dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

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

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Bicycling’s Bright Spot

August 24th, 2022 by dk

If this isn’t the golden age of bicycling in Eugene, we’re doing something very wrong.

Gasoline rose this summer to prices we’ve never seen. Experts expect those prices to stay high for at least the next few years because so much drilling was idled during the COVID slowdowns.

Lingering pandemic concerns have left many of us looking for exercise alternatives that don’t take us too far from home, but farther than the walk around the block we could probably now do blindfolded. COVID inactivity is sending us a message: “Either get more exercise or buy a new wardrobe. You can’t wear sweatpants everyday.”

Getting outdoor exercise is easier than ever, which is good news for us and bad news for the planet. Historic droughts caused by global warming are leaving us with fewer rainy days, when bicycling requires at least a bit of extra gear.

You’ve probably noticed that Eugene has been building infrastructure for bicyclists at a fevered pace. Protected bike lanes are the city’s newest additions, running along Amazon Parkway from the south, and 13th Avenue from the west. More are being planned. As the city densifies, more of people’s basic needs can be met very nearby.

Add to all this one more factor that could be a game-changer for many households: electrification. Bicycles with pedal-assist electric motors have begun to outsell traditional bicycles in many areas. Eugene now has several bike shops that specialize in selling and servicing eBikes.

Our local power company is currently enticing its customers to consider this alternative. EWEB will pay you $300 to buy a new eBike.

Natural gas companies and nuclear power plants have been pitching their services lately as “bridge technologies” that can get us to a sustainable power grid with less disruption and delay. Adding electric bicycles to your household’s transportation options is like a personal bridge technology — a way to meet your immediate needs until electric vehicles become more affordable and available.

It’s becoming clear that our best future will be more electrified. That future has already arrived on bike paths all around the area. 

Whenever there’s a sudden influx of new users, frustrations grow around a lack of decorum or respect. It’s a real concern, but it’s likely to be temporary. New users will learn the rules. Old users will adapt to a wider range of variables.

Don’t wait for government regulations to catch up. As long as a bicycle has operable pedals and no putt putt from a gas engine, a bicyclist can always insist that they weren’t using their motor where a motor is not allowed.

Every bicyclist is removing an automobile from the street or a video controller from the seat. Whether they are biking for errands or fun, they are helping to build, however clumsily, a healthier future for everyone.

Photographers talk about the Golden Hour. It begins slightly before sunset, when the light outside is roughly the same brightness as a building’s interior. With each passing minute, the glow from inside looks more inviting as the skies darken overhead. This is bicycling’s Golden Hour.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at Details about EWEB’s eBike rebate are here:

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UO’s New President: Put the Hat in the Ring

August 24th, 2022 by dk

Bring back the Hat.

University of Oregon President Michael Schill is returning to Chicago as the new president of Northwestern University. He spent seven years boosting key metrics used by the Association of American Universities and elevating our reputation worldwide. But who will now replace Schill? One of his most fearless predecessors fits the bill.

When Richard Lariviere was fired by the Oregon University System in 2011, the campus and community was aghast. Petitions circulated to have him reinstated. Memes developed around “We Back the Hat,” referencing his habit of wearing a variety of distinctive fedoras.

As the community reeled, Lariviere kept a low profile. He granted only one interview during that initial shock — to the student journalists at the Oregon Daily Emerald. He was calm and candid.

When asked what advice he’d offer his successor about staying in the good graces of the OUS board, he didn’t mince words. “It is my sincere hope that the future president won’t have any relationship with the OUS, that we will have a publicly appointed board that’s sole purpose is to guide this institution.” His termination hastened that outcome. Lariviere lost the battle, but won the war.

One answer stood out for me from that interview. He was asked whether being fired from such a high profile position would make it more difficult for other institutions to consider hiring him. He paused for a second and recognized the teachable moment. “My future employment prospects is of no concern.”

Leadership requires courage, especially when guiding an institution that envelopes so many people’s identities. Lariviere passed that test with flying colors, and those colors were green and yellow. He was hired a few months later as president of the Field Museum in Chicago. He’s still there, and most assume that he has no desire to leave.

That’s probably true, but he might still be intrigued by the prospect of returning to Eugene. Lariviere is an educator to his core. The Field Museum maintains a strong research team, but much of the museum’s education mission is fulfilled through field trips for grade schoolers.

I grew up near Chicago and we had the best field trips. Every year, we’d take trips to the Field Museum, the Art Institute, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium was named after John G. Shedd, Ginevra Ralph’s great grandfather. The Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene also bears his name.

Ginevra Ralph is the current president of the UO Board of Trustees. Who better to travel to Chicago to ask Lariviere whether he prefers impacting students near the beginning of their formal education or near the end?

Even if Lariviere declined, the offer itself would convey a powerful message. University of Oregon is indebted to him. We can affirm that. It would also tell other candidates that losing a job to better the institution is recognized and rewarded.

Lariviere remade the University of Oregon’s relationship with Oregon’s political leadership, thanks to his willingness to be fired. The university’s standing has grown since he left. New complexities lie ahead that will require bold thinking.

For example, how will the school respond as athletics (especially football) morphs into a semi-professional training league? How will schools relate to one another in that context? As the entertainment value of its sports offerings increases, how can the university remake its relations with Eugene and Oregon? As university research expands, how can its benefits flow easily into the local business community?

Those are big questions that will require real risks. I hope the University of Oregon Board of Trustees gives the job to a person who is not afraid to lose it.


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

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NCAA: What Comes After What Comes Next?

August 17th, 2022 by dk

Nobody knows what comes next for the University of Oregon’s athletic programs or the Pac-12 Conference. The NCAA itself seems powerless and uninterested in its future, leaving those decisions to competing television and media outlets. They will be spending billions for the top-drawer entertainment the schools reliably provide.

I don’t know what comes next, but I have a good idea about what comes after that. NCAA has already found the winning formula for televised sports entertainment. They only need to replicate basketball’s March Madness into a months-long football playoff tournament. It may take another ten years, but I’ll bet that’s where things are heading.

News coverage has focused relentlessly on how the major football conferences relate to one another, after UCLA and USC announced they were leaving the Pac-12 for the Big Ten in 2024. We have been paying attention locally to what will happen to OSU if the UO receives and accepts a similar offer.

Every conference has weaker members who rely on proximity and historic rivalries to stay relevant amid stronger rivals. As collegiate sports transitions to becoming a national entertainment product, stadium ticket sales and proximity to fans wanes. Media money waxes.

We forget that Vanderbilt is a member of the SEC or that Rutgers is part of the Big Ten. Most of their conference rivals would happily forget them too. Television outlets will want more games from top tier teams and fewer games featuring the rest. A double-elimination tournament that lasts for months will accomplish this.

Conference play will be reduced to a few weeks at the start of the season as teams position themselves for the games that matter. The first games will resemble exhibition games, followed by two months of games where the losers go home.

You might laugh at a playoff structure that begins with 64 teams, but only because you don’t think like a TV executive. There have been as many as 40 bowl games that constituted collegiate football’s post season. This will be nothing more than a better organized version of that.

Television executives don’t care about coaches getting only a week to prepare their team for an opponent. Or the cost of transporting equipment across the country. Or the education of collegiate athletes. The entertainments dollars earned and spent will solve all those minor problems, except the last one.

Schools with good teams will play more games and earn more money. Lesser teams will earn and play less. Entertainment dollars will drive every other detail.

How will the University of Oregon fare in such a system? So many changes will happen during the intervening years that it’s impossible to predict. As athletes consider themselves professionals in the Name-Image-Likeness sports economy, they may not consider any affiliation with any school to be important.

Or it may all have the opposite effect. Athletes may only want to be aligned with branding powerhouses that can launch them to stardom. That will favor the Ducks, at least until TV executives set their sights on promoting and televising high school games.


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

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Do We Have Sights Worth Seeing?

August 14th, 2022 by dk

That sound you’ve been hearing for the past week or two is a city of 170,000 people scratching its head. The athletes and TV crews gave high marks to Hayward Field and Track Town USA after the World Athletic Championships. Meanwhile, every resident is asking themselves what just happened — if anything happened at all?

We were warned that every restaurant would be jammed for those two weeks. (I did some of that warning myself.) But except for cheapskates going to Track Town Pizza for free souvenir napkins and a handful of high-end eateries, most places reported no perceivable increases. University and private caterers inside the perimeter fed most people.

Saturday Market had less traffic than usual the first week of the meet. They felt a bump the second week, but the county fair deserves more credit than to the 180 nations represented at Hayward Field. Oakridge and Noti can sometimes feel a world away, but the commute to Eugene was tougher for those coming from Oman and Namibia.

In retrospect, we should have expected the athletes to stay inside the Hayward Field bubble. Elite athletes measure every gram they ingest. They’re not going to splurge on Dana’s Cheesecake, no matter how many people rave about it. Same with their support people, who are often retired competitors themselves.

But what about the fans, who traveled from all over to watch their favorite sport? The first lesson for us is that we don’t really have that many sights that are worth seeing. There’s no Big Ben or Eiffel Tower that tells family and friends back home where they are. We love our rivers and our waterfalls, but they fail the branding test for exclusivity.

The closest thing we have to an emerging iconic image that the world recognizes as unique is Hayward Field itself. Other buildings or bridges or natural features are not instantly recognizable, unless you count Pre’s Rock. But that failing can shape our ambitions, taking a page from our recent guests. We can better ourselves in two different ways.

One tack would be to encourage more distinctive buildings and allow them to grow together. Thom Mayne’s architecture started something with the federal courthouse. Several buildings along or near Franklin Boulevard now use metal or glass to reflect our central river back to us. They seem futuristic, but Mayne was reimagining Agripac’s cannery.

We once needed it to keep this valley’s bounty available throughout the year. The cannery served that purpose and met that need. Now we hope to give ourselves and our guests something else that everyone hungers for — meaningful moments and enduring images. Our muralists have given us a good down payment on this account.

This will offend our West Coast sensibilities, but creating a built environment that rewards visitors directly takes centuries. Urban design would be a terrific hobby if we each lived 500 years. But also know this: Eugene’s land mass is exactly the same as Paris’s. (Eugene is about 90 acres larger.)

A second strategy could pay off much sooner. When people try to describe what Eugene offers that they can’t find elsewhere, it always involves our people. Hayward audiences are knowledgeable. Hikers are generous. Saturday Market is stocked with colorful characters. 

Hindsight argues for a more porous perimeter around Hayward. We should have somehow kept the fan festival adjacent to the event, as it was for several Olympic Trials. We allowed a technocrat from London to decide how to showcase Eugene.

We thought we had to protect the competitors from our residents and vice versa. We now know it would have been better if we’d widened the perimeter and invited everyone inside it.


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

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Griner’s Swift Punishment Carries a Lesson

August 10th, 2022 by dk

You may not know about Brittney Griner or her stardom in the WNBA. You may not care that Russian airport guards caught her with a cannabis vape cartridge in her luggage. You may not believe that a basketball player with a medical marijuana prescription is worth a convicted arms dealer in a contemplated prisoner swap.

I hadn’t really followed her career. I don’t listen to sports radio. I knew that WNBA stars have to play overseas during the off-season to make ends meet. And we all know that Russia has devolved into a police state.

Is Griner a convicted felon or a political prisoner? Putin makes no distinction.

Something altogether different caught my eye when Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. It wasn’t the severity of her punishment. It was the speed. This won’t be a popular sentiment, but we can learn a lesson here.

Griner was detained at the Moscow Airport Feb. 17 and charged with smuggling drugs into Russia. Her trial began July 1. She pled guilty. She was sentenced Aug. 4, less than six months after her arrest-slash-abduction.

Contrast that verdict with Alex Jones, punished last week for fabricating lies against Sandy Hook families. That took almost a decade.

Most rioters who besieged the U.S. Capitol 18 months ago have not faced any consequences.

Anyone charged with a federal crime in the United States waits years for a verdict. There’s a vast difference between pursuing justice and meting out punishment, but our systems take too long.

Crime is reduced when consequences are swift and certain. When cause and effect are stretched too far apart, their connection fades into an abstract concept. We don’t want anyone to be wrongly convicted, and each safeguard creates more delay. How are we to respond when the delays create problems themselves?

Move the argument away from criminal justice and it becomes easier to see its debilitating effect.

After the Holiday Farm wildfires, the most hopeful and determined residents wanted to rebuild almost immediately. Lane County was taking five months to process building permits. Contractors couldn’t give guaranteed bids because lumber prices were skyrocketing. Once plans were approved, they were no longer affordable.

China built a hospital for coronavirus patients in a week, and they’ve done this more than once.

It’s easy to say that’s too fast. It’s harder to determine what’s too slow. I’m asking like a kid in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” Have our approval systems gotten so slow that they no longer serve people’s needs? Justice delayed is justice denied.

Our processes are even more sclerotic for environmental concerns.

Dioxin cleanup at Eugene’s shuttered J.H. Baxter wood treatment facility could take decades. Foster Farms wants to renew a critical permit but they have no plans to reopen their chicken processing plant in Creswell.

Permission takes longer than production.

More flexibility in staffing would allow government to process permit surges without increasing costs. Delays carry real costs.

Citizens must believe that their government works for them. When that faith fades, bad things happen.

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

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University Land Swap: Yes, Please

August 8th, 2022 by dk

The University of Oregon has aggressive plans to expand its athletic facilities west of Autzen Stadium. They’d like to dedicate the Moshofsky Center to other sports and give football a curvaceous new indoor facility and two new practice fields. The renderings offered when the university announced the project in October highlight a clear roof over 170,000 square feet of practice space. 

From overhead, the roof looks like the university’s signature “O” melting in the sun. (No word whether the estate of Salvador Dali was consulted or reimbursed for the homage.) Oregon’s version of college football is built on audacity, and this practice facility will be no different. Recruits are already being wowed by the images. The structure will certainly attract more young talent to play football in Eugene.

There’s only one little problem with the university’s plan. They don’t have enough room. Leo Harris Parkway is in the way. So are portions of Alton Baker Park. The present home for the Eugene Science Factory may also be affected.

These present limitations are bringing the university to the negotiating table. Because realigning ambition will be harder than realigning roadways, the university will replace what’s lost for park patrons, essentially making everything in the area more compact.

In exchange for realigning Leo Harris Parkway, the university has offered the city eight acres of undeveloped land, south of the Willamette River and east of the new Downtown Riverfront Park. The proposed swap could become the most valuable land deal since John Musumeci lured PeaceHealth to RiverBend.

It has the potential to be a win for all parties, especially because the university is willing to think creatively to meet its ambitions.

UO gets a new facility to impress recruits. Parking becomes more convenient for Cuthbert Amphitheater patrons and the duck pond at Alton Baker Park. Maybe the Science Factory can be relocated to the old EWEB headquarters, to the fairgrounds, or to anchor new development around Lane Community College.

Those eight acres of valuable waterfront property will open pathways for Eugene’s next renaissance. Our dream of uniting the city and the university along the river may be coming into view. Should the city expand the park? Will they make it available for riverfront housing, adding substantial sums to the tax rolls? Might the university have seller’s remorse and buy it back when the Knight Campus needs to expand?

The city doesn’t need to know that answer right now. All the possible outcomes are good ones — and very likely to get better over time. Time is a valuable asset, when it’s leveraged properly. For example, the city wisely added a fourth story to the  downtown library for future expansion. The city can land bank those eight acres.

Eugene’s leaders should meet the moment with a little audacity of our own. Now is the time to remind the university and its benefactor about a system that has been whispered since the feds built themselves an audacious new courthouse.

All of Eugene’s riverfront improvements, finished and fantasized, will be improved with a gondola-style people-moving system across the river. Imagine how our own version of the Portland Aerial Tram will look on TV when ESPN GameDay comes to Eugene. Open the Autzen’s parking for students and faculty to use year-round. Then we’ll all feel better about football’s impact on our town’s trajectory. 

We’ve always been a river city, but we’ve forgotten how to tell that story. Eugene Skinner built his fortune by ferrying settlers. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Swap some land on either side of the river, but join the sides together in an audacious celebration of that river and its place in our history.


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

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Stop Apologizing for the Inconvenience

August 3rd, 2022 by dk

How did “we apologize for the inconvenience” become ubiquitous? I’ve pondered that question, mostly so that you won’t have to. According to a Google Books search, “inconvenience” has been steadily declining for centuries. It comes up one-tenth as often now as it did in the 1840s. Meanwhile, “apologize” has recently tripled in usage.

In other words, we’re inconvenienced a lot less, but we’re apologizing a lot more.

The simple answer and larger trend is that we’ve accepted contrition as a substitute for competence. It’s expensive to train staff to do things right every time. It’s cheaper to teach them to apologize with unctuous sincerity. Apologies have multiplied like Tribbles on the Enterprise, but the ubiquity of “inconvenience” takes us from “Star Trek” to “The Twilight Zone.”

Those five words in that order are almost always the same. At first I thought the phrase grew out of our obsession with efficiency. Whatever mishap is being addressed in the apology, a loss of time is almost certainly a factor. Having a single apology for every circumstance is itself an ode to efficiency.

But the phrase presumes that we are efficient and productive with every moment. That’s not true for any of us, unless we work inside an Amazon warehouse. So the reasoning doesn’t quite explain how inconvenience steals the spotlight for every tangled transaction.

Memes develop because people like them. Stock phrases like this one survive and multiply because they offer something that their alternatives do not. I think I  discovered the secret ingredient that keeps us coming back for more.

Highlighting our inconvenience sneaks in a dollop of false flattery. Convenience is prized most by the upper class. Only rich people assume that life will not (or should not) include daily struggles.

A fuller message can be extracted from this one-size-fits-all apology: “The bad news is that we lost your luggage. The good news is that you are someone who prizes convenience above all other things, so we won’t even mention the luggage. Your inconvenience is worth so much more than that luggage, wherever it is.”

The apologizers are using a misdirection worthy of Eddie Haskell. ”Why, yes, Mrs. Cleaver, Wally and I broke that vase with a baseball bat. By the way, is that a new dress you’re wearing?” You’re being served incompetence with a side of cloying obsequiousness. A spoonful of sugar makes the apology go down.

Thanks to constant repetition, the slather seeps into our self-talk. Like it or not, we’re wired to believe anything if it’s repeated enough. We should stop accepting this blanket apology because the fabric of society is beginning to fray.

We assume that convenience is what others want most. No wonder loneliness spreads like a plague. We don’t drop in on friends unannounced. We don’t even call our friends without checking first to be sure it won’t inconvenience them. (Every surprise — even a pleasant one — is also a slight inconvenience.)

Can society survive without surprising little exchanges between friends? We may soon find out, and the answer may prove to be terribly inconvenient.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at He has apparently been watching too many vintage television shows lately.

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Spare Sunday Sagacities

August 2nd, 2022 by dk

Old habits die hard, except the ones that don’t die at all. For the last 15 years, I’ve been offering you Fifth Friday Footnotes, Follow-Ups, and Far-Flung Fripperies. Before that, it was a decade of Quips, Queries, and Querulous Quibbles. Here now, without apologies or improvements, Spare Sunday Scraps, Syllogisms, and Superfluous Sagacities:

• The Downtown Riverfront Festival was lovely. Too bad they didn’t just reclaim it as the Eugene Celebration.

• Checkout people are either friendly or fast. I wish they wore different colored hats.

• President Biden was born before the last four occupants of the Oval Office, dating back to 1993.

• I want to be useful, but not used up.

• My accountant had a wild plan, but I talked him off that ledger.

• How come we don’t use “how come” anymore to ask why?

• I’m lactose tolerant.

• Envy blocks happiness.

• Imagine the bad luck our country would have if the 4th of July ever landed on a Friday the 13th.

• At what point did anyone believe that Donald Trump was hinged?

• How do we keep our own comfort from disempowering our calls for change?

• Don’t you hate it when you aim for the indescribable and only achieve the remarkable?

• Regarding the recent SCOTUS ruling, a confusion: Is it “Roe VEE Wade” or “Roe VERSUS Wade”?

• It doesn’t matter whether you row or wade if the safe shore feels too far away.

• Twenty-three—year-old: “Do you know about TikTok?” Me: “I’m old, not dead.”

• Sadness and unhappiness are not the same.

• I can’t remember my last gambit.

• I don’t always want what I want to want.

• Which cooking utensil do you consistently use the most?

• What would it take for every Internet button labeled “SUBMIT” to be replaced with something less foreboding?

• How did mothers get their babies to spoon feed before there were airplanes?

• With every hook and line, get a sinker free!

• Early adopters aren’t allowed to keep their children forever.

• Anything that stays the same is slowly getting worse.

• Why is my podiatrist’s office on the second floor?

• Life begins at conception and ends at target practice.

• Eugene has more skybridges than escalators. That must mean something.

• Mean girls are average. Same with boys.

• Defense attorneys and copy editors both aim for shorter sentences.

• At a coffee shop entrance: “If unvaxxed, please mask.” Subtext: We’d rather not kill you. This seems about right.

• Our mothers loved us, but they overdid the “stranger danger” lesson.

• Most of us grew up hearing “waste not, want not” or “easy come, easy go.” Never both.

• Track stars obsess over measurements. No wonder so many are measured.

• If happiness equates with stability and sameness, I’ve probably disqualified myself.

• Will the metaverse come slowly or all at once? What good might come if a significant few of us refused in advance to participate?

• I really only want to make a difference. And I don’t mean that in the yearbooky sort of way. Using the last bit of shampoo in a bottle makes me feel accomplished.

• Self-immolation is bad but self-preservation can be worse because it’s unending.

• I had a fever dream that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos combined visions. An electric fleet delivers the Washington Post, Whole Foods milk, and your daily mail every morning before dawn.

• Most of what we call empathy is its opposite — unconscious projection.

• Most utopias are ruined for me by utopians.

• We replaced handshakes with elbow bumps around the same time we stopped sneezing into our hands. We should have changed either but not both.

• Why is POSTED the largest portion of most No Trespassing signs?

• Beauty is not created. It emerges.

• Who discovered the unnerving versatility of “We apologize for the inconvenience”?

• Liberals should fly American flags and welcome the confusion.


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

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Politics Could Learn from Athletics

July 28th, 2022 by dk

Track and Field is a better sport than all the others. Its alternate moniker, Athletics, speaks to the primacy and purity of the sport — it’s really just the athletes doing various athletic things. They don’t compete against one another. They compete together against physics. They aim to upend expectations, defy limits, and redefine what’s possible.

Winning grabs our attention, but training is the core of the sport. Opponents rarely introduce variables that can’t be overcome with discipline and technique. “Stop Pre” t-shirts endure as a joke against this deeper truth. Each athlete runs their own race.

We’re privileged to see what doesn’t fit inside the dominant narrative of winning. The sacrifices made might become background material after a victory, but most of it falls outside the frame. Many restaurants were disappointed that extra people didn’t produce extra business, especially the first week. But splurging is not in Athletics’ DNA.

We watched their everyday actions — a sprinter crossing the street, a shot-putter buying groceries, a relay team chatting under a tree. We witnessed how a severely disappointed competitor completes his day and then begins another one.

Devon Allen stands atop my podium of inspirational losers. He was disqualified from the 100 meter hurdles final for reacting too quickly to the starter’s pistol. Some rule-maker fond of round numbers had decided in advance what was humanly possible. (Isn’t that the point of the competition — to exceed what’s considered possible?)

This round-number rule-maker decreed that all humans require at least one-tenth of a second to react to the starter gun. Allen launched his pursuit of a world record in .099 seconds — one-thousandth of a second “too fast.” He accepted the judgment. Until the rule is changed, he promised to react more slowly in the future.

Allen’s disqualification produced something that was otherwise seldom heard inside Hayward Field: boos. Track fans are primarily exactly that — fans of the sport itself. Rooting for your favorites is fun, but not necessary. Tribes without tribalism — no wonder the sport hasn’t gained a foothold with American audiences.

A new world record evokes hearty cheers, even when it’s earned by a Swede or a Jamaican. Excellence is appreciated for what it is. Marvel at the purity of competition when the only real foes are height, distance, and time. Track fans revel in history being made — to see something that no one else has ever seen.

The sport itself carries that history forward, with its rules, records, and regulations. Athletes and fans fit themselves into that larger context. It gives meaning to the moments. A hurdler devotes years perfecting technique for a task that’s completed in 13 seconds. That’s pure competition, give or take a thousandth of a second.

If only we practiced politics with this same purity of heart! It wasn’t very long ago that our leaders were quick to remind us that their opponent was not their enemy. That each election determines who is best suited to carry the tradition and uphold the vision. That we’re all devoted to our system, our heritage and our country together.


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

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Political Musical Chairs (a summer fantasy)

July 24th, 2022 by dk

Why should Mike Doonesbury be the only newspaper character allowed a summer fantasy? I submit for your enjoyment a breezy beach read about rearranging power and politics. It starts where too many real stories lately have ended — at the Supreme Court. It’s hard not to worry about its politicization — and loss of legitimacy.

We may be bothered — even outraged — by recent court decisions, but it won’t consume us. Chief Justice John Roberts is not so fortunate.

He fought to keep his court above the fray. And lost. He and his colleagues are now surrounded by fray. It gets in your teeth when there’s the slightest breeze. It can ruin your dinner, as Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh recently learned. Activists are mobilizing for flash mob protests, denying anyone a moment’s peace.

Roberts must know that things will only get worse. This desperate spiral needn’t tarnish his place in history, but only if he acts quickly. He has rebuked his conservative associates with words, but not with a singular deed. Here begins my daydream. If Roberts resigns immediately, he can have his own summer fantasies.

President Biden can then replace Roberts, but the dominoes must fall quickly. He should appoint Merrick Garland as Chief Justice, because It’s Only Right. This won’t change most outcomes, but it will change the face of the court. It may taunt conservatives and soothe liberals, but it would also give Garland the job for which he is most suited.

Garland’s measured approach to everything in life could restore the reputation of the court. It would also create a vacancy at the top of the Justice Department, to be filled by someone who knows the importance of occasionally prosecuting with urgency.

Who better to replace Garland than Biden’s current vice president, Kamala Harris? She has the bona fides for keeping criminals off the streets. She could serve her nation best by keeping one criminal away from Pennsylvania Avenue, permanently.

Some will complain that the Justice Department must not be politicized. The bad faith demonstrated by Trump and nearly all Republicans in Congress has shown this concern to be naive. Both sides must play by the same set of rules. “Left or right” must not be allowed to obscure “right or wrong.”

Once Harris is allowed to return to her law-enforcement roots, Biden can claim a mulligan and make a second VP choice. For all her strengths, Harris has not inspired voters and citizens, for Biden’s benefit or her own. Biden should choose somebody who can win national elections. Stacey Abrams? Gavin Newsom? Keisha Lance Bottoms?

Whoever he chooses, Biden should be unequivocal: “This is the future of the Democratic Party, and I hope the future of America.” He should endorse his choice to follow him into the Oval Office. He should not be coy about who or what — only when.

If Democrats suffer the anticipated drubbing in the midterms, Biden should follow Roberts and complete this game of musical chairs by announcing his own retirement. Not immediately, of course, but also not waiting until the end of his term.

If he retires on January 22, 2023, his chosen successor would have almost two years of incumbency before the next presidential election. He or she will remain qualified to run for two full terms. Biden could exit the stage as the bridge between past and future, as he promised. But also as the consummate deal-maker he believes himself to be.

Out of the spotlight for the first time in 50 years, Biden will have time for leisurely lunches. His first invitation should go to former Chief Justice John Roberts. They can watch a better future unfold together. Who doesn’t daydream about that?


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

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