSU-Cascades' west-side supporters unpersuasive

From civil engineer, Fred Gientke
OSU-Cascades, aka OSU-Pumice Pit
Awhile back, the daily paper urged supporters of the expansion of OSU-Cascades on contaminated land on Bend's west side to be more vocal because the opponents sure are.

Well, amid the preponderance of letters opposing the west-side location, we've seen a few letters/opinion pieces in the paper from backers of the ill-conceived plan, and they make no case for building the campus on junk land.

The latest is former city councilor Allan Bruckner who whines that the preferred alternative, Juniper Ridge, is no place for OSU-Cascades.

Well, Bruckner is getting old. His memory must be failing.

The city council, after Bruckner's tenure, designed Juniper Ridge to accommodate a "world-class" four-year, research university. Granted, OSU-Cascades is not world-class, but it is the only legitimate university this town will ever see.

Bruckner blathers on about infrastructure at Juniper Ridge as if he cared about such things when he served on the council and when Bend fell woefully behind in infrastructure during the building boom of the 1990s.

Yes, there are infrastructure issues with Juniper Ridge, just as there are with any undeveloped land, including the west side parcels.

The main issue he has with Juniper Ridge, and the only legitimate complaint about the site, is that the state Dept. of Transportation wants road improvements to Hwy. 97 next to Juniper Ridge as that mixed-use area develops.

Bruckner throws out estimates of $50 million (mostly covered by highway funds when available), but whatever is spent on improving access to and from Hwy. 97, it will be minuscule next to cleaning up the former dump sites on Bend's west side. In fact, the costs of mitigation of the toxic lands may never end.

On the other hand, improving Hwy. 97 on Bend's north end will make traveling safer and better there for everyone in the region. It would make OSU-Cascades at Juniper Ridge more accessible to more people at more times of the day or night. Plus, there is room to grow at the 1,500-acre site.

On the other hand, using a shoehorn to wedge OSU-Cascades into Bend's traffic-choked west side would only benefit the landowners who swindled OSU-Cascades/the taxpayers of Oregon.

Oh, brewpubs, future marijuana shops and eateries will see good business, too.

The location, though, is inaccessible even for many Bend residents, let alone others from neighboring towns.

There is no place to grow beyond a total of 100 acres, which is about half the size of Central Oregon Community College, a two-year school on Bend's west side.

Bruckner, and others, also make the ridiculous claim that students would bike or walk to school.

From where? The northeast side of town where the only "affordable" housing exists in Bend? That's about five miles away and, coincidentally, much closer to Juniper Ridge.

Traffic would increase dramatically to and from a west-side, 5,000-student university by students commuting from the more affordable side of town to the west-side campus.

There is no affordable housing on Bend's west side, not even for most Bend working families, let alone college students. And, there are no plans to build any affordable housing on Bend's west side for anyone, student or not.

About four years ago, Bruckner donated $800,000 for OSU-Cascades' graduate program housed in a business park less than a mile from the planned OSU-Cascades expansion site. It's easy to see why he is biased in favor of the west-side location.

Still, to claim that the west-side spot is "the best possible location for OSU-Cascades" is just plain idiotic, asinine and deceitful, with all due respect.

There is nothing but land in Central Oregon and anywhere else would be better than what is being considered on garbage property on Bend's west side.

(Full disclosure: I own a small rental house right next to the proposed west-side location and I would make a killing renting to college students. I still think it's a terrible location for a four-year university. And, it'll cost Oregon taxpayers untold millions just to get the land ready for any classroom or even a parking lot.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bend's eastsiders shut out of civic affairs

And we don't
When Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion ensemble played in Bend the first time in 2003, he was quick to notice the big differences from Bend's west side and its east side.

Even then, it was obvious to Keillor that the west side was upscale and the east side was downscale.

And that's the way the city likes it, or at least those making the decisions.

The local daily ran an interesting story over the weekend that showed that almost all of the city councilors and almost all of the various committees in Bend are made up of people who live on the west side.

The committees include infrastructure, UGB expansion, planning and budget.

In addition, the park and rec board only has westside members.

In other words, even though there are more voters on the east side of town, they are grossly under-represented on the councils and boards that matter.

The result is that the west side gets more parks, better roads with better landscaping and their snow is removed before the east side of town.

The potholes also get patched quicker than on the east side.

Even the sewer system that is now coursing through the southeast side of town is mainly for the benefit of the west side of Bend even though there are hundreds of homes along the new sewer route on the east side that still have no sewer service.

The paper quoted city councilors and others about the dramatic under-representation of east-side residents on the council and key committees.

They noted that the east side of Bend has more working-class residents who don't have the time to get involved with civic affairs. Those that do apply are bypassed in favor of west-side residents.

Meanwhile, the west side has more retired and affluent residents who have the time and money to steer the direction of the town in their favor.

What the paper failed to note is that west-side residents, because they have more money, are far more litigious than east-siders.

And, the city caves to whoever sues it, be it the builders or west-siders out to protect their turf.

The challenge to the OSU-Cascades campus location on contaminated land on the west side is spear-headed by west-side residents who have reasonable fears about traffic and congestion on a grid system that is currently failing to meet the current demands.

Even though they'll likely lose their lawsuit to thwart the west-side expansion of OSU-Cascades, they'll at least delay the inevitable for a year, maybe longer.

It's unfortunate, but it's the new normal in America.

And Bend is a microcosm of what's happening across the country.

Those who have the money and influence supersede the will of the voters.

We no longer live in a democracy, but rather an oligarchy, according to this study last year from Princeton and Northwestern universities. This is what the researchers had to say.

A democracy is a form of government in which the leaders are elected by the people and the power is vested by the voters.

An oligarchy is a form of government in which the power is controlled by a small group of people. The Wikipedia definition notes that throughout history, oligarchies have often been tyrannical.

This outtake from the study explains why more citizens are apathetic about voting or being aligned with a political party:

"The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," they write, "while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

In Bend, and elsewhere in the country, the oligarchy is not necessarily the government.

In fact, it is composed of those with the most money. Nationally, you could say it's the Koch brothers.

Locally, it would be the builders/developers and Realtors who wield undue influence on the growth of Bend.

The only recourse to challenge this oligarchy is through legal action, not the ballot box.

Until east-siders realize this, they will be consigned to second-class status.

So, east-siders, pool your resources and get in the game. Prepare to sue to get fair treatment in this town.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Was America ready for a black president?

While listening to On Point, an NPR program the other day, I was struck by one of the caller's response to the shooting of a black man by a white police officer in South Carolina.

The caller, who identified herself as a white Hispanic woman from the Atlanta area, said all these recent shootings of unarmed black men is proof that this country wasn't ready for a black president.

It's a jarring comment that, in spite of President Obama's record-setting popular vote victories, is probably, and sadly, true.

Clearly, this country has huge problems with race that simmered during President Obama's first term but have percolated into the open during his second term.

It seems that many white folks out there are now perfectly comfortable in expressing their latent racism.

If you read any story that is even remotely related to race on Yahoo news or Fox News or the Wall Street Journal websites, the racist, anti-President Obama vitriolic comments from readers go on and and on and on.

It's disgraceful.

The 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War was commemorated last week, but, in many ways, that war still reverberates today. Here is a piece that shows how fighting continued for years after 1865. An estimated 50,000 blacks were murdered by whites in the South in the 25 years after the Civil War "ended."

Lynchings continued for decades after that, boosted in part by the film "The Birth of a Nation," which was released exactly 100 years ago.

A cop shooting or beating of a black person today, however justified at times, is so routine that it hardly seems newsworthy.

While formulating this blog post, another unarmed black man was killed by a volunteer cop in Oklahoma.

The difference now is that the video age has changed everything.

The Rodney King clip, more than 20 years ago, was the first video to show police brutality to the masses. Riots eventually followed.

It mirrored TV news footage from the 1960s of police using fire hoses on black protesters and also beating them. Riots spread throughout the country then.

The smartphone video from South Carolina is the latest to reveal how easily a white cop can shoot an unarmed black man in the back and how easily it is to capture for the YouTube generation. Without the video, Walter Scott would be just another statistic.

With the video, our country faces an uncomfortable truth. We're still at war with ourselves.

As we commemorate the assassination of Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago this week, we should be hopeful that nothing of the sort happens to President Obama.

Because if something terrible should occur to him or his family, I fear that the relative restraint the African-American community has demonstrated over the past six years will reach the breaking point.

And then, white Americans may realize that their protected, privileged world is truly gone with the wind.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Show women the money

Harriet Tubman fits well on the $20 bill
The "Women on 20s" campaign is off to a fast start with the field pared down to four worthy candidates to replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

The final four are: Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and Wilma Mankiller.

By putting a woman on what America holds most dearest in the almighty dollar, the "Women on 20s" effort would replace one of the more disturbing presidents in our history.

Jackson owned hundreds of slaves, forced Native Americans from their lands and supported Texas in its war with Mexico over slavery. (For all the "enlightenment" of our slave-owning Founding Fathers, it's worth reading about a real enlightened leader in Simon Bolivar, the anti-slavery liberator of South America. Okay, he wasn't that enlightened because he believed in his own dictatorship.)

It would be more than fitting to replace a proud slave-owner in Jackson with one of the great abolitionists in Tubman. Jackson hated northern abolitionists.  Plus, it would be a constant reminder that this country became rich on the backs of slaves.

Of course, Mankiller, a Native American, has the perfect name for replacing a man on the $20 bill.

And, Parks is a towering figure of the Civil Rights movement.

Eleanor Roosevelt, obviously, is considered the most consequential First Lady in history.

My vote is with Tubman. She had the hardest life of the final four and did the most with it.

I would love to see President Obama, our first African-American president, authorize the first woman, a trail-blazing African-American woman, to become the face of the $20 bill.

We need symbolic statements like "Women on 20s" now and then to remind Americans that this country belongs to more that just old, white men.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

La-la Land: Homelessness and selfie sticks

Life, such as it is, in La-la Land
On a recent trip to the L.A. area, I was surprised to see so many homeless people sleeping in doorways or in camps set up in various locations.

Tents were pitched in parks, on sidewalks alongside buildings and on sidewalks under freeway overpasses.

These tents and makeshift quarters covered up much of the sidewalks and didn't leave too much room for walking.

That's a good thing because at least the sidewalks in L.A. are getting used since most folks there seldom walk anywhere.

If you're going to be homeless, the weather in L.A. is ideal for living on the edge. It was in the low 90s to mid-80s while I was there in late March.

I know there are homeless people everywhere, including in Bend.

Eugene and Portland have issues of where the homeless can and cannot congregate.

But, in 2015, the stock market is at record highs, unemployment is at the lowest rate in years and gas prices are so low that gas-guzzlers are hogging the roads once more.

It is shameful that homeless numbers are increasing, mainly for children. There are an estimated 2.5 million homeless children in this country, an all-time high.

With one being best and 50 being worst, Oregon ranks 26th, while California ranks 48th, just ahead of Mississippi and Alabama in the number of homeless people.

It's another way America is exceptional.

At least we have selfie sticks, those handy poles that hold your smartphone far enough away from yourself that you can get a decent image.

And why not.

Some smartphones take such great photos that it's hard not to take multiple snapshots with them.

Plus, why bother innocent bystanders to take a picture of you and yours in front of some tourist trap.

Also, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are so demanding that they need constant updates.

The selfie sticks were out in force at Descanso Gardens, Huntington Library and Disneyland, where visitors actually walked and walked and walked.

I didn't see any homeless folks with selfie sticks, but I was driving by so fast that I didn't get a good look.

And, I can't say that I saw tourists taking selfies in front of homeless encampments. But, you never know.

I'll say this, though, California has it all, from perfect weather to theme parks to gridlocked freeways to tents on sidewalks to water woes. It's all so selfie-worthy.