Amid the turbulence of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and impending presidential election, Donald Trump on Oct. 21 quietly signed an executive order that diminishes protections against political interference for many employees of the United States federal civil service. The order was promptly used to remove the acting chief scientist of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and replace him with a political idealogue, Ryan Maue, who has a weak record of scientific accomplishment but a strong record of denying anthropogenic climate change. (Disclosure: For 36 years I was a research scientist with the United States Geological Survey, where I gained a clear understanding of the merit-based civil service system for staffing federal science agencies.)
No order like Trump’s, aimed at politically biasing the federal civil service, has occurred since provisions for merit-based federal employment were signed into law in 1883. Trump’s clear goal at NOAA was to install a biased individual who will influence the collection, reporting, and interpretation of data on Earth’s climate. The last thing Trump wants, of course, is accurate data — whether the data pertain to Earth’s warming climate, rising COVID-19 infection rates, or the preferences of the majority of American people.
Masks the right thing
Cold weather is upon us. This begins the time of year when the local warming shelter serves as a life-saving place for many in our community. This begins the time of year when illnesses like influenza can spread quickly through the warming shelter. This begins the time of year when volunteers, social workers, nurses and physicians try to plan care and shelter for these individuals in ways that reduce spread. This year is complicated by COVID-19.
We can show love for our neighbors through important acts like wearing, making, and giving masks. We can choose love over fear by recognizing that despair affects all of us. We can care for one another (and ourselves) by seeing this moment as an opportunity to do so.
This moment is an opportunity to grow ourselves and our community, and to heal the true ailments within our society that lead to issues ranging from political division to homelessness. Real solutions require understanding and addressing the root-cause, not just mitigating the effects. This moment is the one we have. It’s a great moment to do the next right thing.
We must all work together
As the 2020 election nears I’ve been struck by how important it is to have leaders who treat others with decency and respect as well as speaking the truth. If I was to choose a base line for our country it would be these items. I agree both Democrats and Republicans have done things that the other side finds abhorrent. The challenges that lay before us are many and enormous. If we are going to succeed as a country, we have no choice but to work together.
You don’t have to be a soothsayer to appreciate what kind of moment we are in right now. All one needs to do is reflect on the past four years and then imagine where our country’s dialogue will go on the next four years if the current administration remains. If you have concerns about what you’re seeing in the political process and are on the fence about who to vote for, just look at how the candidates treat others, with their words and actions and then vote accordingly.
Stop hound hunting
Did you know that the Sheriff of Klickitat County has developed a hound hunting posse to kill cougars? In my school, we learned about this and then met with Sheriff Bob Songer, someone from the Mountain Lion Foundation, and a local biologist with WDFW. I think this is the wrong approach. Cougars are keystone species which means that if too many are killed, the rest of the wildlife in its ecosystem will suffer with it.
Bob Songer believes that cougars are dangerous animals. According to the Columbia Insight paper, in the recent article “16 and counting” only 17 people in the last 100 years have been killed by cougars in the U.S. That means that only .17 people die per year. By contrast, 14 people are killed by domestic dogs annually in the U.S. Also, according to the CDC.gov website, about an average of 62 people die per year from bee stings in the U.S. Other animals that you would never think about like dogs and bees have much more danger potential than cougars.
If a human sees a cougar, their immediate thought is that they are in danger because they see a big scary cat. Cougars try to avoid humans as often as they can so they will almost never attack a human. Also, because male cougars leave their mothers at 18 months to find a new territory, it could be that the cougar is just passing through.
Many of the residents of Klickitat county will call Bob Songer’s office if they see a cougar. Then he will dispatch an authorized hound hunter to track it down and kill it. Even if a cougar was not known to kill any livestock or threaten a human directly, they will likely kill it anyway. Cougars do not deserve to be killed in countless numbers and there is no excuse for hunting and killing them.
I think that hound hunting should not be allowed and that Bob Songer and his posse should stop killing innocent cougars and risk tearing the ecosystem apart in Klickitat county.
Baxter is a fifth-grader at Wildwood Academy in Hood River.
Angry white men
Trump’s enduring base consists of mostly white men, mostly without a college degree. In the 2016 election, he also had a following of white women, but the loyalty of that group has dissipated.
These men have shown themselves to be largely racist, sexist and xenophobic. They are angry and fearful about having their place in American society challenged by people of color, by women, and by immigrants. They see themselves as victims of trends that they want to stop.
Trump stokes their anger and ministers to their fears and sense of victimhood. Trump’s the angry white man waving the battle flag for angry white men, fighting to maintain a toxic patriarchy in the face of an incoming cultural tide.
Even with a change of administrations (let’s hope), the aggrievement and anger of Trump’s base will still be there. Trump may fade into a backwash of litigation and bankruptcies, but there will still be plenty of work to do to overcome the hatred and fear that fuel this toxic patriarchy.
Castle and community
In honor of the late great Barry Goldwater, I hereby present the updated, modern conscience of a conservative:
In honor of the late great Fairness Doctrine, I hereby present the contrary, updated, modern conscience of a liberal:
Voted for Burns
It was with great pride that I cast my ballot early with a vote for Arlene Burns for House District 59. For those who haven’t yet voted, I urge you to sit down with your ballots as soon as possible, take the time to do some research on the candidates you don’t know, vote and turn your ballots in to an official dropbox near you as soon as possible.
If you take the time to do the research and make the comparisons, as I have done, you’ll be voting for Arlene, too. You’ll be voting for someone who wants to work for rural Oregonians, someone who hasn’t taken a dime in campaign donations from corporate PACs, someone who will spend your tax dollars judiciously, someone with compassion for others and a vision for a better future for all of us. Please vote for Arlene Burns for State Representative, District 59.
Voted for Helfrich
When incumbent politicians run for re-election, we generally expect them to explain what they have done to serve their constituents and why they deserve to be elected again. Apparently, Anna Williams doesn’t have many positive accomplishments to talk about. All I see when watching her constant television commercials is how she criticizes her opponent Jeff Helfrich, rather than talk about her positives.
But if you look at Anna’s record, you can understand why she doesn’t want to dwell on it. She voted for a multi-billion dollar tax (HB 3427) on business sales and then along with her Salem cronies ignored pleas from businesses to not impose it during the pandemic. She voted to “reform” the Public Employee Benefit System (PERS) by extending the amortization period for the tens of billions the system is underfunded by extending the amortization period! That’s like saying if you can’t afford to buy a new car with a six-year loan, just extend the loan to 10 years! Lets just kick the can down the road to our kids rather than deal with the problem. Anna voted with her Portland buddies that run the legislature 95 percent of the time in her first term. And believe it or not, she even voted for a new fee (SB47) on kayaks and paddle boards! Talk about being out of touch with her constituents!
After listening to Anna William’s commercials and doing my own research, I’m voting for Jeff Helfrich for State Representative. Jeff won’t sell out our businesses in District 52 and as a former first responder, we know he will always be there to support our communities and keep them safe. Salem desperately needs to restore balance to the process. Please join me in supporting Jeff.
With the recent announcement that Hood River schools will not, in fact, be returning to in-person learning in the coming weeks I’d like to propose that folks take a moment to examine how their own actions may be contributing to the continued closure of our schools.
While COVID-19 cases in Hood River County are relatively low compared to global hot spots, compliance with proven preventative measures is also remarkably low here.
People have been gathering in groups, unmasked, since this pandemic began. Spend any sunny afternoon at the waterfront and you will see groups of multiple families, clearly not all from the same household, and clearly not distancing or following the guidelines that every health authority has put into place.
I look out my front window and see every single one of my neighbors’ children, and their friends from other neighborhoods, playing together in the street, unmasked and unattended by adults.
While riding bikes on a chilly morning in Post Canyon, one can see the clouds of condensed breath radiating from the exhalations of groups of cyclists unwilling to mask while they recreate. Sure, they are outside, the wind is blowing, how risky can it be? The chances of getting it here are slim, right?
Individuals will wear masks in indoor public spaces where they are required, but in the wilderness or behind closed doors, the right to breathe freely upon thy neighbor is all too often employed.
Perhaps this lack of personal compliance is a result of people feeling as though the pandemic hasn’t quite “hit home,” or maybe the lack of enforcement has instilled a vague sense that protecting each other is a matter of personal choice. Either way, it is the collective reluctance to adhere to public health guidance that results in the continued increase in case numbers, and that increase has resulted in the prolonged closure of our schools.
This virus can pass through many people asymptomatically before it reaches a more adversely effected host, which is why we are all being asked to wear masks and keep our distance.
If you feel healthy and safe and are unafraid of you or your family members catching COVID, that’s fantastic, but you still need to wear a mask and maintain social distancing, even outside. This isn’t about personal choice or individual comfort, it’s about what is best for everyone. One component of exercising freedom is caring for other people so that they can feel free too.
If we want to meet the metrics so that school can open, we need to start taking responsibility for our actions. If we want our kids to return to school, we need to stop dropping them and all their unmasked friends off at the park for playdates. Stop having unmasked dinner parties and group hikes and engage in safer ways to be together: Namely, wear a mask and maintain distance, both indoors and out. Always.
Be the change you want to see. When we thrive as group, we can thrive as individuals.