Thursday, November 29, 2007


I’ve been reading a fair bit of history the last few weeks. Being down with a bug and a flair up the “irritation where you don’t want to be irritated” over the holiday weekend meant for good chunks of time with my nose stuck in any of two or three books. Spent most of my time in Will Durant’s volume on the Reformation. And found some things jumping out at me.


I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s noticed that the truth in any form should be at the top of the endangered species list. It’s been bad and it’s getting worse.


During the bad old days of the religious wars and great persecutions, both sides believed that it was no sin to lie to a heretic. And I suspect that there are radicals living in the Middle East, Pakistan or Afghanistan who would argue that it’s no sin to lie to an infidel, either. Once you’ve started down that slippery slope; well be careful that the bridge isn’t out at the bottom of the hill. Lies, bribes, anonymous informants and torture are the unholy signs on so many roads leading to that “Greater Good” of political, religious or economic unity just glowing just over the horizon. Most of us get there and expect to find Disneyland and end up with swamp gas.


If you accept that certain elected and appointed individuals believe that they had a mandate not only from the voters but from the almighty to assert American power and to “make their own reality” the lies fall into place. If you believe that those who disagree with you are deluded at best and heretics at worst lying to achieve your goals is just another tool to create a greater good. Your view of the greater good, no matter how few others share it.


Using the word heresy to describe political opponents may sound like overkill, but religious unity as a means to impose political unity has been used for centuries. The current occupant is the latest in a long line that includes Isabella of Spain, Henry VIII and Cromwell for England, Richeleau and Louis XIV for France, among others. Luckily for us the Shrub is about as successful at that as he was at running a baseball team. Some luck, I keep hearing "We're knee deep in the Big Muddy" jangling in the background.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


The kids saw five minor accidents on the way down from Portland Thursday. Nothing really major, but the feeling that people just weren't paying attention.


And then we came to Black Friday. A good description for the shopping day after Thanksgiving. Got a kick out of some of the news stories about the early morning shopping on Friday. Waiting in line for hours to get in the mall at two in the morning. And some of the big retailers opened in the afternoon Thanksgiving. One quote was basically “they’ve had dinner, it’s time to go shopping.” Heaven forbid there should be two or three days out of the 365 days of the year when we can’t worship at the cash register alters. Or want to spend a little time with our friends and families. Can’t have that, there’s no money to be made out of it.


Things went a bit badly at one mall in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Idaho. One of the doors didn’t open properly and the crowds were more unruly than usual. Folks, nobody held a gun to your head and made you stand in line for several hours so you’d have a shot at one of five hundred free gift bags. It was chaotic and they’re lucky nobody got hurt.


Reminded me of one of the scariest work days I ever had. I been trained to bake after I started working at Chatel. The first time I opened and handled most of the baking the day after Thanksgiving I was more than a little nervous. You look at what was baked the year before, pan up and hope for the best. And the mall was opening at seven that day, not four in the blessed am like Penney’s did this year. Free Disney snow globes. Oh joy! What did we do? Stayed home in our nice warm living room, petted cats, and processed leftovers. Leftover turkey and veggies make for a great soup.


And no we don’t have our Christmas shopping done yet. It’ll get done. I’d be happy just to get the whole family in one place at one time. Even if we have to bungee cord some of us from the ceiling. Mom, me, two sisters, their husbands, five nephews over six feet tall and three cats. Happily crowded. LOL


This entry will have some links to web pages to give some background about a very interesting article in the Portland Oregonian last Wednesday. I think your patience will be rewarded.


There's a decent Wikipedia article about Jefferson High School here. And another Wikipedia article about a dance ceremony performed by the Maori of New Zealand can be found here. And what happened when some exchange students from Tonga helped teach it to the kids at Jefferson and their football team started doing it before their games can be found in the Oregonian article here. Apologies for all the ads in the Oregonian article.


I don’t know why some of the other coaches and the Oregon sports association has been so anal about this. I haven’t really dug deep enough to find out how successful Jefferson’s football program has been in the past. But, if the enthusiasm and spirit focused on the haka have caused a turn around in team success I guess I can understand their frustration. If Jefferson used to be a push over and is no longer an easy win, then whoops I guess we’ll have to work for it now.


A predominately black school. They’re doing something different. It must be gang related.  God/dess save us, if we can be saved. I really wonder sometimes. Frankly, for all our blue state rep in the national elections, Oregon has a history of racism that has never really been faced. And it's a mystery sometimes when I try to understand how my folks managed to raise a fairly liberal free thinker except that dad never let anybody tell him what to think or believe and neither did granddad.


I think it’s fantastic that kids from a place like Tonga want to come to school in Oregon. I think it’s even better that they’re going to a school like Jefferson, making it their home, and enriching it with their culture. Oh, and the Tongan students aren't just going to Jeffereson and we're getting students from other Pacific nations too.


My nephews go to David Douglas High school. It isn’t part of the same league so their team doesn’t play Jefferson. But, the kids and my sister have seen film of the Jefferson players doing the haka and they all think it’s great.


Just a side note, the extended version of Return of the King has several how we did it documentaries. One pretty much ends with members of the stunt crew giving the actors who played the two kings a very impressive haka. And the stunt guys looked so proud while they were doing it.


My personal opinion? Hey, teach us too, and we’ll do it together. Or we'll do ours and you do yours and then we'll get on with the game. But, that’s just me.  

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I found the core of this in a "journal ideas e-mail" to myself.  It still didn't come out quite the way I saw it in the first place, but what the heck.


Back in the seventies PBS had a series out the UK called Connections, hosted by James Burke. He’d take a subject such as the discovery of how a touchstone works and follow how being able to easily determine the purity of gold led to easier trade which led to other changes. At the end of the series he walked us through several scenarios of how people might react if they were told that no matter how hard they work, they can only have so much. A scenario that we’re facing more and more as we face increasing limits. Increasing population numbers versus availability of water, space, or the diversion of food crops into other uses such as ethanol production as oil prices rise.


And we can see how this plays out when what is “good” is defined as how many “things” you can squeeze into your living space. When what you have must be replaced by the newest version of what you may already have only to be po’d when the price comes down sooner than you expected. A price you were willing to pay because you just had to be the first one on the block to have the newest widget.


Remember the uproar a few months ago when Apple came out with a new cell phone? The price  came down really fast and the first buyers were up in arms. I couldn’t help thinking “Hey, you wanted it bad enough to pay the intro price so you could claim bragging rights for whatever reason.” As if the charisma of owning the latest gadget would somehow rub off on you. You got what you paid for. You were the first. The price you paid not only covered the phone, but the bragging rights.


And the media is carefully structured to keep us believing that we can only be happy if we keepbehaving this way. That having time to read, learn an instrument, carve, paint, make cat’s cradles, spend time with your family, or singing (even if you do sound like Agent Scully singing Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog in the episode Detour) is somehow “unproductive.” Unproductive for who? Well, for the businesses that want to sell you these things ready made. But, maybe not for the rest of us who value family time, cat’s cradles, or singing. Even if some our best tunes are sung in the shower.

Saturday, November 10, 2007



Detail from a screen capture of a T shirt worn by David Duchovny in the movie the TV Set. This was the best of several shots. If you can't quite make it out, it says Four More Years. Somehow I don't think he voted for Bush, ya think? And since they let him wear the shirt, I suspect nobody in the production voted for the Current Occupant.

The film is hilarious, in an over the top way. It's the subtle as a sledge hammer story of a guy trying to get a pilot made. And the inch by inch compromises that turn the story into the total opposite of what he started with.

Friday, November 9, 2007


Well, measure 49 passed Tuesday. Measure 49 tweaks 2004’s measure 37, which tweaked 2000’s measure 7 which attempted to tweak the landmark land use laws passed in the seventies. Back when Governor Tom McCall told out of staters “we really appreciate your visit” with the emphasis on visit.

It doesn’t solve all the problems but it’s a start. It green lights the small projects and forces the owners of large tracts to at least submit appraisals to back up their claims for compensation if they aren't allowed to develop their property the way they want to. The largest contributor on the anti side was a lumber company whose development claims reportedly totalled nearly 50,000 acres. The largest contributor on the pro side was a vineyard owner who has been doing very nicely in the post seventies era, thank you and would like to continue to do so.

One nice advantage to investing in our own entertainment is that I at least didn’t have to listen to the pro and con ads for it. Even though I supported it. I laugh, because it beats crying, when I listen to complaints about government interference in property rights. Hell, one level or other of the government hired help has been “interfering” from day one.

It’s a bit late in the day to go “well you stole it fair and square and I eventually bought it, so now I can do what I want or be compensated for government interference.”  ??????????? Frankly this whole extreme property rights movement that bubbled up in the eighties (another thing we can thank Reagan and company for) makes me just a little sick. Make that a lot sick. I wish I could find a copy of the old Jack Ohman cartoon featuring Reagan’s secretary of the Interior, James Watt, He’s standing in a landscape of endless stumps and calling it a forest. Government “interference” made the land available for homesteading and logging in the first place.

The US either took the land of tribes wiped out by disease or hunted around until they found a “chief” that would sign a treaty giving up land that wasn’t theirs to sign away in the first place. If that didn’t work, eventually the tribes would fight back and find the survivors herded onto reservations. Even then the hired help didn’t abide by the treaties that were signed.

The elected and appointed hired help, whether on the local, county, state or federal level has interfered from the get go. The feds took the land and passed the Homestead Act. The feds looked the other way while the rail road king pins decided which little town would live or die and charged rip gut freight charges to the ones that were left.

 Federal taxes and support created the Interstate Highway system. Miles and miles of straight line asphalt and concrete that bypassed all the little towns and left them to dry out like raisins on a dying grape vine. Miles of freeway so you could get to someplace that started to look just like what you left behind. And get there as quickly as possible.

 And what did we get in return? Fast food, fast shopping and “cities” in the southwest with no civic center. If you plunked an ancient Athenian or even a Spartan  down in the middle of one of these, they’d probably argue it wasn’t a city at all. Not marketplace or central place where the citizens could gather and make the laws in sight. No temples to the Gods or Goddesses. I forgot, the temples are there. I just doubt that any Athenian would recognize a strip mall as a temple, though. We’re left with a collection of people whose only tie to each other is the freeway that brought them there.

The Bonneville Power Administration built dams that turned on the lights in the Pacific Northwest and made it possible ship goods by water from Idaho to the Pacific Rim. The dams also drowned the fishing grounds at Celilo Falls and put several nails in the coffin of the Northwest salmon runs that supported the most complex non agricultural communities of Native Americans in this hemisphere. In the fifties the feds decertified some of the remaining tribes, parceled out some of the land too "former" tribal members and took what was left. No land, no fish, no game, a remnants of a people, dying languages and endless casinos catering to the people who took the land in the first place. Interference, what interference?

You may have figured out by now that I have very little patience for big anybody prattling about rights for the little guy in a thinly veiled attempt to get even more, leaving the rest of us with less. Especially when the only real right we seem to have left is the right to buy what they want to sell us. It's interesting that this measure passed by the same percentage as Measure 37, about 65 percent for, 35 percent against. Yes, the urban counties around Portland and Eugene led the way. But it passed further up the valley, over on the coast and in the grain and orchard country east of the Cascades.

But, in an era when oil is flirting with $100.00 a barrel and gas is over $3.00 a gallon, the last thing we need is more sprawl. Oregon, Washington and Idaho help the balance of payments in this country with our unsurpassed apples, peaches, pears, strawberries and other produce. We raise and export wheat and other grains. Heck, we have closer ties to the other side of the Pacific Rim than we do with the east coast. Our vineyards are producing wines as good as and sometimes better than the imports from Europe. We can't give the land back to the Native Americans but we can save it for their children and ours.


Monday, November 5, 2007


why politicians court these blocks of voters. If they think alike hopefully they'll vote alike, too. It's a bit like the money boys and girls who want nominees decided as soon as possible so they'll know which horse to back in hopes of a better return on their investment.

Easier to court a block than to try to court us prickly, square pegs. They have to court us Which leaves the prickly square pegs saying to ourselves and to them "tell me again why doing it this way is a good thing." Because I'm having a really hard time seeing it right now.


I was watching one of my Cousteau documentaries last night. This set was on the work his organization did on the Danube River in the early nineties. There is a sequence where he describes the geological changes that led to the current geology in the area. Immense salt mines and limestone formations left over from the receding of the ancient Tethys Sea. He discussed geologic time the way we talk about the weather. And it got me to thinking about other things.

I doubt is there is any first world country where the age of the earth is debated more fiercely than the US, and I think it’s a symptom of what’s killing us. Pope Benedict recently called on the people of Europe to remember their Christian heritage. As Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict ran the organization that took the place of the Holy Inquisition. Yes, your holiness, let us remember the Christian heritage of Europe.

Let me see, forced conversions and crusades preached not only to “free” the Holy Land but against fellow Europeans. By all means let us remember the heresy hunts that allowed torture and anonymous accusations with the unnamed accusers sharing in the property seized from the accused. And I must be honest. The church didn’t kill anyone. They just condemned them and turned the accused over to the secular government for execution. Usually by the most brutal means possible.

And the Lutherans and the Calvinists went at each other as enthusiastically as the Roman Church went after them. After reading the bios of some of the leaders of both sides, I’ve come to this conclusion. If any of them were alive now they’d as likely be in a psych ward as standing in a pulpit. Don’t even get me started on the likes of John Calvin. Reading Will Durant's description of life in Calvin's Geneva was eye opening to say the least. No dancing, theaters, card playing and mandatory church attendance was the least of it. Having the elders show up at your door at least once a year to quiz the members of the household on the state of their souls, well I know how that would go over now. Shades of the neighborhood committees in communist China under Mao.  

Let us not forget the seventeenth century witch trials that targeted the old, the infirm, the scolds, the cantankerous and those who just didn’t fit in. What could Benedict possibly say to the more than seven million Germans who perished in the Thirty Years War? What can anyone say to the more than 600,000 Irish who died from siege, famine and disease in Cromwell’s “pacification” of Ireland during the period between the death of Charles I and the restoration of his son. And this out of population of little more than one and a half million. And I've seen the same atrocity wood cut used to damn Catholics and Protestants.

After watching the Anglicans who’d been persecuted by the Puritans and Presbyterians during the commonwealth definitely not turn the other cheek when they were back in power, Charles II was quoted along the lines of “Presbyterianism was no religion for a gentleman and Anglicanism was no religion for a Christian.” Charles himself was a skeptic who may or may not have received last rites in the Catholic Church before his death.

I find a great deal of good in what is reported of the teachings of the rabbi who may have come from Nazareth. I say reported because I suspect that as much was left out as was included when the leaders of the new church got their hands on it two or three centuries later. I find very little good in what the power hungry have done with those teachings. And even less in the gyrations those who claim that every word and punctuation mark in scripture is inerrant and infallible.

Curiosity led me to some web searching which led me tothis very interesting site. So if perhaps one third of Americans (at best) attend any type of worship service in any given week, what the heck is going on here? Watching presidential hopefuls twist themselves in knots trying to placate the minority within a minority of the religious right is painful and embarrassing. When did we become so afraid of being seen as not nice or not fair that we lost the power to tell the modern Know Nothings to take a running jump at themselves or to at least MYOB.

Or at the very least, "I believe I can get elected without you." And then make it happen.

(In case nobody has noticed from earlier entries, this is something that really ticks me off. I loved science when I was in school. I have a degree in Anthropology. I've never had a problem separating the how and the why. I just found myself in total, jaw dropping,  awe of the whole damn thing. Put me in front of a picture of galaxies dancing and I won't come up for air for the rest of the evening. Rueful shrug

And I do appreciate more than anyone can imagine the individual churches who try to practice what that rabbi taught. Very often in opposition or in spite of the ruling bodies of their denominations.

It's about power and control folks. Who has it, who doesn't, and what they'll do to get it and keep it. It's enough to send you screaming into the night, isn't it?)