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Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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Recalls Require Facts

September 28th, 2022 by dk

It’s all over but the shouting. Lane County Elections has until Oct. 3 to certify the results for the recall of Eugene City Councilor Claire Syrett. Syrett is significantly behind but has asked the courts to void the originating petition. 

Syrett will remain on the city council until a judgement is rendered. If the petition and the results are declared valid, city council will appoint her successor. Ward 7’s new representative will then be chosen by the representatives for every ward in the city — except Ward 7.

There’s nothing in Eugene’s city charter to prevent city council from choosing Claire Syrett to replace Claire Syrett. During this lull before a final decision is announced, it’s worth taking a closer look at the SEL 350 form, which set this election in motion back in April.

At the top of the form there’s an exclamation mark, followed by this text: “Warning: Supplying false information on this form may result in a conviction of a felony with a fine of up to $125,000 and/or prison for up to 5 years.” 

Above the section where the petitioner makes their statement, a second reminder reads, “Provide the reasons for demanding recall in 200 words or less. Any factual information provided must be true.”

Then, above the chief petitioner’s signature, there’s this: “By signing this document, I hereby state that any factual information (not a matter of opinion) in the above statement is true.”

In the statement of fact that became the basis for the recall, petitioner Gerald Morton included some non-facts. Such as: “Claire Syrett voted to … take substantial property from businesses and residences. Traffic congestion will increase. Syrett is ignoring the facts…. Syrett supports MovingAhead’s EmX plan despite the fact that taxes will need to increase to support operations….” (Readers can follow the link below to the form itself.)

Syrett’s lawsuit claims that the planning for EmX has not yet reached the point where land acquisition or tax increases have been determined, so the petitioner proffered something other than facts, despite three reminders. Opinions, predictions, fears — these all have a place in our democracy, but that place is not anywhere on the SEL 350 form.

“It’s really kind of scary,” former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury told me, “People are busy. Signing petitions is  good for our system. But they don’t always know what’s true. That’s why it’s essential that they can rely on the petitioner’s statement. If the petitioner doesn’t speak truthfully, it can lead to some ridiculous consequences. And what does that do for public service? It destroys it!”

If other city councilors believe the system has been abused, they may be tempted to appoint Syrett to replace herself.

I don’t live in Ward 7 and I don’t endorse candidates. Regardless of how you feel about EmX, Syrett, city council, recalls, or elections in general, defending facts is important. That’s just my opinion, and your opinions may differ. But our facts should be the same.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at The recall petition’s SEL 350 form can be viewed at

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Obama Can Separate Politics From Partisanship

September 26th, 2022 by dk

Barack Obama, your country needs you. Again.

As we rev up for midterm elections in November and then start the quadrennial primary season for 2024, citizens find themselves immersed in political messaging. Except this time we are having two political debates disguised as one.

Democrats are running against Republicans. These are healthy debates for a thriving democracy, always with a side helping of internecine battles within each party between centrists and purists.

We must reserve the label “extremist” for something new for America. The second debate is between those who believe our system of government is worth continuing, and those who would rather burn it down if they don’t get their way.

To be fair, we’ve had this second debate before. It’s been a lively debate here in Eugene, pitting anarchists against big business and government officials. But our local anarchists have the courage of their convictions. They don’t often run for public office, promising to tear it all down from the inside.

That’s what we’re seeing now. By some accounts, nearly half of the candidates chosen by the Republican party nationwide for November’s election refuse to accept the outcome of our last national election. They cling to their belief that the 2020 election was “stolen,” despite the fact that every attempt to independently prove their case has failed.

We will not convince them that they are wrong. The human psyche can protect itself from logic or reason. But those who believe the Big Lie do not constitute a majority of American citizens. Most estimate they comprise nearly a third of the electorate, but that’s nothing more than a guess. (These folks tend to lie to pollsters.)

We should be focused on and concerned about those who don’t approve of insurrectionist propaganda, but who grant that they do sometimes make good points. Voters in this vital middle third of the electorate may have voted for Obama, but haven’t warmed to Biden. Or maybe they didn’t vote for Obama, but think he did an OK job as president.

These people in the middle often agree with some conservative policy proposals, but they don’t like or understand the vitriol, the name-calling, the disrespect. In most cases, they just wish the volume could be turned down so everyone can get on with their lives.

This brings me to No-Drama Obama. He has gotten on with his life. He’s written his memoir. He’s started a media company. He won his second Grammy and his first Emmy. He never liked politics very much, even though he was very good at it.

But that’s not quite right. Obama has always loved politics, but he hates partisanship. Remember the “One America” speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic convention? His vision for a larger view of civic life thrust him onto the national stage.

Obama always preferred being above the fray, but the fray is growing at an alarming rate. His voice will calm the American psyche, soothe the soul that his former running mate fights for. Obama’s high-mindedness will offer counter-programming against the guttural goon squads, our homegrown extremists.

We need a philosopher-king to guide us through the tumult. Sensible conservatives from every state will gladly share the stage with Obama. George W. Bush will take his call. Mitt Romney will too.

Obama can remind people that our system of self-governance asks a lot from us. Voting is important — no matter who you vote for — but losing graciously is fully half of what has made our nation great.

Let the partisan squabbles continue as they always have. But this notion that our political system isn’t worth the trouble must be defeated resoundingly.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Remember When Life was More Colorful?

September 21st, 2022 by dk

Chris Hansen and Chris Pietsch dug through the R-G archives last week to remind us about Oregon’s last Autzen victory over Brigham Young University. Their time capsule took us back to 1990, long before Phil Knight decided to remake his alma mater into a football powerhouse. I was struck by a detail that was very different three decades ago.

Oregon’s Defensive Coordinator Denny Schuler was quoted about the pressure he felt trying to contain the BYU quarterback in the second half. Ty Detmer would go one to win the Heisman Trophy that year, but Schuler was thinking about his own recent past experience. 

The previous year, the Ducks led BYU at halftime but lost the game. BYU and Detmer scored 33 points in the second half. His job on the sidelines was to make sure that didn’t happen again. “I felt like the guy who goes in and defuses bombs,” Schuler told beat reporter John Conrad.

Football coaches nowadays seldom use similes and they almost never talk about their feelings. But this quote came from an era when reporters had full and constant access. Practices were not closed to the media, though there was a “gentleman’s agreement” not to divulge anything that might give opposing teams a strategic advantage.

To use a term we reserve mostly for war correspondents, reporters were “embedded” with the team they covered. Readers enjoyed more colorful quotes, but they also gained a deeper understanding about the situation. Chip Kelly is reliably colorful, but it’s all more scripted and performative than it was in 1990.

Colorful commentary is all around us, but that’s not the same as an unscripted comment from the person directing the actions being discussed. We hear more of “what I would have done” and less of “what I was feeling while I was doing it.” And it’s not limited to sports pages.

What if we’re all just less colorful in our everyday life? Or at least less original in our colorful comments. Talk radio and cable news give us a daily treasure trove of colorful comments that we can use as party patter. That doesn’t tell others anything about what it’s like to be inside our skin, the way Schuler spoke to Conrad.

We’ve become increasingly transactional, even with our friends and colleagues. This came to light for me when dealing with refugees from Afghanistan. Too often we assumed we had a language barrier, when it was much more of a cultural divide.

Spontaneous exchanges are more risky. We might reveal parts of ourselves that others didn’t know and they might not appreciate. Rejection or rebuke stings quite a bit less if you are only repeating what somebody else said. It doesn’t matter if you’re quoting Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity.

It’s safer to rely on memes and clever quotes, but it’s a whole lot less revelatory. If a defensive coordinator could talk honestly about how he feels, we should be able to follow suit. It’s harder today, but only because it’s less common. If we choose to stay safe, we’re making the world just a little bit less colorful.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Early Surprise Triggers Primal Response

September 18th, 2022 by dk

I had a strange and literal awakening last week. I woke to the sound of a woman in my back yard, just after sunrise, carrying bag out to the street. She had rifled through our spare refrigerator outside and helped herself to a rotisserie chicken, a frozen pizza, and assorted beers.

(I called the police and filed a report, but that’s not an important part of the story.) I followed her in slippers and pajamas to a bus stop. I approached her carefully. I told her how much I liked that pizza. (It was shipped to me overnight from Chicago in dry ice.) I took her photo with the pizza beside her, and then asked her to return my groceries. She agreed, and I walked home with my stuff.

I updated the police after I reviewed my security alerts. She had been in my back yard all night, leaving twice for short whiles. Nothing was touched except the fridge, as far as I could tell. No doors or windows were opened.

I never felt unsafe — mostly just confused. I didn’t feel threatened, but my assumptions sure did. That in itself is an uneasy feeling.

My first urge — it was amazingly fierce, a compulsion, really — was to tell somebody about what had just happened. Then, after sitting for a minute, another urge came more quietly. I didn’t want to evoke fear in others.

Then came a third quandary, and then a fourth. (The mind races!) Why was that first urge so strongly felt? Does this isolated incident point to a larger (and more worrisome) trend that we may not see?

I’ve told this story to only one other person — a friend who is a therapist by trade. “The urge was strong because it all made no sense. We puzzle things out by talking with others. They might notice a detail we overlooked. Even your attempt to arrange the details into a coherent narrative is making it all less chaotic.”

Could the urge be epigenetic — a hard-wired instinct? (It felt that deep.) Describing a hazard to others would keep the species safer, earning genetic favor. It certainly has all the elements of a good story — fight-or-flight angst, tight chronology, surprising twists. It’s bound to garner rapt attention — an immediate reward for me, not my species.

But what if I don’t want others to feel unnecessarily afraid? I’ve lived here for 25 years and nothing remotely similar has ever happened. That context won’t matter because listeners have the same primal urges. For as long as we’ve had campfires, we gather around, telling spooky stories. NextDoor and other apps prey on these instincts.

Can we talk ourselves out of that fear-mongering urge? And if we can, should we? In the days since the intrusion, I’ve wondered whether the woman was herself afraid, hiding in my yard from some danger. Is she getting enough to eat? Should I have called White Bird instead of the police? Could the dispatcher have routed the call to a social service agency? I didn’t have that clarity in real time, but first responders could.

Human desperation may be inching toward us. As it happens, I’m selling an old laptop and one buyer offered to trade his electric bike for it, except he didn’t have the charger. I declined. The next day the same guy offered me instead an $800 mountain bike. I ignored the offer, but I could have suggested we meet at the police station to make the exchange.

Why does he need a laptop so badly? To keep a spreadsheet of his stolen bicycles? Maybe someone will trade him a Chicago-style pizza for it.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Fire Looms Over Eugene’s Future

September 14th, 2022 by dk

First came the weather and wind warnings. Then came the news of closures on Hwy. 58 and around Waldo Lake. Even though these bits of information came over the mental transom exactly two years after the Holiday Farm wildfire, the Cedar Creek wildfire felt like an abstraction. No weather map has ever made me feel hot or cold.

Then came the orange sky, the campfire smell through every open window, and the soot covering the car. “Oh no,” my heart sank, “It’s happening again.” Even worse, it’s going to continue happening, and with greater frequency. We’re told that climate change has arrived, but we’re not polar bears losing our favorite icebergs. It’s affecting them, not us.

Yes, we have more 100-degree summer days. Air conditioning is moving from the luxury category to an everyday necessity. But it’s still been mostly an abstraction. An occasional inconvenience, not an immediate peril.

Then we hear about neighbors upriver who are without power for most of the weekend. The Walterville Fair was canceled. Residents are evacuated from Oakridge and Westfir. A friend’s neighbor in Cottage Grove thought he got a bee sting in his yard. It turned out to be a Cedar Creek ember, carried by the wind. It’s touching us now.

Southern Californians know about summer downslope winds. Santa Ana winds (named after the canyon east of Los Angeles) are especially dangerous during droughts. Native Americans refer to them as “devil winds” because of the havoc they wreak.

Until very recently, devil winds off the Cascades came only in winter. Mountain climbers and small craft pilots know to avoid the fierce turbulence they create, but they seldom posed danger to landlubbers.

That was then. This is now.

After the winds shifted on Sunday, I took a walk by the river. Others had the same idea. One of those was Terry McDonald, executive director for St. Vincent dePaul. He barely said hello to me before he asked, “When are you going to write about Eugene’s South Hills?” My quizzical look prompted his explanation. “They’re gonna burn up!”

Not today. Maybe not for a few years. But the trend lines point toward danger.

Terry McDonald sees things before mere mortals do. He believes the city of Eugene should formulate evacuation plans for residents in those hills before it’s too late. There are too few egress options that can be corridors to safety in a conflagration. “It’s the biggest challenge ahead for Eugene, and nothing’s being done about it,” McDonald told me.

Many homeowners are not incorporating defensible space around their homes. They aren’t pruning vegetation to reduce wildfire fuels. Too many dead-end streets offer only one way out. Some of these dangers are easier to address than others. We don’t know how much time we have, but it’s almost certainly less time than we thought.

The Holiday Farm Fire (2020) and the Cedar Creek Fire (2022) are warning us. A warming planet delivers consequences. The abstractions are becoming terrifyingly tangible for some of our rural neighbors to the east. That club won’t be an exclusive one for much longer.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Election Reform Changes the Game

September 11th, 2022 by dk

If I told you that Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives doubled their influence overnight as the result of a single state election, you’d call me crazy, right? Well, something’s crazy about our electoral system, and it ain’t me.

Last week, Democrat Mary Peltola was elected to fill Alaska’s lone House seat, replacing Republican Don Young, who held the seat for nearly 50 years. Peltola will represent all 571,951 square miles of Alaska. The other 219 Democratic House districts combined do not cover this much ground (literally).

How did Peltola manage to beat Sarah Palin, a national celebrity, and Nick Begich III, the grandson of Rep. Don Young’s predecessor in Congress? She was simply liked by more voters and disliked by fewer.

That used to be the hallmark of a decent politician — to be liked by many and hated by few. Voters didn’t reward polarizing figures because they generally failed as legislators. Legislation used to require compromise and open-mindedness, so being well liked by the opposing party brought tangible benefits.

That was before cable news gave elected officials an alternate path to success. Now they can appear on TV excoriating their opponents. Fame and familiarity can look like success to voters back home. Being a pariah can be worn as a badge of honor. That “fires up” the “base.”

Politicians have changed. Voters have changed their expectations in response. Polarizing figures attract the most attention, create the most noise, get the least done, but reap the greatest rewards. Exhibit A: Sarah Palin.

Why didn’t Trump-endorsed Palin trounce Peltola? Because a majority of Alaskans hate what Palin has become. Fifty-five percent of Alaskans voted for “anyone but Palin.”

Alaska used Ranked Choice Voting. Peltola received only about 40 percent of first-choice votes in the three-way race. Palin and Begich — both Republicans — split the other 60 percent. Once Begich was eliminated, his voters’ second choices were tallied. Only half of Begich’s supporters named fellow Republican Palin as their second choice.

This may turn out to be the most hopeful development for Democracy since the suffrage movements. We can’t change candidates or voters. They’ll change themselves if we change the connection between them. Tug-of-war becomes a different game if the rope is replaced with a wet noodle.

We shouldn’t be surprised that flame-throwers and misanthropes are filling the halls of Capitol Hill. The current system optimizes that outcome. Ranked Choice Voting changed the rules. And it’s not even the best system out there. The spoiler effect is still possible, because voters cannot rank any two candidates equally. On a crowded ballot, your second and third choices will not be tallied if your first choice is the runner-up. (Ironically, Republicans may have won Alaska if Palin had come in third.)

One voting reform alternative that gives every voter an equal voice was born here in Eugene, and it’s currently gathering signatures for a place on the November 2024 ballot. STAR Voting is simple, easy and fair. Voters give every candidate up to five stars, just like a Yelp review. The total number of stars is tallied, then the ballots compare the top two directly — Score, Then Automatic Runoff.

“Our current process is plagued with vote-splitting and spoilers if there are more than two candidates. This leads to a whole slew of toxic incentives and hyper-polarization,” explained Equal Vote Coalition Executive Director Sara Wolk.

If you see a pleasant person with a clipboard gathering signatures for STAR Voting, give them a moment of your time. Voting reform may be the secret to improving campaigns, elections, candidates, voters, and this grand experiment of self-government.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Not All Wildfire Questions Can Be Answered

September 7th, 2022 by dk

Lane County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last week to begin proceedings that could lead to a lawsuit to replenish funds spent for the Holiday Farm wildfire recovery. Commissioners were careful to state that they weren’t suing anyone, but they had to begin the process to keep that option open.

Had the commissioners not acted by Sept. 7, the statute of limitations would have run out on any liability claims over the tragedy that happened two years ago today. Lane County can pursue legal action if necessary, after the official investigation has been completed.

Have you ever noticed when somebody dies suddenly, people immediately ask about the cause of death? That’s not because they want to “blame” cancer or heart disease. Their question concerns something deeper. The question they really want answered is simpler and more personal: “Am I next?”

If it was lung cancer and I don’t smoke, then the unspoken response is, “Phew.” If it was lung cancer and I do smoke, this might be the moment I decide to quit. We pose the question about the person who died, but the answer we seek is about ourselves.

More than half of the 460 homes lost in the Holiday Farm Fire have not yet begun to rebuild. Only a few dozen have been completed. Whenever the final report is released, it will almost certainly be unsatisfying to the area’s former residents because it won’t be able to answer their most fundamental question: “Is it safe to return?”

Assigning blame and exacting accountability is necessary for legal and financial purposes, but the frame is too small for anyone to determine whether they should dare to rebuild. Can anything be done to prevent a recurrence? Without that hope, every effort to return feels like a six-figure gamble.

The larger frame of causation is much messier and less visceral. A larger study of the factors that contributed to the tragedy will not converge on a single point. There will be no Perry Mason moment, when all eyes turn to the one person or factor that caused so much grief. 

We must take into account everything that happened, but also those things that failed to happen. We may discover how the fire started, but not how it escalated out of control. A thousand choices were made about what precautions to take, what warnings to issue, what resources to distribute, what assistance to seek, what to protect and why.

No official report will be able to weigh how these and dozens of other factors might have arranged themselves differently to change the outcome. The county did the prudent thing to prevent the option to sue from expiring.

My neighbors upriver are facing expirations on options of their own, except their end dates are harder to define. When is Blue River no longer home? When does rebuilding become not worth the trouble? When will global warming make fire protection on forestland impossible?

The official report, whenever it is released, will not answer these questions.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at He lost a vacation home in the Holiday Farm Fire.

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Eugene’s Corners Need Love

September 4th, 2022 by dk

It’s time for Eugene to stretch itself. We’re building up in the center and along major transportation corridors. At last, some taller projects that aren’t part of the speculative student housing mix. It always bothered me that the tallest neon sign that visitors saw entering from the Ferry Street Bridge was atop Eugene Hotel, where they can’t stay.

More density will ease pressure to expand the urban growth boundary. It also aids mass transit, which will become essential. Our future growth shouldn’t create traffic jams.

This upward trend is welcome, but don’t overlook unique opportunities in the corners of Eugene. Think of Eugene as a huge tent covering 40 square miles. Height in the center benefits from solid anchors on the edges. Lane Community College and the Eugene Airport deserve some love.

Steve McQuiddy offered a vision for Eugene’s southeast corner in a column on these pages last month. Is it time for Lane County to move its fairgrounds and events center near the LCC campus? Would a new baseball stadium for the Emeralds be more welcome in an area without an established residential neighborhood?

Salem has done well with a minor league baseball stadium that’s visible from I-5. The Lane Titans will be delighted to share a facility with the Ems. The County Fair and other events could benefit from the visibility and accessibility that the interstate provides.

Maybe the stadium should be at LCC but the event center stays near downtown. Or vice versa. The City Club of Eugene could schedule a series of presentations this fall to explore all the options, out loud, together.

Meanwhile, in the city’s opposite corner, the Eugene Airport continues punching above its weight. The city has twice requested development proposals for an on-site hotel, but the response has been underwhelming.

They should try again, except this time seeking three hotels — of various styles and sizes — adjacent to the airport, not just one. The city should be ready to build an exhibit hall and conference rooms that can be shared between all three hoteliers.

If the city couldn’t attract one airport hotel, why would a plan to build three do better? Don’t ask me. Ask Burger King and Wendy’s. Why do they prefer locations near a McDonald’s? Each legitimizes the others.

As Eugene grows in population and reputation, we can support multiple hubs of visitor activity. Restaurants and downtown businesses have benefited from having large events that draw hundreds of visitors to Eugene’s main conference center and Lane County’s events center. Our downtown can thrive now without locking conventioneers to sites near downtown.

Like the fairgrounds and our baseball team, the airport serves as a regional asset. Building a meeting hub adjacent to the airport also supports another regional asset.

Lane Transit District has considered adding scheduled service to the airport multiple times in recent years. It just doesn’t pencil out. Those who travel by air will rent a car or call a taxi. But forcing travelers into cars from our airport is not “on brand” for Eugene. 

Arcimoto envisions autonomous electric vehicles someday ferrying passengers from the airport. The Gordon Hotel already offers a shuttle for its guests. Options will multiply, but LTD should be in the mix.

Hotel workers will use a bus service daily, making the route viable for travelers as well. It won’t be an EmX line that stretches all the way from the airport to Lane Community College, but it paves the way. Because the future will come, we just don’t know how soon.

Pounding tent pegs in these two corners will make our future growth more predictable and manageable, under this big tent we call home.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Rote Learning Curbs Resentment

August 31st, 2022 by dk

I don’t recall my mother-in-law offering her daughter and me much advice when we were newly married. Mary and her husband Fred had worked hard to make college available to their four children, an opportunity they never had. They expected us to surpass them. In some ways, they sometimes thought, we already had.

The only domestic advice I recall now, 40 years later, never made sense to me at the time. “Do a load of laundry every day.” Was this a variation of “Cleanliness is next to godliness?” Both were apparent in her life. But then again, I never saw her house when she had toddlers.

I never asked her exactly why she offered this little piece of advice. It always seemed oddly specific. She loved clothes, or at least she did when I knew her. She loved this time of year for the back-to-school sales, returning home from errands, eagerly opening her shopping bags with three words for her grandsons: “Try it on!”

Was she encouraging us to keep our clothes clean? Maybe, but I doubt it. Cleanliness never got in her way when an adventure beckoned. She and Grandpa Fred were always up for a hike or a trip to the beach. My father-in-law never hesitated to lean in to help me with any car trouble I was experiencing. I never saw their cleanliness get in the way of their godliness.

Later I determined that she must have been offering us a tool to not feel overwhelmed amid the noise and conflicting responsibilities that come with raising children. As long as you’re doing a little bit every day, you’re still in the game. You may feel like you’re losing, but nobody can call you a quitter.

This morning I threw a load in and I thought of Mary and her advice. For the first time I noticed what was missing from this now familiar scene — resentment. There is none. Routine routs resentment. I don’t wish these five minutes could be spent another way. It’s just a part of my day, like Wordle but with industrial chemicals.

Athletes train. Musicians practice. Students study. Workers work. At first, they wish they didn’t have to. Skills develop with repetition, making it easier to continue. But after that, the routine tasks seep into one’s identity. You wake up one day and you’re a runner, not to be confused with somebody who runs.

It’s also true for writers. I got into this line of work because I enjoy learning new things. Every story has its own shape. I rarely know how the middle, end, and beginning will fit together — until they do. Some puzzles are solved more elegantly than others, but something new and at least somewhat satisfying always appears at the end.

I can’t say the same about laundry. A stack of folded towels, hung shirts and paired socks — they always look the same when I’m done. I dislike drudgery. But I no longer resent it. It took me a long time, Grandma Mary, but I finally tried it on. It fits.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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Trump Has an Alternate Path Back to Power

August 28th, 2022 by dk

In 35 words, what are the things that Donald Trump loves most? If you answered “Donald Trump,” it was a trick question. You still have 33 words left to complete your answer.

Donald Trump loves the limelight most of all. He loves commanding control with no related responsibilities. He really loves breaking rules that nobody ever knew existed. And he loves emasculating Kevin McCarthy, for some reason.

He can have all those things, without bothering to campaign in 2024. He could endorse only candidates who agree that he, Donald Trump, should be chosen as the Speaker of the House in 2025.

But only elected members of the House of Representatives have ever served as Speaker of the House! Yes, exactly. That’s because decorum and common sense have required it. But there’s no rule! Trump could be Speaker of the House, if he wanted it and a majority of House members agreed.

(It’s enough to make our own retiring Congressperson, Peter DeFazio, wish he were dead, only so he could turn over in his grave.)

Why would a former president want to become the appointed Speaker of the House? First, because it’s a hocus-pocus trick that nobody has ever pulled off before. That counts for something. And then there’s sawing Kevin McCarthy in half, which always seems fun.

Don’t laugh. A talk show host pitched this very idea to Trump last summer. His response to Wayne Allyn Root: “You know, it’s very interesting. That’s so interesting.” Root wanted Trump first to run for a House seat from Mar-a-Lago, but Trump only likes steps he can skip. He’s no John Quincy Adams! We can all agree about that.

The House of Representatives is known as “the People’s House.” Trump has fashioned himself as a populist, saying out loud what many Americans feel, except without any attendant shame. He says what they feel, without feeling what they feel. It’s his unique gift for the age we are living in.

Trump will command the spotlight as much as he wants as Speaker of the House. It comes with an annual salary of about $225,000, plus a bevy of Capitol offices and conference rooms to be redecorated to his liking.

In Trump’s hands, the House of Representatives would begin to resemble Britain’s parliament, which has always been more entertaining than whatever the Prime Minister does. Prime Ministers can’t do very much in Britain without the tacit consent of their party leaders. Trump knows which end of the leash he prefers.

Any Republican in the Oval Office would quickly discern that Trump is calling the shots. Remember when Putin temporarily resigned Russia’s presidency to meet so-called constitutional requirements? He inserted Dmitry Medvedev as his stooge for four years. Trump admires such creative thinking.

If our President didn’t follow orders to the letter, Trump could whip the House into a frenzy by holding impeachment hearings. Those always get good ratings! And if both the President and Vice President were impeached and convicted, the Speaker of the House becomes President.

It gets even better for Speaker Trump. We all know how much he loves to speak! The only thing he likes more is to spend. All spending bills must originate in the House. The Speaker controls which spending bills are debated and approved. It’s almost like having a five trillion-dollar expense account!

But here’s what’s most delicious, from Trump’s point of view. As the unelected Speaker, he wouldn’t have a vote on any measures he brought to a floor vote. He’d have all the power and none of the responsibility. What could be better than that? I mean, besides sawing Kevin McCarthy in half?


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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