With the exception of two school years (Spokane) and one summer (Burns) spent in the Far West (“Settlement largely controlled by corporations or government via deployment of railroads, dams, irrigation mines; exploited as an internal colony, to the lasting resentment of its people.”), I have lived my entire life – Eugene, Portland, Eugene again, Seattle, Arch Cape, back to Portland, Santa Rosa, and again Portland – on the Left Coast. (“New Englanders [by ship] and farmers and fur traders from Appalachian Midwest [by wagon]. Yankee utopianism meets individual self-expression and exploration.”)
Despite the New York mayor’s assurance that workers on the World Trade Center 9/11 cleanup were in no danger, they have been contracting cancer and dying at startlingly high rates. The collapse of the towers released a thousand tons of asbestos into the air. U.S. manufacturers of asbestos products had already mostly gone out of business, bankrupted by claims of wrongful deaths. During their slide into insolvency, the companies set up trust funds for future mesothelioma claims. The fund currently totals $30 billion and legions of attorneys are eager to take up asbestosis suits. (Our company’s office was in the same building with a consulting economist. Most of his business derived from testifying as expert witness in asbestos lawsuits, calculating the economic loss of a victim’s early demise. He did well enough to own the building where we leased space.)
The town of Yountville lays in the famous Napa Valley wine-producing region, halfway between St. Helena and the city of Napa. It’s home to many upscale eating places, including uber-celebrity chef Thomas Keller’s uber-expensive French Laundry, where the price of a meal is north of $300. (Don’t worry, you can’t get a reservation anyway.) Common folks still miss The Diner, a breakfast-lunch-dinner place with service at the counter or in booths. (The only place I’ve eaten – or even seen on a menu – spicy tapioca pudding.) The Diner closed in the early 2000s; another of Keller’s restaurants now occupies the building. Long before Yountville became a destination for disposing of disposable income, it was known for its Veterans Home.
Mickey Mouse, née Steamboat Willie, is ninety years old this year and Disney is planning a two-hour prime-time special to celebrate. The animated icon hit the big screen in 1928. Today Mickey is the face of the Disney Company, the cartoon rodent worth an estimated $6 billion annually to the corporation’s bottom line. (Disney CEO Robert A. Iger pocketed $36,283,680 last year.) Our Constitution states, “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” It is the duty of Congress to determine said limited time. U.S. law at the time of Walt Disney’s death in 1966 provided copyright protection for 56 years. The Disney Company has shown that enough money for lawyers, lobbyists and campaign contributions can make those limits meaningless.