Keystone Pipeline: Sound off Sunday

Your chance to sound off about a hot button issue.

What do you think about the Keystone Pipeline? Why has it become such a lightning rod?

Do these facts change your opinion?

Keystone XL:

Keystone is a multi-phased project. Several sections have already been built and are in use. The Keystone XL pipeline that is under consideration and the subject of controversy is the last of four phases.

Oil extracted from the tar sands/oil sands in Alberta, Canada is called bitumen. At 57 degrees fahrenheit it is as hard as a hockey puck. It must be warmed or diluted before it can be piped. Extraction is energy intensive.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline crosses an international border. Approval depends on a finding by President Obama’s administration that construction will be in the national interest. Proponents say it will help the economy and lessen dependence on oil from hostile suppliers. Opponents say it will worsen global warming, and that spills will cause environmental damage.

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Existing pipelines: Three segments of the pipeline are already in use: (1) Hardisty, Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska and Pakota, Illinois. (2) Steele City to Cushing, Oklahoma, and (3) Cushing to Port Arthur, Texas. The controversial route more or less duplicates the Hardisty to Steele City route, but is shorter (see green line on map, runs through Baker, Montana).

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Image Source: Wikipedia

Several additional pipeline routes to carry oil across Canada are being planned; and, a pipe parallel to an existing line from Hardisty to Wisconsin, has been proposed.

Spills: Over the last ten years, 4.1 million gallons of petroleum and hazardous liquids have been spilled each year in pipeline accidents, causing an average of two deaths per year. Property damage: $263 million annually. The Keystone Phase 1 pipeline, which opened in 2009, has had 12 reported leaks. In 2010, over a million gallons of Canadian diluted bitumen spilled from a pipeline into the Kalamazoo River. As of Aug. 2013, Enbridge Corporation, the company that built and maintains the pipeline, had spent more than $1 billion to repair and mitigate the damage. Cleanup is still underway.

Train transport: The number of train shipments of bitumen-derived oil has increased exponentially in recent years. Transporting by train is more dangerous than by pipeline.

Train accidents involving oil transport in 2013:

  • July, Lac Megantic, Quebec: Oil train derailed and seventy two tanker cars exploded and burned. Forty seven people died. Forty downtown buildings were destroyed. Cleanup estimate: at least $200 million.

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    Lac Megantic, Quebec Image source: CTV

  • Oct., Gainford, Alberta: Four rail cars carrying crude oil and nine carrying liquified petroleum gas derailed in Alberta. The fire burned for days.
  • Nov., Aliceville, Alabama: Crude-oil tanker train derailed and burned. Released up to 750,000 gallons of oil.
  • Dec., Casselton, North Dakota: 20 cars in a train carrying crude oil ignited after colliding with a derailed grain train near Casselton, N.D., sending up a fireball and spilling an estimated to 476,000 gallons of oil.

Environmental impact of bitumen vs. ordinary oil: From shale to tail pipe, bitumen releases 17 to 20 % more carbon into the atmosphere than regular gasoline.

Jobs: temporary jobs (one year or less, full and part time) 42,000. Permanent jobs: 30 to 50.

Scribbler’s view: It was a surprise to learn how much of the Keystone Pipeline is already finished, how common pipeline spills are and how much oil is transported by rail. Tar sands oil extraction is more dangerous and dirtier than I thought, and more of a done deal.  

The last phase of the XL project will probably be approved. Even if it isn’t, stopping the construction of the pipeline will not end the extraction, shipment and burning of bitumen-derived oil from Canada. At most it would increase costs. This is a symbolic fight, a line in the ‘sand,’ and rallying point to organize fights against practices which worsen climate change.The legacy and value of the controversy will be new political alliances, and that the fight has brought the issue to the headlines. 

How do you think Congress and the President should/will resolve the Keystone controversy? 

Resources

http://archive.onearth.org/blog/dont-believe-the-fantasy-job-claims-keystone-xl-is-not-in-our-best-interest

http://www.nprberlin.de/post/what-you-need-know-about-keystone-xl-oil-pipeline

http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/221135.pdf

http://www.factcheck.org/2014/03/pipeline-primer/

Voter Turnout

How was voter turnout in your state for mid term elections?

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Feeling patriotic. Just returned from a visit to Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.

Oregon’s was darn good.  69.5 per cent. Not everything went the way Scribbler deigned it should, locally or nationally, but I’m a patient woman.

In most states, turnout was low.

What’s Oregon’s secret?

Exciting ballot measures. $8 million was spent to support a measure requiring that GMO foods be labeled, much of it from out of state. $20 million was spent in opposition to the measure, most of it from out of state.  Yay Citizens’ United. We were buried in hyperbolic ads and flyers.

Also on the ballot: a top two (as opposed to party system) voting initiative.

And, a measure to legalize marijuana …

Voting in Oregon, which is by mail, is easy and encouraged. Does it help? Maybe some. Washington, however, also votes by mail and turnout there was down.

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Voters who don’t mail in time, drop ballots off at special boxes. Photo source: Lincoln County Voter Info.

How do we compare to other countries?

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Image source: NPR, Diane Rehm Show

In national elections we flounder somewhere around 60th.

How do other countries do it? Some hold all elections, national and local on one day. Some impose a fine on people who don’t vote (Uruguay and Singapore), or automatically register everyone to vote (France and Sweden). None of those happening here anytime soon.

What do you think about voting by mail? Is there controversy about voting and voting rights in your state? Should we do more to encourage voting? If so, what?

Is this who we are?

What do you feel about the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay?

In 2001, thirty-year-old Syrian Abu Wa’el Dhiab was in Kabul, running a food import business.

When 9/11 brought war to Kabul, Dhiab, his wife and four children left Afghanistan for Pakistan, hoping for safety. He was picked up by the Pakistani police. They turned him over to the American military, probably for a bounty. He was not charged with any crime. Dhiab was transferred to the prison at Bagram Airbase in June 2002. Two months later he was sent to Guantanamo Bay.

American taxpayers pay $2.7 million per prisoner per year  to keep Guantanmo running. Of the 149 prisoners still there, 79 are cleared for release.

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Photo Source: Global Issues

Dhiab was cleared for release in 2009.

Four years later, he joined other detainees in a hunger strike protesting their incarceration without charge.

Prisoners who are judged to be dangerously underweight are force-fed. If uncooperative, they are “forcibly extracted” from their cells, strapped down, a tube jammed down nose and throat. The procedure often causes choking and vomiting.

One U.S. Navy nurse at Guantanamo has refused to administer force-feedings, calling the practice a “criminal act.”

Guantanamo Bay Facility Continues To Serve As Detention Center For War Detainees

A restraint chair used to force-feed detainees on hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images. Source: The Guardian

In 2013, Dhiab  filed a legal challenge to the force-feedings (Dhiab v. Obama).

This month, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler rejected a Department of Justice’s bid to hold Dhiab’s hearing in secret, and in a separate decision ruled that videos showing Dhiab being force-fed, be released to the public.

The Department of Justice has appealed.

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U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed the DOJ’s bid to seal Dhiab’s hearing. Image source: Legal Times blog

Dhiab, now 44 and confined to a wheelchair, waits. The Uruguayan government offered to resettle him and five other prisoners, but the transfer is mired in politics, both American and Uruguayan.

His wife, Umm Wa-el writes:

More than a decade has passed since Abu Wa’el was taken from us in the night. I had just given birth to our fourth child; our other children were just toddlers. My husband is a kind man and a superb cook. I miss the dishes he learned to prepare in his father’s restaurant. He is guilty of no crime, has never been charged, and was told by President Obama five years ago that he would be released from Guantanamo.

This year has been one of the hardest to be without him. Last July we were still living in Syria. The civil war forced us to leave for Lebanon, and then to seek shelter in Turkey. I tried to rejoin my family in Jordan but was immediately taken in for questioning at the border and refused entry because of Abu Wa’el’s detention at Guantanamo. The stigma travels. We’ve made it back to Istanbul now. I’m proud that the children are registered in school, and that their teachers tell me that they have already caught up in their studies.

I had to do all that alone. Abu Wa’el is nearing his 13th year at Guantanamo Bay. When I speak to his American lawyers, I can tell that they are shocked and appalled by his case. I’m not so shocked. I was a teacher in Syria. The government locked me up twice in the past just because of Abu Wa’el’s detention, so I know what it means when politics disregards the law.

Excerpted fromThe Obama Administration Must Let the American People See Footage of My Husband Being Force-Fed in Their Name” 7/15/2014

 

 

In a May 23, 2013 speech, President Obama stated: “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? … Is that the America we want to leave to our children? Our sense of justice is stronger than that.”

President Obama’s legal team is debating now about whether a treaty ban on “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” applies to U.S. military prisons overseas. In 2005 President Bush said it did not apply, that torture overseas in prisons or by the CIA was legal. As a senator Barack Obama supported legislation making it clear that cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners was not legal, anywhere. Since becoming President, however, he has never declared his position on the treaty ban.

What do you think? Have you been following Abu Wa’el’s case, or of any of the other Guanatamo prisoners? Seen any of the protests supporting the detainees?

Who’s Who in the ISIL War?

Who and what is ISIL?

Here is Scribbler’s armchair analysis, researched exclusively on the Internet (so it must be true). Opinions are omitted as much as possible. I have them, but there are more than enough opinions on the subject. The aim here is to untangle the religious conflicts.

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Yazidis fleeing from ISIL. Photo credit: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/GETTY IMAGES, “Yazidi under attack again”

There are followers of every religion in the Middle East, plus factions, splinters, sects and denominations, but this war is primarily between two branches of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shiites.

ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is a group of hard-line Sunnis who want to create an Islamic caliphate, that is, a Muslim state, to rival the ancient Muslim empires.

Previous name: ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham

Previous name: AQI, or Al Qa’ida in Iraq

85% of the world’s Muslims are Sunnis, and ISIL is Sunni. About 15% of Muslims are Shi’a.  Here is a breakdown showing which branches hold the majority in the Greater Middle Eastern countries:

SUNNI majority             SHIITE majority  (Lebanon – mix of Sunni, Shi’a & others)

Saudi Arabia                        Iraq

Jordan                                  Iran

Syria

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Saudi Arabia and Iran are the largest powers in the region. Saudi Arabia provides support for Sunnis, and Iran for Shiites. Photo Credit: Vice News

IRAQ: Saddam Hussein, a Sunni President in a country with a Shiite majority, was deposed and his government dismantled when the US invaded Iraq. Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, was installed. Sunnis aligned with Al Qa’ida of Iraq (AQI), which took control of Sunni areas of Iraq. AQI, however, was cruel and extremist, so moderate Sunnis allied with the Iraqi government and the US, and ran the AQI out of Iraq. AQI joined other fundamentalist groups and became ISIS.

SYRIA. In 2011, Sunni groups rebelled against the Syrian government and Shiite President Bashar al-Assad. The US and Saudi Arabia, among others, sided with rebels. Lebanon, Russia, China and Iran, among others, supported the Assad government. The rebels weren’t very well organized or trained. As the conflict dragged on, Sunni hard liners got more involved, and the fighting devolved into conflicts between competing Islamist groups, as well as between rebels and the government. ISIL emerged as the dominant rebel group, acquired a lot of the supplies and weapons that poured into the region, and took over part of Syria.

IRAQ. From it’s new base in Syria, ISIL attacked and took over part of Iraq, killing minorities, journalists and other heretics along the way.

ISIL’s tactics were too brutal even for Al Qa’ida, who broke off from the group in Feb. 2014.

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ISIL and allies gain control of Fallujah. Photo credit: BBC news

What a stew.

Saudi Arabia’s support of Sunni rebels in Syria helped fund ISIL. Now ISIL presents a threat to Saudi Arabia.

Iran, loyal supporter of Syria, the Shiites and Assad, and not so long ago deemed part of the “Axis of Evil,” is now working with the Iraqis, Kurds, the US and allied forces to fight ISIL.

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Photo Credit: Vox, “Twenty Seven Maps that Explain the Crisis in Iraq” This is roughly how things stand. The Iraqi government controls the red part, Kurds beige, ISIL light brown and Syria dark brown

The Assad government has probably become the lesser of two evils as far as the US is concerned, which is fine with Assad who reportedly hopes the US will attack ISIL in Syria, in effect supporting Assad.  Hezbollah Shiites from Lebanon who sided with Assad in the Syrian rebellion, now find themselves aligned against ISIL, too.

On it goes.

In sum, a war between Sunni & Shi’a, and between religious moderates and extremists, with fighters and countries changing sides, depending on how the wind blows.

Now to tackle the influence of oil money, climate change, politics, economics?

Maybe not.

What do you think? What are the chances that the US, by joining this fight, will help bring about a happy outcome?

 

 

Good news on climate change: Garlic

Good news on climate change? Anyone?

It’s probably progress in the right direction that the issue has started appearing regularly on the front pages. It only took five rounds of being taken to the woodshed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Still, it’s not clear how we’re to fix things, or if that’s even possible. Politicians sure aren’t jumping on the bandwagon. In Oregon’s Voter’s pamphlet for the upcoming election, only one out of 48 candidates even mention the topic. And, on a gorgeous day like today it’s particularly hard to wrap my head around the idea. It’s too big, and too depressing.

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Things look fine. Three Sisters, Bend, Oregon

When good news about climate change surfaces, I glom onto it like cling wrap to a bowl.

For example:

Garlic can cut emissions of methane gas.

When it comes to global warming, methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and methane gas emissions have increased by 150% in the last century. Cows produce methane in their manure, and when they fart and burp. Each cow produces between 30 and 50 gallons of methane a day. With about 1.4 billion cows in the world, that’s a lot of gas.

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Photo source: Yvonne Parijs-Bosman via Queen of the Cows

And garlic? A three-year study at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth demonstrated that cows fed garlic produce 50% less methane than non-garlic eating cows.  “Garlic directly attacks the organisms in the gut that produce methane.” Still unknown: whether garlic affects the flavor of the milk, but we’ll take that as it comes. For now, bravo Aberystwyth scientists. Yay.

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Image source: hotblack via morguefile

Is climate change on your mind? Have you done anything to change your lifestyle or are you politically involved in climate change issues? Do you know of any leaders we can vote for, or innovators who are inventing/promoting solutions?

Sources: Do Cow Farts Actually Contribute to Global Warming?

Garlic May Cut Cow Flatulence

How Garlic May Save the World

Grab Your Growler: Four Things We Don’t want to Know about Recycling

In 1984 the local garbage hauler launched curbside pick-up of recyclables in our town. We were issued a small blue box for glass, big blue bin for co-mingled recyclables, gray bin for yard waste, green bin for garbage. It’s a good feeling to get everything all sorted out.

How are we doing? Official statistics look good. In 1992, 9 million pounds of material was “repurposed.” This past year, 62 million pounds. Yeah!

Wait. What does “repurposed” mean?

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Saint Lucia and her gouged out eyes. Sometimes I’d rather not see, either. Photo: wikicommons

1. Glass: The machines which sort glass are expensive. Our town doesn’t have one.  Best case: glass is crushed and used as drainage material or for roads. Usually it goes to the dump.

2. Plastic:  Most is sent to China for recycling. Last year China announced a new Green Fence policy, and stopped taking all but the cleanest, tidiest bales of plastic, and only certain types.  If it there is a number 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 on the bottom of a container, China won’t take it, so it’s probably getting dumped in a landfill.

3. Cardboard: Has to be clean.  Greasy pizza boxes with cheese stuck on them? To the dump.

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Not to diss the pie chart, or the efforts, but what this shows is a lot of stuff not recovered. Source: The Portland Mercury, “Oregon Knows Its Garbage”

4. Block styrofoam.  This has never been picked up curbside, but for awhile there were places willing to take it. Not now. Everybody’s storage spaces are full of the stuff.

Luckily, several local breweries offer a waste-free option to drown our sorrows with while we contemplate next moves.

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Beer jug, refillable at local breweries.

How goes the recycling efforts in your town?  Time to lose ourselves in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch?

Veterans Need a New Day

Ninety five years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Germany signed a treaty with the Allies to mark the end of World War I. There were over 37 million casualties.

The Armistice marked hardly more than a pause for breath. Soon after, Japan invaded China, Germany invaded Poland, France and the United Kingdom. Italy teamed up with Germany, conflict spread to Africa and the Soviet Union and Pearl Harbor, and on it went. We’re masters of self-inflicted misery, more like fire ants than the rational beings we’d like to think ourselves. Put up your dukes.

November 11th: remember the War to End All Wars and try to keep a straight face.

Veterans deserve a day of their own. If we don’t want to clutter the calendar with more federal holidays, there’s a good candidate coming up. The ode to pilgrims is getting stale.

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Let’s save the moments of silence for the day when we’re feasting with our families. Let’s leave flowers on the graves when it’s darker and colder, use Thanksgiving to thank the soldiers who served and continue to serve, and November 11 to remember the folly of fooling ourselves that wars end war.

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Democracy at work: Score One for the Seed Farmers

Canola ban clears Legislature

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I’m flag waving today because round 1 in the Willamette Valley canola battle went to the specialty seed farmers, a group that consists largely of smaller-scale operations.  Grass roots politics work!

Canola is an all right crop — just don’t bring it here. Businesses from all over the world order Willamette valley seeds, many varieties of which are organic. Canola was banned in a 3.6 million acre portion of the valley because it cross-breeds with other plants in the same genus (mustard, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale and more),  and is susceptible to, and spreads, disease and pests.  Also, 95% of it is genetically modified, although this wasn’t part of the official fight against it.  The other problems were enough.

I wrote earlier (Rapeseed, Gas vs. Grass) about an underhanded attempt by the Oregon Farm Bureau (good friends of Dow Chemical, Syngenta and Monsanto) and the Department of Agriculture to pass an under-the-wire “temporary exception” to the ban on canola.  Temporary, of course, would haven meant an opportunity for canola to spread and become permanent.

Thanks to farmers who showed up for hearings, organizations like the Friends of Family Farmers who spread the word, and volunteers who wrote to legislators and attended rallies, the Oregon State Legislature just banned canola in the valley until 2019, and allocated money to study the effects of canola on other crops.

A sweet victory for Oregon seed farmers, and for those of us who fear we can’t make a difference. We can.

Material Support — Not For the Likes of Me

The other day friends and I were having lunch, when we got into a lively and heated discussion about state budgets, public pension funding and unions. Afterwards, we hugged and one friend said, “I’m glad we live in a country where we can talk about what we believe and nobody will throw us in jail!”

That’s probably true for us, white, flag-waving, not very political women with Protestant-sounding names.

What if your views don’t line up with the State Department’s?

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Sami Al-Airan. U of Florida professor and American citizen arrested in 2003, accused of material support of terrorists. He spent 28 months in solitary confinement, before he was tried before a grand jury, which acquitted him on the serious charges, and deadlocked on the minor charges. Al-Arian is still under house arrest and in legal limbo. Ironically, he campaigned for G.W. Bush in 2000 because of Bush’s opposition to the use of secret evidence. Image source.

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Jess Sundin. Anti-war activist and advocate for workers and civil rights in Columbia, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Her home was one of 9 in Minnesota and Chicago targeted in simultaneous raids in 2010. FBI agents searched her house in front of her 6 year old daughter, carted away “truckloads” of personal belongings. Sundin and the others subject to the raids refused to testify before a grand jury.  Image source

In 2010, in the case of Holder v. Humanitarian Law, the Supreme Court for the first time, ruled that free speech in the form of any kind of advocacy for a black-listed group, is a crime; that is, it is against the law to provide “material support” to any group that the State Department designates a terrorist organization. Material support includes humanitarian aid, advice, “services,” “political advocacy,” and “coordination.”  Suspected violators are subject to raids on their homes, “special administrative measures” which is a nice way of saying solitary confinement for indefinite periods of time without trial, time in a “super-max” prison or a notorious “communications management unit,” facilities designed to isolate  violent criminals.

Don’t worry if you’re a judge, T.V. commentator, wealthy businessman, former mayor of New York, former governor of New Jersey or former White House advisor. The rule doesn’t to apply to you.

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Rudy Guiliani, just to the left Maryam Rajavi, the woman in yellow. And look! John Bolton, 3rd to her right. This was taken at a rally to support the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group the State Department designates a terrorist organization. Politicians, judges, scholars and TV commentators have accepted speaking fees from the group. Indictments and early morning raids forthcoming? Don’t bet on it. Image source.

If, however, you are an ordinary person who supports workers in Columbia, if you’re a Muslim, or if you send money to a Palestinian aid group, or speak out against wars in the Middle East, or publicly oppose NSA surveillance of your phone calls and e-mails, beware.

Here’s the story of former NSA computer program designer William Binney, when he  raised his head a little too far in protest of NSA surveillance.  

Oh Oregon, My Oregon! Marijuana moves north

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The Oregon Pioneer (on top of the State Capital building). My kind of guy.

Oregon voters! Where were you?  Gone the pioneer spirit?  Gone the 1970’s sheen from being the first to charge a deposit on bottles and cans? Washington State beat us to the punch and legalized marijuana.

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Image source: reason.com

We take the lead on this kind of thing.  Remember?

  • First to institute gas taxes to pay for roads,
  • First to declare all beaches in the state open to the public,
  • First to require land use planning by cities.
  • We pioneered the Oregon Health Plan to cover uninsured people,
  • We were the first to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill,
  • First to make elections vote-by-mail,
  • First to make cold medicines (aka methamphetamine ingredients) prescription drugs.

Marijuana? Pah. We’ve always been out front in the battle to empty jails of tokers. We were first to decriminalize it, and second (after California) to legalize medical marijuana. Despite handwringing and predictions of doom, the world did not end. We’re royalty when it comes to states that pass scary, don’t-you-dare legislation. Or at least we were …

How could we let Washington (and Colorado!) take away the scepter?

This calls for a little motivation.  Hmmm.  I know! Brush off the Oregon State Song, to remind us what kind of stock we’re made of:

Oregon, My Oregon

Land of the Empire Builders, Land of the Golden West;
Conquered and held by free men, Fairest and the best.
On-ward and upward ever, Forward and on, and on;
Hail to thee, Land of the Heroes, My Oregon.

Land of the rose and sunshine, Land of the summer’s breeze;
Laden with health and vigor, Fresh from the western seas.
Blest by the blood of martyrs, Land of the setting sun;
Hail to thee, Land of Promise, My Oregon.

If that didn’t rouse the blood, here’s an inspiring rendition:

 

Never mind the part about ‘land of sunshine.’  We don’t need sunshine to be brave anyway.  Just put on the galoshes and macintosh, and head down to the jail the next time a batch of violent criminals is let loose because the county has run out of money.

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Mugshot of Christopher Weaver who robbed a bank 55 minutes after being released from jail. No way he had time to smoke pot first. Image source: HLN

You can’t make something illegal that grows like a weed.  Well OK, we did make it illegal, and KEPT it illegal (ahem), but it’s still the biggest industry in the state. You call that success? Get the smokers back to their bongs and out from behind bars so there is room for rapists, robbers and murderers.

I’m not saying marijuana is benign.  It’s not.  It’s a drug, like alcohol and nicotine are drugs.  I’m not saying I’m a marijuana fan, either (tried it in college.  YELCH!), but the state has better things to do than chase after potheads and people with cancer, and we Oregonians have a reputation to uphold.

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Kind of pretty. Might make a nice ground cover.