Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Ultimate Don't-Go-There

The only time I ever wrote the Oregonian a letter as a reader, was when the Edge column had a joke about a new TV series starring Woody Allen called "Just Shoot Mia". You don't do that. I don't care if this is here and they were in New York. I don't care if there is absolutely zero chance that someone will act on it. You don't put anything out there involving the killing of a living individual. I repeat it here because the situation is long over, but back then it was in the news a lot. Let me break this down for you. Okay, never mind that the Oregonian was publishing something in the Edge that was completely not funny - they do that a lot. It doesn't help that it was a stupid little pun - I have long advocated prison time for puns - but that's not worth a letter. It wasn't even that this was a joke based on domestic violence. Sure, that's reprehensible, but that was not my reason. The absolute don't-cross-this-line that they crossed was putting a living individual's future killing into the media. Editors should have more sense. Everyone should have more sense. You don't do it. That is why I am even more pissed off about this new film featured on the Drudge Report. I don't even want to repeat the plot but this is so far over the line that you can't see the line looking back with the Hubble telescope. This is wrong, and whoever made this film is an absolute lowlife.

Katrina, Katrina

If you get a chance to see Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" about New Orleans, you might want to skip it. Just stick to the photo opportunities and speeches from President Bush with the CNN anchor in the bathroom. Just tell yourself you already understand this story. Heck, most Americans followed it closely as it was happening, with the exception of the officials at Homeland Security, FEMA, and the White House. It was fairly obvious to TV viewers that a storm that nearly filled the Gulf of Mexico could present some challenges. We knew what was going on, rght? Of course, our criminally negligent President was on brush duty at the ranch, and though he had the information he needed, it didn't set in, or perhaps he just didn't care. Who knows what was going on in his "brain", but what happened in New Orleans was there for the world to see, live on television. Eventually, as the famous story goes, aides made a special DVD presentation to try and get through to the leader of the free world. It was the defining moment of the Bush administration here at home. You had a group that exists to spin and shape events through the media, with little interest or ability in governing, and it finally met up with something that could really spin. Katrina peeled back the fake facade of this presidency like it was a thin tin roof, exposing the incompetence for all to see. There is a certain strange karmic justice in all this. The White House has been the most deceitful, soulless, manipulative place in America lately, so why not have it exposed by one of the most genuinely soulful places on earth? New Orleans paid a horrible price, but at least it accomplished one thing: It called bullshit on this whole jaded group of mediocre phonies who are pretending to govern this country. This was their moment to show America their leadership chops and it took them a bad 4 or 5 days after Katrina hit, even to realize the problem. One CNN anchor in New Orleans said she had a 26-year-old production assistant put together an intel folder, and it was much better than the intel of the federal government. This was an unbelievable disgrace and a mind-boggling display of criminal-level screwing up. And please don't write in to try and spin this as the failings of a mayor and a governor. When a hurricane hit New Orleans during the Johnson administration, he was down there with a flashlight telling the people their President was with them on the ground and that he cared. Bush flew over in his airplane, never even beginning to engage until the White House finally realized how badly federal officials were being hurt. Such a genuine concern. Then it was off to New Orleans with the temporary lights and the speeches. Really, don't supporters get tired of defending this knuckle-head? Oh well.
The reason you might want to skip Spike Lee's film is that it vividly brings the consequences of the President's inaction home. You hear from individuals who survived the hurricane only to lose family days later. They watched mothers, neighbors, etc... die slow agonizing deaths waiting for help. One man describes making it to the convention center after the storm and then slowly watching his mother die in front of him over the course of several days. Katrina is going to be a mark of shame for this country for as long as America is around. It was an opportunity to show the world how good we are at handling a crisis. How good we are to each other. Instead we left our fellow citizens to die slow deaths in a major city in the United States for want of a drink of water and some food, while the President cleared brush on his ranch and played air guitar at a political rally. The same CNN anchor said she realized how bad it really was when, after the convention center had finally been evacuated, she did a live remote from outside. There was a body lying there on the sidewalk. Two days later they came back. The body was still there. We left these people to die and then we left their bodies to rot. And a year later, many of the survivors still need basic help. Yes, this Spike Lee film is something you should watch. It's certainly going to be there for future generations to see. Still I'd advise you to skip it. It's not exactly your feel-good hit of the year.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Darkness on the Edge of Town

Jack Bog's server has apparently been hacked. I don't know how bad the damage is to his archives but it does not look good. This blog world comes with a whole host of new problems. What we have here is one of the most serious. The immediate nightmare is that the energy Jack could be spending entertaining us, must now be spent dealing with this. Still, they can't destroy the future, and the past may yet be retrieved. Either way, it's a ball-cruncher. Good luck as always, Jack.
Jack Bog's Blog - Hacked! (maybe)

Donald Rumsfeld and the Lessons of History

Now we're getting to the annoying part. Donald Rumsfeld has given a blistering speech to the American Legion, saying that Bush critics aren't taking the threats America faces seriously enough. You know, sort of like the way Donald Rumsfeld didn't take the threat of an insurgency in Iraq seriously enough. He also compared Bush critics to those who tried to appease Hitler before World War 2. Of course, if Donald had been in charge, he would have tried to defeat the Nazis with too few soldiers and no post-invasion plan. Yes, it turns out what went wrong in Iraq is our attitude. The fact that it has taken longer than World War 2, and that things are getting worse instead of better, is not Donald Rumsfeld's fault. It is our fault for being so critical. 20,000 young Americans with horrible wounds? That's because liberals whined. Nearly 3,000 soldiers killed, many not actually fighting but just driving around? It's our lack of resolve. The fact that the war plan was so screwed up that the country it helped the most was Iran instead of America? This is not Donald's responsibility, either. See, the problem here is the people who pointed out how screwed up the situation is - not the situation itself. The Bush team does not play the accountability game. Not when they can spin the story and deflect the blame somewhere else. You know, I admit it. Maybe I am at fault here. After all, I didn't attend a single planning meeting for Iraq. I left this thing completely in the hands of the Bush team - a bunch of chicken hawks or men like Rumsfeld who never served in combat. What was I thinking? You can tell they're not up to it. They just seem a little too eager to hype what they're doing. It must be exciting for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to make the World War 2 analogies. It brings to mind those great war movies like "The Longest Day". Only this movie will be called "The Longest Presidency", starring George W. Bush, the familiar tale of the bumbling son. See, one other thing America did back in World War 2, was put the right people in charge - people like Dwight Eisenhower. If you're going to wage a war, why not get actual warriors? Not people like Dick the Quail Hunter Cheney. Fortunately for the Free World, incompetent Washington infighters like Donald Rumsfeld weren't given a chance to screw up World War 2. That's why we won. But now he's screwed up Iraq which means it's our fault. Donald Rumsfeld might not know how to run a war, but he definitely knows how to run his mouth.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Popular Mechanics and Building 7

Popular Mechanics has jumped into the fray of the 9/11 debate. I heard one of their people on a radio link and an interesting point really jumped out. First of all, you realize this debate could be settled in a day if the government just released the evidence it has, especially the videos of whatever hit the Pentagon. They know they have a problem with the public and there is no reason why they would want 1 in 3 Americans believing that the government was involved. The only thing I can think of is that they want it as a distraction to keep us from pondering something else. But that doesn't make sense because they did release a few frames from one of the videos, so they are feeling the pressure. Those frames turned out to be inconclusive, so where are the other videos seized shortly after the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon? Why won't they put those out there? Next we have the Popular Mechanics argument that the reason Building 7 collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11 was because something like 25% of the base had been gouged out that morning. Even though there were other buildings between 7 and the towers - buildings that were damaged from falling debris and fire, but didn't collapse. The interesting part is that Popular Mechanics claims to have been shown pictures of the damage to the base of Building 7 - pictures the public hasn't seen.
Wouldn't it be the right thing to do to show the public these? Can't we get to the bottom of this for the sake of the nation? One other point about the original PBS documentary where Larry Silverstein, who just acquired the buildings several months before 9/11, uses the term "pull" in reference to Building 7. The Popular Mechanics guy said that they could find no examples of using the word "pull" in the demolition industry to mean take down a building. They conclude Larry was saying "pull the firefighters", even though it is also reported there were no firefighters in Building 7. Okay, I've read that a construction worker uses the term "pull" to mean using explosives to bring down another building in the exact same PBS documentary. What's going on here? Why is the government not eager to dismiss these theories by releasing the evidence? It doesn't make sense unless......
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So How Else Did the Gig Go?

The lead singer and the bass player of Poison got into a fight on stage. Although there have been plenty of punches thrown in the long history of rock and roll, you don't often get it out on stage on video. Let's hope this doesn't poison the atmosphere for the rest of the tour. I guess every rose has a thorn. Poison members involved in onstage fight - breakup? � Heavy Metal Addiction

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tram Planning: A Tale of 2 Cities

Here's a couple of different emergency systems for when a tram car becomes stuck. The first two pictures are from New York during the Roosevelt Island Tram rescue.

Next we have a picture of the Portland way.

You know those press conferences where some official drinks the water to try and prove it's safe? How about our City Council demonstrating this rescue system for us? I mean it's their plan, isn't it?

Coffee and a Good Tag Line

I had a lively chat with these guys in my local coffee shop this morning, and it put things in clearer focus - along with the double Americano I was drinking. I mentioned that, for the first time ever, I had actual anxiety dreams about writing comedy last night. It's so ridiculous. I reacted by waking up early and banging out some jokes, and - no surprise - their comedic engine is rage. I admit this has worked in the past, but I'd prefer a world where creative, silly material seems appropriate. That is not the place we live in today: "It's the anniversary of Katrina and the sad part is to get President Bush interested in going back to New Orleans, the White House had to tell him it was Mardi Gras." Now, I rarely go with my prepared material at these talks, but I laid that one on them in a conversational flow, and not only didn't they laugh, but I could see they half-thought it was true. That's what is wrong with President Bush. This is the darkest comedy in history, and he's such a joke that it's hard to contrast his own ineptitude with real humor. See, it has to be fun on some level. Dan Quayle was gold because he was a benign form of lightweight. I know, I know. He looks a lot smarter now, compared to this clown, plus he was VP and it wasn't as grim. There was no way Bush's Dad was going to let Dan Quayle near anything - much less take a starring role like Cheney has. I mean just consider Cheney. The most amusing thing he's done from a professional comedy point of view was shoot someone in the face with a shotgun. Think about that as a visual. Oh well. The galling part of this is that if our leaders just governed and stopped trying to spin their way through life, these last few years could have been so constructive. That's what the Katrina anniversary also marks: The time Bush and his pathetic team tried to out-spin a Category 5 hurricane. We all got to see how little game they really have. Suddenly other parts of their program looked different, especially the War on Terror. That featured even more spin - whole wars full of spin. Wow, we have really lowered ourselves, and it is so stupid. Terrorists should be a gnat on the nations of the world and we're elevating them to the story of humanity. It's crazy. We are showing them way too much respect, and allowing them to change us way too severely. You realize, of course, that terrorism didn't start on 9/11? Why should that be the gigantic turning point, unless those in power are using it for their own sick agendas? Even then, it doesn't begin to explain our bizarre meltdown as a nation. President Bush and his team of screw-ups only really fit in some kind of End Times scenario. They act like it's their mission to bring the world down. They're rushing ass-backwards toward our possible demise, while they and their bewildered supporters brag about how terrific it's all going. As I finished my coffee and headed for the door, I opened my mouth to say something, hoping that a decent line would come out. That's the area that I sell. I just let my mind run free and write it down. I was carrying the Oregonian and I gestured to it and said, "This isn't a newspaper. It's a suicide note from Western Civilization." Time to write more comedy. I'm ready.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tram Safety Plan Poorly Received

No sooner did the Sunday Oregonian do a story on tram safety than a bunch of Portland-haters made fun of the plan. They claim that exiting a tram car on a rope from 175 feet up sounds a little crazy, especially if it's at night in bad weather. They bellyache that a project this expensive should have a better method of dealing with one of the cars getting stuck. After all it did happen on the Roosevelt Island Tram, didn't it? I say this is a knee-jerk reaction and these whiners haven't given our plan much of a chance. How would it really look?

Okay, let's imagine you're going out to dinner from one of those nifty million-dollar condos in the South Waterfront district, but you want to make a quick trip up to OHSU to check on one of your patients. On the way there, the tram gets stuck. Something goes mechanically wrong with the actual car so all the backup motors don't matter. Relax! The operator just throws the rope out the door and you're on your way. Okay, you might be a few minutes late for your dinner reservation, but you'll sure have a fun story to tell when you get there.

Rumsfeld Claims He Is Not Santa Claus

When Donald Rumsfeld told reporters recently that, "I'd love to be Santa Claus - I'm not", it set alarm bells ringing at the Portland Freelancer. Using the standard rule for dealing with a Bush official - if they're talking, they're lying - we began to look into whether or not Rumsfeld really is Santa Claus. What we came up with is this disturbing photo showing, once again, how easily it is for these people to lie to the American Public. In the same interview, Rumsfeld said he doesn't have a magic wand. That means he could also be Harry Potter.

Rumsfeld defends extended tours in Iraq - Yahoo! News

Thoughts About "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq"

They showed Tim Russert's interview of Thomas Ricks, the author of "Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq" on CNBC yesterday. It was hard to pick out the most depressing part but I'd have to go with the author's personal story of writing near a school. He would look over at 3:30 in the afternoon and see the kindergarten class come out, and think to himself that some of those kids could grow up and die fighting in Iraq. This has been a personal journey for all of us to come to grips with, and yesterday I realized I am almost there. I get what happened, I think I know why, and I certainly see what went wrong. The author pulled out a Sam Goldwyn gem when Russert asked him what to expect long-term: "I never make predictions especially about the future." Iraq is now the ultimate problem - a mess so vast that President Bush's plan is to try and keep the lid on for the next two years, and then just hand it off to someone else. As we stand now, none of the results are good. And don't bring up the removal of Saddam - Ricks thinks this could lead to a more brutal version. He said where we are heading could make 2006 look like the good old days. What Bush Jr. didn't get was Iraq's role in walling off Iran, so what we have done has helped Iran considerably - which could be why we might try and over-correct that with another military attack. Ricks said a military man told him Iran had a better post-invasion plan for Iraq than we did. Certainly Tommy Franks and Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as the worst post-invasion planners of all time. There is human tragedy everywhere in this, and right in the center is President George W. Bush. He was our only chance of standing up to the insane aggression of Dick Cheney, and he blew it. There are many horrible things that could happen if we pull out - chief among these would be a really high-energy civil war that could go regional and ultimately lead to Israel using nuclear weapons. I mean we know those exist. Then we could get the World War 3 these chicken hawks insist is happening now.
There are also many horrible things that could go wrong if we stay. In fact, everything that could go wrong if we pull out, could happen anyway. Ricks said he's visited Iraq 6 times and each time he tells himself that the hellish place can not get any worse. Each time he comes back it is worse. Thank you, President Bush. On behalf of all the parents who will lose sons and daughters riding herd on this disaster, we salute you. Enjoy your vacation. And to all the Bush supporters out there, please, have some class. Take at least 10 minutes off before you continue bragging about how good Republicans are at foreign policy.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Time to be Funny Again

I think I'm ready to be funny again. Maybe that's what this blog is for - to process out the rage so I can return to a marketable sense of humor. My big-time late night client has been off two weeks. The radio network has been humming along but August is so slow even the wacky news is affected. Sure, you have the guy with the penis pump going through airport security, trying to claim it was a bomb. What an idiot. That is exactly why I always pack my penis pump in my main suitcase. See? I'm beginning to think in terms of humor again. I was walking down the street last night feeling anxious about the world. This next two months could be chilling. What put it over the top - oddly enough - was the JonBenet case revival. That seemed so absurd and weird, that it made me cringe to think of the human race: Today's forecast for Boulder, Colorado - Mostly Creepy! I hate having to be funny, but it is time. I thought back to my early comedic attitude and here's my conclusion: As you get older you have to have more discipline. You have to take better care of how you live, and you have to force yourself to be more enthused. Some would call this phony and it is, but that is what you have to do. You are compensating for a loss of natural joy, and you have to adjust. It's just like taking calcium for your bones. I thought back to writing comedy in the early days, years ago. I'm going to plug into that attitude again even if it's not how I really feel. That's the discipline part, and if it's phony, then so be it. In these times you can't wait around for a good mood to show up. That's like waiting for a Max train in an ice storm. It's time to be funny again.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Charlie Stanford: Soon It Will Be Phil Who?

One day Phil Stanford could be known as Charlie Stanford's Dad. Come to think of it, to some local club owners, he already is. The columnist and author has modestly kept any news of his young jazz-guitarist son out of the Tribune, and I don't think the Oregonian will come through either. That's a mistake because this is exactly the kind of story we should be celebrating here in Portland. A young man shows great promise on jazz guitar. He seems to be saying something much heavier than his age would indicate. He just got back from a national seminar held in northern California with the best young jazz musicians in America and he was the only guitarist selected. This is a great story. A week from tomorrow - Saturday, September 2nd - he'll be performing at the Blue Monk on suddenly hip S.E. Belmont Street. Drop by and listen for yourself. I even put one of his recent performances on my cable access show, and if his career can survive that, you know he has what it takes.

David Reinhard Needs A Reasonable Definition of War

David Reinhard has got to get a better FAX machine. He's a few days late on presenting the Republican counter-attack on Judge Taylors' decision that came out a week ago. Even the New York Times got there first - questioning the quality of her legal reasoning - and you know how they sit on stories. Of course, it is hilarious that the quote Reinhard holds up for ridicule is the same one the Oregonian featured on its front page, but no matter. The Reinhard position is that giving the President these search powers falls under the Constitution. It's all about what the definition of "unreasonable" is. Of course, the Republican argument for these government intrusions into our private lives, is that we are at war. This also triggers the special circumstances of the War Powers Act. Okay, so how about a reasonable definition of war? After all, we're told we'll be in this one for the rest of our lifetimes. That means these special powers for the President will be virtually permanent. So what makes it a war? Who is it against? What country are we fighting here? Don't you see that once we start declaring war on religions or terrorist cells, there's no end to it? Do we have to lose our rights forever because of the war on obesity? How about the war on poverty? Everyone still refers to Iraq as the Iraq War but what we are doing there is an occupation. The mission might not have been accomplished but the nation state is ours. That's why we're building 14 permanent military bases and a gigantic embassy complex. We intend to stay and run it for a long, long time. Terrorism is real, but this war on terror is a legalistic marketing device, designed to trigger the War Powers act. If we're going to say it is constitutional to give the President the right to override our laws based on being at war, we better have a good definition of war. I would suggest that it include an opponent that was also a nation state. Not just some group. These blustery boomers throwing out their chests and saying, "We're in World War 3", might be helping to compensate for their own feelings of worthlessness, but they sound ridiculous. Did we worry about a doomsday scenario with the Soviet Union for decades, just to have these frat-boy clowns hype a world war? It's shameful, and the scariest part is they can make a real World War 3 happen. So I'm asking David Reinhard what his definition of war is? Could, for example, we lose our rights because of President Bush's war on the English language? The problem with wars against shadowy groups is that they never really end. There's no ceremony like on the USS Missouri after the Japanese surrendered. If there isn't a specific country that we are fighting, than these war powers shouldn't kick in. Remember, Iraq has already lasted longer than World War 2, and now they're asking us to cede these special powers to the President for the rest of our lives. That's unreasonable. That's tantamount to changing our form of government. If this so-called war never ends - the only thing that ends is America.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Family Memories: The International Journalist Brother Gets to Iraq

Do you remember the video of Saddam visiting with his British "guests" - really hostages - in the run-up to the first Gulf War? That was 16 years ago today. It looked like he might hold them as a human shield, but they did make it out before the war started. My brother watched that on TV in Bagdhad. That was also the day he flew into Iraq with the legendary Mo Amin - the TV journalist who broke the Ethiopian famine story, and is credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Of course, that means Mo has to take some of the blame for that "We Are the World" song. Also along on the dangerous trip was John Simpson, still a big-time reporter with the BBC. I just remember my family being on high alert emotionally, and I believe this was the time my mother called the home offices of Reuters in London to find out how David was going to get out of there when the shooting started. Incidentally, Mo Amin is still a legend in the news business, even though he was killed in a hijacking years ago. A lot of David's colleagues ended up maimed or killed. In fact, Mo had one arm torn off in Ethiopia prior to his violent demise. David himself was used in the promo for a CNN special called "Dying to Tell the Story", being chased by the police in South Africa - footage that still shows up now and then. He's running and carrying the camera, and though he got away, it looks like he's about to get killed. I've told my brother to write a book about it, and we co-wrote a screenplay called "Covering It". What a cast. Picture him sitting in a garden with Nelson Mandela the day after Mandela's release from prison. Or meeting Mother Theresa. Or getting arrested in China and elsewhere covering the news. It's a very dangerous profession. My respect level for many of these cable news anchors went way up seeing them covering Lebanon and Israel last month. It reminded me of those years when my brother was bopping around all over the world. Fortunately, he made it out of Baghdad before the Gulf War shooting started. And he made it out of the news business in one piece. It was exciting for the rest of us to follow but who needs the stress?

Hero Time for Oregon Little Leaguers...Again

I just watched one of the more fun baseball games since the Diamondbacks edged the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. Okay, the Illinois Little League team had a few errors and their pitcher, who was laughing it up in the early endings with strikeout after strikeout, ended the game crying for most of the last inning. But the Oregon team made one dazzling defensive play after another, starting with this little kid in right who caught two nasty curving fly balls, either of which would have led to huge trouble. Then this second baseman named Sam Albert took over the game. Illinois had gone ahead 2 nothing and their cocky pitcher was on cruise control. One Oregon batter got on with an error by the shortstop and then Sam laced a smash all the way to the fence. He also had the best strategy in a Little League game: Continue running and force the other team to throw you out. When they messed that up, he was home. 2-2. The Oregon team scored in the top of the 6th on a Little League suicide squeeze, and added an insurance run on more Illinois screw-ups. The bottom of the 6th featured the bases loaded including one kid who got beaned. One run went in on a past ball and with the tying run on third, Illinois hit a hot smash towards the middle. Sam Albert moved to his right like a major leaguer, made the grab and fired to first. The ball was fast and in the dirt but the 1st baseman came up with it. Game over. Wow, what excitement. Now tomorrow my hometown team from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia plays Japan. This could end up with the town I was born in playing the town I've lived in since 1975. I'll stick with Dhahran but this Oregon team made a lot of fans on ESPN tonight.

The Adam Morrison Saying

Okay, I admit it. Part of this is just for laughs, but I think there should be a new saying in Portland: "None of this would have happened if we had drafted Adam Morrison." It covers every eventuality that could befall us in the next 15 years. I can see the T-shirts now. The beauty of the saying is that even if great things happen - if the Blazers go on to win a championship - it still works. It's completely flexible. So that's my new response to every civic turn in the Rose City: "None of this would have happened if we had drafted Adam Morrison." Of course, I see what took place as a tragic mistake. I was repulsed by the outpouring of love for Blazers' management and how they handled the draft. Getting Brandon Roy was brilliant. Passing on Adam Morrison was a disaster. The fact that they could have had both is always going to bother me, as much as I let the Blazers bother me anymore. Adam Morrison would have been a terrific story for this town. In a game that involves scoring, he can score. His attitude is extremely feisty. This would have been a great deal of fun and could have marked a turnaround back to the glory days. My old bandmate Charlie played the national anthem at some of Adam Morrison's games at Gonzaga. It would have been nice having this to chat about going forward. You know what would have been really cool? Charlie playing the national anthem at a Blazers game. That probably won't happen now. Oh well. None of this is to disparage the young man the Blazers picked: LaMarcus Aldridge. I wish him all the best with his shoulder surgery this week. He also had surgery on his hip in college, ending one season, but I'm not pulling for him to fail. In fact if he does great and goes on to be Rookie of the Year, I'll be the first to say it: None of this would have happened if we had drafted Adam Morrison. So good luck with the surgery, LaMarcus!
Blazers' Aldridge faces surgery

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More Backstage at Seattle

It's been three days since the band played Seattle, but it already seems like a long time ago. I'm going to remember this one - this was a classic. Here's more pictures from behind the main stage.

The Band

Meeting Randi Rhodes

Signing an Autograph with the Space Needle in the Background.

Oppostion to Iraq War Grows - President Bush Tongue-Tied

Here's another snapshot of public opinion about President Bush. The numbers are pretty bad. Of course, the President could try and talk his way out of this. The problem with that is he'd have to talk. I don't know if you saw it, but Conservative Republican Joe Scarborough's shows asking, "Is Bush an Idiot?", included a dozen or so clips of the President screwing up, and it really is incredible, even for someone who has been onto this guy from Day 1:

"I've reminded the prime minister-the American people, Mr. Prime Minister, over the past months that it was not always a given that the United States and America would have a close relationship." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., June 29, 2006

President Bush always brings up the long term. Things that look bad today will look golden in 40 or 50 years, or so he says. I think what will really happen is someone will do a huge documentary including all the idiotic things he's said - or at least the best 2 hours worth - and future generations will wonder what the hell we were thinking? The whole generation will look like complete idiots, especially right wing Bush supporters. How could anybody look at this man and decide, "I'm impressed"? Were you charmed by how ridiculous the little language slip-ups are? Folks, this isn't just about cute flubs - this is not Yogi Berra. This man has gotten a lot of young Americans badly wounded or killed. How did you reach the conclusion that he would be a great leader? How could you bet - knowing what President Bush accomplished in life prior to being President - that somehow he would stumble into the toughest job in the world and excel at it? How does that figure? He never excelled at anything so why now? Yet, a cast of cult-like drones is still out there nodding their heads with every decision, talking about how brilliant the man is. It's beyond absurd and way beyond tragic. For watching this documentary decades from now will be a bunch of Iraq veterans, still suffering from catastrophic injuries. Some will no doubt be asking themselves how we let this happen? They were young at the time and full of idealism and courage. This was our call to make. There might even be some of our generation still alive in old folks homes. What will we say if a middle-aged man missing his legs rolls up to us and asks, "Why didn't you see through this? Why didn't you stop it? Why did you let this idiot send me to war in Iraq?" - Poll: Opposition to Iraq war at all-time high - Aug 21, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

Dhahran Little League Makes The News

Well, I'll be damned. I was just talking about Dhahran, and this story shows up. Back in the day, the bass player Mandis was on the legendary Dhahran Steelers Little League team, and then a few years later I was on another championship team, the Pirates. Now, I could mention that I led the league in hitting, but it's time to turn the spotlight over to a new generation of kids. I know Oregon has a team in the Little League World Series, and so does my old hometown, but check out one of our players: 13 years old and 6-foot-8, 256 pounds.
That's right: 6-foot-8, 256 pounds. Could you imagine being the pitcher throwing to this guy? Remember the mound is a lot closer to the plate than the big leagues and this guy is as tall as Dave Parker. If I were the coach I'd just walk him. At least make the pitcher wear a helmet. Someone could get killed out there. Oh well. Good luck to the Oregon team but good luck to the old hometown as well.
6-foot-8 Little Leaguer towers over foes - Yahoo! News

Yes, Joe, Bush Is An Idiot, And If You Have To Ask, You Might Be An Idiot, Too

Better build another wing at Guantanemo. It looks like we have another shipment of Bush-hating traitors to send down there. Hey, why not house them with the New York Times people? That would really drive them nuts. What? These are former Bush supporters? They've lost their resolve and have even begun asking if President Bush is an idiot? What happened to the old line that he's a lot smarter than he appears? What? You can be a lot smarter than Bush appears and still be an idiot? Let's be fair. President Bush is providing a great service for his administration. By being such a moron himself, he's allowing Cheney and Rumsfeld to get away with their twisted plans. Without President Bush there taking the heat, we'd be talking about what idiots the rest of them are, and that would be bad for national security.
Pundits Renounce The President

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Backstage in Seattle - Waiting To Go On

Here's the first of the backstage shots from Seattle. This was after we played, but I was enjoying watching other acts getting ready to go on.

Randi Rhodes in the House.

The ancient ritual of warming up.

I look a little different in my stage costume.

The Gig In Seattle

I'm going to start this off with the first official Portland Freelancer blogging tease. Something is happening to one of my buddies in the music business, and I am under strict orders not to elaborate, but it is beautiful. I mean it brings a tear to my eye. While the Oregonian has been following Storm Large, who I'm totally behind by the way, I've been tracking this. Stay tuned or stay blogged. However you want to say it. Okay, the gig in Seattle:
I've never really talked about the bass player. This is a fairly unusual set of circumstances. In fact, it's downright stunning in a probability sort of way. When I was growing up, my father worked in government relations for Aramco. Another one of the executives in that department was named George Mandis, and one of his sons was named Bill Mandis, although we called him by a nickname that he doesn't want out there. Not because it's dirty or anything - it's just silly. Anyway, Mandis as I'll call him here, was a few years ahead of me in school, and was a hero of mine when I was a kid. His Little League team, the Steelers, was as legendary to me as the 1927 New York Yankees. He became the lead singer of the rock band in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and I used to stand outside their little practice building in Arabia, trying to glimpse the guitars. I knew in 4th grade that this was going to be my path. I mean it was so obvious to me that music was the best thing humans have ever come up with, so why spend your life doing anything else?
My turn to be in a rock band eventually came and my group rose up. In one dramatic audition that still bothers Mandis to this day, we landed one of the main dances in our little trio of oil towns in Arabia. That was the beginning of our glory years as local rock legends, and the end of his reign.
The Mandis family moved away from Arabia, which to us was equivalent to dying. I mean we were partying all over the world, we were local rock stars, we were scuba divers and great spear fishermen. We were living in an Indiana Jones movie in the Middle East, and we knew it at the time. We appreciated what we had, and were all too aware that it would end. We were deeply nostalgic about it even as it was happening. Just before Mandis left, he made it back to Arabia for Christmas break in 1970. We had our band but no lead singer and Mandis performed with us during that incredible time.
When I was 18, I was in my hitchhiking years, eventually racking up well over 25,000 miles. I even passed through a sleepy little town named Portland not knowing it would become home. I also stopped in Eugene where Mandis was going to college and we stayed up till the wee hours recording rock and roll - tapes that exist to this day. That was 1972, and I lost track of Mandis at that point.
Fast forward to 1988. My band had blown up. The drummer was about to go to prison and the wreckage of my life was dropping from the sky like a wounded bomber. I had made one last attempt to reunite the team in Spokane but that was when we heard the FBI was about to come through the door and the drummer turned himself in. I was at a Christmas party in Portland working as a waiter when I looked up and saw Mandis's sister, who informed he was living less than a couple of miles away right here in Portland, working as a school teacher. Once again we began performing rock and roll, and to say it was therapeutic is putting it mildly. I mean think of those odds: We both had traveled from Arabia and ended up living in the same area. Not only that: He had the exact same kind of Teac Tascam 8-track recording machine I owned. So during the worst phase of my music"career", suddenly this boyhood hero is there to continue with the rocking out.
We go on to form a duo. I teach him to play bass, and I begin playing tambourine with my foot. With the added sound we have enough to play actual parties. Places like Harrington's downtown and the Dandelion Pub.
The only stressful thing for me in this process was teaching him to play bass. You have to remember that was my instrument until I stretched out some ligaments and was forced to switch to guitar. So it was frustrating to teach someone who was a teacher himself, but who didn't seem to want to practice and get better as much as I would have liked. I kept at it for approximately 13 years, and then it became a source of great irritation for me, ultimately leading to the end of the duo.
At this point I fell in with a musician named Tim, who is a force in the medical marijuana community. We met at a party on Sauvie's Island and he gave me his CD. I took the rather arrogant step of putting a couple of songs on my 8-track and then adding electric guitar. He liked it and so I was invited to join his band. This was also deeply therapeutic at the time, as I was pretty upset at how the duo had ended. Tim was all about musical courage. We played one practice and did a gig. After years of playing bass and rhythm guitar, I was suddenly in a band playing lead. That was a tremendous bit of good fortune for me.
We played the mainstage of the Hempfest 5 years ago and every year since. It's quite a scenario. Afterwards you walk away and you realize the sound carries something like 500 yards. Around 3 years ago I had the idea of getting my old buddy Mandis and Tim in a trio. Frankly, I knew there'd be tension as both are lead singers, but I was hoping for 3-part harmonies and it worked. Tim is a demanding perfectionist type and I frankly wanted to see what would happen. Maybe this would override my ability to get Mandis serious about practicing. Maybe the pride-rival factor would work into music magic. It's been three rocky years and frankly the only one who really melted down was me. I told Tim to shove his guitar up his ass one night and I regret it. Tim still harbors great ambitions in the music field while Mandis is a teacher. He still doesn't even think of himself as a bass player even though he's been playing for around 15 years. He's a lead singer.
Mandis agreed to play the Hempfest but it's not his scene. He's not opposed to helping someone medically with pot, but the whole stoned hippie thing, is not something he believes in. So it was
nice of him to participate these last three years. Saturday he was not feeling well, but we went up to Seattle, and took it to the stage again. The problem with describing how it went is that if you do great in rock and roll, you attain a temporary level of coolness that can be destroyed by flaming about how great everybody did. I will say we have had some tragic performances. I personally have done some things at that Hempfest that will haunt me. I mean horrific music where I lost my nerve. Fraudulent singing and playing that sucked. Afterwards you walk around backstage and everyone wonders why you're even there.
Without threatening my temporary cool, let me just say that I have never had less time to set up. I plugged into a strange amp and from the first note the band was...I better not say. Remember if you do great, don't talk about it. We also crushed at the second stage around 6.
Between shows I met Randi Rhodes and chatted briefly. She looks completely different than the woman I had imagined from her voice, and I thought she was a lot of fun to be around. I imagine somewhere back in the Air Force days, Randi might have been involved in some fairly rowdy parties. She sure seemed like a live wire, and I like the in-person version a lot. I gave her my CD of the "Let's Leave Iraq" song.
Now we get to the hero time. Mandis and I have tons of old memories to talk about on these long car drives. Being local rock legends does guarantee a certain amount of appreciation from the opposite sex. He even brought some old newspaper clippings from those days including a picture of the December, 1970 Christmas break when my band backed him as lead singer. So this is a long history and a great thread for me in my life. Okay, so we're rocketing along home from Seattle, and it looks like we'll get back around 10:30. I mean we left at 6 that morning so that's a fairly long day. We talked a lot about politics, oil, the Middle East and our fathers who were great men. So we get within 23 miles of Portland. Let me repeat that...23 miles of Portland, when we are suddenly caught up in a horrendous road work situation, that takes 2 full hours to creep through. Let me repeat that....2 full hours to creep through. Mandis had not been feeling well all day and he was dying to get home. The Hempfest isn't his scene or his crowd and he basically does it as a favor to me. This had the potential to be a major guilt trip. Rather than get snippy about the mind-boggling delay, Mandis switched into a very kind of philosophical mellowness that ended when we had finally made it through, with peals of laughter at the situation. All these years later, that struck me as heroic behavior. Seattle was amazing. I got home at quarter of 1. Who cares about the temporary cool? I'm going to come right out and say it: We kicked ass. We were rock and roll lions. Both my amps I used were snarling beasts that sounded like Joe Perry of Aerosmith. From the first note, we were a force, and without overstating it, the gig this year in Seattle validated not only my life, but all that I hold sacred in the universe.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Living in 4/4 Time

I'm going to set aside the cares of the world today and head to Seattle and play music. I could spend August 19th, 2006 worrying about so many things, but I'm going to kiss that all off now. Who knows how many times I have left getting all this gear together for a musical gig? There has to be an end to it. I can feel my arms getting older. It will probably go out in a slow fade but who knows? I remember how much I used to jump around as a kid. I enjoyed jumping over things. I had some hops. Then one day I just stopped jumping up and down. It wasn't a self-imposed decision. These things appear obvious and you don't even mull them over. One day that will probably happen in the music business. There will be no point in seeking out the high, because the high will be faded - if not gone. Certainly the hassle-pleasure ratio is changing even now. There's a day I suppose, as you get older, when you stop being thrilled by anything. But that's for another time. Right now it's 4:30 am. I woke up before the alarm. Why? Because on some level, in some distant recess of my mind, I guess I'm still a little bit thrilled - but not much. Just enough. Soon I will start packing the stuff in the car, and head over to the bass player's house. We will drive to Seattle and get there around 9:30am , hopefully. We will play the main stage at 11 and then roam around till 5 in the afternoon. We will play another stage at that time and then we will drive home, if all goes according to plan. Someday these plans will not be made. Someday I will put these suitcases and bags and musical cases away. Maybe keep one guitar on a stand by the wall. But that day is not here yet. So I will muster what fire I have left, and I will try to go to Seattle, and when the first tune is counted off, I will do my best to kick ass. Who knows? I might even jump just a little off the ground.

Friday, August 18, 2006

9/11 and JonBenet: There's a Lesson Here

One of the standard moves in my comedy writing job is to tie two hot topics from the news together into one joke. If the crowd is already focused on both subjects, then they are very receptive to a connection. It also works with serious subjects and I believe there is one huge potential lesson staring at us from the news these last couple of days. I'm going to compare the JonBenet Ramsey case to the 9/11 investigation, and here is what triggered it. I've been watching pundits discussing their chagrin at the possibility that they might have blamed the Ramseys prematurely. Chris Matthews said he felt one of the things that seemed to telegraph guilt to him was the Ramseys' insistence on being interviewed together by the Boulder Police. It does seem odd. If neither had anything to hide why not just go in and tell the truth and let that amplify your credibility with the consistency? It triggered a memory for me from the 9/11 Commission. First, we all remember how vociferously the White House fought having the investigation at all. Although Bush officials talk about their commitment to national security almost non-stop, they were awfully reluctant to have anyone look into 9/11. Why was that? Certainly our national security depended in part on learning how this happened so we could correct any holes in our defense. When the 9/11 widows forced the White House into the investigation, President Bush and Dick Cheney agreed to appear, but not under oath, and only if they could go in together. I'm sure they had their reasons. I think it would have served the People of this country a lot more, if the same alarm bells that sounded during the JonBenet case had rung in Chris Matthews' head over this. If the media had spent one tenth of the effort in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 looking into that crime, as they did looking into the murder of this young girl, then I believe we wouldn't be where we are as a nation. There are many things that don't add up about each case. If the Ramseys weren't involved how come the ransom note had the exact figure of Mr. Ramsey's bonus from that year? Why was Dick Cheney running war games on the morning of 9/11 that eerily duplicated the actual attack and why did he order our air defences to stand down as a threat approached Washington, ultimately hitting the Pentagon? Wouldn't you like to hear Mr Ramsey's and Dick Cheney's attempt to explain these rather remarkable "coincidences"? What we have witnessed these last few days is a reminder that guilty parties can sometimes go undetected for years. The only difference is that while our media latched onto the Ramsey case and investigated it into the ground, it bought the official story of 9/11, and still does, even though there are a lot more troubling bizarre facts about 9/11. If the Ramseys testifying together gave Chris Matthews a feeling that they might be guilty of one crime, why didn't he have the same reaction when President Bush and Dick Cheney insisted on the same arrangement? Oh well, at least the Ramsey home didn't collapse in a controlled explosion later that same day like what appears to have happened to Building 7 in New York. On the other hand, there must have been some young girls killed in the crime that was 9/11. If we're going to devote so much energy on JonBenet's behalf, we owe as much to their memories.

The Words of a Great Republican

The only thing lower than President Bush's approval ratings are the expectations we have when he speaks. Just watch the faces of his team along the side wall at those rare press conferences. Complete sentences are met with relief. Big words guarantee a lollipop back in the Oval Office. They call this man plainspoken, but that is just another White House lie. The truth is the man's brain is incapable of monitoring what he is saying while he is talking. That's why he rarely catches himself after one of these ridiculous Bushisms. We all misspeak but most people's brains have a little alarm that detects when something goes wrong. Often smart people will correct themselves several sentences after the error. This means even though their mind is engaged in talking, a part of it is still mulling over what has come out. President Bush does not have that. His entire brain is struggling just to speak so there is nothing left over to listen. That is why when he begins to lose it, he immediately panics and you can be sure that he will not recover. His eyes get wide, his team along the wall tenses up, and the cottage industry of book publishers who make a living selling his inane verbal gaffes prepares to enter another classic in their galleys.
None of this is a problem compared to the stuff President Bush thinks. It is the level of his thoughts that should really concern all Americans. We are slipping into authoritarian rule here. We have a leader who has convinced himself that he should be able to ignore the Constitution and the Law anytime he wants. It's intellectually lazy, and mediocre to arrive at this position, but what else could we expect? President Bush is using his power to compensate for his own shortcomings. He is using his time in office to take revenge - to show the world that after all the cruel assessments of his sub-par brain, he is the Man and we better not forget it. It is the perfect marriage: His vast ego is protected from self-criticism by the minute nature of his intelligence.
It was not always so from Republican Presidents. Here is a quote from Dwight Eisenhower. Try and imagine George W. saying anything this profound. Even if he just had to read it, he would screw it up, and when he did he would go right on talking, oblivious to the words coming out of his mouth. Here's Ike:
""If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... Is freedom. In most communities it is illegal to cry "fire" in a crowded assembly. Should it not be considered serious international misconduct to manufacture a general war scare in an effort to achieve local political aims? Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage. This world of ours... Must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace. When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Judge Taylor: Words to Live By

Here's a little excerpt from the ruling today that the NSA wiretapping is unconstitutional. First of all, it's so tragic that this even has to go to court. I mean talk about a no-brainer decision. But the real tragedy is the many Right Wing supporters of President Bush who rushed to condemn the ruling. They're so eager to surrender our pirvacy and rights. They're so trusting of the government to use the new power in only a good and wholesome way. It's so juvenile, really. President Bush reminds me of that spoiled reckless brat in high school and his supporters remind of a naive teenage girl who is weirdly attracted to him. Meanwhile everyone else sees right through him. Their support for President Bush has the sophistication of teenage puppy love. He's reckless and irresponsible and downright mean, and yet the little girl says, "Momma, but he's so cute and wonderful. He clears brush at his ranch!" This is cringe time, people. You're willingness to go along with this guy is way beyond pathetic. Meanwhile everyone else is just holding their breath, hoping you get it together before we lose what made America great. So why don't you stop doting on this mediocre loser long enough to read some words from the decision today. Unlike the immature babble this President churns out, at least this judge sounds like an adult. Here goes: "The Government appears to argue here that, pursuant to the penumbra of Constitutional language in Article II, and particularly because the President is designated Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, itself.
We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no power not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent power" must derive from that Constitution."

Trying to Make It Real Compared to What

I know the moment when I started cracking up, and - if there's confusion by that - I think I mean when I started laughing. I was watching cable news going from Iraq to Murtha to the President and Cheney and this incredibly creepy guy who claims to be involved with the Ramsey case. Seriously, who wears pants like that? I mean I'm no fashion expert, but for the love of God. Is that from the Pee Wee Herman Collection? Anyway I happened to see a headline on Drudge that read, "MONKS BRAWL AT PEACE PROTEST..." and that's when I lost it. I've been chuckling ever since but it's a crazy kind of laugh. If you looked at the news right now, could you prove humans aren't insane? I know, "Insane compared to what?" And I'm just another lunatic because I'm trying to make sense out of it all. For starters, I have no belief in the reality of anything on the news anymore. I have serious doubts the latest air terrorism incident was real. I strongly suspect the official story of 9/11 is a fake. This guy from Thailand is just the latest nut-case in a world gone mad. Was he there in Colorado? How about his ex-wife's comment that he was with her? And how seriously can you take her if she married him? The sad part was that hearing him talk about the case seemed no more crazy to me than hearing Cheney talk about Iraq. Cheney and Bush are living in their own wacky bubble - they've turned the White House into the Nut House. I thought back to an old jazz song performed by Les McCann and Eddie Harris called "Compared to What":
"The President, he's got his war
Folks don't know just what it's for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have (a) one doubt, they call it treason
We chicken feathers all without one nut
Goddamn it!
Tryin' to make it real, compared to what"

That's the perfect description of how it feels today to follow the news. What's real and what isn't? My guess: None of it's real. The story from our government is as wacky as the guy in the weird pants. We've been spinning on the edge of the abyss for too long, and we might be falling in. It's all starting to be part of that One Big Joke to me now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

JonBenet: Thank God I Made the Right Call

This arrest in the JonBenet Ramsey case gives me the chills. If it is true that they have the real killer there is no amount of apologies America could make to the Ramsey parents, especially the Mom since she recently died. As with everything that becomes a big national news story, the late night comedy writers eventually deal with it, and I am a part of that. I am SO grateful that I called this one correctly. "Correctly" in this case means "don't blame the parents because you can't be sure." I would hate to have written jokes about the Ramseys' guilt, and have it turn out as it now looks. That would be sickening to live with. It would be 10,000 times worse than the Richard Jewell thing and that was bad enough. Do you remember Richard Jewell? He was the pudgy security guard living with his Mom, who was involved with the bombing during the Atlanta Olympics. All he did was his job - in fact Richard was a hero and probably saved a bunch of lives, but then the story went out that he was responsible and they pounced on him with the full weight of the American media machine. My recollection of that was that I was innocent by sheer luck. I probably wrote some jokes about it, but they weren't used. Still, the feeling was ugly. I remember thinking you have to make a determination sometimes that's based on guesswork, and it's still better to have this in the public eye, than buried. But that's just a fancy way of saying you're selling gossip. My worst fear in this area is comedians who might be so callous they just say, "Screw it. If I'm wrong I'll just apologize later." I'd like to believe the jokes are based on honest assessments - not just the opportunity to trash someone. At any rate, they came down on that guy like a ton of rocks and it really, really sucked. I'm going from memory here but I think there was some kind of situation in the Los Angeles Olympics where a security guard did something for attention, so it looked plausible. But in Atlanta, the authorities, the newspapers, and alas the late night comics all participated in a devastating attack on this poor security guard, and it was not right. He was a hero.
That situation was bad enough, but this Ramsey thing? Oh my God. If it turns out that all the people who went after the Ramseys were just adding to their pain after they had already lost a daughter to a maniac...Jesus Christ, there's no way to calculate how bad we all should feel. Don't get me wrong. There was a ton of weird evidence in this one too, and it serves a purpose when we all point it out. I mean ultimately we are sticking up for the girl, aren't we? We're not going to let this slide just because some wealthy members of society got the breaks from the system. I can clearly remember the thought process I went through when it came to this story. You can do comedy about anything. That's not something I'm proud of, but it's part of the human experience - how we process things. I had the first monologue joke on national TV after 9/11. It's part of life. The key for any aspiring comedy writers out there, is to find the right component in the joke to attack. Obviously only the sickest comedians would make jokes about the little girl in this case - but they do exist. The numbers of pundits and comedians who wrote jokes based on the Ramseys' guilt is a lot longer. Without mentioning any names, there are a lot of people who might have to feel really badly looking back on this. We'll see. I'm SOOOO grateful I didn't join in. Thankfully, I have nothing on this to apologize for. Now if O.J. Simpson should turn out to be innocent, I would have a LOT to apologize for. Still, it gives me chills to think back to how these parents were treated. I remember thinking no matter how unusual the circumstances were, I just couldn't accept the parents doing this. Maybe the kid brother, maybe. But I wasn't going to go there. My approach was to write the jokes about the Boulder Police department, for the screwed-up job they did investigating the case: "There's been a breakthrough in the JonBenet Ramsey case - The Boulder Police Department has located the Ramseys' address." Make fun of the authorities who were paid professionals. That's the component of the joke to attack. And my material went on national TV. So yes, I admit I profited from the JonBenet murder as I did with the murders of Nicole Simpson, Ron Goldman, and so much other tragedy. Just as I'm sure you've laughed at jokes about some pretty sad subjects - it's how we eventually deal with pain. I'd like to think I help sometimes, but the idea that I'm connected to the comedy profession doesn't sit particularly well with me tonight. There were many jokes about the Ramseys' guilt. If the mother was innocent, imagine a scene with her watching TV and hearing laughs about how she killed her daughter. Sometimes I wish I wasn't in this business.

Sam Adams to the Rescue

The Trib and Jack Bog have reported on the displeasure condo owners in the Pearl District are feeling at hearing freight train whistles at 2 in the morning, and the City Council has been quick to react.
This morning Sam Adams issued the following statement: "As the Commissioner in charge of transportation, I first want to say that I've done a wonderful job. I've attended many meetings and made a lot of decisions that were all terrific. Indeed, we will look back on my time as City Commissioner as a golden era in transparent government, especially in the area of transportation. But enough about me. Recently, the City Council became aware that freight trains go through Portland at night. Not only has this victimized the condo owners of the Pearl District, but it threatens to disrupt the Eastside Development Project. That is why I am announcing today that train traffic in the city will be phased out over the next 5 to 10 years. This is the linchpin for a vital new Portland. Any essential freight for the local area or any passengers traveling through on Amtrak, will be stopped at the outskirts of town, and transferred to street cars. This will be funded initially with a Smoke tax and then later the Mirrors will be provided by an urban renewal district. Now for some positive results: Although this plan was just announced this morning, it has already generated 7 billion dollars of new investment along the train track corridor. As the next phase of the plan, the City Council would like to announce a new business partnership: The Union Station Condo development. This should help meet the challenges of the many new Portlanders who will be moving to our area. Thank you, and may I just finish by saying that this was a terrific press release, and that I did a wonderful job presenting my new proposal to Portland. Signed - Mayor Sam Adams."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cheney Hires Clinton's Old Lawyer

Here's another fun insider Washington twist: Dick Cheney has hired one of Clinton's Impeachment lawyers to defend the VP against the Valerie Plame suit. In case you've been out of touch that's the one where the VP's office took revenge for a Joe Wilson report disputing the run-up to the War in Iraq by going after Wilson's wife. Time to lawyer up for Cheney, and this should be interesting. Gee, I wonder how these family values, macho men of the Republican Party would act if Clinton had gone after one of their wives to get revenge? Kind of sleazy, isn't it? I mean the Mafia doesn't even go there, but Dick Cheney and company did. How manly of him! If you can't fight it out with the man, go after his wife. It's family values in the Bush White House.

TPMmuckraker August 15, 2006 02:01 PM

Dick Cheney: Another Day, Another War

With every horrid major development of these last 6 years, when you dig down deep enough past the silly layers of President Bush's intellect, and the demonic meddling of Karl Rove, your shovel eventually hits something large and round. It is the plump bottom of Dick Cheney. He usually covers his ass with both arms, and the loving arms of people like Donald Rumsfeld or in the recent case of the Israel-Lebanon War - the willing arms of Prime Minister Olmert, but if you pry with your shovel, the truth is eventually exposed. In this case the truth is that the recent war between Lebanon and Israel was another one of Cheney's ideas, and it's part of a bigger plan that should unfold later this year. As with Iraq, the latest Cheney scheme didn't go as hoped, so he will distance himself and retreat to his undisclosed lair deep underground, where he will continue plotting his next move. Many feel that is Iran. For now it's time to spin what just happened, from the people who've been telling us how great things are in Bagdhad. Of course, President Bush gushed about Israel's shining victory over Hezbollah, but he forgot to spin that to the people of Israel, who are in the blame game stage. When this is completed some believe this unproductive and damaging misadventure could cost the Prime Minister of Israel his job. It's a quaint practise - they hold their leaders accountable for miscalculations and failure over there. Naturally, President Bush was quick to offer a reason why Hezbollah received support from Iran. It was "in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold." This might sell to the right-wing supporters here in America who will buy anything, but I guarantee you to the rest of the world, that is a laugh line. Too bad President Bush has no clue how funny he's being. One problem the United States is having in the world is that our designated bad guys like Syria's President Assad are also commenting on the situation. Assad said about Bush, "This is an administration that adopts the principle of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace. Consequently, we don't expect peace soon or in the foreseeable future." One of the reasons we're losing the battle of PR in the world is that their guys sound much more in touch with reality than our guys. But no matter. Dick Cheney dusts himself off after another flawed and counterproductive misstep, and begins to plot anew. After the Fall elections, President Bush will be completely irrelevant and the rush to complete Cheney's disturbing stamp on the world will go into another gear. In the quiet conference rooms of power, the twisted mouth will belch forth the next salvo of death and destruction. There are only two years left. He must hurry. Then, when the next war plan is in place, Cheney will descend down to the bottom of the swamp in his lair, where once more his pudgy arms will assume their favorite position over his massive bottom. As he's done ever since the morning of 9/11 when he ran war games that confused our air defenses, and ordered them to stand down rather than respond to a threat to Washington, the wretched plots will go on. Great military might will be unleashed in yet another of our Vice President's violent crimes, and it will be time for Dick Cheney to do what he does best: Cover his ass once again.

Monday, August 14, 2006

On To Seattle

The first time I played the Seattle Hempfest I had these cute jokes ready: "I wish I had the Twinkie concession at this bastard." Stuff like that. However after hearing the incredible tales of legal and medical woes given by a variety of speakers, I canceled the joke portion. While I don't smoke marijuana and haven't in decades, I support the medical part especially when it can mean the difference between life and death, and it can. I also don't appreciate the obnoxious losers in the Bush administration lecturing us for years about States Rights, but only if the state does what the feds want.
I even regret a joke I sold Jay Leno about a marijuana initiative - "that's one of the few times you'll see marijuana and initiative in the same sentence." I will also add that it was personally quite tough for me to quit because it was such a cozy drug and there wasn't a whole lot of downside. But I recognized it was time and I moved on. Ironically, I never knew I had a marketable sense of humor back in those days. Thanks to the effects of the pot, everyone seemed quite amusing. And yes, I did slam my share of Twinkies. Nothing like the midnight walk to the convenience store to let you feel the true spirits of the night. Oh well. This Saturday I return to the Hempfest for a couple of shows. The first one is at around noon on the main stage before a basically empty field. For some reason this is a late arriving crowd. The second one is in a tent around 5 and that has the potential to be quite memorable. By then there should be around 70,000 people in the park so the scene could be rather intense in a very mellow way. I hear Randi Rhodes of Air America will be on the main stage sometime after us. Maybe I'll slip her a couple of pages of Bush jokes. Leno's off for two weeks but that doesn't mean I have to stop.

A Report From the South Waterfront

I'd call it a report from Ground Zero but we were actually on the water. I had dinner with my wife and several other couples at the Newport Bay restaurant, which meant walking around the South Waterfront district and checking out the new condos. I felt that same old feeling of the tail wagging the dog - all this hassle for two large buildings that are in effect life dormitories? Plus a bunch of medical offices and infrastructure? It seemed so pointless that an entire city should be caught up in this expensive scam. The buildings looked okay except for the double-decker freeway bridge in the immediate background. I'm sure they'll have a lovely view towards Mt. St. Helens, but I couldn't help but think I was visiting the scene of a fiscal disaster. One of the other couples pointed out how weird it would be to live in Oregon and take an elevator home. The district is all new, like a theme park that just opened. It looked great but it didn't seem real. It's like a big civic toy for the rich. The restaurant was doing good business and the yachts were coming and going from the marina below. Once again, it seemed a little forced. I mean the Willamette is nice enough but is it really a yacht-type river? Was this just another part of pretending Portland was someplace it's not? Sometimes a yacht went by and the waves made the whole restaurant bob up and down. The first time, before you identify it, you wonder if you're coming down with a dizzy spell. The next few times it's just a queazy, fluttering feeling. Maybe they should hold City Council meetings there. I get the same queazy, fluttering feeling when I hear about these city-business partnerships.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

President Bush's Worst Nightmare: Christians Look at 9/11

Throughout the many events of the Bush administration, there has always been a theme of religious piety. President Bush was godly so his deeds and those of his team would reflect a higher moral standard, especially after that sex machine Bill Clinton. Theologians had a variety of issues with our last President - chief among those being his interpretation of the "Love thy neighbor" clause. Of course, as things went along with President Bush, his interpretations of some key Christian tenets, also seemed flawed. For example, the tremendous emphasis the Bible places on helping the poor, was replaced in this administration with a calling to help the mega-rich. Indeed, the essential purpose - the guiding light - of this group appeared to be the financial betterment of the well-to-do. Another problem was the Christian position on killing, compared to the Bush Doctrine. "Thou Shalt Not Kill" was amended by the Bush bunch to include "Unless We Feel Like It." Of course, none of these problems with the fake cloak of morality are new. That's why the Bible warns about false prophets and the danger of being duped by self-proclaimed pious men who use religious words to deceive. You would think the Religious Right would have been the first to see through this President, but alas they have held firm. Modern Christianity in America places a much greater emphasis on political power and less on following the Bible. It's puzzling, really. We have rich church leaders ignoring homeless people on the way to tell a TV audience that this is a Christian Nation.
So it is noteworthy when the publishing wing of the Presbyterian Church comes out with a book called, "Christian Faith and the Truth about 9/11". The author David Ray Griffin is a Christian theologian who has written other books disputing the official story of 9/11, but this one is different. Why? Because it appears to be aimed at President Bush's most steadfast supporters. If he loses the religious community, he will have a very tough time implementing his agenda in these last 2 years of his second term. Of course, that would be bad if you feel he is doing God's work, but terrific if you don't. He certainly says he is. He even said he talked with a Higher Father about the wisdom of going into Iraq. God wouldn't have led us astray there, right? More and more Americans are beginning to see this as a phony religious angle, and if the Christian Community takes off their pro-Bush blinders and really looks at 9/11, this false prophet and his satanic buddy Dick Cheney could be in real trouble.

Christian Theologian David Ray Griffin

Saturday, August 12, 2006

You Mean They Hyped The Terrorist Danger? Our Government Would Do That?

Here's the first but probably not the last of the stories revealing misinformation about the latest terrorist reports. I wonder what drove the timing from our end? Did Karl Rove know Lieberman was going to lose and did he use this to deflect from the anti-Iraq message? If any political considerations trumped the plans of British officials on the case, then this is already a disgrace. Here's the money quote from this NBC piece:
"In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports."

NBC: Disagreement over timing of arrests - Lisa Myers & the NBC Investigative Unit -

The Affordable Housing Con Game Takes Another Step

Today's front page of the Oregonian had some dramatic and somewhat silly pictures of tram construction, but it was a less obvious article that caught my eye. It was a story about scaling back affordable housing as part of the South Waterfront deal, so for those bloggers who had 8-12-06 in the pool, you win. You know the pool - the contest to pick a date on when they'd start floating news stories of the next "correction" in the plan. I just wish the City Council would spare us the phony anguish and remorse - the part where nobody could have imagined this might happen. Let me just save you the time: Many of us knew this was coming and we also know that the con you've run on the city of Portland depended on misrepresenting the truth. Perhaps you have achieved that ultimate political device: The ability to lie to yourself, but I'm not buying it. I suspect a jury would say this was a set-up from day 1 and a clear case of fraud. This time - unlike the tram - the idea that no one was minding the store is going to be a lot harder to sell. Everyone sure acted like they poured over these numbers, so to try and express surprise that they don't add up, is false incompetence. I don't believe it would stand up in court. Let me just review the mechanics of the con job that Portland is witnessing and will be paying for over the next half century: The City Council makes a sweetheart deal - one of their business partnerships - that benefits the rich people of Portland and rich people who are yet to move here. You attach some tear-jerking sentimental jive about affordable housing, and make a bunch of noise about how sincere you are about helping the little people, then you do a mid-course correction that keeps all the things that benefit the rich people, and start scraping the other plans off your shoe. Meanwhile the taxpayers of Portland end up funding the project at a cost of something like 700 million dollars - including a de facto transferral of tax revenue into the pockets of developers. It would be one thing if the condo market needed a nudge, but this condo market is red hot, and yet the City Council is concentrating our money on expanding the profit margins of those involved. Then of course, the stuff that doesn't make big bucks for the developers - the stuff that was used to help sell the deal - is later jettisoned from the picture. It's a plan that counts on voter ignorance, just as the talk of transparency in government counts on a lack of transparency in government. Anyone who dissents is accused of hating Portland and the con game proceeds. The City Council relies on a lag between when they act and when they "realize" what they did cannot work. It is this lag that they need to maintain their innocence. As each new version of this scam unfolds the same way right before our eyes, that lag of innocence fades into a joke. More and more it begins to look like something a jury would see right through.

Affordable housing on waterfront is debated

Friday, August 11, 2006

Sneak Preview: What's Hot For Fall? How About World War 3?

Whatever happened to quiet confidence? Remember leaders who reassured the populace that things would be okay, and pressed on through events like the World War 2 bombing of London with classy displays of courage and genuine resolve? What we've witnessed these last few years is a hype campaign of a completely different sort. Instead of selling themselves as steady leaders who have the situation under control, this White House team is overcompensating for its own lack of gravitas by insisting we are actually in World War 3. After over 50 years of trying to avoid the next big war this group is trying to pretend it is already underway. They are selling an image of the world as a much worse place than it really is, in the hopes that they will stay in power because the frightened populace will see them as the ones best suited to handle the dangerous new situation. Meanwhile, they're also taking an active role in manufacturing that horrendous new situation with unnecessary disasters like the war in Iraq. On a psychological level, this stems from a realization that good government is not much fun, especially when you don't have the intellectual skills to excel at it. The pattern is to latch onto the sort of drama that best suits your struggling self-image: "I'm a wartime president", Bush said after 9/11, and you could almost see him puffing himself up in front of a mirror as he nodded his head while he repeated the words. It was just a matter of getting a real war to make it true. We still don't have one, so these merchants of hype have fanned out to sell the Fall line-up: Boring plaids are out, camouflage is in. Welcome to World War 3! "Life on earth is spinning out of control, and you could be part of it!" Americans are paying over a trillion a year for the United States government to make the world a calm, safe place for us to live in freedom. But that's not what we're getting. We're getting a bunch of warrior drama majors who went out of their way in Iraq to make the world a crazier place, and now that it is, they're screaming, "See, I told you! It's World War 3, run for your lives!!!!" Initial sales reports seem less robust than expected, but the current campaign runs through November and there's always the chance of a last-minute buying surge, especially if an event comes along that puts the fear of God into those procrastinators. The only problem with this reckless, hysterical type of leadership is that it could actually lead to a real World War 3 - not a marketing campaign, but the actual thing. That's the power of nuclear weapons, and the reason we should always be trying to keep the lid on, rather than tear it off. That's the beauty of government leadership that tries to keep things calm and diffuses situations rather than exploits them for heightened tension. Instead, this group of phoney chicken-hawk cowboys is always trying to turn up the heat and escalate the violence. Perhaps it comes down to their need to feel excitement - their need to stand in front of that mirror and say, "Wow, look at me!" Who knows, but it's leading us into great danger. The trouble with this marketing campaign is that a real World War 3 has no Day After Sale.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

War Crimes Act a Problem for the White House

Nearly everyday on this blog right wing supporters of President Bush come forward to challenge reality. Yesterday I posted about the White House effort to provide a legal escape hatch to protect this administration from war crime charges and the comments were quick to step up to the President's defense: Troutdale Councilor Canfield said..."Ok I'll bite. Specifically what definition of war crime are you using? Can you cite any U.S. or even any international law here, or are you just venting? What actions by Karl Rove or any other member of the Bush Adminisatration fit that definition?" A regular commenter named Butch chimed in: "As hinted at in the first comment...can you specify what war crime you think was permitted? Going to war after Congress has granted you that authority is not a crime. If that is, then Clinton better restart his legal defense fund - he didn't even have permission from Congress when he started his war....." This is all standard stuff. Evoke the name of Clinton and question what I could possible be talking about. This magnificent group of godly men charged with war crimes? How could that be? Maybe the name "The War Crimes Act" is too vague. Today I'm linking to an LA Times article about an amendment that would legally protect Bush officials for past behavior and any future behavior. Gosh, why would they have to amend the War Crimes Act if they're following the laws of the land? I can't wait to hear you right wing bloggers tell me how Clinton is behind all this. Go ahead, but first here's a little from the article: The Bush administration has drafted amendments to the War Crimes Act that would retroactively protect policymakers from possible criminal charges for authorizing humiliating and degrading treatment of detainees, according to lawyers who have seen the proposal. The White House, without elaboration, said in a statement that the bill "will apply to any conduct by any U.S. personnel, whether committed before or after the law is enacted."

Amendments Sought in War Crimes Act - Los Angeles Times

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - But Your Blog Comments May Be

The following is already known by faithful followers of my cable access show. (Okay, quit snickering, it could happen.) At least I didn't have the temerity to call them fans. Okay, as the viewers of my cable access program already know, the Emmy-winless "Born to Slack" show has begun to include comments received here at the Portland Freelancer on the air. It's not an ego stroke. Neither my co-host James Shibley nor I are particularly good at handling compliments, but of course that hasn't been much of a problem so far. These comments are invariably negative - if you're attempting to make the on-air presentation, gushing praise will not help, unless there is some kind of deeply sarcastic undertone. What I've gone with are the noteworthy forms of criticism - avoiding just the straight ahead put-downs. For example, Friday night at 11, on channel 11, will be the final airing of the Elizabeth comment that set the bar for all future participation. She's the one who read my post, became so upset that she immediately went to the fridge and began drinking. Then she stayed in bed till 1:30 in the afternoon. The reason was that her friend had sent my words without saying who wrote them and Elizabeth thought her friend had written them - meaning her friend had crossed to the dark side. That is what upset her. Oh well, the details aren't important. What is important is that one of my posts caused a visitor to this site to react so horribly that she immediately started drinking and climbed back into bed to recover. In the Portland Freelancer world, that is a major victory.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rove Calls Lieberman - Then the Lying Begins

As a recent comment to this blog indicated, there is a difference between suspecting something is true, and having no doubt about it. I vowed to be more careful with that phrase in the future, but here I am using it only a few hours later. Below is a link to a story about Karl Rove calling Joe Lieberman today. A description of that call was given by one of his campaign officials, and then another Lieberman official and the White House said that description was not accurate. They claimed Karl Rove just called Lieberman for personal reasons. I have no doubt that this is total BS. We have an election in less than 3 months. If the House or Senate swings away from the Republicans, people like Karl Rove will actually have to start applying for a presidential pardon, if he hasn't already. The White House is currently trying to work out a legal escape hatch for some of their behavior that ranges up to war crimes. That would affect Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Gonzales for starters. The notion that Karl Rove dropped what he is doing today to chat with Joe Lieberman for personal reasons is ludicrous. Ahh, wait, once again I've been schooled by one of the evil greats. Karl Rove can describe the call - which involved Lieberman's run as an independent - as being for personal reasons, because Karl Rove's personal liberty could be involved. Especially if we take a look at what he and his wretched buddies in the White House did to get us into Iraq, and a thousand other twisted, sick, and perhaps criminal moves. Rove is incorrigible, and I guess I am too, because rather than avoiding the "no doubt" phrase, I'm using it again: The White House and Lieberman camp's denials about the conversation are not truthful. I have no doubt that Karl Rove called Lieberman about the campaign - not about how his family's doing.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Searching the World for Ways to Beat These Gas Prices

The BP pipeline shutdown in Alaska could have a major long-term impact on our West Coast gas prices. I'm just so grateful the Bush administration hasn't gone out of its way to antagonize any of the world's other oil producers like Iran. If Iran suddenly turned off the tap, the world oil supply would really be impacted, which is why any talk of an invasion is just economic suicide. The Portland Freelancer is not waiting idly by for the next brilliant move that the Neo-Cons and their adoring followers pull out of the hat. This site has begun a comprehensive examination to see how the rest of the world handles catastrophic problems with the morning commute. Here's one idea pictured below.

First Look: The Aerial Tram Has Arrived!

Great news, Portland, the Aerial Tram Car is here, and, wow, do I owe the City Council an apology. Yes, we are talking about a big budget with this project, and some harsh things have been said on both sides of the debate. But one thing that I can't complain about is the finished product. Seeing the Aerial Tram Car, Portlanders can be confident that - this time at least - we finally got our money's worth. What do you think?

A "How To" Post: The Return of Jack Bog

I went to Orblogs, down to "Bojack: He's Back" and hit the link a couple of times. Then I made a new bookmark as my old bookmark still didn't work. I'd link it myself but I'm still not in the advanced blogging group.

Lieberman Update

If any of you know the history of Karl Rove, you know he accused one opponent of planting a bug in his office - a bug Karl himself had planted. I'm a little suspicious that Senator Joe Lieberman is now accusing his opponent of crashing his website and calling for a criminal investigation. There's also the standard stories about the gap closing. If tomorrow morning we're reading another story about a big surprise that defies the polls and leads to "a razor-thin margin of victory" for a candidate the White House wants, I will have no doubt what happened here. I've seen this movie before.