Thursday, August 16, 2007

Leading By Example and Maxwell Lake



In the last blog I started a new section with the heading of Homo Hypocriticus. For many years, I have noticed that humans (Homo sapiens), myself included, have a tendency to be hypocrites to one degree or another. So the intention of the new section is to point out examples of what myself or others consider hypocritical and usually unjust behavior by government or others.

In This Article:
Background on New Nuisance and Sidewalk Ordinance Issues
August 14th Council Meeting
Sampling of Properties belonging to Councilors or government officials

My Street in Baker City, Oregon. We don’t have sidewalks and we are fine with that.


Recently, there has been a flurry of articles, an editorial, and one letter in the local papers related to a new initiative by the City Council and City staff to begin enforcing local nuisance and safety ordinances. These include those dealing with sidewalk maintenance, and most of these ordinances have been ignored for years, if not decades. The initiative, announced by City Manager Steve Brocato on August 1st, and reported in local papers, said the city “will get more aggressive in enforcing ordinances that prohibit “nuisances” on their property,” including “weeds, trash and dilapidated vehicles.” (Herald/Jacoby/8-2-07) City Manager Steve Brocato asked residents to turn themselves in as violators by calling the City’s planning director, Evan MacKenzie, by Aug. 31, and the city would work with them. (Ibid.) The Record-Courier reported similarly about “voluntary compliance” on August 9th and said that “A nuisance property is characterized by large amounts of materials not necessary or typical for residential use and not kept within an enclosed structure.” (I thought Baker City was the "Premier Rural Experience.") They also reported that those not approaching the City by August 31 would be subject to fines of $500.00 for each violation they find and an additional $500.00 for each day that the violation is allowed to continue. According to the Record-Courier, “After the grace period, the City will start aggressively pursuing enforcement of nuisance properties.”

Let me say out front that short of real, as opposed to imagined, safety issues and crime problems, including dogs running loose, I generally don’t care what people do with their property. I don’t care if your sidewalk is crumbling or whether you have one or not. I don’t want one and can’t afford one. I moved to the area on the west side of the tracks because it provided opportunities, as well as room, for animals, firewood processing, vehicles, gardens, etc. My house is old and I’m not in to trimming hedges, but the roof is new and the place is fine for me. I could see the condition of properties in my neighborhood and decided I could live with that and, in fact, that it fit in with the way I wanted to live. What other people consider visual nuisances just doesn’t offend me that much. Too me, the way we live in much of Baker City is related to the rural experience that our City is suppose to cherish. If someone is obsessive/compulsive about order and tidiness, then they need to go somewhere else, like north Elm Street, the subdivisions around the golf course, or Portland.

In the past, the policy on ordinance enforcement was to respond to complaints only. For example, the council minutes for Sept. 26, 2006 say “The Police Department normally enforces the [abandoned vehicles] ordinance only in response to complaints from members of the public.” Then in May or June, allegedly due to police overtime issues related to training time, the City decided to hire a new police officer and part-time evidence room clerk. Turns out that the new officer and clerk will enable the community service officer to “look for violations as well” on a full time basis (Herald/Jacoby/8-2-07). The problem I have with this approach is the abruptness of the change from little or no enforcement to what may be “aggressive” enforcement in such an abrupt manner and without any period of public input and discussion.

On August 3, 2007, the Herald printed a letter (the Herald doesn’t print all the letters sent to them even when they comply with all their nit-picky requirements, just the ones they arbitrarily choose to print) from a newbie to Eastern Oregon claiming that “Baker City is the dirtiest town I have ever lived in.” The gentleman had spent 20 years immersed in the spit-and–polish of the US Navy, and perhaps his mother never let him play in the dirt, so now he wants us to change our ways and “clean up Baker City.” It seems that when people come to a new place to live that they always want to make it like the place they came from. Change is fine if is based in actual safety or sustainability issues, but I don’t think people ought to be able to impose their subjective tastes on others. He suggested that “You folks as civic leaders need to get in your cars or better yet, go for a walk and just look around,” but even many of the “civic leaders” pushing this campaign are not from Baker City originally. They are for the most part pretty well off too. Several of our Councilors have rental and other property investments in town. Almost all are business people hoping to attract additional business to Baker City. (Dare I say we are run by a business cabal?) They, like a lot of new people who hale from more urban areas, may have a problem with our “dirty little secret.” The class and economic dimensions of this issue are deliberately obscured and ignored, but they are right under the surface

The Herald followed up with an editorial on August 8th reminding us that we have “blemishes,” and applauding the fact that “Brocato intends to change that.” (Given the light punishment meted out by the City to an actual criminal City employee, I guess the Herald was happy to see him go after somebody.) They decry a situation where residents might have to live next to people who have “water that harbors disease-spreading mosquitoes.” Uh huh. I’ve been waiting for over a year for the Herald to suggest a change in county irrigating practices to lessen our exposure to the dangers of mosquitoes spreading deadly West Nile virus, most of whom come from irrigated fields and sloughs, and not the tires and bird baths in your back yards, but City residents who are subject to the winged onslaught don’t seem to be able to match the political power of ranchers and farmers. Instead of seeing a change in irrigation practices, residents just get to help pay for combating the disease bearing mosquitoes the ranchers and farmers help create. A human life or two now and again isn’t too much to pay to maintain the status quo for agriculture. Besides, we have bigger problems to fight, like that inoperable vehicle in your back yard or your buckled sidewalk.

Finally, on August 13, the day prior to the last City Council meeting, the Herald ran an article entitled “City’s next step: the sidewalks” describing how the City has decided to start enforcing the old sidewalk ordinance which requires homeowners adjacent to dilapidated sidewalks to fix them. A City employee is said to have brought the attention of the City staff to a badly buckled sidewalk on Balm Street. In our "Tree City," many sidewalks become lifted and damaged by tree roots. Some thought that we had gotten used to it. What a convenient coincidence that a City employee brought a bad sidewalk to the attention of the City just when City Attorney Fine was preparing to present his new sidewalk ordinance! Given that there are many instances of buckled and dilapidated sidewalks in town, given the ominous title to the article of “City’s next step,” (Yikes, what is this Council going to do to us next?), and given my knowledge of other inconsistent enforcement, I decided to go to last Tuesday night's Council meeting.

Mayor, Jeff “You’re Out Of Order” Petry,
Checking to see if he had washed behind his ears.

After they blew off Steve Culley’s request to get on the agenda to discuss a $5000 donation in defense of immigration reform, and after another citizen asked for special dispensation for Gentry Ford’s continuing violations of an ordinance, apparently regarding their parking vehicles on the sidewalk, I spoke to the Council about my concerns. (The citizen’s participation section of the meeting is normally given short shrift by the Herald, and this meeting was no exception.)

I told them I had concerns that their recent ordinance enforcement endeavors (crackdown) had the potential to become a class war on the poor as many people in town, who may be in violation, are low-income residents and may lack the resources to respond to the City’s demands. I mean, what with all the publicity and the full-time enforcement officer, they are only going to encourage the Nuisance Nazis, often the well off, to proceed with their vendettas against people who live differently than themselves. It will be like it always has. People make a choice to move to a place where things are not as they like and then they unleash their barrage of complaints. They didn’t have to move in next to a poor person, but they did, and now they want the city to do something about their newly acquired nuisance neighbor. They didn’t have to move into “the dirtiest town,” but they did, and now they are going to help us become decent, civilized human beings by making us live like them. They don’t know that one person’s nuisance is another person’s treasure. They have never been poor, or they don't remember, and they don’t have the experience or imagination to develop the necessary empathy. They are a threat to the poor and others who want to live and let live.

I told the City Council that the Herald’s “next step” headline suggested that there is a plan broader than that which has thus far been discussed publicly and that the citizens of Baker City had a right to know what it is and to have input (early input I would think). Ultimately, it came out that City Attorney David Fine has plans to submit over 12 “modernized” or new ordinances to the City Council in the coming months, so hang onto your hat.

One positive note was that Councilor Bev Calder also believed that the City needed to take a less punitive approach with “fewer sticks and more carrots.”

Finally I asked the City Council to take responsibility for what is happening to us. Many of us had thought that the new City Council would be different, but it now looks like the kinder, gentler new boss, is the same as the old boss, except perhaps worse. Perhaps we need to shorten the terms of Councilors to two years so that we can limit the damage done if they go off on an authoritarian tangent.

Speaking of responsibility, I noted that transferring Council’s traditional responsibility to staff, as happened later in the meeting, had the effect of actually diffusing responsibility and making no one accountable to the public. Later during discussion of the public contracting rules, Councilor Calder worried that the transfer of the Council’s traditional responsibility to staff would leave them with little to do at meetings and could lead to less transparency in local government. I agree.

Finally, discussion turned to the Balm Street sidewalk issue and the new sidewalk ordinance.

One important fact that came to light is that no one could recall the last time they received a complaint about sidewalks. That might have put a damper on all the hoopla about a sidewalk problem, but thankfully the City employee came forward with a complaint to get the ball rolling.

The individual who was being required to fix their sidewalk by the City stated that she felt she was being “made an example of” and “singled out” because the whole street has many areas of dilapidated sidewalks. It seemed like Sam Bass agreed as he noted there were numerous instances of dilapidated sidewalks in town. He said there is a 4-inch drop in the sidewalk right next to the subject property. Further down in this blog will be examples of instances where City officials themselves could have been the example used for broken sidewalks but it might have been too messy to point out their deficiencies. Better pick on people in the low-income section of town. The whole situation is perfect for the powerful to abuse, through selective prosecution, those they dislike or disagree with.

Among other things, Calder thought they the City needs to take a holistic approach to the problem and revisit the whole policy question regarding sidewalks. She thought proceeding with this complaint and with the new sidewalk ordinance being presented by City Attorney Fine was like “putting the cart before the horse.”

Councilor Bryan noted that Boise has a fund which provides up to 25% of the cost for repairing broken-down sidewalks and he was amenable to discussing alternatives, including Baker City allowing residents to remove crumbling sidewalks if they wished. Given that Attorney Fine and others, including myself, see sidewalks, where they exist, as a public asset, perhaps we could agree to have the city help fund all or part of sidewalk repair and maintenance.

Interestingly, given the condition of sidewalks at one of his properties, Steve Brocato said that “if somebody trips . . . we got an issue” and that the new ordinance would “give us … authority to proceed on this before somebody gets hurt.” The Herald reported that he said it is the City's responsibility to make sure dangerous sidewalks get fixed if they are aware of them (paraphrasing Herald/Jacoby/8-15-07).

Councilor Schumacher said that there are more places without sidewalks than with sidewalks. He thought that the “way our whole city looks as far as sidewalks” is “atrocious.” He didn’t think that it was fair that some had to fix sidewalks and others don’t have to put one in. “We have a city-wide problem and we need to say we need sidewalks on all developed streets in the City limits of Baker. I think it is unfair to make someone maintain a sidewalk that they put the expense to put in without saying look, you don’t have a sidewalk, he needs to get one put in. I think that you gotta be fair both ways and there are a lot of places that we should have sidewalks in this town and it’s not right that people go down a sidewalk and then have to walk out in the middle of the street because there is no sidewalk.” Hear that Commissioner Warner? (Commissioner Warner has a curb but no sidewalk.) Please note that Mr. Schumacher’s plan would not require him to install sidewalks at his property on Carter Street or at his property on Vista Heights Drive. He already has one, such as it is, at Crown Courtyard.

Well, I’m not a “civic leader,” but I decided to take the advice of the crusading new resident who just retired here and “just look around” a bit to see how bad our nuisance and sidewalk situation has become. Before starting my survey, I went to the Assessor’s property search page at and looked up some of the property addresses of those on the Council and a few of the City staff. I was really surprised at what I saw when I visited some of their properties.

I didn’t visit Gail Duman’s house because she is in a new development with new curbs and sidewalks, and she doesn’t have other properties here except her store on Main, where the sidewalks are kept up. Neither did I look for Sam Bass because I couldn’t be sure where he lived given the records available and I simply don’t have time to locate his home. I think he lives over on my side of town and probably doesn’t have sidewalks but I don’t have a lot to base that guess on.

After passing a well kept rental (?) of Dennis Dorrah’s on 13th Street, I drove on to a home owned by Terry Schumacher at 2790 Carter Street. Someone else is living there. This is what I found:

2790 Carter Street

Note that the street is gravel and that there are no sidewalks or curbs, so I guess Mr. Schumacher doesn’t think they are that important. I counted 12 or so vehicles in various stages of repair in addition to assorted trailers, boats and the like. Any nuisance violations here? As owner of the house, Mr. Schumacher is ultimately responsible for the condition of the property. Where has he been? Contrast this house with a home (just below) he owns on Vista Heights Drive.

Schumacher’s Vista Heights Drive Home

This picture above is of the rough curb cut (and edges to trip on around fire hydrant) on the corner adjacent to Mr. Schumacher’s “Crown Courtyard" bed and breakfast. Is this curb cut convenient for wheel chairs? Could you trip on the walk or edges around the hydrant?

Another home I visited was a rental owned by City Manager Steve Brocato at 1805 3rd. Street.

Steve Brocato's 3rd Street Rental
Sidewalk to left of house is buckled in places

Buckled Sidewalk at City Managers 3rd Street Rental

The displacement measured 6 inches from the bottom of one section to the top of the other or 4 inches from top to top. This is comparable to the buckled sidewalk on Balm Street that the city decided needed to be repaired. There are other problems with this sidewalk as well (pictures on request).

Another area of buckled sidewalks is in one of my favorite blocks: the 1700 block of 4th Street. The trees cause the problem but thats how big, beautiful old trees get along with sidewalks. A city employee passed right by when I was taking the photos but didn’t stop to investigate.

1700 Block of 4th Street

With these problems so close to City Hall, you have to wonder why they reported the problem on Balm Street.

Another problem might be the vacant house and deteriorating sidewalk owned by Councilor Dennis Dorrah on the S.W. corner of 3rd and Campbell.

Empty House on 3rd Street Belonging to Councilor Dorrah

According to the neighbor, this home has been vacant for over 8 years. Note dead lawn and junk on the porch. Another Dorrah’s property at 1116 Resort is well taken care of and has a curb but no sidewalk. Is there a sidewalk in Mr. Dorrah’s future? His property on 13th is also well taken care of and has a gravel street with no curb or sidewalk.

Sidewalk Problems at Dorrah House on 3rd St.

Below is the well kept home of Commissioner Warner. Note the curb, but no sidewalk. If Councilor Shumacher has his way, there will be a sidewalk in Commissioner Warner’s future as well.
Warner Home

Both Baker Garage and Gentry Ford routinely block all or a portion of the sidewalk and parkway at their businesses (Below). Why is this allowed if it is a violation of City ordinance?

Baker Garage: New Cars on Washington Street

The sidewalk below is adjacent to a rental that the Assessor’s office says is owned by District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff at 2845 2nd Street.

Sidewalk that Matt Shirtcliff is responsible for maintaining at 2845 2nd Street

Some Businesses also don’t do such a great job maintaining their sidewalks. The picture below is behind the Geiser Grand Hotel on Resort Street. There are other examples nearby. Oh, and is a dumptster and garbage on the public sidewalk LESS offensive that an inoperable vehicle tucked away on someone’s private property?

Geiser Grand Sidewalk

Mayor Petry, a broker and developer, owns the single family hotel at the end of the long drive in the picture below. No curbs or sidewalks for him to worry about as far as I can see.

Mayor Petry's Home and Drive

Below is the crumbling but serviceable sidewalk at a home owned by Andrew Bryan at 2250 4th Street. Although he voted to accept the first reading of the new sidewalk ordinance, at least Mr. Bryan seems comfortable with addressing the problem through various avenues and rethinking policy rather than simply strict enforcement.

Andrew Bryan’s Sidewalk

And finally, below are pictures of an old unoccupied church/rehab facility at 1620 Valley Street which is owned by Beverly Calder. The two lower front windows are broken, with the glass exposed, and there is an open window on the left side where the plywood is not secured in a way to prevent entry. Is this building an attractive nuisance and do you find its state of disrepair pleasing? I noted a lot of children in the neighborhood, including next door and across the street.

Councilor Calder's Empty Church/Rehab Facility

I personally don't have a problem with most of the situations described above. What is troubling is to see the City begin enforcement proceedings with one of the ordinances they have announced they intend to enforce at the same time that they themselves don't seem to be taking various ordinances seriously enough to apply them to their own situations or to businesses that appear to violate them.

The problem of inconsistency also rears its ugly head in other areas of enforcement. For example, the city received a complaint from someone in the vicinity of the new development on Elm Street that a weeping willow on Grove Street was blocking vision to the north as vehicles approached an intersection from the east. The willow didn’t extend into the street mind you, it just blocked vision up the street as one approached and people would have to slow down, as at any blind intersection. On the basis of this one person’s complaint, he landowner was sent a threatening letter by the City telling the owner to cut the branches so that people could see up the street as they approached. Placing a stop sign at the intersection apparently didn't occur to the City. The cutting was done, and the second time required more or less ruining the aesthetics of the tree. See picture below.

Grove Street Willow
Note lower branches, especially on street side, are whacked off

Compare this situation with the visibility on 1st Street in the downtown historic district where the City has allowed diagonal parking to be instituted. (Below) The vehicles extend far into the street and there is more traffic here than up on Grove.

1st Street Parking Obstructs Vision

Which is worse? To cross 1st Street you have to very carefull edge the nose of the vehicle out into the center of the street all the while hoping that no one is coming down that lane above 15 or so MPH. Why does the City encourage a dangerous obstruction of vision downtown while requiring a residential landowner to alleviate a much less serious situation by mangling a tree that doesn't extend out into the street?

As I wrote previously, I don’t have a problem with the way different groups of people choose to live, but after finishing the tour of properties, the big question in my mind is why is the City coming after us if they haven’t even addressed the problems in their own back yards? Why go out to Balm Street when you could just use the City Manager’s rental as an example? Why criminalize the lifestyles of the poor and low income people? People look for consistency in the application of the law and they deserve equal protection. Lets get that right before we go off persecuting people in what often seems to be an arbitrary and class-based manner.

Maxwell Lake

Maxwell Lake

A lot of people come this area to be close to the Elkhorns and the Eagle Caps, myself included. Little did I know that while you could get to a lake around 7,000 feet with little effort in the Elkhorns, getting there in the Eagle Caps was a whole different matter. Many of the hikes to alpine and sub-alpine lakes in the latter range requires not just that you be in shape (or have a horse), but that you spend a day or three or more backpacking in the wilderness.

Well, I can't tell you how gratified I was to discover two weeks ago that you can hike to one of those beautiful lakes in a few hours and return to your camp or car on the same day. That lake is Maxwell Lake, which sits almost 2500 feet above the trailhead on the Lostine River in Wallowa County.

You can reach the trailhead or the Shady Campground by traveling the Lostine River Road south from the town of Lostine for about 16 miles. The trailhead is on the left and the campground is by the river on the right. The lake is approximately 3.8 miles from the trailhead. The trail is moderate initially because you are going up a steep slope along a series of switchbacks. About two thirds or three fourths of the way up the mountain the trail becomes rougher, deeper, and unfortunately, quite a bit steeper. I took my time and took short breaks or stopped to photograph things at fairly regular intervals, but still did it in 3.5 hours. Experienced hikers who are in good shape could probably do it in 2.5 to 3 hours with no problem. When you arrive at the lake you will be at about 7,750 feet.

My hike was on August 7, but I would recommend mid-July or so for more wildflowers. June if you want the early bloomers. Along the way, the trail alternates between dense forest and open meadows, all on steep slopes, with one stream at the beginning and a few streamlets thereafter. I saw some of the late blooming flowers, deer, Clark’s nutcrackers, chipping sparrows, juncos, other unidentified birds, chipmunks and ground squirrels--not much out of the ordinary really. It was extremely dry so there was no shortage of dust along the way, but the lake was beautiful.

I must finish this blog soon so I will quickly show you just a few of the things I saw. The asters have had their names changed recently, so if you have to know the most recent scientific name, you can look it up ( ). Ok, Ok, I'll give both names.

At the lower elevations especially (around 6500 to 7000 feet) you can find a common aster called Aster foliaceus var. foliaceus (Symphotrichium foliaceum) that is not hairy or glandular, has pink ray flowers, leafy-like involucres, and clasping leaves.

Aster foliaceus

Usually at higher elevations you will encounter Aster integrifolius (Eurbia integrifolia). It differs from the former primarily by having some glandular stems and peduncles with a purplish pink flower. It is usually not as tall either.

Aster integrifolius

Up over 7,o00 feet you will find Hypericum formosun var. nortoniae, or western St. John's wort. A European species of St. John's wort is used to treat depression.

Hypericum formosum var nortoniae

Also at around this elevation you begin to encounter a sure sign of the coming end to summer, Gentiana calycosa, or explorer's gentian. It will be with you all the way to the lake's shore.

Gentiana calycosa

Lastly, among the other flowers you will find, such as Wallowa Indian paintbrush, is a very special member of the Saxifrage family called Parnassia fimbriata, or fringed grass of parnassus.

Parnassia fimbriata

When ever you are able to do this hike, early spring, late fall and winter excepted, and even though it can be physically draining, I am sure that you will not regret or forget it. Be sure to wear boots and appropriate clothing, take some food and water, and stop often to smell the wild flowers and take in the views.

Maxwell Lake

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Real Citizens and the Cost of War

I’ve been out for a while due to feelings of utter hopelessness :-) and also the time constraints associated with the celebration of the gifts of spring and summer, but recent events and the coming of fall have spurred me to new attempts.

In addition to the usual complaints, this and future blogs will present some of those seasonal gifts, in the form of pictures and information about the flowers and other critters we are still blessed with here in Baker County.

Gnophaela vermiculata

Late last month, Alice Lentz and I documented the occurrence of Gnophaela vermiculata, AKA, the police car moth (Can’t we get a better name???) on Vinegar Hill Road in Grant County. It is the first documented occurrence of the moth there, but it has likely been around for eons. It occurs here in Baker County too and is flying right now up high on east side of the Marble Pass road. Not much is known about it apparently, but it drinks nectar from the flowers of Senecio Serra (tall butterweed), as well as goldenrod, and it is unusual for a moth in that it is a day flier.

Speyeria cybele, Female, upper wings

Speyeria cybele, lower wings

One of the more distinctive and easily identified butterflies that can be found right now in the Baker County mountains is the great spangled fritillary, Speyeria cybele. The host plant for this butterfly, as with most fritillaries, is the violet. Amazingly, the little first-stage larvae hibernate through the frozen winter and resume feeding in the spring. You can find adults feeding in the mountains now on thistles, like Utah thistle above, and also on tall butterweed and dogbane. If you want to see butterflies, look for these plants at this time of year.


It was a real hopeful and inspirational few moments today when I opened up the Herald and saw Suzanne and Ed Moses DOING SOMETHING (Again!!!) to tell government that they just can’t proceed willy-nilly to destroy the quality of our lives—like arbitrary and unsupported destruction of Baker City trees that are providing valuable environmental services in an otherwise sterile and completely over-manipulated environment. Suzanne just set herself into a chair under the tree that city crews were busy destroying, and rather than bring a limb crashing down on her head, they stopped cutting. (OK, I admit that it helps to be wealthy Baker City property owners/taxpayers—be careful trying this behavior at home if you are poor!)

Kudos to the City and their police representatives for responsibly acknowledging legitimate a citizen grievance and not over-reacting! But why not ease up on the butchering of trees, even if it is a part of local custom and culture!

Cutting down trees because a branch or two may create a safety hazard, if followed to its logical conclusion, would require cutting down all the street trees in Tree City USA. That logic could see the City’s portion of the Powder River begin to resemble the bleak and barren privately owned ranch properties downstream, where a war on willows has been going on for many years, often accomplished by cows instead of chainsaws.

Thanks Ed and Suzanne for drawing lines/creating boundaries, and telling government that they are responsible to the citizens of Baker City.



Almost all the letters to the editor concerning the forest travel plan in recent weeks emphasize that historic uses by local citizens need to be protected. The argument seems to be that “We’ve had our way with the local publicly owned forest for years and that use alone is enough reason for us to continue it.” (I use the forest myself, but we need to recognize how much use is appropriate for maintaining sustainable use and healthy ecosystems.) The County Commissioners have now appointed the usual suspects to a committee that is supposed to represent all of our interests. As far as I could tell from newspaper reports, not a single "environmentalist" who was not previously associated with a government land or wildlife bureaucracy was appointed to the committee. Correct me if I am wrong. The NGO enviros, whose nationwide membership is in the many millions, seem to be completely under-represented. (This too seems to be local custom and culture as the Democrats did the same thing when appointing a panel discussion on predators.) The reality--that the National Forests are owned by all Americans, a good many of them NGO enviros, and not just the extractive users in North East Oregon--is apparently not a part of the local consciousness.

Who is represented? Traditional exploiters of the forest and special interests, led by the Chair, a Commissioners wife, who’s claim to fame, besides being fabulously wealthy, is that she spearheaded an earlier effort to deny protection of habitat for threatened bull trout. Business as usual for the Commissioners.

A big thank you to the beleaguered Forest Supervisor for obliquely pointing out in tonight’s paper that the goal isn’t to provide as many avenues as possible for local citizens to destroy the forest. His job, and everyone’s ethical responsibility, is to provide a sustainable future for the forest ecosystem, including soil, water, vegetation and wildlife.



So people are dying due to our ignoring the maintenance needs of national infrastructure. And they are dying due to our nearly genocidal and totally illegal activities in Iraq. The blame lies squarely with President Bush, a corporate/military industrial complex controlled Congress (including the complacent and corrupt Democrats), the mainstream media, and roughly 50% of the American people. Yes, those gullible among you who voted for George W. Bush also bear responsibility for this outrageous and criminal war and the trashing of the American future. You elected a psychopath and war criminal, and if you had been paying attention, you would have known he was lying us into a war. As I told some of our knee-jerk militarist “citizens” in Stockman’s bar prior to the 2004 elections, “He lies to you every time he opens his mouth.” And hey, I don’t care if you like me or not. My duty is to tell you the truth.

When you vote in the representatives of military profiteering and big oil, you pay a price in blood and treasure. You condemn your children to an impoverished future and you derail possibilities for the building of a decent and equitable society. You give your sons and daughters to people who care nothing about them, you, or your needs. The most recent example of how much they care about our society: Your infrastructure is crumbling around you and people are dying because of it. Additionally, the fact that many go without the minimal medical care found in most industrialized countries is another cost that creates needless deaths of Americans. Those less well off among you who have supported this criminal administration are the biggest suckers in the world. Perhaps it is like Jesus said: “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.” Or do you???

My unsolicited advice: Quit listening to the mainstream media—they too lie to you almost every time they open their mouths!

So infrastructure crumbles and people die.

I heard on the radio today that it would cost around $60 Billion to bring the 25% of our faulty bridges back to life and safe use. Other reports indicate that it is more like $200 Billion. ( )

Not a single report on the mainstream media tonight connected the infrastructure problems we face to the extravagant expenditures for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or to our self-destructive relationship with Israel (over $100 billion since 1948, and terrorists galore!). Just last week the Bush administration gave away over $60 Billion to Israel and a few of our Arab despot allies. Bush is bringing freedom and democracy to the world—WHAT HYPOCRISY!!!

We’ve been warned by the civil engineers since at least 2003 that our infrastructure is crumbling—there is no excuse. The corporate controlled government simply doesn’t care how many of you die as long as they can keep the money flowing to themselves and their friends. When will people wake up and stand up—not just for our local trees, but for what is left of our alleged “democracy?”


Again, wake up people, we reap what you sew!

From a Friend

A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the densest element yet known to science.

The new element has been named "Bushcronium." Bushcronium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 311. These particles are held together by dark forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

The symbol for Bushcronium is "W". Bushcronium's mass actually increases over time, as morons randomly interact with various elements in the atmosphere and become assistant deputy neutrons in a Bushcronium molecule, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe that Bushcronium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass".

When catalyzed with money, Bushcronium activates Foxnewsium, an element that radiates orders of magnitude more energy, albeit as incoherent noise, since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.



European Hypocrisy

By Saifedean Ammous

While in Paris a few weeks ago, whenever I would discuss Middle East politics with anyone, I would be overwhelmed with the traditional refrains of classical anti-Americanism: “they have no culture and deal with the world as if it had no culture”, “they have no morality in their foreign policy”, “they go to war for oil and money” and so on with inane over-simplified stereotypes. Soon after would come the cackle of self-righteous pride: “we Europeans are different”, “we want our foreign policy based on a concept of morality”, “we attempt to promote justice in the world and fix up the mess left behind by the Americans”. I would then usually be told something about all the aid that Europeans give to Palestinians as proof of the decency of Europeans as opposed to the rabidly Zionist Americans who give billions to fund Israel’s murderous army.

Would that this were true.

Europe’s policy with regard to Palestine/Israel is so racist, short-sighted, counter-productive and hypocritical that it could almost pass for American policy.

When looking at the current situation in Palestine, an observer will find an illegal Israeli occupation that has been festering for 40 years, combined with illegal ethnically-exclusive colonies built on stolen Palestinian land, and the world’s only ethnically-segregated road network, where many routes can only be accessed by Jews. An internationally-illegal apartheid barrier surrounds Palestinian towns and villages, not only cutting them off from one another, but also cutting off farmers from their lands, children from their schools, patients from their hospitals and workers from their jobs. Israel controls all of the Palestinians’ openings to the outside world, stifling not only Palestinians’ freedom of movement, but also their economy and trade. One of the world’s strongest armies, the IDF, is regularly unleashed on civilian populations in Palestine, murdering thousands and killing innocent children with complete impunity. The Israeli government has as its Deputy Prime Minister an unabashed Fascist who openly and regularly calls for ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Arabs as a solution to the conflict. Israel continues to deny millions of Palestinians their legal right to return to their own homes from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948, restricts land-ownership to Jews only, and has discriminatory racist laws in countless areas from marriage to immigration.

In the face of this travesty of justice, what is the only thing that the Europeans do? Demand that the oppressed, the Palestinians, only elect political parties that “recognize Israel’s right to exist” as a precondition for sitting on one table and discussing what to do about all these travesties.

Let us first bear in mind that the idea of Hamas—or any Palestinian political party for that matter—recognizing Israel’s “right to exist” is a patently meaningless idea that makes as much sense as Manchester United Football Club recognizing Tanzania’s “right to exist”. Nowhere is it written that nation states have a “right to exist” themselves. What is meant by “recognition” in an international setting is what happens when countries exchange embassies and establish diplomatic relations. Nowhere but in Palestine has the idea of a non-state entity recognizing a state ever been seriously discussed. Further, the imbeciles who repeat this canard conveniently ignore that Israel is not merely “not recognizing Palestine’s right to exist”, but actively, deliberately and comprehensively destroying any chance of a Palestinian state ever existing. But, for the morally-superior Europeans, Hamas’ “recognition” of Israel is the thing that bothers them the most about Palestine/Israel today, and not all of the crimes listed above. The kicker, of course, is not just that this is a morally and logically absurd position, but that Israel’s actions are the root of the conflict, and not whether Hamas recognizes Israel. This recognition won’t change anything on the ground and won’t affect the lives of anyone in any way, but the walls, settlements, killings, checkpoints and Israel’s racist policies will. Only when these are ended can there be peace, regardless of what Hamas “recognizes” or declines to “recognize.”

All of the aforementioned crimes by Israel constitute clear violations of the EU Neighborhood Policy terms under which EU neighbors get preferential access to EU markets and a slew of other benefits and perks. The EU regularly uses its economic and diplomatic influence to try and get countries to desist from carrying out racist policies: it makes trade deals dependent on improvements in human, labor and minority rights; it has made Turkey’s accession to the EU dependent on Turkey’s human rights record, and has stopped Austria from bringing Jorg Haider into the government. Far from taking any action to try to pressure Israel to stop some of its crimes in Palestine, the EU has cowardly chosen a policy of rewarding their transgressions with more carrots, and Israel continues to enjoy extremely generous benefits from its relationship with European countries, even being sold arms by many of them.

The tragic aspect of Europe’s policy with regard to Palestine today is not just that is practically indistinguishable from the policy of the US, but that it comes bundled with great self-righteousness and an unshakable belief that it is not only the correct policy, but is also vastly morally superior to anything anyone else is doing. The financial aid provided by Europe is the major rationale supporting this smugness.

As the Europeans continue to do nothing to stop Israel from destroying the livelihood of the Palestinian people, they take out their checkbooks and assuage their conscience by providing money to the Palestinians. Before the election of Hamas, this money went to prop-up the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority in order to guarantee its survival and a continuation of the painful status quo. After Hamas’s election, they tried to surpass the PA by sending money through increasingly complex, inefficient, and often counter-productive mechanisms.

Here is a small microcosm of how this madness works: A Palestinian town has a wall built surrounding it from all sides, making it impossible for previously prosperous farmers to access their land, patients to reach their doctors and children to reach their schools. Naturally, the town is devastated. That’s when Europeans send in their conscience-assuaging, smugness-propping aid “experts” to “save” the town, in the process relieving Israel from having to deal with the consequences of its crimes. They provide the farmers with food instead of the food they could have produced themselves, and proceed with projects to teach Palestinians “alternative industries”, “new business models”, “good local governance”, “participatory development”, “creative educational techniques” and countless other meaningless prattle that the Palestinians would gladly give up for having the wall removed, an independent state and some sense of normalcy bestowed on their lives. Naturally, these projects have a short shelf-life; the funding soon dries up, the “experts” leave, but the apartheid wall remains, the livelihood of a whole town is devastated, and the mirage of Palestinian independence is even more distant. And worst of all: the next time an unfortunate Palestinian like myself visits Paris, they will be bombarded with self-righteous recitation of countless such micro projects, and expected to bow in deference of the mighty superiority of European morality.

This combination of criminal politics combined with generous futile charity is what Ann Le More brilliantly dissected in her appropriately entitled paper: Killing with Kindness: Funding the Demise of a Palestinian State.

More at link above.

"Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom." -- Fredrich August von Hayek (1899-1992), Nobel Laureate of Economic Sciences 1974