Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

simple breaking bread in the AM with Carol Van Strum pulls this writer into yet another focus

Yes yes, as if I need more focus. I have never been called myopic, and I tell almost everyone now that even if we share hashbrowns and eggs, there is a good chance the conversation will trigger in me HOT (higher order thinking) and I will be off to the races, whether just polemics or combo polemics, stream of consciousness and journalism!

You got this piece from me recently, A Real-life Toxic Avenger, on Substack and around the internet:

A Bitter Fog: Herbicides & Human Rights: Van Strum, Carol: 9781732446847: Books

We met at a local restaurant overlooking the Alsea river and Port of Alsea, a tiny bunch of docks. We met because she was coming in from Five Rivers, some 35 minutes away, with her old Subaru to get the brakes replaced. I invited our friend from Canada who I have been working with on that old time religion, Domestic Violence = Here again, on Substack, “Once You Call 911, Your Journey Will Be Long, Challenging and Fraught with Hurdles/ National Victims Rights Awareness week end of April”

So, two women, one from Canada, the other from New York, one 38, the other 82, met because a year ago the Canadian emailed me out of the blue and asked for help to leave her abusive husband: typical domestic abuser, and that means, charming to men, has a college degree, is macho and hates hates women, including his own mother.

Carol took my friend in on her 14 acres, and the dog, and then March 28 my Canadian friend headed out after I got her to a rental car place in Corvallis to Prescott, her last known place as a green card applicant and now she’s a green card holder. Big lab dog, and in a car heading from the Coast of Oregon to Arizona.

The seesaw life of the abused victim means they rarely leave the first time and stay gone/put. This is more than five years of this woman’s life, and it seems as if it — the abuse, the back and forth, even trips back to Quebec and then to Dominican Republic to salve wounds with a friend, and then the make-up sessions with this piece of human stain — defines her now, and her powerful independent life before the abuser came into her life in Guatemala (he’s a gringo) seems a distant memory. History. She had her own mini-restaurant in Antigua, and was there for four years, employing people and was sort of the toast of the expat part of the demographic in Guatemala.

It was a quick catch-up for Carol with my Canadian before she got to get some Chiropractor work as part of the state’s victims’ compensation fund, to include eyeglasses and counselling and other things of that sort.

We’ll catch up with that soon. In a later column.

Portraits of Jordan and Carol

Opinion | A letter a day for 15 years and 9 months

FINDING FRINGE | A mother’s love reaches into the bowels of the Oregon penal system to keep her son afloat

This story is about Carol dealing with a son, mixed race, having to face 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Carol fought the poison sprayers on her property, where dogs, animals, humans and her own children got sick sick sick after the forest service-approved crap was sprayed on weeds growing along ditches some of which had running water.

Dead frogs and tadpoles and sick dogs and sick kids. The story gets worse, worse than some Michael Clayton story, or Dark Waters, for sure:

Yep, her kids were killed in a very suspicious house fire:

….here, from my story on her, A Real-Life Toxic Avenger:

Even that tragic story isn’t simple — there is evidence the four children, old enough to babysit each other, perished in a house while Carol was next door at a neighbor’s house. The fire marshal indicated it was suspicious, potentially the result of arson. Carol has her suspects.

All the legal wranglings have reinforced my chronic intolerance of lies. Ditto the never-ending battle against poisons — that is an industry that could not exist without lying about its products; therefore, it should not exist.

Carol’s life on many levels, including her work to prevent chemicals entering into our watershed, as well as her personal physical and spiritual peaks and valleys, could be made into a movie. I asked Carol what she gathers from these trials and tribulations.

One person can’t save the world, or even see the other side of it. When I was four years old, I set out to see the world — thinking it was a special place like the World’s Fair with carousels and Ferris wheels. After the cops found me asleep in a pile of leaves by the street, my mom asked why I had run away. I told her I didn’t run, I walked, because I wanted to see the world, and she laughed and said, ‘It’s been right here all the time — the world begins at home.’ Lessons you never forget. I can’t save the world but I’ll fight tooth and nail to save this little corner of it.

So how do I go from suspected murdering of four human beings, her children, to something more light-hearted. The weather?

Carol’s talking about how last year there were no pollinators — bees, bumblebees, and other flying insects. Cold snap, then budding and leafing, and then more cold until the valley she lives in had no fruit — pears, apples, plums, cherries. She’s proud of those trees man.

She related just today how the trees are budding, and now one day last week, with a freak storm of hail and snow, a bumblebee was stunned in the snow. She inspected it, saw it move just a bit, and she then went to the old house, returned with lettuce leaves and made a tent.

“Well, when I returned an hour later, the bumblebee was gone. I hope it survived.”

The frogs were out two months ago with a warm period. Then the cold, hail, atmospheric rivers, and the rare snows all over the place. Carol related that in her old house she found a frog, attempted to capture it, but it went to the wood pile. She didn’t want to squash it.

She made a sign: “Please be very careful of the frog in the wood pile.”

We joke about how her little slice of heaven, like Walden Pond, is a microcosm of the world at large: insectpocalypse and the shifting of weather, local climate and growing conditions.

Bees struggle to survive Oregon's winter - The Columbian

Of course, we talked about her own battle with an abusive husband, who wanted to take everything from her when she was in her 40s during the divorce. Her lawyer, which she could not afford, stated: “What’s more important to you? Getting some of the assets or your children?”

She fought for those kids and ended up with nothing, but the kids, everything. That is another pathway old people like Carol have put up with.

We also talked about those neighbors, on plots of land, near her place. Aging in place, and as those in Carol’s world aged, as bones and muscles degrade, no matter how much exercise they get, they are vulnerable. Many women are living alone out there in Five Rivers:

Five Rivers, Alsea Basin, Oregon |

I did a story on a Waldport scientist working on watersheds, on salmon river-creek restoration. Near Carol’s place: Fish Do Grow on Trees

Tidal wetlands are important habitats for salmon and a diversity of other fish and wildlife species. They also trap sediment, buffer coastal communities from flooding and erosion and perform other valued ecosystem services. — Hayduk

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Age, man. I talked with an urban planner when I was getting my master’s in urban and regional planning. We looked at cohorts and population growth graphs. How a place like Boulder, Colorado, where the hippies hit it in the 1960s is now what, ten times the population of 1950:

And boom it did. The 1950s were a period of rapid growth. Federal census figures in 1960 proved that in one decade–from 1950 to 1960–Boulder nearly doubled its population figure of 19,999 to a new one of 37,718. Boulder’s population in 2023 is estimated to be 106,213, covers city area of 27.366 sq mi.

That’s it, man, you can’t stop the flow, and alas, that population growth is not just young and boomers coming in. But speaking of the boomers, she said in California on planning committees they (those in their 20s and 30s) never talked about planning cities and communities for this, you know, Boomer boom: 65 years and older. People in their 70s and 80s.

Not that cities are not designed for old people, disabled, but there were no national planners and politicians and law makers looking at AGING in place in the 1980s, or looking at the reality of families atomized, and old people losing spouses, and those as couples, getting old, but still dangerously vulnerable.

Carol has plethora of stories about her sisters, her friends and her neighbors. In fact, Carol is alone, but recently took on a guy, Todd, who is hitting close to age 60, living on a spit of land on her property, in a non-running RV. He is working his ass off helping the older folk with odd jobs, roofing, broken pipes, weeds, wood cutting, all the stuff that happens when you live in the woods.

Many many sad stories came out of our breakfast. One of her sister’s fell off a ladder with her wheelchair bound husband inside the house while his wife was checking on a leak. He called 911, and she was knocked out, and a month later, she was rushed to Seattle (Ellensberg is where they lived) to the same place at another hospital where her husband was being treated for his cancer.

Or one lady who was active and then had to have a hip replacement. The operation failed, her hip seized up, she got a huge cyst around the replacement hip, and alas, the insurance company said the hip was defective, was out of date, and that a new hip would have to come from the same company with a representative of the hip company in the operating room.

She ended up with lung cancer — she was a non-smoker and did not work in factories — a cancer directly caused by chromium which was part of the original hip, defective, which leeched chromium into the blood.

Story after story. This in this society where families do not stick together, where aging is hush-hush, and where the leaders of the society despise the poor, weak, vulnerable.

Carol joked about the robbers in the senate and congress, how they are taken care of for life, that is, with health care, the Cadillac version. We talked about how there should be an age limit for those vying for President (I am against presidents, against this system, definitely want a parlimentary system for this disjointed country, and I want capitalism go the way of the girdle).

She laughed about toilets, because she lived without one for years in this homestead: “I wonder how many toilets are in the White House?”

[The White House has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence. There are also 412 doors, 147 windows, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators.]

And that other shithole of criminality? [Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.]

Let the people shit in outhouses, and now that the wasps and bees and other insects are gone, beware of the lurking spiders.

[Photo: In the 1980s, Jordan Merrell often played in the wilderness near his home, located in the Siuslaw Forest in Lincoln County. Jordan was adopted by Carol Van Strum and husband Paul Merrell when he was days old in 1979. (Photos courtesy of Carol van Strum)]

Yep, aging, domestic violence and the criminal injustice system. Carol mentioned a fellow who went to Berkley Law school. That final constitutional law exam, from a quirky professor, demanded an essay on Defining Justice. Three hours of sweating some of the students went through. Her friend answered the prompt in six words:

“Justice is the aesthetics of control.”

He got an A. The fellow ended up working with the EPA, and alas, we don’t make those people anymore.

Such stream of consciousness. And what is justice? To the legal profession it is a set of rules and edicts and legislated dictates and codes written to, darn, protect property and to protect the powerful.

justice (n.)

mid-12c., “the exercise of authority in vindication of right by assigning reward or punishment;” also “quality of being fair and just; moral soundness and conformity to truth,” from Old French justice “justice, legal rights, jurisdiction” (11c.), from Latin iustitia “righteousness, equity,” from iustus “upright, just” (see just (adj.)).

Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. [“The Federalist,” No. 51]

Meaning “right order, equity, the rewarding to everyone of that which is his due” in English is from late 14c. The Old French word had widespread senses including also “uprightness, equity, vindication of right, court of justice, judge.” To the Greek philosophers (Plato, Aristotle) the notion was of each thing in its proper sphere or serving its proper purpose; inequality of aptitudes and outcomes was implied.

In English c. 1400-1700 sometimes also with a vindictive sense “infliction of punishment, legal vengeance.” As a title for a judicial officer, c. 1200. Justice of the peace is attested from early 14c. To do justice to (someone or something) “deal with as is right or fitting” is from 1670s. In the Mercian hymns, Latin iustitia is glossed by Old English rehtwisnisse. (source)

The reality is that we matriculate way too many lawyers annually; judges are corrupt and disconnected to reality; and the god-given life-time appointments of those SCOTUS criminals is also a bastadization of what the truism of “do the right or fitting” thing.

We are in predatory capitalism, all upheld by laws, by a library’s worth of dictates and codes and rules and precidents, etc. The reality is we are in a Criminal Injustice System, where privatized prisons are the rule, where there are not enough by a factor of 5 defense lawyers, and where $2000 an hour lawyers do win, do draw out case for years, even in class action suits.

The rich make the laws, and that in itself is injustice.

Up is down, wrong is right, war is peace, and lies are history.

Money money for health care? Sy Hersh is just pissing in a pool, as there are many trillions of drops in this corrupt bucket:

The Ukraine government, headed by Volodymyr Zelensky, has been using American taxpayers’ funds to pay dearly for the vitally needed diesel fuel that is keeping the Ukrainian army on the move in its war with Russia.

It is unknown how much the Zalensky government is paying per gallon for the fuel, but the Pentagon was paying as much as $400 per gallon to transport gasoline from a port in Pakistan, via truck or parachute, into Afghanistan during the decades-long American war there.

In one ear, out the other for the average Americano. There are no true liberal arts in education, so where are we now with defining or know what is “justice”?

We coursed through other topics, like a guy I knew, Novick, Steven. Carol’s kids stayed at Steve’s parents’ house, and his brother watched the boys while Carol was in Eugene fighting for her other son, Jordan, from the possibility of incarceration he eventually found himself in. Steve’s family was from Brooklyn, and ended up in Mendocino, CA, where she also lived close by to.

I worked with Novick in Portland on some of the houseless issues. Here is a weird article about Novick and Uber (that son of a bitch ompany).

A new book about Uber contains a dramatic account of the night the ride-hailing company invaded Portland—featuring a furiously obscene Steve Novick.

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, by New York Times reporter Mike Isaac, contains several passages featuring the tech giant’s defiance of Portland City Hall in December 2014. In one chapter, excerpted by National Public Radio, Isaac describes the evening when Uber’s diplomatic liaison, David Plouffe, called Mayor Charlie Hales and Novick, the city commissioner running transportation, to tell them the company would operate in defiance of Portland’s rules for taxis.

Isaac describes Novick’s fury.

“Mr. Plouffe, announcing that you’re going to break the law is not civil,” he said, his hook digging into the mayor’s desk in frustration. “This is not about whether we should have a thoughtful conversation about changing taxi regulations. This is about one company thinking it is above the law.”

Now, the two sides found themselves at an impasse. “Get your fucking company out of our city!” Novick yelled into the speaker phone. Plouffe, the charmer, was silent.

That account both reflects and subtly differs from what the key players told WW about the Dec. 4, 2014 phone call. Read WW‘s contemporaneous account of the call here.

Portland officials eventually relented and allowed Uber to legally operate in the city. In 2015, Hales and Plouffe appeared together onstage at TechfestNW for a conciliatory panel interview.

It’s a NYT writer? Everything about the New/Jewish York Times is scum, and alas, I liked Novick, a Jew himself but up against these criminal companies, like Uber, et al. (source)

But The New York Times later revealed that Uber had used a software called “Greyball” to help its drivers evade city regulators while it defied Novick and Hales.

Novick told WW today:

“My tombstone should probably read: ‘He should have stuck to his guns against Uber.'”

Small world, no, me barely in Lincoln County since Dec. 2018, then having my own column in a weekly, covering interesting people, and here I ended up with Carol writing two stories about her, and then, now, in 2023 we’re talking at Salty Dog’s with our eggs and hash and coffee, contemplating these six degrees of separation.

I’m not sure if Carol understands why I’m a communist, and certainly not THAT kind (haha), but she is anti-authority, anti-corporate mentality and she lives what many people would consider off the normal path. Eighty-two, major heart surgery a few years ago, a reader, thinker, and such a positive perspective on her life.

I’ll continue with this sort of Substack personalized leap-frogging from critical global issues — climate chaos, death of pollinators, misogyny, supremacists, patriarchy, racism, incarceration, and domestic violence.

All on that plot of land, where Carol is raising 15 chicks to be egg layers, where she has two dogs, donkeys and a hell of a perspective on Walden. Oh, that small world, no?

Opinion | Ripples of Walden Pond on an Oregon tidewater/ FINDING FRINGE | A traveler and a writer, Wallace Kaufman is a naturalist at heart

Haeder: We called your place your own Walden Pond. Can you elaborate on what that means, since Thoreau covers many aspects of humanity, nature, spirituality and life and ecological forces in the book “Walden”?

Kaufman: Thoreau said he went to Walden Pond to shed the diversions and distractions and surpluses of community life and think more deeply about life and to find “higher laws” — the goal of the English Romantics before him and of his friends in the Transcendental movement. He never found the higher laws, but he was sure he saw them expressed in the world of the pond. Same here for Poole Slough and its forests and marshes. My variant may be that I spend more time looking at this world through the lens of science rather than through personal revelation, which I distrust.

Again, I’m flipping my own script against scientism, against those dogmatic Darwinists, those goofball climate green weenies, and against all that science for capitalism’s sake which has given us death by 10,000 bad products, bad chemicals, bad ingredients, bad air, soil, water, oceans. Yep, science is not my litmus test. Seeing Walden Pond is seeing beyond the water, beyond the indicator species, past the apex species, beyond all layers of muck below the pond. Know all of those biological systems, for sure. Seeing the pond is seeing the enlightenment and spiritual soul of self in the reflection of the water. What about those who came before Puritans and Pilgrims? Native People’s relationship to the pond? The wolf’s relationship to it? And, what about the beaver who actually constructed it?

Oh, I know epigentics, and oh, I know trauma, PTSD . . . oh, I undestand adverse childhood events and their relationship to adulthood. Oh, indeed, we can see the world from many lenses, and this one hour respite with two friends who had nothing in common until they met, until my Canadian friend was with her a day on her property as a safe house from an abuser, says so much more than, believe you me, a semester jam-packed with intellectuals and Brave New World and Farenheit 451 animal farm sort of lord of those flies 1984 background noise.

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