Albany scene: Working on the railroad…

rail2It's good to see that the Portland & Western Railroad keeps up with maintenance on its rail lines in the mid-valley and, presumably, on the rest of its system. Here's an example. On an afternoon bike ride the other day, I noticed a crew working on the wooden pilings that support the trestle leading to the railroad bridge across the Willamette River. They had cut at least one of the logs holding up the trestle at ground level, and then they installed a new footing for it. A few days later they had a construction truck on the bridge itself. This is the sort of thing you can see if you walk or bike along the riverside Dave Clark path on a regular basis. It's a nice route away from traffic, with a pleasant view of the river and the opposite bank. In winter, cold and bare and often wet, nature itself looks a little bleak in that area. But as I say, now and then you spot something interesting, like railroad men at work. A few weeks ago, in the fall, people following that general route could watch as the railroad replaced some cross ties on its old Oregon Electric line along Water Avenue. That, too, was the kind of maintenance work that keeps the rail lines functioning as an important part of our transportation infrastructure. Our railroads, long may they last. (hh)

If you see interesting stuff around town or around the world, send me a small photo and a description of what you saw.

Update: Gun talk’s consequences

dome-night2So far, all that the Obama team has managed with its rhetoric about gun control is to get everybody in an uproar and fuel the sale of guns and ammunition. Gun and sporting goods shops have all but sold out of AR-15s, a popular kind of rifle, and the shelves are bare of the most commonly used ammo. According to published reports, including one in the Christian Science Monitor, some 1.5 million of those rifles were in private hands in America some years ago. Now the number has probably doubled.

On Jan. 16, the president announced his gun control proposals, but they had been reported in outline form for days, so there was nothing new: A ban on making or selling certain rifles and magazines, plus more registration and reporting requirements. Does anyone believe any of this will be enacted or, if it is, that it will work as advertised by preventing the next mass shooting?
The president, by executive order, wants more punishment for lying on forms when buying a gun. If there's a criminal law that provides for this and it has not been enforced, WHY has it not been enforced? And if there is no law, especially a federal one that applies to gun purchase forms used in Oregon, for example, does Obama think he can create such a law by himself? Is he the emperor now?

As for trying to identify ahead of time all the mentally unstable people who just might some day want to buy a gun, that's impossible. What about a person who seeks mental-health counseling with a personal problem and then solves it? Should his therapy then be in some federal registry and, years later, prevent him from buying a gun for target shooting or home defense?

If and when it considers specific legislation eventually, Congress ought to remember that its actions often have consequences it did not intend. In the case of guns, that usually means a rush to buy more before any restriction takes effect. (hh)

A previous version of this was troubled by technical glitches.

Linn sheriff: Don’t make criminals of honest citizens

Will the constitution protect law-abiding citizens? Sheriff Mueller says he'll try to make sure it does.

Will the constitution protect law-abiding citizens? Sheriff Mueller says he'll try to make sure it does.

(With several comments at the end)

Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller made a splash in the news Tuesday by publicizing a letter to Vice President Biden pledging to defend the constitutional rights of citizens against questionable federal gun controls. The sheriff's heart is in the right place.

Politicians, the sheriff wrote, "are attempting to exploit the deaths of innocent victims by advocating for laws that would prevent honest, law-abiding Americans from possessing certain firearms and ammunition magazines. We are Americans. We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws." The sheriff put that exactly right.

According to a law just passed in New York state, citizens there are supposed to register with the police if they own certain rifles. If they fail, they can be charged with the crime. Talk about the state making criminals of people who have done nothing wrong.

In Oregon, Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat, has introduced a bill that would make criminals of people who sell magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The punishment could be a year in jail and a fine of $6,250. Most of the semi-automatic pistols found in Oregon households are built to hold the magazines defined in the bill. So once their magazines wear out -- maybe from frequent use in matches like the one last year to raise money for the ABC House in Albany -- those guns would become useless except maybe as clubs with which to hit an intruder over the head.

That kind of restriction has nothing to do with criminals. It's a restriction on honest people, and it's the kind of law Sheriff Mueller says he will try to resist. But before it comes to that, such laws must not pass. (hh)

From Edgar Hahn Jr.: Assault rifle magazines do not wear out; especially, for the average gun person.  If properly maintained.  Oiled.  Kept in a gun safe.  They will last a lifetime.  Any trained, responsible gun owner will tell you that fact.

From Ray Kopczynski: I don't recall reading that Linn Co. seceded from the state or country.  I also haven't read where Tim has a doctorate and experience in interpreting constitutional law.  Tim has an absolute right to state his opinion.  However, while in uniform I don’t believe he has the right to dictate that he will intentionally break a/any law – regardless of his feelings about it.  While he wears the uniform, it is not *his* call to determine which laws he will or will not uphold.  Outside of the uniform – that is his prerogative.  There are multitudes of ways to change law.  To simply abrogate the responsibility of upholding a law is not one of them in my opinion.  And for him to categorically state that will be the policy over all of his subordinates also scares me…  Who set him up as judge & jury?  He mentioned a 1997 Supreme Court case - which I have not seen nor read.  Presuming the DH article this morning is accurate, it implies that he can arbitrarily and capriciously decide which federal laws he will uphold -- and then dictate his requirements of same to the other folks on his staff.  Those folks aren't able to make a conscious decision as to which laws they wish to uphold? I do suppose it is within is purview to indicate that said law[s] will be a *very low* priority under his watch… But - I don’t believe he is correct in stating it – the way he has done.
From  Hazel: My opinion is that Ray is a stuffed shirt and budding politician!
From Ray Kopczynski: If she only knew how stuffed my shirt is – and that I already am a politician by appointment.  Apparently she doesn’t.
From Warren Beeson: Some say the sheriff can't choose which laws to follow and which to violate.  I say that if there are two laws that contradict each other the sheriff is compelled to do so.  In this case, Obama's actions clearly contradict the Constitution, which is the very basis for all our laws and the foundation on which they are built.  Thus the sheriff is forced to make such a choice between the two.  Does he ignore the Constitution and follow the dictates of a politician, or does he follow the Constitution and ignore the law?  Clearly he should follow the Constitution as it is the basis for all our laws and any law that contradicts its basic precepts is not legal.  The rights of citizens do not come from the government.  They are, as Jefferson said, inherent and unalienable.  Obama or any politician cannot overrule them and has no authority to do so.  Sherrif Mueller is not only correct in his opinion, he is to be lauded for his patriotism and courage in defending our basic rights.
From Ernest Murphy: The good Sheriff Tim Mueller  said any law that offends the constitutional rights of the citizens of Linn County shall not be enforced. That is a period not a question mark. Regardless what people think he can or can't do. Tim Mueller swore to support the Constitution of the United States. Federal regulations or executive orders will hold no water if they offend the Constitution in Linn County. I will rest easier knowing the highest elected law enforcement officer in our county means business regarding our rights.

Armstrong, too late, but still…

A fallen king can sometimes get back up again, in life, even if not in chess.

A fallen king can sometimes get back up again, in life, even if not in chess.

Lance Armstrong waited too long to admit what the public learned in 2012. That's when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency issued its comprehensive report proving beyond reasonable doubt that Armstrong had led his cycling team in a deliberate and ingenious program of doping for several years through 2005. Last year was also when the book came out by Tyler Hamilton, a former Armstrong teammate and Tour de France contender who detailed how he got drawn into the doping culture of professional bike racing in Europe. So whatever Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey in that taped interview on Jan. 14, it's not going to be news to many people.

Still, it is good that Armstrong has finally given up denying what has since become obvious. It means he can eventually re-enter public life. First, though, he'll have to give up a lot of money. He'll have to repay a libel settlement to the Times of London, and he'll have to repay the millions an insurance company was forced to pay him for winning some of his repeated Tours de France. Then he should give most of what's left of his wealth to the Livestrong Foundation, which he founded but had to leave because of the doping scandal.

That means he will have to start over, but he can do that and build up his wealth again. He can cooperate on writing another book, for one thing. It would sell. His first two were great reads. The authorities in sport have taken away his victories, officially anyway. But unofficially, it's another story. History cannot be replayed or undone. The fans who watched those epic tours know who came in first. They also know that regardless of EPO or blood transfusions, it took a superhuman combination of training, discipline and courage to earn those wins. Some of us will remember those virtues, and they will outweigh the doping in time. (hh)

Governor: Tax hikes for seniors?

The "circuit rider" outside the Capitol never gets anywhere. May the Legislative Assembly do better than that.

The "circuit rider" outside the Capitol never gets anywhere. May the Legislative Assembly do better than that.

Governor John Kitzhaber's message to the legislature on Jan. 14 sounded a hopeful tone, as these messages should. But he was short on actual recommendations, more than once saying only that this or that issue "needs thoughtful deliberation."

For example, he said the state must continue to work to generate more jobs, and he believes the best way to do that is to invest in education at all levels. And to his credit, he believes Oregon can't be satisfied if Portland gets back to pre-recession employment while the rest of the state continues with a jobless rate in double digits.

But if he has a proposal on how to help people in non-metro Oregon, he didn't say what it is. Even if more investment in education was possible, the rest of Oregon can't wait 10 or 20 years for some uncertain payoff. And if the brightest and best educated Oregon children study for jobs in science and public administration and then move to California or Florida for better weather, how does Oregon benefit? Oregon's future has to be built on what it has, which is abundant forests and other natural resources. The governor had nothing so say about that.

He does, however, hope to gain millions and, over 10 years, even billions of dollars in savings because of health care reforms now being tested. Let's hope he's right, but to some of us the savings from coordinated care organizations seem unlikely to materialize. Kitzhaber does have ideas for more tax revenue -- in the area of what government calls "tax expenditures," meaning ways in which the state now lets people keep some of their money.

The governor suggested how the state could increase taxes: By cutting back on tax deductions including the Senior Medical Deduction, which allows older Oregonians to deduct all their health care costs, even those that the federal government does not. Lawmakers might want to look elsewhere for revenue before they ding old people for taxes on money they had to spend on pills or false teeth. (hh)

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