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Ban Smoking Bans

I think a majority of us know that smoking is bad for us.  I think many of us generally understand that anytime we inhale something into our lungs, it is not good for us.  But, the State of Oregon’s new house bill,  HB 2385, is out of control.  This proposed legislation would make it illegal to smoke in cars with minors present.  The idea, stemming from the medical community, is that government must protect those who cannot protect themselves.  In this argument, those who need protection are children.

The idea sounds noble enough.  Protect the innocent from crimes, let’s really ensure everyone can live a happy life.  But, how does this fit in with our Declaration of Independence and our true desire for a pursuit of happiness?  How does this affect the person doing the smoking?  Does it consider them at all?  I would venture that those who are lobbying for this bill aren’t thinking of those folks except that they are doing something bad, and to curb their behavior we should make it illegal and slap a fine on it.  But, how would this bill be legislated?  Would we have officers in spy mode to see what our behaviors are in our cars?  Is it going to be a rider offense, where if we get pulled over for speeding, we are then fined for not wearing our seat belts, oh, and there are cigarette butts in the car with a child, so slap another fine on there too.  Do we have to be caught in the act?

It’s ridiculous legislation.  If we allow this legislation to go through, we might as well legislate how we make food and what we do in the bedroom.  And, I think most people recognize that is an invasion of privacy.  Our constitution doesn’t wholly uphold privacy, but we Americans do.  Often, it seems we link it to the pursuit of happiness and how we all march to the beat of a different drummer.  If this legislation passes, we might as well issue uniforms and mandate the same drummer for all.

HB 2385 is out of control. Our government is set up on philosophies of ensuring the pursuit of happiness. Legislating our lives restricts happiness. Who is the judge and jury that mandates all these restrictions? When will my Thanksgiving Apple Pie become illegal because someone deems it unhealthy, too sweet and made with too much butter, for my family and me? What social contract did we all sign that reads, “Yes, I am willing to live in the land of the stupid, so please legislate my rights away.”? Promote jobs through education, build people up, don’t tear us down with legislation that says we are too stupid to make our own decisions. (letter sent to the Oregonian ‘Letters to the Editor’, 31-Jan-09)

Legislating people’s lives is going too far.  We claim to be the land of the free, yet we are really just the land of the legislated.

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Heartless (Bay) City

Michigan Blue Sky
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Peter and I go back and forth with who gets irked about what news.  Last night on the news, he heard a story about the top ticketed vehicles.  He tracked the story, and then he realized that the news station got their facts wrong.  So, he began perusing their website and he found this article.  So, now it’s me who’s irked.

A 93-year old man, Marvin E. Schur, couldn’t afford to pay his electric bill.  The story doesn’t say, but we can speculate.  He’s living on a fixed income, rates are rising, and damn, It’s Cold Outside.  He ends up with $1,000 in unpaid electric bills.  So, in the middle of January, the City goes out and does its job.  They installed the required limiter on Mr. Schur’s home Jan 13th.  The limiter is designed to blow a fuse (turning all the power off) if the requested power exceeds where the limiter is set.  On Jan 17th, a neighbor found Mr. Schur dead.  The neighbor is quoted saying the windows inside the home were covered in ice.  The city’s chief medical examiner said Mr. Schur must have died a slow and painful death.  In a home with no power, in the middle of a freezing, Michigan winter, for FOUR days.

The City Manager‘s response is that he should have been responsible and paid his bill and the neighbors should have looked out for Mr. Schur.  Six days later, the city commissioners approved a 3% rate increase to the electric/heat bills.


If we really want to know what’s wrong with our society, it’s stories like these that epitomize the wrongness.  Where does the neighbor boundary end, Mr. Robert Belleman? Does it extend to the end of our street, to the next street?  How shall we define neighborhood?  Couldn’t the entire city be considered one large neighborhood?  And, if so, wouldn’t that make you, Mr. Belleman, Mr. Schur’s neighbor?  Why didn’t you check on him yourself?  Oh, you’re busy you say, you have a job to do, running the city (killing it’s fragile residents), looking after solely your immediate family.

When will we act more presidential (Harry S. Truman in mind here) and stop passing the buck?  We are each others responsibility.  It’s our responsibility to ensure our neighbors are taken care of and healthy.  It’s our responsibility to ensure that the least of us are provided for.  We do this in many ways.  Some people work as case workers and advocates getting into the nitty-gritty dealing one-on-one with folks with serious problems (mental illness, dementia, unemployment). We have others who donate to causes that do this dirty work.  Others refer folks in need to agencies and organizations that can offer that help.

Bay City claims they are looking at reviewing their policies now that a lot of people are angry that an old man died.  I would suggest they put referral to outside agencies in their review.  If it takes $300 a month to heat a home to 68 degrees during the day so that a person can stay comfortable, and a person is having problems keeping up with their bills, how hard is it when that courtesy call is made that you’re overdue to say, “Call this number.” And, of course give the number.

Or, are we so heartless that we forget this recession is affecting everybody.

If this bugs you, call the City Manager’s office.

Robert Belleman
301 Washington Avenue
Bay City, MI 48708

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FREE Fix-It Fair

We just got this brochure in the mail for the office of Planning and Sustainability,

On Saturday, February 7th from 8:30am until 2pm, at George Middle School (10000 N Burr Ave, Portland, OR), the City of Portland will host an event where folks can learn to save money and “connect with resources.”

They will have exhibits of the following:

  • weatherization
  • health & nutrition
  • water & energy saving tips
  • recycling
  • yard & garden care
  • community resources

They will also be host to workshop on improving your home, 45 minutes long, offered hourly.

AND, they will have FREE lunch, lead testing, and on-site professional childcare.  Even door prizes on the hour.

This is a terrific service to get informed and get free useful stuff for your home, like energy efficient light bulbs.

Get in, and get in early.  It looks like it will be jam packed with a lot of workshops covering many facets of the home.  Bring a friend and tag team the workshops!

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The Ultimate Sin Tax

Read this, then come back:  Brothels Ask to Be Taxed, but Official Sees a Catch –

Several years ago, when I was living in Lansing, Michigan in a quaint apartment near the intersection of Kalamazoo and Pennsylvania, the LSJ came out with an article, front pager even, that said something about “the oldest profession” and the problems it was creating for dear, quiet Kalamazoo St (or was it Ave?).

It seems quite ironic to me, all these wars we are fighting.  We believe that we are free, yet we have Wars on Poverty, Wars on Drugs, Wars on Terrorists, Wars on Bad Schools, the list goes on.  When do we take a look at the accounting and see if our efforts, physical and monetary, are adding up?  When do we see how the balance sheet really balances?  Are we putting more money into a system and yielding fewer results as the years go on?  When the War on Drugs started, what were the major drugs of the day: LCD, marijuana, heroin?  What do we have today?  I think we have a longer list.  Today, we also have cocaine, meth, crystal meth (are they the same thing?), pot laced with bad stuff, date-rape drugs, etc.  So, we’ve emptied all this money into defeating a problem that is actually defeating us.

I think the same could be said of prostitution.  The LSJ recognized it, many of us recognize it, it’s the oldest profession.  That means, about the time we humans were created our desire for extramarital affairs rose too.  I know this will irk many a Christian (and probably other religious folk too), but let’s think about this for a minute.  We live in a state where we have a Freedom of Religion.  If you’re Christian, we’re taught to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  That means that as Christians we abide by our code and pay our taxes to Caesar, and while we are on this earth we abide by both laws.  Winding our American beliefs into that, it also means that we should let the atheists do their thing, while we Christians do our thing and the Muslims do their thing and the Puritans do their thing.  It is our job as Christians to show people with our actions the right path as we understand it.  But, should we do that in the legislator?  I think to a point, yes, but regarding things like prostitution, the oldest profession in the world, we should concede defeat and tax it.

Most of Nevada does that.  The article states as long as a county is under a certain population, 400,000 residents, prostitution has been legal since 1971.  This excludes Las Vegas, our famed sin city.  The more conservative legislature of Nevada refuses a hearing to Nevada’s Brothel Association, who wants to create a larger tax base on Brothels.  The leader, Flint, states it would be an insurance policy, and others speculate it would open the door for legalizing prostitution throughout the rest of Nevada.  And this makes the more conservative legislature balk at the idea.

I wonder, should we be jumping at the idea of any possible increase in tax revenue, even if it makes our morals shrivel?  The War on Prostitution, though, is a war we are likely going to lose.  So, again, why not concede defeat, tax it, regulate it, and put some of those taxes to good use.  We already have lotteries where we tax the poor to pay for the schools, why not do the same here?

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One of Levi's favorite games is to run and hide in his closet.  He even likes opening and closing the doors while we play elongated games of 'peek-a-boo!'.
One of Levi's favorite games is to run and hide in his closet. He even likes opening and closing the doors while we play elongated games of 'peek-a-boo!'.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Sex and the City series lately.  I’ve been getting the TV show from the library, I saw the movie, I’m reading the book.  I like to track origins, so reading the book is a next-best thing to tracking the original columns by Candace Bushnell.  I am reading a copy that was published recently, but includes an introduction from Bushnell written in 2001.  She concludes through all the crazy, freakish incidents she and her girlfriends encountered, the real reason they are all still single is because simply they want to be.

Continue reading Singles

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Portland Mayoral Scandal

I am disheartened as I read today’s Oregonian.  The editorial board met for a whole hour last night to decide their unanimous opinion that Portland’s New Mayor, Sam Adams, should resign.

I have a lot of thoughts regarding this issue, but none of them are that he should resign.  What I’m getting angry about is the knee jerk reactions the editorial page, the news, and the letters to the editor all shout.  It reminds me of a little known biblical passage where the crowd shouts, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

Now, Adams, clearly, is no J.C. But are we? I think not.  How does that other passage go? Who amongst you has not been blemished by sin that they can cast the first stone? Are we so Puritanical in our ideals (yes) that we cannot summon up any understanding?

Adam’s potential for Portland, what he could do to help move us towards a greener future far out weigh this scandal.  The reaction that is brewing, it would take a heartless person to not understand why Adam’s wanted this to be swept under the rug. Adam’s companion in this whole thing isn’t even casting any stones. So why should we?  There is no proof that the young man was under age while the relationship took place.  There is only proof by what the parties have said that a relationship took place.  In our Puritanical society (even Liberal Portland), can’t people simply just love?

I am not condoning his behavior.  I believe honesty is the best policy.  But, I also believe in forgiveness.  Let’s forgive, and keep forgiving, and move on and think what is truly for the greater good? A greener Portland is for the greater good, and Adams can honestly lead us down that path.

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Local Harvest

Local Harvest / Farmers Markets / Family Farms / CSA / Organic Food

This is a fabulous website that supplies information for many local producers of food across the U.S.  Siimply tell them where you are located, then search for a local CSA, farmer’s market, meat producer, farms, and restaurants.  This is a must-have for anyone interested in ensuring their food is locally produced.

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Free Wood Chips – Mulch This

If we really want to consider all aspects of sustainability, we must consider our economic contributions.  I’ve been thinking green for many years, and now is the time (more than ever) to continue to refine how I act green.

So, if for example, natural systems should produce and decompose to produce again, then we need to be thinking very locally.  If mulching is important in gardening, then what better source than truly local – mulch from your neighborhood or your own yard.

The City of Portland was trimming tree branches near electrical wires this week, and we saw the sign, “Free Wood Chips.”  So, we told the gentlemen we would like to take them up on the offer.  Friday, 10 cubic yards of wood chips were dropped on our driveway, the same spot that hosted 4 cubic yards of screened dirt three months ago.  Being able to sieze opportunities like this is crucial when thinking about going green.  How can we use what we have?  What options are within our reach that won’t cost us out of pocket anything?  Not only have we not paid for these, I’m comparing this to all the $3.50 bags of cedar-bark mulch we purchased from Lowe’s last summer; but we also got them delivered for free too!  Just think about it.