Saturday, February 10, 2007

Writing Sen. Smith: "Iraq" as "Other"

Earlier this week, I wrote an e-mail to Sen. Gordon Smith to put some steel in his spine about Iraq.

Writing the senator on-line is an exercise in frustration.

Sure, Smith's web site invites you to write him about concerns, but before you do that you need to scroll through a list of topics to choose one to describe your issue.

I'm just guessing, but the categorizing probably allows some mail-answering computer to spit out an appropriate response. "Regarding your concerns about Iraq etc."

This should be easy, I think as I put hand to mouse. Iraq has become our defining issue.

So I set out to find "Iraq" on Smith's topic list, which, oddly, is not arranged alphabetically.

"Terrorism" is high on his list.

I pause there, but pass. I figure "Iraq" is going to scroll into view soon.

There is "administration," whatever that means...Bush? Or...I didn't get my social security check in the mail?....

Scroll on...there's "Defense," which gives pause but doesn't fit. After all, the Iraqis haven't attacked us. On the contrary....

There's "Sudan," so at least one hot spot is listed.

But then here comes the "Clean Diamond Act," which opens a whole visa of possible topics, namely specific pieces of legislation...but it is the only one so honored.


Keep scrolling. "Foreign Relations." I don't think so.

Buried in the list is "Other," which I am beginning to view as a hollow fall-back topic for "Iraq."

And then I come to the end. No "Iraq."

I scroll back up thinking I have missed it.

I haven't.

Maybe Sen. Smith wishes it would just go away. If only.

Perhaps the site hasn't been updated since the fall of 2002, when Smith and his colleagues voted to permit the president to invade "other."

In desperation I choose "Defense" and begin with, "Senator, I respectfully submit that 'Iraq' be put on your topics list. And here's why......"

P.S. Sen. Ron Wyden's web site has a similar list. "Iraq" is a listed topic.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hillsdale needs Wikipedic attention

The entry for Hillsdale in Wikipedia, the on-line, do-it-yourself reference, needs serious attention.

If you didn't click on the above link, here is what you missed—verbatim:

"Hillsdale is a neighborhood in southwest Portland, Oregon, USA. It is centered around the Hillsdale Town Center, which is located on SW Capitol Highway between Sunset Boulevard and Bertha Boulevard."

That's it, except for a few statistics and a list of provincial places of interest.

So what is the Hillsdale story?

Where to begin...or end for that matter?

Do we tell Wikipedia readers about the great SWHRL/Hillsdale "border wars" of 2004 and 2005 and its "colorful" (sobered by lawsuits, I use the term circumspectly) cast of characters?

What about the Farmers Market, Wiggles The Clown and Ayers Creek Farm's loganberry jam?

Or Don Baack and Southwest trails? And the schools' champion, parent Mike Roach of Paloma Clothing? What about the Hillsdale peace walks and vigils, and the Save-Rieke parent insurgents.

Or the amazing 2006 Wilson High School baseball team?

And then there's The Red Electric (no, not this one, but the one in the picture. It was the MAX light rail of its day, but with classy round windows and a rumbling flair). And what of its tragic 1920 head-on collision that killed eight and injured 101?

Do we tell them about overhead wires and transformers that blight the heart of our community?

Do we mention that half the commercial area is owned by the Wardin/Braidwood family, which looks after its property nearly daily—and in person?

And what about the little-known Bertha, whose name seems everywhere. Or the late, beloved Mary Becker, Helen Ferrens and Joan Edmunds of Poncho's? Or the much missed John Waddingham, artist and bagpiper?

Or how about hard-charging Celeste Lewis, who made Hillsdale a place again, urging us 11 years ago to forge one neighborhood out of the parts of two. (How did we miss that 10th anniversary?)

What about "Dr. Rock 'n Roll" who knows more mouths than I know words.

And what of "Hillsdale's Oldest Barber" Jack Carley and his crusty humor and easy liquor on St. Patrick's day? Or John Slavin, Hillsdale's first homesteader, or Col. Henry Dosch. The Colonel arrived in Oregon broke as a Civil War veteran and former pony express rider, became an itinerant shoe salesman and eventually rose to international fame as a horticulturalist—right here in Hillsdale?

Certainly there should be something about the the Swiss settlers and the dairies and pig farms of yore. About the sounds of a century ago, when the dawn woke to the distant clanging of milk jugs jostling in horse-drawn dairy wagons as they creaked down to the thirsty city.

In the evening, yodeling echoed across these hills and dales as Swiss farmers went about their barnyard chores.

And what of the wild? The beaver, elk and salmon? To this day cat-munching coyotes occasionally savage the streets, and raccoons skulk and scuttle amongst us.

And we haven't even begun to share Hillsdale in the making. Hillsdale which has so many balls in the air that sometimes I think we are creating our own civic space flotsam. A lot of it burns out, a lot stays in orbit, and every now and then we launch a project into gravity-defying eternity and success.

Certainly there is more to tell than than Wikipedia's modest words...."Hillsdale is a neighborhood in southwest Portland, Oregon, USA. It is centered around the Hillsdale Town Center, which is located on SW Capitol Highway between Sunset Boulevard and Bertha Boulevard."

Wikipedia is inviting us to write and revise our story.


Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lawmaker shows interest in Media Literacy

My amateur lobbying effort to give Media Literacy a formal place in the state’s schools has finally drawn a direct response from Rep. Mary Nolan, my state representative. My state senator is Ginny Burdick, who, after more than two months, still hasn’t responded to my correspondence.

If you want to review my “blog trail,” it begins here, then goes here and on to here.

Which brings us to yesterday, when Nolan e-mailed me. The relevant section of her e-mail follows. The Rep. Galizio mentioned is another state representative, Larry Galizio, who teaches media issues with me at Portland Community College. He has urged me to work through Nolan and Burdick and is unwilling to take the initiative because, he says, he is on the Ways and Means Committee. I still can’t fathom his reasoning, but, hey, he’s the decider.

So here is Nolan’s response….


Thanks for your note. Always good to see your name in my in-box.

Here are my thoughts….

(Media Literacy) is an intriguing idea, which I'd be interested in learning more about. I'll follow up with Rep. Galizio, as well as investigate whether this is addressed in any way in the high school or community college curriculum in Oregon. Perhaps you could tell us a bit more about what the NW Media Literacy Center does.


Mary Nolan

I replied to Rep. Nolan and noted that she and anyone else can find out about the Northwest Media Literacy Center at

I have also forwarded to her Oregon legislation that got to the governor’s desk in 2001 but died there because it hadn’t been vetted by the Superintendent for Public Instruction. The legislation establishes a state commission on Media Literacy that would advance its cause. I’ve also shared a New Jersey law that mandates that media literacy be taught in the schools.

Oh, and I’ve copied Sen. Burdick. At this late date I’m just testing to see whether she reads the e-mails she invites us to send her.

I’ll keep you posted.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Leave me out of this!

Headline writers at The Oregonian not only proclaim the news, their work proclaims a need for two daily newspapers.

Enter The New York Times.

On Monday, both papers ran on their front pages a story about an effort to get the Bush Administration to collect unpaid taxes.

The Oregonian story, which came from the L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service, dominated the page with this four-column-wide screamer: “Congress wants your unpaid taxes”

Wait just one second there, Bub.

"Your" unpaid taxes? Who, me?

The Times ran its own story in the lower left-hand corner. Its headline made it partisan, not personal.

“Democrats Seek Unpaid Taxes, Setting up Clash.”

On to the stories themselves.

In The Oregonian, the story says nothing to support the headline’s false intimation that I’m not paying my taxes.

It also specifically calls the so-called “tax gap” effort bi-partisan: “...Democrats and Republicans are talking it up as a way to fund politically appealing initiatives—and bring down the deficit to boot.”

The Bush administration’s position toward addressing the gap isn’t mentioned.

But back in the New York Times, the lede and headline are joined at the hip: “Congressional Democrats, hoping to finance an ambitious agenda without raising taxes, are on a collision course with the Bush administration etc.” From there on, the story is framed as a push and pull between the Democrats and various Bush mouthpieces.

At one point the Times quotes one Michele Davis in the Treasury Department. Ms. Davis is a spokeswoman, an unsettling term that for me unfailingly evokes the female-phobic humorist James Thurber (vis. "The Catbird Seat").

Anyway, Ms. Davis manages to inject a hackneyed Conservative shibboleth into her oh-so-well-crafted sound bite: “We are very mindful of the compliance burden on taxpayers who do follow the law.”

Wait a minute! “Compliance Burden on taxpayers who do follow the law.”

Now she’s doing what the Oregonian headline writer did—dragging me into this. I follow the law, and I frankly bear no “compliance-burden”—well, on second thought....

My "compliance burden" has nothing to do with how much I pay, but with how Ms. Davis’ boss and patron in the White House, George W. Bush, is spending my money on a policy that has led to mayhem and murder.

If only Ms. Davis would talk about THAT compliance burden.

Until then, she, and The Oregonian, can leave me out of this.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Portland Portrait: First Sunday in February

Last Sunday as Portland ordered pizza and iced the beer in preparation for the Superbowl, I decided to explore a city I pretty much had to myself.

These photos are from a solitary amble down curving, forested Terwilliger Boulevard to a nearly deserted downtown Portland.

Enjoy the stroll.

Forest Arch

Fern Cascade

Urban Forest


Tram nest on Pill Hill

Urban contrast

A street to myself

Lighted way



Sunday, February 04, 2007

Be still my heart! Stirrings in Salem!

Here is an update of my on-going mini-saga with seemingly aloof Salem legislators.

This episode notes signs of a pulse in Rep. Mary Nolan's office. It follows on my gentle prodding of her and two other lawmakers to introduce legislation that would advance Media Literacy in Oregon.

So far my admittedly amateurish lobbying has consisted of a trickle of e-mails (with relevant and short attachments) from me that have gone largely unanswered.

I am somewhere between being perplexed and exasperated by the experience.

But I am learning.

More than that, the silence from Salem is steeling my resolve.

First, a taste of Media Literacy, which is well established in schools in several other states—but unrecognized here.

Media Literacy is, among other things, an effort to get children (and adults) to be critically aware of media’s impact on their lives, their communities, their country and their planet.

Here's an example for children: When a cartoon program repeatedly tells kids that eating sugar-frosted, glucose-injected cardboard is great fun, kids (and their parents) should think about what this junk will do to their bodies and brains. Consequences like obesity and hyperactivity, for starters.

Example for "adults": When Super Bowl advertisers suggest to mass male audiences that drinking Coors somehow goes hand-in-hand with bikini-clad twins, guys should note that all Coors really offers is cold cans and bottles.

You’d think this would be obvious, but visual media don’t want you to think.

Media Literacy does.

So, as I say, I have been trying to get my elected representatives, Rep. Nolan and Sen. Ginny Burdick to put Media Literacy on this session's legislative agenda. I have included Rep. Larry Galizio of Tigard because I know him and have reason to believe might be interested. We both teach media awareness at Portland Community College.

At least Galizio responded to one e-mail, though he basically passed the buck and has not been heard from since.

So far Burdick might as well be dead.

Last Wednesday I received evidence of life in Nolan’s office when this e-mail arrived.


Please forgive the late response to your earlier e-mail. Representative Nolan was in between staff for much of December and I'm afraid that your e-mail fell through the cracks when I took over. I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

I have printed out both of your e-mails and will pass them on to Representative Nolan and she will get back to you later this week.


Marah Hall
Legislative Assistant
Representative Nolan

“Later this week” was last week.

Two readers of the Red Electric have suggested that I phone these solons. This week I will, but please note, dear readers, that if legislators are going to invite e-mails (and they do), they should be prepared to respond to them.

In the meantime, if you bump into Nolan or Burdick, you might tell them to “call home.”

The number is (503) 245-7821.

Labels: , , , ,