The Breakfast Table

Unbearable Attack on Ursine Denizens of the Wild

Dear Ms. E:

Your recent invidious remarks against bears cannot go unanswered. You may call them dependent, I call them smart enough to know a free lunch when they see it and hungry enough to eat it. In these moralistic times there are homo not-so-sapiens so blind to their self-interest and so fearful of the dependency you decry that they’ll turn down a free lunch discovered nicely wrapped with a napkin and a small bottle of chilled Reisling on a fence post. You won’t find a bear, however determined not to be seduced into soft ways of living, that will pass up a meal like that. I like those snouty guys slouchin’ and grouchin’ through the woods. My kind of animal, and as for them wrinkling up their noses and curling their toes when they scent a human, all I can say is that it is a far, far better thing to be eaten by a bear than kicked to death by a suburban deer.

On to the burning question of the day: The prohibition of bicycles on certain Beijing thoroughfares. On this one I go with the Commies. I detest bicyclists. In the city–I am referring to New York–they ride on the sidewalks, threatening the safety and peace of mind of pedestrians, ringing their little bells to force those of us lucky enough to have escaped injury inflicted at the hooves of presumptuous ungulates flying in all directions.

In the country, bicyclists are irritating not only because they pose a threat to motorists almost as great as that posed by bull mice–or is it bull moosen?–but also because they look like reformers and better-than-thous in their proper biking tenue, their little bottles of water, purchased no doubt in one of those comme il faut shops for the excessively healthy. I propose an earth wide prohibition on bike riding by any person over the age of, say, 15. Walk or ride but don’t peddle.

I note that Oregon, the state which launched legislation by referendum, has a couple of interesting ones up on the ballot this year. One of them proposes to all but end clear-cutting of forests. According to a National Public Radio report, the timber industry has slipped so far down in importance there that it now constitutes only three percent of the state’s economy and can, therefore, be axed (no more puns today) with relatively little pain to Oregonians.

I sympathize with doing away with clear cutting. Living in a state (Maine) where we have to look at the ugly, stumpy remains after the lumberman’s blade has cut its swath, I have seen the disfigurement. We had an anti-clear cutting referendum on the ballot not so long ago ourselves, and I voted for it, even though the pulp and paper industry is probably more important in Maine than lumber is in Oregon.

The objection to these kinds of referenda is that by their nature they must be so broadly written that they may do as much damage as they seek to cure. Regardless of what one may think about the lumber industry, we need the product. Too many restrictions and the price of construction materials are going to make housing a lot more expensive than kicking up the interest rates on home mortgages half a percent.

Referenda ought to be saved for a few grave questions and not used as a day-in, day-out legislative tool. Of course, that presumes state legislatures legislate and thereby hangs another tale.