Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of Our Union

Cindy Sheehan was arrested shortly before George Bush took to the podium to deliver his State of the Union Address. Her crime? She wore a T-shirt that read: 2,245 Dead -- How many more??

Ah, George, this is what you and the neo-cons think of the Constitution. Don't question, don't see, don't talk. Smells like a banana republic to me.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

altportland - A review

Clean, informative, simple

Good blogs should offer fresh insight and opinions about the world. The comments don't have to be profound or ponderous, but they have to inform the reader about something. Vickie Jean's local blog, altportland, has clear and informative reviews of Portland events and places. Vickie describes her blog like this:
If you haven't been here before, let me give you a quick synopsis. This is largely my opinion of what's cool and a good value in Portland. And who am I? I'm an underemployed thirty-something who likes to go out and eat out but generally doesn't have a lot of cash. I love Portland; I can't imagine living anywhere else. I love feedback, and I especially love reviews of local establishments -- leave me comments, please.
I like it that she goes to places I would enjoy--who else would go to the Original Hotcake and Steak House on Powell? I like it that she has well-balanced opinions that I respect, that her blog just isn't a rehash of someone else's and that it's not cluttered with cheesey ads and banners.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Backwater Inn

If you've been in cyberspace long enough to remember either the Backwater Inn or the Blue Parrot BBS, rest a spell and say howdy.

Mohammed Wassir
The Friendly Albanian

Off with his head!

A City of Beaverton police officer recently resigned amid reports that he had stolen over $100 worth of gas from the city. In his blog, Le Petite Morte, Mr. Viddy takes the police department to task for not prosecuting the involved officer. Mr. Viddy believes that police officers shouldn't be above the law. He's right about that, the officer should be prosecuted, but he be misguided in pointing the finger at the police for not prosecuting one of their own. The ultimate decision to prosecute or not prosecute a city employee rests with the district attorney with input from the mayor and/or city attorney. The Chief of Police, in this case, Dave Bishop, probably has little to say about the matter. He's happy to get a crooked cop off the force.

A quick story about Chief Bishop: When I was a young lad in the police academy, Dave Bishop (a lieutenant back then) came to teach us about drugs and drug enforcement. He asked us if any of us had smoked marijuana. "I'm just curious," he said. This was in the early 70s, and I suspect that more than one of us had smoked dope, but no one raised their hand except Officer Al. Officer Al was a kindly sort, but not the smartest bunny in the flock. Bishop gazed down at Officer Al, like a prophet on high and said, "You're a disgrace to the uniform and you'll never work for me." The rookie cops gasped as one and Al blanched. Officer Al's career pretty much dead-ended right there. The moral to this story: Never raise your hand in the police academy--only bad things will happen.

Beaverton PD has had some fiascos in the last few years. Take a look at their problems implementing photo radar and photo red light enforcement. But they are a professional outfit, one of the better departments in the state. For about 20 years after my academy experience with Dave Bishop, I thought he was a hard case and had no desire to work for him. A few years back, I got to know him on a professional basis. I discovered he's a good cop with strong values (maybe not my values), a saavy political mind and a knack for leadership. He spoke at my retirement ceremony and I was proud that he did.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Was the fix in

Was the fix in?

The City of Portland hired an expert witness, Dr. William Lewinski, to testify before the grand jury examining the death of James Jahar Perez at the hands of a Portland Police Officer, Jason Sery. An attorney for the Perez family claimed that the city hired Lewinski to sway the grand jury not to indict Sery. David Woboril, deputy city attorney said that Lewinski’s purpose before the grand jury not to “support the officers. He didn’t speak to the facts of this case at all . . . What the city provided him for was to speak to the grand jurors about the ‘action/reaction’ dynamics in policing work, generally.” The Oregonian reported that Lewinski told the grand jury that it would take someone a tenth of a second to pull a gun from a console. We can only assume that the grand jury relied in part upon this testimony to decline to indict Officer Sery.

Curious, if an expert witness was needed, why didn’t the county hire one? Why did the city with its vested interest in the outcome of the grand jury proceedings, select and pay the expert witness? Worboril himself stated in a court affidavit:

I retained Dr. Lewinski not only for what he could contribute to the grand jury, the inquest, and any public discussions of the Perez shooting, but also so that he would be available for the defense of this lawsuit. [Worboril is referring to an anticipated lawsuit by the Perez family.]

No matter how you flavor it, the city attorney’s office was covering the city’s butt here, that’s what they get paid for. The fact is that 99% of grand juries do exactly what the District Attorney desires. That’s how the system is designed. Unfortunately, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, the supposedly neutral party in this process, decided to make a political decision, rather that one that served justice or the people of this city.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My New Diet

The Toddler Miracle Diet:
Americans are always on the lookout for a new diet. The trouble with
most diets is that you don't get enough to eat (the starvation diet),
or you don't get enough variation (the liquid diet) or you go broke
(the all-meat diet). Consequently, people tend to cheat on their
diets, or quit after 3 days, or go right back to stuffing their faces
after it is all over. Is there nothing you can do but give up and
tell your friends you have a gland problem?

Well, now there's the new Toddler Miracle Diet! Over the years you
may have noticed, as I have, that most two-year-olds are trim. It
came to me one day over a glass of water and a carrot that perhaps
their diet is the reason. After consultation with pediatricians,
X-ray technicians, and distraught Moms, I was able to formulate this
new diet. It is inexpensive, offering great variety and sufficient
quantity. Before embarking on this diet, however, be sure to check
with your doctor -- otherwise, you might have to see him afterward.
Good luck!


Breakfast: One scrambled egg, one piece of toast with grape jelly.
Eat 2 bites of egg, using your fingers; dump the rest on the floor.
Take 1 bite of toast, then smear the jelly over your face and

Lunch: Four crayons (any color), a handful of potato chips, and a
glass of milk (3 sips only, then spill the rest).

Dinner: A dry stick, two pennies and a nickel, 4 sips of flat Pepsi.

Bedtime snack: Toast a piece of bread and toss it on the kitchen


Breakfast: Pick up stale toast from kitchen floor and eat it. Drink
half bottle of vanilla extract or one vial of vegetable dye.

Lunch: Half a tube of "Pulsating Pink" lipstick and a handful of
Purina Dog Chow (any flavor). One ice cube, if desired.

Afternoon Snack: Lick an all-day sucker until sticky, take outside,
drop in dirt. Retrieve and continue slurping until it is clean again.
Then bring inside and drop on the rug.

Dinner: A rock or an uncooked bean, which should be thrust up your
left nostril. Pour grape Kool-Aid over mashed potatoes; eat with a


Breakfast: Two pancakes with plenty of syrup, eat one with fingers,
rub in hair. Glass of milk; drink half, stuff other pancake in
glass. After breakfast, pick up yesterday's sucker from rug, lick off
fuzz, and put it on the cushion of your best chair.

Lunch: Three matches, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Spit several
bites onto the floor. Pour glass of milk on table and slurp up.

Dinner: Dish of ice cream, handful of potato chips, some red punch.


Breakfast: A quarter-tube of toothpaste (any flavor), bit of soap,
an olive. Pour a glass of milk over bowl of Cornflakes, add a half
cup of sugar. Once cereal is soggy, drink milk and feed cereal to

Lunch: Eat crumbs off kitchen floor and dining room carpet. Find
that sucker and finish eating it.

Dinner: A glass of spaghetti and chocolate milk. Leave meatball on
plate. Stick of mascara for dessert.

From Earthbaby.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Darkness Darkness

"Metro Crisis Hotline, how may I help you?"

"I'm going to commit suicide tonight."

Not I'm considering suicide or having thoughts of hurting myself or feeling suicidal, but I'm going to commit suicide. My caller was a woman of my age who had suffered from multiple sclerosis for the last fifteen years. The disease had become advanced and she was confined to a wheelchair, was incontinent, needed constant attention and experienced intense pain. In the end she would die of complications from her disease, maybe in six months, maybe in a year. The end would be quite slow and ugly, a tremendous burden on her family and friends. This woman didn't want me to talk her out of her decision, tell her about all the people who would miss her or how things might change for the better. People would miss her, but things would not change for the better. She was going to do it this evening, she'd saved up the pills, a friend would be there with her, she'd planned this out. The Hotline supervisor waved to ask if I wanted to trace the call. I shook my head no, my caller only wanted to check in, say thanks for being there and to say good-bye. She was smart enough to know not to stay on the line long enough for us to track her down, smart enough to do this thing right. My hands shook when I terminated the call. I told the supervisor I was going to take a break, have a smoke. This is back when I smoked, back before Oregon's Assisted Suicide law.

Working at the hotline, I learned that for some people, certainly not everyone, suicide is a viable option, sometimes the best option. It's a personal choice, an informed individual choice. The Supreme Court made the proper and most humane decision in upholding Oregon's Death with Dignity law.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Truth in Fiction

James Frey lied about being a bad guy in his book, A Million Little Pieces. The Smoking Gun says it's so. Apparently, Frey is a Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat boy that wrote a book of fiction and tried to pass it off as a memoir. Problem is, being a frat boy doesn't sell as many books as being a crook, so Frey decided to spice up his resume. His next mistake was trying to maintain the ruse even though he'd been found out. Frey should have taken a page from Tim O'Brien's essay, "How to Tell a True War Story" from his collection of linked short stories, The Things They Carried. In the title story, Tim O'Brien functions as a character in the story, the narrator and the author, but in his essay, he freely admits that the truth of the story is relative. Events in the story may or may not have happened. The reader may interpret the story as being true because of O'Brien's character in it, but that wasn't his intent. Frey intended for people to take his story seriously and now Random House is having to give rebates to irate readers. Frey could followed the example of blending fiction and memior as done by Vonnegut in Timequake or Chuck Barris in Confessions of a Brilliant Mind, but then perhaps he took himself and Ophra as the goddess of contemporary literature a little too seriously.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Books for a cold winter night

My friend Dolf loaned me Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer. I'm usually not one for legal thrillers, but this one more literate than most and Connelly's protangonist, Michael Haller, has a flawed character that immediately drew me into the story. You learn who done it early on in the story, but you also want to know how Haller will get himself out of the fix he's gotten himself into.
Highly recommended.

Dolf also loaned me a political thriller, The Camel Club by David Baldacci. Most thrillers use multiple points of view to tell their story. The drawback to this approach is that more often than not, the characters tend to be shallow and the story is almost totally plot driven. The Camel Club is no exception to this rule. I found it to be fine for our flight home from San Diego, but it ain't great art . . . but then it isn't supposed to be.
Wait for the paperback or get this one at the library.

An almost forgotten gem
In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes
At Bouchercon this summer, someone extolled the virtues of Dorothy Hughes, a mystery author prominent in 40's after World War II. I picked up a copy of In a Lonely Place and loved it. Hughes' characters are finely drawn, complex and her voice is as strong as anyone I've read. About the book, Amazon says:

A 1947 classic that takes us inside the mind of a male serial killer. Author Dorothy B. Hughes explores the ana-tomy of American -misogyny and -accomplishes a mystery writing tour de force by depicting his eventual -capture-by two daring and powerful women-from his point of view. The characters of Dix Steele and Laurel Grey, the glamorous actress he falls for but can't hold on to, were so well drawn that they became the basis for extraordinary performances by Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in the 1950 film version of the book, which also reflects the suspense and hard-boiled edginess of Hughes's -writing.

Called "an author with a flair for terror" by The New Yorker, Hughes was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1978.

I haven't seen the movie of In a Lonely Place yet, but I did happen to catch a movie version of another Hughes novel, Ride the Pink Horse starring Robert Montgomery. If the book is anything like the movie, it's another gem. I'm sorry to say I haven't been able to locate a DVD or VHS edition of the movie, but it does show up on Turner Classic Movies. The book version is on my stack to read. Pick up something by Dorothy Hughes. You won't be disappointed.
Highest recommendation.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bush's Economic Bust

At the end of 2005, the Dow Jones closed at 10732 points, less than a 2% gain since George W. Bush took office in January of 2001. The NASDAQ has suffered an even worse fate, falling 45% in the last five years. During the Reagan administration, the Dow increased 148%, during Clinton's, it increased 187%. Bush's short-sighted economic policies have crippled the American economy. Budget surpluses have given way to the largest deficits in history. American involvement in the Iraqi Civil War sucks up billions of dollars each day. American men and women die every day on foreign shores without proper training or equipment. Republicans ignore the most acute problems using a smoke screen of Pro-Life rhetoric and the drumbeat of terrorism to distract the American public.

Within the next two years, the Alternative Minimum Tax will engulf a large proportion of the middle class. It's a sneaky backdoor tax that will cost many of us thousands of dollars. The Republicans have refused to fix the problem. Maybe they know that they can't pay for their silly war without it and besides, they've focused their energies on repealing the estate tax, cutting the capital gains tax and protecting the bottom line of corporate American. Measures that benefit only the wealthy.

Vote for your pocket book for your retirement, for your kids' education, during the next election, send those Republican rascals home.