Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Time I Met Hillary

I met Hillary once back in the first Clinton term during her ill-fated campaign to fix our healthcare system. By the way, I never viewed that as a huge failure just because it didn't work out. It's even more clear now that healthcare is one of the biggest problems we've got. Most people I know have good health insurance as long as they stay in good health. If they get sick? Well, that's a different story.

It's clearly a two Americas deal with one group getting some of the best care in the world while others are sick with worry. It keeps costing more and people fear they could lose their coverage if they have it to begin with. I certainly didn't blame Hillary for using her clout as First Lady to try and do something. That wasn't a blunder - it was a noble effort.

Naturally, she was ridiculed for it, but that's part of the game. In fact, Hillary has been ridiculed a lot. She is one of those people who have been defined to such an extent by the media machine and the Republicans that you can't help buying into it on some level - no matter what your political leanings are. You can't help thinking of her in negative terms. It's analogous to the perception that Republicans are better at foreign policy. We've heard it over and over again so we believe it. Meanwhile, if that is their specialty I'd hate to see what the world would look like if they were horrendous at it.

Hillary might be a typical politician changing with the breeze, but people who work with her in the Senate like her more than her reputation would suggest. It's actually very impressive how many give her high marks for her ability. Having said that, I'm not pulling for her to win the nomination. I really think America needs to move on from having a Clinton or a Bush anywhere near our political system - especially the Bushes.

If you read the history of the Bush family and what they've done to - excuse me, I meant "for" - America, then it's time for us to try some other group. There's got to be other criminal organizations - excuse me, I meant "large families" - out there who will perform better than this. Let's just say to the Bushes, "Thanks. I know you'd love to continue helping run this country, but trust me, you've done enough." No to Jeb. No to the twins, and no to any of the others in the next Bush generation waiting in the wings. Please. Enough.

Having so much written about someone, makes it valuable to meet them and make your own opinion. For example, it was useful to meet Dan Quayle and realize he really was an idiot. His own Secret Service agents were making fun of him.

When I met Hillary, I was in the back hall of a downtown hotel working as a banquet waiter. Hillary's bus caravan rolled through town and she stopped in to give a speech. We shook hands and to me, she seemed motherly and nice. Frankly, she seemed sort of hip - like good company on a long airplane flight. Her image as an ice queen should be tempered with the motherly vibe because it is there.

This next part is going to sound crazy because you've heard so much hate speech about her, but Hillary was huggable. I really liked her in person. I'm not saying I was attracted to her sexually or anything. She does have a huge bottom, but so does Dick Cheney. That reminds me: This might sound shocking but up close Tipper Gore is sexy. I've met Tipper, too, and I bet there was a time when she was a stone cold fox.

My take on Hillary is that she can be sweet and warm. It's there along with the colder elements of her personality. You know who likes her? John McCain. I've also personally heard Al Gore flirting with her. You read that here first. After one encounter with Bill, Hillary, Al, and Tipper, I got the distinct impression that Hillary was really attracted to Al, especially in the noble character department, and especially compared to her hound dog husband.

Now, Bill Clinton being a sex machine? That is 100% reality - there's no right wing conspiracy involved there. I've personally seen him flirt with at least three different waitresses. Once he almost caused a collision of people walking in our hall so he could stop and wave at a voluptuous waitress he glanced at. Bill Clinton? He comes as advertised.

After we shook hands, Hillary went in and delivered her speech. What stood out to me in person was her life force. She's got brains for sure, although she's not as smart as Bill. Bill is scary smart. I've overheard things he said that were truly incredible.

Once a person showed Bill a single picture of this one rally from God knows when. You know how many rallies these people attend, right? Bill stared at it for a moment then spoke for 5 minutes about the event as if it had happened moments before. Bill Clinton is brilliant. Brains for days and an ego to go along with it. Nobody disputes that, but Hillary might have him on one level: Life force.

I have met a lot of powerful people at the hotel, and Hillary's life force is right up there. If the Republican Party thinks they are going to wear her down, they can forget about that right now. She's got more life force than they do.

I stayed in the room for most of the speech but one of our wise-ass banquet captains remained in the back hall. He never came in the room at all, and didn't hear a single word of her impassioned talk. Yet, when Hillary came back out, he looked at her - all charm - and said, "That was a wonderful speech." Hillary smiled warmly and thanked him, so I had witnessed something significant. Not only had I met Bill Clinton's wife - a woman who became so famous that she goes by one name - but I actually heard a man being dishonest with her. All and all, that was quite a glimpse of history.

The Boomers: Primed for an Early Fade?

I don't want to be morbid here but there's a chance the Baby Boomer drain on entitlement programs won't be as significant as first feared. I'm going to base this on a scientific study comparing Bob Dole to the Mamas and Papas rock group. Bob went through some horrific wounds during World War 2, spending many months in the hospital long after the fighting was over. Yet, he still is with us, and for all we know he's out there right now with a Viagra-fueled erection, chasing Elizabeth Dole around.

Meanwhile, 3 out of 4 of the Mamas and Papas rock group are dead. Sadly, Denny died just last week. Now, we all are used to a member of a band aging quickly through drugs and fading way too soon. For me, my hero Jerry Garcia comes to mind. Standing next to Bob Weir in the early photos they look like two teenagers. Before it was over Bob and Jerry looked like a young man with his grandfather. Let's just say some of our rock star heroes participated in an accelerated aging program.

And guess what? So did we. I can't help wondering if there wasn't some long-term damage done by my generation during our wild stage. Are certain parts of our brains going to wear out in our 50s or 60s because of the pummeling we gave them back in the day? It certainly is true of boxers - they face an early fade in the mental area decades after the last punch was thrown.

Wouldn't it be interesting if all this talk about the Boomers busting the social security bank by living till we're in our 80s or even 100, is just talk? You hear this expressed all the time: "80 is the new 60!" Maybe that's true, but maybe with this generation, "60 is the new 100!" Maybe we lived around 40 years of wear and tear from the age of 20 to 30. I know I did.

It remains to be seen if it'll show up. I hope not, but I wish we could have gotten a few more decades out of Jerry Garcia, too. The accelerated aging program took care of that. Maybe the rest of the Boomers will follow suit and not stick around as long as other generations.

There has to be some consequences for how we acted back then, wouldn't you think? I mean you all look very serious and responsible now, but I remember how you used to be. I saw you. It's worth pondering: How come the Mamas and the Papas rock band didn't live as long as some of our own Mamas and Papas?

Maybe those wild times will come back at us - that's all I'm saying. One thing is for damn sure: The part of our brains that registered the fun has got to be a little worn out.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Moral Clarity Crew Gets Real

One of the most aggravating points that you'll hear in the run up to what looks like an attack on Iran, concerns our need to go there because we've broken Iraq. It seems like just yesterday men such as Ronald Reagan were concluding that Iraq under Saddam was bad, but at least it provided balance with Iran. Of course, back then the world was a very complicated place, and sometimes you had to think a few moves ahead. This was long ago, before our current President dumbed down our foreign policy to the sandbox level.

How many zillions of times have we heard the right wing ask, "Do you think we're better off without Saddam?" Also annoying was the childish-sounding answer the liberals gave, the "Yes, buts..." The answer to that is that the right wing doesn't get to choose when the clock started in the Middle East. I think we'd have been better off staying out of Iran way back when, and not causing a backlash that gave the Muslim fundamentalists control of a state in the Middle East. Then we wouldn't have felt we had to be an ally of Saddam, supplying him with weapons and helping him to stay in power.

It's almost like the second thoughts I have about America training Osama bin Ladin. I wish that hadn't happened either.

But now that we've had our little moral clarity crew come in and determine the thing to do was go to Iraq, suddenly you're hearing the same people make a startling announcement: The war there has given Iran too much power in the Gulf and something must be done. So we're spending as much as 2 trillion dollars to make Iran a bigger power. Plus, now that Iraq is seen for the fiasco it is, the Bush team is getting ready to have one more major fiasco in Iran. Meanwhile, this was all supposed to make things better.

These are two of the biggest oil countries on the planet, and we've trashed one and now we're looking hard at attacking another. What are we trying to do to the world's oil supply? Are we going to get a startling admission later that it turns out we really need oil and we shouldn't damage the pool? Don't we know that now?

Of course, the process has been streamlined a little. The neo-cons probably won't even bother with another terrorist attack, or making the case against Iran. They'll probably just do it and act unilaterally even within our own government. I guess the big question many are asking is what's the harm? So what if we attack another country?

The problem with making gigantic blunders that cost around 2 trillion each, is that there are only so many you can afford. If we keep this up our own country will implode. Remember the quote President Bush mangled about not getting fooled again? This is the "again" part, folks.

It's all predictable to an extent and I'm preparing my mind to deal with it. The only thing that's over the top for me, is when they say we have to go into Iran because Iraq is broken. That's making me a little crazy right now. If slamming Iraq was so great for Iran, maybe the moral clarity crew can explain why we did it then?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Folks, I Think You Know I've Been Faking This

Something happened to me a couple of weeks ago and it had a profound impact on my life. I just can't go into it right now, but it's not about the movie biz. It's sort of bigger than that. By the way, I am currently waiting to hear from Hollywood on the last big rush order to get them a script, and that has added a little suspense, but not a lot. I am hopeful, but we're getting into that "no news is bad news" window. My producer wants this to happen for me so badly, that he's at the point where he literally can't call with bad news. Isn't that nice in a way? I used to get the calls from the freeway on the way home from the meeting, but that doesn't happen now.

See, this is just what I'm talking about. That whole topic was a diversion from more immediate realities. A blog is a perfect chance to be honest if you want to be. There are no filters so you're free to share what goes on in your life, and nobody's going to interfere. Yet there are times when I just don't follow through. I used to complain about being held back in the full disclosure area by the Portland Tribune, and here I am holding back on my own.

I could blow some smoke about still searching for the true direction of my blog, but that's not it. It's simple: I've been ducking the most meaningful truth and that makes things less readable and more phony. I hate that aspect of it and as soon as I get my courage up, I'll divulge what's really been going on.

Okay, here's one example: This is what happened to my wife the other week. I suppose it was imminently bloggable but somehow I just couldn't discuss it.

Her birthday was a while back and she went out to lunch with one of her friends named Arlene. We've taken care of Arlene's cat but I don't know her that well. Anyway, they were sitting there in a restaurant on Belmont, and suddenly there was a huge noise. My wife thought it was someone firing a gun, but then again, she's from the Chicago area. What had happened was a car had been pulling out on Belmont, got sideswiped and careened back into the restaurant breaking a pane of glass and making a hell of a bang. The woman got out from the car and collapsed so there was some upsetting medical stuff, and then there was that close call feeling. If my wife and Arlene had sat at a different table they could have really been hurt.

As it was, small pieces of glass landed on their table - that's how close it was. Incidentally, when my wife was in her late teens or early twenties she was in a horrific train accident in Chicago where cars fell off the elevated tracks to the street below and she saw dead and wounded people. She said this incident made her flashback to that.

She came home where I was unfortunately taking a nap, and being the stoic trooper type she just read the paper till I woke up. I did tell her to go ahead and wake me in the future for these events, but it was all part of her shock. She was definitely in some kind of shock. I know Arlene reported being hypersensitive to traffic and noise just walking down the street, and my wife opted out of driving by the scene again later that day. Incidentally, the other car took off, but dropped its license plate on Belmont. None of this made the papers.

From my point of view, my wife was obviously there and all right before I even heard what happened but later, the what-if's crept in and then there was the always unpleasant realization that things can go so wrong so quickly for the people we love. Just watching my wife go through being shook up was painful enough. I walked over and looked at the area, but I decided not to blog about it at the time. I was going to but I sort of froze.

There are a couple of other things that are going on - one that happened to me but not a bad thing, just heavy. I've been reluctant to blog about these also so I've felt distant from this process.

I'm just glad my wife is all right. I don't even want to think about it. The detail that really illustrates how close it was, is the glass landing on their table. That's close.

What broke the spell as far as opening up again on this blog, was watching my cable access show tonight and hearing my "Let's Leave Iraq" song again. That cable access show was straight on, dead-ahead honest for 30 minutes. Not a phony millisecond in the whole thing, which is rare for TV. This inspired me to return to the blog and maybe be a little more forthcoming. Writing is so much easier if you're being real. Besides, who needs more phoniness in the world? If you can't say it - if you can't bring the truth - then what the hell is the point?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Vegetable Oil: One Man's Approach to Filling Up the Tank

When a relative named Ben from my wife's side of the family, told me he was converting his big Dodge Ram Diesel pickup truck to run on used vegetable oil, I was a little concerned. He's a young guy with a better half who just turned 22 today, and they also have a one-year-old baby. Actually, I have a lot of faith in them, so maybe I was just being suspicious of alternative fuels. I mean, going to a restaurant and filling up your truck? It sounded a little odd.

The part I wasn't thrilled about was the plan to drive the family from Oregon to Chicago this past summer shortly after the conversion took place. The idea was to stop at fast food restaurants along the way, and it seemed a little reckless and bold. Then again, I hitchhiked over 25,000 miles around America starting when I was 17 and that was a little reckless and bold, too. Things appear differently when you're young.

Well, we just got back from visiting Ben, the birthday girl, and the baby, and their trip to Chicago apparently went well. I even got a tour of the pickup truck. This fascinated me so much that I asked for a pen and paper to write some of the details down.

The outfit that installed the new equipment is called Enviofuel. The systems designer is named Nate Gunn. His company has probably done around 25 to 50 vehicles by now. I believe this truck was the first that was worked on in his two-vehicle shop. Up till then he had worked on them outside. It's the classic old story of the young entrepreneur starting out. (nate@enviofuel.com. It's in Corvallis at 541-231-1499.) The company is trying to get a grant so it can design its own parts. Right now, everything is converted from parts made for diesel trucks, etc...Okay, so how did it look?

Behind the cab of Ben's pickup truck there was a 55-gallon square tank and a bunch of pumps and hoses to retrieve the oil from the restaurants and filter it. Before it will combust, the oil must be heated over 120 degrees - Ben mentioned 150. That is accomplished with heaters and a hookup to the coolant system.

When you first leave home, you run the truck on regular diesel or bio-diesel for around 6 to 10 miles to heat up the engine and the vegetable oil. Then you make the switch. The oil gets around 10% less miles per gallon, but it emits a quarter of the toxins, etc...that regular fuel does.

It works best if you have the oil before hand, so Ben throws some extra tanks in the back for long trips. That gives more time for the impurities to settle out. Simply put: You don't want onion rings near your engine rings. For the scientists out there the fuel has to have less than 10 microns of impurities per....hmm, my notes don't say per what. Oh well, having the extra oil also means you don't run low and have to drop by restaurants asking for more.

Of course, on the trip to Chicago that became necessary, and that's what they did. They drove all the way there and back basically on vegetable oil, getting 500 to 600 miles on a tank. Of course, if this really caught on, there might be a supply problem, but for now you can find plenty of restaurants only too glad to give you the oil for free. It is basically part of their garbage. The trip to Chicago went great and the truck runs fine.

Suddenly, this struck me as how mankind has acted for centuries, especially in America where they called it Yankee ingenuity. And it's usually driven - in this case literally - by young people. Most older people would probably avoid the extra hassle, pay the gas station, and skip the conversion cost. But think of the money you could save if you needed to travel a lot and you were just starting out in life? Decades of not going to the gas station. Wow. This was a testiment to young ideas and interesting solutions.

By the way, the savings in this case have already paid for the system and it's only been a few months. Plus, here's a young man who has beaten the oil companies. He drives what would be a gas-guzzler, or at least a diesel-guzzler, and he's getting most of his fuel for free. Isn't that impressive?

Okay, it's time to finish with the question everyone has: Yes, the exhaust does smell like French fries. If you go to a fried chicken place for the oil, your car's exhaust will smell like fried chicken. Ditto for burgers, etc...What it won't smell like is something Exxon sold you.

If you had to find a way to feel guilty, I suppose you could say you're profiting from Americans' obesity problem, but that's a hell of a lot better than the thought of pumping money into the Middle East. Besides, the oil supply could change drastically in the event of another war, but I seriously doubt Americans will stop eating French fries. Enviofuel

The Fixed-It-Anyway Club

One pattern you see constantly on the Internet is improvements that turn out to be setbacks. Thus it is with this blog server and I hope they're reading this post. I wrote a detailed response to one of Butch's comments but when I went to publish, it said, "We cannot process your request at this time." In the old way that meant, "We cannot process your request at this time." With the new improved blogger, it means your comment - that you worked quite a while on - disappears, never to be seen again. So to the geniuses that came up with this, I send out my heartiest congratulations: You have just joined the Fixed-It-Anyway Club. To the comment makers that it might happen to, I would keep a copy in case this happens to you.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Charlotte Bobcats Beat Down the Los Angeles Lakers....Again

It's official: If the Charlotte Bobcats only played the Los Angeles Lakers this year they'd be undefeated. In another overtime game - and this before the movie stars at the Staples Center - the Bobcats laid one on Portland's nemesis from the south. It was great.

I decided that I had complained so much about the Blazers not picking Adam Morrison, that I should buy the NBA sports package and follow the Bobcats. It is turning into a really good idea. I don't expect them to win much but I love their youthful exuberance and mental toughness. Plus every now and then, they turn in a surprising shining victory including one against Detroit. This is a team you can root for.

They've got some of the better players from college ball over the last few years - May and Felton from the championship North Carolina squad, and Okafor from U.Conn. Their best player is Gerald Wallace - a true force. Watching them run circles around the Lakers big men tonight was truly a blast.

Adam Morrison had an okay game statistically (13 points), but he was in the mix. He's still finding his way but I can see the progress from a month ago. For a rookie, I'd rate his passing as an A minus, and his straight ahead speed as a B plus. The shooting gets an A plus when he is on, and an F when he's not. His lateral movement on defense is a D, but he's starting to do more. He's starting to act like he belongs. His court presence is a B plus - maybe even an A.

The quality I saw in him in college was mental toughness. He's suffered through some embarrassing streaks so far in the NBA, and he's still calling for the ball when he gets open. He is probably going to be a good NBA player. By the way, he was in the line-up for the last part of regulation and all of the overtime. So he's getting respect.

Today was also the first Blazers ticket I've bought in several years. I bought one for the Bobcats visit on March 1st. See, I told you Adam Morrison was going to help sell Blazer tickets.

Buying the ticket turned into quite a process. The tickets are no longer handled by Fred's so they sent me to Safeways. I dropped by but the Safeways ticket person said I'd have to go to the Rose Garden. Apparently for the past day and half their computers have been unable to print out a Blazer ticket. It's a damn shame that Paul Allen doesn't know anyone in the computer business.

Oh well. The Lakers were vanquished tonight. The Bobcats have swept them for the year. Phil Jackson started the game all cool and smiling. Before it was over he looked like a man who was about to be sick.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

O'Hare: The UFO Incident That Won't Go Away

I once met someone deep in the UFO research community and I asked him pointblank what UFO story impressed him the most. He mentioned the sighting by a Japanese aircrew over Alaska. I checked it out and it was amazing - the ship they described was huge - but it wasn't as good as my favorite: The Belgium Sightings. For one thing there was no picture, but at least the pilots agreed to talk. See, one of the major problems that keeps pilots from speaking out is the treatment they get afterwards. It can be a career ender. The airlines don't want their pilots sounding - well - crazy to the public.

For example, there were pilots involved in the UFO sighting over O'Hare airport in November of 2006 - the FAA says the radio tapes have a lot of discussion. So why haven't pilots come forward? Oh well, at least there is a very convincing interview with one of the men who drives jets around on the ground at O'Hare.

When this all came out only recently, one comment on this blog asked how the incident could happen without someone getting a photograph? The answer is, "Maybe somebody did." Here is a picture from an unknown source that is supposed to be the object over O'Hare. Maybe it is - maybe it isn't.

The main problem is that the pilots involved that day are afraid to talk. Here's a link to a rather dry site that's trying to get pilots support if they speak out about a sighting. Skip down if you're interested, and read some of their comments.


Why I Don't Like Dick Cheney, Part 1139-B

I do pretty well controlling the rage and sorrow I feel about the Iraq War, but every now and then, something sets me off and I shed a tear or feel some intense anger. The former happened during a report on the Imus show when an NBC reporter described being in a military hospital in Baghdad watching badly wounded American soldiers stream in.

The detail that got me was a new class of injury. Apparently it is not uncommon to have soldiers show up who have been wounded for the 5th time by an IED. 5 different times the vehicle they've been in has been hit with an explosion hurting them badly enough to need hospital treatment.

The medical people are starting to see an accumulative effect like a football player who has suffered too many concussions. We have a new long-term mental condition from these repeated exposures to the shock waves of a roadside bomb. The report was set over MSNBC video of freshly wounded soldiers in pain in the Baghdad hospital, and it got me.

As far as the rage goes, nothing sets me off more than Mr Deferment himself - our phony, tough-guy Vice President. Imus is 100% right when he speculates how our people would face being hanged. Would they show as much courage as Saddam? Imus thinks Rumsfeld would but Cheney would curl up like a sobbing, trembling little baby and I think he's right. Dick Cheney is the worst kind of mean - a cowardly bully who feels a greater sense of personal importance from getting other people hurt.

The recent detail that got me was some evidence in the Scooter Libby trial. Scooter was concerned he was being set up so he complained to Cheney. The Vice President made the following note: "Not going to protect one staff [and] sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others."

No, Dick, it is not Scooter or any of your colleagues at the White House who've been asked to stick their heads in a meat grinder. That fate has been assigned to our soldiers in Iraq, and it is their flesh that is literally being ground up in this insane war. And the phrase "because of the incompetence of others" should have a familiar ring to it, because it was your incompetence and need to be a phony-macho, chicken hawk that got these young people's limbs blown off. Yes, the Iraq war is a meat grinder, but you don't have to fear. Your plump pale body is back in Washington, safe from the carnage.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Congress Last Night: Passengers on the Titanic

I've taken a day to analyze the State of the Union speech, partly because I watched it with the sound down. Here's what I believe is happening: We're about three-quarters of the way through the realization process that Iraq is a huge mistake. Everything I've heard from both parties seems to indicate a willingness to pretend we can still luck our way through this. It's called postponing the inevitable.

Historians who watch last night's speech and see the assembled faces will say, "They were still in it. Why didn't they see?" It will look like those pictures late in that doomed relationship you had, when you were still trying to make it work. Nancy Pelosi and company will look like passengers on the Titanic. In that sense, I see this stretch of American History as an unbelievable heartbreaker. Somewhere down the line we will call it what it is: an unmitigated disaster and head for the lifeboats. Or at least we should.

If I had one question for the Bush officials, and they were on truth serum, it would be the following: Let's say we knew that Iraq would become a beacon of democracy in the region, a stable presence and not a theocracy, but only if we got out. Would you leave even then?

I don't think they would. My suspicion is we're not there for these lofty goals - we're there for the oil, so all this hand-wringing is nothing but a charade from an administration built on deception.
I bet if you looked into Cheney's inner thoughts and posed that question, the answer would be, "Hell no, we're not leaving even if Thomas Jefferson time travels to Iraq and agrees to start their new democracy. We're not there for that, and we're not leaving no matter what." Those bases aren't called permanent for nothing.

So we continue on with the madness, at least until these wretched leaders are gone. The trouble with mistakes like Iraq, is that they're like that messy relationship most of us were in: It always takes way, way too long before we pull the plug.

Scooter Libby: What's This Trial Really Saying?

The important thing with the Scooter Libby trial is not what we may learn in the next few weeks. This is more about realizing what we already know. The trial should - once and for all - put to rest the notion that Iraq happened because of bad intelligence that misled our leaders. There is a huge amount of spin to that effect, but the Scooter Libby trial is a chance for the American People to contemplate the truth and to realize - finally - that the case for war with Iraq was a fraud.

Sure, we will learn some new information about the Bush White House. It's going to be fascinating, and it will most likely clarify some things about Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. When last heard from by the Right Wing on this matter, the media owed Karl Rove a big apology for besmirching his good name. How dare anyone suggest he could be involved in a dirty, vindictive attempt to bring down his enemies? That would be so out of character for the misunderstood genius, right? Even though he's shown a pattern of this behavior going back to - oh - around 3rd grade.

Yes, watching these people turn on each other will be deeply satisfying to anyone who dislikes the Bush administration. Who knows? Cheney and Rove could still end up out of their jobs and that would be good for America. There's no reason to keep Karl Rove around now, except - of course - that he knows too much.

It was different back when the Plame case started. Karl had to be protected at all costs because he was believed to be the only person who could deliver a win in the 2006 Midterms. So he stuck around only to be surprised when the American People decided against his efforts anyway - a turn of events that will go down in history as one of the great political rescues of all time.

The country was literally brought back from the brink. Two more years of a rubber-stamping, page-chasing GOP Congress, and the Imperial Presidency may have wreaked so much havoc that there would be nothing left to save.

Yes, this should be good, but the danger for the anti-Bush crowd is to get too bogged down in these personal animosities. This trial should be used to make a bigger point. Look back at what happened here.

This started with an editorial in the New York Times in which Joe Wilson challenged the Niger yellow-cake uranium claims. Suddenly we have the Vice President of the United States personally responding - to one editorial. How did that merit anything more than just a quick dismissal - if that much? Sure, you can argue that the Vice President just enjoys being a prick and that he decided to go after Joe Wilson as Washington sport - just as something to do. The Plames would be the quails of the day.

Any theory that is based on Cheney being an asshole, has to be taken seriously, but the response was much greater than the situation warranted. Besides, Cheney was busy. So what if one little detail in the airtight case for war with Iraq was in doubt? What's the big deal? They had a ton of evidence that backed up their need to do this, right?

The fact that the Vice President and Karl Rove went after Joe Wilson so vigorously is a huge clue in how we got into Iraq: The administration knew full well that their case for war was a crock and that if critics started openly examining it, the whole con job would quickly unravel. Better to respond to this question on Niger with a full-court press. Better to slam this guy hard so the rest of the critics would know not to make a sound. The Valerie Plame case was a giant "Don't go there."

If they had a real case for war, it would have been much simpler. They could let the truth speak for itself. When you're working a con it takes a lot of extra energy. That's why Cheney would personally drive over and meet with the CIA analysts - something that had never happened before. And that's why the White House freaked out when Joe Wilson spoke up.

Of course, it is absolutely perfect that these phony macho, chicken hawks would go after Joe Wilson's wife. Just on a family values level or a manly level, that is so revealing. The idea that they would compromise an employee of the CIA - and all those people who she used to work with who could still be out in the field - also says all you need to know about the phony patriotism this bunch spewed.

But sleazy facts like these are merely asides. The main point is that Cheney and company had to respond so vigorously because they were perpetrating a fraud on the American People by going into Iraq. Any criticism could lead to an examination of the rest of their case, and then the entire criminal enterprise would be exposed. That's what the Scooter Libby trial is trying to reveal - if we just want to see it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mt. Tabor, 54 Degrees, January 23rd, 2007

While the country braced for the State of the Union speech, I headed for Mt. Tabor. Here's some pics.
The Geyser

A Young Couple

Warning: Art Shot

Obligatory Puppy Shot

Gratuitous Puppy Shot

Some dude like meditating and stuff.

A bulldog named Chopper.

Just Another Day in the Big City

Portlanders, Be Carefree: The Giant Snake Has Been Fed

First of all, we don't need new names for the tram cars - we need new names on the city council.

I've gone with the drug comparison before - a group of city bureaucrats addicted to these costly silly projects in lieu of actually governing. I likened it to a drug problem - a bunch of spending junkies looking for their next rush - and I think that analogy is airtight. The problem is - as Paul Revere and the Raiders warned - "Kicks just keep getting harder to find."

By the way, how cool is it to have Mark Lindsay, the great lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders, hosting a radio show here in the city where it all happened for them? That's something a boy from Arabia can be impressed with. Hey, you have to admit the music of Portland's Raiders has held up better than - say - the Oakland Raiders.

The "Kicks" song warned of the dangers of chasing a high: "That road leads nowhere" and the city council should listen up. They went on a bad trip with PGE Park, a wild binge with the streetcars, and now they're stoned with an intense buzz from the tram. The problem for them and for us is they face the endless junkies' lament: The high that never lasts.

Warning - New Analogy Alert
In honor of the New Way Forward and today's State of the Union speech, I am going to break out another analogy for the city council: The giant snake that must be fed. See, we are the natives in this city and the city council is the giant snake. Things are okay for awhile, but then the snake must eat. Not everyday, not even every month, but after the right length of time, its giant head stirs and it goes looking for a meal. For this city council, the favorite dinner is a huge pile of revenue for something exciting with a grand vision - revenue that could be used for so many other things.

Of course, these other things are not exciting, but we will certainly lament the neglect they've been shown. My current top candidate is the aging sewer system. We have a bunch of pipes out there that were put in the week after Lewis and Clark left, and they are all ready to go. Perhaps concentrating on them, and avoiding these huge sink holes that swallow up giant trucks, would be a better priority than shaving a few minutes off the trip up to OHSU.

If you want something more immediate, how many of you have grown tired of the city council saying we just don't have the money to buy more snow plows? How many of you had a vision of better streets last week?

Yes, the tram performed during the snow storm but that didn't make the national news - that didn't define how the "City That Works" looked to the outside world. No, instead we had that bumper car footage that went all over. I mean GLOBALLY and the message was, "Portland can't handle a little snow." Maybe we should have spent the money on a few more trucks, or something creative. How about during a storm, we take the bike racks off the front of Tri-Met busses and stick on a snow plow? Work with me people.

The reason I switched to the giant snake analogy is that we are in a comforting time right now. The tram and all the revenue it took and all the hassle it produced - is now a big lump in the snake's belly. You can see the outline. The snake has eaten and it will be a few more months before it must eat again.

So don't think of the tram as junkies getting a rush. That analogy has been retired. Think of these ridiculous, unnecessary spending projects as a giant snake that must eat. That way, you can enjoy life right now. The tram project has been devoured and the beast has been fed. It lies satiated temporarily, fat and happy. A while from now it will be hungry once more, but for these few days, Portlanders are safe to come out and stroll around, simply enjoying their city again.

Monday, January 22, 2007

President Bush Ponders the State of the Union

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Frank Rich: The Press Finds a New Way Forward

The Bush administration has always relied on the kindness of reporters. Lately, however, there are signs that the 4th Estate has had enough. I refer you to Sunday's column by Frank Rich, entitled "Lying Like It's 2003." The piece breaks down the Bush administration's monumental mendacity, distinguishing between the latest lies and the same old pile of bullshit they've been shoveling for years. Sounds like we're finally getting past the overly polite stage and onto something with a little more edge.

The existence of the column is a positive sign, and I wish I could link to it, but it's a paid service of the New York Times. Here's some choice sentences from the piece: "This White House gang is so practiced in lying with a straight face that it never thinks twice about recycling its greatest hits." "This time we must do what too few did the first time: call the White House on its lies." "The most important lies to watch for now are the new ones being reiterated daily by the administration’s top brass, from Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney on down."

At some point, America is really going to wake up on this. We lost over 20 soldiers yesterday and we're a couple of days away from the State of the Union speech. The cynical part of floating this new plan in Iraq is that it's not really a new plan. It's just classic Bush - spin your way through with arrogance and deception and then go on the road to market it. Switch from the phony Washington teleprompter voice to the phony "just folks" voice on the road, but keep shoveling.

To be fair, there are some minor changes involving working with an Iraqi general, but that only screws up the command structure and puts our people in worse danger. It's still important to note that sometimes bad spin is also accompanied by bad military planning. This is not all just words, but the changes are primarily an illusion. Yes, more troops will be going - and it's all too real for them - but the plan afterwards is pretty much the same. To call it a surge is a marketing ploy like "Now with added brighteners" on your laundry detergent.

The New Way Forward is primarily just a surge in the amount of bullshit coming from the President's lips - that's all. The retired generals have used phrases like "a fool's errand." Gee, I wonder what they meant by that? Who are they calling a fool here? Hint: It's not the soldiers who have to die trying to enact this.

No, in this case, the fool in question is our esteemed leader - but not to worry: President Bush still believes deeply in his power to charm his way out of trouble. It's a false conceit fueled in childhood by a well-connected Dad who bailed young George out repeatedly. Most kids would understand that, but George somehow felt it was a power he possessed himself. He still goes on "60 Minutes" grinning like he's on a date, and tries to sweet-talk the public into buying the sincerity of his jive. It is an act that is wearing out, and I saw one recent poll where he is now more unpopular than Cheney, himself.

Watching this latest "plan" come apart could be the final stage when the American People say "Enough!" I heard Imus ask Joe Lieberman what comes next after this doesn't work and all Joe would say is, "Let's hope and pray that it does." Of course, as Jon Stewart pointed out, this surge in troops is a return to numbers that we already had there in the past, so the plan is not new, and has already not worked once before.

Here's another Frank Rich line: "The latest lies are custom-made to prop up the new “way forward” that is anything but." Clearly we're past the Judith Miller stage at the Times. Of course, there are places where most White House spin still goes unchallenged. When asked by the Bush accomplices at FOX news why the generals on the ground were overruled on this, Cheney got his little phony macho swerve on and said, "“I don’t think we’ve overruled the commanders.” Of course, the network accepted the answer.

It's easy to predict FOX - easier everyday - but reporters in general are still being way too kind when they address the White House. It's tragic and disgraceful - the news services are supposed to protect the public from our leaders, and it's not happening. Otherwise, President Bush would lose his job. In reality, this stiuation is so far out of control that we'd be doing President Bush an immense favor to impeach him and send him back to Crawford, Texas for good. There he can live out the rest of his days, clearing brush, and lying gently to any prairie dogs that will listen.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Noon Today Marks a Historic Milestone

At noon there will be less than 2 years left in the Bush administration. Then you just add 50 years to recover and we're done.

Of course that leaves plenty of time for one last fiasco in Iran, but when it comes to Iraq, President Bush seems to be limping to the finish line of his time in office. He seems to want his legacy to be that he was an idiot but - by God - he was a stubborn idiot as well.

Lately his plans have sounded more and more deranged. For example, now after we win in Iraq, he wants to send our troops back to Vietnam to finish the job there, too. And no timetables.

The cynics among us see this entire exercise - this New Way Backward - as a complete hoax. It's just more ways to frame the issue and stall as we disguise our plan to stay in Iraq till the last drop of oil. That would certainly dovetail with the 30 Year contracts our oil companies are in the process of obtaining there.

True cynics might point out that the reason Cheney held those secret energy meetings with the captains of the oil industry, was not merely to write our energy policy, such as it is. No, the real reason was to divide up Iraq. Of course, this was before 9/11 happened, the excuse we needed to go to Iraq. Gee, Cheney almost sensed that coming, didn't he?

At any rate, the Iraq plans were discussed from Moment One of this administration and that's according to the highest levels of Bush's own people. That's why the White House fought against revealing what went on at the meetings. They even fought all the way to the Supreme Court. You remember, don't you? Cheney went hunting with Scalia, but both insisted there was no conflict of interest. To be fair, going hunting with Cheney back then did not trigger the same implied threat as it does today.

It's also a huge football weekend, which is why I'm going to break a rule here and let in a dreaded sports analogy. At least it's about the general subjects of winning and losing without tying the Iraq War to a specific play - although the whole thing is starting to remind me of the Oakland Raiders season. No, the sports analogy just involves a team's chances when they're on the bubble, and I think we can agree that victory in Iraq is far less likely than being on a bubble, even if it's a bubble of crude oil.

At any rate, towards the end of the season, some teams can make the playoffs by winning out on their own, or by getting help. When they can win on their own, the announcers always say they control their own destiny. This is a tribute to the team and the coach as it means they've succeeded in keeping things in their own hands.

The problem with Iraq - if you believe the sincerity of the plan, which I don't - is that we are currently waiting around for the Iraqi forces to get it together. In short, we've needed help. We've needed a big winning streak from the Oakland Raiders.

It is one thing for an American soldier to be killed because of a poor decision by our Commander-In-Chief. Hell, we're almost used to that. However, we are losing young Americans mainly because of the poor quality of the Iraqi leadership. This is a huge strategic blunder, and a stinging indictment of the quality of our "coach". A good leader does not put our troops into a situation like this. If - as in this case - the leader lied to the American People in order to do that, it is an impeachable offense, and that football coach should be fired. Why? Partly because he's placed us in a weak position where we no longer control our own destiny. That's enough of a defeat.

All this brings us back to high noon today. At that point we will officially have less than two more years with this mediocre loser. Two more seasons, and then we will begin the rebuilding process. Then maybe we can hope to get back to being a perennial powerhouse - a fan favorite - with a winning program again.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The President and Dick Cheney: Drunk on Power and Ready for Rehab

Have you ever noticed how many millionaires are called eccentric? My guess is that most people are strange but they just don't have the money to act on it. We are, in effect, forced to be normal. Our limited means disguise the weirdness - they limit how crazy we can get.

Nobody is completely in control on their own. We do things all the time that are responses to outside pressure. We're kept in line by our spouses for example, or by the need to stay employed, and that's a good thing. If given the opportunity to run completely wild, most of us would get in some really big trouble and I mean in a hurry.

That's what happened to the Bush administration. Everyone says they were lucky to have a spineless, rubber-stamping, Republican Congress to roll over - a Congress so corrupt they couldn't even protect the male pages. Political pundits saw this as a great bit of good fortune for the President and his ever-present driving force, Dick Cheney. It was not.

Maybe I'm just trying to be magnanimous this morning, but I've been fantasizing on ways the Bush administration could have turned out great. Okay, not great, but much better than they have. Maybe it's because we're a couple of days from the 2-year mark left in this disaster, and I'm frantically trying to think of a way to salvage something good before it ends.

Wait, I know what's behind this. The Bush administration is now seen as such a huge mess, that I'm kind of drawn to it as a puzzle. It's a political Rubik's Cube. Try to imagine a set of circumstances where talent this bad could have still produced greatness. There has to be a way that would have propelled these guys to make more of themselves.

I believe the biggest misfortune they faced was a lack of external controls. Do you know why President Bush quit drinking? It wasn't Jesus, or some personal revulsion at his behavior. If so, that would have happened before his 40s. No, to hear President Bush tell it, he quit drinking when Laura threatened to leave if he didn't. There's the external control. If he had a Congress that had said, "If you ignore the Constitution, we will impeach you and then imprison you", he might have turned out all right. There was no national sofa to exhile him to.

Plus he had his mean, little, running buddy, Dick Cheney. He's the guy who pulls up in the pickup truck and takes George out for a night on the town. The crazy thing is that Dick Cheney must have some actual ability as a manager - as an executive. He has had a long career in politics with vast experience, so he must be good at it on some level. So why did he turn out so rotten?

My theory is that Cheney is one of those guys who is drunk on power. He needs a strong figure supervising him - someone who can say, "Enough. Knock it off." Instead he got George, a person he could walk all over. Most pundits say how fortunate Cheney was to get to be the most powerful Vice President in U.S. history. I see it differently. He was unlucky in not having someone who could save him from the shallowness of his own soul.

This is a reckless man here - just ask the lawyer he shot in the face. Cheney's problem was that he had no controls placed on him. He was allowed to be a maniac by an unfortunate set of circumstances, many of which he helped bring about. There was nobody to keep him in check and force him to be a better man.

Then you get 9/11. Whether you think that was a false flag operation managed by an international cabal of neo-con criminals - as I do - or a simple terrorist attack, 9/11 was the final piece that unleashed the worst administration of all time. That event took the People out of their traditional role as the greatest check on those in power. We saw how it could work later when everyone rose up after the Dubai Port Security Deal was announced, but for the most part, the People were knocked down emotionally and mad as hell after 9/11, and they responded by letting President Bush do whatever he wanted.

The stage was set. A couple of immature chicken hawks suddenly had no impediments to acting out their imperial bloodlust. George Bush and Dick Cheney had absolute power and they screwed up absolutely.

Things have changed somewhat. I noticed President Bush has backed off on the NSA surveillance issue. He now has to go to an independent court and get permission to wiretap as it should be. He's doing better because there is now some external control from the Democrats helping him stay in line.

The question is whether Congress and to a greater extent, the American People, will sit President Bush down and have "The Talk." We need to be the National Laura Bush right now who tells President Bush that he can no longer be drunk on power. He has to sober up. Otherwise, we're not leaving - he's going to jail.

He also has to stop being so influenced by his phony-macho, power-drunk running buddy, Dick Cheney. We need to make clear that we think Cheney's been a bad influence on him, and they both have to sober up and start acting right or they're going to be in real trouble.

We don't need a couple of eccentric millionaires acting out their drunken power trips and ruining the lives of those around them. These two have a sickness and they need help. It's time for America to put them into power rehab. Then they can spend their last years in office, trying to make it up to us for the damage they've caused.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

More UFOs: Another Reported Sighting But Is It a Trick?

You probably think I'm in gloat-mode since the Drudge Report has another UFO sighting today, but I'm not. These reports come in almost daily. There's also a chance the government is putting a false report out there, which will be discredited later. That would be a way to bury the O'Hare sighting. The Chicago airport incident represents a major problem if the government wants to keep this topic under wraps. That's a story that could wake a lot of people up.

I will admit to a little excitement that the mainstream media could slowly be getting involved. The O'Hare incident even made it to Newsweek's site, so maybe this is a turning point. Incidentally, the comments to my UFO post below are very helpful if you want to check out that some more. I believe the interview with the man who drives jets around O'Hare is now on YouTube.

The thing about this latest sighting report by the Air Force colonel is that the circular shapes seem to have rings and possibly even a couple of little notches in the perimeter. If that's the case, this is very significant because these same shapes have appeared in other places, including footage taken from the space shuttle.

There's another angle that we should address here: I am excited about getting more evidence, but I'm not completely thrilled about where it's heading. There's also the question of why we would want this to be real.

My feeling is that we are probably doomed unless we get some better technology. We've come a long way fast from horses to jets, but oil as an energy source is ruining the planet both politically and environmentally. I'd love to get past all that. Ideally, we would do it ourselves, but a little help might be needed.

There are differing opinions as to whether this also represents a threat to us or not. The touchy-feely approach is to assume a higher more advanced civilization would go along with an end to war. You eliminate the need for war by cracking the energy problems and the land problems through space travel.

Of course, there's a chance that we would face a new threat, and I'm sure the right wing types would jump on that.

There's another thing that would happen if we suddenly realize we are not alone. The differences that separate us would almost vanish - along with some of our primitive belief systems - and we would become one. I would still want a planet of nations but we would suddenly all see ourselves in a new way - as earthlings.

Incidentally, Ronald Reagan used to say similar things but in a hypothetical way. True UFO researchers know that he was only speaking in those tones to soften the effect. He actually had a sighting of his own, as did Jimmy Carter.

As for now, it's another day, another sighting. You can tune out or you can ask yourself the big questions: Is it real and what does it all mean? WorldNetDaily: Air Force colonel reports
lights 'not of this world'

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mohammad Ali: Happy 65th Birthday

I used to work in the hotel business and one time we had a visit from Mohammad Ali. They set up a special session for us to have our picture taken with him and two other famous fighters. They had Archie Moore and Michael Spinks along with Mohammad Ali at the end of this small meeting room, ready for a group shot.

I explained as best I could that this was a political thing rather than a sports thing for me so could I just have my picture taken with Ali? They agreed and Archie Moore and Michael Spinks stepped aside. After my picture they decided that it would only be group shots from then on so mine was the only one in that photo shoot like this.

We got ready to take the picture and the photographer said, "Okay, now smile." I said. "No, this is serious." Ali nodded. He said, "Yeah, serious", and that's the look you see in this shot.

I'm not usually that forward, but this was different. I felt this was really important. For years, I would meet Presidents and all kinds of celebrities, but this was Mohammad Ali. I even used to say before this that the one person I wished would come through town was the Champ.

To my good fortune, he did. I even spoke to him a little bit in Arabic and he responded right away. I told him I was from Arabia and he was intrigued by that.

Mainly, I got to thank him for everything he had done for the world. It's very rare that you get to meet an actual political hero. Later, during the banquet we were in the back hall, and he was waiting to be introduced. He was having trouble standing - his balance was bad and he seemed weak. A chair was brought and he sat down. The crowd inside the room began chanting "Ali, Ali", and when it was time he jumped up like he was going into the ring. Everybody there got choked up to see that. He disappeared through the door and the crowd inside went crazy.

Mohammad Ali turned 65 today. I could tell being around him, that he's the same person he always used to be. He just can't communicate it like he did before, and that's one of the most unfortunate breaks of our times.

There's also one other point that I don't think is made enough about the guy. Back in the day, in addition to being the most famous person in the world, a true political hero, and an amazing boxer, he was also one of the top 2 or 3 standup comedians of all time: "I'm so bad I make medicine sick." Who was more entertaining than this? Nobody. So Happy Birthday Champ, and thanks for the picture.

UFO Incident at O'Hare Airport: Where's the Follow-Up?

There is a lot of information coming at us and it's often necessary to dismiss whole segments of what's going on in the interests of time. Every now and then, I take a major scandal off - I just don't let it into my reality. Life is short. I know a lot of really controversial political stuff happened in South America, for example, but I just can't go there. The same way with these two kids who were kidnapped or whatever. I don't want to know the details on that. Frankly, I don't even follow global warming as much as I should - it's just really painful. Do I want to sit around reading about polar bears drowning? Hell, no. I love polar bears.

When you look back at other eras, you immediately see subjects that the masses were collectively kidding themselves about. You can see an astounding level of group denial going on, and conversely, an insane interest in something ridiculous. That Holland deal where they suddenly went crazy about tulip bulbs is the perfect example. It's so obvious looking back. You ask yourself, "What were they thinking?"

One interesting thing to do is to try and figure out the subjects that we will look both ridiculously fixated on, and hopelessly ignorant about.

Okay, obviously, future generations are going to scoff at us for the insane amount of attention we gave to Paris Hilton. That's just a lock. How did this huge global mechanism develop to track Paris and her every utterance? What is that? Shouldn't we start by being fascinated with someone who actually does something? What does Paris do? Generate nightclub stories? That's going to be very difficult to explain in the future. What are we going to do to justify it? Play them her CD? Show them her porno tape?

Now, here's where I think we're in a weird denial - a sheep-like avoidance of something truly incredible that should be in virtually every newscast we see. It's the subject of UFOs. I can just feel you shutting off while I wrote that, but bear with me. Let's look at this O'Hare incident and ask yourself why - at the very least - the story didn't generate more of a buzz than Paris Hilton's social schedule?

See, this is an interest of mine. I don't need any prompting. I followed up on this story as much as I could, but I wonder if you did? I bet most people just processed this based on the first reports and moved on. It became their South America, or their polar bear swimming through the vast cold ocean eventually sinking below the waves of their consciousness.

For example, have you listened to the lengthy radio interview with the O'Hare employee who moves jets around the airport for a living? How about the off-air studio tape of the reporter talking with the TV host? I can't get enough of this stuff, and I can't figure out how so many people dismiss this topic out of hand. This is not Jethro looking at swamp gas. This was O'Hare Airport. Quite a few people who would not gain from making something like this up - who could actually face criminal charges for making something like this up - said they saw a circular craft 20 or 30 feet across that hovered below the cloud layer above Gate C17 at Chicago's main airport. Don't just read the Chicago Tribune story. Listen to the the interview. Something happened. Then when the craft left, it punched a hole through the cloud layer leaving one circular patch of blue sky. This event was discussed on the ground radio. There are tapes, and there are probably pictures. United Airlines denied it happened even after the FAA changed their initial story and admitted they did have radio tapes about it. Now, the entire incident has seemingly dropped from our consciousness. It's just another story in the UFO Files.

I can see the vast implications in the idea that we are being visited from elsewhere. It sure feels like a huge leap to believe we are. A huge leap? This would be the mind-blowing story of our lives. What I can't see is how we ignore this. Where's the follow-up? I don't get how momentum doesn't build and the public doesn't demand to know everything.

Iraq? Sure, but by now President Bush should have been forced to go on TV and explain this. We know about Iraq, but what does the government have here? And how ridiculous will we look to future generations for not checking this out more? We had an amazing story literally hovering over our heads, but society looked away, and hung on every word Paris Hilton ever said.

Chicago Tribune, Newscast-O'Hare UFO-UFO Casebook Files

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Tire Chains of Love

The very first time I ever did anything outside of work with my future wife, it was to help her put chains on her tires during a snowstorm. I won't mention how many decades that was ago, but the car was a Chevy Nova and it wasn't that old. This morning I was in Fred's and I thought maybe this would be a great day to buy her chains for the snowstorm we are having now. For one thing, today is also her birthday, and the more presents the better, right?

She drives a Subaru Legacy now, which is the most common car in this part of Portland. Although I didn't know the tire size, I figured I could just go out in the parking lot and there would be a Subaru there guaranteed. I think I saw three of them. However, when I approached the sample car, I got a paranoid vibe - who wants to return to their vehicle to find some guy rubbing the snow off their tires and writing information down?

So I said screw it. I ended up walking home, and after hassling with her own tires in the snow for a while, I ended up rechecking the tire size on the Internet. While there I decided to knock out the jokes for Leno. Why not? The tire chains at Fred's were going pretty fast, but business is business.

Incidentally, I have started the New Year somewhat hot and had two jokes on last night about the Golden Globes. It's a skill to write marketable comments about something that has not happened yet, but that's part of it.

So I wrote today's jokes and this set me back time-wise. My wife also made a comment that the weather people said last night that the snow wouldn't last, so chains might not matter. Since they had been wrong about everything else, I tended to disregard this, but it still took its toll. My fallback position was that there would be a day sometime when we needed the chains, so why not get them now?

Still, the lack of urgency took some of the joy out of the process and that also set me back. However, I eventually walked to Fred's again. There I found some depleted shelves and one guy looking at the chains that were left, and wondering about his tire size. There was exactly one box left that fit mine, so the good luck that has followed me all my life continued.

The gorgeous part was when I got home, and heard ODOT say that chains were now required on main roads in Portland. My wife was forced to admit I had made a great call, and we were about to reenact our first tire-chain incident on her birthday. Awww!

The first tire went well, but the second one was an absolute bear. I would like to say we had a sentimental moment out there but speaking for myself, it was a major drag. Let's just say if curse words were a love poem, I sounded like a true romantic.

That's all over now. We are chained up and ready to hit the streets. My wife's birthday will proceed as planned, and life is good. Chains might not be an appropriate birthday gift for most couples, but after you've been married a while, it makes perfect sense. Wait, that didn't sound right. How about tire chains to go with the chains of love? There, that's better.

Family Ties: The Molly Maguires and the Hanging of Black Jack Kehoe

Maybe it's all the talk about executions in Iraq, but lately I've been thinking about members of my own family who've been hanged. Actually, there's just one that we know of, but what a character: The legendary Black Jack Kehoe - one of the leaders of the Molly Maguires, a gang who fought coal-mining companies in the late 1800s in Pennsylvania. To understand what happened to Jack, you have to revisit the dark history of labor conditions in America.

It's very common to hear Right Wing blowhards pontificate on the dire threat of organized labor - as they reminisce fondly about the Robber Baron days - but just go back and read about those times. See how the workers in this country were treated before they organized. It was brutal and a very bad part of our history. Here's a glimpse of the conditions and the men who rose up against them:

"The Molly Maguires were a secret society established in early-nineteenth-century Ireland to battle British landowners. A number of them, forced to flee their homeland because of the mid-century famine, or because of charges brought against them by colonial authorities, found themselves in Pennsylvania's anthracite coal fields, living under conditions as bad as or worse than those they thought they'd left behind. Miners went underground to hack out coal under primitive conditions. There was no local or federal legislation to protect them. In 1871, 112 men were killed in the anthracite mines, and 332 permanently injured. In seven years, 556 men had been killed and 1,565 maimed or crippled for life. Out of 22,000 miners, more than 5,000 were sixteen years of age or under. . . . Take-home pay was uncertain; deductions were often arbitrary or at the whim of the owners by means of what they called the "bobtail check." A typical week's wages for a miner at the time of the Molly Mcguires was $35; expenses, including rent, groceries, and a new drill, came to $35.03."

To this day we hear about mining accidents where the company has cut corners on safety. It still goes on, but of course, not like back then. Jack Kehoe had suffered a broken back in the mines and began running a bar in Girardville, Pennsylvania, where my father's people lived. Here's a picture of the place taken in 2007.The bar is still in my extended family. Here's a picture of it from 1989. Jack Kehoe's daughter married the brother of my grandfather, whom I never got to meet. Jack was the local leader of the Molly Maguires until the gang was infiltrated by a Pinkerton employee who ratted them out leading to many men being hanged. Our official position is that the charges were a crock and the trial was a sham. The man who set Jack up later committed suicide and the thought is he was haunted by his deeds. Jack was pardoned many years later, and the entire incident was turned into a Hollywood movie called "The Molly Maguires" starring Sean Connery as Jack Kehoe.

"On June 21, 1877, also known as Black Thursday, the first ten of twenty Irish Miners were hung for the murders of 24 mine foremen and superintendants in these Pennsylvania coalfields. Known as the Molly Maguires, this secret band of Irish Miners took revenge against the Reading Railroad and its mine bosses for the terrible conditions at the mines. They were infiltrated, captured, tried and hung by the Pinkertons and the Railroad for these crimes."

This is the interior of the bar where the undercover Pinkerton man spied on the Molly Maguires.

I'm told the movie isn't that accurate. As usual, the really exciting parts of history are blurred by perceptions and myth. One side views Jack as practically a saint, while the coal mining executives probably saw him as a terrorist. There was talk of staged incidents, so perhaps he was a pawn in the game.

What I learned of the place my father grew up was mainly through my aunts and picking up little snippets of conversation. For example, we had a member of the family who had a crease in his head from where a coal car had hit him - or at least that's what I remember hearing as a boy. I also heard that we had relatives in New York because some of the family had to flee after witnessing a murder by the Molly Maguires. There's a lot of legend in with the facts, but the facts are undeniably stunning. So how did my father get out of town?

Harry was an amazingly smart young boy. I never related to that Mark Twain quote about how much smarter his father seemed as the years rolled on. My siblings and I knew from a very early age that my dad was quite a brain. Harry had an air of greatness, and it was his ticket out of town. He came from a large family with the all-too-typical sibling deaths, but everyone realized Harry was something extraordinary, so arrangements were made to send him to New York City to attend Columbia. After Columbia, he landed in World War 2, met my mother in the South Pacific, and went to Arabia where I was born.

Who knows? Another generation, another time, I could have been a young man living in Girardville, working in the coal mines. Maybe after a shift, I would have headed down to the family bar and had a beer with Black Jack Kehoe himself.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Iraq: Great Progress, More to Come

It's easy to lose perspective when we see how things have turned out in Iraq. Sometimes it helps to take a moment from the intense self-criticism, and appreciate how far we've come:

Only a few short years ago, anyone who expressed doubts about the Iraq plan and the Bush Doctrine of Preemptive Strikes was attacked as a terrorist-appeasing traitor. To suggest that Iraq might not be a wise move, was met with smug overwhelming Right Wing wrath. Their army of radio talk show hosts and newspaper columnists - including our own Lars Larson and David Reinhard - were on a mission to help sell the Iraq War to the American People, and it was mission accomplished.

The White House used them to harness the emotions of 9/11, and to beat down any dissent. There was no real debate. The Bush White House ran all three branches of government so there was no need for debate. All that was needed was a powerful marketing blitz and the armchair soldiers of the Right were only too happy to jump in.

Protesters of the war were treated as enemy sympathizers by an arrogant media lynch mob. If a columnist such as myself wrote a couple of columns suggesting Iraq would be a Vietnam-style disaster - just prior to the Invasion of Iraq - then they lost their column. It was that simple.

David Reinhard kept his column, of course. He sucked up to the powers-that-be from positions Monica never even thought of, and it worked. Let's start there as a sign of the progress we've made. In today's Oregonian Dave calls those who opposed the war "honorable." Anyone remember any editorials in the newspapers just prior to the invasion of Iraq calling the opposition "honorable"? My, how polite we've become. Losing Congress sure makes people act nicer, doesn't it?

Of course, back then, things were different. The New York Times was actively rubber-stamping phony stories out of Dick Cheney's office without a hint of actual journalistic scrutiny. Our corporate media was reduced to a PR firm with Karl Rove in charge. Ironically, the Portland Tribune is one of the only right-wing owned newspapers in America that got it right. I did a good job for them, even if it cost me mine. It hurt for a while but now it's one of the 2 or 3 things I'm most proud of in my whole life.

So where's the progress? See, back then, the word "mistake" was never uttered by our President. He did not do mistakes. That was later adjusted to some new spin by the usual suspects. They tried to convince the American Public that lots of great things were happening in Iraq, but the darned media was emphasizing the bad stuff - the mistakes - way too much.

Now of course, things are so bad, the White House talks about mistakes like they're bragging: "See, we get it! We're not stupid! This is unacceptable!!!!" Of course, the spin part is that the mistakes are why the Iraq Plan did not go excellently. They still haven't made the final admission - that the whole damn thing was a mistake, that the Doctrine of Preemptive Strikes was a mistake, and that President Bush himself was a mistake.

So what do I think is the progress yet to come? Right now we are in the pre-Invasion days as far as criminality is concerned. The Giant Corporate Media structure that helped market this thing, is still silent on the legal issues. I believe in a few years, what happened with the subject of mistakes will happen with crimes. Eventually, the topic of criminality will break through the loathsome spin of the water-carrying clowns like David Reinhard and Lars Larson.

We will begin to discuss the numerous crimes of the Bush administration, and possibly even do something about them. If I wrote a column about this subject today for the Portland Tribune - about the many criminal acts the Bush administration has done from the torture to the fraudulent handling of intelligence to market this war - I'm sure I'd be let go again. Fortunately for me, I've landed in the blog world where a person's opinion can be expressed without the stifling corporate filters of the modern media.

Still, I believe in a few years, they'll get around to this subject as well. They'll look at the speech that President Bush gave the other night and call it what it really was: Criminal Negligence. They'll look at the Invasion of Iraq for the naked aggression it obviously was, especially given that the announced reasons for doing it were all wrong. In short, they'll begin discussing the many crimes of President Bush.

That's what lies ahead, but let's celebrate the progress we have made so far. It is now safe to talk about mistakes in Iraq. Even the Right Wing shills can discuss them because President Bush has done so. It is safe for them to talk. They can assume the new position and continue to suck.

It's a little funny really - Iraq is going so poorly, that President Bush had to acknowledge the mistakes or sound like a complete lunatic. That's real progress. That means there's less pretending going on.

I'm looking forward to the time when we can talk openly about the many crimes this man has done. We need to discuss his assault on our privacy and the Constitution. Then we can stop pretending this was all legal in the truest sense of our national ideals. That's the progress we still need to make.

When I pick up the Sunday Oregonian and there's an editorial about what a war criminal President Bush was, I'll know that we're almost back, especially if David Reinhard calls that assessment an "honorable position."

For now we should acknowledge how far we've come back. We no longer have to talk about President Bush's wretched plan with patriotic fervor and praise - that part is over. We've made great progress on Iraq, but we have a lot more to do. We've still got to address the illegalities of this craven group of power-hungry losers. Only then can we fully restore the promise of America.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Back In Town

Intro: My wife and I are back in town after a 3-night trip to Seattle. That was the clue in the one post about kissing the sky - a blatant Jimi Hendrix message. When I was up there I decided I will never go anywhere again without topnotch computer equipment that doesn't rely on hotel phones, etc.. After my laptop choked, I went to the hotel's web TV and it was really clunky, as well. It would only send the titles and abandon the text. So I went from my server's problems on the one-year anniversary date, right into a computer wasteland. Oh well, here's how the drive up went:

One Amazing Close Call in Seattle
You know you are asking for big trouble when you arrive in a city where the locals are already eating it. I mean if they're really struggling, and they live there, what hope do some less informed outsiders have? Thus it was Wednesday night when we drove into Seattle during a rush hour snowstorm.

I finish writing comedy around 12:30 each day and since I had appointments in Seattle, Thursday and Friday this past week, I suggested to my wife that we head up there on Wednesday afternoon.
We have two cars, but I like renting for these longer trips, so by the time we got everything going it was 2 in the afternoon. There was some frozen rain shenanigans here in Portland just before we left, but the first 40 or 50 miles seemed to be fine. It was even sunny.

Then we began encountering some dark clouds and snow showers, but the key was the snow had just started. I immediately concluded that we were in a race against the clock - in another half hour or so some of these places were going to get really bad, so I responded to the snow by going 70 to 80. There is sometimes safety in speed. Eventually, we hit an area where there was build-up between the lanes and I was forced to slow to 60. This really was a winter wonderland - the trees on either side of the freeway had fresh snow and looked stunningly beautiful.

Another half hour in some of those parts, and I'm sure traffic was crawling, and yet I felt safe. I am overly cautious in these matters, but there are times when you can't afford to slow down. I felt we had a window of only several hours to pull this off, and there was something else besides the snowy weather that was causing me to scramble: Even if we made terrific time, we'd be hitting Seattle right at rush hour. That's a bear on the best of days.

The stretch between Tacoma northward is where the traffic really starts getting crazy, but fortunately this part was dry, especially since it was getting dark fast. This was also the traditional stretch where the will of the People determines the speed limit. In more rural areas, I had been worried about a ticket, but here the far left lanes decided to go 80 plus and I was right there with them.

Somehow through all the snow showers, etc... we were still in striking distance, and that's when things got weird. Do you know that place on I-5 where you first see the skyline of Seattle? Well, when we got there, you couldn't see the city and there was a pretty good snowfall coming down. The freeway was still moving, but I was convinced we were looking at a system that was about to grind to a halt. It was really snowing and every minute things were getting worse. The window to get to the city and get off the freeway was closing quickly. Traffic was moving around 20 mph, and it was dark and awful out, likie a vision from commute hell.

I noticed the car pool lane was going significantly faster, although I had a fear of getting stuck on that where it turns into the "express lane" that goes north of the city with no way off. I just felt it was worth the risk, and moved over. Time was running out. We were fortunate in that we were probably the only car around that was trying to go back downtown. Thus, when the Seneca Street EXIT ONLY came along on the left-hand side, we were able to get off the Express Lane - which had now ground to a virtual halt, right where it disappears down into a tunnel, and cruise past hundreds of cars that were stuck in the right hand lanes. They were barely moving at all so to suddenly have a lane just to ourselves that went over a mile, seemed like a dream sequence.

As we got to the ramp, I glanced over at the thousands of cars trapped on the freeway in the snow, and it was like seeing the Night of the Living Dead. These people looked doomed. The snow was substantial here, and in the outlying areas - where these cars were trying to go - the problems were really beginning to mount by the second. There are hundreds of hilly roads in and around Seattle and one by one they were becoming impassible - a situation that they were still addressing when we left days later.

It took around 45 minutes to fight through the gridlock on the surface roads, and get to the hotel. My decision to "vibe the way" based on past appearances at the Seattle Hempfest, did not impress my wife in the least, and ultimately led nowhere. So my wife called the hotel and had them talk us in. By now, any thought of following traffic rules, was over. If you got in the wrong lane you could be stuck there for God knows how long, and I felt that soon the steep hills by the waterfront Marriott where we were going, would be really scary. The kind of scary where you thank God it's a rental.

So traffic rules were now just suggestions. The weirdest thing I did personally was go straight through a Left Turn Only lane, shifting over a lane in the middle of the intersection, to avoid the oncoming lane of traffic. This while dodging several cars that had gone too far in the gridlock. We had been trapped in that lane for many minutes and there was no end in sight, so I had to get aggressive and disregard traffic laws.

We finally made it to the hotel, and it was only after watching the news for a while in our nice, warm room, that we realized how much we had lucked out and how close it had been. All the hauling ass up from Portland had bought us just enough time to get off the freeway before the snow really shut things down. Our balcony overlooked the water, but if you looked to the left downtown, you could still see huge streets of cars. It was hard to notice if they were moving at all. I would guess that if we had been 10 or 15 minutes behind where we were, it would have taken several more hours. Wednesday night was one truly horrible commute in Seattle.

There were hundreds of people in the area who just ended up abandoning their cars and trying to make it on foot. You know when it gets to that point, the system is pretty well shutdown. I heard no end of horror stories the next few days: People who left Seattle for a 15 mile commute that took 4 hours. Cars sliding all over the place. Lots of people hurt. A city in chaos. Meanwhile, by going as fast as I could, we made it through with minutes to spare. And that's the Close Call in Seattle.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Portland Freelancer Returns Tomorrow , After Kissing the Sky and Wondering If It Was the End of Time

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Testing 1,2,3

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

President Bush's Speech

Rose City Ramblings

This blog has been a real beast lately - right at the 1st Year Mark. It's been technical things like seeing a completely white screen when you go to it or a nasty Forbidden message. I'll wrestle with the machines for a while, but let's not forget who the superior beings are here. That's us, right? As a result I may stand down for a few days till the blogging gods are settled. Maybe my computer sensed that I was heading for the lame zone and this is all preventative. We'll see.
Here's some parting shots:
1. The tram ticket at 4 bucks is a real bargain. Usually amusement park rides cost a lot more.
2. It's easy to make fun of the local weather people. I remember doing that 2 or 3 years ago when they kept saying an ice storm was about to hit, but the time kept getting pushed back. I scoffed at them then and dismissed the whole thing as a hoax. Later, as we spent three days with intense cabin fever, unable to walk outside on the ice, I resolved never to make fun of the weather people again.
3. The President's speech tonight:Let’s not forget, the Bush administration was wrong about the reasons for the war, they were wrong about planning for the war, and they were wrong about the insurgency. So by the law of averages this plan could be solid gold. At least Bush's critics have to admit the Iraq War has led to a new leader: Nancy Pelosi. Of course, the new phrase for Iraq is benchmarks, and the Iraqi leaders love it. See, they can’t hang you if you’re sitting on a bench.

I may bounce back but my current mood is to take a few days off from blogging. For one thing I have to go shovel the imaginary snow.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

This is a test

This is a test message.

The Portland Freelancer: One Year Later

Interesting way to begin the first birthday of the Portland Freelancer, with a "Forbidden" message from my server. I thought it was Trump blocking the picture below or some sort of fee I didn't pay. As with many computer problems, it sometimes helps to walk away for a while.

So what does the blogging experience mean? For me, it's therapy, a way to clear the mind's desk of clutter and get on to the real issues of life. It's also healthy in that you get to vent and make a contribution. Of course, it can feel a little ugly at times as with the Mercury's attack on you know who this week.
I personally have felt regrets about a few posts. The Saddam hanging wasn't my finest hour. Mainly though, I've slowly gotten into a flow. One of my most widespread posts was written in one shot with hardly a word of correction. That's what all this writing has done - smoothed out the process. The second best part of blogging is that you can edit later after it's out there, but sometimes the posts come out smooth and ready to roll.

The best part of blogging is when you get things off your chest that have bothered you a long time. For whatever reason, knowing that anyone in the world could read it, means that you're communicating directly to a collective soul. I'm referring to some posts I wrote about my friend who was killed by terrorists. I don't know why but blogging about that was helpful. It got rid of some of the baggage. So in that sense, blogging allows you to get on with life a little bit.

The most fortunate thing I've discovered about it, is that I'm not addicted. I figured I would be addicted by now, but I could walk away easily. For example, when I got that "Forbidden" server thing, I felt peace. If this ends, I'm okay with it. In fact, one of the good things about this message is that I have to wrap it up. I'm starting a new project today and I have to get going.

To all the readers, commenters and the initial 3 who got me interested in blogging, (The One True b!X, the Portland Media Insider, and Jack Bog), thanks for the support and help. These frontier days on the Internet will always be a fond memory for me.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Donald Trump and Rosie: It's Time

Some marriages are made in heaven. This would not be one of them. But the facts are unmistakable - there is some real chemistry here. I think it's time the Donald and Rosie stopped fighting it, and gave in. Any couple that argues this much deserves to be married.

Governor Kulongoski: What a Difference 4 Years Makes

Here's a draft of a column I wrote for the Tribune 4 years ago. It is not - I repeat - not representative of the final edited work that appeared in the paper. However it does shed some historical light on Oregon's situation back then as opposed to now.

As I've posted about to no end, I recently sorted through all my possessions, so in a perfect world I should be able to put my hands right on the cassette from the Governor's Ball in 2003, and transcribe more of my interviews for you. That would be interesting, especially in the case of our former Governor Neil Goldschmidt.

Unfortunately, "sorted"(or should I say "sordid"?) just means the tape is now in one of two giant crates full of hundreds of other tapes. I do remember enough to know it was fluffy - no Pulitzer's were involved. However there was some nice foreshadowing with his farewell-sounding phrase, "See you later."

Isn't it interesting to chart the changing fortunes that we go through? 1. Oregon is no longer an economic basket case. 2. Goldschmidt is now in disgrace, and 3. I have been ejected from the mainstream media, and landed in the blogosphere.

As the Portland Freelancer turns 1 tomorrow, let us harken back to the days of old in a faraway kingdom called 4 years ago:

For this week’s column I interviewed two former governors, a governor-elect, a congressman, and a sitting president. Okay, the “president” was David Bragdon, head of Metro, and he was actually standing at the time, but that’s his real job title. I guess “Metro Commander-In-Chief” would be a little too grandiose.
The occasion was last Saturday night’s “Governor’s Ball 2003” held at the downtown Hilton. Ted Kulongoski was less than 48 hours from taking office, and I wondered if the grim outlook for Oregon’s budget had gotten to him yet.
TRIB: Any second thoughts about taking the job?
Kulongoski: No, no, I love it.
TRIB: I don’t know whether to congratulate you or give you my condolences.
Kulongoski(chuckling): Oh, I’m actually looking forward to this.
Former governor Barbara Roberts raved about our new leader but had a grim assessment: “I don’t think a governor has entered the office with a tougher situation than Governor Kolongoski has maybe in the history of this state.”
Former governor Neil Goldschmidt struck a qualified note of optimism: “We’re starting out the right way with the right guy, but it isn’t something we can just dump on the governor and say ‘See you later.’”
I asked Representative David Wu if he thought the states would eventually get some relief from the federal government: “I think at the end of the day there will be a component of aid to the states.” He also added his own take on the new man: “Ted is someone who’s been training and preparing for this governor’s job for 25 years.”
David Bragdon was equally effusive in his praise and as a columnist, I was beginning to sense trouble. This was turning into too much of a love-fest so I tried to dig up some dirt on David’s brother Peter, the governor’s new chief of staff.
TRIB: Is there any sibling rivalry going on here?
Bragdon: “No, actually I call my brother for advice quite a bit.”
TRIB: I could use a little bit of controversy. I mean, I’ve got a column to write.
Bragdon: “We used to have fist fights but that was, you know, 40 years ago.”
I could see the headline already: “Governor’s Chief of Staff and Metro President in Repeated Fist Fights.” Maybe we should keep this match-up in mind. Things could get so grim for Oregon state revenue that we may have to turn to celebrity boxing.
So how bad off are we? For some historical perspective, I asked prominent Oregonian Gerry Frank whose bakery provided the cakes for the feast. He replied, “We’ve been through a lot. I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime. My uncle Julius Meier was governor during some very tough times(1931-1935). I worked with Mark Hatfield during the 1959-1966 period and we also had some serious problems, so I’m not sure that this is the worse. We’re more conscious of it because we’re living through it. There’s no question it’s very serious.”
In fact, it’s a shame that the Portland Tribune is the only newspaper in town. This guy should have his own column.

Ahh, back to the future. Things do seem a lot less grim now for Oregon financially anyway. I also sense my initial instincts as a columnist were to try to be funny, which led to a rather extensive rewrite process. It's almost like they hired a comedy writer by mistake, isn't it?