Knob Heads Invade Eugene: Trash Food Pantry Delivery Vehicle

Sometimes, I just can’t stand it!  The Register Guard reported this morning on one of the most meaningless, imbecilic acts of vandalism I have ever read about.  Whoever did this was too stupid to even qualify for a hate crime.   They, and I’m assuming it was probably more than one person, broke into a RV owned by Eugene’s Relief Nursery. The Nursery uses the vehicle to distribute food to their clients:

The Relief Nursery helps parents in need with counseling, drug and alcohol recovery, parent education and other services. The food pantry dispensed emergency food and household goods such as laundry detergent and toothpaste. All families served by the pantry are extremely low income and have children age 5 or younger (emphasis added).

The knob heads smashed open the ceiling vent and proceeded to trash the interior, in an  psychotic food fight not even the likes of Animal House (which, BTW, was filmed here in Eugene) could have imagined. They attempted to start a fire to burn up the vehicle, but (fortunately) couldn’t even pull that off.  Then, evidently having vented their spleen, they left.  The idiots didn’t even steal anything.

Does any of this make even the remotest sense as to motive? Neither marauding baboons nor trash-diving bears are known to inhabit Eugene, so it had to be some form of human being.  Not even eco-terrorists would stoop so low as to destroy a RV that delivers food to little kids.  Here’s the picture from the article:

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard Surveying the ransacked interior of the Relief Nursery’s mobile food pantry, Executive Director Irene Alltucker looks up at the vent hole used by vandals to gain access sometime late Thursday or early Friday.

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard. Surveying the ransacked interior of the Relief Nursery’s mobile food pantry, Executive Director Irene Alltucker looks up at the vent hole used by vandals to gain access sometime late Thursday or early Friday. Picture Credit: Courtesy the Register Guard

In the spirit of the TV series, Connections, I also noted that the Guard published an article on the same day reporting on the result of a joint research project at Oregon State University and the University of Washington.  Testing untreated wastewater from communities in the state, the report found:

Researchers tested waste­water from 96 different cities for methamphetamine, ecstasy and cocaine in March 2008.

They found that cocaine use was higher in urban areas, while methamphetamine was present in both rural and urban areas. Ecstasy use was found at measurable levels in less than half of the communities that were tested, the majority of them in urban areas.

The Eugene-Springfield area was labeled a “high” use area among the communities that participated in the study, meaning it fell into the top third overall when it came to all three drugs.

Although I’m well aware that I’m making an assumption of correlation, I would bet that the perps had at least one of those substances running through their blood streams and wringing all reason out of their brains (probably with a blood alcohol content well beyond the legal .08% level added to the mind-altering cocktail).

One can only hope the knob headed vandals left finger prints all over the interior of the RV, and with a good chance of having priors, they can be apprehended.

In the mean time, I’m making a contribution to the Relief Nursery to help replace the food they lost.

Universal Health Care: An Asinine Idea?

In today’s Sunday Edition of the Register Guard “Letters to the Editor,” Mr. Oral Robbins of Eugene, Oregon writes,

It is amusing to read some of the stuff that these ideological, philosophical people write — at least it is to this stupid old codger, who has lived through most of what they write about.

Fair enough.  Mr. Robbins, who states he is 77 years old, has seen a lot of history and has a lifetime of experiences from which he can reflect on.  He goes on to say “…we approve a project of public need that a private enterprise cannot supply, then by consent of the electorate we supply the funds needed.”  Okay, so he’s not quite the “stupid old codger” he claims.  Give him a point for literary irony.

His next statement, however, is chilling:

The idea of universal health care is one of the most asinine ideas being promoted by those in political power today, that and the bailing out of those individuals who borrowed money to purchase items they never had any intention of ever paying for.

As a hospital chaplain, I wish it were possible for all the Mr. Robbins in the country to spend one day with me and meet his neighbors who do not have health insurance, to hear their stories of how that  lack has in countless ways created barriers or has denied them their right to live as healthy, productive, hard-working, taxpaying Americans. It’s not amusing.

Mr. Robbins makes no differentiation between the Economic Stimulus programs and the need for universal health care.  In his mind it is all “tax and spend.”  I deliberately reversed the order in which he stated his objection.  His equation of the two “ideas” is a huge problem, not only because millions of Americans believe exactly the same way, but because as an issue of human, and dare we say constitutional rights, I assert the two are distinct.

Mr. Robbins, through the tunnel vision of his own ideological philosophy, fails to realize that he contradicts himself with regard to universal health care.  The fact is, private enterprise cannot and has never been able to supply the public need for medical insurance.  And he is probably a perfect example.  I am certain that, being retired and at age seventy-seven years, he is on Medicare, America’s universal health care plan for seniors and the disabled.  Without it, he and his wife would not be able to afford private health insurance.  To deny him and his wife that care would be truly asinine.

The benefit of universal health care in the modern era would have produced a very different America: Trillions of dollars in medical debts would have been avoided.  Trillions of dollars in uncompensated care by hospitals would have been avoided.  Trillions of dollars in unnecessary and wasteful medical expenses created by the broken health care system would have been avoided.  Trillions of dollars of lost productivity to private enterprise companies would have been avoided.  Trillions of dollars of wages would have been created and sustained.  Trillions of dollars for appropriate public state and federal projects would have been paid through the taxes of a healthy America.

I wish it were possible for Mr. Robbins to spend just one day with me talking to his neighbors who have no health insurance.

Bush’s Surge: The Arsonist Calls 911

Peter Beinhart, a senior fellow in the Council for Foreign Relations, a so-called conservative think-tank, published an op-ed column in the Washington Post on January 18, titled “Admit It: The Surge Worked.”  The column was printed in my home town newspaper, The Register Guard, today, in the Commentary Section.  The RG’s title was “Admit it: Bush was right, and courageous.”

I beg to differ.

Beinhart opens with the following thesis statement:

It’s no longer a close call: President Bush was right about the surge. According to Michael O’Hanlon and Jason Campbell of the Brookings Institution, the number of Iraqi war dead was 500 in November of 2008, compared with 3,475 in November of 2006. That same month, 69 Americans died in Iraq; in November 2008, 12 did.

All right, assuming O’Hanlon and Campbell of the Brookings Institution got the numbers right, one could agree that the dramatic drop in deaths of both Iraqis and Americans is a good thing.  Whereas we can all probably concur that if no one had been killed in one month would have been best, in a nation where a war is being waged, a low casualty count is encouraging news.

Beinhart goes on to acknowledge that the post-surge improvements are fragile:

Is the surge solely responsible for the turnaround? Of course not. Al-Qaeda alienated the Sunni tribes; Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army decided to stand down; the United States assassinated key insurgent and militia leaders, all of which mattered as much if not more than the increase in U.S. troops. And the decline in violence isn’t necessarily permanent. Iraq watchers warn that communal distrust remains high; if someone strikes a match, civil war could again rage out of control.

To a reasonable person, who has been following the progress of the war in Iraq, this statement makes sense.  One phrase, however, is disconcerting:

the United States assassinated key insurgent and militia leaders, all of which mattered as much if not more than the increase in U.S. troops.

Beinhart appears to directly contradict himself, here.  He seems to imply that a strategy of assassinating the key insurgent leaders would have had the same effect as adding the 30,000 plus troops on the ground (although his punctuation use might be including the impact of  Qaeda on the Sunnis and al-Sadr’s holding back his Mahdi Army also contributed).  So, which factor should be considered the basis for the dramatic decline in deaths, the assassinations or the troops?  To what degree did the one depend on the other for that decline?  Finally, can Bush be credited for the success, especially, as Beinhart insists, making a courageous decision?

Beinhart believes so:

But if Iraq overall represents a massive stain on Bush’s record, his decision to increase America’s troop presence in late 2006 now looks like his finest hour.

This statement, questionable as it is on so many levels given the now historical context of the Bush presidency, is only the prelude to Mr. Beinhart’s fatal flaw in his whole argument:

Politically, Bush took the path of most resistance. He endured an avalanche of scorn, and now he has been vindicated. He was not only right; he was courageous.

As my grandfather used to say, this is about as “cock-eyed” an interpretation as you could possibly get.  Here’s why: Beinhart ignores his own half-hearted attempts to describe the events and outcomes of the Surge within the context of historical reality and how George W. Bush’s decisions set those events and outcomes in motion.  Beinhart believes his own set of assumptions crafted from his political ideology and draws a conclusion that any sophomore college student taking Introduction to Logic could poke holes in after binge-drinking the night before.

Here’s my analogy.

Two gangs from opposite sides of town have been feuding for many years.  One gang, known as the Bushies, whose leader is called Decider, has grown very large and powerful.  None of the gangs on the other side of town, known collectively as the Easties, are as big or as powerful, but they supply the Bushies with “bling” and the Bushies use lots of it, need lots of it, and know that the biggest source of bling is across town.  The gangs have been feuding for a long time, but the rumbles have never been very long and the casualties limited.  The bling has continued to flow to the Bushies pretty much uninterrupted.

One day, Decider decides the time has come to have the ultimate rumble and take down the Easties for good.  He decides to take down the Baghdaddies first.  The Bushies hit the Baghdaddies hard, setting their neighborhood on fire and seem to get the upper hand pretty fast.  But the gangs in the surrounding neighborhoods feel threatened, and though they know they can’t take on the Bushies directly, they send their gang members to infiltrate the rumble.  Sometimes they help the Baghdaddies fight back; sometimes they set more of the neighborhood on fire, hoping to prevent their own turf from being torched.

The Bushies are taking a lot of casualties, even though the Baghdaddies are being killed in droves.  The burning neighborhood grows and grows, killing more gang members from both sides than the gangs themselves.

Decider doesn’t waver in his decisions.  Keep going.  Finish the feud once and for all with the Bushies on top.  The bling must flow.

Flash point.  The burning neighborhood erupts into a firestorm.  Decider’s gang lieutenants surround him and deliver an ultimatum.  The firestorm will destroy them all.  They must have help to put out the fire.

Decider, against every fiber of his being, relents.  He dials 911 and calls for the fire fighters.  The flames are soon extinguished.  Decider and his supporters trumpet the success of the rumble, and praise Decider for his courage to call 911 as the finest moment of his time as gang leader.


There is a research principle that says when interpreting data, the most likely solution will be both simple and elegant.  It will be simple in that no other interpretation agrees so closely with the data, and elegant because it when applied it creates a satisfying unification with the other data in the theory.

And so, there is a conclusion that fits the evidence both simply and elegantly: The arsonist who first set the fire and then was forced to call 911 to save himself and an entire nation from being destroyed by those flames, Mr. Beinhart, was neither right nor courageous.