Friday, March 31, 2006

The Lighter Notes: The Sole Staged Promo Shot

This is our one and only posed concept-style picture. The "bugle player" was added but the rest of it is legit. I'm not sure it captures what we're trying to do, but I guess it's kind of funny. Those are actual instruments dipped in the water, but they are of really bad quality. I bought that 12-string in New York City and got ripped off. The poles to adjust the bridge weren't parallel so the bridge wouldn't move. The action was so bad, Andre the Giant couldn't have pushed those strings down. I was crazy to have a 12-string like the Byrds sound, and it clouded my judgment. Later I would do the right thing and get a blonde Rickenbacker.
I used to keep the lousy guitar from New York out in plain view. I figured if someone broke in they might steal it, instead of something important.
Oh well. The picture doesn't quite do it for me. I mean we take the music pretty seriously and everything else less so. This makes it seem like a big joke, especially combined with the Lighter Notes name. I know that's a comedy phrase (On a lighter note) but I liked the absurd angle of musical notes being lighter when they don't weigh anything to begin with.

By the way, It looks like the Lighter Notes will be playing some pretty substantial gigs this year, so if you need our services, the time to act is now. One highlight last year was the Pioneer Square gig where they build the sand castles.
Although as Jimi said, "Castles built of sand fall into the sea eventually." I guess that's what's wrong. You wouldn't see Jimi Hendrix out in a raft on the Willamette doing a promo shot. Where's the dignity?

Condi: The U.S. Made "Thousands" of Mistakes in Iraq

I sense another change of direction in the crumbling mess that is the White House. The other day Rumsfeld gave the U.S. a D or D plus grade when it came to getting our message across in the Middle East. Oh, Donald, I think they get what you’re all about just fine.
Then Andrew Card was tossed overboard in violation of the Bush Doctirne: No Matter How Badly You Screw Up, You Keep Your Job and May Even Get a Medal of Freedom.”
Now we get Condi’s statement that the Bush administration made “thousands” of mistakes in Iraq. What’s next? Will she say, “No one could have imagined Iraq would turn out so badly”?
This whole administration makes me sick, but I was always a little more disgusted by Condi. Clearly, she’s smarter than the rest of the group.
For all Rumsfeld’s swagger and Dick Cheney’s phony tough guy act, I always saw them as foolish men whose principal talent was acting macho in meetings. I always thought Rumsfeld was a little clownish with his unknown knowable routine.
And Cheney? Cheney’s just a twisted idiot, saying things like, “Ronald Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” That statement by the way was so dumb, it could lead to the downfall of America as a superpower.
But Condi? She had brains. She was brought in to tutor President Bush and give him a cookie if he got an answer right. Of course, he never did, but along the way, she got his complete trust. She gets to be Secretary of State in exchange for her loyalty. And oh, how the lies flowed. She just seemed too eager to lie for this guy. It was disgusting.
Another of President Bush’s central doctrines is that mistakes are never made. Clearly, this week they had a little meeting and realized to continue acting like everything is going great at this point, just makes them look like lunatics. So Andrew Card is gone and the rest of them are starting to act humble. Ahh, The Rule of Spin. What a disaster. Even when they pretend to act humble and genuine, it’s contrived.
News One Article |

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Framing the Issue: The Spin Goes On

One of the pitfalls of an administration that exists to spin, is that they are always framing an issue. This often comes in the form of a question – the recent one being, “Why is the media only reporting the bad news from Iraq, and not the good news?” So for the ensuing days the media is caught up in the parameters of the question, and the new balance revolves around the unreported good news.
That is a victory for Karl Rove and company, because half of the real question has disappeared without a trace. That part of the question is, “Are things in Iraq even worse than what we are seeing in the media?” I am certain the answer to that is yes. We haven't seen this war. Not really. How many hundreds of ugly little scenes are occurring out of view? How many sectarian killings, death squads, and other mayhem go on without our knowledge? I saw one account that said the defense ministry had advised Iraqis not to obey any police or security forces, unless they are accompanied by American forces. Nobody can be trusted.
If the American public saw what was really going on in Iraq, public opinion would change in a day. Instead we’re getting a highly censored, clean war-lite. Even our own returning dead are hidden from view. And what are we seeing? Plenty of smoking cars, and pools of blood, but no half-dead children calling for help. The reality of Iraq is 10,000 times worse than anything we see on our TVs. And the shameless bastards at the White House have the nerve to ask for better coverage, so we can get a fuller picture of what is going on.

Let's See How Road Repair Is Coming Along Since Katrina

This is near Biloxi, Mississippi. You wouldn't expect these roads to be replaced but it looks like the morning after Katrina hit.

Looking Back with John Canzano: Blazers' grit, guts can mean playoff spot

First, I’m all for local sports columnists showing some enthusiasm. One problem Dwight Jaynes has is that he’s been overexposed to the dark side of the sports business, and he often sounds overly cynical and joyless. Some of his columns read like he’s saying, “I know you enjoyed this - now let me explain why you shouldn’t have.”
The other side of the equation is when the local sports columnist sounds supportive to the point of lunacy, which brings us to John Canzano. Frankly, I’ve been a little creeped out by this guy since he got a urine sample from Damon Stoudamire to have it tested. I don’t need my local sports columnists doing that. Just cover the games. If you are receiving bodily fluids from the athletes, you are way too close to the story.
Damon is gone now, and the Blazers are nursing a 20 and 50 record. Whoops, they played last night so it’s 20 and 51. But I thought that nice round number was a good chance to revisit John Canzano’s column of November 18th. He wrote if the Blazers “stay healthy and scrap, the only way they don't make the postseason is if they allow their youth to be an excuse. The preseason marketing campaign declared, "Ready or not, here we come." But now, it should be changed to, "Why not?" As in, why not the playoffs?”

Okay, I’ll play along. Let's see...Why not? Uh, maybe because the team sucks?
I’m all for a little enthusiasm but Dwight Jaynes’ cynicism has its place, too. John Canzano wrote, “I think the Trail Blazers will make the playoffs. Crazy, huh?” Yeah, John, crazy. But at least you didn’t have to get any urine samples to figure this one out.

Blazers' grit, guts can mean playoff spot

Dauphin Island Months After Katrina

Okay, there’s no way the damage from Katrina could be repaired by now, but this long after a disaster at least the unsafe structures should be down, to prevent further loss of life. Check out these pictures my sister took last week on Dauphin Island, off the coast of Alabama.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Big John Connally and the Magic Bullet

I saw this guy with my own eyes. He was running for president and he swung through Portland - I waited on him at the banquet. He was John Connally, one of the actual victims in the assassination of JFK. I stood behind him and looked down where the bullet struck – the one that would become known as the magic bullet. Naturally, I wanted to ask him what he really thought. Frankly, I seem to remember footage of him saying something that disputed the Warren Report to some degree, but he didn’t actively question it. Now a blogger linked below claims Connally never bought the Oswald-lone-assassin story.
The history of this reverberates in my brain. What were the words he said to JFK just before it happend? Something like, “You can’t say Texas doesn’t love you, Mr. President”? Then the gunshots rang out and America changed.
I stayed in the room to hear the speech. Connally struck me as the prototypical Texan - bigger than life. The Bushes were Ivy League transplants but Big John was the real thing. I remember thinking he didn’t seem to project the right politician vibe for a successful run. He was a long shot. Let me rephrase that. He was an unlikely choice for a candidate, too brash, too real. I was sad for him later when he went bankrupt and they sold his saddles and stuff right out of the house. It was a scene from one of those big Texan movies.
The heaviest part, of course, was to be a couple of feet behind him, looking down at the chest, and the wrist where the magic bullet hit last. But there was one moment that stirred the crowd during the speech. He said we should send him to Washington as President because he knew where all the bodies were buried. That gave me a chill. Clearly Big John knew some secrets. He was American history and I saw him with my own eyes.
Capitol Hill Blue: Is deception the best way to serve one's country?

A Call From Arizona

How brutal is this? I’m sitting at the computer slaving away to respond to 7 pages of whacky news stories with 2 or 3 jokes each. I might as well be scraping barnacles off an aircraft carrier right? Then my buddy calls me from Tempe, Arizona where he is two rows off the grass at a Cactus League baseball game between the Cubbies and the Angels. Of course, the call is interspersed with reactions to events on the field. He did mention the joke on Leno last night that he knew was mine. (President Bush doesn’t like changes in personnel. He got this from having the same third grade teacher year after year after year.) Although I know the joke went all over, I must confess that I still can’t accept that fact on some level. Anecdotal evidence that it was broadcast in Arizona is quite stunning. That’s a long way from here. It’s actually a little scary that the keys I’m typing on right now are somehow hooked up to what comes out of a box in Tempe. Ahh, get over yourself, Bill. Anyone who makes a long distance call has their voice bouncing 22 thousand miles out in space. It’s that hum that we all feel: The big interconnecting wow.
I suppose I’d rather be sitting at a baseball game today, but this is pretty cool, too. I remember making the emotional leap to accepting that the material going in one corner of the living room was coming out the TV in another corner. Then one night, I went to the Plaid late and noticed a TV through a window in a basement apartment on the next block, and the Tonight Show was on there, too. I thought of the weirdness of being able to write a joke and have it come out one block over. I guess they come out in Arizona, too. Weird.

Not Everybody Gets My Humor

The Return of the Lighter Notes

One of the members of our humble trio is a teacher, and every Spring he is involved in a giant project that precludes any rock and roll. Last night the hiatus ended, and all was right in my world again. I unveiled the new guitar technique, and everything held together. It is a finger picking style – sort of like Mark Knopler’s, although his fingers are twisted in a weird angle. I wish I could compare it to Jeff Beck’s pick-less approach but who am I kidding?
Then there’s Lindsay Buckingham, who gets a very distinctive sound without a pick. I just want to grab the strings. It feels genuine, like my own personal glory days when I was an actual better-than-average bass player and everyday felt like I was in a movie.
The key is this particular guitar. We were going to play a gig at the Bite, and I wanted something just in case I broke a string. It was in a big tent and Bill Walton was the guest of honor. My brother had sent me a tie-dyed shirt from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so I thought, “If not now, when?” Bill opened his speech talking about it.
I digress. It turns out this Les Paul knockoff that was supposed to be a last ditch effort in a pinch, is now my main guitar, while my $1,800 dollar custom made beast, sits in a guitar stand and sulks.
What made last night fun was the ending when three complete strangers, who had been walking down the street, rang the front doorbell, and ended up in the garage with us, complimenting the music. Life can be so pleasant. I went home in time to hear my joke slamming President Bush on the Tonight Show. By the way, Kevin, the Tonight Show bandleader, doesn’t use a pick on his guitar, either. My joke went out to 70 countries, but I was happiest about playing in the garage. All was back in its rightful place: Comedy as something I can do, but music as the way - the best path through life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Bolton to Replace Card as White House Chief of Staff

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card Resigns

Andrew Card is resigning as Bush’s chief of staff, and his replacement is an obvious choice: Jim Larranaga, coach of the George Mason basketball team.
Washington insiders were surprised that Andrew Card would leave now. They figured he’d stay at least till the Impeachment.
Andrew says he just wants to spend more time ruining his family’s poll numbers.
This is quite surprising because President Bush does not like changes in personnel. They believe he got this from having the same third-grade teacher year after year after year.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Diane Linn: Feeling the Frustration

I'm just glad there were no big blizzards this year.

Bad Language Threatens Pristine Nature of Tram Debate

Randy Leonard has responded on Blue Oregon to an Oregonian piece about the tram quoting Randy Gragg's comment, “Time for a reality check.” Commissioner Leonard’s next line was, “No shit, Sherlock.” So finally we’ve found the level of the debate. Frankly, I worry about the example this sets for our young people, who love using the computers for games and stuff. I mean, what if they turned to this site and read this diatribe from a city leader? Ahh, but this is where our priorities start paying off. While we’ve been throwing money away on these ridiculous projects, the school system has gotten so bad that most of these impressionable young people probably don't read anyway. Still, in honor of Randy’s use of the S-word, the big "L" in the tram cartoon today stands for “Language!”
BlueOregon: Fool Me Once, Shame on You...

Freelancing: The Fine Art of Self-Promotion, When to Know When

My first impulse was to play it cool. How often do you get invited to a big-time Hollywood awards dinner? My second impulse was to pimp myself like all life in the universe depended on it. My final impulse was to take the advice of the producer who invited me. After all, his wife was head person of the banquet, and I didn’t want to be obnoxious. There were producers there who were simply too big for this type of thing. Names like Zanuck. Robert Evans. Harvey Weinstein. So we went on a case by case basis, as to who I would hand my business card to, and when I say business card, I mean the ridiculous homemade model I had thrown together on my computer and encased in plastic at Kinko’s the night before leaving Portland for L.A.
I wouldn’t be dwelling on this at all right now, but today I stumbled on one of them, in some papers - just aother relic to a lifetime of questionable moves. Below is the actual card with the number touched out. I must have given it to ten producers of which the producer to “Rush Hour 2” was one. I also gave a card to Tom Hanks, just for the thrill of it. See, a lot of these decisions are not designed to net any results. They are mere reinforcements of the philosophy required to be a freelancer. You can’t be afraid to promote yourself a little. Don’t be obnoxious about it. Seek advice, but don’t be shy either.
Later, I'll try and explain how this is an outgrowth of my hitchhiking years and the need to be free. But first, back to the swanky Beverly Hills banquet.
My producer friend, who handed out some stuff of his own, by the way, would point me to someone that the card might actually work on. The notion of some outsider trying to hustle his way into the game, brought a smile to most of their faces. Some read the card and laughed.
Although I shook hands with Diane Lane, I did not give her the card. The same for Adrien Brodie, Robert Wagner, and Anjelica Houston. Incidentally, that might have been the first really weird moment. I was in the reception, and everyone was decked out, drinking away in their extremely expensive looking clothes. I was in my rented tux from Mr. Formal, and I turned around and there at the party was Anjelica Huston. It’s one thing to see celebrities pass by, and another to be there chatting with them. I also thought about the movie history here: John Huston’s daughter.
Incidentally, my producer friend told me when he first got in the movie business one of his jobs was to smuggle beef from America to where John Huston was staying in Mexico.
Wait, I should parse out these anecdotes a little more carefully. Let's just say it was an unusual experience. I’m not a socially-outgoing type of person, much less a show-biz type. How I fell into this situation was quite unusual, but that’s how it should be. I was promoting a script when I first met the producer, and that led to this. And it all has eventually landed on my blog, scanned, and posted. Hey, maybe that’s what this is all about. The inexplicable philosophy that has guided me through life might have all been so I would have some cool topics later for my blog. That’s it! This blog has been driving the entire thing. It is the reason. I just wasn’t aware of it yet.

Katherine Harris “Doing God’s Work”

Katherine Harris really must feel like a cheap slut right now. Here she participated in stealing Election 2000 along with Jeb and his brother by denying thousands of citizens their lawful voting rights. While our crack media was bogged down with hanging chads and dimpled ballots, the well-documented scheme worked. And now after her sleazy political threesome the Republicans want her out of the picture, without even giving her cab fare home.
What’s a political slut to do but play the God card? Suddenly she is declaring that her run for office is "doing God's work." This isn’t a doomed political campaign; this is the work of God. When in doubt appeal to religion; without it there wouldn’t be a President Bush tearing up Iraq with torture and preemptive strikes, and running our country into fiscal ruin.
So that brings up an interesting question: When Jeb and Katherine got together prior to Election 2000, and fired the firm that was checking voter registrations and hired another firm at much more money – a firm that just happened to throw out around 90,000 voters, many of whom were Democrats and African American - was that one of those things where they just broke the law, in a cold and calculated way? Or did they tell themselves it was okay because God wanted them to break the law?
If she’s so godly, you would think the Republicans would want her around. She helped make this administration possible. But instead they just want her to get lost. She’s the little slut who gave it up under the bleachers at school because she thought it would make her popular with the big boys. Turns out it didn’t. They used her like a 10-dollar crack whore, and she’s back out on the corner wondering what went wrong.
State: Harris puts her faith in religion

West Wing, Kerry, and Some Bad Flashbacks

“West Wing” went out of its way to take a few cheap shots at Jay Leno last night, and it was really quite stupid. The storyline was that Jay wanted the presidential candidate Santos to appear in a Robin Hood sketch wearing green tights. I assume you’ve seen the Tonight Show? Does anyone remember a presidential candidate doing anything like this skit, especially 5 days before the election? The West Wing writers must have stumbled across Aaron Sorkin’s old stash of mushrooms. No, wait, it’s not even that creative. It was just a pointlessly weak putdown. They also went out of their way to give David Letterman a compliment.
Meanwhile, Leno goes right on drawing the numbers while NBC struggles, and shows like West Wing fade. Why? Partly because the writing isn't as good as it used to be, back when Aaron Sorkin was holed up in a hotel suite in Beverly Hills, stoned out of his mind.
It also made me wince on a personal level when I thought back to the presidential campaign of 2004. As a freelance writer, I’ve always avoided working for politicians but after watching President Bush in action, I felt I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try to do something. I basically applied to all the candidates opposing President Bush, and it was early in the process. That’s how I got bumped up to David Wade, who was very important in the campaign, and remains with John Kerry to this day. We exchanged a bunch of emails, mostly with me in shock at the caliber of material the campaign was turning out. Kerry’s campaign was in the midst of some kind of egomaniacal preppie grudge match, complete with overconfidence, smugness, and positioning for their jobs in the administration. I offered to sit at my computer and respond to things like the swift-boating with some hot lines. I mean Kerry still has shrapnel in his leg from Vietnam, and these chicken hawk punks were making him look weak on the military. It remains one of the most aggravating and perplexing campaign responses I’ve ever seen.
So it came down to them requesting a reference, and Leno agreed to take the call. The phone number was given out, but the Kerry campaign never rang. They never followed through on their own request for a reference.
After the election, I received an email from David Wade with his new email address, and his plans to stay in the game. He said John Kerry was fighting mad now about the campaign. Great, just in the nick of time.
I used to write to David Wade that there was a line floating around in the untapped vastness – a line that could win them the presidency. Why not hire me to try and write it, especially when their stuff was so lame? Maybe Kerry decided to hire me before he decided not to, I don’t know, but the whole process made me sick.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Time to Get the Band Back Together

I'm starting to look at these pictures with real fondness. The group has got to get back together just to play, which we will do this week. We haven't fired off a note in anger for a couple of months, and as usual everything else goes out of balance without it.

My NCAA Brackets



March Madness 2006: With Every Close Finish the Legend Grows

I can’t take much more of this. After George Mason beat UConn, the Florida-Villanova match-up seems like pointless overkill. Of course, the way this tournament is going, I’ll probably miss out on one of the great games of all time, but I think I’m heading for a nap.
What George Mason has done makes Hoosiers look like a lock. It was just a couple of weeks ago that Billy Packer and Jim Nance were questioning the school’s inclusion in the tournament. Now George Mason is becoming the story.
Check that. The story is also LSU and the irrepressible Glen “Big Baby” Davis. The 310-pounder has proven to be as good with a quote as he is with his nimble footwork. Commenting on his improbable 3-point shot that was the turning point against Texas, Big Baby said, “"I call it thinking without thinking.” After the game, he also wanted it made known that they weren’t content yet: "We're still not satisfied. We have tapeworms in our bellies. We still want to eat." When a 310-pounder says he’s still hungry, watch out.
This propelled LSU into the lead in this year's all-tournament great quotes department. Of course, the George Mason team is – even as I write this – being interviewed about their ridiculously magical win over a gigantic, deep UConn team. They’re probably dropping some great lines right now themselves. We’ll probably head into the Final Four all tied up, and hoping for an appropriate finish for one of the best March Madness runs in history. I can see the movie title already: "Hoosiers, Part 2: A Tapeworm in My Belly".

Congress, Bribes, and the Charity Scam

It’s enough to take your breath away reading about how moral our members of Congress are. Not only do they have time for lobbyists, but they even find time for charities. Of course, members of their staffs and family end up working for these charities, and they have to get paid, don’t they?
I mean just because charity begins at home, doesn’t mean it can’t end at the bank. Oh, and some of the big donors to the charities just happen to be the lobbyists who want favors from the Congressmen. Wow, damn nice to see they have charity in their hearts too. So in effect, the money goes from the lobbyists to the members of the Congressman’s staff. Now some of you cynical bastards out there might call this bribe money. You might note that Tom Delay’s chief of staff received over a third of the money headed for one of these charities. That’s right, he received over a million dollars for his work on the charity, while he was employed by Tom Delay.
You should also check out the numbers behind the pious Rick Santorum’s foundation. So far he refuses to explain how so much money went through his organization to people who helped him in return. Of course, the liberal media refuses to see the good side of what's going on here. So much wonderful work, so much giving. We’re just blessed to live in a time when Congressional leaders have this kind of goodness in their hearts.
Former DeLay Aide Enriched By Nonprofit

Lashing Out in the Name of God

Last night, I was as discouraged about the role of religion in society as I’ve been in quite a while. I was watching this cable access show called Truth Seekers, that’s normally quite entertaining, as it defends the Biblical timeline that claims the universe is 6,000 years old. Their idea is to look at the evidence, and then come up with ways that it fits into their religious beliefs, and that’s the good part of the show.
However last night, they drifted into religious bashing of Catholics, saying that Satan works in the Catholic Church. The major problem they have is the role they perceive Catholics give Mary. One of the callers was obviously an older woman and she was clearly hurt that something she believed in was so openly attacked. It was that hurt in her voice that got me.
People around the world believe in the concept of God. It takes different forms in different places, just as different languages, cuisines, and music develop. The annoying thing about religion is the way very similar sects turn on each other. That’s what makes Iraq such a mess right now: Sunnis and Shiites are both Islamic so why the fighting? The same thing happened in Northern Ireland over the years. And of course, everybody in every sect believes they are right.
The theme last night was that the Bible is the word of God, but guess what? Nobody follows the Bible completely, even though there are clauses saying it’s the only way and everything in it has to be followed. Do you want an example? How about Deuteronomy 13:7-11:

“If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,” unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God”

Do these guys follow that doctrine? So for these guys to lay into this woman’s faith seemed sort of shabby. It seemed like that old human flaw: We’re just a little bit superior to you. This often leads to another human flaw: We’re going to come over to where you live and kill you. Does anyone even know the difference in Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam?
Stick to the timeline stuff and observations about the world, fellows. It is an entertaining show when you do that. The way the moon covers the sun in a total eclipse. The way light traveled across the universe in less than 6,000 years. These explanations are a joy to behold. Berating old women whose faith is a little different than yours, is tacky, especially since you don’t follow the Bible yourselves.
In fact, here’s another story for you to study. It’s another find of a prehistoric man’s skull. Apparently, God planted it here to test your faith in the 6,000-year timeline. No, that doesn’t make any sense. I know. It was planted here by Satan. I’m sure you’ll have a great explanation, and just like last night, or when the Sunnis return from fighting the Shiites, the end result will be the superior glow of the truly self-righteous.

ABC News: Scientists Find Skull of Human Ancestor

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Pictures from Mars

Great news from Mars: The camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is working and the resolution is amazing. You can even make out a Starbucks. The aliens also send a message: They are loving March Madness, but just like here on earth, George Mason messed up their office pools. -- Camera Works: New Mars Orbiter Images 'Fantastic'

Charlie Sheen and 9/11

You know Dad is proud. How many times did Martin Sheen stick out his neck for a political cause? You know CNN is happy. How often does one of their stories generate this kind of response? The topic: Charlie Sheen going public with his doubts about the official story on 9/11. As I said on my cable access show, I will look into this matter and I will keep an open mind. As far as conspiracy theories go I have my limits. I do not believe that Katrina was manmade except in the general sense of global warming.
I do not believe NASA faked the moon landings. However, as some of my close friends know, I am a big UFO nut. It is one of my favorite areas of open-minded research. I do not believe JFK was killed by a lone gunman. I believe TWA 800 was probably brought down by a missile. I believe the government opened fire on the compound at Waco, and that the rhythmic muzzle blasts were captured by an infrared camera on a passing helicopter. These light patterns were not caused by the glinting of the sun as the official story reports. I believe there’s a lot in the known 9/11 facts that implicate elements in the U.S. government as far as allowing the event to happen and covering up the truth later. I believe they had advanced knowledge. If you want to check it out, look at Building 7, look at the exercises being run that day that involved flying planes into buildings, and that are even mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report. Study the role of Dick Cheney, ponder how the Payne Stewart intercept happened and why that didn’t happen on 9/11. There’s a lot there. I’d read the following book: Crossing the Rubicon.
What we can’t allow ourselves to do, is to be kept from the truth by fear, or just by how unsettling the truth might be. Check it out, and then speak your mind. Whether or not Charlie Sheen is right or not, he was right to say this if that is what he believes. It was courageous to go public with this stuff. I’m sure people you know believe the same things in the secrecy of their own thoughts. Maybe even you. One thing is for sure: This group of leaders has shown they are capable of a great deal. We know that just from the death toll. I don’t sense an overriding concern with the rule of law here, either.
We have a lot more to lose by sheep-like compliance than by conceding our right to question the official position of our government. 9/11 is full of intriguing questions. Just because the potential conclusions are so damning, doesn’t excuse us from asking them. Charlie Sheen is to be commended.

More Fun With Religion

So much of what we do is driven by fear. Religion is a response to the fear of death and what happens next. Of course, whatever you personally believe in is absolutely 100% true – who wants to get in a fight over faith – but you have to admit everyone else’s theories about God and the afterlife seem fairly silly, don’t they? I hear religious types scoffing about each other all the time: “Can you believe they think they’re going to be reincarnated and live again? How ridiculous.” “Can you believe they think they’ll get 40 virgins in heaven? How transparent.” “Can you believe they drink the blood of Christ and eat his flesh? How primitve.” Yes, people of faith do talk about each other, don’t you? As the local standup John Wetteland once noted: "Your magic story is the correct one. Everyone else is just nuts."
In fact religious types feel so strongly about their faith, that they are often willing to inflict a lot of pain on people who aren’t quite as righteous as they are. Take this case of the man in Afghanistan who secretly became a Christian in a country that believes in Islam. His execution may yet be averted but what a nasty spectacle from religion. Of course, other religions use that to reinforce the themes that they are being persecuted for their faith, and to point out how morally superior their faith is to others. Meanwhile, their people acted the same way in different parts of history. The Inquisition was just as ugly.
The odd thing about religions is that they’re designed to deal with our fears, and yet they are so frightening. I find the spectacle of a man getting beheaded for becoming a Christian to be scary. I also find the fact that our President believes with all his heart in Armageddon to be really frightening, too. Why? Because he could make it happen. What if this Higher Father he talks to tells him to launch an all-out nuclear strike as predicted in the Bible? Okay, it isn’t spelled out, but prophesies use vague language. The Bible doesn’t spell out cloning either. This is why I’m comforted by Bush when he helps the mega-rich, and ignores the poor. That gives me hope that he’s not a true Christian and might ignore the Armageddon bit, too. Frankly, I’d rather have a Dalai Lama-type in charge. For one thing, they wouldn’t run up the national debt so high because at least they believe they’d have to come back and pay the damn thing off.

Friday, March 24, 2006

President Bush: The Definitive Proof of the Big Lie about Iraq and 9/11

President Bush has made a big deal lately about how he never said Iraq and Saddam Hussein were behind 9/11, and therefore the war in Iraq was not sold on that basis. Anyone who lived through those years knows the Bush administration went out of its way to give that impression - namely, that it rallied the nation to war based on the idea that Saddam was behind 9/11. That is why such a large percentage of Americans believed that to be the case, and many still do. But is there any proof that President Bush did that? You can't impeach someone for being misunderstood, can you? Where's the proof?
Here is the letter the President sent to Congress on the day before the war began:

Presidential Letter 
Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate
“March 18, 2003
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
Consistent with section 3(b) of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243), and based on information available to me, including that in the enclosed document, I determine that:
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

There's your proof: Iraq was based on a lie, a lie that President Bush now denies he made.

Movie Contracts and the Danger of Success

I realize I’ve gone a little Hollywood here lately, but this script I wrote back in 2000 has been revived after a leading director said it was the best title he’d ever heard. As a result, I am working on a new contract, while reading the daily news stories about Hollywood lawsuits and how things go wrong.
Now Randy Quaid is suing for 10 million because the producers of Brokeback Mountain told him it would be an art-house film, and therefore he worked for too little. This illustrates the need for incentive clauses, and Brokeback Mountain was one picture where you should have been aware of the back end.
But this is no time for cheap jokes. Unfortunately, a certain late night talk show host is off this week, leaving me less outlet for humor.
Here’s my impression of Hollywood: Any big success generates behavior similar to a criminal gang after a big score in a bank heist. When it is time to divide the loot, suddenly gang members go missing. Everyone turns on each other and then everyone sues.
Earlier this week I cited the example of “Chicago” where one of the producers - who won an Oscar by the way - now claims he was never paid from his incentive clause. In fact, the producer claims he has made less than 500 grand from a picture that grossed 300 million. I reported that Harvey Weistein – whom I actually met one time – was involved as the co-owner of Miramax, the studio that made the film. Harvey and his brother no longer own Miramax throwing more of a twist into proceedings. How big are these people? The witness to the signing of the agreement was Madonna.
So this sounds like a case of having the contract and still getting stiffed. My people tell me the makers of “Lord of the Rings” are also battling it out.
What have I learned here? As I understand it, if my script is made by a studio and the movie has a budget of 20 million, I am supposed to receive 500 grand. However, if an Oscar winning producer only received that much from “Chicago” I have a distinct feeling I will never get paid that money. I will be offered less or the opportunity to sue for the real sum.
Hollywood is a nasty place. Success is met with vast amounts of legal hassles that only benefit the lawyers. My old analogy is that everyone starts acting like a gang of criminals after the big job. They even made a movie about it: Good Fellas. My best hope is that this script is rejected before I get in some real trouble - the legal equivalent of getting whacked.
Since Randy Quaid is suing over “Brokeback Mountain” perhaps that movie provides a better analogy for what happens to you after you sign a movie contract and the film is a success. Ouch. Talk about getting stiffed.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Heartbreak in Spokane

Gonzaga Playing the Blues

When it was over, Adam Morrison was face down on the floor sobbing. A few hours earlier, his buddy J.J. Redick had headed to the bench red-faced and near tears. The Duke game against LSU was basketball justice: LSU looked so much more talented. Duke was outmatched and it would have been a crime if they had snuck through. But this Gonzaga loss in the Oakland bracket was pain for decades. It was the type of loss usually dished out down the road in Pullman where the Washington State Cougars football team has a habit of inflicting life-altering disaster on the locals. Up by 17 in the first half, the Bulldogs slowly watched UCLA chip away, with the Bruins scoring the last 11 points, and winning by 2 on a steal and lay-up.
How long will this be remembered? As long as wheat grows in the Palouse Country. And next winter as the frigid Arctic air drifts down from the North once again, seizing Spokane in its shocking cold, the Bulldogs will take up the game once more, but this loss will still be as fresh as the new fallen snow.
And Adam Morrison? The young man has developed a reputation as a vicious trash talker – so much so that other teams complain about it in the media. Well, welcome to the great silencer, Adam. For wherever you go, for as long as you play ball, all the other team will have to do is remind you of 2006, and the blown game against UCLA. There is no reply to a loss like this.
Charlie with Bulldog Mascot in Happier Times
My old band-mate Charlie Butts played the National Anthem at several Gonzaga games. Charlie, I know you are in Europe right now, and if you are reading this, I hope you couldn’t find a TV to watch the game. Only your hometown Cougs could deliver a blow this heartbreaking.

The Sentence that Unmasks the Tram

OHSU President Kohler has written a letter to his “colleagues”, business people impacted by the tram. As usual, the whole thing is posted on Jack Bog’s stellar site where his loyal group of fans – of which I am one – will pour over it and respond during the course of the day.
Buried in the letter is the crux of the tram sales job – an illogical leap much greater than from Pill Hill to the river. It’s in the simple sounding sentence, “We need space to expand either in Portland or on our own West Campus in Hillsboro.”
Why is that so damning? Because we have been told that without the speed of the connection between OHSU’s main home and the waterfront, the expansion there would not be possible. It is a vital linchpin, remember? Why then would Hillsboro be mentioned as a possible site at all?
Would OHSU be forced to move entirely to Hillsboro so they could be within the magic 200 second window for getting between the two campuses?
200 seconds was the figure one of the presenters at the recent tram meeting pulled out to illustrate the savings in time it would take for him to get from the new site to OHSU. Apparently it takes him 15 minutes on surface roads to do it. You can argue about those numbers but you couldn't get from Pill Hill to Hillsboro in less than 15 minutes unless you had a helicopter. The fact that it was a possible site for the expansion means the vital linchpin angle of the tram is a P.R. snow job.
This is what I believe really happened: You know when you’re dealing for a new car, and you try to get them to throw in the fancy hubcaps?
The tram is the fancy hubcaps. It’s the neat, gimmicky, slick extra that will make this project that much more exciting for OHSU. But if they could have expanded in Hillsboro, they didn’t need to get anywhere in 200 seconds, and the entire tram sales job has been unmasked for what it is: A load of B.S.

George Lucas, Hollywood, and the World

The room was full of Hollywood big shots but one guy I wanted to meet was George Lucas. I headed towards where he was standing, stopping to shake hands with Samuel L. Jackson on the way. Incidentally, these movie stars are remarkably thin and have a freakish fineness, compared to the rough and tough vibe of Mr. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”. However his voice was 100% bad-ass. George – who, by the way, is remarkably short – had been honored with a lifetime achievement-style award, and they showed a video of his many projects. If you just think “Star Wars” when you think of him, you are missing the point. He has had a vast impact on technological advances in sound and special effects. Many films you think are by someone else, actually owe their amazing visuals to the man I shook hands with that night. Besides, he came up with Star Wars.
He’s been talking a lot recently about Hollywood, saying among other things that the blockbuster budget movies like “King Kong” are going extinct. But it was his comments found in the link below that are most interesting. He talks of the power of Hollywood in the world – the ability to bring the image of Americans to the world through film, and television. Of course, another George has been doing a lot to reshape that image – let’s hope not forever. I prefer the American image found in Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones: Americans who are cool, tough, and….you know, the Good Guys. Americans who’d never get in a big fight for a bunch of reasons that all turned out to be wrong. Seriously, could you imagine Indiana Jones out hunting quail and accidentally shooting one of his friends? I don’t know if George Lucas is right about the spectacle movie genre, that he and Spielberg helped define starting in the ‘70s, but if there is another filmmaker like them coming up, what will the America’s image look like now? Is Dick Cheney one of the Good Guys?

BREITBART.COM - "Star Wars" film legend George Lucas wants more worldly Hollywood

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Iraq and the Tram

Portland, haven’t you had about enough of this tram project? Was there some big vacuum in our lives, when you said to yourselves, “We really need to be mislead by politicians right now?” Did you say, “There just aren’t enough of our leaders getting us into unnecessary adventures these days”? Was there some national shortage of lies and deception that our local team rushed into fill? “Please, someone help with this shortage of bad ideas, and then, throw in some incredible expenses with no end in sight!”
The Oregonian and OHSU should just go ahead and say it: “If we canceled the tram right now it would send the wrong message to the haters of freedom everywhere.” Sam Adams should boldly proclaim that when the first tram arrives atop OHSU, the riders will be greeted as liberators. After all, when you look at the entire South Waterfront project, it has liberated us from around 500 million in future dollars. And there is no end in sight, just as there is no end on the costs in Iraq, which will one day hit the trillion-dollar mark. Iraq is so tragic with so much loss of life. Did we really need a local government embarrassment to add even the slightest aggravation to our already heavy hearts?
So on top of all the reasons to be angry about the tram, there’s the question, “Why now? Why’d you have to do it now?” Was there something going around back in 2002? Did our politicians catch an early version of the bird flu – a version that just makes you delusional and stupid? Was this some post-9/11, blank-check, spending comfort zone thing that you wanted to wallow in for the next ten years? Iraq and the Tram: One’s an unnecessary, expensive, ill-conceived misadventure and then you have Iraq.

Jane Smiley, I Think I Love You

Did you ever wonder what would happen if accomplished authors dropped what they were doing and wrote political columns? How would it read if these people took the skills normally used to churn out Pulitzer-Prize-winning novels, and applied them to our political debate? Wonder no more; her name is Jane Smiley. Here is her bio, followed by her link to a post, "Notes to Converts", in which she analyzes the conservatives who are bailing out on President Bush:
“Jane Smiley is a novelist and essayist. Her novel A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992, and her novel The All True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West. Her novel Horse Heaven was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002. She has contributed to a wide range of magazines, including The New Yorker, Elle, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, The American Prospect, Practical Horseman, The Guardian Sport Monthly, Real Simple, and Playboy. Smiley's latest book is Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, a history and anatomy of the novel as a literary form. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.”

Here is the link to her piece:
The Blog | Jane Smiley: Notes for Converts | The Huffington Post

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Paging the American People: Your Power Is Calling

Every now and then, I take a subject off and concentrate on something else. You can’t process everything. That’s how the Dubai port deal hit me. I read some columns, listened to Don Imus on tape, and thought about it, hoping my colleagues would do the job. They didn’t. For them it was whether or not this was a good idea from a security point of view. There was even a superior tone from the few who claimed it was a mistake to cancel it – that Dubai is the type of place we should be helping in the Middle East. All of this completely missed the major point, which is why I’m forced back into action on the topic.
The point with Dubai was that the American people were against the deal with sufficient numbers and with sufficient anger that it simply couldn’t go on. Much of the stuff President Bush pushes through Congress is at odds with the interests of a majority of the American people. He’s been acting like he can do any damn thing he wants and we just have to take it. Dubai was important because the White House issued its decision, and smugly told us what would happen, and the American people took the deal, folded it up into a nice tight roll, and told the White House to shove it.
That was what Dubai was about. The People still ultimately control the government, given enough energy in their response.
If the same threshold is ever met on the war in iraq, it will end, as well, and in a hurry. There’s a level of displeasure that the electorate sometimes arrives at that no politician can deal with. Iraq would be over in weeks, if enough of us wanted it that way.
Lately, I’ve been a little discouraged about defeatist comments regarding a range of topics from the tram to the elections this year. Granted the rigging of elections is a huge problem but even that would fade with the right level of public outrage. These dreary comments seem resigned to the notion that nothing can be done – that things like the protest of the war the other day are futile gestures.
I’m sure there were people who felt the Boston Tea Party was a pointless protest, too. That helped to start this country, and with no TV coverage. Besides, the King George they had to deal with, was a lot farther away than ours. Yet, the people spoke out and America was born.
The Dubai Deal was a very dangerous situation for the powers that be. They exist on the momentum of their control. The last thing President Bush wants is for the American People to realize who really could be in charge. That's why the White House caved in on that as quickly as humanly possible. Why dwell on the possibilities? The famous Bush resolve? Gone in 60 seconds. There was no way our leaders wanted to prolong the fact that the People were telling them what to do. Not asking them, or pleading with them….no, we were telling them.
That’s why Dubai was important. We shouldn’t forget our power, even though our leaders wish that we would. If we want to stop this Iraq war, we can stop it. if we want to stop the tram, we can stop it. Ask Dubai.

President Bush Brings Hope To Millions: Talks About Future Presidents

President Bush made it clear today that the troops would stay in Iraq, and that a future President would bring them home. This sparked a wave of joy across America as people reminded themselves that America will eventually be through with the Bush administration. Sure, he’s discarded the Constitution, but at least he’s not planning on seizing control forever. Hearing him discuss a time when he is no longer in charge, was one of the truly uplifting moments of his years in office. It generated a wave of optimism that is the hallmark of the American character. Moving on from this guy? Talk about your American Dream.
President Bush also got off one of his classic idiotic lines in the same press conference, and he didn’t even have to mangle any words to do it. Dismissing calls for changes in his team, he said, “"We've been a remarkably stable administration and I think that's good for the country." Isn’t that just darling? A remarkably stable administration? How does the press listen to comments like that without breaking into tears of laughter? Getting into a war for the wrong reasons, is not a sign of stability. It's more wild and reckless, much as shooting someone in the face with a shotgun would be.
With Cheney’s ridiculous comment Sunday, that makes two classic lines in 48 hours. That was the one where he said his claim that we would be welcomed as liberators in Iraq was “basically accurate.” Here’s a quote from Bush a few months ago that might shed some light on Cheney’s claims: "I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome." —George W. Bush, NBC Nightly News interview, Dec. 12, 2005.
People are increasingly saying that this is the worse President in the history of the United States, and I think they’re being overly optimistic. I’m just praying that he isn’t the last President of the United States, and the country will go on. He’s got 2 years, ten months and a day and anything is possible. Clinton brought an intern to her knees. Bush is bringing America to its knees.

The Oregonian's Tram Editorial Today Is Not True

The Oregonian’s assertion in the tram editorial today is simply not correct. The editors write, “But as city commissioners know, the city is legally and morally obligated -- despite the rise in price -- to build the tram.”
They should have sent someone to cover the tram meeting - or cover it better - because the city attorney put it differently. According to him the city is legally obligated to build the tram if the funds are there. It is not obligated to provide the missing funds, and so, if the funds are not there, the city is not obligated to build the tram. Presumably the commissioners have heard from him. Sam Adams was at the meeting as was the Mayor, so for the Oregonian to try and say the commissioners know something else, does not accurately reflect the city's position.
Ask yourself this: If the Oregonian’s claims were correct than why are we even having this debate? If the city is legally obligated to build the tram, there would be nothing to fight over. The city would be over the proverbial barrel. Of course OHSU’s lawyer feels the city is under that obligation, but he could be part of the general spin on this. The city attorney does not feel that way, so the editorial has chosen one legal opinion over another, siding with OHSU. By the way, the city attorney and the finance guy were the only ones at the meeting that seemed impressive to me. I bet he’s right and we’re being conned here. At the very least the Oregonian should have reported the truth, that there are two sides of this. Besides, all the indications seem to suggest the city attorney is right, including the fact that we are even having this discussion. When you throw in the assertion that the commissioners know the Oregonian is right on this, then we have enough here to call the editorial lacking in the area of the truth. Developers should help fill the gap in tram's finances

The Importance of Gross Versus Net

How not to get screwed, Part 17: I hate to dwell on Hollywood stuff, because it gives a false impression, but I was just addressing the gross/net issue last night and this story pops up this morning(link below.) As I wrote in my email of last night: “The bonus clauses in the original contract were all in terms of box office as reported in Variety. In other words, they shouldn't be triggered by the actual studio accounting as in the Art Buchwald case.
Let's just base them as before on easily verifiable information.”

The Buchwald case refers to a movie called, “Coming to America” starring Eddie Murphy. Buchwald was involved and had a bonus clause based on what the picture made. Using creative accounting the studio reported to Art that this picture, which was a big hit, actually hadn’t made a dime. Art fought it all the way and eventually won although his legal fees were unbelievable. They have buildings full of lawyers and you don’t.
The reason you tie your incentive clauses to the gross box office for the U.S. and Canada as reported in Variety, is that these have to be accurate.
Technically, it would help you if they wildly exaggerated what the picture made, but they can’t because that is illegal. That would imply a movie is a hit when it isn’t, to draw more people. So the number is as high as it can be, and reflects reality, rather than the net number which has the special effects added by accountants. Now, the producer of a huge movie, Chicago, is arguing that the studio never paid up. If the contract says gross, the producer should get the money, although his company might have to go to court to force the payment. If the contract says net, it becomes a gigantic legal hassle from which there is no easy escape. Base everything on gross versus net.
The studio involved is Miramax, co-owned by Harvey Weinstein. I met him and shook hands with him at the Producer's Guild Awards Dinner. He could play the role of a producer in the movies. He's physically huge and exudes power. I gave my ridiculous business card to movie stars like Tom Hanks, but I didn't give my card to Harvey Weinstein. Why? He owns half of Miramax - what would be the point?
While rereading this, the email bell rung, it’s 6:52 a.m. and the producer has emailed back from Hollywood. I hope I don’t screw this up.

'Chicago' Producer Sues Miramax for $10M - Yahoo! News

Monday, March 20, 2006

Late Night Email to Hollywood

Here I am writing a “bump email” and I don’t even know what the term means. The Hollywood producer said if he didn’t get me the contracts soon, to write a bump email. I bet it’s just a reminder but it turned into a good page of fresh ideas about how to make me rich and protect me from being ripped off. See, the worse scenario out there is what I read about Crash. Sure, some of the main actors will go on to make huge money because of it, but how about a taste, some far-off bonus trigger if – I don’t know – the film wins Best Picture? Not that mine stand a chance of doing that. I just want to be in on the action if the producer makes it as a low budget project and then sells it to the studios. When I read that one of the main actors on “Crash” only made 12 grand off the project it made me physically sick. Imagine having to deal with some executives who are laughing that they put one over on you like that? I don’t care if the guy goes on to make 100 million in the movie business – he should have gotten more than 12 grand if the picture won an Oscar. Somebody sure as hell made a ton of money.
The other thing I’m big on is freedom. There was some truly scary language in one contract awhile back stating that I would honor any reasonable requests to appear to promote said project, blah ,blah, blah. I guess it’s standard but I can’t go for that. As I said in this email, “We had a clause in a second letter stating that I would not be required to go anywhere or do anything if the studio bought this. You said that was ridiculous; writers are never asked to promote, but I want it in writing. Freedom is a feeling and I didn't run my life this way to lose that feeling. If it's not going to be an issue, they won't mind it in the language.”
I envision a scenario where the studios want to break a contract and use a clause like that: “He agreed to do this but he did not follow through. Therefore, we will not be paying him. In fact, we intend to sue him.” I don’t even want to think about giving up any of that, and trusting some unknown third party with my future schedule. I’d rather continue like this, than to lose my freedom. Everyone has their deal-breakers. That is mine. Of course, if the incentive clauses are right, I’ll do anything I can. I don’t mind helping as long as I don’t have to – that’s got to be in there. Oh well, there's my bump email for Hollywood, whatever that means. I just hope I don't bump myself right out of this deal.

International Baseball Tournament A Winner

A funny thing happened on the way to March Madness: I got into this international baseball tournament. Right now I’m watching Japan and Cuba, and it’s outstanding. I realized I’m not sick of baseball – I’m just sick of our baseball players, and what they’ve done to the game. Frankly, it’s never been the same for me since the strike, and people like Barry Bonds make me sick. We might also want to rethink the name World Series as it’s starting to sound a little arrogant, now that our guys didn’t even make it to the finals of this.
Remember when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series and Kirk Gibson had that fun quote? Something like, “Tell the President to tell the Soviet Union we’re having a great time over here playing baseball.” Well, I admit it’s comforting to see all these other countries enjoying the game. And they play great. And they don’t stop between every pitch so the players can call their agents and their stockbrokers.
Plus, it’s interesting to see the cultural differences between Japan and Cuba as reflected in their attitudes. Cuba has that flair, like a South American soccer team. Japan has got an incredible manager. He looks like an actor playing a general in a World War 2 movie. The young players have a little more of that “Lost in translation” Japanese cool thing going on but it’s in the context of a very reserved, respectful society.
Ichiro caused some ugliness with a comment about beating South Korea so badly that it’d be 30 years before they won. Something like that.
But the nastiest incident by far was an incredibly bad call made by the American umps taking the go-ahead run for Japan against the USA in the 8th, back off the scoreboard, saying the runner left too soon from third. It hurt because it was way after the fact, and the umps got it wrong. It looked for a second like the Japanese team would refuse to take the field, but the old Japanese manager told them to go play ball and they did. 60 years ago we were trading atomic bombs for sneak attacks so this marks a much better approach. Peace through baseball, and I love it.
And tonight is fair. Cuba is great and Japan gets a shot at the title. It seems like a huge event in the home countries, and more power to them. Plus I learned something: It’s not the game that’s turning me off; it’s our players. It’s George Steinbrenner.
This international thing reminds me that the game itself is excellent. And Barry Bonds can sit at home and try and find a place on his body where he hasn’t stuck a needle yet.

The Vice President Sinks To Another Level

Never mind that in the approval polls Dick Cheney is now one point below swamp gas, he’s still trying to sink lower. Yesterday he appeared on “Face the Nation”, and fired a shotgun off in the face of the truth. When asked about his statement that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq, he responded that his statements about Iraq were “basically accurate and reflect reality.” This was a new strategy in the Bush White House. You revisit old lies and try selling them again. They must believe we’re so worn down from the incessant B.S. that we’re capable of falling for anything. And you know what? They could be right.
Maybe in another year they’ll begin to insist that Katrina was not, in fact, a hurricane at all. It was merely a strong breeze overblown by the media. Finally by 2008, Dick Cheney will begin denying that we ever went into Iraq. The whole thing was just a horrible fabrication to make the President look like an idiot.
By the way, Cheney’s also begun making sly little macho references to shooting his friend in the face with a shotgun. As predicted, this is going to be a part of his schtick from now on. Maybe in another couple of years, it’ll turn out he really fired the weapon in combat in Fallujah. Or maybe it was a simple fishing accident that the press got hold of and blew out of proportion. Frankly, I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with next. This is becoming quite a spectator sport. The Truth according to Dick Cheney – Basically accurate if you overlook the lying part. Remember Cheney’s comment about the insurgency being in its “death throes”? The only thing that’s in its death throes is what’s left of his credibility.

Memo from Karl Rove to David Reinhard

"First, I want to thank you again for helping us market this war to the American people. Without you and an army of other smalltime columnists we never could have sold this. Having said that, you can always do a better job, so let’s look at Sunday’s column with a critical eye to future spin.
As you know, our current message is that there is no civil war in Iraq. You perform admirably, citing several sources, but you use the phrase “he was recently there”, and “he was there, too.” Our polling shows we should avoid that point. It reminds too many Americans that most senior officials in this administration never served in the military. While it’s one thing to send other parents’ offspring to die, we don’t want them remembering our people have never been there, as far as war goes. The closest Cheney’s been to combat is bird-hunting, and look how that turned out.
In addition, you’re establishing credibility for the people like Allawi who say there is a civil war. He’s been there, too. Or the generals who told Hagel there was a civil war; some of them were there, too. See, how the phrase leads to trouble?
Okay, listen up here because this is important. We no longer want to talk about how Saddam tortured his people. It reminds too many people of our torture. If anything, we want to market torture as an acceptable behavior so if you must go there, make sure you point out the difference between good Christian torture, and bad Muslim torture.
In fact, don’t try any of your paragraphs about what Saddam was like, without mentioning him by name. Our polls show 3 out of 10 Americans thought you were talking about President Bush. Saddam invaded Kuwait, we invaded Iraq. We can sell the self-defense spin all we want, but let’s not go into details. Stick to the message.
I don’t want to discourage you. I know a bunch of conservatives are bailing out on the President; you don’t have to remind everyone. You even mention “occasional doubt” yourself. That is completely unacceptable. Our side has resolve. We don’t make mistakes. We don’t want you wondering if you helped get a bunch of young Americans hurt and killed, by participating in our ill-fated, marketing campaign. That would make you miserable and Republicans are happy people - we are resolved. We don’t do doubt.
I like the way you picked up the talking points about looking back at this thing in history and judging it then. We want to emphasize that it may take a long, long time before this looks good. Remember, it’s not a disaster, it’s just the early decades of a brilliant move. Then we can pull a McNamara later and admit it was an unbelievable screw-up, when it can’t hurt us as much.
Finally, I want to leave you with a compliment. Those parts about how critics of the war “delight” in bad news - that when Americans read about soldiers being paralyzed or killed they enjoy it - that’s exactly the level of vicious I’m looking for. I love it. Our talking point that any criticism is just blind hatred of Bush, is wearing thin. We have to deflect attention from this thing, and turn it on our critics. Saying they delight in the bad news, is very effective. Congratulations, it reminds me of something I’d do, and you know what a lowlife, I can be. Maybe you can work in a line about how happy Cindy Sheehan was that her son got killed, so she could delight in all this attention. Good job, David. Keep it up. ---Karl Rove.”

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Core-Identity Musical Stuff

The last few months have been real work on the guitar. I switched from using a pick to finger-picking an electric, and at this point any change is major. My fingers ached, my arms ached, my back was tight and the right side of my hip was sore. Older bodies do not like changes in the way things are done, especially when you are pushing them near the injury zone.
If there’s one thing I’d like to tell young musicians out there, it is to warm up slowly. If you’re a guitarist, before you launch into your blazing leads, just place all 4 fingers of one hand on one string and press it down altogether. Do that for a few minutes before you even try a chord or a single note. The inside of your arms resembles the rigging of a ship. These ropes can rub, tear, and stretch. Musical injuries are horrible. I started out as a bass player, so I know. One thing I always told myself was if the band fell apart, I could make it as a journeyman bassist. I mean I was really good at one time. In fact my goal was to be one of the best in the world. Then one day I went to see a bass player named Stanley Clark.
Now, Stanley probably is the best bass player in history. If you’re a young musician, check him out. So I wasn’t going to be better than Stanley, but I felt I was as good as any rock bass player.
I was in a jazz fusion-blues-type trio and I had a bass solo on virtually every song. It was like a lead instrument and I was playing the hell out of it. I also played keyboards for fun, but not onstage. One night I was playing piano and drinking whiskey. I was jamming along to “Compared to What” by Les McCann and Eddie Harris, and I mean I was keeping up with it. Over and over, I played that record.
Then a few nights later, I was playing the bass and it was like my wrist was a tire and it suddenly started going flat. Everything stretched out, and that was the beginning of the end for me as a bass player. I switched to guitar with mixed results. I didn’t like the little piece of plastic. Your last interface with the instrument is picking the string with a piece of plastic? Actually, it went along with the phony feeling I had of being a bass player at heart and switching to guitar. I’ll never forget one night I was partying with this band. They thought I was a mediocre musician based on my fledgling guitar playing, and I just said, “Screw it”, picked up a bass and killed them. For years I would spend all day trying to get a guitar track right and then just pick up a bass and nail that track in two takes.
But I risked stretching everything if I went too long. I could only do it for 5 minutes and then it would be sore for a couple of days. I was one miserable dude back then and it took me over a decade to begin to recover emotionally. It’s bad when you pick something for your core identity, and then you can’t do it anymore.
Now, after 20 years, I’m starting to feel like a guitarist. That’s my core identity now, and fittingly, I’ve gone back to using my fingers, just like the old days on the bass. Who knows if it’ll endure, but last night, I was playing along with a DVD by one of the rock greats and I was keeping up. Afterwards my arms were glowing with joy, and it was tough to sleep. It’s hard reinventing yourself - I don’t care what Madonna says - but even at this late date, there’s still hope that I can become a decent musician again.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

3rd Anniversary Blues

Today’s 3rd anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War is - for many - a time of protest, but it’s also an overwhelming day of great sorrow. An anniversary is a measure of the passage of time, and it’s a reminder of what these young people who were killed in this have lost. Time is a separate account from the unimaginable pain of losing a son or daughter to the war in Iraq. At first the account is measured only in hours, and days. But as these roll on, the account accrues into months, and finally years - years that these young people didn’t get to experience. A lot happens when young lives stop: Wives and husbands who never meet, and children who never are born. And everyday that passes is another day in the account.
Rather then revisit the behavior of our leaders in this, I’m going to give that a rest today. Instead, I’m just going to remember - with gratitude - three of the young men who were killed. I attended their funerals and watched as their families followed their caskets out of the churches. That’s the most serious part of what this war means. Young lives ended and years lost, deposited forever into a bank of time.
Brandon Scott Tobler, Born 5-17-83, Died 3-22-03

Travis John Bradach-Nall, Born 2-9-82, Died 7-1-03

Bob William Roberts, Born 4-19-74, Died 5-17-04

Bob was killed on May 17th, 2004 which would have been Brandon's 21st birthday.

Why the Oregonian Doesn't Get It: Missing the Big Story

Friday, the Oregonian stumbled onto the big story of why Portland’s style of government is not working, and true to form, the newspaper missed it. First, if you think your St Patrick's Day hangover is bad, wait till you see the hangover from the South Waterfront deal. The city still hasn't faced the true nightmare: We’ll be asked many times in the future for more money for this project, if these plans are going to be fully realized. It’s a case of, “Help us now, in exchange for promises we can’t keep, and then help us with those, too.” The tram budget gap is chump change compared to the rest of the budget shortfalls, and guess who they’re lining up to be the chumps?
So where is the big story? How did the Oregonian bury the lead here?
I believe it’s halfway through Friday’s piece about the tram deal when this paragraph shows up:

“While no additional cash would come from North Macadam Investors, the company would promise to pay the city if the property taxes didn't materialize. But with condos selling swiftly and land values rising, some commissioners said they don't feel the guarantees are worth much. But Williams disagrees. If the interest rates spike and the condo market tanks, he could be forced to give up his land to the Portland Development Commission.”

Did you notice what’s refreshing in that? There’s an actual reference to market factors here. See, with these commissioners, there is no real connection to the marketplace. When one of their plans goes wrong, they’re not driven out of business. They just merrily move onto the next boondoggle. Do you see how the commissioners react to the warning of a downturn? Not with the fear of a businessman worrying about all contingencies, but with the relaxed confidence of someone who can’t lose.
That’s what’s wrong with city government in Portland. You have a bunch of politicians making decisions about private businesses but they don’t face any business consequences. The marketplace does not apply to them, so they are free to inflict their visions, no matter how awful they turn out to be. Meanwhile the Oregonian thinks the basic city-business partnership model works. This current drama in South Waterfrnot is just an abberation from a winning style. Do you know why the Oregonian can afford to think that? They don't face the consequences of these bad ideas, either. This tram story has been nothing but gold for them. It's good copy and there's no competing daily to challenge their version of reality.
Wait, it gets worse: Not only is the city council unaffected if some terrible financial idea like PGE Park blows up on them, but their intrusion into the marketplace is actively distorting true business realities and hurting everyone else. Shouldn’t hospitals compete without the government siding with one of them, on a massive level? Maybe a more worthy effort could have thrived without the unfair competition. That’s the big story of what’s wrong with Portland. We’ve got commissioners playing in the sandbox of the marketplace, and when they do something wrong, we’re the ones who have to stay after school. That is, if the school hasn’t already been shut down.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Did the Universe Inflate in Less Than a Trillionth of a Second?

________________The Universe (Actual Size)_______________

As avid readers of this blog already know - just play along - I’m a big fan of science, and the crazier sounding the better. No matter how much cynicism you bring to the latest reports, at some point you have to admit the universe is a fairly wacky place. That puts me in good company as a comedy writer. If there is a God, and most men watching Maria Sharapova play tennis just now, would have to assume there is, than God is also deep into the comedy.
Putting it another way, the most far-out stuff I heard from counterculture types about the way things work in the universe, has nothing on these scientists. Remember, when scientists were staid, and boring? Well, they still are but their latest theories are not: Light bending by gravity( That’s pretty old.) Things existing in two places at once(That’s pretty new.)
String theory, which is now ridiculed but once talked of 11 to 13 dimensions. Just the stuff we really believe we know is whacky enough, and now the scientists claim to have proof that the universe expanded from virtually nothing to nearly its current size in less than a trillionth of a second. For you God lovers out there, that sounds like creation. Too bad they say it happened 14 billion years ago, although I know you have convoluted ways of explaining that if you’re locked into the 6,000 year timeline.
We are in a galaxy that is so big light takes 100 thousand years to cross it, yet we see the edge and galaxies far, far, away. Either that light was planted there by a deceitful God to trick us into thinking the universe was much older than 6,000 years, or the Bible is not accurate, and therefore not the word of God. Believe me, I see why you struggle so much to make all this fit. For one thing, the light beams that would have been put in place depict things that wouldn’t have really happened. In your world, they’re just there to fool us into thinking the universe is older than 6,000 years. Why? Who knows?
But once creationists get past all that, they can take heart in the following article about the universe coming into being in a trillionth of a second. That’s pretty deep. Of course, I sat in Keller Auditorium one time listening to Stephen Hawking’s voice generator say a bunch of stuff about string theory that is now widely discounted, so who knows what they’ll claim next? I will say there is an unmistakable trend in knowledge away from normal-sounding stuff and towards the unbelievably whacky. Anyway, it sometimes makes my head hurt, but I love this stuff and I can’t wait to read what’s next.
VOA News - Scientists Find Evidence Universe Inflated in Less Than Trillionth of a Second

St. Patrick's Day: Pass the Hat for the Rich

Everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s Day differently: For example, Barry Bonds dyes his steroids green. I like celebrating in the traditional way, with the Blessing of the Liver. Seriously, it is the Super Bowl for alcoholics so be careful out there. You can tell you’ve had too much to drink, when the Irish songs start sounding different from one another. Okay, there’s a couple of great ones, but some of the standard instrumental music is a little repetitive. Drop in a diminished 9th chord or something, anything. Please, I'm begging you.
Of course, you’re supposed to wear green, but after seeing “Failure to Launch”, I’d just be happy if Terry Bradshaw put on anything. My theory is the studios thought the producer said “Teri Hatcher”, but I could have gone an entire 10 million lifetimes without seeing Terry Bradshaw nude.
Last year at this time, I was sitting in a doctor’s office for a minor skin procedure. Naturally, I asked him for painkillers, saying, “I don’t want to be the only Irishman in the world in pain tonight.” He liked the joke, but declined my request.
A year later, Portland is immersed in a nasty battle over the Tram. The single most irritating thing about it is that the rich denizens of OHSU want more of our money, and they can’t believe we even have the nerve to question it. This is galling stuff, folks, even during the Bush administration.
In fact, it’s a lot like the national scene. They’ve been challenged on what they want to do, even though they misrepresented the true costs, and now they’re getting all huffy because we haven’t just rolled over. It exposes the truth about the United States and Portland in particular. The mass of voters out there are only in the equation to provide the revenue. They’re not supposed to come up with the plans, they’re certainly not the main ones benefiting from the plans, and if the plans turn out to be bad, they’re not supposed to raise anything about it but more revenue. It truly is outrageous and aggravating.
You can dress in green, you can drink green beer, but the only thing that really matters is the green dollar. So drink up, Portland. And after you tip your servers, and the musicians, you might want to pass the hat for OHSU. Some rich people up there want more of your money.

Condi's Lies Aren't Selling Anymore

The last stage in a proven liar is when people start yelling out things during your latest lies. That is the fate experienced by Condi Rice as she tried to explain how great the decision to go into Iraq was. The standard technique is to push the verdict as far into the future as possible, and at that point you can say, “Okay, we made a huge mistake and got a lot of people killed, but that was a long time ago. It’s time to move on and not get bogged down in the past.” That's why she's talking about the verdict of history right now, instead of what we already see. But what about the initial threat Saddam posed? How is that sounding now, and how has it changed for her and other top Bush officials?
Condi Rice’s position recently sounded like this: “I'm quite aware that there are those who disagree about the decision that we would overthrow Saddam Hussein," Rice said. "I'm quite aware that there are those who believe that he should have been given more time, who believe that we could have contained him," Rice added.
Could have contained him? Here are a couple of quotes from 2001 by Colin Powell and Condi that indicate the real feeling about Saddam as a threat. Of course, this was before the marketing campaign to sell iraq as a response to 9/11 began. Colin Powell in Cairo February 24, 2001:
"He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors." Condoleeza Rice, July 2001:
"We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."
The difference now is people aren’t just sitting back and listening to the latest batch of lies. One young man at the Australian University where Condi was speaking, yelled out, “"Condoleezza Rice, you're a war criminal. Iraqi blood is on your hands and you can't wash that blood away.”
There are websites devoted to her many lies. Some like the “No one could have imagined…” lie have become famous. That one was so big it became a celebrity. Condi has thrived in the Bush Administration partly because of a complete willingness, even an eagerness, to lie to the American people.
Unfortunately for her, the truth has a way of catching up to you.
BREITBART.COM - Rice: History Will Deliver Verdict on Iraq

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Tram's Final Design Is Ready

If the Portland Freelancer stands for anything, it is civic harmony. So with that in mind, it is with great pride that I present the final design for the aerial tram - a design we can all live with.

When Jessica Simpson Figures You Out, It Really Is Over

First, a disclosure: I like Jessica Simpson. Not in a leering sexual way…Okay, not just in a leering sexual way. I actually think she’s a sweet kid: Dumb as a cabbage, but nice. So, you really can’t blame the Republicans for thinking they could put one past her and use her as a celebrity at one of these huge fundraisers. She’d be in Washington anyway to promote Operation Smile, a charity that gives children who are deformed facially in poor countries, plastic surgery. It’s a worthy cause, but as with most things Jessica-related, it's also a little ditsy. I mean a Hollywood star offering the world plastic surgery?
So, the Republicans invited her to a face to face meeting with the President, and in exchange she’d go help get their candidates elected by attending the fundraiser. They told her the meeting with the President could really help her charity. Of course, by now, we all know that President Bush doesn’t always retain a lot of knowledge from these meetings - Hurricane Katrina proved that - so there was really nothing in it for Jessica, but to be used. The Republicans say she initially accepted, but thought it over, and snubbed the offer.
When Jessica Simpson sees through you, watch out. Actually, the way she handled it turned a minor matter into a big headline, and she got more publicity for Operation Smile than she ever would have trying to tell the information to the President. Meanwhile, the Republicans get stuck with the snub. Maybe Jessica is smarter than we think.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Civic Drama Plays Out on Portland Blog

Okay, it wasn’t Walter Cronkite brokering a visit to Jerusalem by Anwar Sadat back in 1977. That media intervention led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace talks. This wasn’t anywhere near that scale, and besides it was far from peaceful. What we had here was a wonderful, delightful little Portland war. And what is noteworthy is the stage on which it was joined. Yes, the setting for our recent Portland drama - our Rose City sniping session - was Jack Bog’s Blog.
A little background: City Commissioner Randy Leonard recently went on KGW to say OHSU and Matt Brown had lied to him about the tram. Harsh words, indeed, and a delight for all who have wallowed in this sewer of deception. Steve Stadum, Chief Administrative Officer for OHSU, fired off an indignant letter to Randy, about what a “stand-up partner” OHSU has been, which is true: As standup teams go, it’s hard to beat the recent work by the city and OHSU. To have these former allies going after each other in such a tavern-level tone, brought tingles of pure joy to many of the locals. Indeed, for some it was the first good laugh since this whole sorry tram saga started.
The letter wound up on Jack Bog’s Blog, as so many things do. There it was dutifully commented on by his merry band of wonks, intellectuals, and rebels. I believe this was folded into a new post with Randy Leonard’s reply, but I seem to remember one initial comment stated that Steve’s letter had “flat out spanked” Randy. The assertion that Randy Leonard first saw this letter on Jack’s blog is one thing, but the fact that he chose to respond on the blog is another. That was a true breakthrough.
Naturally, Jack played it cool, referring to the letter exchange as “professional wrestling” but who could hide their joy at this hilarious burst of nastiness? And bloggers, who among you didn’t feel a little pride that this turbulent drama occurred – not with some corporate media types – but on a blog. This wasn’t the Middle East – no, this was much nastier, and those who have suffered through the tram process, can only hope for more.