Saturday, June 24, 2006


The Bush & Co. Global War on Terrorism - code words primarily for the on-going military action in Afganistan and the invasion/occupancy of Iraq - was upstaged this week by the arrest of seven wannabe terrorists in Miami. Were the arrests part of this "global war?" Well, the "global war" seems to be focused on al-Qaida, but these apparent home-grown bozos in Miami weren't associated with al-Qaida. They, like similar suspects arrested in England and Spain, seem to be disaffected youth who fall sway to internet-based terrorist preachings and see the United States as "infidels" and "devils."

"Left unchecked, these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaida" according to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Gonzales reminds us that local, independent "cells," not any international organization, were responsible for the train station murders in Madrid and the subway and bus bombings in London.

The arrests in Miami were, as far as I can tell, the result of good criminal investigation work by local and federal law enforcement agencies. During the early days of the Bush War on Global Terrorism, there were a number of national security and law enforcement experts who went on record to say that a "war" was not the correct response to the events of September 11th. They urged the Bush administration to view the attacks of September 11th as criminal acts, not acts of war, and to use good, solid criminal investigation and enforcement work, the stuff our federal and local law enforcement agencies have long been good at, to identify, investigate and arrest terrorist criminals. The U.S., working closely with the law enforcement agencies of our allies around the world, could deal with international terrorist criminals. But this was not the Bush & Company plan.

So here we are, spending ever-growing billions of dollars on un-winable "wars" in Afganistan and Iraq, providing the best-ever training grounds for terrorists where they can learn murder and barbarism in real time against real people. The "Global War on Terrorism" is a sham, and it's a war that can't be won.

I'm proud of the law enforcement agencies that reeled in the seven men in Miami; this is the kind of anti-crime work we need, both in the United States and abroad. The British, Spanish, Canadians and many others seem to understand that local law enforcement is the front-line defense against terrorism (why Tony Blair hooked up with Bush remains a mystery to me). The ideology of "global war" in this country needs to be abandoned and replaced with good police work that fights crime.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


It's sometime in the future. The setting is in a nation that has intrusive communication technology and a huge, hi-tech military. The majority of citizens live in either a) cramped, bustling, dangerous ground-level urban areas, or b) utopian conditions where everthing is seemingly perfect and the people are doped-up on government-sanctioned, government-supplied drugs that promote happiness and good sex. Meanwhile, the elites live somewhere above it all, kept safe by both government and their own security forces. Big business and government are one and the same, manipulated by the very wealthiest of the wealthy. The large TV screens everywhere stream fast-moving images of sexy women, fast cars and newsertainment. The leaders of the country fly in and out of important meetings via sleek black airships, being careful to only go where they have absolute control of their own safety. The President's image appears often on the large, ubiquitous screens, proclaiming; "We have always been at war with Eurasia" one day, and "We have always been friends with Eurasia" the next day. "Life is good" he often proclaims, "Go shopping," "We have a Plan," "Mission Accomplished." Those who dare to question this faux stability are whisked away by men in black.

Yes, it's a fairly common sci-fi theme that we've seen many times in the movies. And we've always thought, "gee, that could happen sometime in the future if we're not careful." Or maybe we've thought, "wow, that's highly unlikely, but it's good science fiction." But we now live in the age of Reality T.V., where real life and fiction are somehow blurred. The news isn't as much about news as it is about entertainment and ratings. Our elected leaders use carefully selected words to tell us things that are somewhere between reality and fiction, where they try to get us to accept fiction as reality, and reality as fiction.

Why do I feel more and more that I'm living in this movie I've seen before? I see the President on TV and it's just like a scene from some sci-fi film. He sneaks in and out of some "New Democracy" that he's created, but he's really sneaking in and out of a high-security "Green Zone" fortification so he and his elite followers can meet with other elites to spin up some new "realities" to feed to the big screens.

So what's the difference between the movie and the reality? Well, for one thing, the movie always has a hero, someone with vision, a mission, and something called "leadership." Neo, Snake Pliskin, Mad Max, some other schlub-turned-hero who can differentiate between fact and fiction, and has the balls to do something about it. (OK, these are all male gender references, so I'll include AeronFlux, Princess Leah, etc.) The only problem with this script is that these characters are able to turn things around using violence, and their incredible ability to be shot at ten billion times without ever being hit, while killing ten billion of the enemy single-handedly.

The point of all this is that we're in The Movie We've Seen Before, and we desperately need to find a new ending. We need a citizenry that is informed and can differentiate between fact and fiction. We need a citizenry that casts more votes in real elections than they do for American Idol. And we need real leaders with real ideas who believe in truth and justice to point us in a better direction.

I don't watch reality TV because reality itself is bad enough. But honestly, as I look around me every day, I wonder how I got cast in The Movie I've Seen Before.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


The lead editorial in the June 15, 2006 Oregonian newspaper was about the EPA finally phasing out the use of Guthion, a pesticide known to cause serious health risks to farmworkers. Guthion has been one of the most widely used pesticides in Oregon's fruit orchard industry. The Oregonian editorial chastises the EPA for waiting so long, likely the result of agriculture industry lobbying pressure. Right on.

The Oregonian editorial begins with: Imagine that the federal government learned that thousands of middle-class workers, say high-tech employees, were regularly exposed to a chemical known to cause vomiting, seizures, paralysis, loss of mental function and death. Would the government wait more than four years to order a liesurely phase-out of its use? Of course not, but that is exactly what the government has done in the case of farmworkers, the editorial continues.

Good point, but the rest of the story wasn't told. The large photo of a farmworker accompanying the editorial shows a man who is most likely of Mexican or Latino origin. According to the National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc., of the more than 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the U.S.A., 81% are foreign born. Of these, 95% were born in Mexico, 2% in Latin America, 1% in Asia, and 1% in other countries. The estimates of the number of migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their dependents in Oregon are: 1990 - 128,564; 1993 - 147,245; and 2000 - 103,453.

Although the Oregonian editorial was about EPA regulation, or non-regulation of harmful chemicals, it is also an important story in the on-going debate about illegal immigrants to the United States. The numbers presented above debunk the lie that immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans - you don't see American workers clamoring for low-paying, high-risk farmworker jobs. The agricultural industry, like a number of others, is very dependent on a cheap labor force that is willing to move around and follow the work, a labor force consisting of many workers who don't get paid well, don't get health care benefits, and who can be "disappeared" back to Mexico if they make any trouble.

So yes, the Oregonian is correct that the EPA has been lax, and has been guilty of classism - I would say racism - in choosing who to protect from exposure to harmful chemicals. It's an outrage, and it is really an important part of the larger conversation about who gets to reap the benefits of being American. As a citizen of Oregon, it concerns me that somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 of my neighbors are treated differently by the government because they are, after all, immigrants, and possibly illegal immigrants at that. This is not acceptable.


President George W. Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad the other day (actually, as The Guardian so rightly points out, he visited the Green Zone, not Baghdad). Our President slipped in, spent about 5 hours, and slipped out. Mission Accomplished.

In-and-Out is the M.O. of this President. Yesterday President Bush did an In-and-Out in the Seattle area to appear at a Republican fund-raiser (he raised $800,000) attended by the wealthy elites of Microsoft world. In - spend three hours - Out. Mission Accomplished.

The day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, President Bush left his Texas ranch and flew directly to - San Diego - where he appeared at (can you guess?) a Republican fund-raising event. He then flew back to D.C. to check on the hurricane situation. In-and-Out. Mission Accomplished.

Oh how we yearn for the day when this President is just OUT.

Friday, June 16, 2006


"The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

This is the text of Senate Joint Resolution 12 - a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect the flag of the United States. It must be an election year again!

Yes, it is. And our dear Republicans are once again wrapping themselves in the flag. And guess what? Anyone, such as a Democrat, who votes against this resolution will therefore be unpatriotic, in favor of desecrating our dear flag. Oh brother - give me a break!!

A short anecdote. When George H.W. Bush (George I) was campaigning for the office of President, his first run, I attended a rally where he spoke, just out of curiosity (know thine enemy). As I and hundreds of others entered the outdoor space in a downtown Portland park, we were each handed a small paper U.S. flag on a wood stick that we could wave in the air as George pontificated. Once inside, I looked carefully at the setup. The back of the stage was a very large flag of the United States hung from above, and the end of our dear old flag, several feet, was lying crumpled up on the stage floor in the dirt and dust! This was the backdrop for George's speech. As we all left the park after the rally, almost all of the paper flags were tossed in trash cans conveniently placed at the exits. I sure wish we had a flag non-desecration amendment at that time so I could have made a citizen's arrest of George H.W. Bush and his campaign staff!

My wife and I have two flags of the United States of America; the first is a wool 48-star flag from the Navy ship on which my father-in-law proudly served during World War II; the second is a cotton/poly 50-star flag that we fly from our front porch on appropriate holidays. We fly our flag for two reasons: 1) we are proud to be Americans, and 2) we refuse to let the political right wing of this country claim that the flag belongs only to them. Since the election of George Bush II, I also display a small sign under our flag that says simply "Take Back America."

Thursday, June 15, 2006


An interesting small article caught my eye this morning in the Oregonian: Council approves funds for sockeye run. It's a small story about trying to recover endangered fish, but it's also a larger story about the roles of science and politics.

Redfish Lake, Idaho, on the Snake River system, historically had adult sockeye returns of about 35,000 per year. But by 1991, when the population was listed as "endangered"under the Endangered Species Act, only a few adults returned to their native spawning lake. That same year, a Captive Brood Program was established that has captured returning adults and held them in hatchery facilities to produce offspring that could be re-introduced into the river system, thus preserving the genetic population and moving towards recovery. The captive brood program has been very successful, in terms of hatchery fish produced; however, it has been a failure in terms of restoring the run of sockeye in Redfish Lake.

I found the following numbers on the web: adult returns from hatchery produced sockeye were 7 in 1999 (the very first returns from the brood program), 257 in 2000, 26 in 2001, 21 in 2002, 3 in 2003, 27 in 2004. The total returns since 1995: 342 fish.

The Captive Brood Program spends at least $2 million annually to produce and raise 160,000 young sockeye salmon; I calculate that at approximately $88,000 per returned adult fish from the program. This week, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council approved $2.7 million for the program to increase the number of fish produced and raised to 260,000 per year.

Now here's the kicker, the Independent Science Review Panel, an 11-member panel of scientists appointed by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, recently recommended that the Council not fund the program anymore, and let the sockeye run go extinct. To quote the ISRP: Since there has been no response by the populations to recovery efforts in the Basin, it is clear that conditions outside the Basin determine the fate of these fish, and there is no evidence that these conditions are likely to improve significantly in the foreseeable future. Not only are these limiting conditions not likely to change, the fish themselves are likely to be changing as a result of present intensive propagation and rearing procedures so that their viability even under restored conditions is increasingly in doubt. Recovery of endangered species is important, but evidence presented here does not demonstrate that recovery is occurring. The view of the ISRP is that there is no scientific basis for continuing this program. (report)

So what's going on here? Why did the Council go against a very strong recommendation by their own scientific experts and put even more money into this program than was requested? I don't know the answer, but my guess is that Save the Salmon Industry politics have trumped science once again. Significant sums of money go to state agency and Tribal entities each year for salmon recovery programs. Pork barrel - fish barrel; they're both the same in the Pacific Northwest.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Three days ago I had surgery to remove a tumor from my left parotid gland (one of the salivary glands, under the jaw/ear). Next week we'll get the biopsy report, but the statistics are good for it to be benign. I'm not a big fan of big medicine - that is, the industry operated by big insurance and big medical provider companies. When I owned my own company, a small (15 people) consulting firm, the cost of health care premiums increased every year, typically by 15 to 25%, a cost that became increasingly difficult to cover for my employees. And the insurance beaurocracy drives me nuts, to say the least.

But I've been sitting at home for the past 2 1/2 days feeling very priveledged to have available very fine medical care - the surgeon and his team were top notch, and the care, in general, has been good. (There have been some annoying experiences, but I can overlook these as just that.) My part of the costs will be 20% up to $15,000, at which point the insurance will cover 100%. With the annual deductable, my maximum out-of-pocket would be $3,500 - not exactly small change, but "rainy day" money will cover it.

I can't help thinking about people who don't have medical insurance. I can't help thinking about people who live in places where good medical care is not available. And I also can't help thinking about people who live where medical care is available, but only to those who can afford to buy it. I can't help thinking that I, my family and my friends, are all very fortunate and priveledged people.

The common thread of history is the juxtaposition of the rich and poor, the priveledged and unpriveledged, the powerful and the weak. In the context of history, including today, I'm among the rich and priveledged in this world, as most middle-class Americans are. This is not something to accept lightly.