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

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

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Oregonians Are Sturdy

April 26th, 2019 by dk

Oregonians are a sturdy bunch. During the flash floods this week, how many strangers appeared with a winch, ready to pull somebody away from peril? The snowstorms in late February left many without power for a week or longer, and yet not a single death has been attributed to the storms.

Last month, Jeremy Taylor and his vehicle was stuck in the snow for five days on a desolated road near Bend. Taylor survived on taco sauce, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. I’ve lived in places where people want to call 9-1-1 from a drive-thru lane when they can’t open their fast food flavor packets. Oregonians can live on them, when they need to.

Compare this to other regions of the country. Mudslides in California, heat waves in Chicago, tornadoes in Alabama, blizzards in the upper Midwest — these stories invariably end with body counts. It seems every winter, a dementia patient in Minnesota or Michigan dies from a trek to the mailbox wearing slippers.

Oregonians are made of tough stuff. Volunteers happily do rigorous and dangerous work. Ski patrols rescue hikers in the mountains. Chainsaw gangs clear paths in the woods after a windstorm. Neighbors gather every weekend to remove blackberry roots from a local cemetery. The Owen Rose Garden hosts a monthly work party to keep it looking just so.

SOLVE Oregon has coordinated volunteer efforts to clean beaches and riversides around the state for 50 years. Last month, 5,000 volunteers picked up over 10 tons of litter and marine debris along all 362 miles of our coastline. For many Oregonians, the biannual cleanups have become a family tradition.

The Willamette National Forest covers more than 2,500 square miles of central Oregon, including almost a million acres in Lane County. After the recent snowstorms felled thousands of trees, forest officials came up with a brilliant plan to clear out a good bit of that deadwood.

They doubled the amount of permitted firewood Oregonians are allowed for forage from the forest floor, increasing the limit this year to 12 cords. Harvesters pay $10 per cord, which amounts to two pickup truckloads. There’s no extra charge for the mind-clearing retreat in the forest.

Oregonians who heat with wood and drive a pickup truck know a bargain when they see one, but so does the forest maintenance staff, according to their announcement. “It is a cost-effective way to collect firewood and will help us reopen roads sooner and remove downed wood that could later dry out and become fuel for wildfires.”

Last year, the forest yielded more than 2,000 cords of personal firewood. This year especially, there’s plenty more where that came from. In what other state can government outsource some of its maintenance work and charge anyone with a pickup truck and a free day for the privilege?

Officials caution residents to use extra precaution when traveling forest roads. Snow loads can shift quickly, and road conditions may deteriorate unexpectedly. Bring extra blankets and water. In case there isn’t a winch-wielding stranger nearby to help, keep some ketchup packets in your truck.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Happiness: We’ve Swapped Eudemonia For Bliss

April 26th, 2019 by dk

I seem to have a theme going about words whose meaning has changed since our country was founded, so let’s talk about something that might be more relevant to you than high crimes or misdemeanors (which used to mean failure of duty, not minor infractions.)

If you’ve wondered why happiness is so hard to hold onto, it’s worth knowing that happiness wasn’t regarded as a possession at all until about a century ago. Happiness, to our Founding Fathers, was synonymous with “living a good life.” Happiness was more a verb than a noun. The concept was rooted in a term Aristotle favored: eudemonia.

You may not know that word, but you know its cousin: pandemonium, which means, literally, “all little spirits” or movement in all directions. Eudemonia means “good spirit” or striving for good. That’s what happiness meant in 17776.

So when Thomas Jefferson was writing our Declaration of Independence, he thought he was improving on Locke’s 1689 “Two Treatises of Government.” Locke had his own trinity of inalienable rights: life, liberty, and property. Jefferson knew that property rights were already a flashpoint in colonial America, so he subbed in “the pursuit of happiness.”

As long as happiness was measured as striving for the (spiritual, higher, common) good, all was well. The government’s role was to protect its citizens’ lives, their freedoms, and their ability to strive for a common good.

If supporting the welfare of others was what every American wanted to do, government’s involvement can be very limited. Every American should contribute his or her own eudemonia — striving for good. Jefferson’s goal was to make government as irrelevant as possible to its citizens.

Alas, words change. And people do too. Sometimes people change words, but more often words change people.

Happiness started as an elegant encapsulation of the democratic ideal. If we’re all looking out for one another, no tyranny could ever take hold. We affirmed in our founding documents that we were all equal and together, striving for good.

But democracy didn’t give us rapid economic growth. Capitalism did. So “happiness” was taken over and redefined by the mercantile class, to sell its goods. Everybody wants to feel happy. In fact, hadn’t we been promised exactly that? Wasn’t government required to give us everything we desire?

Property, from Locke’s pen, was self-limiting. It was possible to have too much property, as American soldiers showed King George III. Happiness, at least in the modern sense, is not self-limiting. Nobody ever believes they have too much of it.

This points to a gripe I have with the so-called Happiness Index. What pollsters are able to measure and call happiness is really more accurately described as the absence of envy.

Cultures with less economic diversity are the places where people report more happiness. Rich Scandinavian countries and poor Latin American countries score near the top. What matters isn’t wealth. It’s whether commonalities with peers are keenly felt. That was America once. Today’s America is less happy in the modern sense because we’ve stopped striving for the common good, which was America’s first definition of happiness.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Trump Can Be Impeached for What He Has Failed to Do

April 26th, 2019 by dk

Now that Robert Mueller’s [redacted] report has become available for all [redacted] eyes to see, we can look for ward to weeks or months of speculation about what the report has revealed, and what the redactions continue to conceal.

The president’s detractors will be searching for direct evidence to prove the specific causes for impeachment required by Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution: “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Most are looking for “high crimes,” but it’s this president’s “misdemeanors” that are in clearest view.

To the framers of the Constitution, misdemeanors were not barely criminal actions like shoplifting or jaywalking. In fact, misdemeanors did not represent actions at all. “Misdemeanor” in 1789 meant “failure to fulfill one’s duties.” It meant not showing up for work, not taking seriously one’s obligations.

The definition follows an ideal expressed in traditional confessional prayers, asking forgiveness for “what we have done, and … what we have left undone.” Good deeds purposely left undone were misdemeanors, and they were as invidious as high crimes, when judging a president’s fitness for office.

President Trump makes no effort to conceal his misdemeanors. Mr. Trump has visited one of his golf courses, or played golf elsewhere, 182 times since becoming President. That’s roughly every fourth day since he moved into the Oval Office. His daily appointment calendar was recently leaked, showing plenty of “executive time” when he was in the residence watching television — and very few meetings — on most days.

We’ve had presidents who napped during the day and it didn’t stop the government from running, because the executive branch of our government is staffed with thousands of presidential appointees. Hundreds of those positions have been left vacant by this president, with no apparent intention to fill them.

Half a dozen senior staff and cabinet posts are being filled right now by those who have the word “Acting” in front of their title. Mike Mulvaney was already a cabinet secretary as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, but he is also now moonlighting as Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff. The president is purposely bypassing the scrutiny of the Senate’s advise and consent, which the Constitution requires.

Trump has allowed the government’s longest shutdown in history. He has threatened to close entire federal agencies, and the nation’s southern border — without the support of Congress. He has instructed his Justice Department to not defend laws that were passed by Congress. His Treasury Department refuses to hand over his tax returns, flouting an unambiguous law that has been on the books for nearly a century.

He hasn’t divested his business interests, tempting foreign powers to stay at his hotels to curry favor. He has overruled professionals and his own top advisors to give security clearances to his children and two dozen others who were not deemed qualified. He ignores laws, professional advice, legal counsel, administrative rules, and accepted practices whenever he chooses.

Long story short, he’s less culpable for what he has done than for what he has left undone. No one needs to look behind the [redacted] redactions to see that.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Eugene Should Recruit a WNBA Team

April 26th, 2019 by dk

Is Eugene ready to support another professional sport franchise? Yes, I think so. Our longtime support of the Eugene Emeralds has shown there’s a professional sports audience here. Lane United Football Club has committed to six home soccer matches at the rebuilt Civic Park, as soon as it becomes available.

The University of Oregon’s recent success in football, softball, and basketball has added to the city’s legendary reputation for hosting some of the best track meets on the planet. Hosting the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championships in 2021, we expect our reimagined Hayward Field will captivate a worldwide audience.

Eugene’s bona fides for hosting sporting events are unquestioned, but do you notice anything missing from our current offerings? Only the Emeralds host more than a half dozen annual competitions. Only Lane United fields a team that plays the best competition available. Only some University of Oregon teams play indoors, or feature women athletes.

What’s missing represents an opportunity.

Eugene should gather a group of investors ready to relocate a WNBA franchise to Eugene in 2020. The professional women’s basketball currently has 12 teams. They play a regular season of 34 games through the summer. The closest franchises are in Las Vegas and Seattle.

Portland had a team, but it folded after only three seasons. Back then, each team was owned by the same local NBA owner, but WNBA teams are now independently owned. Oregon hasn’t had a professional women’s team to root for since 2002.

Some of the most successful WNBA franchises are not in major cities. If you’ve never heard of Uncasville, Connecticut, then you probably don’t know the name Geno Auriemma either. But if you’ve followed women’s basketball, you know what juggernaut teams — and a devoted fanbase — Auriemma has built at the University of Connecticut, 35 miles north of Uncasville.

Synergies with collegiate competition have proven more reliable than with local NBA teams. The women play the game a bit differently. Their fans would say it’s better.

Is UO Head Coach Kelly Graves building something comparable to Auriemma’s success here in Eugene? It’s not too soon to begin planning for it. The Oregon Ducks have built the largest fan base in the PAC-12, with room to grow inside the Matthew Knight Arena.

When Sabrina Ionescu announced she would not leave school a year early to pursue her career as a professional player in the WNBA, she made her motivations as clear as a pass off the pick-and-roll. She remains devoted Graves’s vision when he recruited her. She could come to Eugene and help build a program and culture that would continue long after her four years.

That’s the “unfinished business” she decided she couldn’t walk away from — even though she was projected to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s WNBA draft. We can extend the success she’s brought to this town and her sport by moving a WNBA franchise here.

We want to watch her and some of her teammates play professionally, and then those she has inspired, in the sport — and town — they love.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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All Shoppers Need a Better Mirror

April 26th, 2019 by dk

Are you a frugal consumer, buying only what’s on sale? Are you a conscious consumer, rewarding sustainable practices? Are you a local consumer, favoring nearby makers and growers? Are you a used goods consumer, reusing what’s already been produced? Are you a holistic consumer, weighing your options for each purchase?

If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions or a dozen more just like them, then you are a consumer. That’s worth noting, as we mark Earth Week. We all agree that over-consumption is a problem for people, society and the planet. But consumerism is the deeper problem.

Consuming is not at the root of the problem. Consumers are.

If you and I think of ourselves as consumers — of any stripe — then we stand poised to consume. Inevitably, we will sometimes consume too much. “But,” we’ll think to ourselves, “at least we did our consuming in the most [insert self-aggrandizing adjective here] way possible.”

Do you see the problem here? As long as our consuming habits build our self-esteem and affirm our identity, we perpetuate the real problem. We work so hard to improve our consumer habits, overlooking how those efforts reinforce our identity as consumers.

If we think of ourselves first as consumers, what is likely to be the solution to every problem we encounter? Now you’re getting it. Our sustainable, organic, woke, local thriftiness makes us feel empowered and esteemed. Where can we turn when our purchasing power produces more purchasing and less power?

This is our shared dilemma. But because everybody is in it, none of us recognize it. If everybody is in the same boat, our surroundings lose their boatiness. So (deep breath), what should we do?

The answer is, “Almost anything, except shopping.” Dig a hole. Call your mother. Take a class. Hit the gym. Go for a walk. Organize a closet. Solve a puzzle. Be something other than a consumer for a little while.

That’s not to say you won’t be consuming something. You may need a shovel or a shoe or a shelf for your non-consumer tasks. Buying something because of what you’re doing is different from buying things because it’s who you are. Buying isn’t the problem; building our identities around what and how we buy is.

The simplest fix we can achieve collectively is becoming a national movement, organized by PIRG and other consumer-interest organizations. Eight states are currently debating Fair Repair or Right to Repair laws. They would give consumers and third-party repair shops access to the same repair information (and specialty tools) as product manufacturers. Until a few days ago, Oregon was among those states.

State Senator James Manning (D – Eugene) was a chief sponsor of HB2688, along with Rep. Rob Nosse (D – Portland). A hearing was held on April 22, Earth Day, but it won’t pass out of the House Business and Labor Committee this session. Talk has already begun to bring the bill back in 2020.

We should each have the right to fix our own stuff. But our stuff is not what most needs fixing. It’s us.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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No Collusion! Explained

April 5th, 2019 by dk

There was no collusion. There couldn’t have been. Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin wanted to embarrass and weaken Hillary Clinton, but in different ways. Putin wanted Trump to win the presidency. Trump wanted to narrowly lose.

Putin aimed to weaken America and its democratic ideals as much as possible. He knew he could make the democratic world order quiver if not collapse under the weight of a chaotic and acrimonious election.

Trump saw nothing wrong with participating, so long as it boosted his own celebrity and wealth. He planned to keep his day job as a real estate mogul, a television star, and a spokesperson for white male victimhood. He never wanted to live in the White House.

Public testimony from Trump’s sycophants paint a clear picture of a man who launched a political campaign to burnish his brand. He picked his sidekicks as costars in his reality show, never expecting they would have any real responsibilities.

Everyone thought Hillary Clinton would win the race. Trump cast himself as the star of the Washington Generals, losing to the Harlem Globetrotters, but just barely. All that mattered was that the crowd got a good show.

But then something went wrong. Thanks to the Electoral College and Democratic overconfidence, Trump became the dog that caught the car. Trump’s Plan B became Plan A.

Putin’s feigned interest in a Trump Tower Moscow would have to wait a few years. Putin must have snickered at Trump’s proposal of the penthouse suite as a kickback. Trump couldn’t understand that Putin’s graft was on a much grander scale.

Putin may have pretended to like the idea of Ivanka’s spa catering to the ultra-wealthy who suspiciously hang around the Russian Kremlin. It was only fair. After sending Russian cronies to Florida and New York to launder their money with overpriced real estate, the Trump family wanted their turn to hide its wealth from tax authorities.

It was as if Putin promised to sell Trump a condo with private access to all the up-and-comers in the neighborhood. Only after the sale was completed did Trump realize his unit had no windows at all, but shared a thinly insulated wall with the building’s elevator. Trump failed to read the fine print, and had no one to blame but himself.

Which is exactly the opposite of what he had wanted. Trump aimed to narrowly lose to Hillary, so he could blame the crooked media for his underserved misfortune. This is the role he has perfected in the media for decades. It was the role he was born to play.

I can picture him scheming with Roger Ailes and Bill Shine, two Fox News executives fired for sexual improprieties. Together, they could take over Fox News or launch a competing network. Bill O’Reilly, similarly deposed, would be their headline star, after Trump himself.

He must have been envisioning constant access to the airwaves to question every move made by President Hillary and Obama before her, without ever offering better ideas. Indeed, that describes pretty well how he spends his days, neglecting the job he inadvertently won.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Life Lessons: What Would Sabrina Do?

April 5th, 2019 by dk

Sabrina Ionescu, the Ducks’ phenom guard, has collected more accolades than any trophy case can hold — PAC-12 Player of the Year, NCAA All-American, 2019 West Region Tournament Most Valuable Player, etcetera, etcetera. Many of us will be watching her play this weekend, hoping to see her earn even more hardware. But by Monday, the season will be over and we all — Sabrina included — will have to resume our lives. What life lessons can we learn from Sabrina?

Carve multiple paths to success.

Sabrina is seldom the tallest or the strongest or the quickest player on the court, but no player in collegiate history has combined scoring, rebounding, and passing better. If she returns for her senior year, she will likely double the next best player in NCAA history — men or women — for racking up ten or more points, rebounds, and assists in the same game. When Sabrina is prevented from scoring, she simply contributes more in other ways.

Each of us is good at something. Some of us excel at more than one thing. But getting good at multiple things can make you as unstoppable as Sabrina.

Help others succeed by sharing.

Whether she’s driving for the basket or surveying the court for a last-second shot, Sabrina is always watching for a teammate who is positioned well to score. She has a habit of looking over her shoulder when leading a fast break, checking for a teammate who may have an easier path to the basket.

You may have a neighbor or family member who can succeed with just a little help from you. Give them that chance and enjoy the success you’ve helped to create.

Help where it will make a difference.

I’ve watched Sabrina during warm-ups and after games and I can tell you that she never stops surveying the situation in front of her. She uses the same skill to find the young girls who want a signature or a smile and a high-five. She invests her attention where she believes it will make the biggest difference.

Eugene has a rich tapestry of non-profit organizations. Many rely on volunteers and donations. Keep an eye out for how you can help those who are doing the work you care most about.

Do your best, and have fun doing it.

Sabrina is a serious player, but she plays loose. During the rare moments when she’s on the bench, she never stops cheering for her teammates. She even tried scoring from the bench recently. Nobody ever said you can’t have fun and still be taken seriously, except maybe the referee who whistled Sabrina’s infraction against Portland State.

Enjoy the moment, but don’t live in it.

If Sabrina has a single defining characteristic, it’s her ambition. She’s constantly looking for ways to improve, for new goals to achieve. We could use a little boost of that same Vitamin A here. Sabrina may soak up a moment of celebration, but she uses every congratulation as fuel to reach her next goal. Every accomplishment earns you a brief pause in the action, to be followed quickly by, “What’s next?”


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Maddest March Mental Meanderings

April 5th, 2019 by dk

Fifth Friday footnotes, follow-ups and far-flung fripperies:

  • Beginning with storm clean-up and ending with expected and unexpected basketball successes, have we ever had a March together with more Madness?
  • (Maybe the 2016 Pussy Hat Parade, but that was a different sort of march.)
  • During the storms, I wished I was back in school — just so I wouldn’t have to go.
  • Judging from my Facebook feed from a month ago, we really like our electricity.
  • I went to a bad circus. It featured a couple balancing their checkbook, two untamed cats, and a swordfish swallower.
  • If people believe you’ve done something on purpose, you’ll get away with it. Every time.
  • Change never comes easily. “How things are” uses its status to keep its quo.
  • Remind me again how a coin laundry differs from money laundering.
  • When was the last time you saw anything wreak anything but havoc or revenge? (I’ll wait.)
  • When you’ve tried everything and there are no good answers, what you’re probably looking at is a bad question.
  • Chronological bigotry is still bigotry. We may know better now, but we must not conspire to erase those times when we didn’t.
  • Helpful hint: If they didn’t charge you for the product or service you’re using, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.
  • We wanted freedom (from constraints, consequences, and other people), but what we got was loneliness.
  • I’ll die knowing God loves me if I never have to do a book tour. (I’m bettering my chances by not writing a book.)
  • Patriarchal marriage and animal husbandry: compare and contrast. Go.
  • It sounds strange to say it, but pacifists are often activists.
  • “Low aims are worse than failures.”
  • When we made a verb out of “money,” we started monetizing everything in sight. Now that we’ve begun using “adult” as a verb, is that good?
  • The shorthand for the upcoming 5th Generation wireless connection makes the improvement seem incremental. 5G should be only 25 percent better than 4G, right? Not true.
  • All things being equal, it’s good to remember they never are.
  • If the 2020 campaign becomes “I’m mad” (on the right) versus “I’m sorry” (on the left), those who are mad are gonna win. (I’m sorry.)
  • Near-boiling pots fascinate me.
  • Has history relied on war and famine to flush its social toxins, like fires maintain a healthy forest?
  • “Hate doesn’t hurt who you think it does.”
  • British pollsters use better words. A recent survey about one Brexit solution found 60 percent of liberals delighted, 8 percent pleased and 14 percent relieved. Conservatives: 58 percent betrayed, 15 percent angry and 6 percent disappointed.
  • Make your world a little bit better. The world will get better only in little bits.
  • Spring is here. “Hoist the Moist!”
  • “Semi-retired” now seems to mean you have no job and you’re living in your truck.
  • Writers will give you the quote off their back.
  • We should have recognized that subdivisions might lead to loneliness. Who would choose to be divided and then subdivided?
  • Everyone knows that darkness comes earlier in the winter, but did you know it also gets dark quicker? It takes less time in winter to go from light to dark, and vice versa.
  • I thought I caught my blender and garbage disposal conspiring, but it was just a big mix-up.
  • Now that we’re knitting or buying sweaters for our dogs in winter, how long before we decide it’s inhumane to make them walk barefoot?
  • I can’t help it. Whenever I see somebody renting a DVD from a Redbox kiosk, I look at them a little longer than I should, hoping to divine the meaning of their retro ways.
  • We sell stuff on craigslist so we can meet people we wouldn’t otherwise.
  • When robots come for us, first they’ll take control of our money.
  • Whenever I’m beside myself, the room feels suddenly crowded.
  • Anything that purrs seems female to me. Barking always seems male. Am I alone on this?
  • Every society has relied on two things to take care of its elders: family and pneumonia.
  • The future would be brighter if we didn’t have to wait for it.
  • Confession: I don’t know the protocol concerning bathroom stalls for the handicapped. Are they reserved for exclusive use, like parking spaces, or available to all?
  • Next time life seems too ordinary (it happens to all of us), I have two suggestions. Discover a new use for baking soda — that miraculous powder hiding in your kitchen. And replace your bed pillow.
  • Who took the pepper out of my salt-and-pepper beard?
  • I can’t even. (Finish a sentence, apparently….)
  • We all share the same primal fear: To be forgotten, but not gone.
  • Sadness is undervalued. Sadness puts the world in slow motion so you can see more of it, or see it more deeply.
  • Making a mark is harder than making a remark.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Joe’s Candidacy: Biden His Time

April 5th, 2019 by dk

After the 2016 presidential election, I pledged never to vote for another Baby Boomer. Boomers have prevailed in the last seven, almost always beating other boomers. We’ve overstayed our welcome on the stage.

I’m glad the Democratic field includes plenty of young talent. One of them might catch fire in the months ahead. Until that happens, I’m reserving my right to keep my promise in the opposite direction.

Pre-boomer Bernie Sanders might be able to build a movement beneath his candidacy, pitting himself against a Republican candidate who has also shown an ability to energize his political base. Unfortunately for the country, neither has shown much ongoing interest in attracting centrists.

I’m afraid a Sanders candidacy would be foiled by the electoral college. He could win by huge margins in a few large states like New York and California, but lose too many other states by small margins. Democrats have won the popular vote and lost the election this way too often.

Joe Biden, another member of the generation before boomers, might be another story. He hasn’t yet announced his candidacy, but all signs point to him joining the race for the White House for a third, last time. He would be an attractive candidate in the Midwestern states that Hillary neglected before the election, and Trump’s policies have neglected since.

A Biden campaign would be stronger if he did two things immediately that no modern presidential candidate has done. First, he should select a running mate who is younger than 55 — not a boomer — who will excite the activist wing of the Democratic party.

Running mates typically are announced shortly before the summer political convention, just months before the general election. That tradition may have outlasted its usefulness. Campaigning as a ticket across the country for 18 months would break through with a clear message or generational transition.

Biden’s second innovation would strengthen his first. He should pledge to serve only one term and to endorse his running mate in the 2024 election. This will dramatically change the job description for the Vice President, in a way that only a former vice president could do.

Youthful presidential candidates more typically tap an older political veteran as their running mate. Barack Obama chose Biden for exactly this reason, following the lead of George W. Bush picking Dick Cheney, and John Kennedy running with Lyndon Johnson.

Flip that model on its head. Give a 2024 candidate four years of job training before they vie to take that seat behind the Resolute desk.

The 2020 election will involve some very difficult conversations, for liberals and centrists alike. Everybody wants the county to move forward. A new generation of leaders must emerge. But many Americans also desperately want to undo the results of our 2016 election. Many want a do-over.

Biden represents a unique opportunity to rewind, reset, undo the last four years. Only an elder statesman could give the world confidence that America still knows how to correct its mistakes. But Biden could do more. He could prepare us for a brighter future, aiding his running mate’s 2024 campaign by promising to train her.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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Oregon Explores Early Voting

April 5th, 2019 by dk

Should Oregon lower the age for voter participation to 16? The most common argument I hear against the change is that 16-year-olds are still children. That might turn out to be the strongest argument in its favor.

Most 16-year-olds are still in high school and almost all of them are still living with their parents. Two years later, when they reach the current minimum voting age, most of these young people hope to have moved out of their childhood home, either to attend college or to begin their working lives.

When would society prefer to introduce this important privilege and responsibility of citizenship? Shortly after a person has left home for the first time and is completely on their own, surrounded by peers who are in the same predicament? Or while they’re taking history classes in high school, attending mandatory school assemblies, and are still under the watchful eyes of their parents?

Habits that form early are the hardest habits to break. Abundant research shows that voting is like smoking in this way. If you become a smoker while you are still assembling your self-image, you tend to stay a smoker forever, or until some dramatic life change intervenes. The same appears to be true about voting. If a teenager considers him or herself a voter, the habit and self-image will reinforce one another forever.

Will teenagers make mature decisions? Not always, but the chances are better when they are being watched by those who can cut their allowance or give them a failing grade. We don’t seem hesitant to eat a burger flipped, or to accept change counted by a 16-year-old. Supervision allows order to be maintained.

Those who hold jobs pay taxes. Give them a share in societal decision-making. They might not make the same choices as we would, but they will differ earnestly. They may do more research on ballot issues than many older people. Whenever a 16-year-old drives a car, every driver on that road shares the risks caused by their inclusion. Why should society in general be any different?

I can’t think of a better way to revitalize how history and rhetoric are taught in the schools. The lessons and techniques would suddenly seem much less abstract. Citizenship itself would become less a concept than a practice. Imagine how real our school funding debates would become when students still in those schools had a voice on Election Day.

Take it one step further. How many parents of wide-eyed teenagers would suddenly feel an urgency to vote that they hadn’t felt before? They might bone up on issues for dinner table debates with their children. They may vote in order to zero out their own child’s idealism. That would still be more empowering than non-voting — for everyone involved.

Empowerment without supervision is what we should be trying to reduce, especially for teenagers. Watch a group of college freshmen struggling with ready access to alcohol and tell me their habits wouldn’t be healthier if they began when parental supervision was still firmly in place.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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