Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An Affair to Forget

The good news is that, at least for the time being, Sam Adams will remain Portland’s mayor despite pressures from The Oregonian and Willamette Week, et al, to step down.

To his credit, The Oregonian columnist Steve Duin encouraged Sam to stay and duke it out, as did many of Sam’s more hardcore supporters. We've got more important things to do than worry about whether or not someone has a sex life and whether or not they lie about it (almost everyone does, if not to embellish an otherwise dreary sex life by admitting to affairs that never happened then to cover up affairs that did, or to maintain secrecy about kinky sexual proclivities deemed too embarrassing to talk about). The elephants in the room have been screwing the donkeys for years, but most people are disinclined to even raise an eyebrow—not to mention debate—over that.

What kind of people demand to know the lurid details of another person’s sex life? Nosey thrill-seekers desirous of satiating their prurient interests while paying homage to voyeuristic tendencies, to be sure, but also opportunists hoping to create a scandal for the purpose of taking down a rival, and those mentally challenged insecure souls who leap at every opportunity to vent their self-righteous moral indignation against people with whom they happen to disagree. But mostly it’s people who expect to be lied to—who enjoy being lied to—that delve into the private sex lives of public figures. Why else would you even ask the question when you know that it’s guaranteed—guaranteed—to precipitate a lie?

The whole sordid story of Sam’s brief affair with Beau Breedlove smacks of character assassination for political purposes, and it prompts me to ask these few questions:

Who leaked the story? How was the story leaked? Why was the story leaked? When was the story leaked? Who benefitted from the story being leaked? Was anyone other than consenting adults involved? Who are the aggrieved parties (other than the willing participants whose privacy was invaded)?

The answers to these questions can reasonably be expected to reveal the identities—and the motives—of those with axes to grind.

Does an expression of affection (such as a kiss) between a forty-something adult and a seventeen year-old minor constitute a sex crime? Before you answer, make sure you know the differences between forcible rape and statutory rape; the distinctions between them are huge. Oh, and if you’re a parent be careful how you answer, lest you inadvertently put yourself in the position of having to defend against the criminal charges of rape, pedophilia and incest at some point in the future merely because you desired to express love and affection for your child. You, too, can become a victim of someone’s malevolent intent.

Did Sam make errors of judgment in responding to the allegations? Of course he did. Rather than lie, he could have said, “I won’t dignify that question with an answer” or “My sex life is neither appropriate for nor open to public debate” or “I’ll tell you mine if you’ll tell me yours—you go first” or, to put it in terms that leave absolutely no room for ambiguity, “My sex life is none of your fuckin’ business.”

Despite what Sam’s detractors say, Sam hasn't broken the trust of the people. On the contrary, the people of Portland have broken Sam’s trust in them, and in the process made it extremely difficult for him to do his job, which is to conduct the people’s business.

How Sam conducts his personal affairs that are unrelated to the people's business is none of the people’s business.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Aye, Barack Who's Sane Obama . . .

Except for a minor stumble when Barack took the oath of office, yesterday’s eggnogregurgitation . . . no, wait, that’s a Christmas event . . . inauguration, that’s it . . . went off without a hitch. Regardless of whether you call it a bumble, a fumble, or a stumble, or a glitch, a hitch, a stitch or a sonofabitch, it was no big deal. Of course, that didn’t stop the media from trying to spin it into something bigger than it was. You’d think yesterday was a slow news day, or something.

When you put the historical significance of the event in proper perspective, it’s easy to understand why something as simple as reciting an oath of office might run off the rails, so to speak. Tensions, excitement, anxiety, and emotions all run high at times such as these, interrupting trains of thought. Let’s just give those guys a pass and help them go on about the business of healing the country.

Besides, two hundred years from now no one is going to remember that, for however brief a time, two men—one a Supreme Court Justice, the other taking the final step to becoming President of the U.S.—were temporarily out of sync.

Barack Obama, with eyes slightly glazed over, was probably thinking, yippy-ki-yay, muhfuh, I’m being sworn in as the nation’s 44th President. How cool is that? Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts, with eyes slightly glazed over, was probably thinking, yippy-ki-yay, muhfuh, I’m swearing in the 44th President of the United States. How cool is that? Neither one of these guys was reading the body language, nor the subtle facial cues, of the other, making a hiccup in the proceedings all but inevitable.

But, hell, I almost didn’t notice. With eyes slightly glazed over, I was thinking, yippy-ki-yay, muhfuh, George Bush is gone, the Bushwhacker is history.

How cool is that?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Murder on the Disorient Express

The following is part of an e-mail message from that landed in my in-box this morning. After taking the liberty of editing it for clarity and continuity, I took the liberty of posting it here. Yeah, it's that important!

"On New Year's Eve, Oscar Grant was shot execution-style by transit police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California. He was shot in the back while lying face down on a subway platform, unarmed and restrained by other officers.

Despite damning video evidence, it took nearly two weeks for the District Attorney to arrest Mehserle and charge him with murder. The DA admitted that it was only due to massive public pressure, including more than 20,000 ColorofChange members speaking up, that he moved even at that pace.

That's why it's so important for each of us to commit to staying involved. Johannes Mehserle's arrest is important, but it's only the first step. In cases like this, history has repeatedly shown that as soon as the public eye turns away the prospect of justice fades.

In 14 years as Alameda County District Attorney, Tom Orloff had never before charged a police officer for an on-duty shooting. And when asked, several legal experts were unable to come up with any examples of officer-involved shootings becoming murder cases in California.

But overwhelming public pressure made it impossible for Orloff to ignore Oscar Grant's murder. He said that "because of the intense public interest I think more resources were put into wrapping this up than would be put in in other situations." Orloff made it clear that because enough ordinary people spoke out, he poured investigative resources into this case that his record tells us he never would have, otherwise.

We've exposed a chink in the armor of a system that protects trigger-happy cops instead of regular folks. Now there's a real opportunity to create systemic changes that would introduce transparency and accountability to police forces across California, and especially to the BART Police Department. We need to keep the pressure on Tom Orloff to make sure he keeps devoting time and energy to Mehserle's prosecution.

We need you--and so does Oscar Grant's family. Making sure the prosecution does its job and pushing for much-needed reforms requires your voice. Help honor the memory of Oscar Grant and others who have fallen victim to police violence."

Please, join me in standing up for justice in the murder of Oscar Grant.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Subverting Marijuana Mythology*

Forget everything the government has told you about marijuana (except that it's currently illegal). The government was wrong when it made its bogus case against marijuana 71 years ago, and it's been wrong ever since.

Some basic research into marijuana reveals the following:

• "Marijuana" is a Mexican slang term for the dried leaves and flower tops of cannabis sativa, the common hemp plant.

• Marijuana has demonstrable medical uses and benefits, despite government claims to the contrary.

• Cannabis hemp was a mainstay of economic activity on the North American continent for more than 200 years.

• Unlike alcohol and tobacco, both legal substances that are collectively responsible for as many as 500,000 health-related deaths annually, marijuana has never been shown to be a primary cause of death among its users.

• Cannabis hemp has the potential to reshape and revitalize the economy in myriad ways, including revamped paper and textile industries, new biofuels production facilities, and manufacturing of products for domestic use and for export.

• Society has not collapsed in any country where cannabis is legal.

Despite reams of empirical evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Government persists in perpetuating the myth that marijuana—cannabis hemp—is far too dangerous to be allowed a legitimate place in civil society. And too many fools persist in believing everything the government says is gospel truth.

If marijuana were legalized, the worst that could happen would be the unleashing of a mindstorm of creativity. We might be able to figure out ways to fix our broken political system, our broken educational system, our broken healthcare system.

And the best that can happen? Surely, the best that can happen will arise out of the worst that can happen. Energy independence, a healthier environment, a sustainable culture based on sustainable economic policies and practices are but some of the possibilities.

In short, cannabis legalization—marijuana legalization—would signify the return of sanity to a society gone seriously awry.

*This brief article originally appeared in Petey's Pipeline E-zine, Issue #24, February 06, 2006.

Register your vote for cannabis legalization, today. Visit for more information.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Problem with Problems*

Global warming, environmental destruction, polluted water, depleted fish stocks, an endangered food supply, an energy crisis, a shortage of affordable housing, poverty, education funding shortfalls, rising healthcare costs, declining numbers (relative to the population) of living-wage jobs, war . . .. These are among the most egregious, most vexing, most persistent problems that plague society today. What are we going to do about them?

The conventional mindset is that if society's problem solvers throw enough money at a problem, or do something equally stupid, the problem will just go away. Sorry! Reality doesn't work that way. In reality, one must attack the source of a problem if one has a serious desire to solve the problem.

Everyone has their own ideas about how to remedy society's most pressing problems, but that, in itself, creates another problem. Most remedies postulated by concerned citizens and well meaning (or not) politicians concentrate on treating the symptoms, not the disease. These are nothing more than feel-good solutions that dull the pain of failed policy while ignoring the underlying cause. They give the illusion of making progress, but deliver nothing of substance.

Feel-good solutions are band-aid solutions; they're stopgap measures at best. The sore that is the crux of the problem continues to fester under the band-aid until the band-aid falls off, at which point the original problem becomes a little more difficult to deal with.

Virtually all of the problems mentioned in the first paragraph of this short essay stem from one source—overpopulation. Until all members of society, from the movers and shakers to the moved and shaken, can recognize, understand and accept this simple truth, and will themselves to act in concert to end our collective nightmare, the nightmare will continue, unabated, to its ultimate, frightful, painful conclusion.

We can take decisive, positive steps to limit population growth by placing sanctions and controls on the front end; we can implement harsh, brutal, extreme measures on the back end; or, we can do nothing, thus letting the status quo prevail. We can do it the sane way, we can do it the insane way, or we can let Mother Nature do it her way. That, too, is a choice. The only certainty is that we, as a species, will either live or die by the choice we make.

*This brief article originally appeared in Petey's Pipeline E-zine, Issue #17, October 17, 2005.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Customer service, please hold . . .

You can always tell when a company doesn't want to deal with customer service issues. The first thing it does is fire all the customer service representatives who take phone calls and replace them with a rat's maze of touch-tone options that were designed by the devil for the sole purpose of driving people crazy.

Around and around you go, pushing a phone button whenever the recorded message pushes one of your buttons, tit for tat, until you forget what your reason was for calling. Somehow, you maintain your sanity until you miraculously stumble across the message that says, "If you're stupid enough to still be on the line and you wish to speak to a customer service representative in person, press '0'." You take a deep breath and press '0,' . . . only to hear another recorded message say, "We're sorry, all customer service lines are busy at this time. Please hold until the next available customer service representative can take your call. "

By now, you're 23 minutes into what should have been a four-minute call. And, you're not done yet. For at least the next 18 minutes, at 30-second intervals, the last recorded message repeats, "We're sorry, all customer service lines are busy . . .."

Finally, a customer service rep answers your call, only to dash your hopes of a quick resolution to your problem against the rocks of frustration when you realize that she probably took her first English lesson at about the same time you started this call.

But, hey! The company already has your money. That’s the only business it cares about.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The New Year Celebration that Wasn't

It may be the start of a new year, but that’s not necessarily, in these uncertain and unsettled times, a cause for celebration. More than a few skeptics and cynics and skeptical cynics (and cynical skeptics) are saying, “Welcome to the New Year, same as the Old Year.”

Because this is sure to be a year of disappointment and delayed gratification for many people, I’m foregoing any celebration until January 20th. Even then, I’ll only be celebrating George DUHbya (yes, it’s spelled with a capital DUH) Bush’s departure from the White House; it’s too soon to begin contemplating a serious celebration of Barak the Magic Human’s ensconcement therein, and I’m more than happy to put off the festivities until such time that the Mighty O demonstrates his leadership skills in ways that take us out of the morass of mischievous mayhem maliciously visited upon us by his malevolent predecessor.

If it turns out to be more of the same I will have squandered no precious time and energy paying tribute to an indefensible administration bent on perpetuating the wholesale destruction of environment, economy, Constitution and country. Instead, I will devote my time to rethinking my New Year’s revolution resolution, which—in its current iteration—is to essentially remain optimistic in a hostile atmosphere of adversity and deprivation. While I’m still unsure as to where a new New Year’s resolution might be headed, I’m reasonably certain that circumstances will eventually dictate a direction.

Change is coming, of that we can be certain; yet to be determined is whether that change will be for the better or for the worse. It behooves us to remember that change manifests in many ways, and in many different scenarios: a repair shop might change out old parts for new; in auto racing, tire changes are the rule rather than the exception (pit for fuel and tires in two laps, Danica), and change is often implied without the word actually being spoken; in politics it’s a change of administrations, but in political campaigns it’s “change you can believe in” (if you’re gullible enough to believe campaign slogans); and in the new economy it’s “Hey, buddy, can you spare some change?” Context is everything, but content is pretty important, too.

I’m not at all optimistic that the many crises—economic, environmental, energy, healthcare, infrastructure, et al—to which Obama has fallen heir will immediately begin to show signs of recovery once Mighty O takes the oath of office. Nor should you be. It’s far more likely that most of these crises will deepen significantly over the next year or two before a turnaround becomes apparent; problems that develop over years are not fixed overnight. In the meantime, look forward to more unemployed people, more homeless people, more hungry people, and more of almost everything else that’s undesirable.

Do I have any predictions for 2009? Well, yes! Yes, I do. I have one prediction. I predict that before Obama’s first week in office ends, he will know what it’s like to put his shoulder to the wheel and his nose to the grindstone while his back is to the wall and people hold his feet to the fire. Oh, so many clich├ęs . . ..

Wait! I just thought of another one. Prediction, that is. I also predict that before Mighty O has been in office for a month gas prices reverse course and head back toward the recently familiar territory of $4 per gallon.

Wait! I just thought of another ‘nuther one, so make that three predictions for the price of one. I further predict that The Bushwhacker will try to claim credit for the relative low gas prices at the end of 2008 in an attempt to put some positive spin on an otherwise disastrous legacy.

Yeah, like that’s ever gonna happen.