Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Observation

This is so typical of the White House Spin Machine. You know the terrible rain and flooding back East? Well, now the White House is claiming we invaded Iraq for the dry weather.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

OHSU from the Air

The Oregonian had a big photo of OHSU today and it really was quite impressive. If you missed it, here it is:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

LaMarcus Aldridge: The Internet Search

I've been trying to find out more about LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers #2 pick. This is one of the stories that sort of jumped out at me from last year: Date: Feb 10, 2005
Freshman F LaMarcus Aldridge is scheduled for a March 1 surgery to repair cartilage and a tendon in the hip flexor area and is officially out for the season, basketball coach Rick Barnes confirmed Thursday. Aldridge suffered the hip injury during Texas' 63-53 win at Nebraska on January 15.
"Quite honestly, we knew from the MRI coming back from Nebraska that he was going to have to have surgery," Barnes said.

Trading Up: The Blazers Still Launching PR Bricks

Any well-written story has to have that tiny twist, that little capper, that makes everything complete. It's usually a small detail towards the end that encapsulates what has happened and leaves the audience with that little bit extra as the story closes. Tonight the potential saga of Adam Morrison as a Blazer came to an end. To me he was the perfect solution to the Blazers popularity problems, although I completely understand going for a center. That is the age-old need in basketball - there are just less big men than everyone else. That's how we got Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan. Still, we had a Northwest guy here who openly expressed a desire to be in Portland, and I sensed all the intangibles were incredibly positive. In a game of scoring, he led the nation. The future of the Blazers in Portland is in doubt, and I think in some scenarios, this guy could have made the difference in keeping them here. But that's over now. I smile to see the Paul Allen team getting congratulated for a great draft. How quickly they forget. Okay, LaMarcus Aldridge is big, but I read he's an NBA power forward, not a center. Certainly landing Roy was an unexpected bonus, but I still think the Blazers blew this. If they hadn't traded up to #2, Morrison would have been gone anyway, and Aldridge would still be available at 4. None of the pundits I heard could figure that out. So by giving themselves a chance to pick Morrison, and then not taking him, they managed to disappoint huge sections of local sports fans, without getting anything in return. In short, when it comes to PR, the Blazers still can't get out of their own way. It's a big disappointment, and every time a 3-pt shot clanks off the rim next year, it will be a reminder that we could have had the best shooter in college basketball - an intense, feisty character that would have been huge fun to have in town. But that's over now. The story just needed that one twist to make it complete, and there he was - that man again, fuller in the face, but still unmistakably him. There was Michael Jordan, part owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, explaining why he likes Adam Morrison so much. A reminder of blown drafts in the past, to cement my fears that we have blown it again. Still, I bear no ill will to the new picks. Welcome to Portland, and may the story you write be a great one.

One Example of Headline Excellence

I've been a little tough on the writers of news headlines, so I'd like to acknowledge one that the pros got right: "Awkward moments abound in penis pump trial" It's not easy running a case like this, from the moment the bailiff says "Please rise."
Awkward moments abound in penis pump trial - Yahoo! News

The BET Awards: Prince in the House

I watched the BET Awards last night because Prince was on it. As a musician, it's always intriguing to see the best, and Prince is the most talented musician on the planet. His inner groove is beyond belief. He can give you the finished product of a great funk band, just sitting on a barstool strumming an acoustic, as he did last time he was at the Rose Garden. I've seen him in concert 4 times, once with Chaka Khan, whom they were honoring last night. What transpired was the best musical performance on TV that I've seen in a long while. The shot that sticks in my mind was Prince jamming away on his Telecaster, standing right next to Stevie Wonder who was playing his harmonica on that Chaka Khan hit, "I Feel For You." Earlier they had revisited the Rufus song, "Tell Me Something Good", and really tore the place up. It was frankly nice on a generational level to see the young people taking it in from the old guard of soul. Just as an age-group thing it made me proud. I knew Prince would endure because he's got the greatness factor. Yes, he's a star and one hell of an entertainer, but the talent level is what is truly remarkable.
I should mention this 17-year-old singer/dancer named Chris Brown. I don't have a complete read on his voice or music yet, but he's quite a dancer in the Michael Jackson tradition. One sort of amazing moment: The stage was around 4-ft off the ground, and after Chris had done some running gymnastic-style flips across it, he did a flip off the stage, that he said later he just winged out of feeling. I mean he jumped up and flipped but landed 4 ft. below where he started. That's something I never saw before, and I'm glad he didn't kill himself.
Oh well. Music is the best so play on. Or go off with your bad self - whichever way you want to say it.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The New York Times Versus the White House? Finally!

I'm so relieved I can't stand it. We might be getting the 4th Estate back. Remember a few short years ago when the Vice President's office had no problem feeding the New York Times distorted and incorrect Iraq intelligence to help get us into war? Then, Cheney would reference the articles the next day as if he had just learned about them? All this was fine for the White House then, because the media was in the role of propaganda wing for the Bush War Machine. That was an ugly situation, and I don't kid myself that it's over. But this week felt different - now, we're getting somewhere. Hearing Tony Snow and company moan about the New York Times is like when Nixon used to whine about the Washington Post. This is an adversarial relationship, as it should be. Maybe the New York Times will realize what many Americans have already concluded: This is a fight for the soul of America. The future of the country is at stake here. The Bush administration has gone a long way to destroy what the United States stood for, and the media needs to start reporting it. If the 4th Estate doesn't start doing its job, and fight these bastards by exposing the truth, we're going to lose the country.

Stupid Headline Award: The Oregonian's OSU Baseball Coverage

This past Sunday the Oregonian covered an OSU baseball game with the headline, "Ball Passes, OSU Fails." It was a typical case of a newspaper editor attempting humor. The result? We get an inaccurate and overly harsh depiction of the true story, and the payoff is a lame joke. Incidentally, the comedic reference in the headline is to the Pass/Fail grading system. Clever, no? You might think it was a subtle knock at OSU as an academic institution, but trust me, you'd be reading way too much into it. I'm pretty sure the thought process went something like this: "Hmm, passed ball, ball passes, pass.....pass-fail! That's it! Both passed ball and pass-fail have the word "pass" in them! And it just came to me - just now. It just popped into my head. You know, I don't know why I'm slaving here in this corporate environment when I could have been out writing comedy for a living. Maybe been a professional standup and had a TV show. Okay, let's see. The ball passes, so what fails though? The catcher's mitt. No! I've got it! OSU fails! That's it! This is brilliant AND funny! Wait, just a second. Is this working? After all, the OSU baseball team is playing a three game series and this is only Game 1. How could we say they've failed when just getting there is doing great? I mean they're playing baseball on national TV. That's good, right? Besides, they still have a shot at being NCAA Champions. Isn't saying they failed a little harsh and misleading? Oh screw it. This Pass/Fail thing is just too good to pass up." So, we get a headline saying OSU fails. Yeah, right. They didn't look like it when they were jumping around on the field last night.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Bush Ignores McCain's Torture Law

President Bush looked right into the camera and said, "America does not torture." It was a moment of moral clarity, except for one little problem: He was lying. Not only did President Bush fight John McCain's attempts to ban torture, but once Congress passed the law, President Bush - as our nation's self-proclaimed Decider - simply chose to ignore it, along with 750 other laws. Did I say laws? I meant suggestions. This man doesn't veto legislation he disagrees with - he just makes the decision on his own that the statutes don't count. Folks, I enjoy the back and forth with Right Wing Bush supporters, on a variety of issues, but I truly have to wonder how anybody with even a 7th grade understanding of American History would not detect something very wrong here? Maybe for a deeper glimpse at what we're going through, you should Google search for "Screw-Up Son Absolute Monarchy", or "Our Forefathers Tyranny King George." How does this one man get to decide America's stance on torture? Americans have died fighting on foreign shores so that this country would stand for something. How could this one person trample on that? And don't try and play the moral equivalency card on the torture issue either, just because your Viagra-popping buddy Rush Limbaugh told you it was only hazing. This wasn't simply some renegades putting hoods on detainees in one prison in Iraq. The United States of America has tortured people to death during this conflict. That is as bad as it gets, whether you're from Iraq or Madras, and you'd think we'd do something about it. For Christ sake, whatever happened to right and wrong? We have to be able to look the world in the eye and say we don't torture, and unlike President Bush, we have to mean it. John McCain thought he had this solved, but our current President believes he is the law, and he alone makes those decisions. And I'll go one further. I don't think Cheney and Bush are motivated solely by any real desire to keep us safe. I think they're just enamored of the power. What we have here with Bush is a sociopathic dictator in the guise of a morally righteous man. For the life of me, I can't figure out why the Right Wing falls for it.
Bush ignores laws he inks, vexing Congress - Yahoo! News

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Government By Conservatives: What Went Wrong?

Gee, it only seems like a half century that we've been hearing about how great the government would work if Conservatives were in charge. Now, faced with their own disastrous results, the usual suspects are scrambling to invent an excuse. One Right Wing notion is that the Bush administration never really gave conservative ideals a chance. The rationale is that they couldn't have - otherwise things would have turned out great. But why would that happen? Why would they abandon their core beliefs when they had - at long last - seized all three branches of government? This was the golden opportunity when we were finally going to escape from the horrors of liberal rule, and yet, Conservatives have screwed things up like never before. Just ponder what happened to fiscal responsibility. Where's all the brilliant leadership after decades of criticizing everyone else for big spending? Clearly, the answer to what happened is more complex than that. In fact, it's time to ask a different question: Why can't Conservatives govern?
"Why Conservatives Can't Govern" by Alan Wolfe

Wheatfield: Mixing Down and a Night on the Town

Now today was more like it. My wife is in Chicago so I had an opportunity to relive my past, but would I take it? Obviously, some parts of the program have been canceled. Namely the drinking and the pot and whatever else was handy. Plus the being single part is over, but guess what? There's no way I could recreate that anyhow. All I have left is the music - and that was the driving purity of those times anyway. Some things go on. Why not live my life like I used to - work on music and then go out and hear a group? I had two gigs of the Lighter Notes in the can and it was time to mix them down on CD. Maybe put them on cable access or at least make a DVD. You an artistic project. My strategy is to get okay video and great sound. Most musical shows on cable have okay video and terrible sound, so it's just a matter of synching them up later, once you see what came out. One thing I've learned is that it is rare when both the video and the portable studio work right at the same time. For example, the Rose Festival gig in the Big Top, had slightly overdriven sound and a video that cuts off one of the singers. The strategy at Hillsboro was supposed to start simple on the recording and add more tracks between sets. As a result, the first set is usable and sounds great. Then it slowly goes to hell the more we worked on it. Surprise, surprise, the video of the first set is also good. Of course, the camera was pointed wrong later and the 2nd and 3rd sets are missing one of the guitar players almost entirely. Not a problem. I have one gig where the video just shows everybody's knees. This is not an exact science, folks.
So technically, I had a good first set. That's one out of 4 and I'll take it. Now we move on to the band's performance. I'd say we are normally 40% great, 35% okay, and 25% awful. What that means is we basically have 4 excellent songs from the first set, video taped and recorded and played great. Spending all day mixing everything down is exactly how I used to spend my time when I was a young man and music was everything.
Then it was the hour to hit the streets and go see a band. Who better to recreate that old time feeling than Wheatfield? Portlanders should make a point of seeing these guys. Vocals for days! Harmony from God! I saw 4 guys singing which meant the background vocals had three parts. What a sound! Professional quality like Poco only all their own. Then I ran into a woman, who - to make a long story short - once set something up that allowed me to spend 4 hours with Bill Cosby. That was quite a day. Anyway, she is very interested in promoting this band, out of her love as a fan. She introduced me to Will Hobbs, one of the founders, outside, and I slowly realized the woman thought I still wrote for the Trib. Awkward! Actually, it was just funny, and I had a great talk with Will about politics. He apologized for messing up one of the songs and I told him it was a huge relief. These guys are so good, any kind of mistake makes it easier for the rest of us to carry on. The band went back to work and next thing you know I was out on the dance floor with this woman and then later her sister or sister-in-law. I bring this up because there is a magical place to hear a band in a club, which is around 6 feet in front of the stage. That's when everything is visceral and the sounds are coming from the most different points directly to your brain. Folks, I heard Wheatfield singing up close and it was quite stunning. This is an impressive sound. It's transcendent. You know how even great music can wear you out? It's rare when it doesn't. I once was at a Paul Simon concert and I reached the point where I would have stayed there for 10 hours. Go ahead, Paul, play anything you know. Everything was so gorgeous, and rather than wearing out, I couldn't get enough. After all these years, in the outskirts of the music business, I wear out pretty easily, but these Wheatfield vocals are so polished and beautiful that you just relax, knowing nothing bad is going to happen. They can sustain an evening. It's always just a short wait for the next beautiful rush: A chord so professionally perfect, you just want more. Back-up vocals for months, leads from everywhere. I must admit it was a sobering experience having just heard my group all day in the mix-down session.
Our audience can never relax. There is gold but don't get too comfortable, for right around the bend a nasty surprise usually awaits. Wheatfield isn't like that. Portland, we must embrace this group once again. They are worthy.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Depleted Uranium: The 5th Nuclear War

When you get done being excited by Richard Santorum and company about chemical shells in Iraq - which, by the way, many believe were provided from the USA to Saddam back before the 1st Gulf War, in a deal most likely struck by Donald Rumsfeld - take a moment to contemplate our use of depleted uranium and what it means to the rights of the unborn in Iraq and elsewhere. If that doesn't bother you, remember the stuff has killed or disabled thousands of our own troops, as well. Counting World War 2, we are now in the 5th nuclear war, but don't be too alarmed. The stuff will eventually disappear. I believe the half life is 4.5 billion years. Here's one paragraph from the linked article.

"When speaking of the quantities of DU used in various wars it is worth
understanding that the amount of uranium used in the bomb that
destroyed Hiroshima was approximately 13kg, about the size of a
two-litre milk container. A Japanese professor, Dr. K. Yagasaki, has
calculated that in terms of the atomicity, (the amount of radiation
produced), a ton of DU used on the battlefield releases the equivalent
of 100 Hiroshima bombs worth of radiation released into the atmosphere.
Thus when experts refer to the 2000 tons of DU dropped on Iraq in the
past three years, what is being released in the Iraqi atmosphere, and
then spreading worldwide, is the equivalent of 200,000 Hiroshima bombs.
The total amount of DU the US has used since 1991 is approximately 4600 tons (1000 in the first Gulf War, 800 in Kosovo, 800 in Afghanistan and a further 2000 tons in the current Iraq war.) This amounts to approximately 460,000 Hiroshima bombs, ten times the amount of radiation released into the atmosphere from all previous nuclear testing worldwide."
Legacy of Treason Depleted Uranium and the Poisoning of Humanity :: from :: news from occupied Iraq - ch:

Iraq: Bad Plan or the Work of Satan?

President Bush better get out another Medal of Freedom. A new hero has emerged from the Republican Party - a hero who could provide them with what they want most: A cover story for Iraq. Last week's attempt to claim the WMDs really had been found, didn't gain the traction Rush and the gang were looking for, but just when things looked bleak, a Republican Congressional candidate from Utah blamed his own campaign woes on Satan. Finally, someone who gets it! So for all you Right Wingers out there, the new talking points on Iraq are here. Repeat after me: 1. President Bush asked Jesus if we should invade Iraq, and Jesus said yes. 2. Just when things were looking great there, Satan interfered. 3. Jesus now wants you to defeat the Democrats in November or else Satan will win in Iraq. Everybody got that? Oh yeah, there's one final point: Saddam did have WMDs but after we invaded, Satan turned them invisible. Are we clear on that? Okay, everybody fan out across America and spread the word. - Congressional Hopeful Blames Troubles On The Devil

Friday, June 23, 2006

Great Story in the Portland Tribune

Now this is the Portland Tribune at its best. I had no idea the bass player from the "Good Vibrations" song lives in Portland. I LOVE that! This article has made my day so, right on to the Portland Tribune. There are lots of fascinating people in town, and knowing about them just makes everything seem better. I had no idea this guy was here. And speaking of fascinating people...I run into old Trib alums occasionally - there's quite a few of us by now - and we sometimes discuss our theories of what the Trib is, or could have been, or needs to be. By the way, dwelling on this happens less and less as the healing process continues. I talked with one alum who lived and breathed the paper and he confessed he hadn't read it in around a week. I myself am way past the hurt stage. The Trib is like an old girlfriend after a bad break-up. Sooner or later you're on to the next phase and the memories just make you smile. Let's face it: The Trib is in a difficult spot coming out twice a week. That's why there are so many "May" headlines, if not flat-out "Question Mark" headlines. A "May" headline goes on a story where they don't know what will happen but they have to go to press: "City May Go Broke!" When they really don't have a clue it looks like, "Will City Go Broke?" Whenever I see a "Question Mark" headline I just want to say, "It's your newspaper, you tell me." The Trib had one chance to be a huge success, in my opinion. It had to be Must Read, and instead they approached it like it was Required Reading. With it's awkward place in the news cycle it had to rely on columnists to stir up interest. Since I was one of the columnists, they should have let me do my thing more, instead of hedging so many bets. It needed to be fearless and it played it safe. As I always say, lines I was not allowed to put in my columns were sold to Jay Leno, and then reprinted in the Oregonian. I would read my stuff in the newspaper I was supposed to be competing with - that is the definition of crazy. But the years roll on. I'll always love the paper. I wanted it to be like "Front Page" with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon, and for a very few brief times, it was. So it's nice to be able to compliment the Trib and this story today is such a time. I loved it and reading it was a real treat. Jazz ukulele legend rides his instrument%u2019s renaissance

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Inside the Palace: Your Hollywood Update

Longtime readers of the Portland Freelancer have been inundated by a pretentious series of scriptwriting anecdotes. This is not going to stop, nor should it. Most times the little twists and turns along the way are all you really get. Why wait till it's obvious nothing will happen to try and glean any enjoyment you can from the process? So here I go with another screenwriting post. It will be as pompous and pointless as any of them - that is a guarantee. Of course, if the situation breaks my way, these will immediately elevate in stature and become the priceless research for my autobiography. Who knows what will happen? We will travel this road together, my blogger friends. So roll your trouser cuffs up and sit back. It's Hollywood update time again:
There are two main situations when I don't hear from the producer. The sad ugly one is when he has lost faith in me and I am no longer in play. The other time is when we have just done another contract and he is pitching it to the studios. If I contact him then, it's like I'm pressuring him - looking over his shoulder. He doesn't like that and it serves no purpose. He will also not contact me during this phase just to chat. He will only call if something significant happens. Today he called and we had a good talk. The tone in his voice is tremendous. He now sees meeting me as a great piece of good fortune - we're at that stage again. If this latest script doesn't sell, he will plod on. He will finish making the rounds, spending a lot of capitol and goodwill getting meetings with Hollywood big-shots. Then he will become sad and I will be a reminder that it didn't work out. I will fade into the outer reaches of his projects where I will remain till a new script or a chance phrase at a party about one of my other scripts, puts me back into play again.
There are millions of people writing screenplays in this country. The hardest thing to get is access. Once you find a messenger who can get in, that person becomes your only audience. That is who you write for. It's all about making it through the front gates of the palace. Portland should be a little proud of me, for one thing is true: I have entered the palace. My script will not be read by a script reader and kicked up through the levels till someone doesn't like it. My script will not be entered in a contest on the Internet. Not that there's anything wrong with those ways - whatever works. But of all the levels, mine is entering at the best, which is to say the top. Through good luck and fortune, my script - this very day - was carried by hand to a Vice President at one of the biggest studios in Hollywood. This man currently has - I'm going to dilute these numbers to protect his identity - a film in the top 5. I could go on but it is all meaningless unless something happens... Wait. No, that's not quite true. Just getting inside the palace took a lot of doing and I marvel at the circumstances that led me there. One other thing: The messenger is himself a Hollywood producer, and has pitched the holy hell out of this for me. It is also cool that we are now friends. In fact, half the call was about the chances of his house in Sedona catching fire. The other half was about the chances of the script catching fire. This has been your Hollywood update.

Smoking Gun Found In Iraq

Interesting timing on that "smoking gun" story about the 1991 chemical shells from Iraq. Early Monday I wrote a review of "The Dark Side" which included the following passage: "The manipulation of the intelligence stuff [in The Dark Side] was not new to me. I had already seen "Uncovered: The Story of the Iraq War" so I knew how damning that was. "Uncovered" did have one additional bit of information. In one of Bush's speeches he listed all the chemical stockpiles known from the first Gulf War and then repeated that they were unaccounted for. "Uncovered" pointed out that some of those chemical weapons only had a shelf life of a couple of months, and couldn't be around nearly ten years later, but that was the only other detail I wish "The Dark Side" had included."
Senator Santorum, the Drudge Report, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh are all breathlessly pointing to these shells as proof that the reasons we went into Iraq were correct. It's the same old scenario: Lie and get as many people as they can to buy into it. I'm proud that I just happened to address this topic prior to this latest deception by the Far Right. The irony is that these shells are a smoking gun. The administration knew these weapons had degraded since 1991 to the point where they were useless. So the fact that President Bush cited them in one of his speeches prior to the war, without mentioning the shelf-life angle, just proves they were willing to lie us into the war. These shells are the smoking gun, all right, just not the smoking gun these Republican phonies want you to believe.

More Shots From Hillsboro

"Dear Lighter Notes,
Please post more of your pictures from the Hillsboro gig. I was not able to find them on eBay."
You've got it. Thanks to high-speed computers we are now able to bring you these pictures a mere 9 days after the gig.
The Weather Starts Out Looking Grim

The Weather Gets Better

The Choreography Kicks In.

The Mosh Pit Forms

The Crowd Rushes the Stage

The Crowd Is Now In a Frenzy

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

President Bush on the World Stage

This week President Bush was in Europe dazzling their leaders with his personal charm.

World Population to Tilt Urban

How big is the world's population? I bet many of you would still say 6 billion, but we passed that a while back. We're at 6.5 billion. In fact, according to Scientific American, we're gaining people at the rate of around 1 billion every 14 years. Ever since I read that, I've kept an eye out for population stories. By the way, the article said we're going to grow at roughly this rate, till we hit 9 billion - barring some sort of correction - and when we get to 9 billion we will stop growing. They seemed okay with it, but I sense potential drama here. This is a matter of grave concern. It's very easy to bemoan the changes we see in Portland, and everywhere else, but how the hell does the world add a billion new people every 14 years without it showing up somewhere? Especially if you live in a nice place? Another key stat is that the world population doubled from 1950 to 2000. Doubled! So here's the latest population article. It's about the tilt towards urban living over rural. Read it with a friend. BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | The challenges facing an urban world

Portland Makes the Washington Post

I'm always fascinated when I see how Portland plays in various newspapers around the country. Check out this recent article in the Washington Post about gentrification: "The heart of the black community is gone," said Charles Ford, 76, a black activist whose neighborhood in Portland has flipped in recent years from majority black to majority white. "There ain't no center anymore."
In Parts of U.S. Northwest, a Changing Face

A Review of "The Dark Side"

"The Dark Side" on PBS last night, had one interesting point for me; one new way of looking at these last few years. I always wondered why we didn't prosecute the war in Afghanistan more vigorously. I always theorized that we didn't send troops up Tora Bora, and we didn't block Osama's retreat because we still weren't used to the idea of hundreds of soldiers getting killed - even if it was to avenge 9/11. The show last night made a strong case that Cheney and Rumsfeld didn't fully commit to this war, because it was not theirs. Afghanistan had been assigned to George Tenet and the CIA, and Cheney and Rumsfeld wanted to be in charge of the War on Terror. Why? Because they want to be in charge period. Osama could be alive today, because of a Washington power struggle.
Dick Cheney is one of the great warriors in American History. Oh, he doesn't set foot on any real battlefield where people bleed and die. No, Cheney could never drag his pudgy body through anything physical - decades of Washington cocktail parties and hors d'oeuvres have left him soft and flabby, and prone to heart attacks. Instead, Cheney's wars are fought in the corridors of power. They're fought at meetings and private talks with those also in command. In Cheney's world there are only three lists: Those people he already controls, those people he'd like to control, and his allies for doing it. For the past 3 decades his main ally has been Donald Rumsfeld - another ruthless power-grabbing Washington infighter. Both had used their abilities to project a tough guy personality and rise to the top of the Washington, D.C. food chain. It was not the heroic charge of a true warrior driven by the belief in something. No, these people operate with the artful aside and the intense conversation. They're driven by an overwhelming desire to call the shots. These are the powerful beasts of Washington - they might nibble on a million hors d'oeuvres, but power is what they eat. It's the standard stuff of palace intrigue. Around every leader are the schemers who could never rise by themselves. They're just a little too unappealing - so they ingratiate themselves with those at the top and usurp their authority even as they talk humbly of not wanting to be #1. They didn't invent the game - they're just really good at playing it. And Cheney is one of the best. For example, Cheney used to work for Rumsfeld - now it's the other way around. Asked to find a Vice President, Cheney came up with his favorite person - himself. So there he was back in office in 2001, with a President he could manipulate. He was finally poised to take control of the federal government. He was ready to run Washington.
The problem with Afghanistan was that President Bush assigned the CIA to go in first and have the Pentagon support them. George Tenet was in charge and Cheney had to defeat him. "The Dark Side" chronicles how that took place. The CIA was in Afghanistan a month before military assets even arrived. When the CIA wanted to take out Osama and cut off his retreat, the Pentagon dragged its feet. Cheney and Rumsfeld were focused on a War with Iraq. That's what they wanted and one of the reasons was that it would be theirs. They would run it.
The manipulation of the intelligence stuff was not new to me. I've already seen "Uncovered: The Story of the Iraq War" so I knew how damning that was. "Uncovered" did have one additional bit of information. In one of Bush's speeches he listed all the chemical stockpiles known from the first Gulf War and then repeated that they were unaccounted for. "Uncovered" pointed out that some of those chemical weapons only had a shelf life of a couple of months, and couldn't be around nearly ten years later, but that was the only other detail I wish "The Dark Side" had included. That proved an intent to deceive. The tubes and the mobile labs - the debunking of that sort of stuff has been available for years.
I loved the description of the presentation to President Bush where he asks is that all there is? That showed early on that he wasn't duped - even he knew the case for a war with Iraq was thin at best. He also realized he'd have to trump it up, which he was all too willing to do. That played into his natural calling as a cheerleader. Then when the truth came out, George Tenet and the CIA took the fall, and Cheney won his latest power struggle in Washington. It's amazing really. All those people killed on 9/11 and Cheney and Rumsfeld didn't go after Osama for a simple reason: They weren't put in charge of Afghanistan. After all these years, I have to hand it to those guys. I didn't think they could possibly find a new way to disappoint me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

9 Tonight - PBS - Frontline - "The Dark Side"

The voice on the answering machine talks about defending our country, and it has true sincerity. The least we can do is honor the young man from Madras and all the others for their intent. They died doing something for us which was pure, because their intentions were good. Unfortunately there are those in the Bush administration whose hearts aren't nearly as pure. The old chicken hawks who sent these young men and women to their deaths are even now trying to hide behind the bodies. They say unless we continue to do as Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld bid, we are dishonoring these young people and their deaths will be in vain. For Bush officials to try and link themselves and their schemes to the nobility of these soldiers is a special brand of treachery. It's the desperate tactic of an exposed coward. Tonight at 9 p.m., PBS is broadcasting its Frontline show. This one is called "The Dark Side", and it examines the roles Cheney and Rumsfeld played in selling this war to America. This is important because we are currently witnessing a Born Again moment for the "masterminds" of the Iraq War. Karl Rove, and a thousand Republican spinners are fanning out across America to frame the Iraq War as a noble cause, a few battles from victory. But I ask you one question? When did they bequeath unto themselves this noble character? Where did the deceitful politicians go? How does lying young people to their deaths ever become noble? How does manipulating and pressuring and threatening your way into getting what you want, lead to great wealth of character, when all the reasons turned out to be lies. What the White House did to get us into Iraq had nothing to do with honor or noble hearts. They'll try and sell themselves as great farsighted, moral leaders now, but don't buy it. Let's revisit how moral these men were in the run-up to the war. Watch PBS, Frontline, tonight, 9 p.m.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The World Cup and the NBA Finals: The Flow Versus the Freethrow

I've been watching a lot of soccer lately and it's really changed my view of the NBA Finals. Basketball is played in little snips; little tiny bits of time. It's a freethrow shooting contest with bursts of tremendous action dished out in between. The Miami Heat shot 49 last game. 49! No wonder the players are so damn cranky. Nobody likes getting interrupted every ten seconds when they're trying to work - especially by a whistle blowing egomaniac. By the way, I was once at a party in Portland that had several of the big name NBA refs at it and they were in full celebrity mode, believe me. Game #5 of the Finals was an endless series of shrill whistle blasts, including a horrendous ticky-tack call at the end that allowed the game to be decided - where else? - at the freethrow line. It's even more pathetic when one of the biggest stars - Shaq - is so awful at shooting them. At this point, Shaq is practicing in the gym with actual bricks. It just recreates the game better. It's like if they forced football lineman to stop playing the actual Super Bowl every now and then for a Punt, Pass, and Kick contest. Don't get me wrong: I love hoops. I'll be watching Tuesday night as these incredible athletes compete. I just wonder what the flow would be like if they ever got a chance to play for longer than a minute or two uninterrupted? Meanwhile, I thought we were supposed to be bored by soccer? Once you adjust to the lack of scoring, it's kind of fun having the games continue for so long without a stop. They even have the stoppage time at the end. It's nice. Yes, the many injuries can be annoying when some seem fake, but every now and then you hear whistling from the stands and you cringe expecting another break in the action. Surprise! They just go right on playing. I've spent a lot of time thinking of ways to make soccer better. My solution: A bigger net. But during Game 5 of the NBA Finals the other night, I found myself pondering a way to get the game off the freethrow line and back to the action. When we were kids on the playground playing hoops, we didn't even bother shooting freethrows. Why stop playing the game? That would be boring.

Bush-Condi Rumors: A Time for Prayer

If the rumors are true about President Bush and Condi having a sexual relationship, I want to say that it does not lower my opinion of either one of them one bit. This is a time for the highroad. This is when liberal-leaning types can show that they are not like the Republicans during the Clinton years. We are tolerant of the sex lives of consenting adults. Now that the Globe is running with the story - the same tabloid that broke several other Washington sex scandals including Gary Hart's - it should be a time of quiet reflection and yes, prayer for our Nation. Have Condi and George been holding their own private staff meetings? Who knows? But let me close by offering a solemn prayer: Please, Dear God, may it be true. It's your humble servant William the Comedy Writer here. Dear God, answer my prayers. The 30% of Americans who still love the guy - despite everything - need this to be true. America needs it to be true.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Tram Construction Going Great

Here's a glimpse of the new tram and it shows what can happen when city government partners up with local developers. I can't wait to see the finished project. Keep up the good work, and let us know if you need any more bucks.

Snoop and Taylor: Weird Musical Duos

The winner of the weird musical duo list will always be topped for me by David Bowie and Bing Crosby on that "Little Drummer Boy-Peace On Earth" number. Just think, if Crosby had lived to the rap era, he could have been Bling Crosby. By the way, stars doing duets is one of my favorite things, especially when two great voices harmonize. One example that few people know the details about is Steve Winwood's hit, "Back in the High Life". Did you know the harmony was sung by James Taylor? Anyway, last night my sister attended a Snoop Dogg concert in Birmingham and who should join him on stage but Taylor Hicks, the American Idol winner. I doubt if they harmonized but that's a weird duo in my book. Taylor Throws Down for the Peeps: Using the 15 Minutes Wisely

Check out Snoop's marijuana leaf ring. Too understated for you?

Robinho: A New Star for Brazil

For me, the last 20 minutes of the Aussie-Brazil match produced the first official soccer chills of this World Cup. That's when Renaldo was replaced by a smaller player named Robinho who immediately went crazy. The excitement of the game tripled and it was thrilling from then on. Renaldo had a great assist earlier, but he looks miserable out there. He's fat and his legs hurt. He barely runs. It's like watching Michael Jordan playing with the Washington Wizards. He was so great once that it's downright sad to behold. There were one or two flat-out whiffs on playable crosses. It was grim. Then the kid came in, and he had greatness in his face, like a young Louis Armstrong. The announcers said that Pele calls Robinho the next Pele and it was immediately obvious why. He's fairly small which means he might not be able to take the punishment of all the tackles, but he's electric. At it's best soccer is one long rush and today I felt it. Play on.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Cocktail Party Guide to 9/11 Theories

Okay, here's the scenario: You have a healthy skepticism about politics, but there is no way you could see elements of the US government involved in 9/11. The idea is abhorrent to you, and it doesn't even exist in your world of possibilities. At the same time, you want to know enough to pass the cocktail party test: If the subject comes up, you want to be aware of the central details to know what it is you're dismissing. Here are 4 basic points that can help: 1.) The activity in the stock market with regards to the specific airlines targeted, was beyond coincidental before 9/11. The investigators assumed this was terrorists playing the markets. When they saw where it really led the matter was dropped. At this point say something like, "Anomalies do happen." 2.) You should know about the Israeli agents who were arrested apparently observing the World Trade Center that morning. They appeared to be there to photograph it, as if they had prior knowledge it would happen. As one later said on an Israel talk show, "Our purpose was to document the event." Dismiss them as lucky sightseers. 3.) Okay, here's the big one. The Neo-Cons openly declared that a Pearl Harbor event would work to put the country in the mood to implement their agenda, which included war with Iraq. On 9/11 Dick Cheney was in charge of war games and drills - mentioned in a footnote of the 9/11 Commission - which eerily mirrored the actual 9/11 plot. The theory is that these games were used to disable the air defense systems and allow the plot to succeed. You might hear the phrase "Vigilant Warrior." At this point, you should look off in the distance and say something like, "That can't be true or it would have been covered more in the mainstream media." 4.) Finally, there's Building 7, the building that came down like a controlled demolition the afternoon of 9/11. That one doesn't add up, so try and change the subject. It goes along with the molten steel theories and they don't add up either. Dismiss all this as the whacky ramblings of Charlie Sheen. If the party-goers you're talking to mention all the high-ranking, seemingly intelligent people who believe it was an inside job, then excuse yourself and say you need another drink.

9/11 Inside Job

Friday, June 16, 2006

Classy Picture of Angelina Jolie

Sure, the age of glamor is over in Hollywood and today's movie stars don't have the same class as the stars of the 30s, blah, blah, blah.

Checking for the Old Exploding Turban Trick

Gee, I wonder if we're winning the hearts and minds battle with this guy in Afghanistan.

Chief Foxworth Demoted

Let's revisit this earlier work from when the case broke, now that Chief Foxworth is Captain Foxworth.

Dennis Hastert: Iraq Is About Our Freedom

Memo from Karl Rove to Dennis Hastert: Dear Dennis, Nice line during the Iraq debate yesterday: "When our freedom is challenged, Americans do not cut and run." It has everything a great Republican talking point should have - No connection to the situation you're talking about, and a nice ironic twist thrown in. Nobody in their right mind would suggest Saddam was a threat to our freedom before the Iraq War, but by deflecting the argument that way, you've taken the spotlight off the many challenges to the freedom of Americans that this administration has done itself. Well done, and keep up the bullshit. Love, Karl.

Notes on the Personal Front

I knew things had gone too far when I started writing poetry the other night: "We took a swim in a poisoned lake. We took a bite from a rotten steak." These are toxic times, and I've got to find a way to endure. I definitely overdid it last month, writing a script in two weeks and then banging out the contract. The process left me surly and stunned, and I'm only now beginning to see through the fog. It's after 6 a.m. Friday as I write this. Argentina is pounding Serbia 3-0 and it should be 4. One Argentina player was wrongfully called offsides and when he continued on to score they gave him a yellow card. Brazil is always talked about as the essence of South American soccer, but for me Argentina has the same stature. I always feel like I'm seeing the best. The second goal today was the nicest I can remember from this World Cup, with a brilliant build-up followed by a give and go with the pass off the back heel - one of the coolest moves in soccer.
I've got to return to making some cool moves of my own. We are in for the full assault of the White House power machine, a nasty and brutal force that will blow like an arctic wind from now till the mid-term elections. Everything I read speaks of corruption, danger, and sleaze. The beast is on the loose and hell itself has been emptied out for this effort. I think I know what the Big Lie is right now: The ongoing debate on when to leave Iraq. This is a deception. We are building permanent bases in Iraq for a reason, and I believe the Bush/Cheney plan is for an American presence there stretching out to the endless future. All Bush's talk of not staying one day longer than necessary to set up the Iraqi government, is my pick for latest version of the Big Lie. When Bush dropped in on Iraq the other day, it was an unannounced visit from the landlord. Oh well, the Bush Years have been gruesome. Never has government intruded so far into my mood. I'm a musician surviving as a comedy writer, for Christ sake. I don't need this.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Stephen Hawking: A Beautiful Mind

One of the weirdest events I ever went to was Stephen Hawking's appearance at the Keller Auditorium. In fact in one week I saw Stephen Hawking, Robin Williams and Prince. That was cerebral overload. You probably know the story of Hawking's medical problems forcing him to talk with a machine. At that time he didn't appear to have anything pre-recorded so he would enter the words for a sentence or two and then this computer-generated voice would speak. At first I thought it couldn't work - how could a lecture that was interrupted every sentence or two for several minutes of dead air, keep the audience's interest? This is where you get into the area of non-verbal communication or the presence of a soul because the audience was more than entertained. It was sort of blissful to be in the same room with this guy. Sure, the respect factor was there to be in the presence of one of the planet's great minds, and there was the basic love for someone who was fighting through a serious medical condition. So everyone settled in and just began to listen to what he wanted to say. It soon became obvious that most of the sentences were so heavy that you appreciated the time in between to ponder the last one. Plus, he was funny. Of course, these quantum physics people are so far out there now that it makes any religious explanation you encounter seem less farfetched. In fact, I've seen articles since then sort of questioning String Theory and the idea of all these other dimensions to explain the weird readings they get on gravity. Oh well, I'll always consider it a rare treat to have seen one of the truly fascinating characters on the planet right now. The event started out weird, and then became a lot of fun. The aftermath was a really serene feeling in the head. Oh yeah, the universe is like the skin of an ever-expanding balloon or like the shadows of light from a campfire flickering onto the wall of a cave. Got it, everybody?

BREITBART.COM - Hawking says humans close to finding answers to origin of universe

Cheney's Lies Flowing Like Oil

At this point I know when Dick Cheney is going to lie almost before he does. He was on the Hannity radio show today, replayed again on FOX TV, and Cheney went into the tired old line about Congress seeing the same intelligence as the President before the Iraq War. Just think about the chances of that being true from a reasonable point of view. The President actually controls the flow of information to Congress, sees more, and in this case manipulates it, cherry picks it, distorts it, and finally lies about it. The FOX-hounds out there can nod their heads all they want about how this was a group failure - that two branches of government got it wrong, but it's not true now and it's never going to be true.
“Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material…Bush does not share his most sensitive intelligence, such as the President's Daily Brief, with lawmakers. Also, the National Intelligence Estimate summarizing the intelligence community's views about the threat from Iraq was given to Congress just days before the vote to authorize the use of force in that country. In addition, there were doubts within the intelligence community not included in the NIE.” (Washington Post, 11/13/05)
All this added to the irony today when Cheney cautioned against putting too much store in the new al Qaida documents till they've been authenticated. Nice touch. He did go on to say that the documents show we're winning in Iraq, but he didn't mention something else. One apparently says that al Qaida is hoping for a war between the U.S. and Iran. If true, could that be to take the pressure off the insurgents in Iraq? Maybe. Or could it be that the disastrous fiasco in Iraq was beyond Osama's wildest dreams, and the Bush/Cheney solution isn't making anything better for us - it's just making things better for the terrorists? Is Osama inactive because there's no point in interfering when the United States is so busy screwing up on this level? Oh well, you'd think along the way Cheney would try some new lies. Even with Hannity tripping over himself to agree with the Vice President, these old lies are becoming more and more lame.

The Lighter Notes: The Gig at Hillsboro

Here's the first of the pictures from Tuesday night in Hillsboro. You've heard of The 3 Tenors? Well, this ain't them. That's the courthouse behind us where we were later booked for hamming it up in public.

Wayne Rooney Plays!

The Brits just sent in Wayne Rooney to try and score against Trinidad and Tobago, the team that sounds most like a vaudeville act. England's got a tall geeky bloke named Crouch who's butchered some prime opportunities. Beckham served him a cross towards the end of the first half that came in on a silver tray carried by a butler, and Crouch couldn't even get it on net. If you've seen Rooney with Manchester United you know how brilliant he can be. I still think the best player in the Premier League is Henry, but Rooney is young and great. The team looks twice as fast already. You put Rooney in the mix and England becomes exciting. Especially if they tell this Crouch bloke to sit his dorky ass down. Uh, make that the brilliant player Crouch. He just scored after a great cross by Beckham. Play on.

Wanted: Rich Conservative Victims of the Bush Years

Liberals have been accused by Ann Coulter of using victims to make their case, so that the hopelessly sensitive Right Wing can't fire back. Apparently, Republicans running Congress, the White House, and the Supreme Court is not enough to get their message out. And despite the fact that they somehow managed to use the mainstream media to get us involved in the Iraq War, they still haven't been given a chance to defend their decision properly in public. Why? Because those mean liberals hide behind Cindy Sheehan. That's what's wrong with this country: When it comes to rich conservative victims of the Bush years, there isn't an even playing field. So this is an urgent plea for more of you to come forward. If you feel victimized by the Bush tax cuts because you already had your money in an offshore tax shelter, speak out. If the Federal Reserves recent rise in interest rates have negated the gains you've made during this troubling last year, now is your chance to unburden your souls. Somewhere out there is a rich conservative who was all set to fly the private jet to Boca Raton or Palm Springs for a weekend at a resort back in 2001. Maybe you had one of those golf tournaments with Tom Delay. Maybe you were going to mix with great Americans like Ken Lay, and discuss this country's future energy policy. Maybe you were going to talk about which piece of the Iraq oil you'd like if we ever found an excuse to invade. But what happened? 9/11 happened, that's what. Almost all aviation was grounded and your plans were postponed. The 9/11 widows might be enjoying their husbands deaths, as Ann Coulter points out, but you hated it. Maybe there was a time-share deposit you couldn't get refunded. You've been victimized, too. Where's the sympathy? Maybe one of your servants was sent to Iraq and got a limb blown off so he's not half the butler he used to be. The heartbreak is you still have to give him his old job back, and that's not fair. There are rich conservative victims out there. I know it. Find the courage and come forward. Ann Coulter needs you to help balance the discourse in this country. Something tells me Cindy Sheehan is going to go on and on about losing her son - as Ann Coulter points out Cindy loves being a celebrity and is probably trying to profit from his death - so what are you waiting for? Not everybody made money off this war. The President and your rich Right Wing friends need to hear from you. I know it's tough, but please, speak out. Share your pain. Do it for God, do it for the President, and do it for your country.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Victory at Hillsboro

Playing rock and roll as you get older requires discipline - and nobody goes into rock and roll for the discipline. That is why many dark thoughts filled my brain as I loaded the station wagon for the gig in Hillsboro yesterday. I had one heavy bass amp, my Fender amp, a suitcase of recording and video equipment, 3 guitars and a bass, a suitcase full of percussion equipment, a bag full of effects and cords, another bag full of bass stuff, a collapsable cart, and one collapsable musician - namely me. It wasn't till I was out on Highway 26, with the radio blaring that the hint of magic wafted through the air. The Rolling Stones came on with "Mixed Emotions", and it was like, "You can say that again."
The bass player is a teacher, and he was coming straight from a meeting, and could be late, adding to my uneasiness about the gig. This was a paid event, and I wanted to do it right. There were a couple of other factors as well: He's one of our lead singers but his voice was hoarse from last weekend, which he spent shouting at his crew as tiller for his dragon boat team. Oh yeah, he also fell down racing for a bus during a field trip with students last Friday and chipped a bone on the ring finger of his left hand. Ahh, bass players. Almost as much trouble as drummers. When he arrived on time, he listed all his ailments for the other guitarist, so my comment was, "It sounds like the good news is that you're here, and the bad news is also that you're here." Although banged up, the rock lion emerged and he played and sang well.
The Hillsboro Farmers Market is quite a production with many blocks full of booths, etc...I heard someone say that 5,000 people have attended in the past. It rained during the first set, but the crowd hung in there. Then the sun poked out, and the gig took off. The band got into the zone, and I finally dialed in a favorable guitar sound. Off we went. An extremely cute young girl approached the stage to request a song. We were old but we were still getting over - musically at least. I cracked up listening to the bass player sing this song called "A Girl Like You" which the young girl had picked off our song list: "I want to spend my life with a girl like you." It was quite an image especially as we were right outside the courthouse where the trials take place.
On my way home I felt the magic - a more serene, worn-down magic that cut through the fatigue. I had gone from not wanting to do this anymore, to wanting to do it again tonight. Rock and roll can be like that. There are many defeats along the way, but Hillsboro was a victory.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Portland Named America's Ninth Smartest City

Portland, Oregon has been named the ninth smartest city in America. 25% of Portlanders have had some college. 25%? That's well over a third.
America's Smartest Cities

Monday, June 12, 2006

Preemptive Strikes: The Law of the Jungle

Anytime your geopolitical philosophy looks like something off the Discovery Channel, the planet is in serious trouble. That's what "Preemptive Strike" really means, doesn't it? The Law of the Jungle. I'll attack you whenever I feel like it, just like the lions and hyenas do. The world has spent thousands of years moving away from this concept, yet now we have a President who believes in this behavior. And here's the cute part: He thinks he invented it. They even call it "The Bush Doctrine", when it's no more original than a mountain lion biting a coyote. Remember when Saddam invaded Kuwait - how the world reacted with outrage, saying this aggression won't stand? Looking back Saddam was just a precursor of the Bush Doctrine - so early that George was still teetering on a barstool when Saddam was acting it out.
Wait, you might say - Saddam didn't think Kuwait was about to attack him. Frankly, neither did we with Iraq. That's the chilling beauty of the preemptive strike doctrine: You just announce you feel threatened when you want to invade someplace. No proof is needed because it's all in your mind.
Let's follow this through from how the doctrine is supposed to work, to its logical conclusion. We start with a community of nations, each with an assumption that if they live peacefully with their neighbors, they won't be attacked. Of course, people like Saddam come along and invade Kuwait, at which point the community of nations retaliates. Enter the second President Bush: He believes he has the right to attack other nations based on what he thinks they might do in the future. He lies and speculates about the imminent threat and when it turns out he's 100% wrong, he is undeterred. In fact, he's looking at Iran right now, and wondering if he should attack it. The initial result of this strategy can be more security for the one who attacks first, although with Iraq we didn't gain a damn thing because Iraq was not really a threat. It was contained. But let's overlook how little benefit we've gotten from this adventure, and assume it had worked out to our great advantage. Even dumb ideas sometimes work well in the beginning. It's the longterm effects after you've declared "Mission Accomplished", that are a little trickier.
For example, after the preemptive strike, the community of nations realizes it is no longer enough to exist peacefully - they can be attacked anyway. Some countries will emulate us and attack whomever. And the race is on to get more protection from this new type of threat. The new global agenda is to beware of America. Suddenly much of the world hates us. Why? Because they live in fear of what we'll do next. We are the lion sipping at the water hole. Who knows when we'll attack? We're not governed by international law. That's like asking the lion to follow a treaty. Instead of a world pulling for America to remain strong, the world begins to want our power to fade. We are now reckless and dangerous. We are a threat. So let's say America is one day challenged by an emerging superpower like China - will we support the Bush Doctrine then? Will we be saying an unprovoiked attack by China is only fair - it's the way things are supposed to be? No, in that situation, we'll try and advocate the international law that protects the weak and checks the power of the strong. We'll say we are not animals. We are civilized nations. We don't act this way. But that concept is all gone with the Bush Doctrine: Thousands of years of trying to build a framework for coexistence, tossed out in a flash. We're back in the jungle. Just look at how Pearl Harbor fits into the Bush Doctrine. You know...December 7th? "A date that shall live in infamy." That was a preemptive strike, wasn't it? Sure, to neutralize our navy in case we threatened Japan. Bush supporters should admire Pearl Harbor. It was a Bush-style move. It's life at the water hole. It's how the lions and hyenas act. You see this behavior every day on the Discovery Channel: Sneak attacks and preemptive strikes are what the Law of the Jungle is all about.

City Council to Replace Tri-Met Buses with Covered Wagons

First came the streetcars - a giant leap back to 1938. Then came the tram. Who knows how far back that technology goes? Humanity has probably been pulling itself in a basket suspended on a rope for hundreds, if not thousands of years. In this retro-loving spirit, the City Council has now decided to replace Tri-Met buses with covered wagons. The wagon trains moving up the former bus mall will add a picturesque touch to the city, with the possibility of becoming a Portland Icon. Here's the first picture from downtown:

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld: Getting Better at Dancing Around the Truth

One of the ways you could tell President Bush knew the intelligence wasn't there to go into Iraq was the careful way his pre-war speeches were phrased. He knew there would be a day when we all realized the preemptive strike on Iraq was a crock, so he'd say things like "British intelligence has determined." This was in addition to the many times when Bush officials flat-out lied to the American public to get us into this disastrous war. Ultimately, what the White House sold was a toxic mixture of artful deception and basic bullshit. Dick Cheney was one who thrived on the latter, and Condi was a close second. Donald Rumsfeld was right there in the mix, too. The recent confrontation from a questioner in the crowd at one of Donald Rumsfeld's speeches - someone who had worked in Intelligence - highlighted the level of Rumsfeld's mendacity. In the run-up to the war, Donald not only said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but that we knew where they were. He was lying then and he was lying again when he denied having said it.
But let's give him credit: He's working harder to elevate his game. He's trying more for the carefully constructed statements that allow Bush officials to appear to speak definitively but with some built-in wiggle room. Take Donald's recent statement about Zarqawi: "Arguably over the last several years, no single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women and children on his hands than Zarqawi," said Rumsfeld. So he's saying you could make the argument but he's holding back from making it definitively himself, and I think I know why. On some level - maybe even subconscious - Donald Rumsfeld knows it's not true. See, a preemptive strike kills innocent people, as well. It's tough to justify under the best of circumstances, and to have all the reasons turn out to be wrong is even more of a problem. If you went to your neighbor's house and murdered him and then told the police you did it because he was building a weapon to kill you, you'd go to prison - especially if no weapon could be found. The War on Iraq was outside the rule of law and Rumsfeld knows it. They sold it as revenge for 9/11 but now they claim they never really said that. Their statements were deliberately misleading, and they knew it. This was a "Might makes right" thing. The reason Rumsfeld doesn't say Zarqawi has the blood of more innocent people on his hands than anyone else, is that Rumsfeld knows there are several hundred thousand dead Iraqis who would be alive if this war hadn't happened. He knows the blood is on his hands, the President's hands, and everyone else who marketed this fiasco to the American People. You might feel the Iraqis are not innocent, so let me give you one example: A girl, 5 to 7 years old was also killed in the raid on Zarqawi. She had to be innocent, and if the United States was going to come to her country and kill her, we should have at least been in the right. Instead, we were wrong - not arguably wrong - just plain wrong. And somewhere in Rumsfeld's weird, twisted brain, he knows it.

Grieve Not, America, the Brain Trust Is Gathering

The next two days will feature a Camp David retreat to find a new solution in Iraq. How can a gathering of minds like this fail? All the people who looked at the Iraqi Invasion as a good idea in the first place, combining their brain power for a new plan? This should be easy! The Camp David setting is perfect: President Bush can solve world problems and stuff, and still get out on his bicycle before dark. In fact, that's the latest imagery the White House is using. We're going to try and let go of the bicycle seat in Iraq and see if the new government can keep the bicycle upright. Gee, how did this image drop into their fertile minds? Could they have gotten the idea from watching George pedal around? Are they saying it's our own President who still needs the training wheels? Another official chimed in with an even more realistic assessment: He called the meeting the "last, best chance to get this right." Wait, what happened to the famous resolve? You mean the White House now sees the Iraq plan in big trouble? Wow, I thought God himself gave George the OK on this one. You mean God got it wrong? Oh well, thank goodness we've got this meeting at Camp David. Not for a day, not for a day and a half. No, they're devoting two whole days to the new plan. And that's just a precaution, given the type of minds we have assembled here. In fact, President Bush might as well wear his spandex. With this brain trust, he'll be back on his bicycle by Monday afternoon.
U.S. Seeking New Strategy for Buttressing Iraq's Government - New York Times

Legendary Night Coming Up Tuesday

I am hating life right now because I can't make the Curtis Salgado concert, but I have an excuse I'm sure he'd understand. My humble band, The Lighter Notes, fresh off an appearance at the Rose Festival, will continue our World Tour 2006 with a gig in Hillsboro that night. We play from 5:30 to 8:30 followed by equipment shenanigans. I'll probably get back to town around 10 and still have to unload. The gig has its own PA but, at this point, I bring a ton of my own stuff: Three guitars, amp, effects, percussion, recording equipment. We play an outdoor stage right under the giant trees at the Hillsboro Courthouse. The town blocks off some streets and has a Farmer's Market situation.
It would have to be this week. Of all the Tuesdays in the world this gig has to drop in on this one. Oh well, I hope my fellow Portlanders have a good time at Salgado's concert. The line-up is amazing: Steve Miller, Taj Mahal, Robert Cray. Are you kidding me? Plus, Art Alexakis - longtime readers of this blog know how much I respect what he's done. That's him singing the "AM Radio" song during a recent national commercial campaign. As someone who never got too far in the music business, I tend to view successful musicians the way Star Wars fans view Jedi Knights. The single most impressive thing for me of the Curtis Salgado story is seeing the pictures on his website. As a professional comedy writer, I should be knocked out by the one with John Belushi, and I am. But what really impresses me is the shot of Curtis with Stevie Ray Vaughn. If you've never tried to play a guitar, there is no way I can adequately convey to you what a monster Stevie Ray Vaughn was. The fact that Curtis shared a stage with him, and Santana, an amazing thing. The fact that these other musicians are showing up to help Curtis is a statement in itself. I sense a night of music and emotions that will immediately land in the legendary category, and be mentioned as long as Portlanders gather and discuss the great music nights in this town ever. And the same will be true out in Hillsboro when the Lighter Notes are finished. Ouch, this is really starting to hurt.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Why I Love Portland, Part 7: Steve and Kate

So I'm coming off Mt. Tabor just now, after another death-defying ascent to the mountain's peak, when who do I run into, but our folk heroes, Steve and Kate of Artichoke Music. This wasn't near the store - they were much closer to 50th and Hawthorne, out by a telephone pole in the magnificent weather, chatting with a woman. What followed was a short conversation about how proud I was of them and how much I liked the "Travis John" song. I told them I had been at his service and that I had attended three services at the beginning. They said this little town they went to down in Texas had three soldiers from our latest conflict, in its local cemetery, too. Suddenly the image of a couple of thousand Travis Johns across America, hung there in the air. Steve was carrying a cardboard box, and he said, "Do you want to see the trophy?" Out came a handsome glass piece - first prize for their haunting song of loss. We concluded with a short acknowledgment of the mind-blowing layers and interactions in the story. They're clearly knocked out by the many details, just as the rest of us are. Search for the Jonathan Nicholas column from a couple of weeks ago if you haven't heard about it. The word "banjo" is in the title. This also marked one of the few times I've ever talked to Steve where we weren't just kidding around. If you don't know him, Steve has what I'd call comedic chops. I once accidentally called Tabor, "Mt. St. Tabor" and we riffed away with the comedic theme for a while: The Sherpa guides, the base camp by the tennis courts, the final ascent up the mountain. That sort of thing. Always with the comedy - this guy - but that'll have to wait for another time.

The World Cup's First Drama Major

One of the unfortunate things about soccer is the overreaction to injuries. You see players writhing in pain, and pleading for someone to please, please shoot them and end their misery. Half a minute later, they're running around like a spring colt. In the worse cases, nothing at all happens and it's a complete ploy, which the refs are supposed to card. To be fair, a quick recovery can happen with a lot of the leg stuff - getting kicked in the shins can give that kind of intense pain that soon fades, but this morning I saw my first case of "World Cup Drama Major Gone Bad." H. Valdez of Paraguay took an elbow to the jaw that looked pretty minor. Of course, he dropped and started writhing around like his head was going to fall off. Whoever has the ball kicks it out and it's returned afterwards by the other team kicking the ball out. This good-sportsmanship gesture is essential when there are no quick stoppages of play for injury, but it also is an open invitation to fake an injury to build up pressure on the refs. Maybe just to rest. Eventually, the stretcher is brought out, and the player achieves a miraculous recovery, finding it within himself to play on. Valdez didn't go that far, but he was back up moments later, dribbling the ball as if nothing was wrong. That's when it happened. He gave his teammate's a frustrated hand gesture, right while he had the ball, that seemed to say, "I can't do this all myself, people! Work with me!" Later when his shot went wide, he acted like he was in a death scene from a Shakespeare play. Yup, it's official. The World Cup has its first Drama Major.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Maureen Dowd Looks At Blogging

It's been a while since Maureen Dowd nailed it in a column. There was a time in Bush's first term when she was so on her game that the columns transcended traditional media and became a way to maintain your sanity. Sort of like the best of the blogs. Before anyone else got it about the weirdness inherent in the Bush drama on a family level, she was there with Bush World. So what happened? Frankly, George Bush's reign has now gotten so ugly that Maureen's humorous, whimsical "Bush World" tone no longer works. It's like she was personally overwhelmed by the sheer horror this administration has wrought.
So it was kind of nice revisiting her humorous style again in her latest column. It's set in Las Vegas, where she ventured into a gathering from the blogosphere. Here are some lines: "I, Old Media, came here to attend a New Media convention of progressive political bloggers aiming for a technological revolution that would dispatch mainstream media to the tumbrels. It was the journalistic equivalent of mingling with your own pod replicant in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."" She meets Markos Moulitsas, from "The Daily Kos" who tells her, "I don't plan on doing any original reporting — screw that. I need people like you." Markos feels the bloggers react to Old Media so the relationship is "symbiotic."
Maureen notes the many bloggers who have used the New Media to get into Old Media, and she writes melodramatically, "I'll be at the Cleopatra slot machine pondering a career in blogging, which will set me up to get back into mainstream media someday."
Okay, it's not exactly "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", but Maureen seems back on her game here - finally. I hate paying for the service when the columns are lame. Still, no matter what happens, she'll always be at the top of my list of columnists. Who else uses words like "tumbrels"? What other columnist gets called out by name by Donald Rumsfeld? It's simple, really: Maureen's writing helped get me through the first years of the Bush administration - the way the blogs are helping me now. Hell, I wish she'd get her own blog. I've emailed her a few times - I'd love to write in on the Maureen Dowd blog. I've got it! The Dowd Report! Not just every few days, but every few hours. How her life's going - the whole bit. As for the most exciting part of the New Media world, the quote a little earlier in her column says it all. It's from Markos Moulitsas, the Daily Kos guy who came out of nowhere to get over 600,000 hits a day. He told Maureen, "Traditionally it was hard to get your job. Now regular people can score your job."

World Cup: Great Start Underway

The World Cup is off to a great start. It's 25 minutes into the Germany match with Costa Rica and the action has been terrific. The score is 2-1 Germany, which is 14-7 in NFL football terms. KGW's Ron Pivo got our local coverage of World Cup soccer off to a shaky start last night by repeatedly referring to Argentina's Diego Maradona as being from Brazil. How can we put that into local terms for you, Ron? That'd be like saying the Winterhawks were from Moosejaw. Oh well, it's early and there's lots of time to get up to speed.

Where Have You Gone, Clyde the Glide?

Did you see Clyde Drexler on TV at Game #1 of the NBA Finals? Now, there was a Blazer for the Ages. One time I was talking to him when the Dream Team was preparing for the Olympics. I made a kidding remark like, "Do you think you'll have any trouble with Team Canada tonight?" There was no one else around and I wasn't a reporter or anything. Clyde could have easily grinned or said something disrespectful. I mean his team had Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson - Team Canada was not going to be a problem. Clyde would not drop the respect level a bit, saying something nice about the other team. I thought, "This really is one quality individual here." Seeing him with Bill Russell on the broadcast last night, Clyde looked like a great statesman. And from the Phi Slamma Jamma days on to the championship ring with the Rockets, what a player.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Contracts on Way to L.A.

As someone who hates meetings anyway, I can't help seeing this Zarqawi thing as a really bad example of one. Imagine a survivor typing up the minutes: "First Yousef said some things about....and then Zarqawi added some comments. Next we broke for coffee, then we got back to business, then two 500-pound bombs came through the roof. Oh yeah: The rest of the meeting was canceled." And speaking of two large bombs, I finally finished reading the contracts for the scripts. Today I initialed 28 pages and signed 4 more. Then I got them notarized which is something the producer connection in LA has never asked me to do before. Then I over-nighted them to Los Angeles. I knew things were going my way when the only other person in line at the Post Office was a beautiful woman who forget to do something and left the line moving me to the front.
There was a time when I went though a lot of symbolic rituals sending the stuff to L.A. I'd remember where I was, case I had to think back to the big day when I made the move that broke it wide open. That kind of enthusiasm has waned considerably. I must have sent around 50 separate over-nights to LA, and none of them led to anything. You always overnight things to give the impression that the Titans of Show Business cannot wait another second to get this. Oh well. I forced myself to try and make a ceremony this time just for the mindless hell of it. For example, when I first handed the latest script to the guy, he had just finished speaking at the Bagdad Theater. He was talking to someone and I was standing right next to the screen so I touched the script to it. Not for luck. Not for karma. Just for a detail later if I need to remember this and write about it. Okay, maybe a little for luck. So today I sat with my wife and signed while she ate breakfast. She's religious so I asked her to say a prayer this will work out. I told her that way, if it doesn't, I can blame both her and God. it's not always fun living with a professional comedy writer.
This script project really dented my head. It's been 5 long weeks. The first two banging out the script were fun, but rewriting it was a major drag, and dealing with the contracts is always a hassle. Both the producer and I are better at this than ever before. I saw many new phrases and many big numbers. Who knows what lies ahead? Maybe more meetings. Maybe economic freedom forever. The only thing I'm fairly sure of: None of those meetings will go as badly as Zarqawi's. If there are any 500-pound bombs here, they'll be in the form of bad movies.

al-Zarqawi's Last Words

This just in from Iraq: A transcript has been released of al-Zarqawi's last words.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Lighter Notes Play the Rose Festival

Here's a tip for you aspiring rock bands out there: Always have a sign saying "Clowns" on the stage with you when you play. It just makes you look cool.

Ann Coulter: Cruel and Unusual

The New York Daily News got the word right this morning with its headline, "Coulter the Cruel." Just as Ann Coulter planned, her remarks about the 9/11 widows have created a media uproar. That's her modus operandi and we all knew it going in. But this time is different. To suggest these women are enjoying the experience of being 9/11 widows, is so far past a media stunt, that it made me feel sick. Ann Coulter has enough meanness to affect your view of humanity in general. How could a species produce such a creature? Why do so many creatures of the Far Right embrace her so openly?
Recently we've witnessed a religious family who drive around to funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and hold up banners saying the soldiers were killed because God is mad about homosexuality.
Can you imagine the grieving families? On top of everything else, they have to hear these people mouth off at their son or daughter's funeral? As cruel as that is, it is perfectly understandable because it's a religious thing. People have always been able to inflict tremendous pain on others in the name of God. In fact, they believe they're actually doing their victims a favor. What's a little torture now compared to eternal salvation? That's the line of reasoning, although I use the word "reasoning" loosely.
But to be this cruel just to hype a book? That's hard to fathom, even if the 9/11 widows had done something wrong. So what did they do to become part of the Ann Coulter book tour? Simple. They would not sit silently by and watch the Bush administration try and gloss over the event that killed their spouses. For some reason, President Bush and Dick Cheney are very afraid to have the facts leading up to 9/11 looked at, and you can take that any way you want. Remember after the White House finally caved on this issue, and they tried to put Kissinger in charge? Remember how President Bush would only testify if Dick Cheney was with him?
So now we have the backlash to Ann Coulter's remarks. The world isn't busy enough. We have to drop what we're doing and deal with this. The 9/11 widows have to deal with this. You know, it was less than 5 years ago. That's not long if you're trying to get over a loss of this magnitude. I've got an idea. Maybe the widows can do something. Maybe they can stage the memorial services of their husbands again so Ann Coulter can stand outside the church, holding up a big cover of her new book, and protest at their funerals.

9/11 Widows, New York Papers, Respond to Coulter's 'Slander'

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Billy Preston

I saw Billy Preston playing with the Eric Clapton band a few years back in the Rose Garden, and every now and then I found myself in disbelief that one of the two keyboardists on stage was the guy on the roof with the Beatles. You know keyboards are very static things, especially before they introduced a way to bend the notes. To be able to coax a soulful sound from one is different than the guitar or voice. The solo in "Get Back" alone is enough to put Billy Preston in the Keyboard Hall of Fame. I also have to mention my favorite line by him in his own songs: "I've got a story, ain't got no moral. Let the bad guy win every once and a while."
What a monster musician.
Singer-songwriter Billy Preston dead at 59 - Yahoo! News

Ann Coulter: No Longer America's Sweetheart?

If you don't believe 6-6-06 led to a visit from Satan, you didn't see Ann Coulter on the Today Show. How else would this beautiful young lass call the 9/11 widows, "broads" who were enjoying their husbands' deaths? That can't be our girl, can it? That can't be our right-wing media darling? Never mind that the 9/11 widows were the only reason the Bush administration even bothered having a 9/11 Commission. In Ann Coulter's world these are millionaires who love being on TV. Which, come to think of it, sounds a little like Ann Coulter. How long is the American Public going to go for this act?
Saying the 9/11 widows were enjoying their husbands' deaths? That makes it official: Ann Coulter is no longer America's Sweetheart.

Crooks and Liars

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Worst Comparison of 2006

I'm going to make a comparison that is so wrong that I apologize in advance. It popped into my head and I wish it hadn't. Simply put I would like to compare Emilie Boyles to the apparent massacre at Haditha in Iraq. I blame this on my immersion into the blogging world. Never have I had so many brain cells devoted to the local political scene. It is indefensible. There are now banks of memory tied up with the tram and the City Council. For the life of me, I can't justify why that should be. Nothing Erik Sten has done matters as much as the world of Dick Cheney. There should be a firewall between these arenas, but there isn't. Information flows and the worlds collide.
The U.S. soldiers who apparently crossed the line in Haditha are responsible for their own actions, and yet I blame President Bush to a great degree. It was his monumental incompetence, and wretched need to compensate for his own lack of being a tough guy, that placed these soldiers in a situation they never should have been in. Once they were there, President Bush and Rumsfeld wore these soldiers down till they snapped. There is no one among us who can say definitively that we wouldn't have reached our breaking point, as well. These soldiers are to blame, but the blame also falls on our bumbling Commander-In-Chief who left these men out in the desert heat with no plan. President Bush will express shock and deep disappointment at these events, but I will quote from my own columns I wrote before the Iraq War started - the columns I was later told led to the end of my regular work with the Portland Tribune. They were printed just weeks before the start of the war and they're about a Vietnam Vet. The subject was the unintended consequences of battle: "If President Bush hadn’t used his political connections to avoid Vietnam, he might have learned more about those" and "we shouldn’t forget what can happen when human beings are placed in a horrible military situation." The latter was from a column about the collapse of military discipline in Vietnam, and what might lie ahead in Iraq.
Now for the ridiculous leap to Emilie Boyles. She is responsible for whatever scams she knowingly ran to get the campaign money. There must have been that one wild night when she realized she had nearly 150 large in the bank to do with whatever she wanted - at least in the short term. Not everyone who lives in a trailer ever gets to experience that feeling. But the weakest part of my point is to compare the moral pressures on her to what was happening to the soldiers in Iraq. That is the reprehensible leap of this whole exercise.
However the part that does bear some comparison is the role of the government leaders in bringing this about. Aren't they to blame just a little bit for dangling the 150 grand in front of Portland's poorer citizens for such a ridiculous threshold? $5,000 gets you $150 grand? Those are tempting numbers for the staunchest moralist. It wasn't entrapment. It wasn't anyone's legal responsibility except hers. But still, we count on our leaders not to make stupid moves that could lead to trouble. And if they're good they have safeguards in place for when the plan goes badly, to prevent the worst from happening. Our leaders did an extremely poor job in that regard. So in that sense, government officials are to blame. It's true whether you're a soldier in Haditha or living in a trailer in Portland.

Just Like We Learned It In Spring Training

The trouble with stupid plays in baseball is that you look so stupid doing them. The worse your mistake, the more players you have scrambling around trying to make up for it. If the play keeps going on and on that's a bad sign. If the scorer needs a few minutes just to count all the errors, you're in real trouble.
Baseball never gets tired of statistics, right? There should be a record for the longest time between the first error in a play and the last. We could start today with the Boston Red Sox. Here's how the play developed: 1. The Red Sox pitcher throws a passed ball, so the Yankee runner on first heads for second. 2. The Red Sox catcher grabs the ball that hasn't rolled too far by him and tries to throw the runner out at second. 3. The throw sails into right field and the runner heads for third. 4. The catcher heads toward third to cover the potential throw there. 5. The third base coach stops the runner but then points to the catcher halfway up the line, with no one covering home. 6. The runner breaks for home so Little League players everywhere were treated to the sight of the Yankee runner and the Boston catcher running side-by-side to home plate. 7. The throw comes in and if it had been perfect, there was enough separation for the catcher to catch it and tag out the runner right beside him. 8. The throw is far from perfect, but then again you don't often throw to someone while they're running in from third. The throw was wide so the catcher lunged at it, missed it, and the runner scored. As the Yankee fans roared, the catcher, who is also the Red Sox captain, walked to retrieve the ball at the backstop. Oh well. As someone who butchered a few plays myself catching in Little League, sometimes it's good when you can put the mask back on. That was the 1st inning gem. It's now the third inning and the Red Sox are losing 13 to 2. Play ball.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Too Long in the Company of Cheney and Rumsfeld

Did you ever have to start supervising someone who worked at a company so long they thought they owned it? I had this experience once and I finally had to blow up and say, "I don't care how long you've been here. Unless I drive up to work tomorrow, and see your name on the building, you're just another employee." There's all kinds of potential problems when people work at a place for a long, long time. They start believing they have accrued extra privileges and benefits outside the rules. They become experts at power-grabbing and gaming the system to survive. They form alliances with similar types that also lead to trouble. There's a false sense of entitlement in which anything that happens has to go through them. They act belligerent when challenged. Somewhere along the line, they cross over from an employee to a pseudo-ownership role. They are no longer serving an institution - the institution is serving them. It is a backdrop for their lives.
Now look at this picture from the White House in 1975. That's over 30 years ago. Do you ever get the feeling these two guys feel like they own Washington? They started out serving the American People within the system - now they are the system.

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld at the White House in 1975