Saturday, January 23, 2010


There's a lot of Israel-bashing out there. This MSNBC news story shows what the mainstream media tend to ignore about Israel, its humanitarianism efforts around the world.

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By all signs, the end is near for America - seriously. Rome is burning, and you Dems are furiously fiddling. Hey Barack! Hey Democrats! It's time to get a backbone! We, the people of America, are sick and tired of your political pussy-footing. Just do it! Damn it!

If the President and the elected Democrats would read this post, I'd tell them to read today's column by Bob Herbert. I'd tell them that this moment is it; this moment is the one that really matters for the future. Stop the theatrics, roll up your sleeves, bar all lobbyists from entering your offices, take off the Beltway Blinders you've grown so accustomed to wearing, and take a good close look at reality.

America is sinking; we've hit the iceberg. Don't bail out the iceberg; bail out America! Damn it! You should have taken over the banks that are "Too Big to Fail" and reorganized them to help the people, not the corporations. You should have bailed out the homeowners who were duped by the Wall Street Bandits, not the Bandits. You should have put money into massive job stimulating programs, not into Wall Street executive's bonus accounts. You should have pushed through real health care reform, not some complex sop to the Medical Industrial Complex.

Maybe it's too late to think you Dems even have a spine and can do anything meaningful. How wonderful that the Supreme Court has upheld the corporationpersons right of free speech. That means you electeds will now be even more controlled by these corporationpersons than you already are.

And Mr. President, with all due respect, you've got the bully pulpit - use it! Enough of this "bipartisan" crap. It doesn't work. Washington is a polarized battlefield video game upon which corporate interests move their pieces by remote control, fueled by massive buckets full of cash, with organized special interest groups cheerleading on the sidelines. The Republican Party is intellectually and morally bankrupt; you Dems appear to be just plain afraid.

To help you put things in perspective, let's look at some numbers for how Americans are doing in the State of Oregon:

Population (2008): 3.8 million people
Poverty level for a 4-person family: $22,050 or less annual income
Poverty rate (2008): 13.6% (516,388 people)
Child poverty rate (2008): 17.5% (148,000 kids)
Child homelessness: 44th worst in the USA; 22,688 homeless children (2.65% of children)
1 in 26 kids (4%) don't know where their next meal will come from
Unemployment rate (December 2009): 11% (approx. 418,000 people)
Number of people whose unemployment benefits will run out (2010): January: 2,500; February: 2,500; March: 15,000
Number of Oregonians without health insurance (2007-08): 16.5% (626,500 people)

This is stunning. This is drastic. This is getting worse, not better. This is not America!

OK, so you lost the 60 votes in the Senate. That's tough, but you need to toughen up. Don't react by weakening the already crappy health care bill. Don't start quaking like an aspen leaf in a breeze. Stand up for the American people. If the Republicans want a fight, take it to them! You've got to stop dancing to the string tugs of money and politics and start acting for the people of this country.

Damn it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Today's column by Thomas Friedman in the NYT made the proverbial light bulb go on over my head. Tom talks about two Chinese economies that exist side-by-side: "Command China," which is the Communist Party and affiliates; and "Network China," represented by internet-savvy entrepreneurial companies, mostly in Shanghai and Hong Kong. It's an interesting column, worth reading.

The light bulb in question is related to the item I posted a few days ago; Google taking on the Chinese government over internet censorship and using Google searches to go after Chinese dissidents. I think the internet Pandora's Box has been opened in China, and the result has to be a major change in Chinese society. Google just might be the proxy Western World Warrior that pushes things to the tipping point.

I've thought about a young Chinese woman who became our friend in Beijing; let's call her Ginger. Ginger left China shortly after we were there to go to university in Australia and get a degree in business. She was soon on Facebook, and I imagine she uses the internet a lot for school and social networking. What will it be like for Ginger when she returns to Beijing and finds that her internet access - her googling - isn't the same as it was in Australia because her government blocks certain sites? Multiply this by many thousands of young Chinese who go abroad for school, and the large numbers in-country who are able to find ways around the government censorship.

Global information sharing and social networking is the new reality, and the future. The technology moves much faster than most of us have the mental capacity to match. The future looks very different from the now, and it will be a changed context from the present. I see the disconnect between the old and the new/future as a major driver of conflict in the world today. Extreme forms of nationalism, religion, and politics try to preserve the past from the onslaught of the future, and this is a losing battle. Within a generation or two from now, many of the "battles" of the day - such as gay marriage, Jihadism and all the others - will seem silly.

The Communist rulers of the Peoples Republic of China will hang on for as long as they can, and from what we've seen, it could turn brutal and ugly. But change is inevitable, and the internet - driven by the Google giant - is the change agent.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Human Frailty. The devastation in Haiti is a brutal reminder of our frailty and mortality, as well as our shortcomings. The pain and suffering of the Haitian people, coupled with our own individual feelings of helplessness to do something - anything - meaningful to help them, is a humbling feeling. We've donated money; we'll donate more. But somehow this doesn't help me feel that things will change in the long run. A 7.0 earthquake will certainly kill people anywhere, as one did in California in 1989, even though the building codes in California require seismic safety. But the level of devastation in Haiti, and the level of unpreparedness to deal with it, is unacceptable, and is directly linked to the failure of government to provide for it's citizens. I'm one of the very fortunate people in the world; I can afford to sit here with my laptop pondering the fate of humanity. I am dogged, however, by a feeling in my gut that the human animal probably won't ever get it's act together.

Did Johnson & Johnson Kill my Mother-in-Law? The federal government filed a complaint against Johnson & Johnson yesterday alleging a massive kickback scheme to promote the use of one of it's expensive drugs. Federal prosecutors, using information provided by two whistle-blowing former J&J employees, allege that the corporation paid off Omnicare, Inc., the largest dispenser of prescription drugs in nursing homes, to push the use of Risperdal for elderly patients. Risperdal is a powerful schizophrenia drug, and Omnicare pharmacists pushed it's use for elderly patients with signs of Alzheimer's disease. Risperdal has been found to increase the risk of death in the elderly.

My mother-in-law died last June in a nursing home where she lived after a stroke 11 years earlier (don't get me started about how the for-profit medical system failed to provide the measures that could have kept her stroke from being so debilitating). I think she might have been put on Risperdal for a time during the past 1-2 years for some signs of dementia. I think my wife finally decided to take mom off the drug because of what she felt could be negative symptoms. We'll never know if Risperdal was a factor in mom's death, but I'm angry that, once again, corporate greed outweighs any sense of right and wrong.

Google Stands Up to China. We were in China last year, and the Chinese people are warm, friendly and generous. But the Chinese government is something else, and I think we, as Americans, have been too afraid to challenge the Chinese government because of their control of our economy. So when Google decided to stand up and say "enough" to the Chinese government, I cheered. Google has told the Chinese that, unless they stop controlling web access and using google searches to persecute Chinese dissidents, the company will pull it's services out of China. OK, so the cynic might say that this is a purely business decision by Google; I'd like to think otherwise.

Neanderthal Cosmetics. This just in from the world of archaeology: Neanderthal people might have used make-up. Archaeologists have found what appear to be hand-crafted sticks of pigment that might have been applied to the skin as makeup. But why is this discovery so surprising? I mean, think about it; if you looked like that, you'd use makeup too!

So now I'm wondering if these archaeologists will find evidence that the first Republicans were Neanderthals. This would certainly make sense to me, based on the present-day behavior of this group. And, um, this adds context to the saying about "putting lipstick on a pig."

The Real Reason Palin is on Fox News. Yes, she's there, lipstick and all! I watched the first Palin appearance on Fox news - Palin the Political Commentator (common tater?). Well, I actually only lasted for 3-4 minutes before I had to hit "stop." This was classic Palin: down-home, gussied up, and dumb as a stump. Her stuff was funny, in a heart-sickening way; I mean, you couldn't write stuff this funny, really. Which led to my realization of what Fox is doing - Palin is the Fox News answer to Jon Stewart! Fox News is now directly competing with the Daily Show for the top comedy-as-news show. I think they have a chance.

Is the Bra Bomb Next? OK, this is a sensitive topic, but it has to be spoken out loud. First there was the shoe bomb, then there was the undies bomb; what's next? I think it's intuitive that the bra bomb will be next. So will airport security start profiling women with large breasts? And the bra, because of its two compartments, provides a new paradigm for design. For example, one cup could be filled with Pepsi, the other cup filled with Mentos, with a tube and valve gizmo connecting them. Yikes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Leave it to Pat Robertson. According to this butthead, the people of Haiti are "cursed" because they "made a pact with the devil" to get rid of the French. What??? I always thought earthquakes were caused by shifting tectonic plates, but now I find out that the devil is behind it - or is it god punishing the Haitians for allying with he-who-cannot-be-named?

As for history - let's see if I can get this straight: the Haitians made a pact with the devil to get rid of French colonialism. Does that mean that Americans also made a pact with the devil to get rid of the English? Are we also doomed to eternal suffering because of it? Are the September 11 terrorist attacks, the financial crisis, the reign of Cheney-Bush and all the other ills we've experienced caused by our pact with the devil? Have we really gone to hell in a hand-basket?

I say to hell with Pat Robertson!

Saturday, January 09, 2010


We humans are confused and perplexed by the sea lions who are "missing" from Pier 39 in San Francisco, a major haul-out and tourist attraction since 1989. There were 1,700 lions at Pier 39 in October, 2009 - by Thanksgiving, there were fewer than two dozen. Meanwhile, at Sea Lion Caves, a tourist attraction on the Oregon coast, there are more sea lions than anyone can remember ever seeing. Are these the "missing" San Francisco sea lions?

To find out what's going on, I got in touch with my friend Sammy C. Lion, who is frequently in the Portland area while on fishing trips up the Columbia River. I asked Sammy what's going on, and this is what I found out.

The sea lions are massing off the Oregon coast for a huge demonstration at Bonneville Dam, in the Columbia River, this spring when the salmon migrate upriver. Based partially on their anger over the killings of their relatives by humans with the federal government (part of a court-sanctioned plan to prevent sea lions from eating salmon by killing them), and based partially on inspiration from the movie "Avatar" (Sammy and some friends snuck into an iMax theater recently), the sea lion clans of the eastern Pacific are banding together to put an end to the madness, once and for all. "We're tired of being blamed for the decline of salmon" said Sammy. "We've been following salmon up the Columbia for millennia, and it's never been a problem. We shared them with the humans who lived on the river, and it wasn't until recently that other humans screwed up our river."

Sammy wouldn't tell me any details of the planned demonstration, but I'm guessing that thousands of sea lions will mass at the base of Bonneville in a show of force designed to demonstrate that nature can fight back. "We're all part of a delicate web of life on this Earth," said Sammy, "and it's way past time you humans understand that it doesn't all belong to you."

Sammy promised to keep in touch (I loaned him one of my waterproof cell phones), so I hope to keep you all posted.