Linn County Museum, worth a visit

On a rainy afternoon in December, the Linn County Museum in Brownsville is a great place to spend some time. So is the town of Brownsville itself.

The Nike deal: A quest for certainty

When Nike says jump, Oregon jumps. That used to apply mainly to the University of Oregon athletic department. Now it applies to state government as a whole.

The governor called a special session for Dec. 14 to give him the authority to negotiate a deal with the Beaverton-based apparel company. The deal is that Oregon will not change its tax policy in regard to multinational corporations if they spend at least $150 million on new facilities and create at least 500 additional jobs. The current tax policy, as summarized in news stories, is that Oregon will tax companies on only their activities, such as sales, inside the state.

Ordinary taxpayers may look at this special treatment as unfair. Nobody ever makes a deal like that for them. On the other hand, the essence of this deal is exactly what people in general, and especially the business community, need in order to make long-term decisions. What they need is certainty. They need to be sure that at least the tax picture will not change every other year or so depending on which party or which public pressure groups have the upper hand in Salem. The same goes for taxation at the federal level.

One thing that holds companies back from making job-creating investments is uncertainty or, to put it another way, the certainty that politicians will take some of their earnings if they get the chance. The Nike deal would attempt to provide the company with an assurance that Oregon will not try to grab a share of its huge worldwide earnings. Other companies likely would  be eligible for similar deals. That would help the Oregon economy. The next step, then, to be fair, would be to provide that kind of assurance -- no changes in tax policy on your investments -- to all taxpayers as well. (hh)

Saving Nauru? Or we could try…

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean from this Oregon coastline, and in the southern hemisphere, lies Nauru. an island nation where sea level rise might be a problem if it gets out of hand.

Reporting from Doha in Qatar, where the latest U.N. conference on global warming just ended, the Reuters news agency quoted the foreign minister of Nauru. "Much more is needed if we are to save this process from being simply a process for the sake of process...," the foreign minister said, "a process that locks in the death of our nations, our people and our children." It was a dramatic complaint about the fact that the conference failed to agree on anything substantive in regard to cutting down emissions of CO2 and other gases that may or may not increase the average temperature in parts of the world.

The official quoted in that story was from a nation I had never heard of, Nauru, so I looked it up. The name refers to a tiny island in the South Pacific, several hundred miles from Australia. The place measures 8 square miles and has, at last count, between 10,000 and 12,000 inhabitants. It is, essentially, a limestone rock in the middle of the ocean that used to be covered by guano, the accumulated dung of seabirds. That led to a big mining operation of phosphate on the island, which now has pretty much played itself out, leaving a landscape of jagged limestone pillars and cliffs, mostly devoid of animals or plants. The island became a nation after regaining its independence. The central plateau of the island reaches an elevation of about 70 meters, but the people are worried that a rise in sea level of several feet -- which the global warming alarmists foresee by the end of the century -- would swamp their small coastal area.

Here's what I'm wondering: Even if global warming raises the sea level and threatens that little island, would it not make more sense to pay to relocate the small population there rather than impose higher costs and burdensome greenhouse gas rules on billions of people in the entire industrialized world? (hh)

Try to reduce roadkills

By the side of a road outside of Medford earlier this fall.

I've not kept count, but maybe I should have. I'm talking here about the dead animals I have seen by the side of the road while riding my bike. In a car, going 40 or 50 miles an hour, you don't usually see these things. You go by too fast, and you're not looking at the roadsides or the ditches. On a bike, or on foot of course, you look around and you see all those carcasses left in the wake of passing cars and trucks. Sometimes you don't see them but you know they're there because you can smell them. I got to wondering whether anybody keeps track of how many animals die in so-called WVCs. That's "wildlife-vehicle collisions." As far as I could tell nobody does in Oregon. But as it happens, efforts along that line have been reported from California and Maine. The one in California is organized by the Road Ecology Program at UC Davis, and it has recruited hundreds of cyclists and other observers to report any road kill they see. In August 2010, the California Roadkill Observation System issued its first report, saying that more than 250 observers had documented more than 6,000 kills. Raccoons were the most frequent victims, following by skunks, ground squirrels, possums and deer. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that a million animals are killed in collisions on American roads every day. Aside from the numbers, what's surprising to me is how many birds I see on mid-valley roads. You'd think they could fly out of the way. But evidently some drivers are too fast, even for birds. Road kills of wildlife have been a problem as long as we've had roads and cars. One report on the issue came out in 1920. Now it's probably worse. We could make things better if while driving on county roads, we just slowed down. (hh)

An idea for fuel producers

My editorial reaction, exaggerated as usual, to Oregon state government's continuing push to regulate fuel and drive up its price.

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