Tuesday, October 30, 2012


You have to see this anti-science, anti-environmental, Republican political advertisement to believe it. Kristi Noem, Republican, attacks her opponent for his belief in global warming, his travels abroad, his masters degrees and his love of corn dogs. Yup, corn dogs. I happen to like corn dogs. That alone would turn me against this dimwitted GOP hick. Maybe I'm just a "damn liberal" but I find his resume quite impressive and her smalltown, uneducated provincialism appalling.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


A rousing speech by President Barack Obama is given the cartoon treatment by a "Simpsons" animator.  Sometimes a cartoon is all you need.  Hopefully, this audio/visual aide will break through to the slim margin of voters who--against all odds--are still "undecided."  It's less than two weeks till the election, folks.  Do your homework. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Hunter Thompson and liberal Democrat George McGovern on the campaign trail.

"This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes... understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose... Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?"
- Hunter Thompson

 Let's hope the election doesn't end up like this, with Obama playing liberal Democrat McGovern and conservative Romney playing shifty Republican Nixon. There are parallels I'd rather ignore.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Our good old friend Scott passed away this morning after battling Stage-4 prostate cancer.  He was the subject of a New York Times article this weekend (LINK).  Scott was brave throughout this battle--and brave allowing Nicholas Kristof to write about his case within a story in favor of "Obamacare."  Allready apologists for insurance companies and Mitt Romney have take a few potshots in the comment sections, remaining anonymous for the most part.  Unlike Scott.

We visited him yesterday around five PM.  He seemed exhausted but managed to smile.  The blueberries on his bedside table sparked a conversation about the proliferation of berries where we grew up in Oregon, and how there were so plentiful you had to cut them down like weeds.  That's him above, in a picture I took near Pacific City on the Oregon Coast.  We first met in the early eighties, when he was home for summer from Harvard. We became housemates in a funky three story dwelling in NW Portland, back when NW Portland was cool.  As fellow Oregonians, we'd seen our share of rain, and this day in the hospital we stared at it from his 12th floor window.  Nurses came and went.  One ran a test.  His temperature was 99 degrees.  We stayed a while longer, and I helped him role to his side.  In his weakened state he couldn't turn or lift his leg or move his pillow.  The Times article had come out earlier in the day, and there must have been some sense of finality in telling his story for the record.  We spoke about it briefly.  He said he had everything he needed.  Wendy noticed he looked tired, and we said next time we'd call before we visited.  We said we'd see him soon.  He was nearly asleep when we left. 

That was yesterday.  Scott died this morning.  Wendy called around noon to tell me the news.  Our mutual friend Cheryl, another housemate in the NW Portland dwelling, had sent an email with the stunning message. As well as being an old friend of Scott's, she works as a nurse practitioner and throughout his illness she's been at his side running interference, driving him to clinics and interpreting the medical language of the docs.  "I am so sad to give you the completely shocking and unpredicted news that Scott has died - this morning, at about 9:30.  It was after a very abrupt septic crisis that caused his breathing to fail last night and lead to bleeding into his lungs...Scott was on a respirator for about 12 hours."  He left us this morning, and he will be remembered in many different ways by different people--as a thoughtful reader, a feisty debater, an Oregon farmboy, a Harvard graduate, a fan of Dylan and Neil Young, a beachcomber and a killer poker player.  We'll miss you, Scott.  Rest in peace, brother.

MORE OF THE STORY (added October 21):

After the initial story about Scott in the New York Times (A Possibly Fatal Mistake, October 14) there was such a flurry of responses, many very heartless and negative, writer Nicholas Kristof felt it was necessary to write a follow-up piece (Scott's Story and the Election, NYT October 17th).  There was also a story on National Public Radio, "Times" Health Care Op-Ed Gets Unexpected Reponse, October 18th. 

As for me, the end of Scott's story was far from the public eye.  Thursday night there was a moving memorial for Scott in Seattle, where stories were shared by friends and family, fellow poker players and co-workers. There were some tears but also laughter, and a wall full of pictures taken throughout his life.  There were shots of Scott as a baby, as a grade schooler with a paper route, beside his student ID cards from Silverton High School and Harvard.  There were a few shots from the old Hoyt Street house where we met, when we were all much younger and had longer hair and not a clue what the future would bring.  

On Friday there was another memorial in his hometown of Silverton, Oregon, held in a small funeral parlor with rose-colored wallpaper. There was an open casket, and flowers--including a wreath sent by his poker buddies with a fanned-out straight flush in spades. I was fortunate to attend both memorials and ever more fortunate to count Scott as a good friend. His hometown was in full golden autumn that day, and the sky cleared long enough to say our goodbyes at his graveside and share hugs and a shot of whiskey from a flask. Then we got back in our cars and it started raining again.


 Come on lady, grow a brain. An unidentified woman outside the Veep debate calls President Obama a communist.  Chris Matthews asks her to explain and of course she can't. No big surprise. She's parroting the word from some shock radio show or some backyard barbecue of other C-minus students. Her unimaginative reb-baiting is a holdover from the Red Scare paranoia of the Cold War years when it was actually attached to something real, however misunderstood.  We doubt this old scold means Obama is a follower of Marx and Lenin, a supporter of proletariat revolution, a believer in the working class controlling the means of production, or a practitioner of dialectical materialism. She's just dumb. She flings words like a monkey flings poop.  Mighty armies of ignoramuses seem to have eluded our educational system. They never learned that words have specific meanings, and that they actually refer to a specific person, place or thing.  Intellectual concepts such as communism and capitalism require a certain fine tuning that is lacking in this Tea Party dolt. She should stick with "dog" and "cat."  Chris Matthews gives the old crank a chance to explain, but she snaps at him, too. Maybe he's some kind of Stalinist himself, or a Trotskyite.

Of course, this lady is just hurling insults. She has no idea what she's talking about. She's probably been spoonfed her crackpot conservatism from Tea Party pundits but we can't help make fun of her. It's like Biden laughing at Ryan. It's impossible to keep a straight face with some of the beady-eyed bullshit that passes for politics. It would all be a good joke if these idiots weren't vying for control of the most powerful nation on earth.

Abbie Hoffman once said Hitler would never have risen to power if he';d been captured back in 1937, brought to Trafalgar Square, and been publicly pantsed. Nobody would have been able to take him seriously again. Of course, we're not comparing these emotional right-wingers to Hitler--they're not that ambitious--just saying sometimes a sensible person should laugh uproariously when confronted with such stupidity. Perhaps we've been too kind, which seems to be a liberal trait, and one not likely to be reciprocated if the tables were turned. We're in the age of self-esteem, after all, when even the person who fails the test gets a gold star, but that does no one any good.

 Extra credit: "Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry based upon a materialist interpretation of historical development, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis of class-relations within society and their application in the analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. In the mid-to-late 19th century, the intellectual development of Marxism was pioneered by two German philosophers, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels."

Friday, October 12, 2012


 I'll never forget the Columbus Day Storm. The winds were howling and two massive Douglas Fir trees in front of our house snapped like pipestems and crosscrossed our front door. Another smaller tree hit the house. Mom and I and my baby sister Bekki, who was just a couple months old, huddled in the kitchen as branches flew and crashed against the house. Dad drove home from work in Tigard, and had to dodge fallen trees and live electrical wires that were snapping in the road. We lost power--everyone did, I think--and I remember we went to my grandma's house. I've never heard winds like that. They were whistling. We cooked meals in the fireplace for a week. In the aftermath, roaming crews were cutting wood and collecting gasoline for generators--even the radio station was on special power and we listened for updates on our battery radio. 

According to the Wiki, "The Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (also known as the Big Blow, and originally as Typhoon Freda) was an extratropical cyclone that struck the Pacific Northwest coast of the United States on October 12, 1962. The storm ranks among the most intense to strike the region since at least 1948, likely since the January 9, 1880 'Great Gale' and snowstorm. The storm is a contender for the title of most powerful extratropical cyclone recorded in the U.S. in the 20th century; with respect to wind velocity, it is unmatched by the March 1993 'Storm of the Century' and the '1991 Halloween Nor’easter' ('The Perfect Storm'). The system brought strong winds to the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada, and was linked to 46 fatalities in the northwest and Northern California resulting from heavy rains and mudslides."

I was just a little kid at the time but the storm made a deep and lasting impression on me. It's the closest I've ever felt to the apocalypse so popular in TV and movies these days. Systems collapsed. Schools and businesses were suspended. People had to think on their feet and make new plans. Some were helpful neighbors and others lost it in panic. I'll never forget coming home from first grade on the bus, and how it was such a blustery day. I held a picture I'd colored about Christopher Columbus and the wind kept trying to tear it from my hands. Mom called from the back door as I crossed the field to the house. Hurry, hurry, a storm is coming!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


This spirited political debate last night between comedian Jon Stewart and FOX pundit Bill O'Reilly descended into silliness at times but proved more substantial than the last official debate. Stewart won--and I say that not just because he's on my side (I'll admit Romney won the last one) but because Stewart had the facts at hand, while Bill O'Reilly constantly fudged the numbers, resorted to tired conservative talking points and even confused Egypt with Syria. Humor was key, of course, but while Bill used it to mask his confusion, Stewart gleefully zen-jabbed holes in this stuffed shirt blowhard's "philosophy," attacking the FOX pundit's basically selfish, outdated conservative views on health care, foreign policy, and "toughness." At one point, when O'Reilly said his ideal president would be Clint Eastwood, Stewart said "Why don't we ask him" and addressed his empty chair. Not exactly comedy gold, but this late in the political season, after a war of attrition and rehearsed "zingers," it was nice to laugh. In case you missed it, or were frustrated by crashed servers that blocked the broadcast, here's the debate in its entirety.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


So Romney won the debate--not on facts, of course, which were misleading at best and mostly wrong, but on the telegenic qualities of seeming comfortable, aggressive, and filled with coached and drilled "zingers." Obama missed opportunities and some easy softball pitches: the 47%, say, or Bain Capital, or the Swiss bank accounts and tax-dodging. Dude doesn't just practice all day--he has a job, after all, and a tough one--but I wish he had come out swinging to knock out the bully. Is this part of some strategy? Or was Barack just flat on his feet, stunned by not having debated in four years? Are his thoughts TOO complex to reduce in that format? Has he lost conviction? Obama was a perfect gentleman, when I wanted a bare-knuckled counter-puncher. Expectations were such that anything less than outright victory for Obama would be seen as defeat, and Mittens didn't look half bad (if you hadn't followed any of the campaign for the past year, that is, and haven't read a thing and just tuned in last night with zero knowledge of anything, that is). Let Mittens have his bump.