Your Weekend Reader for July 1-2

by | Jul 1, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 0 comments

Welcome to July! This weekend offers a stark contrast of the deep divisions in America: You’re either among those who were able to figure out a way to take Monday off and were, therefore, able to turn this into a four-day weekend — or you’re with those of us who couldn’t figure out a way to do that. I’d like to say that being on the wrong end of this divide has prompted us to rise up against those of you slackers on the other side — but we just don’t have the time.

Speaking of private militias (and we were, in a sense), I noticed a story from OPB’s Conrad Wilson about a bill that passed the Legislature that perhaps did not quite get the attention it deserved: House Bill 2572, as Wilson explained, allows the state attorney general to seek a court order if she has “reasonable cause to believe that a person or group of persons has engaged in, or is about to engage in, paramilitary activity.” The legislation also provides individuals “injured as a result of paramilitary activity” the ability to seek a court injunction by filing a lawsuit. To be fair, the bill is specific about the conditions in which it applies — but it’s also worth noting that this may have been the only measure in this session that caught the eye of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association.

I have a sense that, considering the haste with which the legislative session wrapped up its work (after the Senate was able to resume its work after the six-week walkout by Republican senators), this paramilitary bill won’t be the only measure that comes as a bit of a surprise.

The final two weeks of the session proceeded at the frenzied pace that you normally would associate with its 35-day sessions in even-numbered years. My big issue with those short sessions (which I still think are necessary) is that they dramatically limit the amount of time for members of the public to engage in a meaningful way with the Legislature — and I suspect that happened in the final weeks of this session. In addition, regardless of what you think of the GOP walkout in the Senate, there’s little doubt that it blocked the Legislature from addressing all of the policy issues that it typically would in a longer session — and that’s not just me talking, that’s Republicans across the state who nevertheless agreed with the reasons for the walkout.

As part of my work with the Wallowa County Chieftain, I was tracking bills of particular interest to Wallowa County — including one that could have helped the county work on its housing crunch, which is severe enough to make the housing shortage here seem like an annoying inconvenience. That bill passed muster with a committee and then went, as many bills do, before the powerful Ways and Means committee. And that essentially was the last anyone heard of it. There’s little doubt that Ways and Means and its subcommittees make the process of building a state budget more efficient, but I wonder if there are ways to increase the transparency of the process.

That’s enough legislative grousing. But here are a couple of links to additional stories about the Legislature:

Grant Stringer of The Oregonian/OregonLive had a nice wrapup story on the Legislature’s 2023 session, which ended Sunday, a few hours before its constitutionally mandated deadline. He also includes a series of links offering more information about key bills and how they fared.

Of course, some of the measures that passed may prompt Gov. Tina Kotek to reach for her veto pen. This past week, she invited Oregon residents to tell her which of the 300 or so bills on her desk she should sign — or veto. (I always had fun envisioning the “veto pen” as an actual pen that sits in a glass enclosure in the governor’s office that bears a sign: “In case of veto, smash glass.”)

It seems like a long time ago that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, doesn’t it? But it’s only been a year since that blockbuster ruling, which came at the end of the court’s last term. This year’s term, although it also had its share of blockbuster rulings, gave new life to Chief Justice John Roberts’ incrementalist agenda — or so The New York Times’ Adam Liptak, among the nation’s top Supreme Court reporters, argues in this new piece. The court also has pulled back somewhat on the use of its so-called “shadow docket,” Liptak reports. (The link to that story should allow access to anyone, regardless of whether you subscribe to the Times; it’s one of my monthly “gift” links.)

There’s breaking news (if not entirely unexpected) this morning out of Portland, where Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has requested a trade. The Associated Press reports that Lillard wants to play for a team that has a shot to win a title, and has concluded that won’t happen in Portland. Sources tell AP that Lillard is eyeing the Miami Heat, the team that fell in the NBA finals to the Denver Nuggets.

Here’s occasional Oregon resident Nicholas Kristof reporting, from London, that he has a soft spot for the monarchy. I wonder, with my tongue firmly in cheek, if this could have any connection to whatever Oregon political ambitions Kristof might still be harboring.

NASA’s Webb Space Telescope just keeps on giving: Here’s an AP story, by veteran reporter Marcia Dunn, about the Webb’s latest spectacular photo, this one showing the rings of Saturn all aglow.

Wasn’t it just last week when we talked about how, now that smoke from those fires in Canada has ravaged the East Coast, the national media suddenly is all over the story? Here’s Exhibit B: A fresh story from The Associated Press about how scientists are rejecting the notion that smoke-filled skies and increasingly intense wildfires are “the new normal” — there’s nothing normal, they say, about how climate change is affecting the planet. In the words of one scientist: “It’s an ever-moving baseline of worse and worse.”

Way back when I worked at the newspaper in Missoula, I assigned one of my best reporters, Sherry Devlin, to see if she could answer this question: Why had God created ticks? (If you’re not inclined to creationism, you could rework the question: What quirk in evolution allows ticks to prosper?) Devlin never actually was able to answer that question, which I suspect has thwarted both scientists and theologians. But her thorough, entertaining (and terrifying) attempt to do so turned into a prize-winning article. My only consolation, as I edited the story back then, was that ticks couldn’t fly.

I spoke too soon: New research suggests that ticks can use static electricity to zoom though the air and attach themselves to you (or your pet). This trick involves using your own static electricity, to add insult to injury. Can actual winged ticks be that far behind — at least on an evolutionary scale?

Oh, wait: Have I ruined your plans for enjoying your four-day weekend? I’m so sorry.

See you next weekend.

A quick postscript: My web person and I are experimenting a bit with getting some ads on my website. I’m not expecting to make big bucks off of this — but I might be able to cover some of the costs associated with the site and could continue to cover the monthly retainer I pay my web person, who has suffered on my behalf. With that said, if you see any ads that you find questionable — like, say, an ad encouraging you to sign up with a paramilitary militia — please drop me a line.

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