Saturday, December 24, 2005


I recently saw an interview on CNN news with a woman who, with her husband, have started Operation: Just Say Merry Christmas. They sell, via the internet, a charming green and red bracelet that says: "Just Say Merry Christmas." Here's what their web site says:

"The enemies of Christmas have succeeded in making Christians feel as if we are bad and intolerant to wish someone a "Merry Christmas". This is political correctness run amok. We have reached an all time low point in our nation's history when human sensibilities are elevated above offending Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is long past the time for Christians to stand firm in our faith."

OPERATION: JUST SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS is a campaign designed to encourage Christians nationwide and around the world to PROUDLY proclaim The Christ Child as the center of the Christmas Season once again.

In an effort to help turn the tide, we have created this Christmas wristband to help emphasize once again that the central focus of this season is the Birth of the Christ Child. It is our hope that by wearing the wristband you will join us to remind others that to celebrate the true meaning of this Holy Season.....


Wow! It sounds like there are some evildoers out there waging war on Christians. I've seen some of these battles - large signs in store windows proclaiming "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings." I've done it myself, saying "happy holidays" to people I know. Am I, therefore, an enemy of Christmas?

It's quite simple. We live in a society where not everyone is Christian. Saying "Merry Christmas" to Jewish, Muslim, and Buddist friends and relatives just doesn't cut it. Saying those words to Christian friends is very appropriate. So what's the problem?

The problem is that, once again, the Christian right is trying to make sure that we all know that the U. S. of A. is, in their minds, a Christian country. After all, isn't Christmas a national holiday? Well, yes it is, and that's another topic altogether. They want the right to display their religious icons on public property. They want their religious songs sung in public schools. They hate the fact that there is a separation of church and state in this country.

It's perfectly fine with me if people want to say Merry Christmas to each other. I think it's great if they want to put out huge displays of nativity scenes in front of their churches. But don't call me an enemy of Christmas if I don't want to see nativity scenes on the lawn of the county courthouse or city hall. And when I'm out doing my Chanukah gift shopping, I'd rather shop at a store that greets me with "Happy Holidays" because I know they want my money, too.

Isn't it interesting that Christmas has become the largest commercial season of the year? And it's not just our Christian friends who are out there spending - most of us get into the gift thing in December. And the Operation: Just Say Merry Christmas folks? Well, the woman interviewed on CNN and her husband own a Christian book store, and she said that they have sold about 200,000 of these wrist bands, at $2 each. A quick look on the internet shows that if you order large quantities, you can get these things for pennies each. Ah yes, this has been quite a Christmas for mom and pop at the bookstore, and a telling look at "the true meaning of this Holy Season."

So, in the spirit of respect and courtesy to all, not political correctness, I'll wish you all a very happy holiday season, and a very wonderful new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


The comment I most often receive from family and friends who occasionally read this blog is: "Have you lost your mind???" Their concern is that the Men in Black will come knocking (or breaking through) my door because of the political things I write to this blog. This reaction, based on a growing nervousness about the lawlessness of the Bush administration, has recently been heightened with the news that President Bush has authorized spying on U.S. citizens without going through the appropriate legal procedures.

The Bush administration has demonstrated to the world that any dissenting voice must belong to a non-patriot, a traitor, or someone who is comforting the enemy. Even worse, if my writings are percieved to be those of a terrorist, or a suspected terrorist, or maybe someone who maybe resembles a terrorist, or maybe someone who is neither a terrorist nor resembles a terrorist but is someone who could be, maybe, mistaken for one of these...then I might get a free plane ride to some foreign country for a lengthy vacation during which I will be "debriefed," and may never be heard from again.

So maybe this should scare me away from writing anything political to this blog. Not so - this is exactly why it is even more important for me to keep posting my political rants. This is, after all, still the United States of America.

So, to the Men (and Women) in Black who are monitoring this site (and thank you for being among the few):

I am posting below, for your review, Amendments I and IV of the Constitution of the United States. Please read this carefully. Please forward it to your superiors, including Porter Goss, Ronald Dumsfeld, Darth Cheney, Alberto Gonzales and George W. Bush, and suggest that they read it, too.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Stand up for democracy - speak truth to lies!

Sunday, December 18, 2005


The precedent was set by the Congress of the United States when they impeached President William Clinton for lying about blow jobs in the White House. So let's discuss lying about blow jobs in the White House by the current President.

George W. Bush has lied to the Congress and the American people about numerous blow jobs in the White House:

- he blew the response to the September 11 attacks and the outpouring of support from around the world
- he blew, and continues to blow the "War on Terror"
- he blew the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq
- he blew American credibility in the world for government by law
- he blew the reputation of the United States for ethical and lawful treatment of prisoners
- he blew the U.S. economy
- he blew the systems of caring and support for the poor, the sick, children and elders
- he blew the response to Mother Natures big blow jobs in the Gulf States
- he blew the controls on secretive government intelligence agencies spying on American citizens
- and the list is endless....

President George W. Bush is the biggest blow job ever to occupy the White House. He has lied about everything listed above, and more, and he continues to provide lip service to these lies as they build towards a ruinous climax.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! Let's get rid of this President and his Axis of Weasels once and for all. Every citizen in this country should demand the immediate initiation of impeachment proceedings by the Congress.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I saw or heard a few things last week that got me thinking about environmentalism as a good example of single-issue thinking. It's not, of course, the only example of this mind set.

Bumper sticker: Friends don't let Friends eat Farmed Fish

This sentiment stems, I think, from the fact that many fish farming operations pollute their environments because of feed and fish wastes that are discharged to or accumulate in surface waters. This is a problem. The other side of the coin, however, is the steady stream of scientific and news reports about the depletion of fish resources world-wide resulting from increasing fishing and deteriorating habitat. There is also some concern about the future impacts to fisheries of global climate changes resulting from human-induced impacts to the atmosphere.

Fish and seafood protein is an important source of nourishment for the human population on this planet. It seems obvious that the oceans won't be able to meet the ever increasing demands of our growing population, and farming of fish and seafood species will become an increasingly important component of the food supply. Think about it; humans used to subsist on wild plants and animals, but we now rely mostly on farmed plants and animals for our meals.

So, instead of keeping our friends from eating farmed fish, we should insist that the fish farming industry develop methods that are sustainable and do no further harm to the environment.

Radio and newspaper ads: You Can't "Stand Tall" to Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge when you Stoop to Vote for Oil Drilling in a Budget Deal

We can thank the Sierra Club for this ridiculous ad campaign against Oregon Senator Gordon Smith. Smith bucked the Republican Party and the White House when he refused to toe the party line that the ANWR should be opened to oil drilling. But in a tough vote last week, he voted for a budget deal that he thought would help protect social service funding, even though a rider was added to allow drilling in the ANWR. Smith explained this decision in an Op Ed piece in the Oregonian, stating that he is not a single-issue representative, and that he has to weigh all the issues and make tough choices. I respect Smith for his integrity and tough calls. But the Sierra Club is a single issue organization, and they are now spending big bucks on these ads. Drilling in the ANWR is not the real issue here. The real issue is the U.S.'s obscene consumption of petroleum and our reliance on foreign oil. I'm sure the Sierra Club is working diligently to change the energy policy of this country, so why are they wasting money on an ad campaign that isn't focused on the real issues?

News Item: Environmental Groups criticize Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for being "bought off" by industry.

Using money provided by industry groups, the Oregon DEQ developed new standards for turbidity in Oregon streams and rivers that will in some situations allow higher turbidity levels resulting from discharges. Environmental groups are claiming that this will allow more pollution of Oregon surface waters, and that industrial dischargers bought themselves a new license to pollute. Well, the truth is a bit different. First, the old turbidity standards for Oregon were unrealistic and could rarely be met.

I've had a number of consulting jobs for which my staff and I monitored turbidity levels and found that the standard could not be met the way it was written. I participated in a meeting with the DEQ in the early 1990's to discuss the standard, and I wrote a short paper examining why the standard needed to be changed so that it could be met by dischargers, including municipalities (yes dear readers, when you flush the toilet, your wastes don't magically disappear). So I, for one, am glad to see a new set of standards that can be realistically met.

But - hang on - industry paid for the studies and the staff, so doesn't that make the new standards bad? I suppose it does, if you believe that everything is a conspiracy. User groups funding government services is not a new concept, it is sometimes the only way to get things done (particularly in Oregon where most of our legislators seem to be stuck in Neanderthal mode). So instread of assuming the worst, and assuming that any change in the status quo must be bad, let's take a critical look at the whole picture and keep our minds open to change.

A final word to environmentalists and all the rest of us "ists" out there: let's try not to be single-issue focused. Let's look at all sides, at the big picture, and make informed decisions. And, last but not least, eat lots of fish - it's good for you (as long as it's not loaded with mercury, pesticides or other toxins)!

Friday, November 18, 2005


(Dear Readers: this post might be a bit long, so get another cuppa and settle in - thanks.)

Well, things are getting interesting on Capitol Hill. The debate of the day concerns the occupation of Iraq - should we "stay the course" or "cut and run?" The Axis of Weasels has brought in a damage control team to figure out how to win the war - no, not the war in Iraq, the public relations war being waged in the media. I just wish these guys would put as much effort into figuring out what to do with the mess they've created in the world.

A few quotes would be good here (thanks to Knight Ridder News Service):

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. President Dubya, Nov. 11, 2005

We must be careful not to give terrorists the false hope that if they can simply hold on long enough, they can outlast us. Ronald Dumbsfeld, Nov. 15, 2005

Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing force against Saddam Hussein. What we're hearing now is some politicians contradicting their own statements and making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war. Darth Cheney, Nov. 16, 2005

Excuse me while I take a laugh break - this is just too much!

Well, I'm not a "politician," so I guess I can make all the charges I want and not be in the cross-hairs of the Bush team. The reality, as we all know, is that the invasion and occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with the "global war on terror;" in fact, this ill-concieved global blunder on the part of the U.S. has strengthened terrorism by providing a real-time training ground for jihadists where they can kill Americans (and everyone else in the neighborhood) or be killed trying, thus assuring their place in heaven.

Sending "the wrong signal to our troops" is exactly what the Bushies have been doing all along. And who has been using the war for "political plays" since it started? That's right, Team Bush. a central piece of the Bush re-election strategy was the war - I mean, after all, we have The War President in office (hey - turn down the fanfare, I can't hear myself think).

As for "giving terrorists false hope" - heck, those guys know that as long as Dumbsfeld is on the job, their careers are on solid ground. After all, he's the guy most responsible for sending in too few troops, who were equipment-poor, with no real strategy. (I guess sometimes you can't have the winning strategy you wish you had, you have to just go with the losing strategy you have.)

So, let me get to the point here: do we stay in Iraq or do we leave? My opinion: I don't know, but...

If you are really concerned and interested in this question, pick up a copy of the December 2005 The Atlantic magazine (maybe you can read it on-line). "Why Iraq has no Army" by James Fallows is a thoroughly researched piece of journalism that makes a compelling case for staying in Iraq, but changing the course. His thesis is that we need to change our military strategy to emphasize training the Iraqi forces. He provides details, based on interviews with U.S. military personnel and other knowledgeable people, about why our training efforts have failed so far, and what needs to be done to correct this. Fallows thinks that we can't simply pull out without risking a civil war and other consequences that would be worse than the present situation.

Then read "If America Left Iraq: the case for cutting and running" by Nir Rosen, a journalist who spent 16 months reporting from Iraq after the invasion. Rosen presents a compelling case for pulling out as soon as possible. The presence of American troops in Iraq, Rosen asserts, keeps the insurgency alive, and sets up a political tension between Sunnis and Shiites. Civil war in Iraq is already under way, he claims, because of the American presence. The role of al-Qaeda and foreign jihadists is an insignificant part of the insurgency, and the foreign jihadists are barely tolerated by the native insurgency as long as they are useful. Without American troops in the country, Rosen claims, the insurgency would end, and the foreigners would be rooted out.

So - which is it? Stay or Run? What's needed on Capitol Hill is a serious debate about staying in Iraq or leaving soon. If we stay, what's the Plan? How will we make this thing work? If we leave, how do we do that and what's the Plan?

The charges and counter charges raging in the headlines this week are nothing more than a red herring. The politicians are wasting time playing name calling, finger pointing games. The American public should demand - and in fact, I am demanding - that our elected representatives and the Administration have serious discussions about how to fix the Iraq mess. Both sides of the aisle need to tone down the rhetoric and get to the business at hand.

And if I believe they will do the above, somebody sell me a bridge!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


News Flash: In a statement oddly reminiscent of that by President Bill Clinton during the run-up to his impeachment, President George W. Bush made a defensive statement denying that U. S. personnel use torture on prisoners. Readers will remember President Clinton's insistent denial of having sexual relations with "that woman." The Bush statement, however, unlike Clinton's was almost instantly recognized as a bald-faced lie because of the concurrent actions of Vice President Dick "Darth" Cheney to place a provision in pending legislation that would allow torture of detainees in U.S. prison camps, jails, and other holding and interrogation facilities. With Bush's popularity and believability at an all-time low, his statement can only be seen as a result of extreme defensiveness in the face of the many failures of his administration.

In what the Administration most certainly saw as another blow to their credibility, the members of the former September 11 Commission issued a report of progress made by the Administration on recommendations made by the Commission a year ago - and their report is not good news for the Bush team. Although the Commission members had high praise for progress on a couple of goals, they were very critical of the lack of progress on many more. Among the goals that were reported as "unfulfilled" was that of developing a common approach with U. S. allies on the treatment of captured terror suspects. The Commission stessed that the Geneva Conventions regarding armed conflict should be applied to military prisons and secret detention centers. Commission member Richard BenVeniste referred to Iraq as the next terrorism training ground after Afghanistan, stating, "How much this trend has been fueled by the highly publicized reports of brutalization, humiliation and desecration cannot be measured accurately, but the flames of extremism undoubtedly burn more brightly when we are the ones who deliver the gasoline."

I guess when it comes to torture, it depends on what is is.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


We went to the preview event for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society the other night. The exhibit is a one-of-a-kind compilation of objects, written and graphic materials from a variety of private and public collections that document the amazing exploration that reached the Pacific Ocean 200 years ago.

It was early April of this year when Dave and I paddled up the Columbia River from Cathlamet on a perfect early spring river day. A grey sky, slight breeze, and occasional light rain accompanied us as we followed the tide upriver past the struggling river town. The land-water interfaces of big rivers tell many stories to those who choose to travel at the water's pace. Stories of commerce, stories of river life, and stories of history cling tenaciously to rotting pilings, sinking derelict vessels, and rotting wood shacks miraculously held afloat by algae-covered logs felled long ago in long-gone forests.

There is one reach of the river upstream of Cathlamet where the highway moves away from the river atop a high rock bluff and all of the usual and obvious signs of civilization disappear. A high waterfall cascades from the bluff, full from spring rains. Cedars, alders, ash and willow somehow manage to thrive near the water's edge, their branches pruned to a common height above the river according to the vertical range of the tides and seasonal water. The sound of river under the kayak and water-drip from the paddle is suddenly noticeable, until the waterfall overwhelms all other sounds with its constant roar.

I was momentarily overwhelmed by the realization that this is what the explorers of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and the native people they encountered, saw and heard every day, and the thought shackled me with anchor lines, pulling at me to linger longer, to stay for as long as possible in this time before time.

As we left the waterfall reach, and entered another section where the highway ran along the shore, I was gripped with a dread feeling of nostalgic despair - and this is truly the only way I can describe it. In the time-speck of two hundred years, this magnificent river ecosystem has been altered almost beyond recognition by and for humanity.

Don't misinterpret this feeling I had. I'm very much a realist, and I understand that the human animal changes its surroundings to suite its needs. But try as we might, we are still part of the natural world, and we still carry imprinted in our genetic code an understanding of what came before. To its credit, nature is a tenacious force; plant and animal species that evolved in this system for millennia prior to the modern time remember the old ways, and struggle to carry on as before. The derelict boats and sinking shacks along the river edge also seem to understand and embody this natural persistence., and yes, there are even those among us humans who remember the old ways.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Once upon a time, in a galaxy uncomfortably close to here, the evil Emperor Dubya and his cadre of covert planners, known as The Axis of Weasels, led the former forces of good to the Dark Side. A leader among them was the dark Lord known as Darth Cheney, a master of the dark arts. The Lefti Knights and all others who were anything but Dark Siders were powerless against Darth Cheney and his brethren, falling like cord-wood before the Spin Sabers wielded by the Axis. Spin saber wielding was one of the darkest of dark arts, and the Axis had among it's brethren a Master of Spin, a small, yoda-like creature known as MachiaRovea. One by one, those who clung to the good side of the Force fell victim to the machiarovean Spin of the Dark Siders, castigated as traitors, accused of being soft on, or abandoning the War on Terror, ridiculed in the media until not one among them was left standing with any credibility. In this darkest of dark times, not one leader could be found who would stand and speak truth to lies. Instead, the remnants of the good side of the Force vowed to be more like the Dark Siders, a self-proclaimed brilliant strategy designed to win voters, particularly those "of faith." May the Farce be with us.

A simple fable for our times, perhaps. Fortunately, the Axis of Weasels appears to be crashing and burning by their own dark designs. Their play book, a blending of fairy tales (The Emperor has no Clothes) and prophetic novels (1984), is failing them. "We do not torture!" proclaims the Emperor while his top henchman, Darth Cheney, works to institute as law a green light for the use of torture.

Enough already. Let's work hard to hasten the fall of the Axis of Weasels. Let's get back to the core values that we all believe in, starting with democracy and truth. And let's remember to tell this fable to our children and grandchildren as a warning that democracy can't be taken for granted - it has to be protected from those who would destroy it.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Blog Spam - oh brother!

I've been writing to this blog for almost a year, and I mostly write for myself. Oh yes, I've had a few comments, mainly from relatives, but recently my heart rate has quickened because I've actually had comments posted from people I don't know. This is great - I've been discovered! And...these commentors tell me that I can now earn $10-$50 dollars per hour FROM HOME! Using my computer! This is great, and another benefit of the computer age. Thanks, anonymous commentors, you've made my day.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hurray for Open Source!

Oregon has become a home for development of open source software and hardware. The recent announcement by google of a $350,000 grant to Portland State and Oregon State Universities for open source development is one more indication that this movement is strong and growing in the Pacific Northwest.

As a computer user, I'm thrilled that the alternatives to Microsoft are growing and have become real options. A few years ago, during the anti-trust case against Microsoft, I was browsing around on the U.S. Justice Department web site, looking at developments in the Microsoft Anti-trust Case. I took the opportunity to send an email (you know, all of these sites have a "contact us" link) to the people working on the case about one of my main peeves about Microsoft, from my view as the owner of a small business. I related that many clients, particularly federal agencies, required reports from contractors to be submitted as Microsoft Word files, often specific versions of the software. This was one of the main reasons I migrated my company from WordPerfect to MS Word, at considerable expense. My question to the Anti-trust team concerned the role of the federal government in creating and supporting the Microsoft monopoly by requiring use of the software.

As you might imagine, I never received a reply from the Justice Department team (maybe it was because I was using Eudora instead of the Microsoft email software?).

So right on open-sourcers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


The 2,000th American military death in Iraq was marked by headlines yesterday, a milestone that nobody in this country is celebrating. The Associated Press also reported yesterday that most credible estimates of Iraqi deaths since the U.S. invasion is 30,000, and I think these are mostly civilians.

For me, the most difficult question is "are these deaths worth it?" I don't support the war in Iraq; I haven't since before the invasion. But I have always "supported the troops," as the mantra goes. These are not contradictory positions. The people serving in the military don't make the decisions about going to war, they carry out the orders passed down from above. Every person who chooses to serve in our military deserves our respect and gratitude. In times of real need, when our security and safety are threatened, these are the people who will be on the front lines. I also support the use of our military for international peace-keeping, or for ending genocide, if these kinds of decisions are logical and supportable.

The problem with the invasion and occupation of Iraq is that the decision to go there was not logical and supportable. There was no compelling reason for this war: Iraq was not involved in the September 11 terrorism, Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, Iraq did not pose a threat to our security and safety. This was a war of choice, not a war of necessity. So yes, our administration has wasted our most precious resource, the lives of our military personnel and the well-being of their families. And these deaths have not been worth it.

Would I tell a grieving military family that the death of their loved one wasn't worth it? This question haunts me, and I don't know the answer. Would I tell Iraqi's that the death and suffering they continue to experience is worth it? Again, I don't know. In the long-term, I hope the Iraqi people achieve some form of democracy and peace. I don't think the U.S. military can pull out now; we have to somehow figure out how to finish what we've started. This means that we have to accept the growing death toll on both sides - a difficult thing to accept.

I've thought a lot about the 2,000 U.S. deaths and the 30,000 Iraqi deaths, and I grieve for them and their families and friends. I only hope that we learn from this mistake, and that we never again allow a President to go to war without a logical and supportable reason.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Party D or Party R? More Choices Needed

I kept shaking my head in agreement this morning as I read David Brooks' column in the NY Times (Oct 9, 2005). Mr. Brooks' assertion is that the two political parties in this country are old, tired, and uninspiring. I couldn't agree more. As I watch the Bush administration crumble under the weight of it's own incompetence, arrogance and lies, I'm hard-pressed to think of someone on either side who inspires me with their ideas and competence. The fact is that both parties are out of ideas, too tied up in cronyism and money, and have nothing new to offer.

We live in a new world in many important ways. Globalization and terrorism are two new major factors driving world politics. We need real political leadership with different ways of thinking. It's telling that, in the midst of the exposure of Bush Republican decay, the Democrats don't have anything to say.

I agree with David Brooks: it's time for an insurrection right here at home (see my previous post: "Now is it Time for the Revolution?").

Thursday, October 06, 2005

City of Portland Stormwater Fee - a Homeowner's Opinion

The City of Portland, Oregon charges property owners a fee for stormwater. The City used to offer a discount on this fee for property owners who disconnected their downspouts or installed other runoff reducing measures. The discount program was discontinued several years ago, but the City Council voted to re-institute it. There is now a proposal by Commissioner Adams for a new stormwater discount program.

Following is a letter I recently sent to Commissioner Adams about this program:

Dear Commissioner Adams (Sam): Like many Portlanders, we have been patiently waiting for the stormwater fee discount program to begin. For us, the principle is more important than the actual money.

We moved into a new duplex townhouse in SE Portland (Hawthorne area) in 2002. According to the builder, he was required by the City to install a stormwater infiltration system that added $7,000 - $8,000 to the construction costs. With this system, virtually 100% of the stormwater that falls on this property stays on the property and infiltrates into the ground.

We consider the City stormwater system to be a utility. Consider this; if we installed solar panels and small wind turbines on our house and generated all of the electricity we use, we would not pay the electric utility anything for electricity. Similarly, if we captured rain water in a cistern and didn't use any City of Portland water, we would not be billed for water usage. The same would be true if we had composting toilets (no sewer hookup needed), produced our own methane for cooking from compost (no natural gas from Northwest Natural),and only wrote letters to communicate with people (no telephone bills). So why do we pay a stormwater fee if we generate no stormwater runoff from our property?

If the City wants to tax us in order to generate revenue needed to manage stormwater city-wide, fine - we have a small impact on stormwater runoff quality from city streets because we drive an automobile. But don't charge us a fee for stormwater based on our owning property, because our property does not contribute runoff to the City stormwater system. (In fact, I often sweep the gutter in front of our house, and occassionally do the entire block because the City street sweeping program is inadequate - so maybe the City should pay me for this service!) The idea that we should pay a discounted rate for a service we don't use is not logical.

Thanks Sam - that's our point of view.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Once again, George W. Bush has demonstrated, beyond a doubt, that he is incapable of leading the United States of America. The result is a crushing national shame, and a feeling of bewilderment about how the events following Hurricane Katrina could happen here. A real leader would not have remained on vacation as this huge storm approached the Gulf coast. A real leader would not have gone first to California to make a political speech designed to lift his sagging poll numbers. A real leader would have personally made sure that federal emergency services were ready to go, and not have, apparently, relied on a chorus of yes-men. We need a real leader.

George W. Bush, his Vice President, his Cabinet, and his gang of arrogant, self-serving advisors need to pack up and crawl out of Washington D. C. back to whatever rat hole they crawled out of in the first place. Enough is enough!! The awkward, embarrassing early reaction to the events of September 11, 2001 were the first straw. The outright lies that fed the rush to invasion and occupation of Iraq were another straw. The massive give-aways to the power-elite of this country, the abandonment of public education, the environment, health care, and every other social program, were additional straws. But the inexcusable inaction to this major disaster was the last straw - these "folks" have to go!

I implore every citizen of this country to write letters to the editor, write or call your elected representatives, talk to friends and family - George W. Bush and his "compassionate conservative" team have to resign for the good of this country. Period. End of discussion.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


There have been numerous news articles and opinion letters in the print media lately about bicycling in Portland. Unfortunately, several bicyclists have been killed this year by motor vehicles, and there is a lot of introspection about the reasons. Are bicyclists reckless? Are motorists too aggressive and uncaring in relation to bicyclists? Is the street system too dangerous for bicyclists to share with motor vehicles?

I've been commuting by bicycle for the past three years - almost daily since May of this year. My commute takes me from a SE Portland neighborhood into the downtown area and back. I ride rain or shine, light or dark. I have developed certain opinions about bicycle commuting in Portland, Oregon.

1. The most dangerous element for bicyclists is other bicyclists. I can't count the number of times I've had close calls or potentially dangerous situations because of other cyclists. The most dangerous type are the speed freaks who don't care about other cyclists. These are the guys (and they are mostly guys) on bikes built for speed, wearing all "the gear" who have to be faster than everyone else. Being fast is not what makes them dangerous - it's not letting other cyclists know that they are passing. There is no ring-ring of a little bell, no "on your left" before they pass - they sneak up behind you and whiz past - on the left or the right - without warning. Woe be unto you if you wobble into their way, or decide to slide over because you know there might be others who want to go faster. I've almost collided with these rudeniks, and I would have probably been thrown out into the traffic whizzing along next to the bike lane.

2. Then there is the death-wish crowd. These are young people who think that the rules of the road don't apply to them. I'd like to tell the guy who sped through the stoplight at NW Couch and NW First the other day that the MAX train runs through that intersection while the light is red, even if he chooses to ignore automobiles. A red octagonal sign on a post with the letters S-T-O-P means stop, and yes, that means bicycles, too. (We all tend to cheat on this one by doing a rolling stop while we look both ways - but I'm talking about the folks who speed right through as if the sign weren't there.) And hand signals - there are, in fact, standard hand signals that let other drivers, including cyclists, know what you intend to do. Pointing to the ground next to your bike with your right hand doesn't tell me anything - although, maybe it's better than no signal at all.

3. A subset of the death-wish crowd is the people in black. They are the ones bicycling down Hawthorne Boulevard at night wearing all black clothing with no lights, no reflectors. They typically don't wear a helmet. They sometimes ride against the traffic. Need I say more?

4. Headphones! I was in front of our house one nice summer day when a young woman went riding by on her bike singing along with the music in her headphones. She waved at me and flashed a big smile as she went past. Then she ran the stop sign at the corner and crashed into the side of a car going through the intersection. Luckily she was OK. Her bike was still usable. The door of the car was bashed in, but the driver was so worried about the young woman, she didn't seem to notice the dent in her car. I ran over to see if everyone was OK. Once I was assured that no one was injured, I strernly admonished the young woman for listening to music while riding her bike, and asked why she wasn't wearing a bike helmet. I basically told her - nicely - that she was an idiot, and a very lucky idiot at that!

5. Motorists. I find that the vast majority of motorists are aware of bicyclists, and very careful and courteous. I thank them for that (I am also a motorist on occassion). One major exception is drivers talkng on their cell phone. Hang it up - please! Lately, however, I've had two drivers yell at me. Both times I was on Hawthorne Boulevard heading east where there is no bike lane. One of them yelled at me to get off the road; the other yelled at me to use the bike route. Well, there are signs along middle-Hawthorne telling motorists that the street has narrow lanes that they need to share with bicyclists. I'm sorry that I'm not as fast as they are, but I have just as much right to use the road as they do. I usually prefer the side-streets that are designated bike paths, but sometimes Hawthorne is a better choice. By the way, each of these two motorists was driving a pickup truck - I wonder if that has any significance?

6. City of Portland infrastructure. Portland has done a good job of identifying bike routes, and providing bike lanes in some heavily used areas, such as lower Hawthorne. I have, however, my list of problem spots. These include pot holes, bad intersections, places that need bike crossings, and one-way grids that leave bicyclists out of luck. I'll communicate this list to the City soon. I recently had a digital conversation with Roger, the City Bicycle Coordinator, about a problem spot on my commuting route; which is a problem for other commuters, also. I had talked to the City about this a couple of years ago, and Roger assured me that it is on the list. Unfortunately, the fix will be about $40,000, and there is no money for it. Shortly after this conversation, the City raised the rate and extended the schedule for parkig meters downtown to raise money for more light rail. Great - but what about other alternative methods of transportation, like the lowly bicycle? Why not designate a small percentage of this lucrative fee increase to improving conditions for bicycle commuters?

7. Last, but not least, my tips for good biking summed up in a word: communication. Communicate with the bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians with whom you share the road or bike path. Make eye contact so you know that they know that you are there - don't assume that a driver sees you. Make noise when about to pass someone - a bike bell or a simple "on your left" will do - then thank them as you pass. When a motorist motions you to go through the intersection before them, wave a thank you at them. Use hand signals to let your intentions be known, and learn the standard signals. A little courteous communication goes a long way.

Keep your wheels rolling, and safe biking!


Really, what is the real, logical reason that gasoline prices are so high? The past few days saw terrible destruction by hurricane Katrina, and the media tells me that gasoline prices will skyrocket even higher now because of the loss of oil production facilities in the Gulf. So, in other words, it's supply and demand, right? The supply is less, so the demand is higher, so the price is higher? Sounds simple, but why? Is the gasoline in the pump today a more expensive product than it was last week? If an oil facility is operating today just the same as it was last week, why is it's product more expensive?

The only thing I can think of is that the companies producing the oil have less to sell, so their sales are down, which means their profits are down. Wow, this must be a big hit - just think, the billions of dollars of profit last year will shrink to fewer billions this year. So we need to pay more for the same product in order to keep the producers profits steady.

Greed. I think that's the answer. Please let me know if I'm wrong - I really want to understand this.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Cost of Utilities

Some recent news stories and opinion pieces in The Oregonian and Portland Tribune have examined the cost of the City’s Big Pipe project (to intercept combined sewer overflows before they discharge to local rivers), and have alluded to the high cost to consumers for sewage collection and treatment. Being a consumer of utility services in Portland, I decided to look at the comparative costs of the several services we use as homeowners.

I compared the cost per day for utilities based on recent bills representing spring use; obviously, some of these costs are higher or lower depending on time of year. I did not include taxes in these numbers, only the costs for the services or products, and associated service or basic fees. We are a two-person family living in urban SE Portland.

Water, sewer and stormwater are billed together by the City of Portland. Our recent bill included: water at 34¢ per day; sewer at 94¢ per day; stormwater at 44¢ per day; and base charge at 20¢ per day for a total of $1.92 per day. I assume that these utilities are not subsidized by taxes I pay to the City of Portland; however, this may not be a valid assumption, in which case the consumer cost might be higher.

Garbage, recycling and yard debris pickup combined cost 63¢ per day.

Electricity cost includes: basic charge of 33¢ day; energy usage at 95¢ per day; transmission charge of 5¢ per day; and distribution charge of 35¢ per day for a total of $1.68 per day.

Finally, natural gas charges include a service charge of 20¢ per day, and gas usage at $1.15 per day for a total of $1.35 per day.

Our payment to the City of Portland is the largest of our utility bills at $1.92 per day. However, the payment to the City is for three different services, so if we parse those out, the result is: electricity is the highest cost, followed by natural gas, sewer, garbage services, stormwater and water. The cost of handling and treating water after we use it (sewage) is almost three times what the consumer pays for the water, and we have repeatedly been told that the sewage costs will continue to increase dramatically in order to pay for the Big Pipe project. I understand the importance of the Big Pipe project, but I would like to see information that assures me that the City has implemented measures to reduce overall costs of sewage collection and treatment through increased efficiencies and value engineering in order to hold consumer costs down to the extent possible.

As consumers, we all assume that as long as we pay our bills, electricity, gas and water will flow when we turn them on, and that our wastes will be taken care of by someone else when we put out the garbage can or flush the toilet. Most of us probably don’t think too much about what these utilities cost, and we certainly don’t consider the true cost of these services and materials in terms of the ecological and social costs of their production, collection, transmission, use and disposal.

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Read My Opinion
If ever there was a time for revolution in the United States of America, this is it. Revolution, according to the web definiton, is "a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving." Some might say that the Bush ascendency has been a revolution - but I would argue that Bushism is a devolution, a move backwards into authoritarianism and unbridled greed by a privileged few who exert unprecedented control over the political far-right.

The revolution I envision is a great step up - a step towards real freedom and justice, not the cynical "spreading of freedom" promoted by the Bushies like snake oil salesmen at a carnival. Let's face facts - the United States of America is the greatest power on earth, but not for long. Our power at this point in history is based more and more on our military might. We get our way in the world because everyone else knows that we can blow them off the map if they don't act the way we want. Or that we'll sell bigger and better war tools to their neighbors or sworn enemies.

But ruling by military might is, if history teaches us anything, a short-lived dominance. The United States of America is a post-developed nation - we're on the downhill side of the top, and the future looks brighter for China and India.

The Bushies have squandered the things that make America great: the creativity of our people; the general affluency and compassion of our citizenry that can translate into good will around the world; our messy brand of democracy that allows for free speech, dissent, and the demanding of basic human rights. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, America and Americans were in a position to lead the world towards a new enlightenment. We had unprecedented support around the world, and an unprecented opportunity to show true global leadership.

The Bush administration didn't respond to this opportunity, it reacted in the most cynical way possible, and this once in a lifetime opportunity was lost. Now, almost four years later, the United States of America is a dirty word around the world, a symbol of oppression and repression, both abroad and at home. Bush Fascism has gained a stranglehold on U.S. citizens and the world, and this once great country has sunk into a pool of darkness from which I fear it may never escape.

So - the time for revolution is here. Now is the time to turn moral outrage into action. In the 1960's and 1970's hundreds of thousands of people in this country took to the streets to express their displeasure over civil rights abuses, and an increasingly unpopular and damaging war. The administrations of those times had no choice but to listen and act, and the directions of history were changed. What's different now? Have we become too complacent? Too fearful? Too bought-off by unprecedented luxuries that we don't want to lose? I fear for a citizenry that allows itself to be ruled by the likes of G. W. Bush and the cronies who surround him.

Finally, we need a leader for this revolution. We need someone who, unlike Al Gore and John Kerry, stands up and speaks the truth without first looking at how his or her words will do in the polls. We need a leader who has a world view and a vision for the future that sees the United States as a truly great world power based on our opportunity to nudge the world towards greatness, not rule it with an iron fist.

I'm more than ready for the revolution; are you?

Friday, June 03, 2005


Read My Opinion

It's hard to believe that I haven't written here since late January. It's even harder to believe that it's early June, and the year is half over. As a not-so-dedicated blogger, I think about writting here every day, but the demands of life keep me away.

Most of my few posts to date have been about politics - that's because everything is political, and it's difficult to escape these realities. An occasional vacation, to a different country, takes us away from the daily news, and this is a burden lifted. Why am I so focused on the news, the politics, the path of the world? Maybe I should just chuck it all and live life for the pleasures it offers...but that's not me.

And so, here I am, at the keyboard, posting to the blog site again. Every conversation I have with family or friends drifts to the same theme - the problems of the world. As a progresive, I rail against the politics of the day, and what I consider to be tremendous damage done to the image and status of the United States by the Bushies and their ilk. But as a pragmatist, and one who tries to understand history, I know that this is a blip in time that will soon be a section in the history books. I do think that the United States is on the downhill side of empire, with China and India climbing the ascending face. Our national response to this decline is to rattle more and larger swords in the faces of the world, and try to maintain our position with sheer force. But history tells us that every great empire declines, that military might can be sustained for only so long before the ignored needs of society cause the whole deck of cards to tumble. We're number one for now - but not for long.

And so, dear readers (of whom I suspect there are none but myself) I'll continue to write, if for no other reason than to keep a journal open to the world.

My best to you....Paul

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


It took only about 2 minutes of watching the presidents news conference today to get me going on a rant. Asked about the new $80 billion request for the war and the troop strength in Iraq, the president said (and this is pretty close to a quote): Our mission in Iraq is to protect the Iraqi people from terrorists.

Say what!!!

I thought our mission in Iraq was to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction; or was it to oust Saddam Hussein; or was it to liberate the Iraqi people; or was it to spread freedom in the Middle East and the world. The Iraqi people didn't need protection from terrorists until Bush and Company invaded them and attracted all the terrorists to this new training camp for terrorism.

In the original Frankenstein story, the misguided scientist creates and nurtures a monster. But things go wrong, and the monster turns out to be really bad. So Doc Frankenstein rallies the townspeople to hunt down and kill this terrible monster who is terrifying the region, and in the process, the good people forget that the Doc created the monster in the first place.