As I write this, I am still a few hours away from seeing saturation Saddam coverage on TV. That's because (grrr …) I am stuck on an airplane — so all I know is what I just heard from the folks talking in the row in front of me.
My independent reaction is simple: Woo-hoo! Saddam's arrest means a little less evil in the world, and in this 400th generation of "civilized humanity" any trend that ends a little evil and pain for average people is a pretty decent baby step.
What ripples will this latest global media pulse create? Who knows. I am just glad that this sad chapter is over and something new can be written.
As a calming device, if what I am saying (that I am happy we snagged Saddam) angers you, I would offer this Christmas reading list. First, check out Stewart Brand's The Clock of the Long Now, which takes a wonderfully long view of humans past and future in the world. With that 10,000-year view in hand, you can then read, in doses, The Idiot's Guide to the Crusades. Because it is good that we just ended another idiotic reign over there. And that's good even if it makes the Bush people and Fox News gloat for a while.
Politically, my take on this event is simple. The chances of an October surprise scenario (where Bush captures Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden in mid-October 2004 and wins in a landslide) just dropped by 50 percent. Let me tell you this: All the people walking around the L.A. airport, with eyes down and averted, still look afraid when I get off the plane. Suicide terrorism has reached the streets of Moscow too. We know the election will be close and ugly — no matter what happens in the news.
Back here in Oregon, another divisive topic seems to be looming on the political horizon with talk of Ralph Nader forming an exploratory committee to run for president for the third time. Speaking from my "anyone but Lieberman" political position, I do not think the third time will be the charm for Ralph Nader.
He will certainly not beat George Bush in a general election; however, I don't think people should beat up on Nader or Greens. We're advising Democrats and progressives to approach the Nader presidential run in the following fashion: Show respect for Greens and the principled positions they have on issues like clean elections reform that drive their activities, and frustration with the system. They deserve the respect. The fact is there's a fairly big gulf between a lot of Green state parties and Ralph Nader on how to build the Green Party, whether it's via another presidential run by Nader, or with a more focused ground-up, state level, win-local-election strategy following the success of New York's Working Families Party (www.workingfamiliesparty.org).
There's a ton of ways for Greens, progressives, and Democrats to work together on important state and local issues, and that's where people should focus their mutual respect. (Personally, in a state like Oregon, I think the passage of a fusion initiative to allow cross-endorsements by multiple political parties of the same candidate is still a great idea for growing Green/environmental voter power in the long run without acting as a "spoiler." Unlike instant runoff voting, this issue would get a little of Ron Wyden's attention.)
As for the Nader run itself, I think most people get that this is not a swell idea, but the negative attention we focus in his direction will, I think, have an opposite "jujitsu" effect and actually strengthen him.
rather than talking about Nader though, which seems like negative déjà vu, what's more exciting is talking about some new, youthful energy coming into the political system. The Oregon Bus Project (www.secretplan.org)is organizing in Lane County, more meetings are planned in January, and I'm hoping they shoot for the moon. I'm sure EW will have more information about their activities in future issues. These folks have fun and do the work. So don't forget to get on the bus.
Lastly, I guess I'll be back at this next year. Until then, I wish all a peaceful holiday season.
Dan Carol is a Democratic political strategist and a founding partner of CTSG (www.ctsg.com),a progressive consulting firm based in Eugene and Washington, D.C.
Sound of Silence
Eugene residents are rightfully proud of Wayne Morse, a Midwest native who began his political career in Eugene. But we should also be proud of Paul Simon, a Eugene native who began his political career in the Midwest.
Long before Eugene lost PeaceHealth to Springfield, Eugene lost Paul Simon to Springfield, Ill. Simon was born in Eugene in 1928, and he graduated from South Eugene High School in 1945. He enrolled at the UO, but he moved to Illinois in 1946 — one year after Wayne Morse became a U.S. Senator. I guess Simon realized that the State of Oregon was in good hands and that Illinois needed him more.
Simon entered politics in 1954, serving for 14 years in the Illinois Legislature and then winning election as Lieutenant Governor in 1968. Simon served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1974 to 1984, and in the U.S. Senate from 1984 to 1996. Time Magazine reported that Simon passed more bills in 1983 than any other congressman. Among his many accomplishments, Simon helped to overhaul the federal student loan program, created a new national park, laid the groundwork for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and championed other legislation relating to education and job training.
Simon was part of the "South Eugene Triumvirate" that ascended to the top rungs of the political ladder in Washington, D.C. during the 1970s and 1980s. Two other alumni of South Eugene HS joined Simon in Washington: Neil Goldschmidt served as Carter's Secretary of Transportation, and Cecil Andrus served as Carter's Secretary of the Interior. Reagan may have had "Cap the Knife," but Carter had no shortage of Axemen!
No one would ever confuse Paul Simon with Dan Quayle. Simon got to Congress because of his work ethic and his strong values, not his good looks. Simon had such huge earlobes that if you saw his silhouette, you might think he was wearing earrings the size of marbles. There was some speculation that he donned his trademark bow tie to divert attention from his ears. In fact, Simon was comfortable with his appearance. Simon's supporters alluded to Abe Lincoln in joking that, "America likes ugly, honest politicians from Illinois."
We tested this theory in 1988. I was a college student on the east coast at the time, and I signed up to walk door to door for Simon's presidential campaign in New Hampshire. It was a harsh winter, and two feet of snow had fallen the night before we began our canvass. We were greeted with the warm enthusiasm that New Hampshire residents reserve for political canvassers from out of state: 1) "Welcome to the North Pole, college boy!" 2) "What part of 'no soliciting' don't you understand?" 3) "Stand on that doorstep for a few more seconds and you can canvass my friends Smith and Wesson!" Even among those who actually listened to my pitch, I heard more jokes about "Vice President Art Garfunkel" than I heard expressions of support for Paul Simon. Oh well. Simon may not have been an ideal presidential candidate, but you never would have seen him riding a tank like Michael Dukakis did.
On the stump, Simon was a passionate, folksy advocate for progressive ideals. By contrast to the so-called "Atari Democrats" like Gary Hart, Simon was an unapologetic "New Deal Democrat." When Simon spoke, he sounded themes that resonated with all people: fairness in the workplace, equal opportunity in education, and accountability at all levels of government. Simon enthralled his audience. When Simon gave a speech, hardly anyone left the room until Simon told them he was done — "sort of like a big game of 'Simon Says,'" according to one of his supporters.
After Simon died on Dec. 9, the Register-Guard reported that he hadn't visited Eugene since 2000, when he attended his 55-year high school reunion. In fact, Simon last visited Eugene in November 2002. He gave a lecture at the UO concerning the shortage of potable water and the need for nationwide conservation measures.
At the end of his lecture, he offered this insight: "We all change history; the only question is whether we change history for the better."
In Simon's case, there can't be any doubt that he, like Wayne Morse, left the world in better shape than he found it.
Tom Lininger is a law professor and former county commissioner.
Just when things start looking up for downtown, Eugene's conservative city councilors grab sheriff-turned-councilor George Poling's gun and shoot themselves in the foot with it.
On Nov. 24, the council passed Eugene's modernized "dirty two dozen plus one law," which prohibits any group of more than 24 persons from gathering — for any reason — in an expansive 80-block "downtown activity zone" without a permit.
The occasion for this inspired civic wisdom was an update of Eugene's 30-year-old downtown mall ordinance, developed in the early '70s to control street youth and other "undesirables" in an effort to bolster downtown's struggling commercial district, then competing with the squeaky-clean, privatized new Valley River Center. But instead of nixing the Watergate-era ordinance, the council expanded the public gathering ban to include most of downtown, with Scott Meisner lamenting that it didn't cover even more of our fair city.
Ironies abound: At least Police Lt. Chuck Tilby, who headed up the ordinance update, was up front when he noted that it was primarily aimed at drug dealers, petty criminals and other hangers-out who moved from the mall to the park blocks and then to Monroe Park after Broadway opened to traffic last year. Others, such as Russ Brink of Downtown Eugene Inc., have tried to gloss over the repressive aspects of the law by maintaining it is purely a "management tool" to prevent "incompatible events" from happening simultaneously.
But of course the dirty two dozen ban will have absolutely no impact on drug dealers or petty criminals, who don't operate in groups of 25. As for the threat of scores of anarchists spontaneously combusting downtown, well, they're not the permit-gettin' kind anyway. This law will be of no use in regulating illegal behavior, which is already amply covered by specific laws that target everything from sidewalk access to harassment to illegal noise-making.
More ironies: Councilor and timber heiress Jennifer Solomon apparently had no problems with the suppression of assembly and speech rights in the new ban as she prefers the Merry Maids approach to political action — hire out your dirty work. It was only two years ago that Solomon, as anonymous Gang of 9 member, wrote out $1,000 checks to fire her political missiles at council progressives in the form of vicious attack ads. Talk about damage to Eugene's business climate.
Then there're Scott Meisner and Nancy Nathanson, who only months ago couldn't figure out that voting to rename Centennial Boulevard for Martin Luther King Jr. was the right thing to do until they heard the anger and dismay of many — and flip-flopped. Now they vote for an ordinance that violates a principle King worked for his entire life — the free access to public and private commercial space, without the threat of exclusion or discrimination.
Gary Papé asked if the law would pass the constitutional "smell test." The answer, according to city legal experts, is apparently yes, it has that same odoriferous, steaming quality that similar laws have in other cities. Fine by Papé. Now we're really making progress in the race to the bottom in civic tolerance.
Perhaps the most shameful testimony in support of the ban came, ironically, from Beth Little, general manager of our own Saturday Market. "I want those vendors and customers who define the economic power that is the market to feel safe and to feel like they're coming to a place that's a real destination." Spoken like a true Wall-Streeter. Next time I'm at the market, I'll remind myself we're just at one big power lunch.
Let's call it the "Eugene Hypocrite's Law." The problem is, it makes hypocrites of us all. I don't want to be a hypocrite every time I'm downtown on a Friday Art Walk, taking my urban sociology class on a downtown tour, or whatever — knowing that I'm violating the "permit required" pass law but thinking in the back of my mind it's all OK because I'm white, middle class and middle aged, and with the "right" kind of group. That's not OK with me.
Time to grow up, downtown Eugene, to be the big (hearted?) city we all want you to be. Nix the dirty two dozen pass law.
Greg McLauchlan is a sociologist who writes about social justice and urban livability issues. In 2000 he served on Eugene's Committee for Greater Downtown Visioning, whose final report formed the basis of current downtown revitalization planning.
There I was, reclined in the endodontist's chair, my mouth crammed with wads of cotton the size of heavy-day tampons. A siphon suctioned my involuntary flow of saliva. An efficient woman in a flowered smock prepped me. The very thought of a root canal made me so nervous I would gladly have eaten the blue applesauce that catapulted the Comet Hale-Bopp followers to a better place. But it was too late for that. I had to rely on the deep-breathing technique, which luckily combines well with nitrous oxide. Focused on my third eye point, I slowed my breath, the gas kicked in, and I eased my death grip on the plastic-covered armrests.
The soles of the endodontist's Hush Puppies squished softly on the polished exam room floor. He made some small talk, to which I could not reply because my mouth was full of sanitary products. Over the buzz and slurp of the suction machine came a particular unmistakable sound. Snap, rustle rustle, snap followed by the faint smell of talc. He was putting on latex gloves.
To my subconscious brain, latex means sex. During these last 15 or so years droves of us dykes joined our gay brothers in learning safer sex practices, and I developed an automatic latex-erotica connection. I remembered my first encounter with that sleek little sheet of latex known affectionately as the dental dam. Reflexes took over and my crotch dampened.
"Anything can be eroticized." The workshop leader's words flooded back to me. About a dozen of us HIV prevention recruits had gathered at Liz and Carolyn's house for our first safe sex workshop. We crowded into the cozy living room. The lights were low and soft jazz played in the background. Liz served hibiscus tea and Carolyn set out a plate of mint Milanos.
The invited presenter, a certified "sexpert" from San Francisco, spoke in a calm relaxing tone. She rattled off the information that would empower us to insist on safer sex for ourselves and to spread the word to the community. Latex was the main deal. She blithely introduced us to dental dams, finger cots, and latex gloves. We all learned how to put a latex condom on a sex toy with our mouths. We were asked to write a short erotic story that incorporated latex. The evening ended with us going around the circle and reading our stories, which all included some rendition of "her swollen, hungry lips pulsated against the glistening latex dam." A hot and juicy time was had by all. The sexpert reminded us that anything can be eroticized and bid us good night.
That workshop had a lasting effect on me in ways I couldn't have expected. To this day I get instinctual nipple erections at the mere thought of a mint Milano. But it never occurred to me that I would so integrate the sexpert's words into my psyche that I would get turned on during a root canal.
Yet it was happening — everything took on an erotic association. The endodontist positioned a latex square over my molar. I squirmed in the reclining chair to accommodate my engorgement. This miscommunicated to the good doctor a call for more Novocain. The puddle under me grew. I was anesthetized, aroused, open for whatever these two latex-clad professionals would do to me. If I had been able to utter more than a cotton-muffled grunt, I'd have suggested they reposition the saliva siphon a couple of feet lower.
I barely remember the drilling. I left the office of oral surgery numb-faced, giddy and not just a little weak in the knees. That experience changed my life. Now squeaky shoes get me hot. I'm helpless around polyester print smocks. Chain-clasp paper bibs melt me. As a matter of fact, I have been feeling a familiar throbbing ache. I get all gooey just thinking about it. I need another root canal.
Writer Sally Sheklow teaches essay and magazine writing at LCC downtown. New classes begin Jan. 6. Enroll at www.lanecc.edu