Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why the high prices Tim?

Most of us who live in Douglas County drive.  When we fill up our tanks, many have a preferred station that balances convenience and price, but the gas pumped at most stations will work, making gasoline something business people call an “undifferentiated product.”    Most gas stations try to keep prices down to stay competitive.

There is one gas station that does not seem to do this, the Garden Valley Shell Station.  Their gas prices are usually fifty cents to a dollar more expensive than Fred Meyer Gas located across the parking lot.  Of course Fred Meyer is corporately owned, while the Garden Valley Shell is locally owned but that does not explain the whole difference.  Chuck’s Texaco is locally owned and sells gas for thirty to sixty cents cheaper than Garden Valley Shell.  Garden Valley Shell is similarly more expensive than other Roseburg area Shells Stations.

So what might explain the higher gas prices at Garden Valley Shell on a largely undifferentiated product?

The owner of the Garden Valley Shell is a politician named Tim Freeman.  Representative Freeman is a candidate for the Douglas County Commission (News Review, March 15, 2013).  Politics are expensive and demands upon their time are numerous.  Politicians sometimes find it easier to listen to those who are funding their campaigns directly, or indirectly by paying excessive prices for a product as undifferentiated as gasoline.

Is this what is happening?  I don’t know, but until we the voters of Douglas County know, perhaps we should ask ourselves this very fundamental question:  If we can’t afford to buy Tim Freeman’s gas, can we really afford his politics?  As a business owner, Tim Freeman has the freedom to price his products as he sees fit, but that doesn’t mean that we have to vote for him.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


While organizing some memories stowed away in a box, I came across letters exchanged with a college friend Marie.  She wrote, "I keep thinking about what I'd really like to do with my life if money were no object.  It changes from time to time but never involves a 9 to 5 job (20 February 2005)."

In my reply (2 April 2005), I described my "pipe dream" or traveling to Latin America to teach English and learn Spanish.  To do so, "I would rid myself of superfluous material possessions and travel freely amongst rich and poor alike in a land even more divided by class than the [United States]."  

Wow! it's not a "pipe dream" anymore.  I have begun the process of realizing this dream that had bee fully formed and shelved over eight years ago.  

Thursday, June 13th was my last day at Elkton Middle School.  Despite getting a letter from the Elkton School Board and Principal communicating their intention to renew my contract, no contract will be forthcoming because the need no longer exists.  The part-time position I held for this 2012-13 school year was created by a full-time teach shifting to part-time.  As she will be returning to full-time next year, the position created will be no more.  Once again unemployed and with Allison and Lydia at the cusp of 19 years, I find myself wi
th the freedom to begin this long unfulfilled journey.

Thursday, I stopped at Photo Frogg at the Roseburg Valley Mall and got a passport photo.  Sitting on a stool, I fought the urge to smile as passport photos are not glamor shots (mine looks more like a mug shot).  I returned home, retrieved the passport application filled out online yesterday, and ventured back out to the Downtown Post Office.  

Along with my battered New Jersey birth certificate, the application and photo are on their journey so that I can begin mine.  Upon leaving this Umpqua Basin and flying south of the border this September to Chiapas Mexico, I will begin a new blog of my journeys in diaspora.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The High Cost of Free Food

We learn it from the sit-coms on TV; win or lose, coach takes the team out for ice cream after the game.      But how does real-life match up to this fictional depiction?  What incentives encourage us as coaches, as caring adults, to continue this linkage between sports and junk food?  Must physical activity and team sport be rewarded with sugar, fat, and salt?

As the Elkton Track & Field coach, I developed my own version of "the three Rs." Instead of the "readin, 'ritin, and 'rithmetic" of yesteryear it is the rehydrate, refuel, and rest of sport.  After a meet, they need to rehydrate (drink), but what? They need to refuel (eat), but where?  The rest takes place on the bus and when they get home.

After our most recent meet at Glide, the team was discussing where to stop for food on the way back.  Without stopping, the bus ride takes 90 minutes.  After some five hours being active in the fresh air, they are understandably hungry.  They generally choose locations that allow them some choice, whether it is the McDonalds and Subway at the corner of Stephens and Garden Valley in Roseburg or the Taco Bell and Dairy Queen on Highway 138 in Sutherlin.  What a choice, what a distinction of flavors, or is it?

All the named restaurants carry the same things packaged slightly differently.  They all offer meat and cheese with slightly differing levels of greasiness, deep fried salty items (chips, tots, or fries), and carbonated sugar water to wash it down.

I tell the kids, "garbage in, garbage out," but then I take them to a place where the only food offerings are garbage.  The fast-food stop has achieved the status of ritual for the team, pre-dating my ascension to the status of "head coach."  Who am I to change this?  At what cost?

The Taco Bell in Sutherlin has made it all too easy to ignore that inner-voice telling me to take a stand (or at the very least abstain).  They give free food to coaches and bus drivers.  This reminded me of the tobacco companies giving free cigarettes to the soldiers during World War II.  As I sat in the booth, choking down the free burrito, the pit in my stomach grew.  This free food could not assuage my conscience, but the real challenge will be whether I act differently the next time.  Will I "think outside the" ... tortilla?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Two Bills to Suppress Free Speech

A March 10th News Review article informed readers about Representative Krieger’s proposal of two bills, HB 2995 and 2596. One would create a felony charge of interference with state forestland management and the other would permit logging companies to sue protesters for lost income.  He claimed it was a response to a “reign of terror by [protesters who have] no respect for the rights of others.  While giving lip service to free speech and mouthing respect for civil disobedience, he then presented a laundry list of acts of civil disobedience that this bill would criminalize, specifically protestors chaining themselves to trees and equipment or using their own bodies to block roads.

There is no reign of terror.  There have been protests opposing logging and there have been court battles, but there has been no deaths or physical threats against people by environmental protestors.  The Foundation for Biomedical Research, a group which tracks crimes it calls “ecoterrorism” produced a list of the top 20 illegal actions by animal and forest protestors from 1996-2006.  Unlike the actions of real terrorists, this group could not attribute a single injury or death to these protests. 

Representative Krieger cannot have it both ways.  He cannot simultaneously support free speech and support these bills intended to suppress free speech.  When laws are erected to ban nonviolent protest, the stage is set for violent protest.  Civil society is threatened more by violence than it is by the free exercise of speech. 

These bills proposed by Representative Krieger are a reflection of his own economic self-interest as a tree farmer.  The protests happen because lawmakers already prioritize the biases of economics over the facts of science.  Perhaps Representative Krieger is the one who has, in his own words, “no respect for the rights of others.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Make Christmas greetings merry

"Honor Christ this Christmas.  It's about Him you know" read the sign outside a local tire store here in Roseburg.  This gave me pause.  Ignoring the selection of the date being grounded in the pre-Christian celebration of Saturnalia, the disagreement on the date between the Western and Eastern churches, the theological dispute of year and season, and the fact that neither the Gospels of Mark or John included an infant narrative, the sign itself does not seem rooted in agape.  It certainly doesn't seem a very "merry" greeting.

I was going to attribute the Christmas that many of us celebrate today to Clement Moore (Twas the Night Before Christmas, 1823) and Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol, 1843) rather than to Jesus.  While it is true that these stories did bring about a resurgence of Christmas in Victorian England, Dickens' tale is too much of an indictment of 19th-Century capitalism to be the root of the retail wet-dream we call "Christmas."

Christmas today seems more the child of Robert May, author of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1939). He was carrying out an assignment for retail giant Montgomery Ward, who had been purchasing and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year.   They determined that developing their own book would save money and thus boost profits.  So rather than laying the blame for the hijacking of Christmas on the failure of non-Christians to acknowledge the Christian roots of the holiday, the responsibility falls squarely on retail giants of capitalism and their Ebenezer Scrooge CEOs.

When a business uses the Nativity to boost sales, it undermines the very message it purports to uphold.  If the owner of a tire store really wanted to celebrate the season, it would be more fitting to offer free tires to those who have been laid off in this recession or, better yet, to homeless families whose car is their only shelter.  There was no room for Mary and Joseph at the Holiday Inn, the Best Western, not even in the Motel 6.  They resorted to a manger because the poor in every era are treated like animals.

So this season I wish all of you a Happy Holidays ...  Hanukkah, FestivusChrismakkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Santa Claus Christmas, or Christian Christmas ... however you may celebrate it.  Honor this season with love and generosity, as it is about kindness you know.

Friday, December 21, 2012

dog walking and duck ponds

A few weeks back, I was walking Mollie around the Stewart Park loop.  As I continued on the path, we encountered a swath of ducks and geese blocking our way.  Being a dog, Mollie got quite excited despite being on a leash.  We proceeded and witnessed the entire group take flight, much to the consternation of people luring the birds to the parking lot with their white bread.

A man in the group shouted out to me, "Most people walk around." 

This would mean leaving the path designated for walking and biking and using the adjacent parking lot.

I retorted, "Most people walk down to the pond to feed the ducks."

Neither of our statements about "most people" were grounded in fact.  Both of us used the tactic of representing our wishes as the cultural norm and that the actions of our adversary as outside those parameters.

Desiring the last word, he responded, "Go back to California."

Those of you reading this who are not familiar with Oregon should note that this is about the worst insult one can issue in polite company.  It parallels the use of "flatlander" in Maine or "haole" in  Hawaii.  A "Californian" is one who "invades" (moves to Oregon) and buys a comparatively cheap house with the cash from the sale of their California home and thus raise the cost of living.  They also crowd Oregon with non-Oregonians, wreaking the peace and solitude of this place.  The only ones who should be able to make such a claim are the First People of Cascadia, the Klamath, Umpqua, Chetco, Takelma, Coquille, Kalapuya, amongst others.  Xenophobia is alive and well in Oregon, with earlier immigrants taking potshots at later immigrants.  But I digress ...

We each had a point, so which of us were more right?  Should I have stepped out of the path and let them feed their white bread to the birds or should they have crossed the path before beginning their feeding frenzy?  By cultural norms, he was probably more correct than me which says more about this culture than it does about what is right or wrong.

Why is that pond there?  Or perhaps more importantly, why is there easy human access to a pond used by both native and migrating birds?  What are people doing to the native and transitory populations of that pond by introducing excessive food?  What degradation occurs because of the low quality of that food?

People in my culture are not use to such questions, let alone trying to answer them.  Animals are cute and seeing them fight over food is funny.  I would suggest that the proximity of the parking lot to the pond was done precisely to tantalize people with their fascination with water and wildlife.  This pond is not a zoo and the residents and migratory animals that make use of this wetland are not our play things.  The white bread offered is the equivalent to junk food for birds and leads to excessive weight and malnutrition.  The quantity of birds it attracts also degrades water quality due to the increased volume of bird excrement.

So perhaps my expectations were out of the norm, perhaps most people do walk around people feeding ducks.  This culture has a selfish view of nature; birds are there to entertain people regardless of what it does to their health or to the health of the wetland.  

This is what has to change.  We are not the masters of nature, we are a part of nature.  The holocene extinction and the anthropogenic climate change are a result of this imbalance.  The capitalist/consumer orientation of this economy has commodified the world.

He was just one man, whom I didn't even get a good look at.  Perhaps he was trying to spend some quality time with his kids.  Perhaps he was remembering fondly days as a child feeding the ducks.  But, to quote Bob Dylan, the Times They are A-changin. Our culture is not keeping up with our collective understanding of the world.  More of us must stop doing what we've always done and try to live as a part of nature. My guess is that his duck feeding had no bad intentions, just insufficient information.  Perhaps it is also true that "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."        

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In support of banned books

I first heard about it on my local public radio affiliate. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was pulled by the Bend-LaPine School District from a Crook County High School Freshman English class because the 14 year old boy protagonist of the book openly speaks of masturbation (see "School yanks book from class after complaint" by Lauren Dake of The [Bend] Bulletin ). Oh, my God ... [open palmed hands pressing against cheeks] ... a 14 year old boy [blushing, lowering voice to a whisper] masturbates! I've never heard of such a thing.

What can we do to stop this! Well, Hank Moss, the father of a child in the class in his self-righteous indignation bypassed procedure of speaking with the teacher and the principal and went straight to the Jeff Landaker, Crook County School Board Chairman. His punishment for circumventing procedure was getting his way. The book was pulled from the class curriculum ... to hell with procedure, this horrible book discusses masturbation! 

My response ... yank, yank ... is this really still the Victorian Age? Do people really think that the idea of masturbation is learned from a book? Hello, it is learned from the exploration and discovery of the world around us that includes are own bodies. Books like this look at the world as it is. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are a bit hokie, whereas Junior was believable. And what horrific lesson does he learn, and via this book does the reader learn? Tolerance and acceptance are needs that we all feel. Perhaps this is what Hank Moss feared most was looking within and seeing his own bigotry.