Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bush and Saddam: Completely, 100% Different

Remember when we invaded Panama and took down Manuel Noriega? We accused him of stealing from his country and he made a rather interesting point. He said basically that he was the dictator and all he had to do was go down to the treasury and write a check if he wanted money. Under his system of government that was perfectly legal. I always suspected we were just bringing him in because he knew too much, but I thought about his point recently regarding the Saddam trial. Today they presented documents in which Saddam ordered the execution of 148 Iraqis. I can just imagine Saddam’s defense lawyers making a similar point as Noriega. Saddam was the dictator in charge of the country and that was legal under their system of government. Why? Because he said it was legal. That's why there is a paper trail; because it was official state business.
If a country invaded us and put President Bush on trial and presented the documents for the 152 executions Governor Bush signed off on in Texas, the Bush legal defense team would argue the same thing. That’s our system. The invading country might not believe in the death penalty, but so what? We do. They might argue that clearly this has gone too far. They might point out that President Bush now believes he has the right to kill American citizens within the borders of the United States. By the way, he does believe that - all he has to do is say that national security was at stake. Hey, I bet Saddam felt the same way when that village opened fire on his motorcade. If you're a dictator, you take stuff like that very seriously.
Look, I know Saddam did some horrendous stuff with chemical gas. This trial is like a parking ticket compared to his body of work, or should I say mass grave of work? But we are the ones pounding the country with depleted uranium. You want to talk about the rights of the unborn? Long after we're gone that uranium will be destroying kids, just as it's hurt our soldiers from the first Gulf War. Nuclear bombs spread radioactive waste but so do all these tons of shells we're firing off .
What about the invasion? What if some court charged Bush, claiming this was unprovoked aggression similar to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait? Just because we have more might, does that make us more right?
Wait, there's a clear difference here. Hmm, let's see. I know! By George, I've got it! The difference between our guy and Saddam, is our American values. That's why this thing isn't the same.
In fact, given our American values, I am sort of insulted that you even brought this up. There should be absolutely no case at all for moral equivalency between Bush and Saddam. This shoudn't even be discussed. Remember, Bush is a godly man, and he believes his god is the real God. What? Saddam believes that too? And Saddam just said if his God is not the real one, then why did Iraq get the oil? Hmm. This isn't going to be as easy as I thought.
Okay, I admit President Bush killed tens of thousands of people, but under our system as he interprets it, he has the power and the right to do that. Of course, Saddam probably felt the same way. Okay, wait, I've got it: Saddam tortured people whereas…whoops, bad example.
Surely, someone can tell me that what President Bush did is 100% different from Saddam. Start with the torture stuff: Was this good torture over evil torture? I'm begging somebody to make this clear. We don't want to think of the President of the United States as a war criminal, do we?
I know. I've got one thing that I'm sure makes our guy different from Saddam: Appearance. Saddam looks really mean, while Bush is cuddly and cute when he orders people around. Of course, if you’re among those being tortured to death, it doesn’t really matter what the guy who ordered it looks like.

Paul McCartney Tonight at 10

If you want a chance to look into Abbey Road studios and see some of the weird old equipment used to make the Beatles classics, there’s a Paul McCartney special on PBS tonight at 10. I heard the Oregonian had the date and time wrong, so you might need a little help from your friends to get this right. They also identified the band as Herman’s Hermits and the venue as the Albert Hall, but the point is, they were on to something. For you younger people, the Beatles are still worth checking out.
I'll always remember my pilgrimage to the Apple offices in London... See, long before the Ipod there was another Apple...oh, the hell with it.
(Wow, I just did a TV promo. 7 weeks into the blog and it’s already come to this.)

Home Improvement: Slackers and Tool-belt Types Finally Find Common Ground

Move Over David Letterman: Erik Sten is in the House

I know a great comedian when I see one so hats off to Erik Sten who came up with this statement on an old website: Among his general goals in office is to “insist that the city government is an accountable manager of taxpayer dollars.” Now a lesser comedian might try and tag that too soon, but Erik wisely leaves a few blank spaces and just lets the laughter grow.
Erik also turned in a brilliant comedy set during a recent interview with the Portland Mercury. City commissioners are trying to avoid sounding like they’ll give any more money for the Tram. This is where Erik really dropped a gem. He said he’d consider giving more to OHSU for the Tram if they give up some land for Affordable Housing. Now, just today the Oregonian is reporting big problems for Affordable Housing in the South Waterfront district. So Erik knows what a joke this is. Not only is there a 50% shortfall in funding for the South Waterfront, but guess what’s being put off?
That’s right: Affordable Housing. See Erik doesn’t just know how to sell a project; he knows how to sell a line. Affordable Housing is what we call in comedy terms a “callback.” I predict that one day, this could be Erik Sten’s signature bit. It’ll be like Rodney’s “I don’t get no respect.” Erik will just say “Affordable Housing” and everyone will crack up. Then he’ll do a few jokes about the Tram, and go with the big finish: “I insist that the city government is an accountable manager of taxpayer dollars. I don’t request. I don’t suggest. No, I INSIST!” I can hear the howls of laughter already.

District's affordable housing at a crawl

President Bush Going Abroad

President Bush will be visitng India soon, but I don't think he gets it. He says he wants to lay a wreath where the Indians killed General Custer.

First Woman in Baseball Hall of Fame

MiamiHerald.com | 02/28/2006 | A first: Baseball enshrines a woman

Monday, February 27, 2006

Jon Stewart Versus the Oscars

This could be quite a collision: The hottest comedian of the year against a show so long it counts as a missing time episode. The Oscars take place this Sunday through Tuesday, and I am genuinely curious and psyched to see if Jon Stewart can pull it off. My guess is that he will excel and redefine his career overnight. And he could, especially if he has the opportunity to show his comic chops in real time, reacting to something as it happens. As strong as he can be with the prepared material, the adlibs are often more dazzling. Jon Stewart is a comedy monster.
Of course, so was David Letterman when he hosted and he practically left the show on a stretcher. Remember Stupid Pet Tricks at the Oscars? Yikes, what a dud. Before that was over the orchestra was playing Taps.
Chris Rock was as hip as they’ve been before this and I thought he was so-so. Don’t get me wrong: I love Chris Rock – I once stood outside the Schnitz just to watch him walk by. The guy glows with comedic talent and he has the requisite quality that many comedians don’t understand: Basic decency. Underneath the material there’s a level of goodness. I think even Sam Kinison had that. Not the kind of goodness that sucks up to society, but this basic feeling that if it were left up to this individual, there would be more justice and less pain in the world. There’s an image for you: Sam Kinison hosting the Oscars. Now that would have been deep.
Anyway, Jon Stewart has the decency thing. You can see he’s genuinely outraged and concerned about the direction this country’s going in. If I were Karl Rove, I’d actually be sweating this a little. Jon Stewart and his writers could come up with a line that takes another 10 points off the Bush administration.
This could be hero time. If he’s as funny as he normally is, this could be the best awards show ever. If you only check your watch when it ends, Jon Stewart will have been extraordinarily great. With the Oscars, it’s a victory if you don’t check the calendar.

Eileen In The House

My sister, who provides me with much help on this blog, including sending the New Orleans pictures, and pointing out all 11 times I wrote “worse” instead of “worst”, mentioned that she was also on stage at the Knowledge Bowl with the 8th grade team. And so she was. Between her brains and the Barger girl, no wonder the 9th grade lost.

She's behind the Kelley nametag on the left.

Peak Oil: Way Too Convincing An Argument

When the story of this century is written, Oregonian archivists might look back at today’s interview of a former Shell oil geologist named Ken Deffeyes, as the most informative piece ever in the paper. Ted Sickinger asks all the right questions and Ken Deffeyes spells out what we’re up against with this oil crunch in such persuasive and dire terms, that it should give you chills. I’ve been onto this topic my whole life – my father worked for an oil company in Saudi Arabia - and I’ve also read the peak oil stuff before in Michael Ruppert’s book, “Crossing the Rubicon." I found Ken to be much more vivid. Oil company men can be somewhat colorful, and even though Ken is now a professor at Princeton, he reminds me of the type of person I’d hear talking with my father out in his “majlis” - the Arabic word my father called his den.
This is a tremendous article if you’re trying to understand our situation both nationally and globally. One thing I was glad to read here, is the underappreciated role oil plays in the food supply. That alone makes this a primer for the uninformed.
The entire subject of peak oil rests on the uncertainty of the reserves. No one really knows, but I’m afraid Mr. Deffeyes is on the right path. The reserves are most likely overstated with some of that Middle Eastern exaggeration in which the truth and wishful thinking sometimes get blurred. We are probably already past the peak.
I just had a thought. Wouldn’t it be weird if Iran really was scrambling to diversify into nuclear energy because they know something we don’t about their reserves? The key thing is that falling production is only part of it; demand is soaring in China and elsewhere. And we’re really taking this “Go forth and multiply” thing way too seriously. I read in the Scientific American that we are adding people to this planet at the rate of 1 billion every 14 years. Estimates of when we hit 6 and a half billion were ridiculously precise. In fact they announced that it was last Saturday. Remember when it was just 6 billion?
The point that this geologist made that I hadn’t heard before involves the record profits, and what the oil companies are doing with them. They are paying them out to their executives and shareholders. If there were vast quantities of oil still out there, they’d be plowing the money back into what oil companies call exploration. But they aren’t.
The most powerful point is the finish in which Ken is asked what to do to prepare. He talks about getting his own farm, so he’ll be able to raise some food to eat. He's a Princeton professor and that’s his plan? This is a devastating read, folks.
Click below:
Oregonlive.com: Search

The Blazers: A Fresh Perspective

It’s time to be a little more optimistic about the Blazers. Remember, they have won 18 times this season, so if we were only 18 games in, they’d be undefeated right now. Of course, they'd lose the next 37, but we wouldn't know that yet. Seriously, a team move out of Portland does seem possible. You know that little lighter-than-air ship that flies around in the Rose Garden during breaks in the games? Well, Paul Allen has sent it out to scout for other locations.

Oh, My God, It’s Back to Nice Week

Jack Bog, if you’re reading this, click your mouse twice. Who was it? Erik Sten’s people? I just went to the site and they sent me back to Friday the 24th. Is this my computer? I can handle server errors but I don’t think I can go back to Nice Week again. This is like Groundhog Day only without Andie MacDowell. If you can get free make a sprint for the door. But for God’s sake: No more Nice Week. I didn’t realize how bad it really was till I saw that damn kitten again.

Last Impressions

Okay, I delved into my past this weekend, and it meant a lot. I might do more of that, but I’m not going to revisit losing a friend in a terrorist attack again, for a long time. That is exhausting. The posts below told parts of the story, but I have to leave it with the right impression. Yes, I was friends with Walker Heywood before we started a rock group, but if I had to pick a lasting image to leave this topic with, it’d have to be the years when I was playing bass and he was drumming for one of the best rock and roll bands ever to play the desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Goodbye for now, Walker. I’ll visit the memories again later, but it won’t be soon.
Live at the Dhahran Theater

My Brother's Old Colleague On Iraq

Imagine how cool it must be for my brother to read a BBC account and know the guy who wrote it. In August of 1990, David went into Bagdhad with the legendary Mo Amin – the man who broke the Ethiiopian famine story – and John Simpson, now the world affairs editor for BBC. Here is John’s latest piece on Iraq. I thought the British elegance in the writing really brought the situation to life:

Life-and-death struggle for Iraq
By John Simpson
BBC World Affairs Editor
Only people outside Iraq bother to argue about whether what is happening here is a civil war.
Inside, they know how bad things are; they don't need to attach a label to it.
This is my eighth visit to Baghdad in the space of 13 months, and things are worse now than I have ever seen them.
The deliberate, well-planned efforts by extremists to provoke the Shia Muslim community into violence against Sunni Muslims have been depressingly successful. Murder gangs have retaliated again and again against the Sunni community. Some Shia clerics are no longer so outspoken against these tit-for-tat killings.

Anger and bitterness
Yet senior Iraqi politicians have not reached the point of despair. They acknowledge that things are bad and may well get worse, but they still feel there are some grounds for hope. Chief among these is the fact that many Iraqis, perhaps the majority, are not prepared to see the country break up into its constituent parts. Opinion polls have repeatedly shown that most Sunnis and Shia actively want to continue living alongside each other. Anyone who spent time, as I did, in the former Yugoslavia before the civil wars of the early 1990s will remember the bitterness between the different ethnic groups, and the contempt for the old Yugoslav system, too, which had failed so badly. Iraq is different. The layout of the country may have been imposed on its people by the League of Nations, under British prompting, only 86 years ago, yet it has not failed, as Yugoslavia (which was formed at roughly the same time) failed. What happened was that US and British forces invaded Iraq in 2003 and smashed the state, causing an anger and bitterness which the Bush administration and the Blair government have never acknowledged.

Troop presence
Last Friday, as the intercommunal violence reached new heights, some Sunnis and Shias prayed together to show their determination to keep the country working. Many moderate Iraqis now believe the US and British presence here is distinctly irrelevant. In Baghdad last week, it was reported that American soldiers were at first ordered to stay in their barracks for fear of making the situation worse, though later the number of patrols was stepped up. Local politicians in Basra, and other towns and cities in the area where the British are based, have felt for some time that there is no valid function for them to perform.
Some anti-war bloggers in Europe and North America seem positively gleeful about the way things are going here - as though the important thing is that President Bush and Tony Blair should be humiliated, and that the violence in Iraq is the method by which this can be achieved.

Election damage
Yet what we are watching is the life-and-death struggle of a nation, and the efforts of its democratically elected politicians to sort things out. How the politicians came to be elected scarcely matters any more; the fact is, if they fail in the face of all this violence, Iraq itself will be appallingly damaged. Looking back on the events of the past year, it is clear that the three different popular votes which were held in Iraq, two elections and one referendum, played a big part in whipping up the violence. People who had tended to regard themselves primarily as Iraqis were suddenly forced to focus on the fact that they belonged to a particular group: Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian or whatever. The act of voting was as divisive as it was empowering, and the fact that it happened three times in 11 months added to the intensity of the problem.

Rush for democracy
So did the politicians' slowness in forming a coalition government. After the first election in January 2005, it was three months before they could get together and begin running the country. At first, the resistance movement held off its attacks, anxious to see what would happen and worried that it might find itself running completely counter to the feelings of the Iraqi population. Slowly though, people became sick of the political squabbling, and the length of time it took to get agreement, and the violence crept back to its previous level. Paul Bremer, the US proconsul who brought all this about, has been accused of all sorts of failings, only some of which were his fault. Even the abolition of the Iraqi army should not be blamed on him alone. But there were thoughtful, influential people who knew that the dash for democracy was potentially disastrous, and they warned him about it - without success. Yet all this is history now - just like the rights and wrongs of the original decision to invade Iraq, and the non-existence of the weapons of mass destruction, and the fact that there never were enough American troops to do the job properly, and all the rest of it. The danger Iraq faces now is that its duly elected government will fail. If that happens, and the violence gets worse, it would be very hard indeed to deny that a civil war in the full sense of the term is going on here.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pandemonium at the “Knowledge” Bowl

First, it’ll be 7 weeks tomorrow since I launched the blog. Thanks for the 5,000 plus hits. 5,000 hits? Sounds like my sophomore year at college. There have also been 268 separate posts which might seem excessive, but I wanted to get into the real stuff as soon as possible. Today’s post about Walker and the terrorist attack was direct from my soul – that’s the real stuff for me. In many ways my life’s been a struggle to get past that situation – I had to confront the ugliness of humanity, and get to know the new person I had become. Finally, I had to try and steer things back to the good side of life: The fun and the laughs. That’s what the 500 jokes on the Tonight Show meant to me. I was saying “Take that” back at the world, and doing penance for the ugliness that ruled my soul after Walker was killed. Let’s just say it was much easier forgiving humanity, than myself. I mean, we were just happy-go-lucky jokesters and all of a sudden I was drawn into this world of international terrorism. I hated what it did to me, but I am happy to report that the terrorists did not win. It was a long struggle, but they did not win.
So before the day is out, I wanted to post about the real Walker Heywood – the hilarious, charismatic one. The one who was the coolest kid in our class, but who never excluded anyone from his circle. And for that, I’d like to go a mere 4-and-a-half years back from his death to 9th grade, and something they called “The Knowledge Bowl.”

The school only went up to 9th grade in Dhahran so we were competing with the 7th and 8th graders, and we were expected to win. You can tell from the stage decorations, how big a deal this was.
There were around 600 to 800 kids out in the gym watching and it could get pretty serious. Walker and I had the exact same impulse: It was no big deal to lose but we had to be entertaining. In fact, it was all about being entertaining. Questions were met with tons of antics, including getting up and threatening to walk out on several occasions. I could here the laughter out there each time Walker or someone else on our team would say something crazy. Correct answers by the stuffy other teams were met with derision – as if the 7th and 8th grade students were hopeless show-offs. Meanwhile, we were the ones playing to the crowd. For us, that was all that mattered.
Walker works the room, as I ham it up.

The crowd was building and then the moment arrived. I had read this ridiculous article in a science magazine claiming that Antarctica was actually a desert based on the amount of precipitation. Okay, for starters we were all sitting in Saudi Arabia, so the kids had a pretty good idea of what a real desert looked like. Second, it did take away from the article’s argument about the lack of precipitation in Antarctica when the damn thing was made out of ice.
But guess what question came up? “What is the largest desert in the world?” I slammed the buzzer, and knowing they would go crazy, I said “Antarctica.” If only I had gotten that kind of reaction when I tried standup. Of course, my team pretended to beat me, and there was pandemonium onstage and off.
Naturally, we lost the Knowledge Bowl, but damn it, we were hilarious, and that’s what I remember most. We had a philosophy of laughter and not taking things too seriously and I still believe in it. We had lost the Knowledge Bowl but we were right.

Welcome to the Paul Allen Generation

It’s fascinating to hear the Boomer outcry against Paul Allen right now. Aren’t we missing the big picture? What Paul has done to the Blazers, isn't that different from what the Boomers have done to the United States. A loss of reputation accompanied by huge financial problems? Sounds damn familiar to me.
I don’t think the Greatest Generation would have produced someone like Paul. He is just a magnified example of one of us. When we decry the Olympic team’s values, it’s almost like they were raised in limbo somewhere. No, we raised the US Olympic team. We instilled them with their value system. Look at Julia Mancuso, whose father did time for bringing 67 tons of pot into the country. She went on to win Olympic gold despite these things, not because of them. He was more concerned with Acapulco Gold.
So sure, hammer away at the whining spoiled rich kid who bought Jimi Hendrix guitars and sports teams, but he’s the perfect metaphor for us. We’ve been given an awful lot as well, and we’re screwing it up just as badly. Hell, if I had a 40-billion-dollar bank, I would have bought Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, too.

General Manager of the Century

Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas was with the Chicago White Sox for 16 seasons, but he had a problem with the way they phased him out of their future plans, even though they paid him a 3.5 million dollar buy-out clause after they had him participate in their World Series Celebrations. Frank says he’s mad that the team chairman didn’t call to inform him personally that he wasn’t coming back. He also implied that if he had known he wouldn’t have shown up at the World Series celebration events, even though he was with the team, although too injured to play. That’s right, the Big Hurt was hurt. At this time the general manager of the team is supposed to apologize and sugarcoat everything – maybe even sprinkle some gold dust on the 3.5 million check they paid the guy to leave. Here’s how Chicago White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams chose to respond about Frank: “He's an idiot. He's selfish. That's why we don't miss him.” Kenny elaborated, “"If he was any kind of a man, he would quit talking about things in the paper and return a phone call or come knock on someone's door. If I had the kind of problems evidently he had with me, I would go knock on his door. We don't miss him, by the way," Williams repeated. "If you go out there and ask any one of my players or staff members, we don't miss him. We don't miss his attitude. We don't miss the whining. We don't miss it. Good riddance. See you later."
Can you put a current general manager in the Hall of Fame?
This is why I like the city of Chicago.

Charles Walker Heywood

For the first 5 or 10 years after Walker died, I’d have these dreams where we’d be discussing what was wrong. We couldn’t figure out the problem but it hovered there in the dream, and we knew it was bad. Then, when I woke up, I’d have that one weird moment when you’re awake but you aren’t up to speed on events. Then it would hit again: What was wrong was that Walker was dead. He had been killed in a terrorist strike on a Pan Am jet while it was on the ground at the airport in Rome, Italy on December 17th, 1973.
All these years later, the dreams have evolved to the kind last night where Walker returns. Last night he appeared in a cab – not as young as when he died at 19 – but around 30 in appearance. I walked up to him and said, “You’re Charles Walker Heywood. I haven’t seen you in over 25 years.”
The best part of the dream was the absence of pain. He was amused, and so was I, just the way we used to kid around back when we were best friends growing up in Arabia. He even jokingly disputed the facts of his own demise. When I’d say how it had happened, with a phosphorous bomb thrown in the middle of a jet full of people, he laughed it off, saying no, that was not how it had happened at all. We didn’t have the right date, we didn’t have any of the facts correct. We were mistaken, otherwise how could he be here now? I didn’t dispute any of this but I sort of knew he was kidding. We went out to the car and started carrying in all sorts of amplifiers, for Walker and I had been in bands together since 6th grade, almost continuously till he was a college student at Stanford.
I even glanced briefly at these strange amps, knowing they had to be vintage, but not recognizing any of them.
The mood was one of relief. We were actually quite irreverent and lighthearted as before the attack. Walker had returned, he was older now but still much younger than me, and the best part was that he was alive.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Chronicles of Portlandia

A mist lays heavy upon the Kingdom, but it is not weather-related. No, this mist is one of fear, glee, and anticipation for the Floggers of the Bog are about to return. Their leader Jack was seized by marauding spirits last week, and taken into exile. These devious demons replaced the original crew with hopeless imposters, spewing a forced niceness that fooled nobody.
A messenger has just now come on horseback from the Kingdom’s edge! The originals are in sight of the city gates, and should arrive at the stroke of midnight. The imposters with their mamby-bamby attitudes are even now preparing to flee. God help them if the real Jack should catch up.
For much has happened in the Kingdom of the Rose since the Floggers of the Bog were spirited away. A rich lord named Paul the Geekly from the north has threatened to move our merry band of hoopsters to another kingdom.
The Wizard Potter has no gold to pay this threat off.
And now the Dark Lords of the Forbidden Castle have announced that their twisted project – the beast of many wires - is the least of their financial demands. For the great site by the river turns out to be short of much gold, as well, and the peasants of the town fear the Jedi Council will sell them out once again.
All eyes search the horizon. The return of Jack and the Floggers of the Bog could be just in time.

National Shootout? Adam and J.J. Both Score 11

If you’ve been following the storybook nature of this year’s scoring race between Duke’s J.J. Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, today was a pause in the action. Sure, J.J. broke the ACC scoring record in a win against a rough and tumble Temple squad, but they controlled him with a box and one defense and lots of hard fouls. He finished with 11. Frankly, Redick looks a little burnt emotionally. It must be tough being a college rock star; you’ve got the pressure without the money and you still have to do your homework. Who knows why but he doesn’t seem to be smiling like earlier in the year, even after breaking a big record.
Gonzaga played San Diego – as usual they have a much lighter schedule. Any kind of average night for Morrison could have decided the national scoring race which hovers around 28 or 29. Incredibly he came up with 11 as well. Both contenders had identical low scores. Maybe that is a little like a storybook after all.
One interesting halftime feature of the Duke game was the impressions of a college player from Memphis who has defended both of these prolific scorers. As I noticed myself, JJ is a great 2 guard, but Adam is much taller, lankier and has a beastly inside game. JJ doesn't have a pro low-post game, but for hoops fans there’s always the magic of this college scoring duel. Plus March awaits like a beast of its own.

Erik Sten: Willing To Spend More On Tram

The Portland Mercury has an article on Erik Sten’s campaign that is mostly self-serving election year stuff. Did you know, for example, how close he came to deciding not to run again? Oh the drama! But luckily for Portland, there are still some projects that he really wants to see completed, so he’s put the interests of the city ahead of his own. What a guy! Of course, he must realize that if he loses his seat in the council he’ll have to come up with another job. All this was standard political stuff, and it didn’t phase me one bit.
The part of the article that did get me was about the tram and the wide open door he left to spend more money: “As for the tram, Sten says he's unlikely to greenlight any more city money for the project (but if OHSU came up with a sweet offer that played to Sten's passions—like offering land for affordable housing—he says he'd be willing to take a look).”
In other words, he’ll continue to spend more money on this crazy project if OHSU gets us involved in even more projects – especially involving the sanctimonious subject of affordable housing. Never mind that the affordable housing in the South Warterfront district is now endangered by the lack of funds from the project that gave us the tram.
The only decision he made that makes any sense is to run again. Now that he has free money to do it, why give up a chance to play wheeler-dealer where he screws up the deals and we pick up the tab?

Portland Mercury - News - City - Sten Again

Counterfactual Computation, and Isn't It About Damn Time?

I would love to say I helped pioneer this concept in high school but my math skills are one of the few things I'm genuinely proud of. I can't believe this blog has made it this far without discussing my 760 in math on the SAT's that I took in 11th grade instead of 12th. Unfortunately that bastard Al Franken got a perfect 800.
My senior year we took a national achievement test and I aced that with an 800, so I can only dream of what might have been.
Oh well, here's a link that makes me glad I didn't go into quantum physics after all. They're so far through the looking glass now, they're in another universe looking back.

Quantum computer solves problem, without running: "counterfactual computation"

We Lost A Great One Today

Barney Fife who played Don Knotts in real life.

I was just watching the episode where the man gets mad at Barney and says he can’t wait to catch him out of uniform. Barney starts wearing his uniform all the time, and claims he’s afraid to hurt the man with his new judo skills. Andy finds out Barney is actually lousy at judo so he gets Barney’s instructor to dress up in Barney’s suit and put some judo moves on the guy in a dark alley. Then Andy gets Barney to confront the newly respectful guy. After Barney realizes the threat is gone and without knowing why, he suddenly transforms from fear back to foolish pride. Andy lets him brag, and as they leave he says, “Let’s go, Tiger.” I don’t care how many times I see some of these Mayberry episodes. Don Knotts' greatness as a character actor and obvious sweetness as a person, make his work timeless and impossible to wear out.

Case Closed: The Iraq War Was Based On White House Lies

The Bush White House has long argued that the plan to invade Iraq came well after 9/11. Despite one cabinet secretary and Bush’s own National Security advisor disputing this, the White House has stuck to the lie that 9/11 was not used as a fake motivation to attack Iraq. If that lie is exposed, it exposes the entire case for war on Iraq as a carefully marketed deception. It becomes obvious that we weren’t forced to go into Iraq by bad intelligence. No, the decision was made to fix the intelligence around the policy, just as the Downing Street memo made clear. Indeed, the fact the we are still debating this, speaks volumes for the incredible spin machine this White House uses to operate. So what’s new?
Apparently the “Freedom of Information Act” has yet to be gutted by this administration, and it was used to acquire the actual notes of one of Rumsfeld’s aides on the afternoon of 9/11. In these notes lies the smoking gun of our times – the proof that the Iraq War was one big lie:
From Paul Krugman’s column today: At 2:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld gave military commanders their marching orders. "Judge whether good enough hit S. H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time — not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]," read an aide's handwritten notes about his instructions. The notes were recently released after a Freedom of Information Act request. "Hard to get a good case," the notes acknowledge. Nonetheless, they say: "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

Things related and not. That is the most damning phrase in modern American History. It means our President has gotten a lot of Americans killed for an unnecessary war, based on lies.

Has Bush Cut Dick Cheney Loose?

Did the White House drop a dime on Dick Cheney? A couple of weeks ago - right around the time of the hunting accident - they mysteriously found a bunch of emails that had gone missing. The emails are not good news for Dick Cheney. One possible Karl Rove scenario: Cheney resigns, McCain comes in, and runs for President as V.P. The White House has already turned over Bush’s mailing list to McCain so they’re onboard. Why would Cheney agree? For a pardon on Bush’s way out. These emails were probably never lost. “Finding” them seems to indicate they’re going to cut Cheney loose, after the 2006 Elections are safely rigged and over.

Jason Leopold | White House 'Discovers' 250 Emails Related to Plame Leak

Dream Series: The Legends of Comedy

Perhaps it was having a joke on the Tonight Show last night, but I had one of my ongoing series of nightlong dreams involving a legendary comedian.
This started years ago with Mel Brooks. At one point in the dream, I was sitting on a stone fence one block from where I lived on SE 23rd Street, shooting the breeze with Mel Brooks. Usually other stuff occurs, we go to a restaurant or walk around, but we’re always talking and Mel sounds exactly like he does in real life, even with jokes thrown in by my subconscious. By the way, in the dreams, I’m always old friends with them, and they’re usually not contemporaries. They usually made an impression on me when I was very young.
Last night it was Joan Rivers. Okay, I know, she’s become something else with the plastic surgery and the fashion celebrity critiques – believe me, I’m not into that stuff either. The Joan Rivers I revered has nothing to do with the Home Shopping network. I was hanging out with the breakthrough comedian Joan Rivers, although she was just as old as she is now, and please Joan, enough with the plastic surgery. If you smile and your ass cheeks separate, it's time to stop.
But read her material from when she wowed Carson back in the day. Joan Rivers is a comedy monster. I distinctly remember hearing her putting down her breasts: “My husband asked if I needed help with my buttons and I said, “I’m already naked.” That type of joke blew my mind as a kid. It introduced me to that self-derogatory thing that my real tribe didn’t seem to allow: The concept of laughing at yourself. It was a revelation. It was more than a relief; it was like the gift of mental health: Laugh at your predicament. Of course! See, my people weren't into that. This was like exhaling a big anxious breath. This was uptight muscles in my soul unclinching. In the dream I had known Joan 28 years and we were discussing comedy.
You know how some people hear the blues of Muddy Waters, etc… and it instantly becomes the sacred music of their lives? I’m more of a British Invasion guy: the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, etc…but many of these British rockers heard that authentic sound of Howling Wolf and the Chicago Blues scene, and immediately fell in love.
Well, I have that with the Jewish comedians of the East Coast, specifically New York City. You know, that Brooklyn delivery. These are my heroes and the rhythms in their humor sound like heaven to me. Woody Allen, Billy Crystal, and going back. Long before, Joan Rivers became what she is now, she was with that group, so last night was cool.

Every now and then I get to meet one of the great Jewish comedians in real life: I’ve met Robert Klein, Richard Lewis, and Rob Reiner. Rob was here campaigning at the Union Hall down on 11th and Madison. I shook hands with him on the way in, and it was a true honor. Just think: Carl Reiner’s son, and of course Meathead. He really delivered inside, throwing his arms around. He said the Republican idea of diversity on a political ticket is that the candidates are from different oil companies. Ba-boom.
I actually got to do a project for Sam Denoff once. Check out his biography sometime: One tidbit – He was a writer and producer for the Dick Van Dyke show. They sent me this sketch idea to write and I had it back to them within literally just a few hours. We all got on a conference call and Sam said, in classic East Coast Jewish comedy rhythm, “I like you Bill, you write funny and you write fast. Now I hope you don’t mind if I rewrite it. I rewrite everything. I rewrite parking tickets.” Ba-dum. I jumped in, fitting in with the groove as best I could. In this case, my Legends of Comedy series was really happening and I was living the dream.

Finally, A Cheney Joke

When the Vice President shot his lawyer buddy it was a challenge to every comedy writer in America, both pro and amateur alike. This past Friday on the last Olympic Tonight Show I finally had one on. I can now sleep peacefully knowing I finally participated in one of the great comedy opportunities in years: making fun of Dick Cheney and his shooting mishap. It is not how you start the race, but how you finish. First lets look back at 7 of mine that failed to medal, before the one that went for the gold:

1. Wow, Cheney shooting one of his buddies. You know, looking back

maybe it’s best that he didn’t go to Vietnam.

2. This thing reminded me of the Monica scandal. You had a senior

White House official shooting something off with really bad

aim. One hit a blue dress, the other hit a lawyer.

3. There’s more bad news from the Cheney incident. The shell

he fired turned out to be depleted uranium.

4. Harry Whittington made a statement today but it was hard

to hear with the wind whistling through the holes in his body.

5. It’s great to see Harry up. This is kind of like Ground Hog Day.

If the Cheney Shooting Victim comes out of his hospital room

that means 6 more weeks of Cheney jokes.

6. There’s more news about the Cheney quail hunt, and this is

so typical. It turns out Cheney lied to Harry Whittington to

get him to go along.

7. Let’s get back to the Olympics. Do you like the holes in the medals?

It’s just nice seeing holes Dick Cheney didn’t make with

a hunting rifle.

8. President Bush is getting so much bad publicity Dick Cheney

offered to shoot another hunter just to take the heat off.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Julia Mancuso – Alpine Gold

I cited Picabo Street in a previous post as one of my symbols of the Winter Games, only to have her show up on TV tonight tearing into Julia Mancuso, of the U.S. women’s alpine team. Picabo called her unprofessional, and felt she needed to do a lot of growing up. Picabo didn’t appreciate that Julia had skied an earlier race wearing a tiara. A tiara? I’m not a sports psychologist, but I can see how that could be a trouble sign. Earlier today Picabo Street had some advice for the young Californian: “Lose the tiara.”
I saw one interview prior to the first run and Julia sounded high maintenance, but watching her in super-slow motion bombing down the course, you had to admire the artistry and the courage. I don’t know if she took Picabo’s advice but for this giant slalom race anyway the tiara was replaced with a white helmet. I also appreciated the lack of a sentimental back story about a sick relative. Her past includes a father arrested for a 120-million-dollar marijuana smuggling operation that brought an estimated 67 tons of pot into the country. He served 5 years.
I’m watching on tape delay and Julia aced the first run. They just interviewed her and I’m starting to get it: Steely eyes - she even got off a nice smile. Apparently, she’s never led after the first run, and looking ahead to the next she said, “I’m going to have to try to stay calm and rip it up.” Nice quote.
They’re showing the second run now and the course looks more fogged in than Julia’s dad.
These women are showing some amazing courage rocketing through this mist. One just took a fall that would have killed most of us. The weather is becoming a big part of the story. On to Julia’s run.
Well, it’s official: We have another gold medal US woman skier joining the likes of Debbie Armstrong and Picabo Street. Don’t worry, Picabo, this doesn’t change a thing between us. I still think the world of you, kid. Seriously, is there a more all-American girl than Picabo Street anywhere? She just seems like an extremely solid individual to me.
But we have a new skiing star now: Julia Mancuso. Afterwards her serviceman boyfriend skied down the course wearing only black underwear and it was time to call it an event. Later she posed with her gold medal - the tiara firmly back on her head.

Paul Allen

Bush, Rice Urge Iraqis to Avoid Civil War

Someone should tell President Bush and Condi that the only thing their opinions can do in the Middle East right now is make things worse, if that’s possible. They must have an inflated sense of their own worth. So what’s next? A new 11-billion dollar contract to Halliburton to build a new gold dome for the mosque?

BREITBART.COM - Bush, Rice Urge Iraqis to Avoid Civil War

I Don't Think So

Wild Speculation and Some Serious Daydreaming

When President Bush visited that alternative energy lab the other day, and picked up the bottle of God-knows-what to take a good whiff, he also had some interesting comments. He talked about developments in energy that Americans would find spectacular. He went on to talk about batteries and solar power, so it was probably just more of the endless stream of misinformation and hype, but I’m not going to head into this weekend without at least one positive possibility. First the bad news:
Iran is making deals to supply oil to China and Russia. Thanks to the reckless spending of George and company, China now controls our economic future. If they don’t keep funding our debt, which goes up well over a billion dollars each day, we will be in big trouble.
If we go into Iran, we will be tampering with China. We will also be disrupting China’s oil supply. The reason China doesn’t want America in a depression is that it loses its investment in us. But what happens if China views the failure of America, as the only way for it to get enough oil? China has the power to drop our economy, and the new oil crunch will give it a motive. Something doesn’t add up here. I don’t get why we are hell bent to disrupt the world’s oil supply. Can Bush and Cheney really be that dumb?
Now comes the wild daydream part: What if, just maybe, President Bush knows something is in the works that we don’t know about yet - something in the alternative energy area that really is going to be spectacular and change things. It certainly was cruel to use the word “spectacular” if he’s just talking about solar panels and batteries. Of course, we all know this guy can be cruel, or maybe he got a hit out of whatever he was sniffing from that lab bottle, but here’s my wild thought for the weekend: What if there’s a top secret breakthrough in zero point energy or cold fusion or something else, that’s about to wind down the age of oil? This is wild speculation and daydreaming but it's about the only way to explain the behavior of our leaders. If it isn't something like this, the only other explanation is that these guys are monumentally stupid - which is a real possibility. Sure, a new energy source is farfetched, but I’ll put it another way: If there isn’t one, than the population of the world - which is scheduled to hit 6.5 billion on this very day - will be in serious trouble. We doubled in 50 years, and we could lose 3 billion that quickly as well. Have a good weekend.

Abqaiq Attack Fails – And You Might Not Realize How Lucky We Are

Here is the key phrase: “The huge Abqaiq processing facility near the Gulf coast handles around two-thirds of the country's oil output”. Think about that. One massive refinery handling this much of Saudi Arabia’s output?
If that had been knocked out for any length of time, we would feel it badly. Just the thought of it, affected the markets.
Clearly, the armed guards that fired on the cars blowing them up knew what was at stake here.
There were three towns in my childhood: Dhahran, the administrative center where I was born, Ras Tanura, the massive port on the Persian Gulf, and Abqaiq. These are the towns I played Little League baseball in. These are the towns where my earliest rock bands played dances.
We used to stay up all night when we played those parties, just for the thrill of it. Sometimes we would walk out in the desert near Abqaiq and check out the flares. Back then, the company called Aramco was burning a lot of natural gas. Oil was so plentiful why bother with anything else? The local paper was even called the “Sun and Flare.” You would see these pipes ending and you could tell a massive flow of natural gas was shooting out, but the huge flame wouldn’t start for something like 30 yards from the ends of the pipe. You could see the flares on the horizon for 50 miles. Extremely dramatic. Losing this facility would also be extremely dramatic. I don’t know if they have other facilities that could pick up the slack but I doubt it. If we lost two thirds of the daily oil supply from Saudi Arabia that could be enough to cause a world-wide depression, and accelerate the mad battle over the remaining oil supplies even more. This attack was a close call, and we're damn lucky it didn't work. If you want to understand the world, follow the oil.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Figure Skating Recap - The Silver Ass Plant

They still call it “Ladies Figure Skating”, even after Tonya Harding, but let’s not kid around, folks, this is a sex show. The first contestant that I saw was a 19-year-old Italian woman wearing the equivalent of a black thong. She glided around pointing her rear end in every possible angle. I imagined crowds of Muslims rioting just seeing this. There were some camera shots that made it look like she was naked from the waist down.The judges clearly had no appreciation for great art, and her skating wasn’t that bad either. Sure, at one point she came very close to slamming into the wall, pushing off with her hand, but she had made a statement I will not soon forget. This was definitely a world-class presentation.
The American hopeful, Sasha Cohen, is just now starting. Ouch. A mere 15 seconds in she fell right on her ass, and then she did something awkward right afterwards. You can almost see her coach heading back to the hotel to pack.
Oh well, at least she had an outfit and appearance that didn’t make me feel like a pervert to watch. The Italian babe had been so hot I caught myself sticking quarters into the TV.
After the American, Sasha Cohen, had established there was no chance in hell of the gold, she actually skated well, and wound up with the silver. The music was schmaltzy as all get out, but except for the ass plant at the beginning, this was quite respectable.
The Japanese woman is on now. I know in advance that she’s the winner and everything is clean and tight. Damn it, I miss Tonya Harding.
Tonya had much more of an athletic thing going on, than this ice princess. Tonya could leap twice as high in the air and never even drop her cigarette.
Oh, well, that’s the gold. Good night, Torino.

Street Signs of New Orleans

I couldn't get this into my picture library edit feature for the longest time - the old unreadable files runaround - so I finally ran it through the scanner edit feature and did an art shot edit from one of my sister's pictures of New Orleans. Couldn't they have picked better colors for the fliers on the plywood? Work with me, people!

Why the Olympics Aren’t Cutting It This Time

There are lots of reasons not to get excited about these Winter Games. The U.S. team hasn't done that well - you don't get gold medals for excuses. The skier Bode Miller symbolizes the big disappointment. Hyped by our corporate machine going in, he not only lost but he whined about it.
The U.S. hockey team lost and whined about it, too. Besides the happening dudes of the snowboarding team, and a smattering of other gold medal winners, this year will be remembered more for bad attitudes and not delivering. And you know what? It makes perfect sense. It really does. Our leaders have been making a lot of excuses themselves lately. Their excuses about Iraq alone could fill an Olympic Stadium. Frankly, this time around the United States doesn’t deserve a Miracle on Ice.
Remember that great feeling, setting the alarm to watch the USA take on the Soviet Union and Finland? The famous call by Al Michaels?
The Soviet Union players were pros but they had no joy. They were playing not to lose, and they blew it. Meanwhile our team represented the best of America: Youthful, daring, brash, charismatic, and fun. Lots and lots of fun. That was an Olympics to remember. That was an America to remember.
What are we known for now? Torture, preemptive strikes? Talk about a bad attitude. A vice president who can’t shoot a bird without hitting his friend? Talk about a poor performance.
We are currently not in a position to deserve national success at the Olympics.
I believe that is why the TV ratings are down – because we’re down. Our national pride is now accompanied by shame at what we’ve done recently as a country. Was that a gold medal performance in New Orleans? Did we dazzle the world?
When I think of the America I love in Olympic terms, I think of the charismatic smile of Picabo Street. And, of course, that incredible hockey team. That’s the America we used to be. Those were true American Idols. This time around I believe more people are feeling bad about where we are as a nation. Maybe that’s why they’re watching a reality show called American Idol, instead of the Winter Games.

Ruben Patterson, Get Out!

Paul Allen is scheduled to meet with Mayor Tom Potter at 10:30 Friday morning to discuss the team’s future in Portland, just as the last of the major character problems leaves town in a complicated trade to Denver.
I like a lot of the new players as people, but I never could watch Ruben without that recent Blazer feeling of disgust. So, Ruben, pack your bags and best of luck staying out of trouble in Denver. Our loss is our gain.
As for the Blazers leaving, it seems Boy Wonder Paul Allen has blown 12 billion dollars in the last decade and he’s beginning to try and cut his losses. By the way, 12 billion is enough to make 12,000 millionaires.
The Blazers have cost him something like a 120 million lately, and combined with the treatment he’s gotten from the town, you can understand why he wants to pull up stakes. Of course, it all could be leverage for a better deal from the city. The meeting with the Mayor proves that.
So for now let’s not worry about losing the team and just celebrate losing Ruben Patterson – who wants to cheer for a sex offender?

Life Interrupts Lighthearted NBA Show

Ernie Johnson, Jr., host of “Inside the NBA” on TNT just announced he has cancer to explain a swollen lymph node on one side of his face. He’s had his particular kind of cancer for a couple of years but didn't go public with the news till now. It just goes to remind us that people can be going through things we don’t know about. It was very unusual to get something that serious on such a lighthearted show. Ernie, Sir Charles, Kenny Smith, and Magic Johnson usually keep it pretty loose. And so it was tonight until this announcement.

Washington Blog: Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer

Gee, I can't see Cheney lying about a matter of life and death...oh wait, maybe I can.

Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer

Jack Bogdanski In First Major “Nice Week” Test

Today’s article in the Oregonian about more funding woes for the South Waterfront project is the kind of thing Jack Bogdanski would tear apart like a Great White shark on a seal pup. What Jack would have done to that article is the reason they’ve outlawed fox hunting in England.
Unfortunately for us, he’s in a self-imposed Nice Week, and several things have become apparent: 1. We really do need him and his team of comment wonks to put things in perspective around here. And 2. Being nice is a real challenge sometimes.
Let me take a fast pass at what the article says: If you think the aerial tram funding was shaky, it was like the Rock of Gibraltar compared to the rest of the project. The new $101.9 million dollar price tag is double what backers have pledged and nobody knows where the rest is coming from. That means the amenities that helped sell this turkey will be trimmed back like a new haircut on a military recruit.
Among the classic Oregonian lines: “some stakeholders and observers have grown anxious about progress and funding toward the full vision.”
Oh, really!!!!! And by “full vision” they mean the load of BS used to sell this thing to begin with.
There’s also this beauty: “Total cost estimates are likely to grow…”
But let’s be fair: That’s only if the sun comes up tomorrow.
Here’s my prediction for how this will end. At some point, it will turn out this contaminated site had an old graveyard on it, and bodies will begin popping up like toast. Eventually everyone will flee. Yes, that is the Portland Freelancer prediction: These maniacs won’t be done till this thing morphs into a sequel from Poltergeist and turns all of Portland into one big horror show.

Fraud: Scam Email Alert

Be on the lookout for scam emails that ask you for information updates. Don’t even open them, and for God’s sake don’t go along with them. Two recent ones involve Paypal and Visa. There is also one claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. These are hoaxes designed to rip you off, and ruin your life. Our computers are our friends, but even friends can be very, very bad sometimes.

Port Deal Marks End of 9/11 Mandate

Isn’t it refreshing to hear big Republicans disagreeing with their President again? This port issue really has been valuable. It also gives more Bush supporters a better perspective to see how this White House really operates. When this broke the President went to that familiar post-9/11 stance: He announced his position in a firm voice fully expecting that to be the end of it. It wasn’t. This is the issue that blew back. Within hours the White House had announced that, well actually, President Bush had not even known about this till it was approved. Scott McClellan – the least convincing Press Secretary in modern history – tried to say that President Bush went back later and asked his cabinet if they had any problems with the port deal, and they had replied no, so that was good enough for him.
It wasn’t good enough for Congress, and it got me thinking back to 9/11. There will always be a crew that thinks 9/11 was a U.S. government set-up – that elements within our side allowed it to happen and helped it happen. It certainly led to a tremendous increase in power for the White House and allowed them to steer the national anger toward other parts of their agenda – namely Iraq.
I prefer to think of 9/11 as a screw-up. I picture President Bush on his month-long vacation in August prior to 9/11, basically ignoring the coming threat. The expression they tried to sell us was that we failed to connect the dots. I don’t think the President even gazed at the dots. He was on vacation. I think there was enough information to realize 9/11 was on the way, if Bush had been fully engaged. Katrina was an egregious example of how asleep at the switch he can be. All you had to do was look at a satellite picture of that huge category 5 storm sitting out in the Gulf to know we were looking at a problem. It would take President Bush days more to get it.
Now we have this port issue, and what happens? After bragging for years about how focused he is on national security the White House is forced to admit that the President didn’t even know this was happening. He hadn’t connected the dots between the role of the ports and our national security. The difference between this and every other issue since 9/11, is that members of his own party are refusing to let him get away with it.
That 9/11 investigation was interesting, wasn’t it? Even though we had a tremendous motive for wanting to find out what went wrong, the White House fought long and hard to keep the investigation from even happening. President Bush was forced to relent partly because the 9/11 widows wouldn’t let it go. You remember how it ended up? With President Bush only speaking to investigators with Cheney present?
If the reasons for 9/11 aren’t even more damning than we know, at the very least it's now clear how incompetent this group is at governing, and how little President Bush really gets involved. The port deal is the final proof. The Bush administration had two main goals after 9/11: To use it for momentum and power, and to keep anyone from finding out how it really happened. Everyone went along, as they’ve done ever since until now. This port deal is the first time the ranks have been broken. The 9/11 mandate is over.

The Wall Street Journal On Oregon's 37

One thing I've noticed in the media is that there are errors in just about every story that I know something about. See if you think there's one in this:
OpinionJournal - Featured Article

Has Anyone Seen My Comedy Career?

So I was chugging along with a record year last year selling jokes to Jay Leno. I even hit my 500th overall joke and I made a big deal out of it sending Leno a plaque. Something about that experience threw me off my game. I think it was not having the goal anymore but I went into a dry spell.
You do get on rolls when a joke or two goes on, getting you excited and propelling you into a mother groove. I did receive a check the other day but one check is not a roll.
Now we’ve had these damn Olympics – I believe tonight was the “Ice-Scraping off the Windshield” competition. And that’s thrown everything off.
Not only does Leno come on after midnight but he has to focus on Torino. And after all that, NBC is getting very disappointing ratings. Oh well, the end is in sight. I know I still have it because the radio gig is going great, but I’ve got to be getting back on Leno. He’s got 3 years left and I don’t want to fade away before he does. You know the funny thing? I did great during Salt Lake. I crushed during Salt Lake. Usually the summer games are bad, and that's what this feels like.
Comedy writing is a mysterious business. I never have writer’s cramp, thank God, so it never stops flowing. I heard Letterman tonight and at least two of the jokes were similar to my radio versions. I know I’m in range here.
One of the best things they do down there is let you flounder for as long as you need, before you get it back. It will help when the Olympics are finished and we return to normal. I believe tonight Austria won the long distance syringe toss. There we go. It’ll come back. It always does....My career is over.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Classic Sign at Georgia Tech - Duke Game

I was hoping Georgia Tech would beat Duke tonight, but it didn't happen. The announcers talked a lot about them missing their point guard - Jarrett Jack - now on the Blazers roster. JJ Redick was awful - he couldn’t hit in the first half and the game got ugly. The highpoint was a sign in the stands that read, “Breathe if You Hate Duke.”

Bill McDonald: What Went Wrong – The Early Years

Most psychiatrists agree that Bill’s problems stemmed from having a giant head. They point to this early photo as an example of how this predicament first led to Bill’s anti-social behavior. Here his giant head weighs so much that he can't walk to the dinner table and is forced to eat from a bowl on the lawn.

Soon the scars of his isolation turn to perversion and he begins trying to shock those around him with primitive displays of exhibitionism.

Then one day by chance, he stumbles on a way to hide his giant head. Stealing his father’s comb, he attempts his first comb-forward. Suddenly, he appears more normal and a lifetime of deception and deceit would begin.

For you out-of-state viewers, there was this land use measure and one judge blocked it, but another judge...oh, never mind.

Civil War In Iraq

In case you haven’t viewed the strife in Iraq as a civil war before now, you can start the clock – By blowing up the mosque this thing is officially on.
Our troops are now caught between warring factions as this shattered country is locked in a death struggle between religious sects. The four permanent bases we are building there may be all the territory we really wanted to begin with, but you have to ask yourself why our brain trust in the White House left so many of our young people to ride around in a civil war?
Time for another one of those speeches about the hard work of democracy, followed by another vacation back in Crawford. By the way, in case you don’t think the President realizes what he’s done here, relax, he knows all too well about the pain of an injury. Here's what he told some amputation patients earlier this year: "As you can possibly see, I have an injury myself — not here at the hospital, but in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little scratch. As a matter of fact, the Colonel asked if I needed first aid when she first saw me. I was able to avoid any major surgical operations here, but thanks for your compassion, Colonel." —George W. Bush, after visiting with wounded veterans from the Amputee Care Center of Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, Jan. 1, 2006

Bush Administration Incompetence Seen as a Ray of Hope: America Might Be Saved

The furor over the ports issue is going to be a defining moment for a Bush administration that prides itself on defining the moments. Everything that is wrong with their style will work against them on this and they don’t even seem to realize it yet.
If they did, then why send George out to make such a firm stand? He insists any attempt to wrest the port contract back away from the United Arab Emirates company will be met by a veto. That’s going to make it difficult to fold up later on this, and if he remains firm and shows that trademark resolve they love to market to us, he’s in even worse shape.
All the usual beat-downs about not playing the blame game, and keeping politics out of it, aren’t going to work either. This is a President who brags about national security, and he’s looking really bad on his pet issue. Then he shifts effortlessly into his standard line that, “I never make mistakes so if I did this, it can’t be a mistake.” How did these events happen?
The answer to that question might hold America’s salvation and it is this: Behind all the power-grabbing, election-stealing, spin-making expertise that these guys always pride themselves on, is a core of mediocrity – an inescapable incompetence that most Americans are only now beginning to realize. Katrina was a glimpse at the real ability level of this group, and as their carefully constructed façade of government skill came crashing down, suddenly what this president has done stands unprotected for all to see. As many of us feared from the beginning, the guy is a classic screw-up, and so is Dick “the Macho Hunter” Cheney. These clowns actually fought a war for the wrong reasons, and they admit it. Hell, they're proud of it.
The only difference now is that their unbelievable incompetence is seen as a source of comfort. Try as they will to implement their twisted, power-crazed agenda, they might not have the required skill set to destroy America after all.

Shannon of Cairo

My niece Shannon graduated from college this year and returned to get to know the place where she was born. These pictures were taken in the exact same spot. They just rearrange the Pyramids every few years to keep it fresh.



Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Keeping It Real - Or Not

It can get a little frustrating when I look back on my teenage years frequenting the legendary music stores of New York City. I could have plunked down a few hundred dollars and walked away with a Fender Stratocaster that could be worth 30 grand right now. And don't even get me started on the Strat that was stolen from me back in the 1980s. That's a permanent "Ouch!"
Of all the stores on the same New York block, the most amazing was Manny’s, where I once looked at some boxes ready for shipment to Led Zeppelin. You could spend a lot of time just checking out the autographed pictures on the walls. The clerks were mostly cool musicians and the place rocked with Big Apple electricity. It was the early 70s, and I was a bass player. Life was bursting. One time when I was probably 16, I left my school in New Hampshire, flew from Boston to New York on the airline shuttle, bought a bass amp, arranged for it to be shipped to Saudi Arabia, and made it back to the school by nightfall. Music was in the air so it was fitting, indeed, that standing near me ready to board one of the flights, was an obvious rock and roll band. It turned out to be Poco, the version with Timothy Schmit, the bass player who would later join the Eagles. I can still remember watching him put his bass in the overhead bin. Another bass player – this was a sign!
So Fender guitars, etc… are sacred subjects to me and I still pour over the guitar catalogues like other people stare at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. That’s why I’m a little turned off right now. I don’t mind the reissues of great vintage guitars. That’s fair. But what gets me is the phony worn appearance they’re giving them now. Here, let Fender describe it:
"Relic - Like an old friend that's been with you through it all.
A note about the finish:
Completely worn in, like your favorite pair of jeans! Shows natural wear and tear of years of heavy use - nicks, scratches, worn finish, rusty hardware and aged plastic parts. The Relic® looks, feels and PLAYS like it's taken the punishment of many long nightclub hours."

Ouch, so those worn spots in the picture below are fake. Whatever happened to buying a new guitar and wearing it out yourself?

Jeff Gianola Trib Reference: Local Institution or Product Placement?

In the first paragraph of the Tribune’s article on Tom Grant this week, it compared the awesome pianist to other institutions in Portland, including KOIN anchor Jeff Gianola. That compliment is clouded by the Trib’s business relationship with KOIN news. Besides, if anybody at KOIN is an institution it’s Mike Donahue.
Wanting to be fair the Portland Freelancer googled “Jeff Gianola institution”- and the search results were immediate. He was mentioned in an old PDX Media Insider post as a great anchor “before his ego got the best of him.” The word “institution” did appear on the same post but it was in regards to Tim Hibbits.
Here’s how the conversation between the editors and sports/piano reporter Kerry Eggers should have gone: “Kerry, you better take out this Jeff Gianola reference. Some idiot with a blog is going to think we stuck it in there just to plug KOIN News. Besides, the only real institution they’ve still got over there is Mike Donahue.” “But it’d mean so much to Tom Grant. No one knows this but Jeff is Tom’s childhood hero.” “I’m sorry, but I don’t care. We don’t even want the appearance that we are exaggerating Jeff’s importance just because we have a relationship. That would be wrong.”

Any Port Not In A Storm?

Apparently Congress didn’t get the memo that there was now just one branch of government and that George - the Keeper of All Power - can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and shut up, if you don’t like it.
This battle over the ports could be just the thing to get Georgie back in touch with the Constitution. He’s already come out and drawn his line in the sand, just like Daddy did way back when, saying if Congress passes a law declaring the United Arab Emirates government-owned company can’t run 6 of our most important ports, he will veto it.
You could tell the President was put upon that Congress would even consider crossing him. Didn’t Cheney call the representatives of the American People "gnats"? They’re only supposed to make noise when Georgie reads something profound during his State of the Union address, and even then it’s only half of them. How dare they suggest that they have a share of the power in this government?
Never mind that President Bush himself used anti-Middle East sentiments when he went after Iraq for 9/11. He was the one painting with the broad brush then. Does he really believe this is some kind of titanic clash of cultures or not? Is that just more spin to be trotted out when it helps and ignored otherwise? Why is he so adamant about this?
You can tell how Georgie really feels about Congress: He didn’t even ask them before approving the deal. Congressional participation in the affairs of state? That’s so yesterday. That’s more quaint than the Geneva Conventions. Even when they pass an anti-torture bill he lets them know he won't follow it if he doesn't feel like it. This isn't just a man anymore. This is the law. In his mind - and stop to think about that concept - he believes what he says goes.
So this could be just the time for Congress to reassert it’s power. You know: Checks and balances – like we learned in school. Of course, the President isn’t going to stand for it. He didn’t go to all the trouble of establishing a monarchy in this country to be overruled. Stay tuned. This should be good. He could lose both his monarchy and his presidency if he's not careful.

The Battle for New Orleans

After reporting that my sister had traveled to New Orleans essentially to hang out in a bar a few weeks ago, it’s with a certain amount of pride that I report that another member of the family actually went to help. He’s my brother-in-law’s brother Dietrich who went to clean houses. This picture of the mold will give you an idea of what they are up against down there. This is from the “war zone” of St. Bernard Parish where they are trying to clean up 5000 homes by the end of June.

Bush and Mix-Up in the Same Headline? No Way

Here is our President explaining why an energy lab's funds were cut. The State of the Union speech was supposed to be about healthcare but the White House realized they had nothing good to report. They switched at the last second to alternative energy, which led to President Bush's statements about oil that the White House discounted the next day. Now that the spin target of alternative fuel was in place, the White House, as usual, worked backward to try and make some of the facts fit. That's how the funding got restored to the energy lab. Those scientists owe their jobs to the failed healthcare policy of the Bush administration. Of course, down the road when the spin has no value anymore, the money will disappear again. It's called good government - Bush style. There was one hilarious sentence in the following article: "'You're doing great work here,' said Bush, who picked up a bottle of clear-colored ethanol and smelled it."
The President walking into a lab and taking a smell of something: The comedic, science-fiction possibilities are endless.
One great detail: They usually have Bush in a cuddly blue shirt when he talks to the people as in the New Orleans speech. It just helps his supporters feel the teenage puppy love for the guy. So in this picture they have him in a cuddly blue hardhat. Hilarious.
Bush Blames Energy Lab Cuts on Mix-Up - Yahoo! News

Monday, February 20, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld: Your Padded Cell Is Ready

Of all the despicable clowns assembled in the Bush administration, my pick for “Most likely to leave in a straitjacket” is Donald Rumsfeld. Sure, he might skate through the last three years but I wouldn’t hold off getting the jacket size. This guy has been turning out wacky statements for years including the famous “Knowns we know about and unkown unknowns we don’t know about.” Then there’s that business about not having a chair in his office and always standing up. Actually, forget the quirks - just based on his failure to plan post-invasion Iraq you'd figure he'd be gone by now, and yet he remains.
One reason the old guy still holds on in Washington is that he is a fierce protector of bureaucratic turf, and has a real focus on his own future. He even flew to Iraq during one particularly tense time with his job approval rating, to reassure the troops that he is a survivor. Nice of him to consider himself at a time like that. Then he left these young people in the wretched mess he helped create, and hopped a plane back to the States. So he's a self-absorbed eccentric power-junkie. Has anything changed?
What leads me to believe Rumsfeld has finally gone cuckoo for cocoa puffs, is his recent quotes about al-Qaeda and how they’re outdoing us in the propaganda wars. According to Donald, they’ve “skillfully adapted” to modern media, and there is a “dangerous deficiency” in our ability to spin the world. (Does that remind anybody of the Mind Shaft Gap in Dr. Strangelove?)
So that’s it! The problem isn’t that we adopted a policy of torture, and the world found out about it. No, the problem is that Muslim extremists are using the pictures. We just need a bigger spin machine to counteract this and everything will be all right.
As usual, it couldn’t be his fault or the rest of Bush’s foreign policy team. No way. We just need to give Halliburton a 10 billion dollar contract to tell the world how wonderful we are, and these pictures of the bodies of torture victims won’t have any impact.
Personally, I’m guessing Rumsfeld will need a size 44. Maybe a 46. he does have quite a build, left over from when he learned about running a war by wrestling in college. Still, we want the straitjacket to fit tightly though, in case the crazy bastard tries to escape.

The Coat My Father Bought Me

I was walking into Cable Access in the first days of the latest cold snap and Rosie, the charismatic and cute front desk person, said, “I like your coat.”
Of course, any kind of compliment from a young woman at my age works wonders for the morale – so much so that I said, “Thanks, I live for your approval.” You can’t let them know the truth: That a compliment like that might last for a week.
It wasn’t the only time I’ve impressed people with the coat – not even the only time that day. An employee at Zupan’s also noticed the upgrade in my normal wardrobe. The coat is actually around 20 years old but it’s so well made you wouldn’t notice. Sure, a couple of the original buttons have broken off – one has been in the left pocket for probably a decade - but the basic look is exactly the same as when my Dad bought it for me back in the 1980s.
My band had been scattered across the Northwest and we decided to give it one last try by relocating in Spokane. I had my girlfriend with me and it was right out of Little House on the Prairie – basic survival was a major question mark. Our musical operation was lurching along towards oblivion, and failure was just a matter of time. We had gone from a holding pattern to a downward spiral, and we were just about to enter a freefall. Yes, folks, our humble group would shortly come apart when the FBI took an interest in our drummer. He would soon be residing in federal prison.
The worst part about those first few months in Spokane, was that the place was cold. Not pretend cold like this week, but serious cold: 20 degrees in November. You could feel your face beginning to freeze just walking down the street.
Perhaps sensing danger, my Dad showed up, and after surveying the situation he marched me into a great store in downtown Spokane and spent 300 dollars on this amazing coat. It isn’t flashy but it is impressive, weighing about as much as two good sleeping bags. When I wear it people who don’t know me, act like I’m important. You can’t imagine that? Here’s an anecdote that proves it:
My father had a sister named Ceal, and she was a huge Boston Celtics fan. I’m not an autograph seeker – I hardly ever ask for one and I’ve met some major celebrities. But it became a hobby of mine to get my Aunt Ceal autographs of the Celtics. They came to town one cold winter day so I put on the coat and headed to the Memorial Coliseum. The Celtics arrived on their bus and walked in. I approached them and it became obvious that everyone involved thought I belonged there. This was entirely because I had the coat on. So when the Celtics walked inside, I went along.
I got to watch the entire Celtics practice. I can tell you Larry Bird paid very little attention to the coach – a man named Jimmy Rodgers. Afterwards, I got to stand with the local press as they talked to the players. After one too many questions about how old they were getting, Kevin McHale said, “Listen, anyone who tells you you’re not older than you were yesterday is full of s___." That got a big laugh. Afterwards, I chatted with Larry Bird and got some great autographs for my Aunt Ceal. Ceal’s gone now and so is my Dad, but I got the coat out this week, and it still works. Hey, Rosie at cable access liked it, and that’s good enough for me.

Kevin McHale, Joe Kleine, Charles Smith, Jimmy Rodgers

Larry Bird

269 Billionaires in America

The true picture of what President Bush has done to America is starting to emerge. Despite paying tons of lip service to a religion that advocates taking care of the poor, President Bush's heart remains with the increasingly wealthy among us. Of course, any mention of this brings immediate cries of "Class warfare." So, get ready for another election year discussion of how much the Republicans want to help Joe Sixpack, then watch as they laugh all the way to the bank.
The Observer | World | 37 million poor hidden in the land of plenty

Dear George, It’s Presidents Day – Here’s Why Your Power Grab Won’t Work

It’s simple: Americans are used to being free. When they realize what you’ve done, and what you’re trying to do, they’ll push back like nothing you’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s remarkable that more of them haven’t seen through your act yet, but they will soon enough. You and your group hopes it will be too late by then, but guess what? It’s never going to be too late. What you’re trying to do to the Constitution – to our freedom - is going to go down as your biggest miscalculation ever, and there have been a few. When the American people realize what you’ve done, your plans will drift away like the smoke of which they were made. And all the King’s Horses and all the King’s Henchmen won’t be able to put your plan back together again. Did I say “King”? Excuse me, I almost forgot it was Presidents Day.

The Chronicles of Portlandia

A strange and uneasy calm has descended upon the land, for the Floggers of the Bog – led by a local crowd favorite named Jack – are in day two of a self-imposed Nice Week. Part breather, part penance, this has given the Wizard Potter and the Jedi Council an opportunity to do anything they want, yet so far they seem stunned into inaction. Meanwhile, the Dark Lords of the Forbidden Castle were singled out in the Chronicles of Bhatia for their wretched treatment of a young boy. Many have criticized those pages but was this not a good thing? To draw attention to a young man so hurt? Across the Kingdom of the Rose a cry went up. Why couldn’t the Forbidden Castle just make it right? They could announce that they have no legal obligation in this case but they would like to give the boy’s family two million in gold, because it is simply the right thing to do. They hurt him, they should pay.
And across the kingdom the grumbling grows: if they are not going to pay for their own mistakes, how dare they ask us for our gold to build their stupid tram?
Meanwhile, all eyes watch and wait, for the day when Jack and the Floggers of the Bog return to their ways. For on that day the voice of righteous indignation will once more echo throughout the Kingdom. The hour has been chosen: When next Saturday gives way to Sunday. And one thing is certain: When the clock strikes midnight, all hell will break loose upon the land.

The Results Are In – Charlie Went National

The word from Spokane is that the tape from the ESPN telecast has been reviewed, and yes, my friend and former bandmate Charlie Butts did make it on the air with part of his National Anthem. Apparently “College Game Day” was also broadcast from the Kennel in Spokane, so he was on prior to Dick Vitale’s introduction. I have seen the DVD of this performance - it took place before the Gonzaga basketball game against Stanford with Adam Morrison in the house - and Charlie completely crushed it on his saxophone. Indeed, if Charlie is ever tried for sedition by a corrupt government, all he has to do is play this tape and no tribunal will convict him. He has a “Get out of Guantanemo Free” Pass for life, here - it is that good. Of course, as a member of his former band – someone who suffered through the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” along with him - I felt tremendous pride watching this. It was like winning an argument. Charlie can play.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheney: Right Guy, Wrong Metaphor

Dick Cheney’s hunting mishap last week was widely seen as a metaphor for the Bush administration’s trigger-happy foreign policy. It really did have it all: A phony-macho chicken hawk out shooting off his weapon at the wrong target, landing in a big mess. No one is faulting metaphor fans for jumping on a comparison with Iraq. The only way the hunting trip could have been any closer is if he had lied to Harry Whittington to get him to go.
Of course, there is one major disconnect between last weekend and our misadventure in Iraq: Cheney had an exit strategy from the ranch. He allowed himself a way out - back to Washington, D.C. and the loving arms of Brit Hume. Dick isn’t the type of guy to leave himself stuck in a quagmire. That’s for other people’s sons and daughters to endure.
So, there we have it. The #1 problem facing the world according to this group is terrorism, and this incident captured their incompetent, poorly aimed response, right?
Maybe, but I’m having second thoughts. Wouldn’t it be interesting, despite all the wretched spin the White House spews out, if the #1 threat we face right now is damage to the environment? If the true warning sign for our survival as a species wasn’t 9/11, but Katrina? You can’t turn around without stumbling over a story about Greenland and the accelerating loss of the polar icecap. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the meltdown that really goes on to kill millions of us was from the damage we’ve done to the earth?
The amazing thing is that the hunting screw-up still works as a metaphor for this as well. Cheney could be the living symbol for all that is wrong with how America treats the planet: He’s driving around in a car chasing little birds, spreading his buckshot all over the place. There’s no harmony with nature here. He’s just another fat loser trying to get his macho kicks at the expense of the environment, and his reckless behavior is threatening his fellow man. Think about it. All this time we had the right guy, but the wrong metaphor.

J.J. Redick: Duke’s All-Time Leading Scorer

The storybook season in college hoops continues. J.J. Redick passed Johnny Dawkins as the greatest scorer in Duke history in a home win over Miami. Duke haters are everywhere so to them this is no big deal, but I’ve watched a lot of college hoops in my life, and missing this is to deny a rare treat in sports.
One measure of greatness in events is the feeling that you’re looking at pages in a history book even as the events happen. That’s how Larry Bird got to be known as Larry Legend. J.J. Redick has that. And both on the court and off, he just seems too good to be true. Sure, his post-game quotes can sometimes seem unimaginative. He knows the right things to say and he says them. But today he showed some genuine emotion as he goes through his last games at Duke. Adam Morrison might be a better NBA prospect but J.J. appears to be a better person. This is one of those fun times when the right character is matched with the talent. And there’s something about it that is unique to college sports. This is Doug Flutie playing basketball. Hoop fans can only blame themselves if they don’t catch on

Former Journalist Hot-Shot Faces Birthday With Courage

David, can it be true? Can the person I helped teach to catch a baseball really be 49? (Seriously, that was a lot of fun last summer. You should have mentioned you couldn’t catch earlier.)
Usually the 4th kid gets hand-me-downs so I want you to know you’re the first of the McDonald children to receive a blog post instead of an actual gift.
I love you, man. It’s cold in Minnesota right now, so have a safe 49th birthday. Here’s a picture of you when you used to roam the world on assignment for Reuters, etc…. Now we just worry that you’ll wander off.

Freelancing 101: The Confrontation

I always felt if you write comedy or criticism you should be willing to look the subject in the face and own up to the material. That’s partly why I don’t send my comments anonymously to these other blogs – If you can’t admit it’s you, why send it in at all? Okay, I know there are reasons why some people have to remain anonymous – their comments could get them fired, etc… but I’ve tried to avoid that kind of job as well. Actually, I avoided that kind of job right after they fired me.
I’ve had a lot of jokes about the Bush administration on the Tonight Show including a couple the night George W. was there as a guest. That made me feel good. I don't want to have to run around behind people’s backs. Believe me, I'd love to tell Rumsfeld and Cheney what I really think.
Naturally any comedy writer working in the 90s paid a lot of bills making fun of Bill Clinton. It really was a spectacular era for jokes. What’s more humorous? A fat intern under the desk or a shotgun blast to the face? This current group is so locked into a negative groove that even their light moments are grim.
Clinton was out of office when I wrote for the Tribune but I did a column about him with lines like, “Clinton’s main problem was his sex drive. When they checked his DNA on that stained dress, I bet they found he was part hound dog.” Isn't it great to live in a country where you could call the former leader any kind of dog, and expect to get away with it? I'm going to miss that if these current clowns finally get their way. So I called the former President a hound dog in print, but what would happen if I wound up chatting with him? In my case, I gave him the column personally, wrote my business address on it, and asked him for a comment. He never did respond, but it was worth a try. All you freelancers out there, take note: You have to be willing to stand up for your work. You have to be willing to confront your subjects and say, “That’s what I think.”
Here is the picture of me giving the Hound Dog in Chief my column. I love the guy on the right. He doesn’t appear that happy about all this, does he?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

So You Want To Be A Standup Comedian?

Mysterious Object Located In Storage Bin

I found this today in an old cardboard box. Does anyone know what it is? It has a hole in the center like this year's Olympic medals. Maybe it's some kind of award.