Yet another worry?

The maple knows it's fall.

Here's something else to worry about. Or maybe not.

"The Week," a news weekly, reports on a new study suggesting that the Earth's magnetic field may disappear in maybe 500 years. This, it says, might allow more solar radiation to reach the surface of the Earth, harming life and eventually making us look like Mars.

Turns out that this finding isn't new. Looking online, you can find reports on the same thing going back to a story in the New York Times in 2003. Apparently scientists have known for a long time that the magnetic field routinely weakens and then reverses every few hundred thousand years. And most of the reports say that this should not disrupt life all that much, though if it happened now it would cause havoc in communications.

Five hundred years is a long time. So nobody seems to be losing sleep over the magnetic field now, or the chance that it may flip or disappear. Still, if you want something to worry about, other than climate change or your heat bills this coming winter, here's something you can put on your list.

And speaking of the climate and the weather, it's 50 degrees in the mid-valley this morning, pretty chilly for a ride on your bike. But worth the effort still. (hh)

Oops, ballots came out early

Benton County voters got their general election ballots a couple of days early because the Salem Post Office jumped the gun.

I learned this after reporting Thursday night that for me, the election was over. How come, a kind reader asked by email. She didn't even have her ballot yet. So how come I got mine?

Jill Van Buren, the elections supervisor for Benton County, says the county took its ballots to the Salem PO with instructions to deliver them starting Saturday. Instead, they were delivered Thursday. The county elections office had to hustle to get its ballot drop boxes ready. The flaps on the boxes are not usually opened until the day the ballots are to be delivered.

In Linn County, the county clerk's website says the first day to mail ballots is today, Oct. 19. Elections supervisor Derrick Sterling didn't mention whether any had been delivered to voters early.

Jill Van Buren says that by taking boxes of ballots to the Salem PO, the regional distribution center, the counties get a break on the price of mailing.

Campaigns can stop now

My ballot

It's ready to go

My election is over. As far as I'm concerned, the candidates and the campaign committees can stop now. They can quit running TV ads. They can quit calling. My ballot has been filled out. It's been stuck in its "secrecy" envelope and sealed, and it's ready to be dropped in the nearest drop county box. (That's at Ray's Food Store in the North Albany Village shopping center, in case you were wondering.)

Actually, the campaigners could have quit a long time ago as far as I'm concerned. I don't need campaigns to know what I want in public policy. Or whom I want to hold public office. For all I care, the candidates could announce their intentions before the filing date and then sit back, or go about their regular business. They would not have to spend a dime to impress me or to win me over. I'm guessing there are many citizens like me in this regard. They know what they are for and what they are against. They don't need to be persuaded. They don't need to be bought.

Trouble is that we don't usually decide elections. No, in our closely divided country, elections are decided by the undecided. These are the people who can be persuaded. The ones who form an impression because of ads they see on TV. The ones impressed by signs on people's lawns.

So if you don't like millions of dollars being spent on campaigns, if you think our politics is polluted by cash, don't blame me. Don't blame citizens who pay attention and know what they want. No, the blame for expensive campaigns falls on that small number among us who can easily be swayed. (hh)

A whopping campaign contribution

His latest campaign finance report shows a whopping contribution of $75,000 in cash to state Rep. Andy Olson of Albany, the current Republican leader in the Oregon House who is seeking his fifth term.

The contribution came from Loren Parks, owner of an Oregon company that makes medical equipment. Parks, who moved from Oregon in 2002 and lives in Henderson, Nev., has long been the most generous contributor to conservative candidates and causes in Oregon.

Olson, a retired officer in the State Police, said: "This is certainly not the biggest individual campaign contribution ever.  But keep in mind that I have a new role as House Republican Leader. I'm receiving additional support, not only for my own campaign, but for my work to elect legislators that can move Oregon forward."

The Parks check, received on Oct. 9 and filed on the public report on campaign finance activity on Tuesday (Oct. 16), raised Olson's total campaign cash receipts to $254,975. As of Tuesday he had spent more than $202,000, much of it on contributions to other Republican candidates, leaving him with a cash balance of about $124,000. (The figures don't add up because of his beginning balance from the previous year.)

Olson's opponent, Democrat Ron Green of Albany, reported cash contributions of $16,000 and a campaign finance deficit of about $3,340 as of Oct. 16. Green entered the race late, being nominated by the Democratic Party after the candidate named in the primary withdrew.

Debates questioned

Tuesday's debate between Obama and Romney showed once again why events of this kind are a poor way of picking a president.
The commentators were delighted that the candidates went "toe to toe." That there was sharp disagreement. That they accused each other of lying. That there were sparks in their air. And so on.

But do we want a sharp-tongued talker to be the president of the United States? Do we want an aggressive verbal pugilist? How about, instead, someone who can govern? Someone who has ideas that favor American freedom and can carry them out.

In the debate Tuesday, both candidates said things that were not so. This is inevitable in such a high-pressure format. When you have just a few seconds, it's easy to misspeak.
Voters would be better advised to choose the candidate who best reflects their own ideas based on their records in actual deeds. For that, they don't need debates. (hh)
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