As the State Turns

stateturnssymbolOregon Soldiers Boned by Courts
An $85 million award to a couple of handfuls of Oregon National Guard soldiers was overturned by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Circuit of Circuit Court Circuits. Having claimed they were made sick from chemicals present at a water treatment plant they were assigned to guard during the Iraq War, the soldiers experienced respiratory problems after being exposed to the corrosive substance sodium dichromate, which is used to keep pipes spic, span, and free of rust. Some fear worse sickness later in life due to an Argentinean present in said chemical.

The military contractor being sued, Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), provided witnesses that said the ailments came from either pre-existing conditions or desert air. They also claim that even if the soldiers had been exposed, it wouldn’t have been enough to cause any complications.

Having been in the legal pipeline for six years now, and despite a win in federal court, the soldiers’ case was bounced due to jurisdictional diarrhea, as I like to call it, on the part of KBR. They successfully made the case that Oregon is bad, and that Houston, their home turf, is good. They tend to win cases in Houston. In fact, the Texas courts have granted KBR what’s known as a summary judgment on several issues, leaving the soldiers with only one viable claim: that KBR may have intentionally inflicted emotional voodoo.

Be right back, I’m going to go throw up now.

Fish and Wildlife: Stickin’ a Cork in It
There’s a gap, a mighty fine gap! A $32 million fuh-uhn-uhn-uhn-ding gap! Did you just sing that? No? Yeah, uh… me neither. Still, the gap remains: the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is scrambling to sort out how to plug it amidst declining sales of hunting and fishing licenses. The short-term solution, which seems to be unavoidable, includes layoffs of fishery biologists and such in order to find some sort of balance. Fifty positions have already been cut, with plans to send another 42 to the chopping block.

Another solution is to raise licensing fees, but hunters and fish-hunters (also known as fishers, or if you want to get nobby, “anglers”) aren’t happy about that. They say they don’t want to pay more without better opportunities, citing the folly of increasing costs for a product that’s declining in condition. Conservation groups, however, widely support the fee increases, stating that many of the positions being cut are those that support projects essential to the health of the ecosystem.

When interviewed, local hunter Elmer Fudd had this to say: “Nature ain’t going anywhere, I just wanna shoot something. Huhuhuhuh.” Clear signs of a speech impediment were removed for your pleasure.

MegaQuake Series! Run for Your Life
Despite the fact that news sources from all over, including our humble rag, have been discussing the damage potential of a major earthquake in the Cascadia region, major Oregon news sources are now in full swing. Our beloved Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) is no different, having recently started publishing a series of pieces called “Living Off Your Quake Kit” to see what it is like for select households to… do that.

The families, asked to put their kits together themselves, forgot a bunch of essentials, such as batteries, and suffered the ill moods of children that were pissed off about freeze-dried breakfasts. One family (who shall remain unnamed to protect their descendants) decided that having a meal together was actually a good idea, and planned on doing that in the future. Those same fools used up half of their propane with their stove in just one day.

A woman was spotted eating a sandwich on her couch with a light strapped to her head… while it was still light outside.

Gee whiz, I can’t wait for the next update. If this jerked your attention away from your needlepoint, however, there are earthquake-related articles crawling out of the woodwork via OPB. From planning fears to expert Q&A sessions, they’ve got you covered.

Portland Students Test Smart
Remember all of those students in the Portland area refusing to take the standardized tests? Well, that number has now doubled, reaching up to 3,299 in the triple county area of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas. While the reasons for opting out range far and wide, most of it centers around the new “high-stakes testing” systems, which bind the careers of school employees to the scores of the students. These tests have been shown to ooze with bias and continue a long tradition of “Why the hell are we doing this again?” from students, parents, and educators alike.

These tests have no bearing on school funding or college entrance, though the lack of participation can hurt a student’s record in a few ways (too complicated to get into here… if you’re curious, visit

As we all know, America operates on mutual insurance systems. Standardized testing is just another one of those things, like 100-question personality surveys on job applications. Part of me still feels like we can maybe just try doing the right thing for once, but I’m an idealist.

 Either way, hats off to you opt-outers.

By Johnny Beaver