Saturday, May 31, 2008

Derailing the Straight Talk Express

John McCain started his presidential campaign, way back in 2000, by hopping on a bus, which he dubbed the "Straight Talk Express" and driving around the country with a bunch of fawning reporters.

Now, in 2008, after his shameless submission to the neo-conservatives regarding the Iraq War, his embarrassing humiliation at the hands of slimy Karl Rove, and his ass-kissing of right-wing panjandrums, he's back on the campaign trail.

But, the Straight Talk Express isn't quite the same:

Viewing this video, I was struck by how confused and befuddled Senator McCain seemed. Granted the video is produced to show Senator McCain in an unflattering light, but if you compare his mien today with that of the feisty (many would say "angry") man that ran against Junior Bush in the 2000 Republican primary there can be little doubt that the years (and, one assumes, the humiliation and shameful submission) have taken their toll.

Despite the convulsions that are raging through the Democratic party with the changing of the guard from the old Clinton machine to the new Obama organization, the problems with the McCain campaign seem to indicate that John McCain will suffer a whipping in November along with all the other Republicans.

McCain, whom I believe to be a perpetually angry person, will be exiled to impotent rage in a Senate where his party's strength has been vastly diminished, there to finish out what is left of his career.

Bummer for him, but for the rest of us... not so much.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Paige McGrath: gentle soul enduring, prevailing

Tomorrow, May 31st, 2008, will be the 42nd birthday of my sister, Paige McGrath. She was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1966.

I remember, believe it or not, the first time I saw her. Mom and Dad brought her home to our duplex on Fargo Street, wrapped in swaddling blankets. Mom laid her on the bed and my brother Eric and I beheld her as she lay sleeping. Such a pretty girl!

Paige has undergone many transitions in her life: from young pre-school ballerina to University of Washington graduate and Microsoft employee; from gentle, good-hearted toddler to proud, dedicated mother.

Paige's ability to tell a side-splitting story is reknowned throughout our family. She's generous, forgiving, and patient. She is the most compassionate person I know.

Of course, a lifetime consists of not only joy, but sorrow, and Paige has known both. When my father passed, in 2001, Paige was at his side, helping his wife, Tami, to care for the young children and easing his passage.

Today, she and her husband, Tim, are the proud parents of my nephew, Torin. They are doing a great job, raising him to be an exuberant and kind little boy.

I always count on Paige for wisdom and compassion when I am uncertain or afraid. I've come to rely on her in my times of crisis. I just pick up the phone and call her and somehow I end up feeling better.

Well, happy birthday, Paige. Your big brother loves you, but I know you know that already.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lit candle, melting

A sput'ring flame doth hold the night at bay;
A waxen soldier leans beneath its weight,
And holds his lonely vigil for the day,
Believing that the darkness must abate;

On tabletop in barren cottage dorm,
He bleeds his melting mass upon the wood;
And though his effort ruin his mortal form,
He dare not doubt the cause he holds is good;

Nocturnal foes beset him from all sides,
His waning strength, alas, is ebbing fast;
With ev'ry spit and sputter light subsides,
And soon the wick he bears will burn its last;

'Tween hope and dark despair our hearts doth wend,
'Til one day our corporeal forms transcend;

(Keep your flames burning, people! We're going to need 'em.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The crisis is here...

Folks, the house is on fire...
Eugene, over at Pudgy Indian, has a great blog entry from May 27th. You can read it here. To summarize, he points to the recent, sudden closure of 6 Chili's restaurants in Oregon as an omen of the catastrophe that is coming our way --check that --the catastrophe that is now upon us.

The price of crude oil has sky-rocketed from approximately $23/barrel in the summer of 2001 to over $125/barrel today. As the shock waves of this disastrous development burn through the wiring of our live-for-today economy, it would behoove us to brace ourselves. We can all expect rude awakenings similar to that experienced by the 200 or so former employees of Chili's restaurant who suddenly found their places of employment shut down.

Soon, maybe before the summer is out, other manifestations of the crisis will appear: cardboard signs reading "No Gas" appearing at gas station pumps, the discontinuation of airline flights between cities, produce bins at the grocery store being depleted and staying empty.

Our civilization is dependent on plentiful, cheap energy to feed us, to move us from place to place, to keep us healthy, clothed, and sheltered. As our global society's primary energy source, petroleum, attains peak production, and then begins to decline, our world economy is coming to a grinding halt... a terrible transition is at hand.

Although Junior Bush and his ilk have exacerbated and heightened the crisis, it is not their creation. This is something that has been anticipated for decades by any number of economists, sociologists, geologists, and historians. Alas, it has always been easiest to ignore the dire predictions and continue on as we have come to believe was our right. The responsibility for this mess belongs to all of us.

As Jim Kunstler relates in his post, Anxious Hiatus, the temptation is to continue on as we have done, to blithely ignore the terrifying consequences. And those that simply cannot face the facts, that are too terrified to stare down the beast that is confronting us... they have my sympathy. But the time is here. The house is on fire. The Titanic has hit the iceberg.

Am I scared? Hell, yes, I'm scared! But I won't end this post without hope. I can't.

I have been astounded, time and time again, by the inherent goodness and resourcefulness of motivated, sincere people. I don't believe that life in America will ever be the same. And the times ahead are going to be hard. But we can do this. We can get through this dark, looming cave and come out the other side with something good. Something built on our love for each other; on our unwillingness to turn our backs when we see others in pain.

Keep the faith, people!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nobody's coming to McCain's party

"I hate you, John." "I hate you, too, sir."
Bush and McCain; McCain and Bush...what a pair!

Getting corporate fat cats to write campaign checks (with a wink and a nod and a "You don't expect anything for this, do you?" chuckle) was the one thing that Junior seemed to do well. But, when you're saddled with a candidate like John McCain...well, blood from a turnip, lipstick on a pig...feel free to choose your own folksy, homespun adage... sometimes there's just nothing you can do.

Bush and McCain were set to co-headline a fund-raiser at the Phoenix Convention Center today, with tickets ranging from $1000 to $25000 apiece. Everyone associated with McCain's campaign was no doubt primed for a big, boisterous, "You go, John" event with television cameras and balloons, and a raucous, fired-up crowd.

But then, reality asserted itself.

According to the Phoenix Business Journal, sources "familiar with the situation" said the event was moved because tickets weren't selling all that well, raising the prospect of television cameras shooting footage of McCain and Bush rallying a near-empty convention hall, and that there were concerns about there being more anti-war protesters showing up outside the venue than McCain supporters actually attending the event.

The fund-raiser was suddenly and hastily moved out of the Phoenix Convention Center and into "private residences in the Phoenix area."

Pardon me if I smirk.

First off, this is an event that is occurring in McCain's home state! If he can't even fill a convention center in Phoenix, what are his chances in "battleground" states like Florida, Virginia, or Michigan?

Secondly, the concerns about war protesters speaks volumes about Junior's political toxicity. Junior's approval rating is hovering in the high-twenties to low-thirties (and one really must wonder about the mentality of those who still approve of him). He can still draw crowds, apparently. It's just that those crowds are more likely to throw rotten vegetables and use bad language than anything else.

Just as Americans are starting to clearly see the economic devastation, to realize the painful and unavoidable transitions to our once-comfortable lives, all that Republican jazz about "keeping more of your own money" starts to wear thin. Our money is all gobbled up by the corporate titans that are sticking it to us with gas prices inflated by unregulated market speculation, by soaring health care costs exacerbated by legislation that was written to serve the health insurance industry, by soaring tuition costs, by crashing housing markets.

In short, there aren't many people who want or can afford $1000 tickets to hear a couple shysters lie to them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More video faves...

Happy pre-Memorial Day Friday!

A couple videos from some of my favorite artists to start your weekend. See you next week!

Neil Young: Old Man

Rage Against the Machine: Killing in the Name

Frank Zappa: Montana

Led Zeppelin: Immigrant Song

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Conyers: We're coming for ya, Karl.

"Don't sweat it, Turdblossom. The prisons these days are more like resorts."

It's about damn time!
(Washington, DC)- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) issued a subpoena to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove for testimony about the politicization of the Department of Justice (DOJ), including former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman’s case. Yesterday, Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, sent a letter to the Committee expressing that Rove would not agree to testify voluntarily, per the Committee’s previous requests.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Rove has failed to cooperate with our requests,” Conyers said. “Although he does not seem the

least bit hesitant to discuss these very issues weekly on cable television and in the print news media, Mr. Rove and his attorney have apparently concluded that a public hearing room would not be appropriate. Unfortunately, I have no choice today but to compel his testimony on these very important matters.”

Conyers finally makes his move. Issuing a subpoena to compel Karl Rove to testify, under oath, on matters relating to the prosecution and imprisonment of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman is a big deal.

According to the subpoena, Rove must appear before the House Judiciary Committee on July 10. Rove, through his attorney Robert Luskin, has indicated that he will claim executive privilege as a means of avoiding testifying. But it is unclear how that claim can be legitimate, given that Rove has already publicly stated that he had no conversations with anyone in the White House about the Siegelman case. Hmm...that's a bit of a quandary you're in, Karl.

Of course, Rove is really just stalling for time. He is already fighting a subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee on the same subject. The merits of his legal position are irrelevant. It's all about grinding down the opposition, hoping the public will lose interest, or that some new legal or political development will present an escape hatch.

If you or I were to defy a congressional subpoena, we'd be marking days on the pokey wall before you can say "I was framed." But Rove, with his well-funded neoconservative allies, has the resources to afford lawyers who can make bald-faced lies seem like gospel. Well, you know what they say: In America, you're assumed guilty until proven rich. If, as I fervently hope, Karl Rove someday sees the inside of a prison cell, that day is still a long way off.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't want to be in Karl's shoes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oregon primary election results

Well, just like that Oregon's primary election has come and gone. Turnout is estimated to be between 50% and 60% which is not a record, but is pretty good for a primary election, especially given that most people believe that Obama has the Democratic nomination locked up. Let's have a look at the results:

United States President: Obama 58.7% Clinton 41.3%
Pretty substantial victory for Barack. Of course, Hillary had a big night in Kentucky, where she beat him by a 2-to-1 margin. Barack may have problems in Appalachia, but here in Oregon he's doing just fine.

United States Senator: Merkley 45% Novick 42% Neville 7%

Merkley wins out in a close race. I voted for Merkley because I feel he has the best chance of unseating spineless Gordon Smith in November. Apparently, Gordie agrees with me. He has been running negative television ads against Merkley during the primary. Also, I noticed Gordie took out a full page ad in the Oregonian today, headlined "Democrats for Smith." Can you hear the footsteps, Gordie? Ironically, although I don't regret my vote, I learned a lot about
Steve Novick after I had cast it. And I have come to like Novick quite a bit. I hope we'll see him again.

United States Representative in Congress, 3rd District: Earl Blumenauer easily

Earl won big, although I have been unable to find the percentages. He beat out two opponents: John Sweeney and Joseph Walsh. Earl faces Republican Delia Lopez, a real estate investor, in the fall. It's hard to imagine that he'll have much trouble holding his seat.

Secretary of State: Brown 52% Metsger 27% Walker 18% Wells 3%
Kate Brown, a juvenile law attorney, wins and goes on to face Repulican Rick Dancer, a television anchorman from Eugene. Kate had help from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and from public unions. If the current national trends have any bearing on this race, Kate should be the favorite against Dancer.

Attorney General: Kroger 56% Macpherson 44%
Here's one that I would have liked to go the other way. John Kroger ran a lot of ads on television and made himself more visible than Greg Macpherson. Kroger ran a "tough on crime" campaign and, of course, no one can complain about that. But, as my neighbor, Mac Prichard, pointed out, enforcing the law is only one aspect of the Attorney General's duties. Let's hope Kroger will remember that he must also be an advocate for the State of Oregon in Federal Court, along with the myriad other things that a good Attorney General must do. Kroger seems likely to win in the fall election since the Republicans haven't even managed to field a candidate.

State Representative, 42nd District Kopel-Bailey 40% Gray 30% Keizer 27% Hillesland 2%
Jules, my one-street-over neighbor wins the nomination. This also means that, barring some unlikely event, he will win the seat as well. The Republicans have not fielded a candidate, and there is really no reason they should. The district covers Southeast Portland where Republicans are about as popular as pinkeye.

City of Portland, Commissioner, Position 1: Fritz 43.11% Lewis 12.63% Bissonnette 12.17% Branam 12.03% Fahey 10.35% Smith 9.27%

Since no one got 50+% of the vote, there will be a runoff between Amanda Fritz and Charles Lewis. Given that Lewis barely eked out a second-place finish, one would have to imagine that Amanda is the favorite.

City of Portland, Commissioner, Position 2: Fish 61% Middaugh 21%
Voters were not ambiguous here. Nick Fish is in.

City of Portland, Commissioner, Position 4: Leonard 71%
Randy Leonard got nearly three-quarters of the vote, beating out three challengers.

Metro Councilor, 6th District: Robert Liberty 73%

Robert won a second term, beating out college student Cole Miller. Robert said he hoped voters chose him because he was "known quality." He went on to say, "I've been pretty clear and consistent, and not tried to straddle a lot of issues." Well, that is a refreshing approach for a politician nowadays.

Multnomah County Commissioner, District 1: Kafoury 88%

Well, Deborah Kafoury won easily. She's the former Oregon House Democratic leader, so she's experienced. And she's progressive enough to win in Multnomah County (and my vote). Let's see how she does...

City of Portland, Mayor: Adams 58% Dozono 34%

Sam Adams gets the nod, in a convincing manner, winning by enough of a margin as to render a runoff unnecessary. Sam Adams becomes the first openly gay mayor of Portland. I think it speaks very positively about Portland that Sam's sexual orientation was not an issue in the race. (I didn't even know he was gay until after the election.) He has experience, having been Mayor Vera Katz's chief of staff for 11 years. Good on ya, Sam.

It feels very strange, being on the winning side of so many elections, after 7 cruel years of Republican dominance. All in all, I'm pretty happy with the results. Now, on to November, where we can give the Republicans a right and proper beating!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nadie recuerda el apuro de los indocumentados

La gente en las sombras
Perdido en todos los asuntos de esta elección es el apuro de los inmigrantes indocumentados. Actualmente, el debate se centra en asuntos falsos, como la inexperiencia de Barack Obama, o la demencia de John McCain. (Bien, McCain quizás tenga la demencia, pero esta es una topica para un otro día).

Yo supongo que nosotros podemos dar gracias que los candidatos más locos (Tom Tancredo y Mike Huckabee) han sido rachazados por los votantes. Y, aún mejor, el mensaje anti-inmigrante, lo cual que los Republicanos esperaron utilizar a su ventaja, parece haber caído en saco roto.

Pero, el problema se queda: hay una población escondida en los EEUU. Esta población vive con temor en las sombras. La gente son reacio a informar la policía de crimen o notifica las autoridades de problemas de salud porque tienen temor que serían deportado. Esto presenta un peligro a todos.

Hasta los candidatos empiezan hablar, en una manera honesta y práctica, del asunto de inmigración y de como nosotros lo dirigiremos, los indocumentados no pueden esperar que su situación mejorará.

Barack Obama habla con la elocuente de cambio y esperanza. Yo deseo que él no olivdará la gente en las sombras....los indocumentados.

(Perdóneme por favor para mi español malo.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oregon for Obama

Obama at Waterfront Park, May 19, 2008

Yesterday Barack Obama was in town. He held a rally at Waterfront Park and drew an eye-popping 70,000 people! This was the largest crowd Obama had yet drawn during his presidential campaign.

I happened to drive by Waterfront Park with my friends, Andre and Vicky Danielson, after a hike up to Council Crest, and we saw the long line of people waiting to get through security. It was an impressive sight, to be sure.

I've heard that there is a possibility that the Oregon primary may provide Obama with enough delegates to go "over the top" and clinch him the nomination. Well, we'll see.

It's hard (for me, anyway) to resist the excitement and enthusiasm of all those people putting their hopes and faith in this handsome, charismatic man with his message of hope. Don't get me wrong, Obama has disappointed me with some of his concessions to shrill right-wingers, with his lack of imagination regarding Palestine, with his denunciation of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But still, Obama is the best hope we've got.

I believe he offers the best chance for bringing this country together, for healing the partisan divide that was exploited by the Karl Rove machine for political gain, for convincing the American public that sacrifice and change is needed if we are to avoid disaster. You won't get that kind of straight talk from the rage-driven John McCain.

If current trends hold, the old, corrupt Republican modus operandi will be swept away in a cleansing electoral fire. I believe Barack Obama can help mold and shape the new paradigm in a way that benefits us all: not just progressives, not just Democrats, not just Americans, but everyone.

Obama for President!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sympathy for the devil

The mysteries of the human heart continue to astound.

Here I was, prepared to write another outraged screed about Junior, about his callow and insulting assertion that he had given up golf to show solidarity with Iraq war dead. I was going to rail about how he used the floor of the Israeli Knesset to compare Barack Obama to Nazi appeasers and invoked the name of the archenemy of all Jews, Adolf Hitler. I was prepared to spew out a new dose of vituperation and contempt, regardless of how many, many times I have already done so. Such idiocies must be repeatedly brought forth and ridiculed.

But this time, before I started writing my blog, I saw this:

You see? He was crying. Bush was crying. Even as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert praised him (as well he might, since no other president has given Israel such a free hand to oppress the Palestinians), Junior wept.

Could it be that Junior regrets the hatred and loathing he has brought upon himself from all corners of the globe (Israel being one of the few exceptions)? Behind his boorish, cocky facade, is he truly a frightened and overwhelmed little man who can scarcely understand how he has come to this pass?

I don't know. But as I watched this video, and I saw the emotion on his face, I was shocked to recognize a new feeling in my heart, a completely new response to this man whom I have reviled for so long: Pity.

I felt pity for this man, this poor flawed creature. In fact, as I thought back on all the scenes of him clowning around, and telling jokes, and trying to be a nice guy, my heart actually ached for him.

Let me be clear: in no way do I believe Bush should be allowed to escape any justice that may someday be meted out to him by an angry people. In fact, I hope he is investigated, prosecuted, found guilty, and imprisoned for any number of his unspeakable crimes. I know he is responsible for thousands of deaths. I know he is a contemptible human being.

But I pity him. And watching him suffer, as I imagine he suffered on the floor of the Knesset, reflecting on how badly things have turned against him, I suffered with him. Tears actually came to my eyes.

Although the magnitude of my many sins pale by comparison, I could empathize with the emotions that I was projecting onto him. I, too, have found myself in very bad positions and been the subject of animosity and contempt as the result of my own stupid decisions. And when you're in that place, it is a very, very lonely place.

Bush's karmic debt is staggering, and, if my speculative projection is anywhere near the mark, his payments are coming due.

A certain part of my heart, a part that I have not known for a long time, breaks for him.

Take it for what it's worth.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Political miscellany

As the presidential primaries draw to a close, events on the campaign trail accelerate to a rapid-fire staccato of spin and imagery.

Here's a couple observations from the events of the last few days:

Git ya a pair o' overalls, girl!
Hillary Clinton's landslide victory in West Virginia on Tuesday was largely meaningless. Obama is going to be the nominee. Yes, Hillary won the West Virginia primary, and won it big. Her victory was based largely on the support she received from under-educated, rural, white people. Well, good for her. I don't really know what to say about the good people of West Virginia....

Could this be a preview of the fall ticket?
But Hillary's victory lap was cut short abruptly when the Obama campaign, in a move that shows admirable agility and political deftness, arranged to have John Edwards endorse Barack as his candidate of choice at a public event on Wednesday evening. Nice move, Obama campaign! It took all the air out of the room for the Clinton victory and diverted the attention of the vapid media punditry. The hot story was no longer Clinton's big win, but Edwards' out-of-the-blue endorsement.

Jeff Merkley, candidate for US Senate
On another note: I was at the gym the other day, when a political ad came on CNN while I was sweating on the treadmill. It was a negative ad. You know. The kind that presents an unflattering photograph of the subject, and has an ominous narrator's voice recounting supposed hypocrisies and misbehavior?. Well, the ad was directed against Democratic candidate for the US Senate, Jeff Merkley.

My first thought was that Steve Novick, the other leading Democrat in the primary, was really pulling out the stops to beat Merkley. But then came the disclaimer at the end of the ad: "I'm Gordon Smith and I approved this message."

Gordon Smith: Runnin' scared
Well, well, well. Gordie showed his hand by revealing who it is that he does not want to run against this fall. Merkley got you looking over your shoulder, Senator? It sure made me glad that I cast my vote for Merkley. And the idea that Gordie Smith would try to admonish someone else for hypocrisy and inconsistency is rich indeed.

Stay tuned, everybody. These crazy antics are just getting started.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

GOP staring into the business end of an electoral shotgun

Oh, baby! This could be it. This could be the year when Republicans harvest the fruits of the crop they sowed when they signed on to the Junior Bush agenda. All the neoconservatives, objectivists, fake patriots, corporatists, and wing-nut evangelicals are starting to realize that they are in for a beating this November the likes of which most of them haven't had since the night they knocked over their daddy's gin bottle.

I'm talking slaughter.

There have been three special elections for Congress this year. All of them have been in heavily "Republican" districts. And in all three cases, the Republican candidate has been rejected, to be replaced by a Democrat.

The first seat to fall was that of the former Republican House Speaker, Fat Denny Hastert. Hastert retired his seat, after holding it for 21 years. He was allegedly despondent after the GOP was crushed in the 2006 mid-term elections under his leadership. The district had gone for Junior Bush in 2004 with 55% of the vote. Well, despite the Republican Congressional Committee spending $1.3 million to hold the seat, on March 8th, Democrat Bill Foster won the special election to replace Hastert, thoroughly repudiating not only the Republican party, but Fat Denny as well.

Then, on May 4th, in Louisiana's 6th Congressional district, a seat that had been held by Republicans for 30 years went to Democrat Don Cazayoux. The Republicans, true to their nature, tried to play up racist and anti-gay sentiments by tying Cazayoux to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi... to no avail.

And, to complete the trifecta, on Tuesday, in Mississippi's First Congressional district, Democrat Travis Childers won a seat that had been held by Republicans since 1974. This last race really stung, apparently. The Republicans again tried to link Childers to Obama with some borderline racist ads; Dick Cheney and Mike Huckabee came to Mississippi to campaign for Childers' opponent in an effort to save the seat. Fat lot of good that did them.

In the wake of these three omens, even John Boehner sounded morose: “The results in MS-01 should serve as a wake-up call to Republican candidates nationwide. As I’ve said before, this is a change election, and if we want Americans to vote for us we have to convince them that we can fix Washington." Well, John, good luck with that!

And here's a quote from NRCC Chairman Tom Cole:

“We are disappointed in tonight’s election results. Though the NRCC, RNC and Mississippi Republicans made a major effort to retain this seat, we came up short.

“Tonight’s election highlights two significant challenges Republicans must overcome this November. First, Republicans must be prepared to campaign against Democrat challengers who are running as conservatives, even as they try to join a liberal Democrat majority. Though the Democrats’ task will be more difficult in a November election, the fact is they have pulled off two special election victories with this strategy, and it should be a concern to all Republicans.

“Second, the political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general. Therefore, Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for. This is something we can do in cooperation with our Presidential nominee, but time is short.

“I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election.”

Hang on....let me wipe my eyes....sniff. There! That's better. Here's what Cole is really saying: The Titanic's hit the iceberg. Every man for himself!

Cole and Republicans all over the country are realizing, (much too late, of course) that the Bush administration is poison. The empty talk about fighting terrorism and tax cuts has worn thin; it no longer provides a screen for their corruption and for their assault on civil liberties. It's panic time at GOP Headquarters.

Git while the gittin's good!

Here's the kicker: there is not a damn thing they can do to fix it. The Karl Rove tactics of smear and divide have lost their magic as people all over the country are being ruined by rising mortgage interest rates, high gas and food prices, and the moral burden of a criminal military enterprise in Iraq. It's not going to be enough for Republicans to shriek about gays, terrorists and Mexicans anymore. And that is really all they've had to offer for the last 8 years.

Now, all they can do is stare at the shotgun barrel pointed at their faces and wait for the electorate to pull the trigger. I wonder, will they finally see what fools they were to ever trust in the leadership of inferior human beings like Junior, Cheney, Fat Denny, Bill Frist, and Tom Delay? Probably not. But it doesn't matter, in the end.

As Bob Dylan says: It's a hard rain's gonna fall.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Israel and Zionism: I just don't get it

House Minority Leader and champion noontime tippler John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently jumped on a remark by Senator Barack Obama, claiming Obama had insulted the state of Israel. Here's what Obama said:
But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that ... I want to solve the problem... -Barack Obama, May 12, 2008 in an interview with The Atlantic.
Boehner called out the remark as a criticism of Israel, which he termed a "critical American ally and a beacon of democracy in the Middle East." You can read Jake Tapper's analysis of the exchange here. But let's leave aside Boehner's pathetic and desperate attempt to besmirch Obama and examine a different question: Why is United States foreign policy so blatantly biased in favor of Israel?

The bias, of course, is undeniable. Since Israel was founded in 1947, the United States has provided $91 billion in direct aid, most of it for military expenditures, dwarfing aid to any other country in the world. Israeli spies have penetrated the highest levels of the US government. Israel is in violation of over 50 UN resolutions.

Israel continues to build Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories in defiance of all international law, and over the feeble objections of the United States. Israel unilaterally invaded Lebanon in 1982 and again in 2006. In both cases, civilian areas were indiscriminately bombed.

An illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank
So, again, the question is this: Why? Why does the United States allow this rogue nation to insult, ignore, and abuse? Support for Israel is bipartisan, at least at the highest levels of American government: every president from Truman to Junior has been unflagging in his support. The transparent hypocrisy of this support was never more clearly illustrated than when Junior referred to suspected war criminal (and Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon, the "Butcher of Beirut," as a "man of peace."

Here's another tidbit from Obama's interview:
"...the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the Jewish people could still experience." -ibidem
I don't understand. What is "fundamentally just" about the idea of a secure Jewish state? Especially when it comes at the expense of a guiltless, impoverished Palestinian people. Barack Obama may be our last, best choice for president, but in this, he shows very little imagination.

Of course, even more telling is Boehner's response to Obama's statements. One can only imagine Boehner, well into his third martini, directing some eager beaver staffer to pore through the Atlantic interview to "shee 'f he said anuhthin' we kin use." Anything less than absolute support for Israel is, for some reason, verboten and deemed as lethal to one's political career.

Israeli justice
To me, to my way of thinking, and, I have to believe to that of the majority of the American public, Israeli misbehavior, brutality, and arrogance wears very thin. I don't believe that public support for Israel is nearly as unqualified as it is with the various power-brokers in Washington.

Israeli policy toward the Palestinians is brutal, demeaning, and carries a whiff of the very treatment to which Jews were subjected during... well, you can finish that thought yourself. So I ask again: why?

Does this scene remind you of anything?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jenny Q

Back in my college days, during the summer of 1982, I worked at Crater Lake National Park, in the lodge. While I worked there, I met a young woman named Jenny Quickel, from New Jersey, who was also working there for the summer. We became friends while we were there and began writing letters back and forth after we had each returned to our homes for the school year. (That was back in the days before email and the internet). The letters continued on for a year or so and then we eventually lost touch. About 15 years later, I was going through some old boxes in my basement and I came upon some of those letters. Memories came flooding back, and I wrote a song about it to perform with my band, Mahatma Candy. Jenny was a guitar player, too, so just in case she ever sees this, note that it is played in "open D" tuning.

We were born under a moonlit sky
Fully half a mile above God's Creation;
You were with that boy from Illinois
And I was sleeping from station to station;
But we smiled and we caught each other's eye
Both of us denied the conflagration;
At the summer's end we went back to our far-flung homes
Hoping our good-byes were of short duration;

Oh, but I could still see your soft, dark bangs
Hanging just above your eyes,
And that flash of white every time you smiled
In the light of that Crater Lake sunrise;

As the months went by the page was platform to our souls
Opening our lives to interpretation;
Our dreams and fears were spelled out on those plain white sheets
With no concern for defamation;
Between us lay three thousand miles of continent
Allowing us our easy proclamations;
And we built a world based on honesty and faith,
Without the fear of consecration;

Oh, and we dreamed of future days
Standing on Wizard's Isle,
In the soft-lit night by the water's edge
Making gifts of lover's smiles;

Now fifteen years have come and gone
Since we lost that open line;
But I hope your life has gone alright, Jenny,
And I know you wish the same for mine;

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hillary fade

In the wake of the disastrous night that Hillary Clinton suffered on Tuesday, it appears that the Democratic party's nomination process is quickly drawing to an end: Barack Obama will be the nominee for President of the United States.

Of course, this isn't all that startling, considering the trends have favored Obama ever since his 11-primary winning streak that ran from February 5th through February 21. But the results of Tuesday's primaries (Obama won North Carolina by 14 points and held Hillary's victory in Indiana to a 2-point margin) erased any conceivable path to the nomination for Hillary. You could see resignation and defeat written on her face as she delivered her election night speech. It was even more apparent in the expressions of Bill and poor, foxy, Chelsea.

Well, elections can be cruel. And don't I know it? Part of my faith, my belief in the goodness of people, was destroyed on November 2, 2004.

Hillary's support, I think, comes from two sources: feminists and women generally, who like the idea of a woman (any woman) being president, and blue-collar working stiffs who are nostalgic for the (Bill) Clinton era of peace and prosperity. I know my mom, at least one of my sisters, and my step-mom are part of that first group. I don't personally know anyone that I would categorize in the second group, but I'm basing my statement on what I've seen and read in the news.

But this support, it seems to me, is all based on a false perception of Hillary herself. Over the course of her tenure as First Lady, United States Senator, and presidential candidate, Hillary has proved herself to be less of an idealist, less of a true believer, and more of a cold political calculator. Two prime examples:
  • She voted for the war back in 2002, back when Junior was riding high in the polls and it seemed advantageous for her to do so. Now that Junior has been exposed as a murderous, demented clown and the war is deeply unpopular she claims she was misled, "tricked" if you will, into voting for it.
  • Hillary's husband was the President of the United States when the disastrous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, but now that people are feeling the devastation it has wrought, she claims that she opposed it from the beginning.
Hillary's campaign is being run by the same gang of losers that sank John Kerry's presidential aspirations like a torpedoed swift boat. They're triangulators, poll-watchers, spin-masters. This too-slick-by-half brand of politics, I'm afraid, is what created the conditions that made a monster like Junior Bush possible. Hillary's fade will close the chapter on this gang of self-important nobodies.

So, in the realm of American presidential politics, there are a few reasons for progressives to be happy:
  1. The defeatists that have been running Democratic presidential campaigns are about to be retired.
  2. A black man is the odds-on favorite to be President of the United States, a development that I would not have believed possible as recently as 4 years ago.
  3. The Republicans are about to be handed the crushing defeat that they have so richly earned, courtesy of Junior Bush and the Karl Rove method of politics.
Well, y'all, sometimes, the dice just come up seven.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Time to mark those ballots, people!

Well, Oregonians, primary ballots have arrived and we're called upon to say our piece. I'm a registered Democrat, as embarrassing as it can be to admit that sometimes. So, here's how I voted:

United States President: Barack Obama
See here, here, and here. Oh,, too.

United States Senator: Jeff Merkley
Jeff seems genuine. He comes from a blue-collar background. He's endorsed by the Sierra Club, the SEIU, and my very smart neighbor, Mack. I think Jeff has a great chance of knocking off the craven Gordie Smith in November.

United States Representative in Congress, 3rd District: Earl Blumenauer
Earl generally does a good job. I wish he'd push Nancy Pelosi to be more aggressive, though.

Secretary of State: Kate Brown
On the strength of her endorsement by the League of Conservation Voters.

Attorney General: Greg Macpherson
On the strength of his endorsement by the League of Conservation Voters, and neighbor Mack. The other guy sounds too much like Dirty Harry.

State Representative, 42nd District: Jules Kopel-Bailey
On the strength of his endorsement by the League of Conservation Voters and his endorsement by neighbor, Mack. Jules helped keep Wal-Mart out of east Portland and believes GLBT citizens deserve the same rights as everyone else. Also, Jules grew up on 35th Ave, just one street over from my house. Call it a "local boy does good" vote.

City of Portland, Commissioner, Position 1: Amanda Fritz
Amanda, a registered nurse, seems to recognize the disparity within Portland in the development of and investment in neighborhoods. She also recognizes that Portland is a jewel of a city, that we need to maintain it, and continue to work toward sustainability and equity.

City of Portland, Commissioner, Position 2: Nick Fish
This is the vote I'm least sure about. But I voted for Nick because he makes all the right noises about sustainability and progressivism.

City of Portland, Commissioner, Position 4: Randy Leonard
So far, so good, Randy. Keep it up.

Metro Councilor, 6th District: Robert Liberty
Robert has a very green bent to his positions, which goes a long way with me. He's endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters.

Multnomah County Commissioner, District 1: Deborah Kafoury
Deborah was Democratic Leader in the Oregon State House, but I can't say I know a lot about her. I'll say this: her list of supporters includes some people I really admire. I have to admit, though, this was an uninformed vote.

City of Portland, Mayor: Sam Adams
I cast this vote mostly out of suspicion toward Sho Donzono, who seems a little too cozy with the business community.

Measures 51, 52, and 53: No, no, no!
I wasn't sure how to interpret these measures. Generally, it seems to me that "victim's rights" movements are more about increasing the power of the government, while restricting the rights of the individual. But, then, when I saw Kevin Mannix's statement in the Voter's Pamphlet, urging me to vote for them, that sealed the deal. No dice, Kevin.

Don't forget to get your ballots in by May 20th!

Heart anchor

A young woman wept as she beheld
Some sad stray cat dying in the road;
A.M. commuters veered past, no brakes,
"Late for work, late for work, late for work!"

Elderly gentleman wipes his eyes
While mutely watching his grandchildren
Say goodbye to estranged son-in-law;
"Love you, Daddy. We love you, Daddy."

How much sooner comes the night
Because we will dare to care
About things, about people?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Obama: Because I'm angry all the time


Lately, I've noticed that I'm angry much of the time. When I wake up in the morning, I'm angry. When I watch the news, I'm angry. When I go to work, I'm angry. Not always, but often. I'm angry when I eat my supper; I'm angry when I sweat and pant on the treadmill; I'm angry when I drive; I'm angry when I go to bed.

Not a particularly pleasant way to live. And it worries me.

People who are angry eventually go nuts...they end up in hospitals... they burn up their souls raging against the Universe... they become bitter old people who can only look back on their own lives with disgust and contempt.

God save me from such a fate.

But why am I angry? I haven't always been this way. Why, then, is so much of my life wasted on rage?

Well, I put it down to a sense of impotence....impotence against the oppressive and regressive corporate system, wherein we are systematically robbed of the fruits of our labor.. impotence in the face of monumental stupidity, wherein people are plainly shown the truth, yet still somehow deny it.

What a pig!

Take, for example, the explosion in the price of gas. This crisis has been engineered by evil (yes, evil) people. Or, remember how the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen through paralegal maneuvering and voter suppression? Or, consider how we are all being made to bail out the crooks on Wall Street who have been cooking the books on us so greedily that their avarice threatens to crash the entire world's financial network. And then, remember that there are still those who believe that the people responsible for all this are somehow honorable and worthy of respect.

These same people, who blithely ignore the flames erupting all around us, who ignore global warming and overt corruption in our government, and the overall decline of our humanity, cause my blood to boil.

And underneath all this anger, there is despair. Daily, I must make the effort not to submit to it. It is a challenge. The American dream, the lifestyle that we have come to love, is toast. Even if we all, today, this very moment, dedicated ourselves to saving it, we could not.

If, as I believe, the downward trend of our economy and our global credibility not only continues but sharpens, we will have a very different perception of ourselves as a nation by the time the November election rolls around.

This country does not lack for well-meaning idealists and enlightened, good-hearted people. There is still hope that the horrors of the Bush administration will be repudiated and that we can once again bring our nation into the good graces of the other peoples of the world.

Barack Obama, for all his weaknesses and faults, provides the best hope for the beginning of a recovery. But even if he is elected to the Oval Office, a real recovery and salvation will only come if he unites the American people and calls upon all of us to make the sacrifices and endure the hardships that are necessary.

One slender reed...

Well, Obama may be a slender reed upon which to place one's last desperate hopes, but what other choice remains?