Tag Archives: oregon

Is a Hard Life Inherited?

Is a Hard Life Inherited?

AUG. 9, 2014

 

Nicholas Kristof

“YAMHILL, Ore. — ONE delusion common among America’s successful people is that they triumphed just because of hard work and intelligence.

In fact, their big break came when they were conceived in middle-class American families who loved them, read them stories, and nurtured them with Little League sports, library cards and music lessons. They were programmed for success by the time they were zygotes.

Yet many are oblivious of their own advantages, and of other people’s disadvantages. The result is a meanspiritedness in the political world or, at best, a lack of empathy toward those struggling — partly explaining the hostility to state expansion of Medicaid, to long-term unemployment benefits, or to raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation.

This has been on my mind because I’ve been visiting my hometown of Yamhill, Ore., a farming community that’s a window into the national crisis facing working-class men.

I love this little town, but the news is somber — and so different from the world I now inhabit in a middle-class suburb. A neighbor here just died of a heroin overdose; a friend was beaten up last night by her boyfriend; another friend got into a fistfight with his dad; a few more young men have disappeared into the maw of prison.

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Rick Goff, 64, of Yamhill, Ore., makes ends meet these days with odd jobs and his disability benefits. CreditSusan Seubert for The New York Times

One of my friends here, Rick Goff, 64, lean with a lined and weathered face and a short pigtail (maybe looking a bit like Willie Nelson), is representative of the travails of working-class America. Rick is immensely bright, and I suspect he could have been a lawyer, artist or university professor if his life had gotten off to a different start. But he grew up in a ramshackle home in a mire of disadvantage, and when he was 5 years old, his mom choked on a piece of bacon, staggered out to the yard and dropped dead.

“My dad just started walking down the driveway and kept walking,” Rick remembers.

His three siblings and he were raised by a grandmother, but money was tight. The children held jobs, churned the family cow’s milk into butter, and survived on what they could hunt and fish, without much regard for laws against poaching.

Despite having a first-class mind, Rick was fidgety and bored in school. “They said I was an overactive child,” he recalls. “Now they have name for it, A.D.H.D.”

A teacher or mentor could have made a positive difference with the right effort. Instead, when Rick was in the eighth grade, the principal decided to teach him that truancy was unacceptable — by suspending him from school for six months.

“I was thinking I get to go fishing, hang out in the woods,” he says. “That’s when I kind of figured out the system didn’t work.”

In the 10th grade, Rick dropped out of school and began working in lumber mills and auto shops to make ends meet. He said his girlfriend skipped town and left him with a 2-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son to raise on his own.

Rick acknowledges his vices and accepts responsibility for plenty of mistakes: He smoked, drank too much for a time and abused drugs. He sometimes hung out with shady people, and he says he has been arrested about 30 times but never convicted of a felony. Some of his arrests were for trying to help other people, especially to protect women, by using his fists against bullies.

In that respect, Rick can actually be quite endearing. For instance, he vows that if anyone messes with my mother, he’ll kill that person.

A generation or two ago, Rick might have ended up with a stable family and in a well-paid union job, creating incentives for prudent behavior. Those jobs have evaporated, sometimes creating a vortex of hopelessness that leads to poor choices and becomes self-fulfilling.

There has been considerable progress in material standards over the decades. When I was a kid, there were still occasional neighbors living in shacks without electricity or plumbing, and that’s no longer the case. But the drug, incarceration, job and family instability problems seem worse.

Rick survives on disability (his hand was mashed in an accident) and odd jobs (some for my family). His health is frail, for he has had heart problems and kidney cancer that almost killed him two years ago.

Millions of poorly educated working-class men like him are today facing educational failure, difficulty finding good jobs, self-medication with meth or heroinprison records that make employment more difficult, hurdles forming stable families and, finally, early death.

Obviously, some people born into poverty manage to escape, and bravo to them. That tends to be easier when the constraint is just a low income, as opposed to other pathologies such as alcoholic, drug-addicted or indifferent parents or a neighborhood dominated by gangs (I would argue that the better index of disadvantage for a child is not family income, but how often the child is read to).

Too often wealthy people born on third base blithely criticize the poor for failing to hit home runs. The advantaged sometimes perceive empathy as a sign of muddle-headed weakness, rather than as a marker of civilization.

In effect, we have a class divide on top of a racial divide, creating a vastly uneven playing field, and one of its metrics is educational failure. High school dropouts are five times as likely as college graduates to earn the minimum wage or less, and 16.5 million workers would benefit directly from a raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Yes, these men sometimes make bad choices. But just as wealthy Americans inherit opportunity, working-class men inherit adversity. As a result, they often miss out on three pillars of middle-class life: a job, marriage and a stable family, and seeing their children succeed.

ONE of Rick’s biggest regrets is that his son is in prison on drug-related offenses, while a daughter is in a halfway house recovering from heroin addiction.

The son just had a daughter who was born to a woman who has three other children, fathered by three other men. The odds are already stacked against that baby girl, just as they were against Rick himself.

This crisis in working-class America doesn’t get the attention it deserves, perhaps because most of us in the chattering class aren’t a part of it.

There are steps that could help, including a higher minimum wage, early childhood programs, and a focus on education as an escalator to opportunity. But the essential starting point is empathy.”

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‘A very tragic day’: Student, teen gunman dead at Ore. high school

“…The shooting was the 74th on a U.S. campus since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in in Newtown, Conn., according to the American Federation of Teachers, the union representing staff at Reynolds High…”

Absolutely despicable. 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook.

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June 10, 2014 · 9:56 pm

Gunman kills student, also dies at Oregon high school

WHEN IS THIS GOING TO STOP????

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June 10, 2014 · 5:15 pm

Oregon Tuition Plan: The Beaver State Breaks the Dam Of Student Debt

oregon, tuition, plan:, the, beaver, state, breaks, the, dam, of, student, debt,

 

“Congress can spend all the time it wants being apathetic and letting student loan rates double but on the other side of the country, one state is thinking of a more creative way to run the financial aspect of public higher education. For Oregon, loans will be a thing of the past and state legislatures are throwing around the “f” word: FREE.

A bill to make tuition at the state’s public universities free passed unanimously and is expected to be officially signed at some point this month by Governor John Kitzhaber. Coincidentally, the bill was passed on the very same Monday that federal student loan interest rates doubled from 3.4 to 6.8% and functioned as a snippet of hope. There is a chance for change, as students to have options outside of the federal loan system to fund their educations, but it is up to individual states to take action. 

The concept of making public institutions of higher education tuition and loan-free is now being called the “Pay-It-Forward” program and it functions just as the name entails. Of course, everyone knows that almost nothing comes without a price and anything that truly is free may ultimately turn out to be more costly, monetarily or otherwise. However, the bill will still hold students responsible for contributing to their education, but collecting these compensations will be done in a manner that is mindful of the student’s financial situation after joining the workforce.

Graduates of a four-year public college or university will be expected to pay 3% of their adjusted growth income over a 24-year span, and graduates of a two-year degree will be required to contribute 1.5%. Those who fail to graduate will still be expected to contribute but fees will be pro-rated. 

“This is going to happen because students demand change; I believe that firmly,” Steve Hughes, state director of the Oregon Working Families Party, said. “The conditions are just absolutely ripe for this. We’ve heard so many stories of student debt that are just beyond belief.”

This plan is not about actually providing free education, as the money evidently would have to come from somewhere, but the goal behind it is to keep students from automatically feeling the dread of student loans and having the fear that their incomes may possibly be inadequate to pay the borrowed funds back. No person should feel discouraged from attending college due to fears that he or she will be unable to come up with the money to pay for it and it seems that this plan, if instated, could help on these fronts.

Above all, Oregon’s move to do something about the hefty cost of higher education especially given the rise in student debt is a reminder that change is not limited to the federal government, and there should be a larger push towards getting state legislatures to implement the changes that its constituents demand. 

Picture Credit: Web Pro News

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July 23, 2013 · 9:47 pm

40 Tons of GMO Crops TORCHED in America, Media Blackout

JUN 26

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“Though the controlled corporate media apparatus is suppressing the story, 40 tons of GMO crops were torched, prompting an FBI investigation. There has been a complete media blackout.  It was only reported locally live on KXL Radio and echoed by the Oregonian, where the ONLY web mention exists, hard to find because the headline wording carefully avoids the most likely keywords for a search.

Here’s what happened — 40 Tons of GMO Sugar Beets were set ablaze in Eastern Oregon. FORTY TONS — the entire acreage of two full fields of crops in the ground were set ablaze over a three night period of time. That means arson.

Evidence is that 6,500 plants were destroyed by hand, one plant at a time. That, in turn, implies a lot of people were involved. Would you want to stick around once a fire was going and wait to be discovered? No, someone (many someones) probably wanted to move as quickly as possible. We are talking about a movement — and this is exactly the kind of retribution that many have warned was coming; when lawmakers and corporations refuse to honor the Constitution and instead engage in ‘legalized’ criminal acts such as enabled by the ‘Monsanto Protection Act.’

More than a decade ago, environmental saboteurs vandalized experimental crops across the country in a revolt against high-tech agriculture. Foes of genetic engineering also struck in 2000, when members of the Earth Liberation Front, with roots in Oregon, set fire to agriculture offices at Michigan State University. ELF’s position was that genetic engineering was “one of the many threats to the natural world as we know it.”

But ELF cells normally come forward immediately to claim responsibility, because to them, its all about publicity to educate the public. Since there has been no statement about the recent arson this may have simply been Oregon farmers who have said, ‘Enough!’ Another clue that this may be the case is that this comes on the heels (two weeks) of Japan’s rejection of the entire Oregon wheat crop for the year (a tremendous financial blow because over 80% of Oregon Wheat is exported) because one report said one field was contaminated with at least ONE GMO plant.

Read more at http://www.realfarmacy.com/40-tons-of-gmo-crops-torched-in-america-media-blackout/#EiOP8d3wjIhFK87D.99

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July 11, 2013 · 3:33 pm

World Naked Bike Ride and Portland Art Museum: An au naturel pairing

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Portland’s version of the World Naked Bike Ride is getting the endorsement of the Portland Art Museum to gather in the Park Blocks in front of the museum. Participants even get a special viewing of the museum’s show, “Cyclepedia” just before the ride.(Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian/2010)

 

By Margaret Haberman, The Oregonian 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on May 05, 2013 at 8:00 AM, updated May 05, 2013 at 9:31 AM

“It’s the perfect mash-up of counter-culture and high culture, Portland-style: The World Naked Bike Ride and the Portland Art Museum are teaming up this year.

Talk about naked ambition. Both sides see the benefit of joining forces.

For the museum, its new exhibit “Cyclepedia” is opening — a collection of 36 weird and wonderful bikes highlighting innovative design through the decades.

For the ride, the leafy Park Blocks in front of the museum provide an ideal spot to launch the lighthearted protest that typically attracts more than 4,000 free-of-clothes spirits.

It seemed au naturel to coordinate.

“It’s about embracing bodies, embracing something new, embracing something incredibly Portland,” says Meghan Sinnott, the lead wrangler of the bike ride.

“We’re delighted that a large group of enthusiastic cyclists will be gathering essentially in what is our front yard,” says museum spokeswoman Beth Heinrich.

It doesn’t get any more karmic than this:

When the museum planned to bring “Cyclepedia” to Portland — the only place in the U.S. that will host the collection — it reached out to cycling groups. It happened that the date for Portland’s annual version of the World Naked Bike Ride coincided with the first day of the bike exhibit.

Some ground rules: There’s no published route to discourage gawkers. Don’t drink and ride. This year, the ride isn’t a loop, so pack along anything you want at the end. And the guidelines are “As Bare As You Dare” – which means some riders go stitchless and others wear things to cover certain bits.

And so it is on June 8, cyclists in various stages of undress will meet at the museum. They’ll get a special deal to see “Cyclepedia” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., when the ride begins: The price of admission to the show is $1 per item of clothing. That means no clothes — no charge.

As Sinnott says, the museum folks “get it.” As Heinrich says, “The human body is art.”

And really, the naked rider demographic fits nicely with the museum crowd, Sinnott says. Stats show that more than a third of the ride’s participants are ages 25-34, but it has more people 45-plus than those from 18 to 21, she says. It’s also close to equal parts men and women.

While it’s perhaps a little uncomfortable drawing the glare of publicity to a big crowd of naked people (ride organizers don’t advertise the route in advance hoping to discourage gawkers), the downtown locale is light-years nicer than some of the rougher areas where the ride has kicked off in the past — think broken glass and discarded needles, Sinnott says.

“We’re thrilled with the idea,” she says. “It’s a much better place. It gives respect to the riders.” At the same time, she says: “We realize it’s a spectacle, but it’s not a spectator sport.”

The change of venue shouldn’t affect all the different reasons people choose to ride: Some are protesting dependency on oil or the American car culture. Others want to bring attention to the vulnerability of cyclists. There are about as many causes as there are body types among the riders.

The museum hopes the association with the bike ride will expose “Cyclepedia” to a wider crowd.

“We were very conscious that this would bring a lot of attention,” says Heinrich. “Our hope is that people will pay attention to the exhibit.”

It’s all in keeping with the museum’s rather hipster streak these days. After all, the TV show “Portlandia” shot a funny sketch about bike valets at the museum. Its shows have included “The Art of Tattoo.” At the same time “Cyclepedia” runs, museum patrons also can view “Man/Woman” — bronze sculptures of nudes by Gaston Lachaise.

“We’re trying,” Heinrich said.

“Cyclepedia” should appeal to anyone who prizes creativity, beauty and marvelous machines — the museum chose the bikes from more than 200 in Vienna-based designer Michael Embacher’s collection.

The ones showing here include a bike used by wartime paratroopers, one with a ski instead of a front wheel, a tricycle and bikes that fold, carry cargo, race and carry two people. They come from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, the U.S. and elsewhere. Expect Eugene-based Bike Friday to be represented.

The exhibit is the third in the museum’s design series. It follows “China Design Now” and “The Allure of the Automobile.”

Workshops and lectures accompany “Cyclepedia” throughout summer. The exhibit wouldn’t be complete without some bike tours thrown in — people can register for a handful of field trips, including one that traces Portland’s bike culture. The museum is calling them “joyrides.”

But wear clothes.

— Margaret Haberman”

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June 18, 2013 · 5:48 pm