The blame for Benghazi

The Obama administration keeps excusing its conduct after the September attack on our consulate in Benghazi on the grounds that it was clueless and helpless. That's a pitiful response in light of what we spend on intelligence and the military.

First was the implication by the State Department and the president that the attack was a response to an abscure anti-Muslim video made in California. This even though, it now develops, our government had information early on that this was a planned attack by a militant faction in Libya.

Then the secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, said this week that the armed forces did not intervene because they didn't know what was going on. He said it's a "basic principle ... that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on, without having some real-time information about what's taking place."

Now it develops that the Americans under attack sent messages to Washington pleading for help not once but three times, but the requests were denied, according to a report on Fox News. So it appears that the defense establishment did have first-hand information about what was going on.

Even without exact information, why would the U.S. military hestitate even to try to help out if one of our outposts is under armed attack within an hour or two of a U.S. airbase in Italy? Panetta presides over a defense establishment costing more than that of any other country and yet can't send help to an American ambassador under armed attack?

The blame for the attack and the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans falls on the attackers. The blame for the administration's inaction during -- and misdirection after -- the event falls on the president and his team. (hh)

Those blue containers?

Here's a local tidbit for North Albany commuters: What's in those blue containers we see parked off North Albany Road where a contractor recently completed drilling a hole under the Willamette River and pulled through a water pipeline from  the Albany side? The question came up in a chat at the Albany Senior Center this week.

Kevin Hamilton of Albany Public Works explains: "The horizontal directional drill (HDD) made use of a drilling fluid composed of water and bentonite clay (low viscosity mud). This provided lubrication for the drill; served to flush the cuttings back to the drill site to clear the drill hole; and finally served to lubricate the pipe during pull-back proceedings. The pull-back proceedings displaced the drilling mud, so the blue containers were brought on site to receive the excess mud (about 137,000 gallons)."

He says the drilling subcontractor, Brotherton Pipeline, is slowly picking the containers up, one at a time and removing them from the site. They are not in anyone's way, so there's no hurry.

The final leg of the pipeline, by the way, up to a reservoir off Gibson Hill, is planned in conjunction with widening North Albany Road across Thornton Lake in 2014.

OSU and The Liberty

Oregon State University said this week it was "reviewing its options" after a federal appeals court reinstated a lawsuit by The Liberty, a right-leaning student paper. Here's one option for the university to consider in the interest of avoiding further legal delays and expense. It could apologize to the student paper and reimburse it for the costs it has incurred. And it could pledge to make sure it would not repeat what caused this flap.

I remember the story when it happened. It was during the 2008-2009 academic year, when The Liberty's distribution bins on the Corvallis campus disappeared. The boxes of other papers including some from off the campus were left in place. But The Liberty's boxes were gone. They were found later where they had been dumped in a university storage yard.

The student editors of The Liberty charged that the university administration was arbitarily trying to limit their ability to reach out to the campus community based on their conservative message. In October 2009 they filed a federal lawsuit, which a lower court dismissed.

But the Ninth Circuit this week said it had no trouble finding constitutional violations if the facts were as claimed in the suit. So clearly, the suit deserved to have a trial, and not to be dismissed.

The university says it's in favor of free speech and a free press. Of course. Well then, let it find a way to demonstrate that in this case. (hh)

On passing cyclists

For people who ride bikes, there's bad news from California. The governor, Jerry Brown, has vetoed a bill that would make it unlawful for drivers to pass bicyclists closer than three feet.

According to a report in Bycycling magazine, the governor said he was worried about a provision allowing drivers to cross the double center line if it could be done safely in order to pass someone on a bike. He was worried that the state might get sued if this  resulted in a head-on crash.

Jerry Brown's rationale was baloney. The bill plainly said crossing the center lines was OK only if safety allowed it. And while anybody can sue anyone for any reason or no reason, collecting from the state of California under those circumstances would have been impossible.

In Oregon, as it happens, we have the kind of law that California was trying to get. It requires not three feet but enough space so vehicles won't hit a cyclist who falls over, and that's at least three feet, maybe more. Our Oregon law also allows drivers to momentarily cross the double lines if they can do so safely in order to avoid hitting the person on a bike.

In this case at least, Oregon is ahead of California in a matter of safety and common sense on the roads. And it 's a good idea to call attention to this safety law as more people take to our roads on their bikes. (hh)

Albany news: Sign action put off

The Albany City Council said "not so fast" Wednesday to the idea of electronic message boards at schools and other institutions in residential zones. At their regular meeting Wednesday night, councilors voted unanimously to table -- or postpone action on -- an ordinance that would allow the signs. Councilor Floyd Collins was not there, and his colleagues wanted to wait till the next meeting on Nov. 7, when he's expected back.

Albany law does not allow changeable electronic message signs in residential zones. The pending ordinance is the result of a request by the booster club at West Albany High School, which wanted to replace the existing reader board outside the school on Queen Avenue with a larger, electronic one that could be programmed from inside the building.

Councilors expressed various reservations about details of the proposal. One, Jeff Christman, pointed out that on one block of Queen, there are two schools and two or more churches, all of which under the proposal could apply for permits for electronic signs.

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