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To the Right of Reality

Just before Thanksgiving Gov. Kate Brown pardoned 47,114 Oregonians convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana. If you listen to right wing talk radio you’d think she unleashed 47, 114 hardened criminals on the streets. Even though Halloween has come and gone and Republicans who won seats in Congress have moved on to Hunter Biden’s laptop, talk show hosts are still scaring listeners with talk of “feral man,” the “untamed social contagion” and how anyone walking down the street nowadays has to be “situationally aware every minute.” No wonder people are buying record numbers of guns. It isn’t just the passage of Measure 114.

Bill Meyer’s November 22 show featured criminologist Dr. Currie Meyers, a retired Kansas sheriff who teaches at a Catholic college there. He said a lack of faith dehumanizes people and drives them to commit crimes. According to the Pew Research Center about 35 percent of Americans are atheists. If Dr. Meyers’ thesis is correct all atheists should be behind bars by now. However, Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics show atheists are far less likely to commit crimes than the religious and world-wide the least religious countries have the lowest crime rates.

After the criminologist and Meyer talked of faithless bogymen running around creating havoc because they can’t see the reflection of Jesus in other people’s eyes, Josephine County Commission Chair Herman Baertschiger called in for his weekly chat. Baertschiger, sticking to the crime theme, took issue with all the supposed criminals Gov. Brown pardoned.

“I don’t understand decriminalizing everything,” said Baertschiger and pondered a society where houses have bars on the windows and businesses are wrapped in barbed wire. He then pointed out that Multnomah County has no public defenders so they are letting criminals walk too. He mumbled about how they defunded the police and prosecutors but didn’t mention the defender shortage is actually caused by a lack of lawyers willing to sacrifice pay for the joy of delving into the underside of society.

Measure 111, amending the state’s Constitution to create a new fundamental right, in this case affordable health care, was Baertschiger’s next object of scorn. He predicted it would cause a huge increase in Oregonian’s tax rate “coming on the back of payroll, that’s my guess.” Measure 111 is more of a philosophy than a mandate at this point, however. It basically says access to healthcare is a fundamental right along with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which will guide legislators going forward.

After grousing about other measures voters in Oregon approved in November, Meyer and Baertschiger got down to 114, which requires a longer permit process to buy a gun and bans magazines over 10 rounds. Baertschiger claimed the measure was born outside the state and got on the ballot because Michael Bloomberg financed professional petition circulators from New York to gather signatures by asking people if they were against school shootings. There is no evidence in campaign finance reports so far that supports that claim. Measure 114 was put on the ballot through the efforts of Lift Every Voice Oregon, a coalition of faith-based communities and others fed up with the proliferation of mass shootings. Top donors in favor of the measure include the National Education Society and Everytown for Gun Safety. Top donors fighting the measure include the Oregon Firearms Federation which is now fund-raising off it’s passage.

Earlier a man called in to Meyer’s show with a solution to the homeless problems in Oregon. Dismantle warming stations and the homeless will all go south just like migratory birds do, he said. If the homeless start freezing to death they’ll leave, he concluded, which must have had Meyer’s listeners envisioning hundreds of frozen zombies marching down I-5 to Arizona. The homeless used to be migratory in Oregon because of it’s cold, wet winters but now do-gooders put up warming shelters which encourages them to stay, he said. He didn’t explain why the homeless were still in Grants Pass, which so far this winter has had no warming shelter, or why there are always homeless people who refuse to go to warming shelters when they are offered.

Josephine County Republican Party Chair Holly Morton called in to add her her two cents by saying there should be no low-barrier shelters because people need to behave themselves if given a bed and a meal. Meyer complained that if Portland builds low-income housing for these people they won’t take care of the properties and they’ll just be “shooting galleries” for people on drugs. He joked that places where butane honey explosions have taken place should be designated for urban campgrounds. Morton agreed but it was unclear if she got Meyer’s joke.

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