Sunday, August 12, 2007


Walden eats reality sandwich

Politics are such a tangle of motives, results, hopes, and frustrations that it’s become harder and harder for me, over the years, to see things very clear. I would just as soon untangle a bird’s nest of line on a fishing reel.

There are things that are clear: the president is an ass; the vice-president is a mean and scheming hypocrite, our foreign policy is worse than usual, and the domestic situation is abominable. We either make big political changes or the country is going to be a banana republic tin-horn dictatorship, run by a bunch of old white viagra junkies. The problem is just how we do this.

I guess by taking them on, one at a time. Right now, there’s a lot of pressure and momentum to get rid of Gordon Smith, our “junior” senator. He’s financially very clean and ethical; he is a strong if often covert supporter of the current regime. He’s socially conservative, a Mormon. Some years back, his son committed suicide and since then, Senator Smith has devoted a lot of effort and time getting funding for mental health programs into the federal budget.

There’s no way I can completely knock someone who’s increased funding to help the disturbed. Nor who has enlarged wilderness areas as he has. He’s fundamentally a good man. But he’s a high visibility target for the Democrats.

I’m an east-sider. I’m out here in the cowboy and cappucino country of central Oregon. Things don’t seem quite the way they do over in the Valley. This is typical: northern Californians see their state differently than southern California; the mountainous part of Montana has a different view than the wheat fields of the east—any good sized state with variations in geography and cultural patterns goes through the same thing. Since we’re all rather geo-centric we see our area as being more important than the other areas. That’s neither good nor bad, just the way it is.
This is the Second Congressional District of Oregon. Traditionally, we’re agriculture and logging. We still are, but less and less as retirees shuffle into our part of the state and the big trees get fewer and fewer. Imported crops due to globalization reduce the our agricultural base. Recreation is the big hope. But the old economics are strong, still. The fantasy of them is strong, I should say. Logging is never going to be a primary industry around here: there just isn’t the timer anymore. They cut down all the good stuff. One of the big timber outfits is now a huge “developer” of the region. Small towns are becoming bedroom communities—suburbs—of the larger cities (not that there are many of them). At the Crook County Fair, yesterday, we saw way more people in cowboy boots and Wrangler jeans than in Levis and athletic shoes. Never mind that the county seat has been invaded by Bend sub-dividers and new homes are planned all over the place; many more people own chain saws than kayaks; the old ways are hanging on. But the old ways are slipping into the fog of history.

Our congressional rep is Greg Walden. Walden is a conservative—not just socially, but politically as well. Gordon Smith will periodically vote against the Republican agenda; Walden would sooner have all his teeth pulled than do such a thing. And being a conservative, his environmental voting record is in the basement.

There’s a group over in Washington called the League of Private Property Voters. They are a collection of 600-plus grassroots organizations who all dislike government interference in what they can do with their property. They’re an offshoot of the Wise Use Movement of a few years back. Both the league and the wise use people are heavily subsidized by extractive industries like logging and mining, as well as receiving funds from conservative think tanks and big time conservative donors like Coors. The league keeps a list of “friends” and “enemies” and scores politicians by how they vote for things like wilderness areas, national parks, logging controls in national forests, mining on public lands—in fact on public lands in general. Many of the Wise Use Movement groups were involved in the Sagebrush Rebellion of a few years back, when ranchers and mining interests prohibited BLM staff from actually entering public lands. These guys were and are serious.

According to the “2003 Private Property Congressional Vote Index” here are some scores for various western politicians: Orrin Hatch, 100%, Larry Craig 100%, Tancredo, Pombo, Otter, Istook, Inohfe, and Rohrabacher also all scored 100%. So did Greg Walden. Gordon Smith, though, only scored 67%; Murkowsky and Stevens of Alaska fame, both came in at 78%.

You’ve got to be very conservative to be a “friend” of the private property/wise use folks. It’s like being a friend to the Montana Militia.

Loaded Orygun has a good piece on Walden’s involvement.

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