Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday afternoon update

Well, the gutters are all cleaned, and a bunch of other odds and ends around the house are done.

In a couple of hours, Karen and I are meeting up with my two boys and other friends at one of our favorite Pearl District restaurants (Pho Van), then Karen and I have theater tickets for tonight's play.

So, all in all, it's been a pretty nice day, with no outward appearance of fascism in the neighborhood.

To cap it off, in today's mail there was a check for me, for $945, representing the conclusion of yet another Enron class-action suit. Let's see, with the $18 I received in a prior settlement and the $50K in severance payments that I received before the bankruptcy, that makes 4% of the value of the stock and options that I watched disappear.

A small price to pay for the experience of having met Jeff Skilling, twice (and once sharing an elevator, in Houston, with Ken Lay).

Fall Saturday morning in Oregon

I am up at 7:30, while Karen still sleeps upstairs.

It being the end of the month, I spend a while writing up invoices for my computer work in September. It has been a productive time - I am happy with stuff I developed and know the clients will be, too.

I make and slowly sip a cup of strong coffee. It is cool in the house, but I sit in t-shirt and shorts, looking out the window at the quiet neighborhood. Leaves are beginning to accumulate under the big maple tree. They said that yesterday would be the last 80 degree day of 2006 - sounds about right.

On 'The McLaughlin Group' last night, time was spent on the NIE flap, Bill Clinton's FOX interview, and other assorted matters, but no mention was made of the serious hit to the Constitution - odd - to me, since I think that is the story of the year. The show concluded, as usual, with the pundits making predictions. All agreed that the Dems will take the House in November.

I am not so sure.

I'd like to believe it, but have the sense that the fix is in already. Daily Kos reports another insidious erosion of the separation of Church and State, that flew totally under everyone's radar. Why is it that, in this country, sexual indiscretions are grounds for public outrage, but financial and political corruption, and outright violations of Oaths of Office, are shrugged off?

Greenland continues to melt.

The sun is just about to clear the trees that border our property. It will be sunny, dry, and 72 today. In other times, one would call this 'perfect'.

It is very quiet in the house. I think I will put on a sweatshirt.

October is coming - prepare for surprises.

Friday, September 29, 2006

What I did last night to avoid thinking about the Death of Democracy

I was completely depressed, and moped around for a while last night.

Then, I went over to the bookshelf and picked up a PG Wodehouse anthology, and read a couple of Jeeves and Wooster stories, and began one of the shorter novels ('Quick Service'). It was utterly soothing, to read something genuinely funny, describing a world so thoroughly different from Bushland.

This morning, I am back in Full Outrage mode, but, at least for a couple of hours, it was great to get away.

Hello, Supreme Court? It's all up to you now - take out those Pocket Constitutions and re-read the Bill of Rights, PLEASE!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's here

One Nation, under Fascism.

Today's vote to eliminate Habeas Corpus and give the President the right to declare anyone he wants an Enemy, and try them without revealing the evidence against them, is It.

Well, it's been a heck of a good run since 1215.

Here's something to think about:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

As one of the Governed, will someone please tell me how I can best withhold my consent?

I don't feel Safe or Happy anymore.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Why the rest of the world envies Americans

It's not so much the existence of the escalators (maybe the building housed a different business before it was a 24-Hour Fitness). It's the people using the escalator that makes this a gem.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I just love this

These come out every Tuesday, and they are always a hoot. Very clever stuff.

I had quite the evening last night. On the answering machine was a message from my Bar Mitzvah rabbi, from back in upstate New York, who I haven't been in touch with for many, many years. He had come across a letter I had written to him, God knows how long ago (!), and just wanted to say hello.

We connected later in the evening and talked for at least a half-hour. He is now semi-retired and living in south Florida. He wanted to know all about my life, and was delighted to hear that my mother is still alive and doing well.

This man was a major influence on my life - a real mentor who encouraged my questions and curiosity, and was a great role model - very smart and eloquent, with a young good-looking wife actually named Marilyn. I spent many hours in his study, talking about matters Jewish and otherwise. It's certainly been almost 40 years since we actually spoke with each other.

At the beginning of the conversation, he asked "how are you doing", and I said "in two months I will be 55." There was a pause on his end, as he absorbed this reality.

Monday, September 25, 2006

new Bush nickname

Seen on Digby's blog this morning: Oedipus Tex

Just beautiful.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happy New Year, everybody

Rosh Hashonna began last night - our congregation had a massive group dinner (not exactly low-carb - the buffet table had bread, pasta in tomato sauce, and a rice dish with fish-that-tasted-pleasantly-like-but-could-not-possibly-be shrimp). I played piano with the other musicians (three guitars, a mandolin, and a Middle-eastern drum).

After the dinner, we all went upstairs and joined the rest of the congregation for the short evening service. It was all pretty good, except for the slightly embarrasing references to a God who listens to our needs and gives us what we pray for - I've always had trouble with that part. Fortunately, our rabbi is heavy on the social obligations to work for peace and justice, and light on the 'Eternal One, blessed be He'.

Karen is singing in the choir, so has to be there early this morning. I can't decide if I'm going or not. Yom Kippur generally works for me, as far as ritual cleansing goes.

Maybe I'll stick around the house, experience my various epiphanies doing chores in the yard, and keep coming back inside to read this piece, from a History professor in Kentucky.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

ho, ho - this is quite funny

Looks like the joke's on us, again.

OK, OK, so that's really not funny. However, this sure is.

Monday, September 18, 2006

a little volunteer action

This evening, I spent 2 hours volunteering at a MoveOn.ORG phone bank, calling folks to solicit volunteers to make some phone calls in their get-out-the-vote campaign.

It wasn't hard, because I was calling other MoveOn.ORG members. I made 85 calls, and actually got 4 people to commit to make one hour of phone calls in the next week. The trainer at the office said I'd be doing good if I got 3 people.

Even the folks who could not commit to volunteer action at this time expressed the expected revulsion at Our Leader and his horrendous record of Constitutional abuses. Always pleasant to hear.

It all comes down to who counts the votes, though, and the prospects are not totally encouraging. Is it all for nought?

Meanwhile, Olberman strikes again!

Friday, September 15, 2006

developing memes

Over the past few days, I have been gratified to see the words 'war crimes' mentioned on more and more sites, even the 'more establishment' sites.

Folks, let's remember that it's in the interest of every nation to follow the Geneva Conventions in order to safeguard THEIR OWN soldiers. The arrogant abbrogation of these standards by BushCo is only one of their many sins, but, strangely enough, since its enforcement is outside of Republican control, it's one (maybe the ONLY one, since the 'Elections' are already fixed) that could actually happen.

Since the penalty for causing the death of illegally-treated captives is death, it will be interesting, if prosecutions ever occur, to see the sentence, when Rumsfeld, Cheney, and His Idiotness are standing in the box.

Nah - never happen. I can easily see The Cabal deciding that Bush has to be eliminated, for the good of the Profit Center. Maybe the October Surprise will have us mourning a Fallen Leader? Wouldn't that be Karl's masterpiece? Now, all they need to do is find a body that looks as much like Bush as that other guy's body looked just like Ken Lay.

Too much coffee. Time to get to work.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

'culture of corruption'

We are all familiar with the hard-to-dispute notion that many well-connected folks have been busily looting the US Treasury for the past 6 years, with unprecedented success. The Government is the 'Legal Department' for many big businesses - Oil, Defense, Drugs, Insurance, and Disaster Recovery being the most obvious beneficiaries.

With the frequent evidence that, as one wag put it, "these people would steal Jesus if he wasn't nailed down", I am not surprised that, in this atmosphere of "screw you, I'm going to grab whatever I can", we have the following story, from NPR this morning.

It seems that thieves all over the country are grabbing copper wherever they can, due to its recent significant uptick in value. The NPR story told of property owners whose construction project was flooded when bad guys broke into the basement of their building and ripped out all the copper pipe, and folks in hot places whose air-conditioners stopped working, because a passer-by got into their unit and stole the piping.

But, the reason I am writing this - the reason I am most saddened by our growing kleptocracy, is the news that robbers are prying the bronze plaques off of war memorials - you know, the ones that list names of soldiers who died fighting for Our Freedom.

I guess if the Government doesn't honor our troops, by failing to give them adequate body armour, cutting veteran benefits, sending them to illegal wars, and condemning them to what amounts to involuntary servitude, it's no surprise that that message has filtered down to the less well-connected vultures.

No, nothing is sacred, but the lust for cash, in an atmosphere where "everybody's doing it", has brought down other countries, and now it appears to be our turn.

I always marveled at the stories about home-front rationing during World War II, where kids scrounged for newspaper and rubber, and families reduced their consumption of everything from meat to nylon, to help The Country fight its war on Fascism.

The pResident keeps saying "we're at War", but one look at our TV/consumption culture quickly dispells that notion. Bush's War is his Class's convenient excuse to steal, and everything downstream from him is corrupted by it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Future public demonstrations ought to be interesting

WTF? This puts an interesting spin on Article I of the Bill of Rights (guaranteeing 'the right of the people peaceably to assemble').

We have to disrupt the protests over Here before we do so over There.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

conspiracy theory time

I've read many, regarding the World Trade Center. Here's a wild series of facts.

Fact 1: Halliburton had aquired Dresser Industries' asbestos liabilities.

Fact 2: The WTC had a substantial amount of asbestos in its construction. It would be ENORMOUSLY expensive to clean this up using traditional methods.

Fact 3: Bomb-sniffing dogs were inexplicably removed from the Twin Towers five days before 9-11

Fact 4: The Twin Towers had been evacuated a number of times in the weeks preceding 9/11

Fact 5: There was a power down in the Twin Towers on the weekend before 9/11, security cameras were shut down, and many workers ran around busily doing things unobserved.

Fact 6: Marvin Bush, W's younger brother, was a principal with the company that managed security at the trade centers, thus giving it free reign to the buildings.

Fact 7: In WTC 7, the building that collapsed hours after the towers (and had not been hit by any of the planes), had a CIA office. Unfortunately, all of the documents that were being stored there were destroyed. What an unfortunate coincidence.

Connecting the dots is pretty easy here, especially in regard to the many eye-witnesses who, in the early hours of the attack, reported hearing explosions just before the towers actually collapsed.

So many more coincidences, like the Air Force's war games that had been planned for 9/11. This caused many first-responders to delay taking any actions, since their first assumption was that the initial reporting of the crashes was part of the drill.

By the way, Marvin Bush's frequent baby-sitter was killed in a 'freak car accident' on 9/29. I guess these things could happen to anyone at any time. Probably doesn't mean that she heard something she shouldn't have heard...

Bottom line: So many 'problems' for Cheney and his associates were conveniently resolved in a single day. Kinda makes you wonder...

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 memories

It was a quiet morning on my first Cycle Oregon. I woke up in my tent in Crane, Oregon, whose population had suddenly increased by several orders of magnitude the prior evening, as 2000 cyclists arrived for dinner.

We had a short run for that day - only 35 miles to Diamond - a piece of cake after the prior day's 74 miles (including a long gravel stretch). It was a normal Cycle Oregon breakfast, then off for a leisurely bike ride thru the vast emptiness of southeast Oregon.

As I approached the 2nd rest stop, I saw people congregating around one of the support vans. It took a couple of minutes to have it explained and comprehended - the Trade Center was gone. I remember looking out over a zillion miles of empty sagebrush desert and thinking that my immediate reality could not possibly be any more opposite from that of much of the rest of the world.

We continued biking on to Diamond. 'Did you hear the news?' people would say as they passed by. At Diamond, I quickly pitched my tent, grabbed my trusty shortwave radio, and headed to the staging area where they had buses to take a lucky few to the top of Steens Mountain, one of the scenic highpoints (literally) of the week's itinerary.

While waiting for the bus, I did find some stations that were delivering still-fragmentary news, and conveyed what I was hearing to others. We got on the bus, and made the bumpy ride to the crest of Steens, where we got out and marvelled at the astonishing vista, looking down over the east escarpment to the vast panorama. It was completely quiet, except for the sound of the wind.

This is my chief 9/11 memory. No planes, no balls of flame.

Eventually, we reboarded the buses for the ride back to Diamond. By then, we were hearing rumors that San Francisco and Los Angeles were also going to be targeted (not true), and that all air traffic was going to be shut down (true). There were a bunch of New Yorkers on CO, and they were talking about trying to get home (which, realistically, was a LONG way from the flanks of Steens).

That night, a trumpeter played taps and Jonathan Nicholas offered some good words. He said that, after considering shutting down the ride, the directors had decided that continuing on made the most sense. Some riders did leave (I wonder how they got back to Portland, and how many days they had to wait there before getting a flight home).

The rest of the ride continued somewhat normally, with news from the outside world largely filtered by what we could divine from the morning newspapers, and what I could find on my radio in the evenings.

We got home late the following Saturday night, and it was probably Monday before I had a chance to view the footage of the actual planes-hitting-buildings. Therefore, I had no participation in the prior week's obsessive media blitz, and, for me, 9/11 does not carry the shock and horror that the rest of you experienced.

I am able to look at it a bit more objectively. When I hear Bush constantly mentioning it, I am not filled with the traumatic associations that many still feel - I am filled with revulsion for a man who uses Fear to manipulate damaged people, and who, incredibly, misses no opportunity to remind folks of the tragedy, somehow failing to acknowledge that the greatest breach of national security in our Nation's history occurred 233 days into his watch.

'Scuse me, but I need to get some work done today.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Home again

Great to be back.

Best moment while traveling: Standing in line in Minneapolis, waiting to get on the plane to Portland, I overheard the gate attendant asking a passenger, in a stern confrontational voice, "do you have any salad dressing in there?"

Oh no, it's the 'War on Salads'.

At least the grandmother in line ahead of me got her shoes searched - I feel so much better.

Here's another great euphemism for our times: at the entrance to the security-check area, the TSA had thoughtfully provided a receptacle containing plastic booties, that folks can use while their shoes are being X-rayed (by machines acknowledged to be ineffective in detecting explosives). These little blue booties were cheerfully referred to as 'Air Slippers'.

Sounds kinda soothing, eh? Why you can be just as comfortable as when you wear your slippers at home, in your Homeland.

Anyway, the flight was terror-free, and I read and dozed. I can't tell you how happy I was to see the Snake River down below, cutting north thru Hell's Canyon, and, a few minutes later, the big bend of the Columbia appeared, heading west to my home.

Back in my back yard, I dug potatoes (got a grocery bag full, and I know there are more to be found) and picked plums.

Now, I hear Karen watching the fictional ABC 9/11 'dramatization' (or, as I hereby officially dub it, "The Triumph of the Swill"). Could there possibly be a more straightforward demonstration that Fascism is here? Hint: click 'Click here' at the top of the page.

Shame, shame, shame.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

heading home tomorrow morning

Will try to get some sleep before I need to drive to the airport.

This afternoon, my brother, Mom and I went into downtown Milwaukee to the wonderful Public Museum, that I have visited many times. We saw a great IMAX film about the Moon landings, a traveling exhibit on the ancient Chinese astronomers, and, of course, the magical butterfly room.

This evening, my brother brought out a stash of 11 year-old VHS tapes he had made of a Twilight Zone marathon, back in California. We watched about six of them, and one was an absolute gem.

It was a delightful film with Buster Keaton, directed by Norman Z Macleod (his final directing credit). Keaton is one of my all-time heroes, and to see him in this marvelous tale, free to reprise many of his famous bits in the service of an appropriately Twilight-Zonish script, was a true pleasure. I can only begin to imagine how much fun they had making this.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Morning in Milwaukee

In my brother's house, enjoying his WiFi connection, listening to KPOJ over the 'net, catching up on email and blogs.

I spent yesterday with my Mom at her assisted living place. She is doing remarkably well, for 93. On oxygen 24/7, with a live-in attendant (the attentive, gentle Leonora, from the Phillipines). They make a great pair.

Naturally, I played an afternoon piano concert for the gathered masses, and, as always, it's a great audience to play for. Gave me a chance to stay limber, and play a bunch of their (and mine) favorite old songs. In the evening, I showed Mom my Spain/Morocco photos and she enjoyed them tremendously.

More of the same today - more of the same tomorrow - back to Portland Sunday.

Have to admit that yesterday was a lovely day - temps in the high 70s, with some humidity, lots of great puffy clouds and blue skies, and enough breeze to make sitting outside a pleasure. Trees are beginning to turn.

Time to grab some breakfast and head over for another day of geriatric amusements.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

goodbye, cat

A half-hour ago, we had Maisie euthanized.

It was clear that she had stopped eating and the time had come. Karen and I drove her over to the neighborhood vet, who kindly administered the barbituate overdose.

After a couple of seconds, her head drooped over - I sat directly in front of her as the light went out. Very peaceful.

I am now taking her out to the back yard, to the grave that I dug back in June. What a tough, smart old lady she was.


Ten minutes later.

She is buried.

Monday, September 04, 2006

back home in Portland, but not for long

We drove to the Bend area Friday afternoon. The outgoing traffic was pretty bad until we crossed the Boone Bridge, then things opened up and we sailed up and over Santiam Pass, down to Tumalo State Park, where three other families were already set up in the Group area we had reserved.

Spend Saturday and Sunday lounging around, enjoying the river and the warm days and nights. The dog, naturally, had a blast - not only did he get to investigate all kinds of different smells, but the many kids in our group fawned over him, and he delivered on the 'cuteness' act.

We packed up early and were on the road by 9:30 - back in Portland by 12:30. Lots of smoke in the mountains, from the many old and new fires.

Resting, putting away gear, and doing laundry this afternoon. I have a bunch of work things to be resolved tomorrow, then, tomorrow night, we have tickets to see Bonnie Raitt at the Troutdale Edgefield's. Probably won't get home until quite late.

Then, Wednesday morning, I am off to Wisconsin to spend a few days with family there. Should have pretty good Wifi access at my brother's house - haven't seen them in quite a while. Loyal readers of this blog will recall that on my last two trips there, last January and February, my brother and his wife were in Florida, so I had their place all to myself (it was a complicated story).

Maisie is extremely thin and lethargic. We have found some eating enthusiasm briefly appears if we feed her cooked chicken, raw hamburger, or canned tuna, but she is not looking good after this weekend (when she was attended to by the house-sitter).

Time to get back to putting away gear and keeping the laundry progressing thru the system.

Friday, September 01, 2006

life during wartime

Bush continues to remind us we are 'at war.' Totally meaningless, in the historical sense of the phrase. As Thom Hartmann's new book points out, the War that the Bushies are conducting is against the Middle Class and the US Constitution.

Last night, I played piano at a wedding party for friends. It was a very religious group, with a partition down the middle of the room after the dinner, so that men and women could dance separately. At one point, the bride and groom were carried on the shoulders of their respective groups, and they held the ends of a hankie across the partition, as they bobbed up and down.

I got home around 11 pm, unloaded all my music equipment (two keyboards, an amp, bench, stand, cables and cords), then the car was empty for a few seconds, before camping equipment started going in. We are heading to Bend later today, to camp with friends, as we do a couple of times a year. Should be hot this weekend during the day, and chilly at night.

September already - incredible.

We get back Monday. Tuesday night we have tickets to see Bonnie Raitt at Edgefield's in Troutdale, then, Wednesday morning, I leave for 5 days in Wisconsin. Busy times.

Did you notice Bush's Labor Day present to the workers of America? (Fox -> Henhouse)