It is time again for the Rogue Valley Community Press election picks. These are our choices for our local, regional and statewide races. These recommendations are strictly those of the editor and publisher of Rogue Valley Community Press.
5th annual Ashland Zombie Walk brings the undead to downtown Ashland, benefits Ashland Emergency Food Bank (AEFB)
Not just the antagonists in horror movies, zombies have risen to capture pop culture appeal and have lurched their way into the minds and imaginations of people of all ages. Going on it’s fifth year here in southern Oregon, the Ashland Zombie Walk is a celebration of the undead and it has evolved into an effort to draw attention to the issue of food insecurity.
As the sidewalks near the Ashland Public Library begin to fill with costumed participants and the sights and sounds of the downtown merge together to create spooky performance art for First Friday in October, zombies will move towards the Ashland Plaza. “Do not be alarmed, for they mean no harm to tourists and locals alike, as they search for brains throughout the downtown,” says Jason Houk, event organizer.
The Ashland Zombie Walk is an annual event to celebrate the zombie genre, for folks to dress in their favorite undead apparel and celebrate the First Friday in October in a spooky fashion.
Have you noticed it’s a bit cooler in the mornings? Must be getting close to the time to gather the undead and to start lurching downtown in our annual Zombie Walk. We’ll meet at the grassy area in front of the Ashland Library at 4:45 PM and the walk begins at 5:00 PM. This is a free event. but we do ask you to bring a couple cans of food for the Ashland Emergency Food Bank so you can help keep your neighbors alive through another cold winter.
From Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN), the Climate Capsules are a weekly radio piece on climate change and what we can do. Recorded at KSKQ 89.5 FM community radio.
Militarization of police threatens community peace
In Ferguson Missouri, a black youth is shot dead by police. It is a tragic scene that plays out across America in big cities and small towns. But when Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old was killed by a police officer in a St Louis suburb, it touched off a week of protests and violence and brought national attention to long-simmering racial tensions in a city of predominantly black residents.
Protests began almost immediately as the story went viral on social media with images of Brown’s body left at the scene for several hours after the shooting.
Rabbi Lerner, author of “The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right”, is the co-founder/editor of “Tikkun”, one of the most respected intellectual/cultural magazines in the Jewish world. Founder in 2002 of the Tikkun Community (now “The Network of Spiritual Progressives”, co-chaired by Cornel West), Rabbi Lerner’s influence on spiritual progressives of all faiths continues to grow. To honor his work, especially as a spokesperson for reconciliation and peace between Israelis and Palestinians, in 2005 he received the Martin Luther King Jr./Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award from Morehouse College, MLK’s alma mater.
Purchase tickets online at http://peacehouse.net/
Rogue Valley Honorees: Alma Rosa Alvarez, Kathleen Conway and Alan Journet, Jason and Vanessa Houk, Rich Rhode. Dinner tickets $75, Table hosts to $1,000. Proceeds support Peace House.
On the Brain Labor Report we talk with Ron Kaminkow, an engineer and general secretary of Railroad Workers United about the problems of single employee train crews. Federal legislation HR 3040 would mandate full crews. We are also joined by J.P Wright an engineer with CSX Transportation. He shares his story about organizing with RWU, current RR technology and the campaign to improve cooperation and safety among railroad unions.
“They are always going to need someone in that seat when something goes wrong.” ~JP Wright
Recorded live on 8.20.2014 at KSKQ 89.5 FM community radio.
Charles K. Johnson, Director of the Joint Task Force on Nuclear Power for the Oregon and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility will be speaking Saturday August 2nd at 7 pm at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 87 4th Street, Ashland, Oregon.
Johnson’s talk “Nuclear Power & Nuclear Weapons: The Hanford Connection” will discuss current issues that affect the nation and the Northwest, including radiation safety, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and the direction of nuclear weapons and power today.
He will cover the history of Hanford, its role in developing the atomic bomb and the US nuclear arsenal. Johnson will also convey Hanford’s lesser known role in developing nuclear power in the US and the world.
His talk will be the first event of this year’s 29th annual Rogue Valley Hiroshima and Nagasaki Vigil, “Stop the Madness: Create A SANE World.” The vigil begins with an opening ceremony at the grassy entrance of Lithia Park at 8 am on August 6th. The Nuclear Maze display will be on the Plaza beginning at 9 am Wednesday, August 6th until Friday, August 8th at 7 pm. A closing ceremony will take place in the Japanese Gardens in Lithia Park on Saturday, August 9th at 7 pm.
On Friday, July 25 in Medford, over 30 people stood in solidarity with and protested the new war against Gaza launched by the Israeli government and military resulting in hundreds of deaths, including many children. Call the White House and our members of Congress and demand they put pressure on Israel to withdraw and to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas. Canada.com reports: “At least 985 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded over the past 19 days, according to Palestinian officials. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.
“More than 160,000 displaced Palestinians have sought shelter at dozens of U.N. schools, an eight-fold increase since the start of Israel’s ground operation more than a week ago, the U.N. said.” (Canada.com)
The same article said: “Gaza militants have fired close to 2,500 rockets at Israel since July 8, exposing most of Israel’s population to an indiscriminate threat that has killed three civilians.” Only three Israeli non-combatants have been killed, the article said.
On the Brain Labor Report for July 23, 2014 we talk with Alex Vermie, Senior at USC and activist with United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and Deanna Nagle a Junior at Penn State and USAS Regional Organizer. USAS is a national student labor organization advocating for workers’ rights on over 150 campuses. We discuss their campaign to encourage VF Corporation to agree to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
“Treating your workers badly is something we should not accept…” Deanna Nagle
The Brain Labor Report is a weekly news and labor program that broadcasts on Wednesday at 9 Am, exclusively on KSKQ 89.5 FM.
Summer has always been a slow season for social justice organizing. Students are out of school. The political campaigns are over and the November races have not yet begun. Organizers are tired and folks are more interested in scheduling vacations than organizing direct actions.
But the work for social justice doesn’t take a vacation. This summer proves to be hot one with many interesting issues and causes to engage in. Whether you are interested in staying informed about your favorite issues, getting connected with your city government or hitting the bricks by canvassing for the November election, this article can help you get started.
Rogue Valley Community Press for July 2014. Southern Oregon’s social justice newspaper. Stay informed and get involved. Social justice campaigns for summer in Southern Oregon. 29th annual Hiroshima Nagasaki vigil – Ashland Oregon. Culture for Peace Initiative. Cuba Caravan, Fukashima’s Children. Karen Jeffery’s Occupy the Street. Police cameras reduce abuse. Ag dept. investigating Oregon bee dieoffs. Rogue energy consciousness. Calendar of events and more…
Join us for MRG Foundation’s first annual Southern Oregon Celebration!
On Tuesday, June 10th come enjoy delicious appetizers, a lovely glass of wine (or other beverage), and a wonderful spoken word performance by Claudia Alick at this casual gathering for social justice.
Connect with other justice-seekers and change-makers in Southern Oregon and support MRG’s work to build a more just and joyful world! Recent MRG grantees in Southern Oregon include: Lotus Rising Project empowering LGBTQ youth, Unete NOWIA fighting for farmworker rights, and KSKQ Radio lifting up diverse voices.
Space is limited, so don’t wait! Reserve your spot at MRG’s Southern Oregon Celebration!
For more information, contact Sheryl Sackman by email or phone (503-289-1517)
This event is wheelchair accessible.
“Promises made, promises kept”, touts Jackson County Sheriff Winters campaign materials. Running for another term, Mike Winters has a deeply rooted history of doing just the opposite of his shiny campaign slogans. From botched murder investigations to using Jackson County resources and funding to eradicate marijuana in outside jurisdictions; under Winters’ leadership, the sheriffs office has repeatedly failed to protect citizens and under his direction the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department has been hit with an alarming number of alleged human rights violations and other misconduct.
Jackson County can’t afford another four years with Sheriff Mike Winters.at the helm.
The Jackson County Health Department is alerting Ashland residents that students from Ashland Middle School have been diagnosed with Pertussis. Pertussis, also called “Whooping Cough”, is a disease caused by a bacteria and is easily spread from person to person. It can cause serious complications, especially for infants, pregnant women in their third trimester, and people with compromised immune systems.
by Daniel Gregg
” GMOs have been shown to be safe, successful and profitable” is a belief that many people have with little or no scientific studies to back it up. It is well known that the FDA, in it’s approval process of GE (Genetically Engineered) crops, has relied on studies of the biotech companies themselves where there is an obvious conflict of interest. As a citizen of Jackson Co., OR and an avid gardener, seed saver and environmentalist of 40 plus years, I am interested in making wise decisions concerning the future of our food and water health and vitality.
Amy Blossom joins Jason Houk to discuss ballot measure 15-122 supporting a property tax to fund local libraries.
Paige Imbrogno of Families for Food Freedom shares news about the Food Integrity Project is a voluntary program. It grants recognition-status and verification to restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries in southern Oregon who offer GMO-Free menu options.
On episode 27 On The Media we discusses the science behind genetic engineering with Professor Ray Seidler, a local microbiologist.
Original broadcast 5-2-2014 at RVTV Studios. Archive via Archive.org
This morning on KSKQ 89.5 FM we interview Deb Van Poolen, an activist and “artistic witness” about her experiences. In March 2014, Van Poolen attended the trial of Cecily McMillian, an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator who was found guilty this week of second-degree assault following a months-long trial from a 2012 altercation she had with the New York Police Department. Cecily McMillan faces up to seven years in prison as a result of the conviction. She is currently being held without bail, her sentencing is May 19.
More Than 300 Rogue Valley Residents Celebrate Rogue Climate’s “Clean Energy Day” at Medford Commons
Event calls for a coordinated local clean energy plan to create jobs, reduce long-term energy costs, and help address climate change by speeding the transition to cleaner energy and greater energy efficiency.
via Hannah Sohl – Rogue Climate
A festive crowd of more than 300 Rogue Valley residents today celebrated Clean Energy Day at Medford Commons, organized by Rogue Climate, a nonpartisan, youth-led advocacy group. The huge crowd included students, parents, grandparents, teachers, faith communities, forestry workers, farmers, ranchers, hunters, anglers, small business owners and workers, local elected officials, and other residents.
Supermajority of the Non-partisan Citizens Initiative Review Panel Agrees with Family Farms Coalition’s Primary Claims Regarding Measure 15-119 – Reject’s Opposition’s Primary Scare Tactics
via Family Farms Coalition
After three days of study, debate and deliberations with experts regarding Measure 15-119, a panel of 20 representative Jackson County voters organized as a part of the Citizens Initiative Review (CIR), which is sanctioned by the State of Oregon to review ballot measures, released its final findings yesterday. The purpose of the review by the non-partisan group named Healthy Democracy was to help voters understand the facts related to Measure 15-119 prior to the upcoming vote. The “Key Findings” of the group were voted on and approved by a supermajority of the group today and *validated each of the primary arguments and factual claims made by the Our Family Farms Coalition in support of Measure 15-119*.
Ramon Ramirez of PCUN and the United Farm Workers is joined by Barbara Fontaine of Rural Organizing Project, Dagoberto Morales of Unete, Vincenta P. Alvarado and Rich Rohde of Oregon Action and members of Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice make a visit to Representative Greg Walden’s Medford District Office to meet with the congressman and demand his support of comprehensive immigration reform. They were met by Troy Ferguson, a Constituent Services Manager in Walden’s Medford office. Ramirez vows to stay until he meets with Rep. Walden or is forced to leave.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Virginia Camberos, Oregon Action
Virginia@OregonAction.org Ӏ 541-772-4029
BREAKING: ARRESTS IN MEDFORD, WALDEN WON’T MEET WITH CONSTITUENTS OR HEED CALL FOR ACTION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM
Immigration Reform activists arrested in Medford tonight after refusing to leave Representative Walden’s office until he agreed to meet with them or take immediate action to move comprehensive immigration reform to a vote. Ramon Ramirez, Rich Rohde, and Barbara Fontaine were arrested and peacefully escorted out of Representative Walden’s Medford field office. No citations were issued.
The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) is the nation’s largest coalition of grassroots organizations in 30 states fighting for immigrant rights at the local, state and federal level. www.fairimmigration.org
PCUN is Oregon’s largest farmworker organization, representing 4,500 farm workers, nursery, and reforestation workers in the state. www.pcun.org
Oregon Action is a social justice organization focused on economic justice, racial equity, and access to affordable, quality healthcare for all. www.OregonAction.org
The Rural Organizing Project is a statewide network of groups dedicated to advancing human rights.www.rop.org
CAUSA is Oregon’s statewide Latino immigrant rights organization. www.causaoregon.org
Monarch butterflies are alive for just a handful of weeks and yet in that short time they fly right into the depths of our imaginations. There’s much about them that we do not know and perhaps this is their greatest lesson– that man can watch and wonder. As scientists and wildlife preservationists have documented the rapid decline of monarchs, efforts are being made to preserve these sacred creatures the Australians call “the wanderers”.
Dozens of people came out on International Women’s Day to honor young, local writers. On Saturday March 8, the Rogue Valley branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) hosted a tea and the winners of their second annual student essay contest were celebrated.
“The history of International Women’s Day invites us to preserve the past, honor the present and educate the future,” said Jill Mackie.
by Amy Laws
There is an old Chinese proverb that states: “women hold up half the sky.” Women make up half of this earth, and are just as equally responsible of it. Being a woman doesn’t mean you have to be a princess waiting for your prince, a submissive housewife, or that you have to dedicate your life to looking beautiful in the eyes of society. Being a woman doesn’t mean that you are restricted to a neat little gender role, it means that you opportunities are limitless. There will inevitably come a day when you are told otherwise, and when that day comes, I want you to remember that all humans, regardless of gender identity, are equal. I trust that you will work towards a future where women will be treated as equals.
Our March 1 fundraiser was a great success. Over 100 neighbors joined us at the Talent Community Center for a wonderful afternoon of food, music and celebration. With your support the Rogue Valley Community Press will continue to publish for the years to come.
Ashland Oregon’s 10th annual Independent Media Week celebrates local independent media producers, activists and community groups working to ensure that, “a well-informed citizenry is a cornerstone of democracy”. Running April 13-19, Independent Media Week is a grassroots campaign to inform and empower the community by showcasing local efforts and to expand and inspire local media production.
Farmers, community members and GMO-free activists filled the Jackson County Commissioners meeting on March 19th to demand the commission retract cost claims made for ballot measure 15-119, a measure restricting the growing of Genetically Engineered crops in the Rogue Valley.
According to a report by County Administrator Danny Jordan, enforcement of the measure could cost the county a minimum of $219,000 per year. According to Jordan, enforcement of the measure would require a full-time code inspector, time dedicated from a hearings officer, a contractor for testing and other county resources,
GMO free activists counter that argument, saying there is nothing in the ballot measure that would make it mandatory for the county to enforce the law.
by David Hyde – Jackson County Move to Amend
To answer that question, we need to ask ourselves why? Is our government serving the citizens well? Is it protecting civil rights, natural resources, health and welfare? The Supreme Court says that the Multinational Corporations are people, and money is speech. They are deciding if the one percent of our people, with their vast amounts of money, can spend unlimited amounts to influence elections and they are deciding on a suit by Halliburton to severely limit class-action suits against unlawful actions of corporations. Does it make sense to reduce the power of the EPA’s ability to enforce laws protecting us from pollution? How can our elected legislators to represent us, when they take money from special interest groups, who are not interested in the people?
by Wes Brain, Community Organizer, Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice
Though it’s been a fairly mild winter here in Oregon, most of the country has experienced record cold, snow and ice. News reports show cancelled flights, traffic snarls and closed businesses and offices. But you know what? The United States Postal Service (USPS) kept right on delivering the mail all over the country, just like it always has.
In rural Oregon rural communities like ours, the United States Postal Service also serves as a lifeline for basic necessities. The post office provides essential services that help local businesses, farmers and ranchers prosper and provide jobs.
by Gregg Marchese
In mid-February, residents of Singing Bird Family Farm west of Grants Pass discovered an adjacent 35 acre field had been planted with genetically engineered sugar beets. Syngenta is a multi-national chemical corporation overseeing the growing of genetically engineered sugar beets for seed in both Jackson and Josephine Counties. Singing Bird residents Ted Talk and Lynn Colley-Talk have been on their family farm raising bees and selling honey and other bee products for 6 years, and the property has been in the family for 28 years. Ted was born and raised in the area, a resident for 50 years.
The incident started when Ted and Lynn noticed busloads of workers driving through the right-of-way to the neighboring field. This 35 acre field is up against the Applegate River, upstream from the confluence with the Rogue. It is owned by a neighboring family. The land is leased to Syngenta to grow genetically engineered sugar beets for seed, and another operator was hired to do the actual on-the-ground work. The workers were coming in to tend the field.
by Aaron Lundstrom
I had never associated Ashland with suicide. Sure, I read about Ashland’s homicides and rapes and the typical sordid sundries that many other communities produce. But suicide? Not once before moving and exploring here in early 2013 did I put Ashland and suicide together. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it’s partly because Ashland’s a town that hosts Blissology University seminars, is home to those “Ashland is the Center of the Universe” bumper stickers, and harbors an exceptional number of smiling pedestrians. My disillusionment began, though, sometime around mid-2013 — because of Twitter.
Come join southern Oregon’s independent, community newspaper as we thank our COMMUNITY SUPPORTERS and ADVERTISERS!
Featuring music by Pete Herzog and Jef Ramsey!
Saturday, March 1st
2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Talent Community Center
206 East Main Street ~ Talent
Food ~ Music ~ Silent Auction
This is a FREE Event to celebrate and support our Social Justice Newspaper!
Thank you to our growing list of sponsors and supporters: Peace House, Occupy Medford, Oregon Action, Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice, Southern Oregon Central Labor Council, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Ashland, Rogue Valley Veterans for Peace, Citizens for Peace and Justice, GMO-FREE Jackson County, Disabled United in Direct Empowerment, and many more…
For more information, call 541-622-9483
On February 15, 2014, hundreds of people descended on Hawthorne Park to show their support for the Medford Education Association and the more than 600 people that are out on strike. Teachers, students, parents and representatives of many unions and social justice groups gathered to rally for the teachers who had spent over a week on the picket lines.
Listen to an KSKQ audio recording of the rally HERE.
Last minute efforts of state mediators hoping to avert a strike were dashed last week as the 600 teachers of the Medford Education Association walked out of the classrooms and onto the picket line.
“Our negotiating team did not sleep last night as we wrestled with numbers and various scenarios that we hoped would meet our students’ long-term needs and still satisfy teachers.” writes Phil Long, Superintendent Medford School District 549C on Feb. 6th.
In the latest rounds of negotiations both Medford teachers and District have exchanged and rejected bargaining proposals.
The key issues that continue to hold up settlement include compensation and demands on working conditions, including prep times, caseload and class sizes.
The working conditions put forward in the Association’s proposal are critical to the teachers’ ability to adequately serve their students, parents, and the community.” according to MEA press release. “Keeping the current standards of working and giving the teaching professionals a voice in their schools is a no-cost offer.”
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”
—Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961
A ballot initiative that threatens the ability of workers to collectively bargain is gathering support. The Public Employee Choice Act would ban unions and employers from entering into union-security agreements. If passed, this initiative would make Oregon the nation’s 25th so-called “right-to-work” state.
The initiative is currently being challenged on issues of language used in the title and summary. The legislation will reach the voters as Initiative Petition #9 (IP9). Once released, proponents will have until July 2014 to gather the required 87,000 signatures. If these signatures are verified, it will appear on Oregon’s November 4th, 2014 ballot.
The initiative is being promoted by The Cascade Policy Institute, a conservative think tank with ties to the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council.
“There’s national money to be had, and there are large donors in the state that definitely want to move forward,” said Jill Gibson Odell, the Portland attorney who is sponsoring the initiative. Conservative businessman Loren Parks has already donated $6,000 to the cause.
Right to work laws affect the collective bargaining process. Through collective bargaining, employers and unions meet to negotiate a contract covering the terms and conditions of employment, Things like wages, work hours, conditions, benefits and other issues. As part of the contract, many employers and unions agree to a “Union Security” clause which allows unions to share their costs with members through union dues. Right to work laws prohibit employers and employees from negotiating that security clause.
As a result, right to work laws allow workers to pay nothing and still receive the benefits of a negotiated contract. Such laws force unions to allocate resources and time in an unsustainable manner. The ultimate impact is a weakening of unions ability to bargain and affects the wages and working conditions of both union and non-union workers.
“So-called right-to-work laws have nothing to do with anyone being forced to be a member of a union or to support political causes he or she disagrees with.” explains Gordon Lafer, an associate professor with Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. “It is already the law that no one in Oregon can be forced to be a member of a union or be forced to contribute even a single cent to politicians or political causes he or she opposes.”
“Right-to-work laws tell people that they can get all the benefits and services of a union contract, but that paying their share of the costs that make that contract possible is optional.” explains Lafer. “In this situation, many people choose not to pay dues, not because they’re anti-union but because times are tight.”
Studies show that workers who belong to unions receive better wages, benefits and working conditions than non-union workers and right to work laws undermine these gains. According to data compiled by the NEA and University of Maine, right to work states have higher rates of poverty and lower standards of living that worker-friendly states. Median annual pay is 14 percent higher in free bargaining states and the rate of workplace deaths is more than half that of right to work states.
“Human Rights Now!” is about raising awareness of human rights violations around the world that have been identified by Amnesty International. Don Wertheimer and Dennis Remick discuss the issues on the program, revealing the facts and encouraging individual and cooperative action to aid in their positive resolution.
Listen to Human Rights Now every Tuesday at 11:30 am exclusively on KSKQ 89.5 FM.
On Sunday, January 5th, I attended the Jeff Merkley town hall in Medford. This was his 187th town hall. Several hundred people packed the meeting room in the old public library building. It was a diverse crowd of young and old with many local elected officials and media present. After the pledge of allegiance, a brief introduction and awards, Merkley made a statement on his legislative goals for 2014. Most were related to the economy such as fighting for emergency unemployment insurance extensions, funding job creation to make energy saving retrofits to existing structures and investing in rural energy saving programs. Merkley called on increasing our national investment in infrastructure, lamenting our current meager 2 percent investment of GDP. He also gave a strong argument for reinvesting in our High School shop classes.
Merkley and crew kept a tight one-hour meeting. The audience members invited to ask questions were chosen through lottery and folks were given about three minutes each to ask their questions.
By far the largest single coalition were the Rogue Climate and SO. Climate Action Network. Also folks from Move to Amend were wearing their yellow shirt and plenty of the usual “liberal” crowd, democratic candidates and party folks. There were a good number of conservatives, though not in a group or mobilized.
The first question was about our relationship with Saudi Arabia and why we should sever it. Merkley dodged that one as he is not on any committees dealing with this and felt he didn’t have enough information to comment.
The next question was about fracking. Merkley concedes it is responsible for a “huge increase in natural gas production,” but that “right now its being done irresponsibly.” He talked about contaminated wells and groundwater. Merkley called to “close the exemption to the clean water act,” to much applause from the audience.
There was a question asked about stopping the collaboration between local police and INS which Merkley explained is an issue that can only be addressed at the state and local level. “…it isn’t a federal framework.” Merkley was applauded for his support of the immigration reform bill.
Another question was asked about climate change. When asked how many in the room were concerned about climate change 3/4th of the hands went up. Merkley gave dire warning about global warming, the significance of “350” and “400”. “the effects are here now. It is a huge challenge… Different parts of the world will experience this in different ways.” Merkley did state unequivocally that a Carbon Tax and Cap and Trade were off the table, they “are not going to happen,” much to the disappointment of the audience.
On money in politics, Merkley regrets the “corrosive sums of money” that are pumped into campaigns through Citizens United and Koch brothers. Merkley calls for “instant transparency” in campaign donations and to “close the loophole” that allows social service groups and nonprofits to divert much of their income to political causes. “We should change that regulation.”
Merkley also made a pledge to work with Ron Wyden on issues such as forest restoration. “I am deeply engaged with Wyden.” There was an adorable question from a 3rd grader who asked “have you ever been inside the place that makes the money?”
Merkley also condemned the NSA and Patriot Act, “citizens don’t even know what the law is.”
Other than a call for “striking down non-tariff barriers”, there was no further questions or comments about free trade and the trade bills negotiated in private that threaten our environment, labor protections and community sovereignty. Unfortunately my number was not called or I would have asked a question about his “Level the Playing Field in Global Trade Act” and how this will impact TPP and existing multinational trade bills.
There were no questions asked about health care and his support of the ACA. Merkley did end with a statement on the “tremendous things that have happened” and then read off a laundry list..$20K in rebates, 30K Oregonians saving money, young adults allowed to stay on parents insurance, increase in free preventative care, 1.3 million with no lifetime limits, 1.6 million with pre-existing conditions now can find health care. Merkley also admitted the Oregon website failed. “Oracle sucks!” but pointed out that Oregon stepped up by hiring folks to sign people up the old fashion ways. Merkley called on folks to look forward, stating “we cannot go back.”
by Virginia Camberos
January brings cold nights, morning fog, and hard times for a lot of hard working families trying to make ends meet in Jackson County. Fortunately, life just got a little easier for Oregonians who get a little extra help from our state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and we want to make sure you know about it.
Did you know that the majority of folks who qualify for SNAP also qualify for the Oregon Health Plan? If you’re an uninsured SNAP participant and you qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, you should have already gotten a letter in the mail with a short two-page form to give your consent. It’s not too late to enroll, even if you have lost the letter.
Over one hundred thousand Oregonians have already filled out their form, and as of January 1, they now have access to prescription drugs, checkups, emergencies and hospital visits – they’re all covered. That means a truly healthier new year for thousands of Jackson County residents – especially those who have never had access to healthcare before.
It can be tough for folks to pay medical bills out of pocket. Unexpected medical bills can drive hard working families into debt. That’s why it’s more important now than ever to make sure you and your family gets health insurance so that you can get the care you need, when you need it, without breaking the bank.
If you are on SNAP and think you are eligible for Oregon Health Plan, but lost your letter or didn’t receive one, call 1-800-699-9075 – there are people who can help in both English and Spanish. There’s no cost to join, and you can’t be turned away for having a pre-existing condition so make sure you sign up.
Even if you don’t receive assistance from the SNAP program, you can still apply to see if you qualify for free or low-cost health coverage through Cover Oregon, our state’s new health care exchange. Financial assistance is available to many families earning too much to qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, such as tax credits to help offset the cost of buying insurance. And the best part is that you don’t have to figure it out alone. We are here to provide assistance and answer your questions. Call our office at 541-772-4029 to make an appointment for free assistance applying for health coverage.
Virginia Camberos is regional organizer and Michelle Glass is outreach director for Rogue Valley Oregon Action, an advocacy group on economic issues affecting working people.
By Erik Shute for Newsy.com
The aftershock of Japan’s disastrous earthquake and tsunami can still be felt by the continuous cleanup at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Two years of nuclear runoff spilling into the ocean have caused environmental activist Joe Martino to warn: “Your days of eating Pacific Ocean fish are over.”
His choice words on the activist website Collective Evolution are quantified in this infographic compiled by German researchers at GEOMAR. The animation shows the dispersion of Cesium-137, a radioactive byproduct, will reach every corner of the Pacific by the year 2020.
Martino’s claim comes after the latest numbers by the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, show more than 300 tons of contaminated water seep into the Pacific Ocean each day.
The whole system that allows private corporations to genetically modify seeds, to own them as “intellectual property” and have eliminated the requirement that their products be studied by regulatory agencies is SHOCKING, DANGEROUS and IMMORAL. I believe this overreach of GMO companies is not based on true science since patents were approved by insiders’ agreement based on the idea of “substantial equivalents”, not on testing or independent review.
These actions can be interpreted as “playing God” and deeper study and investigation is essential. In addition to voting Yes on Measure 15-119 in May, I believe citizens might seek a “cease and desist” order, an injunction or a “moratorium” on GMO seeds – no more growing, no new patents, no more products until consumers and those monitoring the legality, morality, health, and environmental repercussions of GMOs, sprays, chemicals and questionable toxic soup involved in their “recipe” are proven safe, prudent and sound.. The precautionary principle applies – DO NO HARM!
(Opinions The Tidings Will Not Print)
by Leah Ev Ireland
Our local RVTV is a TV station dedicated to free speech which serves the area well. There is an especially “free speech” late night slot reserved for home made documentaries that are edgy and radical. That is a great service to the community and free thinking.
As a civil rights activist, however, I’ve been given the “bums rush” by both RVTV and the Tidings with my concerns that one show is anti-Semitic. If so, it breaks the very tenets of RVTV itself and keeps residents uninformed. Again, this paper alone endeavors to print what is important to make public.
The series of shows on late night RVTV claim that Zionists are taking over the world. It goes on to infer that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. It is true that American Jews are less and less happy with Israeli politics and actions. But this tired old world needs new solutions and not old enemies.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency charged with protecting workers’ rights to collective activity, has ruled that retail giant Wal-Mart has violated the rights of striking workers. In a statement, the NLRB said Wal-Mart “unlawfully threatened, disciplined, and/or terminated employees for having engaged in legally protected strikes and protests.”
The NLRB is pursuing multiple charges against the company, alleging it illegally retaliated against 117 employees in stores across the country. The General Counsel’s office plans to prosecute Walmart for violating the law by firing or disciplining those who engaged in legally-protected strikes. Additionally, the NLRB charges that Walmart violated the law by threatening workers that there will be consequences if they go on strike.
The Medford Education Association (MEA) has filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) against the Medford School District. According to the MEA, a complaint has been filed with the Oregon Employment Relations Board with evidence of the district’s alleged unlawful behavior.
The MEA is accusing the district of failing to restore days and/or increase insurance coverage and salaries as agreed to after the district received more money from the state last May.
According to the complaint filed, the two sides had agreed what to do if extra money became available in a memorandum of understanding they’ve been operating under during current contract negotiations.
To the dismay of many organic and environmental groups, a controversial agriculture bill that prevents counties in Oregon from regulating genetically modified (GM) crops has been signed into law. Senate Bill 863, the ”Certainty for Family Farmers of Oregon Act”, prohibits local county or city regulation of genetically modified plants and prevents local governments from enacting or enforcing any measures which regulate agricultural, flower, nursery and vegetable seeds or their products.
The bill precludes current efforts in Oregon counties to restrict GM agriculture, but excludes Jackson County, which already has a GM ban up for vote The bill also includes an emergency clause, which allows the bill to go into effect immediately, precluding opponents from referring the bill to voters.
Lori Ross has been teaching for 30 years, As a teacher she has seen many ups and downs and while not complaining, “the last 10 years have been tough.” Ross has much to worry about, as a 5th grade teacher at Wilson Elementary and organizer for the Medford Education Association.
The teachers of the Medford Education Association and Medford School District have been unable to resolve their differences while bargaining on the latest teacher contracts. Currently, the Medford teachers are working without a contract and as negotiations fail to move forward, the future is less and less certain.
by Ivend Holen
With the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiating process now winding down to its final stages, some optimism for opponents of this disastrous trade bill may be warranted, at last. Although the governments and over 600 corporate lobbyists negotiating this draconian trade agreement still don’t want you to know what’s in it, some of them issued cheery press releases congratulating themselves for the “progress” they made at the last round in Brunei last August. But you’ll search in vain for any information on what “progress” they made, or even what the TPP negotiators are up to.
With the end of the 19th round of negotiations in Brunei in late August, the negotiators are ending their practice of “consultation”, and are now holding secret unannounced meetings. In other words, not only is the text of the TPP to remain in secrecy, the continuing negotiations themselves are being kept secret.
Rally to Stop U.S. Attack on Syria Wednesday, September 11 at 12:30 p.m. Vogel Plaza. Members of Medford Citizens for Peace & Justice, Peace House and dozens more turned out to witness against this arrogant violation of international law, and to convince our two U.S. Senator plus our U.S. Representative to oppose Congressional authorization of an attack. There was Tea Partiers and Libertarians present as well as traditional peace people and progressives. Over 50 gathered in silence then rallied at Vogel Plaza in Medford. Following the rally, the crowd marched to the Congressional offices of Rep. Greg Walden and Sen. Ron Wyden
by Stephen Lendman
Japan’s apocalypse continues. Emergency conditions persist. No end in sight looms. Fukushima’s radioactive discharges can’t be stopped. They continue. They’re uncontainable.
At issue is by far the worst environmental disaster in history. It’s multiples worse than Chernobyl. It’s an unprecedented catastrophe. It’s reason enough to abolish nuclear power.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, about 300 tons of radioactive groundwater flow into the Pacific daily.
It’s done so since Japan’s March earthquake and tsunami triggered Fukushima’s meltdown.
Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) says water’s getting over and around “chemical walls.” It can’t be stopped. Three Fukushima reactors suffered meltdowns. A fourth was badly damaged.
The worst fear remains. Unit Four’s structural integrity was seriously undermined. It contains hundreds of tons of highly radioactive water.
If an earthquake or other natural disaster occurs, its fuel rods almost certainly will catch fire. Radioactive emissions will follow. They’ll compound what’s already disastrous.
Emissions will continue long term. They’ll circle the planet. They cause catastrophic harm.
Since March 2011, Tepco estimates around 20 to 40 trillion radioactive tritium becquerels leaked into the Pacific. So have large cesium and strontium discharges. They continue. They’re much more dangerous.
According to nuclear expert Arnie Gunderson, “the horse is already out of the barn.” Leakage continues since earthquake and tsunami struck.
Radioactive water contaminates the Pacific. Gunderson’s “experience with underground water is that – if it is serious at the ocean, it is more serious” on land.
Japanese officials proposed erecting a barrier. At issue is preventing water from reaching the Pacific. Whatever’s done “is two years too late and will be too late by the time” construction’s finished, said Gunderson.
A barrier’s not the solution. It causes another problem. “If the water can’t go anywhere into the Pacific Ocean, it is going to build up onsite, which means that the nuclear reactors themselves will become unstable.”
“The water can pull underneath the nuclear buildings and if there is an earthquake, in fact the nuclear buildings could topple. So, by solving one problem, they are creating another problem.”
Gunderson believes contaminated water will keep discharging for at least 20 to 30 years. It’s the most radioactive water he ever experienced.
Cost is another issue. Cleanup involves around half a trillion dollars, says Gunderson. Most important is human health.
Epidemic cancer levels are certain. And not just in Japan. In early July, Fukushima’s former chief operator, Masao Yoshida, died of esophageal cancer.
He was 58. Tepco lied saying his death was unrelated to radiation exposure. Japanese children are experiencing a shocking 40% rise in thyroid irregularities.
Experts expect much higher numbers ahead. Fukushima’s an ongoing disaster. It persists. It’s not ending. It’ll continue for decades.
According to Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) president Arjun Makhijani:
“Fukushima continues to be an emergency without end – vast amounts of radioactivity, including strontium-90 in the groundwater, evidence of leaks into the sea, the prospect of contaminated seafood.”
“Strontium-90, being a calcium analog, bioaccumulates in the food chain. It is likely to be a seaside nightmare for decades.”
It’s much more dangerous than cesium 137 and 134. It’s at levels 30 times higher.
“So to give you an idea of the level of contamination, if somebody drank that water for a year, they would almost certainly get cancer.”
“So that’s one problem. The other is the defenses to hold back this water from the sea seem to be overcome.”
“So now the contaminated waters, 70,000, 80,000 gallons, are flowing into the sea every day.”
“Some of it will disperse and dilute. Some of it goes into the sediment, and some of it is taken up by the life in the sea.”
“And the unfortunate thing about strontium especially is that it bioaccumulates in algae. It bioaccumulates in fish.”
“It targets the bone, because it’s like calcium. And so this is a problem. We don’t have measurements far out to sea.”
“The Woods Hole Institute has done some surveys. And they were surprised by how much continuing radioactivity they found, but no clear explanation yet.”
The effect on human health’s expected to be devastating. It’s already bad. It’s getting progressively worse. The genie’s out of the bottle. No end in sight looms.
Strontium-90 and cesium are both perilous. “Since strontium-90 is more mobile and also more dangerous biologically, (it) behaves like calcium, so it goes to the bone.”
“It also bioaccumulates in the base of the food chain and algae. Ultimately because it does bioaccumulate and there is quite a lot of strontium, you could have a large part of the food chain near Fukushima being contaminated.”
If pregnant women ingest contaminated water, fish or other food, “the outcomes could be worse than cancer because then you’re talking about a much more compromised child in the sense of having a compromised immune system – it makes you more vulnerable to all kinds of diseases.”
Makhijani doesn’t know how Tepco can handle the problem. It’s uncontrollable.
“It’s very, very unclear to me how they are going to be able to get at this molten fuel, extract it from the bottoms of these highly damaged buildings and package it for safer or less dangerous storage or disposal.”
“This is an accident that’s shockingly not stopping.” It’s certain to worsen. It’s unchartered territory.
It affects the region. It’s humanity’s worst environmental nightmare. Nuclear rain affects North America and Europe.
Nuclear power’s inherently unsafe. Einstein called it a helluva way to boil water. It does so through massive heat. It turns it into steam. It powers an electricity generating turbine.
According to anti-nuclear activist Karl Grossman: avoiding potentially catastrophic accidents “requires perfection and no acts of God.” Humans and technology aren’t perfect. Natural and other disasters happen.
“We can’t eliminate them. But we can – and must – eliminate atomic energy.” Otherwise it’ll eliminate us.
Nuclear expert Helen Caldicott’s clear and unequivocal, saying: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction.”
“If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.”
It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
A Final Comment
Coverup and denial followed Chernobyl disaster. Helen Caldicott called doing so “the most monstrous cover up in the history of medicine.”
The death toll was many multiples greater than reported. Estimates range up to a million or more.
The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) translated thousands of Russian articles and papers. It added “revised and updated contributions.”
“Written by leading authorities from Eastern Europe, the volume outlines the history of the health and environmental consequences of the Chernobyl disaster,” NYAS said.
“According to the authors, official discussions from the (IAEA) and associated (UN) agencies (e.g. the Chernobyl reports) have largely downplayed or ignored many of the findings reported in the Eastern European scientific literature and consequently have erred by not including these assessments.”
Fukushima far exceeds Chernobyl. Millions of lives are threatened. Perhaps future independent studies will explain. They’ll be too little too late to help victims.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
A statement released by the Medford School District said negotiations have not resulted in substantial movement or agreement on key issues and the district has requested contract mediation.
The teachers of the Medford Education Association and Medford School District have been unable to resolve differences while bargaining on the latest teacher contracts. Last month, the last collective bargaining session, which was the 11th session in the last five months, ended without resolution. The district has been negotiating with the teacher’s union over issues such as wages, work loads and class sizes.
“The Medford bargaining team have been dragging their feet. We are concerned this public mediator is just another district delay tactic.” said Catherine Brasseur, a fourth-grade teacher and building representative at Howard Elementary.
According to a written statement released by union representatives: “Every time we settle into a process and progress begins on resolution, the district wants to spend time developing a new process and then lamenting the lack of speed to getting to resolution.”
The teachers’ union is asking for a cost-of-living adjustment, increased benefit contributions as well as improvements to working conditions, smaller classroom sizes and maintaining a 40-hour work week.
Areas of contention include compensation, retirement contributions and working conditions.
“They want to work us harder and longer, pay us less and have us pick up our 6 percent PERS contribution,” said Cheryl Lashley, MEA president and a district teacher for 16 years.
“There is an attack on who will control teachers time.” warns Brasseur in an address at the Labor Day picnic. According to Brasseur, the districts proposal “will impact student learning conditions.” by increasing classroom sizes and decreasing the amount of time a teacher can spend with each student.
“Class sizes are getting larger.” said Brasseur, lamenting about science classes in the Medford high schools with 38 students and special education caseloads of 70 students. “Our neediest students are missing out.” Brasseur reflects that if the districts plan is accepted, she would only have around 9 and a half minutes a day to spend on each individual student.
Brasseur also points out that the districts proposal would have a devastating effect on teacher recruitment, stating that Medford educators are among the lowest paid educators in the state. According to the Oregon School Board Association, the average teacher salary in Medford School District is $45,518, while throughout the state of Oregon, the average teacher salary is $57,321.
Oregon state law allows for mediation when one or both sides feel they are unable to move forward. Once approved by the Oregon Employee Relations board, a contract mediator will be assigned to help resolve the issues. The mediation will continue until a resolution has been achieved or until both sides have reached an impasse. The parties would then enter a 30-day “cool down” period, after which the teachers could elect to go on strike.
“We need to settle this as soon as possible,” said Brasseur, warning that “if we don’t like what the district is offering, we will have to accept it or strike.”
Brasseur is calling on Medford residents to contact their school board and tell them to continue negotiations in good faith.
Explains Hedrick Middle School teacher Chris Geankoplis in an online forum. “The entire community’s children deserve the best, most committed teachers possible. Anything less is betraying their trust in us. Please remember this as we continue to negotiate for a fair contract. “
Oregon Education By The Numbers
3rd largest class sizes in the nation
7% less than National average for per-pupil spending
#47 in the nation for spending on higher education
- See more at: http://www.oregoned.org/
BY VANESSA HOUK
Underneath a thousand brightly colored, folded paper cranes, there lies a story. It’s a tale of terrible destruction and bright hope. It’s also the history of what happens when ordinary people come together to model peace.
Every August 6 through August 9, members of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), peace activists and community members gather in the Ashland Plaza to remember the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and to share the dangers of nuclear weapons and the environmental hazards of radiation contamination.
By 1945 World War II was peaking. After President Truman issued an executive order to bomb Japan, a series of events occurred which left lasting imprints on both Japanese and American culture.
First, a nuclear bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy” was loaded onto the ship the Indianapolis and carried to the Tinian Islands in Marianas and Guam, south of Japan. Then on the early morning hours of August 6, the B-29 bomber known as Enola Gay dropped the equivalent of 12,500 tons of TNT over the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The destruction was both immediate and insidiously slow as it had long reaching effects on Japanese people. 90,000 people were killed instantly. By 1950 the death toll for that first bomb reached 200,000 people.
For one Medford woman, Hideko Tamura Snider, there was nothing little about the great, personal devastation the bombing wrought. She was 11 years old when the bomb hit. Her mother and cousin were killed instantly. Now in her late 70’s, Snider works diligently to bring awareness of the danger of atomic weapons.
Back on August 9, 1945 a second bomb, this one with the name of “Fat Man” was dropped over the city of Nagasaki, Japan. In a flash, 40,000 people were killed. By 1950 there were 140,000 more deaths as a direct result of the nuclear bomb.
This was the only time in history that atomic bombs were used during wartime. Later nuclear disasters would include Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and the meltdown of three reactors in the Fukushima Power Plant in 2011, all of which had devastating effects.
Around the world people unite to remember the human cost of atomic weapons and to visualize a world without the threat of nuclear catastrophes. They come together to listen to speakers talk about their experiences, listen to music and to learn from the past.
WILPF will host a vigil in Ashland to commemorate this dark chapter of history and to draw attention to the dangers of nuclear weapons and power plants. WILPF is hosting several guests from Japan who will be participating in the events.
July 9 (During Nuclear Abolition Week) Citizens for Peace & Justice will show the film “In my Lifetime” which tells the story of the ongoing struggle to ban nuclear weapons. The film will be shown in the Adams Room in the Medford Library at 7:00 PM. Filmed in Europe, Japan and the United States, In my Lifetime ”focuses on the continuing struggle of citizens, scientists and political leaders working to reduce or eliminate the atomic threat while others search to build nuclear weapons”.
The month of August has been designated “Nuclear Free Future” month. In 1982 Ashland was declared a nuclear free zone and in 1988 the city joined the International Mayors for Peace.
The opening ceremony is August 6 at 8:00 AM and will begin with the lighting of a memorial candle. The ceremony will be led by Paula Sohl, the Associate Minister of the United Church of Christ, Congregational and will begin at the grassy entrance of Lithia Park. A moment of silence will follow, exactly 68 years after the bombing of Hiroshima.
August 6 at 9:00 AM Nuclear maze opens in the Ashland plaza.
August 8 at 6:15 PM (approximately) the Rogue Valley Peace Choir Ensemble sings in the Ashland Plaza.
August 8 at 7:00 PM Nuclear maze is taken down.
August 9 at 7:00 PM There will be a closing ceremony in the Japanese Garden in Lithia Park. Folks who attend the closing ceremony will be invited to float sunflowers down the stream in the Japanese Garden. Sunflowers are a symbol of the nuclear free movement.
August 13 Citizen’s For Peace and Justice will show a film “The Atomic States of America” at the Medford Library at 7:00 PM. “In 2010, the United States announced the first new nuclear power plant construction in over 32 years. The ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ was born and America’s long-stalled expansion of nuclear energy was infused with new life.” Then on March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit Japan and caused an accident at the Fukushima Power Plant. This film explores the viability of nuclear power “and poses the question of whether or not man can responsibly split the atom.”
Local sponsors of the vigil include Ashland WILPF, Peace House, Rogue Valley Peace Choir, Citizens for Peace & Justice, Red Earth Descendants, Rogue Valley Peace Veterans, Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice, Collateral Repair Project, Veterans for Peace Rogue Valley Chapter 156, United Nations Association of Southern Oregon, One Sunny Day Initiatives, United Nations Association of Southern Oregon, United Church of Christ Congregational of Ashland, the Social Justice Action Committee of the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, South Mountain Friends Meeting and the Japanese Association of Southern Oregon.
“We hold these events to inform innocent populations and its devastating effects on innocent populations and the planet,” said Jill Mackie, a member of WILPF. “It’s so tragic… we continue with the vigil because these weapons, these dangers still exist.”
BY JASON HOUK
Oregon senator Ron Wyden is leading a group of 26 fellow senators — 22 Democrats, three Republicans and one Independent — in demanding answers from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
Wyden, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has criticized the agency’s surveillance programs following the leaks by agency contractor Edward Snowden detailing how personal data is captured via phone and internet traffic.
Wyden and others argue that Clapper misled Congress when asked earlier this year if the NSA was collecting data on millions of Americans.
Clapper replied, “No, sir. . . not wittingly.”
Senator Wyden has said that Clapper didn’t give a “straight answer.”
The senators sent a letter to Clapper that includes a series of questions about the scope and focus of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of data authorized by the PATRIOT Act.
Oregon senator Jeff Merkley also signed the letter. that asks Clapper to provide more public details about the extent of the program and examples of when it “proved useful” in stopping terrorist attacks.
“We are concerned that by depending on secret interpretations of the PATRIOT Act that differed from an intuitive reading of the statute, this program essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” the senators wrote in the letter. “This and misleading statements by Intelligence officials have prevented our constituents from evaluating the decisions that their government was making, and will unfortunately undermine trust in government more broadly. The debate that the President has now welcomed is an important first step toward restoring that trust.”
They note that the Supreme Court decision the government is relying on to authorize massive data collection (Smith v. Maryland) was “based on the technology of the rotary-dial era and did not address the type of ongoing, broad surveillance of phone records the government is now conducting.”
They suggest that by tracking location data, the government is “turning Americans’ cellphones into tracking devices.”
The Senators hope that by providing specific questions, they can clear up misleading statements and allow the public to adequately evaluate the process.
1) How long has the NSA used PATRIOT Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?
2) Has the NSA used USA PATRIOT Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?
3) Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?
4) Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.
5) Please identify any specific examples of instances in which intelligence gained by reviewing phone records obtained through Section 215 bulk collection proved useful in thwarting a particular terrorist plot.
6) Please provide specific examples of instances in which useful intelligence was gained by reviewing phone records that could not have been obtained without the bulk collection authority, if such examples exist.
7) Please describe the employment status of all persons with conceivable access to this data, including IT professionals, and detail whether they are federal employees, civilian or military, or contractors.
The senators who signed the letter are: Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Begich (D-AK), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Mike Lee (R-UT).
BY KAI HUSCHKE
As the fight over genetically modified canola and other GM crops escalates in the Willamette Valley, a group of farmers and neighbors in Benton County have spent the past year talking about how to stop GMOs.
They’ve asked the question that people across the country ask when faced with corporate threats — such as GMOs, fracking or water privatization — how do we say no?
Traditional environmental activism would have them writing letters to elected officials, submitting public comments on proposed GMO plans and testifying at hearings.
This kind of activism is based on the assumption that we have the legal authority to decide what happens in our communities. And from this, that if we build enough support in opposition to unsustainable practices such as GMOs, then the folks who run things will take heed and respond.
The problem is that this simply isn’t true.
As folks in Benton County are finding out, this kind of activism won’t stop GMOs. And so they’re taking a different path, which is forcing them to dig deeper than they ever imagined into how and for whom our system of law works, placing them side-by-side with hundreds of other communities in what may become this country’s new civil rights movement.
*Bringing Down the Hammers*
Corporations have painstakingly constructed a system of law — through the use of public institutions including the courts, state legislatures, and Congress — to ensure we can’t stop threats such as GMOs, and chilling community efforts by punishing us when we step outside the box they’ve constructed for us.
To maintain the box, corporations have devised four large hammers, which they use on us when we dare to say things like “we don’t want GMOs here” and seek to drive that idea into local law.
The first hammer is called Dillon’s Rule, named for a railroad lawyer who wanted a legal doctrine that would put a halt to municipal “interference” with railroad expansion. Under Dillon’s Rule, communities can’t enact any laws unless our state legislatures say we can. Our municipalities are thus subordinated to the position of “children” to our state “parent,” only able to do what we are told. If we do otherwise, corporations clobber us with Dillon’s Rule, suing us for acting outside our authority.
The second hammer involves our legislatures (and occasionally Congress), banning communities from adopting certain kinds of laws. At the behest of industry, our legislatures routinely draft laws that preempt communities from having decision-making authority over things like factory farming and fracking. Here in Oregon, Big Ag is seeking to have the Legislature pass a bill preempting communities from making any decisions about GMOs.
When these first two hammers fail to sufficiently smash us, corporations have two more at their disposal. The first is “corporate personhood.”
Beginning in the 1800s, by pressure from railroad and other corporations, federal judges began to recognize corporations as “persons” for purposes of constitutional rights. Today, corporations routinely wield these “rights” to override community lawmaking.
The fourth hammer comes when corporations wield our own civil rights laws — written to protect freed slaves – against us. Under these laws, corporations demand monetary damages from communities that challenge their authority to engage in fracking or other harmful activities.
Thus, if we seek to pass local laws to stop GMOs, we must dodge all four hammers to be deemed “legal”; yet affected corporations triumph even when only one hammer hits home.
*Running Around the Hamster Wheel*
The big environmental organizations have mostly decided to work within these limitations. In the case of GMOs, that has meant trying to do everything but ban them, since state and local bans of governmentally approved seeds and foods fall directly under all four hammers. Instead they’re try to get federal agencies to deny applications for new GMOs or better regulate GM crops, or push for labeling of GMOs in food.
They have settled for “what can we get,” rather than asking, “what structural change do we need?” to guarantee that GMOs never see the light of day.
Such a strategy gives away the store without a fight — creating the illusion that GM crops can be controlled, and that the growth of GM foodstuffs is inevitable.
*Reframing the Fight Against GMOs*
For the problem isn’t GMOs, but the system of law that enables corporations to impose GMOs upon our communities without our consent. If we’re to stop GMOs, we need to change the system itself.
In short, while we need a sustainable food movement, we can’t have one until we launch a democracy movement.
We’re not the first to strive for structural change. When the Abolitionists looked out at the constitutional landscape, slaves were *invisible* to the law — much in the way our communities are today.
Recognizing that it was the system of law itself that was the problem — and not that they needed to just better regulate slavery — they pioneered a movement that forced the system to work for them. Thus, they defined existing laws — which refused to recognize slaves as “persons” — as unjust. And then they proceeded to break those laws, openly, frontally, and without apology.
In so doing, they revealed how the system worked, in order to reach more and more people who would see that injustice and join their movement.
The fight against GMOs must follow a similar path, transforming itself into a movement by revealing how the current system denies community authority to build sustainable farm and food systems.
*Community Civil Disobedience in the Name of Sustainability*
In 2001, faced with an influx of factory farms and the state Legislature’s preemption of local lawmaking around farming, Wells Township, Penn., adopted a law banning agribusiness corporations from farming.
This ban on “corporate farming,” borrowed from similar laws adopted in Midwestern states, reflected a new understanding by communities: The problem wasn’t odor or water quality, but rather the corporatization of agriculture. Communities redefined the problem from being about factory farming, to being about a system of law, which authorizes corporations to define what food production looks like.
Wells was joined by other communities who passed laws which took on the key legal doctrines — those four hammers — which stand in the way of municipalities saying “no” to threats like factory farming and the ability to build environmental and economic sustainability.
Over 140 communities in eight states have followed similar paths.
This kind of organizing — seizing our municipal governments to commit acts of *collective, non-violent, civil disobedience through local lawmaking* — isn’t focused on the hope that the courts will rescue us by overturning 200 years of corporate “rights.” Instead, it is being pursued with the understanding that structural change will only occur when we refuse to comply with a system bent the other way.
*So, What Do We Do Tomorrow? *
Over the past year, folks in Benton County asked themselves that same question — given the state of farming and a system focused on delivering a toxic mix of corporate concentration and GMOs.
Understanding that without challenging the system of law itself they cannot stop GMOs, they drafted a “Food Bill of Rights” law that establishes a “right to sustainable food systems” for the community, and prohibits those activities — like the planting of GMOs — that would violate that right.
The law takes aim at the existing system by re-defining corporate “rights,” invalidating preemptive state and federal actions, and elevating the right of the community to sustainability above competing rights claimed by agribusiness corporations.
In many ways, the proposed Benton County law, as well as other laws that have been adopted across the country, dare corporations to reveal how the current system of law works.
If they seek to overturn these local laws, corporations must bring down those four hammers of Dillon’s Rule, state and federal preemption, corporate personhood and other corporate “rights” — which they’ve constructed to ensure communities can’t interfere with the expansion of their authority and power. Exposing the hammers in plain sight means communities can see them for what they are — legal doctrines intended to subordinate our communities to a “corporate state.”
These laws thus “reframe” the dispute — from being focused on the question of whether GMOs are harmful to being about the authority and “rights” of agribusiness corporations to override the authority and rights of communities to self-govern.
This issue of “who decides” must build toward removing those corporate hammers at the state level, as is beginning in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Washington State. And then build toward federal constitutional change that elevates community self-governance above rights claimed on behalf of corporations and commerce.
If we want to stop GMOs, we need to instigate a community revolt that produces a system where it actually matters what we want. This means we have to stop deluding ourselves that it’s enough to write letters and wave signs, and instead begin to drive structural change to liberate our communities from the corporate grasp.
Originally printed in Eugene Weekly. Reprinted with permission from the author.
BY VANESSA HOUK
When I heard that twenty year Jimmy Georgeson was shot by federal marshals in a west Medford parking lot a year and a half ago, my first thought was, “I wonder if he was one of my kids?”
He lived in my old neighborhood.
Thirteen years ago we lived in a crummy apartment in west Medford. Every day I walked my then kindergarten aged daughter to and from Washington Elementary School. I was one of a small handful of adults who watched over the neighborhood kids. Often as we passed by remnants of drug paraphernalia in the neighborhood park, I broke up fights and solved kid-sized conflicts on the walk home. By nightfall it was often my voice on the telephone with 911, reporting violence that trickled into our lives through our opened windows, bringing angry and frightened voices in from the courtyard. The dilapidated buildings in the neighborhood were symbolic of the fracturing lives that surrounded us even as the sidewalks were filled with the voices of children and a promise of something better.
There was a tiny, five year old girl who lived across the street from us who haunts me still, even as I can’t remember her name. On parent-teacher night at school she tagged along with us as she explained that her Mom didn’t want to go and then as we walked her into her classroom she transformed into a bubbly little person who led us from project to project, beaming at every turn. For some kids, school is a refuge.
Back in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom another child Lila, was struggling to keep up and our daughter’s teacher explained, “Many times I hear some talking and it will turn out that Sierra is explaining the material to Lila.” That year our daughter kept a protective arm around her friend and made sure she understood what was happening.
They were our kids, every single one.
I’d be lying if I didn’t disclose that we got out of there as fast as we could. We worked, saved and borrowed until we had enough to move into Ashland and it felt really good to enroll our daughter at Briscoe School where there was an abundance of protective adults who were actively making sure that Ashland kids had more opportunities. That daughter grew up and graduated at the top of her class at Ashland High School last year.
I thought about my Medford kids hundreds of times over the years as I silently acknowledged our good fortune. I wonder how many of them graduated? How many of them took a different path and wound up surrounded by yellow crime tape in a parking lot? I wished I could do something that would give them the same chances my daughters are now all getting.
At a recent New Day Breakfast I had the opportunity to listen to Dee-Anne Everson, who is the director of Jackson County United Way and a woman who is on a mission to change the status quo. Everson shared some sobering statistics about graduation rates in the Medford School District. It turns out that one in three kids do not graduate within four years. 15% of third graders can’t read and by eighth grade 35-40% of kids can’t read at grade level. Those numbers should tick you off! These are our kids, every one. And we’re failing them every time one of them walks out of high school without a diploma.
Everson has an idea, in fact she’s calling it “The Big Idea” and she has a plan to change that.
What if we had 100% completion rate and every kid left the Medford School District with a diploma? We can, but it’s going to take a lot of us to make it happen.
‘The Big Idea’ is that every single 5th grader in Medford and Cave Junction will be paired with an adult volunteer who will oversee their success, one kid and one volunteer at a time. These kids have the potential to graduate in 2020 and if we do it right, all of them will dress up in a cap and gown on a June afternoon and walk across a stage for a diploma, but you know what, I think they will get something even greater. They are going to hear how important they are, how much they matter. Take that and add a diploma and it will take them anywhere they want to go.
Why 5th graders? Everson says, “The bottom line is that we’ve got to do something and we can’t do everything.” She thinks that it will have a trickle-down effect and will reach younger siblings of these targeted kids.
Everson added, “One of the principals told me ‘you’ll be successful just because you paid attention.’”
One thing is certain. Seven years from now we will not lose one out of every three Medford and Cave Junction kids to the mean streets and that’s a start.
Medford’s annual Pear Blossom parade and street fair was reportedly a success, but some questions have been raised about how the downtown association leveraged this change against businesses who are the true heart of Medford. Some downtown merchants are less than satisfied with the decision to move the event to “The Commons”.
The move left some downtown businesses feeling abandoned. “I hated it,” Michael Sidon, owner of Four Daughter’s Irish Pub on West Main Street told a Mail Tribune reporter. “It was terrible for downtown. The parade ended, and it was a ghost town. I think we were off a good 10 percent. During the parade, we got a lot of business, but in the past we’d get business after. I didn’t get that this year.”
A week before the fair, the Heart of Medford Association realized that the move might cause a problem for downtown businesses and offered them a space inside the new location at a reduced rate. Whether it was over the short time deadline or what, only one business took them up on that offer. In years past the Pear Blossom brought in a slew of customers and for many places it was one of their busiest days of the year.
Perhaps a better compromise can be made in 2014 and downtown merchants can be grandfathered into next years plans in a more effective manor.
A round of applause to The Walt Disney Company for their decision to halt production of their branded merchandise in Bangladesh after several recent catastrophes in clothing factories there. The New York Times reported that the company sent letters to thousands of its vendors insisting that they stop production in the highest risk countries of Bangladesh, Ecuador, Venezuela and Pakistan by April 2014. This move came before the April 24 factory collapse in Dhaka where 1,126 workers died and thousands more were injured.
At a time when companies are feeling pressured to pay attention to worker safety, Disney’s move will garner attention. Their influence could have far reaching effects for the garment industry.
An East Main Street Methadone Clinic has been in operation for years, but because it was located less than 1,000 feet from a daycare center they are being forced to relocate. Allied Health Services, who operates the clinic says they serve 500 clients daily, all of whom are recovering addicts. Without the clinic there wouldn’t be adequate addiction resources for those people who are trying to change their lives. It was disappointing to hear Rep. Sal Esquivel say that the clinic is better off elsewhere when Esquivel happens to live in the neighborhood where the clinic is being edged out of.
While the new Murphy Road location has been approved by state and local officials and Medford police weighed in and determined it is well away from day care centers and schools, new neighbors are just as resistant to change.
Applause to the city of Ashland for the newest park bench in Lithia Park which was dedicated to Lisa Stanley, an activist who was outspoken in the quest to preserve Ashland’s historic plaza. Stanley died on January 3, 2013 at the age of 49. Her passion, dedication and humor is sorely missed.
There’s nothing sweet about these Twinkies…
Remember the 18,000 workers who lost their jobs when Hostess went bankrupt last year and Main Street America went crazy and bought every last package of Twinkies off grocery store shelves? They’re back, but now they have one missing ingredient– unionized labor!
In These Times reports that, “An executive of the new ownership group—private equity firms Metropolous & Co. and Apollo Global Management—announced that production will resume at four, or possibly five, plants purchased from Hostess Brands as part of a $410 million bankruptcy sale earlier this year.”
That’s a bitter filling for working families.
Twinkle fingers to the website “A Mighty Girl” for influencing Disney to keep a more powerful looking Merida from the film Brave. After a Change.org petiton netted more than 200,000 supporters who asked Disney to reconsider their pretty princess makeover. The character of Merida is a refreshing change from Disney’s typical sparkly, pink draped counterparts and we’re glad she gets to keep her bow and arrow too.
Hurray to the Boy Scouts of America for voting to allow gay youth into the Boy Scouts. However, there is still a ban on allowing gay scout leaders. Visit this link to learn more about the work being done to bring equality into the Boy Scouts.http://www.glaad.org/scouts
As 115 acres burned in Grants Pass, the Grants Grants Pass Daily Courier offered real-time video of the Beacon Hill fire. Isn’t technology something? As Mandy Valencia said on Facebook, “Surreal! Watching a fire that’s burning right now on the internet. The future has arrived.”
BY KAREN JEFFERY
Saturday May 11 was the first day of a four-day event in and around Portland, with a stop in Eugene for a public talk on “Universal Responsibility and the Inner Environment: the Nature of the Mind.” Booths representing Oregon non-profits or selling food, music, and Tibetan cultural items surrounded the inner stadium. Music and dance, from colorful Tibetan cultural dancers to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, filled in before and after events.
Our own Senator Jeff Merkley opened the day’s events, welcomed the Dalai Lama back to Portland after twelve years, then introduced the panelists: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, John Kitzhaber (Oregon Governor), Dr. David Suzuki (scientist, author, DS Foundation), Andrea Durbin (Executive Director, Environmental Council), and moderator David Miller (host of Think Out Loud on PBS). He reminded us of the huge challenge we face to reverse current climate trends and save our environment. “With emissions hitting 400 parts per million this week, the time to step up to our stewardship of planet earth is now.”
Governor Kitzhaber began by reminding the 11,000 filling the coliseum that through personal advocacy Oregon led the nation with its beach bill, bottle bill, and renewable energy bills.
The Dalai Lama opened with stories from his childhood in Tibet, when they drank crystal clear water from streams. He called on all global leaders to come together to begin to take care of our home, because although he escaped Tibet in 1959 (and went on to thrive elsewhere), there is no escape from planet earth. It is our only home, and we must care for all of our children and generations to follow by developing new ways of thinking and acting…honoring impermanence and acting non-dually.
David Suzuki created even more urgency, saying we have passed too many tipping points and “we must act now. Humans are dependent on nature, on our earth, and we have created perils for all species by ignoring that dependency. Bringing our own behavior back into balance is critical. In 1900 there were only one and a half billion people on earth. We were rural, farmers, dependent on nature. We understood the importance of our environment. Now we’re over seven billion, mostly city-dwellers –whose highest priority is economics, not soil/water. Many people and corporations don’t understand what farmers knew then, but we fail to understand at our peril.”
“Climate change is our number one issue,” said Andrea. “Future generations will ask what we did, why we didn’t act. We are the experiments, exposed daily to ever-increasing toxicity of air,water, food, buildings…it is immoral and wrong.” She continued, “Our US system is broken; regulation has totally failed to protect us. With over 87,000 chemicals in use, only 200 are tested. Since states must act to begin some national action, I urge you to call your legislators…then hold them accountable.”
Kitzhaber questioned our working models. “Consumption as an economic model is unsustainable and unworkable. We measure the wrong things – GNP measures only economic points, when we need the economy to work within the limits of nature and our environment.”
Rethinking paradigms is essential. Health, education, regulation — all our systems need to be included. He was encouraging. “With increased understanding and activism, we will find solutions.”
The Dalai Lama picked up on measurements of how well we’re doing, which are clearly out of whack when we’re ruining our planet, creating crises, increasing poverty. People are part of nature. Corporations are not. And money isn’t everything. “Freedom is important, creativity demands freedom, but free to ruin the world? More concern for others would provide the balance needed, the ability to see beyond the GNP. Consumption and greed, regardless of the consequences, must be changed through teaching ecology, oneness, kindness.”
For the Governor, the rate of consumption is key. In our pursuit of happiness, we waste so many resources, including human lives. We lose family time, time for contemplation and creativity.
Suzuki reminded the audience that 70% of our economy runs on consumption, not focusing on what makes us truly happy. We fail to see the bigger picture – when 1000 workers perish in a Bangladesh factory, for our cheap shirts. The air, water, soil, human interconnectedness – these provide our riches. But our news is segmented, failing to show the interconnectedness of our consumption and greed, the waste despoiling our planet. It’s just a factory crumbling here, a loss of jobs there, ill health from toxins – without understanding and providing context.
“We need to examine our own lifestyle, to think globally and act locally in making better choices each day,” shared Andrea. “There are better riches: human affection, friendship, joy, peace, knowledge. Instead, our entire precious human life is facing enormous difficulty. Still people will say ‘I support the environment, but I’m not an environmentalist.’ Yes, the bottle bill was landmark, but that was decades ago! Where are our laws now to change what we measure (to include natural wealth, the cost of pollution), to protect life on this planet, to put people and communities back in the economic/environmental equation?”
Kitzhaber asked how we get to putting a price on carbon. “We all know we need to get there. Why not sooner than later?” He is encouraged by what California is doing, with Washington and Oregon close behind. If the West Coast goes there, we can lead the nation with “trickle up leadership.” “We’re doing it with healthcare, why not the environment?”
A number of questions followed from the audience locally and globally – from Twitter, Facebook, and other Internet locations, where the entire week’s events were live-streamed.
?: What is the Buddhist understanding of environment?
HHDL: The Buddhist way includes respect for all life, nature. Buddha got enlightened under a tree. Monastic precepts are all about caring for (people, plants, animals…) Monks in Thailand, India, and many other countries are very active working for protection of the environment. It’s based on the concept of interdependence and that all sentient beings matter, are to be held dear. Old concepts like we/they ignore our interrelatedness. We are 7 billion…together.
DS: Each stakeholder fighting for their position doesn’t work. We need to leave our vested interests and begin with what we agree on, building from that platform. We all breathe, so clean air should be our clearest priority. Then water and its cyclic existence, soil from which to feed the world.
HHDL: We meet with scientists and need to embrace the new. Challenge is how to get people to let go of old ideas for new ones…to be realistic. Old concepts were good…then, but we have to change. It’s quite simple really. Our world is round, not flat.
?: How can we turn anxiety over the environment into action?
AD: Education is important, but it doesn’t compel change. We need some sort of economic self-interest, societal norm. We need motivators to change social norms, moving from the individual level to governmental. We used to have bi-partisanship; cooperation is lacking today, and it’s what is needed to get things done.
JK: We need to ask the right questions. We already have a carbon tax – it’s in high hospital costs, human misery, the military, joblessness, insecurity, pollution. We need to measure differently, show the REAL costs of carbon, use full cost accounting.
DS: Yes, we need a paradigm shift. We have urgent catastrophes now. We need to depoliticize the environment. We shouldn’t need a ‘green party’. We ALL need to act as a single species…as if we’re being attacked from outer space…and take action. It’s un-American not to meet this challenge. We need global housekeeping (ask any woman); we need personal and political action…now.
JK: I have two wardrobes – this (points to slacks, sports coat) and jeans and boots. We all need to pare down. And we need an inspired goal, like the moon launch.
HHDL: Education is not just knowing information. Its purpose is to develop conviction based on reality. It’s about listening and critical thinking (which needs facts) and experience. Then understanding comes. That knowledge can change our way of life.
At 1:30, following the noon break, Earl Blumenauer (US Representative, 3rd District) opened the afternoon session with remarks introducing the Dalai Lama: “He’s a man of faith AND science”, a Nobel Prize winner and recipient of the US Congressional Medal of Honor…and now a Portland Trailblazer (number 14 jersey), with a U of O visor, and now a Portland Bike pin.
HHDL began, “so happy to be back in Portland. Portland has a special relationship with the environment, and we can all learn from this city and from Oregon.” His afternoon talk was about compassion, the wish for others to be happy, the importance of nurturing love, tolerance, forgiveness, and fundamental values through practice. It is the basis of love between persons, harmony between religions, a source of joy. Humans need maximum affection when young. It’s a key factor in well-being and motivation for kindness and friendship towards others. “Warm heartedness is the key to a happy life,” he said.
“Make conservation a habit. share the importance of ecology. Educate others to reduce, recycle, and reuse. We must take the initiative. It’s the compassionate way. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital.”
The Dalai Lama concluded and dedicated the day with katas and kata blessings to all 11,000 present, reminding us to use our potential.
“In addition to nonviolence in our relations with each other, we also need to employ a much greater sense of nonviolence in relation to the environment, because a healthy natural environment is essential to the survival of life on our planet.”
To learn more about the Dali Lama’s trip to Oregon visit rvcommunitypress.com.
Karen Jeffery is a freelance writer, editor, photographer, publicist, activist, and Resource Unlimited. Reach her via email@example.com
Governor’s Budget to Lead to Greater Privatization, Corporatization, and Profiteering in Public Schools
BY RYAN OLDS
Governor Kitzhaber says his budget is based on the premise that “all Oregonians deserve their shot at the American dream.” One could conclude differently when looking at his proposals for the institution that truly fights for every Oregonian to get their shot: public education. In a time of crisis, the government’s budget reduces resources to our schools and is based on a premise of an unconstitutional cut to contract-guaranteed worker benefits.
The Governor’s budget is based on two assumptions. The first are cuts to employee retirement. Passing a cut to a tax break for out of state Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) recipients, and cutting the cost of living increases after the first $24,000 of a retiree’s PERS. This is the most severe cut to retirees of the two. This will result in approximately $865 million in savings.
The Governor’s $6.1 billion K-12 budget “keeps current service levels.” To put that in perspective, the proposed K-12 budget for the biennium beginning in 2007 was 6.3 billion. The “current service level” has resulted in cut days for students and staff, shortened school years, the 3rd highest class size in the nation, privatization, and cuts to services and programs like Art and Music. Additionally, the current service level does not account for various increases in local costs and will actually result in further reductions in many Oregon districts under the Governor’s budget.
The Governor will then add an additional $253 million to the school budget to hire (rehire) more teachers if the PERS savings materializes. This is a big assumption, just as it was during the last PERS “reform” efforts, much of which were overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court in the 2003 Strunk case. In that case, Cost of Living Increase Adjustment (COLA) restrictions for current retirees were struck down by the Oregon State Supreme Court under Article 1, Section 21 of the Oregon Constitution which states:
“No ex-post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts shall ever be passed…”
Now the governor is attempting to leverage the unions by making them choose between a paltry increase in education funding and teaching jobs or a likely unconstitutional cut to contractually agreed-upon benefits. “Retirement or (some) jobs” is the choice. There is a new proposal out of the legislature to boost the funding to 6.7 billion, but that too, is based on PERS “savings.”
A real interesting add-on to the Governor’s budget is a “reconfiguration” to the Educational Service District (ESD) funding, which will save $125 million. The total budget for ESD’s was $300 million, quite a reconfiguration. Since 92% of that money goes back to school districts in services, mainly special education, this really amounts to a $108 million cut to special education and other services in school districts. Will the cost of this reconfiguration be made up by something else, or will it be passed onto districts, which have to contend with increasing federal mandates and Maintenance of Effort (MOE).
This budget is very much in line with Governor Kitzhaber’s larger corporate vision for education. From the appointment of Chief Education Officer (CEO) Rudy Crew, to the Governor’s centralized control over all levels of education, corporatized education has come to Oregon. This follows a national trend of a systemic corporate-backed campaign to dismantle public education from Chicago to New Orleans, Philadelphia to Los Angeles.
Recently, CEO Crew has suggested that 40% of students would be best served by learning outside of schools via technology. This is the business model at work in education, in Oregon. Why hire teachers (workers) when you can have a computer teach the test to 40% of Oregon students? The model will lead to the same downward results that have occurred in the private sector for average Americans; downsizing, outsourcing, stagnant wages at best, and reduction in the quality of service.
The reality is; the Governor’s budget only exacerbates the education funding crisis in this state. It will lead only to a further corporatization and deterioration of public education, an entity that is the only institution truly fighting for every Oregonian to get a shot in this state.
Education and labor advocates should not support the insufficient school budget proposals based on cuts to earned retirement that will lead to this corporatization. Regardless of whether the school budget is closer to what the Governor or legislators propose, it will still be 2-3 billion below the state’s own Quality Education Model, the amount the state says is needed to give every child an opportunity at a quality education.
No current budget proposal addresses the fundamental problem of corporations and the wealthy not paying their fair share to achieve a budget of quality education. That is why the legislature and the Governor are asking working people to pay for an insufficient school budget through taxes, fees, and now their retirement. Workers are being asked to fund the school budget despite the fact that the group who pays the largest percentage of income to the budget is the lowest-income taxpayers. The wealthiest taxpayers pay the least percentage of their income. Nine banks that did business in Oregon paid no corporate taxes in Oregon last year. The corporate minimum tax is $150 or between 0.5% and 1% of total Oregon sales.
Instead of arguing over a few hundred million dollars, education and labor advocates should be looking at a long term solution; fixing an unfair tax system that puts the burden of funding public services on workers instead of corporations doing business in Oregon and the wealthy. The only long term solution for our education crisis is to address how it is funded and who it is funded by. Only then, can we really talk about creating an education system that allows every Oregonian their shot at the American dream.
What do a nineteenth-century poet, a homeless guy from Seattle, and the Greensboro sit-ins at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960 have in common? You might be surprised.
On the first day of February in 1960, four college students walked into a Woolworth’s five-and-dime store in Greensboro, North Carolina. Each of them carefully made a small purchase. Having a time-stamped receipt was an important part of the action they were about to launch as they made their way to the lunch counter. [Read more...]
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced that will require food manufacturers to inform consumers when packaged food contains genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. [Read more...]
Nearly five years after the economic crash of 2008, Rogue Valley residents are still hurting. Local unemployment rates remain well above state and national averages. For people who are unemployed, it’s difficult to find work. For those who have jobs, wages and benefits aren’t keeping up with the rising price of food, gas, health care, and everything else. It’s getting harder for people to make ends meet.
In times like these, a strong labor movement could do much to improve the lives of workers, their families, and society as a whole. Once a popular and effective force for social change, the United States labor movement is a shadow of what it used to be. Membership is at a 97-year low, with only one in nine workers belonging to a labor union, down from one in three sixty years ago and one in five thirty years ago. Gallup reports that public support for unions in 2012 was near its all-time low, with just over half of Americans approving, down from three-quarters during the 1950s. [Read more...]
Several thousand people reported to work in a Dhaka, Bangladesh clothing factory on April 24, unaware of the danger that was about to unfold. The eight-story building, which had previously been condemned, collapsed, killing at least
300 workers and injuring at least a thousand more. This tragedy threatens to become one of the worst industrial accidents on record. [Read more...]
For 19-year old Ricardo, the future was always uncertain. “I had to stay in the shadows, to watch what I said and what I did,” he said. In the ten years since arriving in this country, Ricardo has lived the American experience, going to school and growing up among his friends and classmates. But when it came time to go to college, get a driver’s license and a real job, Ricardo found himself unable to follow the path of his peers. [Read more...]
All over the nation, local media outlets are losing their independence. Since relaxed regulations on media ownership opened the door for a series of corporate buyouts and mergers, a shrinking number of corporations have disproportionate influence over the stories and opinions heard by a majority of Americans. This has troubling consequences for our democratic system of governance, which works best when people have accurate information along with access to a variety of viewpoints on important issues.
From the streets of Seattle to the revolutions in the Middle East, independent media has grown and matured to become a powerful tool for social change.
Independent media refers to all the ways individuals and communities create and share content. This includes the Internet, email, live streaming video, and wireless communications, as well as our community radio stations, independent newspapers, newsletters, pamphlets, public access television, and social networks.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a multinational trade deal with far-reaching implications that threaten local sovereignty, jobs, our health, and the environment. The goal of the trade pact is to boost economic growth by strengthening economic ties between member nations, reducing or eliminating tariffs, opening up trade, and increasing investment. Although the legislation has been drafted in secret, leaked documents have revealed that it will likely outsource living wage jobs to low-wage countries, threaten local control of food sources, and displace family farmers. The TPP creates new tools to attack environmental and consumer safety policies and further deregulate Wall Street banks, insurance companies, Big Pharma, and biotechnology corporations.
Two Trains Running arrives at the junction of hope and justice: OSF play explores poverty and racial inequity in the late 1960s
“The people of this play have loud voices and big hearts. They search. They falter. They continue. In the end, they are not overwhelmed. For here there are warriors and saints. Here there is a drumbeat fueled by the blood of Africa. And through it all there are the lessons, the wounds of history,” said August Wilson about his play Two Trains Running. “There are always and only two trains running. There is life and there is death. Each of us rides them both. To live life with dignity, to celebrate and accept responsibility for your presence in the world is all that can be asked of anyone.”
Mickey Huff is critical of the corporate media’s failure to provide the kind of coverage and investigative reporting crucial for a free and informed society. As an associate professor of history at Diablo Valley College in California and associate director of the Media Freedom Foundation, Huff rejects the idea that the corporate media reflects the interests of the people.
“Mainstream is us; it is we the people […] there is nothing mainstream about the views or attitudes or opinions that are oft expressed in the corporate media. They tend to be a real megaphone for the plutocracy,” says Huff.
The Chew on This Tour, which is part of the Drive to Feed the World, made the first appearance of its national tour at the Jackson County Fairgrounds on February 26. Featuring a pumped-up pro wrestler mascot, a media blitz ensued that was designed to discredit and marginalize the growing natural, organic, and non-GMO agricultural movement here in the Rogue Valley and across America.
“I am a girl who came from Africa, where educating a girl child is regarded as a waste of money and waste of time…” so begins Malaika Boschin’s award-winning essay. About 50 people attended a reception for young writers on March 8 at the Ashland United Church of Christ. The event was sponsored by the Ashland branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and was the culmination of an essay contest the group offered for International Women’s Day.
To most of my activist friends who were alive and awake during the sixties and seventies, it is no surprise that the FBI and other government agencies are spying on nonviolent grassroots movements. These activists are quick to point out the FBI’s obsession with the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement as well as the nearly constant surveillance of prominent figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lennon during his stay in the United States.