Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, too

Long before Fox News began its wildly popular "war on Christmas," Americans had willingly conceded victory to Santa Claus.

And why not. He's jolly, dresses well and is oh, so generous.

Granted, he's more generous to some than others, but that's because some people are more equal than others.

And, even Santa Claus is not immune from ridicule.

Who could forget the "Sanity Clause" from "A Night at the Opera."

The point is, people who send out Christmas cards that say "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" aren't trying to offend anyone.

They're just trying to spread some holiday cheer.

That's not a bad thing.

As we all know, the dating of the birth of Jesus on Dec. 25 emerged sometime in the 4th century from winter solstice commemorations where festivals of lights and gift-giving meant to celebrate that brighter, and certainly longer, days were ahead.

Of course, there were discrepancies as to the actual date depending if one used the Julian or the Gregorian calendar.

It gets complicated.

Also, the reverent use of Xmas dates back to the earliest days of Christianity.

That is why it's best to believe in the best intentions of well-wishers, even that guy with the zombie Nativity scene in Ohio. Okay, maybe that's a bad example. What's with this zombie craze anyway.

Perhaps Calvin Coolidge said it best:

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."

Who knew that a president known as "Silent Cal," and who helped lead us into the Great Depression, could be so pithy. Then again, he was a Congregationalist, but I'm not sure what that means.

Safe to say that Christmas means different things to different people.

 I'd like to think it's a time to set aside differences and get along, at least for one day. British and German Soldiers did that 100 years ago today in Belgium and France.

Even the stingy hearts of Scrooge and the Grinch gave way to generosity.

We can try to believe that the best things in life aren't things. Admittedly, I have so many things that I could build a giant thingamajig with them. And, just as useful.

I know, Yoda once said, "Do or do not. There is no try."

But, Yoda had a weird way of saying things.

One thing I know, Yoda is no "Sanity Clause."

Even Jesus Christ would agree with that.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On torture and 'The Interview'

Canceled, at least for now
As MMXIV draws to a close, we can say goodbye to a regrettable and ridiculous year.

First, the regret.

The Senate finally released its long overdue report on the torture practices of this country and the responses were predictable.

Never mind that torture doesn't even work.

In fact, the opposite approach -- gaining the trust of the prisoner -- produces "actionable intelligence."

Leave it to Dick Cheney to vigorously support such a terrible practice. He boasted that "he'd do it again."

Cheney never tortured anyone. He's too much of a chicken-shit chicken-hawk to ever put his money where his mouth is. He repeatedly dodged serving in the military during the Vietnam War, yet claims that war was worthwhile.

Leave it John McCain to become the voice of reason when he said, "the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights."

In other words, we forsake our "exceptionalism" when we torture.

Unlike Cheney, McCain actually served in Vietnam, was captured and brutally tortured.

Aside from the political posturing over the release of the report, most Americans shrugged. We've moved on and we don't want to think about those dark days after 9/11. We're busy shopping for Christmas.

Ten years ago, when these torture stories first trickled out, a slight majority of Americans were opposed to the use of torture. Today, a slight majority now deems torture acceptable.

Why the change in attitude?

Well, we can thank the Fox TV show, "24," and others, where torture was portrayed and deemed effective.

Incredibly, we turn to fiction instead of facts to justify our actions.

Which leads us to the ridiculous.

Who would think that a funny, little movie about assassinating a real leader of a foreign country would cause any problems?

Evidently, Sony Pictures didn't think much of it when "The Interview" was given the go-ahead.

Unfortunately, that leader is Kim Jong-Un, the newest tyrannical ruler of North Korea, the worst country on the planet.

Even though Kim and most of the North Korean leadership deserve to be shot, it's best not to telegraph it by way of a movie.

As the film neared its release date, North Koreans hacked Sony Pictures' computers and stole digital copies of movies and some embarrassing e-mails, which revealed how inept Sony Pictures' leaders are.

The North Koreans threatened 9/11 type terrorism on any theater that showed "The Interview."

Now, the North Koreans are always making empty threats against us or South Korea or anyone.

Yet, the North Koreans have attacked South Koreans over the years and they are crazy enough to do something monstrous.

Which is why Sony canceled the Christmas day release of "The Interview," after theater owners balked at showing the film.

Now, theater chains don't really care about the safety of their patrons. They just don't want to be sued for mega-millions if something terrible happened.

If Batman provoked homegrown terrorism in Colorado, what would "The Interview" incite?

Probably not much.

I giggled when I saw previews for this movie in the same way I laughed about the reaction to Roseanne Barr's crude rendition of the National Anthem at a baseball game in the 1990s.

I mean, what did people expect?

Afterall, "The Interview" was co-written by Seth Rogen, who also co-stars in the film.

Rogen is known for crude, rude and offensive comedy.

He's no Charlie Chaplin, who made "The Great Dictator," a parody of Hitler, in 1940, before U.S. involvement in World War II.

Unlike "The Interview," Chaplin's classic used fictional names for Hitler and Germany. Yet, Chaplin's famous mustache made him look similar to Hitler.

In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated the he would not have made the film had he known about the actual horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.

In America, we've got the freedom to say and do some outrageous things.

And, that shouldn't change.

But, there are consequences if you cross the line, which, admittedly, is drawn in sand.

That said, I do want to see "The Interview" now, if only as a protest against the North Korean threat.

Maybe that's Sony's marketing ploy after all.

Actually, it appears that stupidity is the more apt description.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Unlike Colbert, America sees race

The incomparable Stephen Colbert, of the eponymous "The Colbert Report," almost always tells his African-American guests that he doesn't see race. Not even his own. Some people tell him that he's white and he takes their word for it.

With last week's announcement from President Obama that his administration would delay deportation for as many as 5 million illegal aliens in America coupled with this week's grand jury decision clearing a cop of killing of an unarmed black man in Missouri, we are seeing nothing but race.

It's who we are.

Instead of a "post-racial" America that some saw after President Obama's election in 2008, we are firmly in the grip of racial hatred once again.

The immigration issue, though, reminds me of the Woody Allen joke from "Annie Hall":

"This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken.' And, uh, the doctor says, 'Well, why don't you turn him in?' The guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.'"

We have this crazy love-hate thing going with hispanics, particularly Mexicans. We love their food, but mostly we love how cheaply they will do manual labor. 

And, it's no longer just farm work or house cleaning. Hispanics now do most construction jobs in California. Even in Bend, roofing companies hire Mexicans because they can pay them less than white Americans.

And yes, many companies that employ/exploit Mexicans are the same ones that then turn around and rail against our government for letting all these illegal immigrants into this country. Is that not crazy?

Without cheap hispanic labor, this country's economy would collapse. 

Like many cultures, we need to exploit many workers to benefit others. 

Afterall, this country was founded on the principle of slavery, which was unpaid, forced labor. 

Yes, it is true that having so many undocumented people living in this country causes some problems, but we are willing to endure the closure of some hospital emergency rooms or the exploitation of our government's social services just so we can keep the hedges trimmed or the pool cleaned at such a bargain.

The problem isn't them, it is us.

President Obama set a trap for Republicans and they were eager to fall for it. Their hatred for Mexicans came shining through. Not exactly a winning strategy.

As for the tragic case in Ferguson, Mo., where yet another police officer shot yet another unarmed black man, the media is fanning the flames there.

Afterall, it is sweeps month, when the networks set their advertising rates based on viewership during November. Riots make for strong visuals or so they think.

Any casual viewer of cable news or listener of talk radio or reader of comments after stories on the web, can realize that racism is alive and well. 

The disgruntlement after President Obama's re-election has turned into vocal outrage. 

Nevermind that the stock market is at record highs or the economy has rebounded. An alarming number of white Americans feel threatened by people who don't look like them. 

This is also a byproduct of the escalating income gap, but that's another story.

The bottom line is that we are crazy. And, we need the eggs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Terrible response to dealing with Bend's snowfall

Bend was hit with a rare, but not unprecedented, snowstorm last week and the city, predictably, acted too late with a lackluster response.

It's a mess getting around town with huge snow ruts making driving treacherous.

It's not surprising that Bend struggles to clear roadways in a timely manner. Afterall, the city waits about a year to patch deep potholes.

Why do city leaders care so little for the safety of its citizens or visitors?

Well, they budget too little for snow removal and road repair.

A story in the local daily newspaper revealed that a quarter of the city's snow-clearing fleet was broken down. Plus, the city only budgeted between $300,000 to $400,000 to clear the roads during winter.

This means that there is no other money to clear the mounds of snow in front of residential driveways caused by city snowplows.

This left one 72-year-old man, who has to carry around an oxygen tank to breathe, with a snow mound more than 6 feet high in front of his driveway, according to the daily newspaper.

And, the city doesn't seem to give a damn.

It doesn't have enough money to clear the streets of snow within a reasonable amount of time or patch potholes because it refuses to impose a 3-cent local gas tax to pay for these basic services. Plus, there is no state sales tax or local sales tax to fall back on.

Almost every major city in the state has a local gas tax, which is tacked on after state and federal gas taxes.

Obviously, Bend is still a minor city because the city council caves to the sky-will-fall, anti-tax cabal anytime a local gas tax even gets mentioned.

Since Bend is largely a tourist town, you would think that city leaders would want to showcase how well it takes care of its roads in summer and winter.

Obviously, it doesn't.

And, it doesn't care about its elder citizens who have to clear small hills of snow in front of their driveways.

Maybe we should all get oxygen tanks.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bend city councilors ousted

Voters in Bend took out their frustrations with a city that continually raises water and sewer rates while asking nothing more from developers who require the expansion of those services.

Plus, the city council's recent, tepid approval of the westside location for OSU-Cascades help cost Mark Capell and Scott Ramsay their seats.

And, good riddance. They were inept and shills for the real estate/development crowd.

Speaking of OSU-Cascades, the group Truth In Site, that opposes the westside location, officially filed an appeal with the state Land Use Board of Appeals. Hopefully, this ties up the issue long enough at the state level until the OSU "brain trust" reverses course and puts OSU-Cascades where it belongs at Juniper Ridge.

Also, the state knows Bend has big problems managing its growth by its repeated inability to satisfy state requirements in expanding its urban growth boundary.

Republican Knute Buehler, who easily won the state House seat for Bend, won't be much help because Democrats expanded their control of both chambers in the legislature.

Buehler, who is actually a RINO and easily turned away a voter suppression effort by Oregon Right to Life, will have to work with Democrats to accomplish anything. And, as we've seen before, those Republicans who compromise with Democrats will quickly find themselves voted out by their own party.

Buehler doesn't really care about serving in the legislature anyway. His goal is statewide office and he'll be preening himself for higher office over the next couple of years.

In other election news, voters in Sisters gave a rare rebuke to the school district as it sought $14.5 million to repair relatively new schools and buy computer tablets for students. The dismissal of the longtime manager of the bus system, just shy of her 30-year service to the district, rubbed many voters the wrong way.

The district  was hoping to use the bond money to keep class sizes down and maintain a full school year. Well, the school district will now have to shorten the school year to balance its books.

Lastly, two statewide measures were defeated: GMO labeling and an open primary.

It was surprising that the open-primary measure lost so badly, 68 percent to 32 percent, considering that similar measures passed in neighboring Washington and California.

While the GMO label measure is headed for defeat, it is clear that $20 million in negative advertising did its job, just as mega-millions from Monsanto and others did in Washington and California.

Of course, shoppers are taking matters in their hands and looking to buy more non-GMO items.

And, some growers, food producers and retailers are seeing the benefit in promoting non-GMO foods.

This country is losing business around the world by not reining in the pro-GMO entities. Much of the developed world wants no part of GMO foods and, increasingly, don't want GMO products from America.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dems rout GOP in Oregon; weed legalized

Democrats on Tuesday retained the governorship, a Senate seat, four of five House seats and clear majorities in the state Senate and House.

Voters approved the full legalization of marijuana that many believe will steal business from neighboring Washington, which legalized pot in 2012. You can own much more weed in Oregon and it'll be taxed less.

Yes, Republicans control both chambers of Congress in D.C., but, if their first order of business is to impeach President Obama, they'll guarantee defeat in 2016.

In Oregon, Gov. John Kitzhaber eked out another victory for an unprecedented fourth term in spite of the fact that he was the most vulnerable Democrat to hold that office in a generation. From health care to education, he failed badly. His fiancee, Cylvia Hayes, brought nothing but bad press over the past two months.

And yet, the Republican Party put forth a "guaranteed loser" in Dennis Richardson, an extremist from southern Oregon.

Speaking of "guaranteed loser," an epithet that former Sen. Bob Packwood applied to Monica Wehby's primary opponent Jason Conger, Wehby was trounced by incumbent Sen. Jeff Merkley. Unlike Richardson, she couldn't even carry Deschutes County, which is reliably "red."

Plus, Democrats broadened their control of the state Senate and maintained their eight-seat control of the House. Voters elsewhere may have wanted a change to Republicans, but not in Oregon, thank god.

The GOP in Oregon is pathetic.

To consoles themselves for the next few years, Republicans can now get legally stoned. They'll be better off if they do.

Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 election: Time to panic?

Wehby, Buehler are this year's RINOs
The good news about the general election is that we only have a week left of negative TV ads, throw-away political fliers and constant robo-calls.

The bad news is that we still have a week left of all that garbage.

Since it is a non-presidential election, the media tell us that the opposition party, the Republicans, stand to make big gains by winning control of both houses of Congress.

We shall see.

There is a general crankiness out there in spite of the fact that the economy is doing better than it has in a decade, the stock market is at record highs and gas prices are well below $3 a gallon in some places.

But, good news doesn't sell TV ads or whatever newspaper fill their pages with these days.

Not that ebola or ISIS or the Ukraine aren't news, it's just that they have little or no effect on anything in America.

So, when all else fails, push the panic button of irrationality.

That always works.

Or, at least until the election is over and then it will be back to 24/7 coverage of the next iPhone.

But, all the bloviation doesn't seem to have much impact here in Oregon.

In Deschutes County, ballot returns, in our vote-by-mail system, were at just 17 percent as of Friday. At this rate, we'll likely get in the 60 percent range next week, which is generally good news for Republicans, who usually need less voter turnout to win and the reason why they push to suppress the vote across the country.

Four years ago, the turnout, inspired by tea-baggers, reached nearly 73 percent.

Well, that party is over.

The usual social issues are absent from the Oregon ballot this time around. Plus, the Republicans running for the Senate and our local state House seat both back abortion rights and same-sex marriage.

Yes, they're Republicans in Name Only or RINOs.

That's the real news.

Monica Wehby, though, will likely lose her bid for the Senate by a double-digit margin, but Knute Buehler should win the local House seat comfortably.

Naturally, during the primary, Wehby and Buehler obscured their views on those issues in order to win the votes of the social conservatives out there.

After securing their primary victories they tacked to the center in order to win over the non-affiliated voters, which make up a quarter of the electorate.

Well, Oregon Right to Life (ORtL) felt used and sent out a postcard urging their like-minded citizens to not vote for Buehler. "Leave the ballot line BLANK," the group wrote.

ORtL claims that Buehler has "joined with other Republicans here in Oregon to push the Republican Party to support abortion on demand."

Once upon a time, Oregon Right to Life could have a major impact on statewide elections. But, that NRA-type of influence will be severely tested this time around.

Buehler is betting that he'll win over enough non-affiliated voters to offset the "voter suppression" attempt by ORtL.

But, should he lose, it will send a big message to other GOP candidates that opposition to abortion is the most important issue to rank-and-file Republicans.

If Buehler wins, the war over social issues will finally fade away.

"This would leave pro-lifers with no party that supports their values," ORtL wrote.

Or, ORtL will form its own party and siphon off votes from future GOP hopefuls.

We can only hope.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GMO labeling, weed, equal rights, driver card should pass

There are seven statewide measures on the ballot this November, and six of them are worthwhile.

Measure 86: This allows the state to incur some debt to finance college for Oregonians. Currently, the state has little financial stake in post-secondary education. The result is that college tuition in Oregon has doubled in 10 years. Also, Oregonians are finding it more difficult to get accepted to an Oregon college because the schools are relying on out-of-state students, who pay more than double the in-state tuition rate, to balance the books. Vote Yes.

Measure 88: This "provides Oregon residents a 'driver's card' without requiring proof of legal presence in the U.S." Yes, this is mainly targeted at undocumented Mexicans whose work at low wages helps sustain the state economy. This has widespread support because it brings Mexicans into the system so that they can eventually become legal here. Predictably, race-baiters who live and die by Fox News are vehemently opposed. That's a damn good reason to vote Yes.

Measure 89: An equal rights amendment to the state constitution. It puts into writing, what is largely happening anyway, that women and men have equal rights. Um, this is more than 150 years overdue, or since 1859, when Oregon joined the union. Vote Yes.

Measure 90: Open primary. This creates a single primary ballot, where the top two vote-getters advance. It allows Oregon non-affiliated voters, who represent about a quarter of the electorate, to help choose the candidates for the general election. In principle, it makes sense. California and Washington already use this system. However, out-of-state money is backing this measure because, like the states to the north and south, Oregon leans strongly towards Democrats. In the current primary system, Democrats vote for the centrist, level-headed politician, while Republicans usually back a candidate so extreme in their views that they can't possible win the general election. Essentially, this bypasses the kooky Republican primary and allows for a more centrist-seeming Republican to make it to the top two. It's a ruse to help Republicans get elected to a statewide office. This measure will surely pass, but I'm still voting NO.

Measure 91: Yes, legalization of marijuana is back on the ballot after failing two years ago when Washington and Colorado voters passed their measures, which altered the landscape. Yes, weed will bring with it problems, just like alcohol. But, in a state which produces and consumes its beer-gut-size share of craft brews, it is totally hypocritical to then turn around and say pot users should go to jail. Is it better to be drunk and driving or stoned and driving? Neither, they're both bad. But the genie is out of the bottle on this one. It's an economic issue now. Creating jobs, like in Washington and Colorado, for the growing, processing and selling of marijuana is needed in a state with such high unemployment. Plus, young people are moving to states that legalize marijuana. If this measure doesn't pass now, it will soon enough. The times they are a-changing. Vote Yes.

Measure 92: This requires food manufacturers and retailers to label "genetically engineered" foods as such. Yes, genetically modified organisms or GMOs are generating their fair share of controversy. The food manufacturers, backed by mega-agri-businesses like Monsanto, say the financial sky will fall from all the new labeling. Completely bogus. People have a right to know what's in the food they consume. It's long overdue. Vote Yes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bend city council vote a mess

It doesn't really matter who wins a seat on the Bend City Council because city governance is so screwed up, no councilor could have any real impact.

The most recent head-scratcher has to do with OSU-Cascades. The city council heard the challenge to the city staff's approval for a 10-acre campus knowing that the ultimate campus size would be 10 times that size. Yes, it would be good to have a master plan, but city code doesn't demand one. That's what they call planning in Bend. Councilors said they couldn't do anything about it.

If there isn't anything they could do, then they shouldn't be on the city council to begin with.

Then, this same council keeps jacking up water, sewer and storm water fees at more than triple the rate of inflation. They've been doing this for a decade. A modest 1,200-square foot home in Bend that houses three people and has a 300-square-foot lawn can pay $150 a month in summer for water and sewer, and almost $100 a month during the winter.

Yes, they are trying to pay for a costly water upgrade, but the sewer and storm-water fees keep rising to subsidize millionaire developers in Bend. Instead of raising development fees, the city is deferring them.

In fact, the city just raised the storm-water tax on homeowners and has never even considered enacting a building impact fee on developers and builders, as allowed by law, to offset storm-water runoff.

Instead of enacting a 3-cent-a-gallon gas tax, like most larger cities do in this state, the city council caves to anti-tax nuts. We have no sales tax and ton of tourists that could help offset their impact on the roads. It's really a no-brainer, and that's what we have on the council.

Instead of getting re-elected, most of these yahoos should be recalled. They're a complete embarrassment. Save, for Mayor Jim Clinton, the only councilor looking out for city residents.

Of course, the councilors are just the tip of the iceberg of dysfunction in Bend.

City planners answer only to the development/real estate crowd and could care less what the majority of Bend residents think. I've been to a number of community meetings over the years and can vouch for this claim.

Voting for a city councilor is a waste of time. The only solution is suing the city.

That's why the Truth-In-Site group, which opposes the west-side location for OSU-Cascades, has a chance to influence the city because it is challenging the city's approval of the pumice pit site to the state land-use board of appeals.

If you really want to influence government, hire a lawyer. And, no, I'm not a lawyer.

Anyway, position's 5, 6 and 7 of the council are contested this time around.

In Position 5, vote for Nathan Boddie because he appears to look out for all the citizens of Bend. His opponent, incumbent Mark Capell, is an absolute joke with no clue about what the citizens in this town want.

In Position 6, there is no one really to endorse out of the four running. Ron Boozell, Casey Roats, Lisa Seales, and Richard Robertson. Roats, through the Bend water system he owns, represents the old guard. Boozell is not credible. Seales teaches at OSU-Cascades and can't be trusted on the west-side campus. Robertson is disabled and he is passionate about issues facing the disabled. Vote for Robertson. At least he stands for something legitimate.

In Position 7, incumbent Scott Ramsay is an empty suit representing the status quo of current infrastructure dysfunction in Bend. His opponent, Barb Campbell, is rightfully concerned about the skyrocketing water and sewer rates in this town. Vote Campbell.

Again, it doesn't matter who wins, because unless Bend citizens are willing to sue the city, nothing will change here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

2014 state election endorsements easy

Even the state fact book is blue
Since Republicans cower from fielding electable candidates to statewide office, Nov. 4's general election doesn't provide much drama.

Gov. John Kitzhaber should win an unprecedented fourth term even though he's had a terrible third term led by the total failure of Cover Oregon, the health insurance exchange.

Plus, his fiancee, former Bendite Cylvia Hayes,  just revealed that she had a third, sham marriage in the 1990s to an Ethiopian immigrant so that he could stay in this country. She pocketed $5,000, which she failed to report on her taxes. Talk about October surprises.

But, Kitzhaber faces a state legislator, Dennis Richardson, who is so extreme in his far right-wing views that he'll have a hard time winning over many non-affiliated voters, who make up almost a quarter of the electorate.

Even The Oregonian newspaper, which now skews right, endorsed Kitzhaber because his opponent is so far-afield from "Oregon values."

Obviously, a newspaper endorsement doesn't mean much these days.

It's important, though, that Kitzhaber wins because this state does not need a divisive, clueless figure in Richardson to run this state. As a Mormon, Richardson's first allegiance is to his religion not his state or country.

The other major statewide race should see Democrat Jeff Merkley easily win a second term to the U.S. Senate.

Merkley has represented the state well, is likable and approachable. He definitely deserves a second term.

His opponent, Dr. Monica Wehby, is just not ready for prime-time. She's another political dilettante. She believes, like many self-absorbed people, that she deserves to win a statewide office even though she's never held elective office.

Well, her ex-husband and a former boyfriend had to call the police to stop her from harassing them.

She claims she's an "independent" Republican and not beholden to GOP orthodoxy. Yet, on her website, she plagiarized Republican talking points on health and economic issues.

Of course, these revelations did not come from any media source in Oregon.

No, the websites Politico and Buzzfeed broke those stories.

Newspapers used to have some investigative reporting, but those days are long gone. Commercial TV stations have never been known for making many political scoops because they've been wholly dependent on political ads to finance their operations and do not want to offend anyone, at least not Republicans.

Like all Democratic candidates for statewide office, Merkley is bolstered by a sizable advantage among registered voters.

Democrats lead Republicans 38 percent to 30 percent, which, amazingly, is an increase over the last election cycle.

Yes, Oregon is a "blue" state, thank god.

But, Bend is not as "blue."

Democrats, locally, are 35 percent of the electorate, the Republicans about 30 percent and non-affiliated voters 25 percent.

This should give the edge to Democrat Craig Wilhelm in the state House race for Bend.

But, Republican Knute Buehler, a political neophyte who lost a winnable race for Oregon state secretary two years ago, has run a savvy campaign.

In order to appeal to those non-affiliated voters, Buehler backs abortion rights and marriage equality.

Those stances didn't fully come to light until after the primary, but once they did, Buehler lost the backing of right-wing groups, but gained some support of the non-affiliated.

Also, Buehler is running TV ads showing Democrats who plan to vote for him.

Most decisively, though, Buehler resorted to negative ads, which usually tip the balance in close elections.

What annoys me about Democrats, particularly in local elections, is that they do not employ as negative campaigning as Republicans do. Yes, these ads are unseemly, but they work.

Wilhelm will likely lose the election because he did not go negative.

It will be interesting to see if Buehler's shift in positions on social issues will cost him enough Republican votes to sway the election. Or, will the wing-nutters abandon their principles and vote for Buehler.

Keep Oregon "blue": vote Kitzhaber, Merkley and Wilhelm.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What happened to progressive government?

Once upon a time in America
The recent PBS documentary on the Roosevelts reminds us that progressive government is a thing of the distant past.

Teddy Roosevelt fought the big corporate trusts of his day and won. He also set aside more than 125 million acres for national forests under public protection and was known as the Great Conservationist. That Roosevelt would be hounded out of the Republican Party today.

FDR, aided by his wife Eleanor, was the most progressive president in history. His administrations ushered in most of what we take for granted today: the minimum wage, child-labor laws, Social Security, the FDIC, the G.I. Bill, etc.

There has been some social progress since FDR's time, but the breakthroughs have been few and far between.

President Johnson gave us Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights for African-Americans.

All this proved too much for Americans and we went into a nearly 50-year period of regressive policies spanning Democratic and Republican administrations.

Not until President Obama has this country started to move in the right direction again.

Yes, the Affordable Care Act doesn't go nearly far enough, in that health care should be a single-payer system like Medicare. But, it's a major step in the right direction.

President Obama is the first president to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages and the Supreme Court has largely agreed.

He's trying to raise the minimum wage to where it would be, in buying power, in 1968. He wants equal pay for equal work and he wants us to stop rewarding corporations for sending jobs overseas. Republicans have largely thwarted those efforts as well.

These modest gains under Obama could very well lead to another extended period of regressive governance which began in 2010, led by the Tea Party, complete with tricorn hats.

The local daily newspaper editorialized against the government mandating paid sick leave for workers in the private sector. That mindset also opposed the creation of the minimum wage and child labor laws decades ago.

Time magazine ran an article arguing that the reason the latest session of Congress is the least productive in history is that both Democrats and Republicans have largely got what they've wanted and there isn't much else to accomplish.

That is so wrong.  There is much to do.

There are no laws that can be written to eliminate racism, sexism or homophobia, but we can do a lot more to protect the rights, not to mention lives, of minorities and women.

There is a battle being waged in this country between religious rights and human rights, and human rights are losing. That must be reversed.

Those that believe America should be a "Christian" nation need only marvel at what an Islamic nation looks like today.

Also, by remaining addicted to oil we are not only beholden to the crazies of the Middle East but we are also now destroying our ground water through fracking.

Relying on coal for electricity is bad for the environment in so many ways.

President Obama has tried to steer this country toward a more clean-energy future, but entrenched interests, namely the "oiligarchy," have thwarted those initiatives.

Just as Social Security is still being challenged by Republicans today, it will likely take decades for Americans to accept "Obamacare" and gay marriage.

Unfortunately, the only progress that Americans and the media seem to embrace is what new iPhone is being released. That, and keeping up with the Kardashians.

So, I guess we deserve whatever regressive era that lies ahead.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's Apple time

Apple Watch, only $349, 
while supplies last next year
Now that Apple has introduced larger iPhones plus a new Apple Watch (no i, please), it's been fun reading some of the comments online.

Here are a few:

Does the new smart watch have an app for telling the time?

Is that an iPhone in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Everyone willing to put a Google Glass on their head is sure to buy the iWatch.

It will be a big time-saver to have the watch broadcast my heartbeat to my friends. As it is, I have to call them every 5 minutes to give them this important information.

Today my Apple fanatic boyfriend told me he loved me more than Apple products...even the new iPhones. It must be true love!! He's willing to be in a relationship with an Android user.

Cargo pants; the trendiest iPhone accessory.

I was hoping for an iPad with phone inside so I could walk around with it on my shoulders like the old Boom Boxes. 

So disappointing, yet I will be making my way to the apple store to buy the new phone.

I actually have a phone that just makes phone calls.

the only thing i need to know about the new iPhone is if my dad is going to stop paying for our family plan at any point in the near future 

I am waiting for the Apple film camera and the Apple typewriter.

Did not someone do all this already?

When the news media becomes the finger puppets of giant corporations and the government, who can the people turn to for journalism?

isn't telling time sort of over, anyway?


Monday, September 8, 2014

Obama's economy better than Reagan's?

According to Forbes magazine, which is hardly a liberal rag, the U.S. economy under President Obama has outpaced the economy under President Reagan.

And, its really not that close.

At the same time in both presidencies, the job growth under Obama beats Reagan by a full year.

The stock market rose a whopping 190 percent under Reagan during his first 67 months in office.

Under Obama, the market is up 220 percent.

Call that a facial on all those Republican talking points about how to turn an economy around.

Again, which party is the party for business?

Of course, historically, the stock market has done better under Democratic presidents than under Republican administrations.

And, Forbes reported in 2012 that if you "Want a Better Economy? History Says Vote Democrat!"

It looks like Forbes was right then and is right now.

Who knew?

Apparently, "Obamacare" is not a drag on the economy, but rather a stimulant.

But, if voters want Republicans in office, look toward Kansas and the catastrophe unfolding there.

Thanks to ridiculous tax cuts, the Kansas budget relies more on those who do not have money rather than on those who do.  Small wonder that they now have a budget crisis.

Kansas' Gov. Sam Brownback tried to blame President Obama, but that backfired.

Thank god we're not in Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

'Perverse' city codes allow OSU-Cascades to build 10-acre campus

As expected, a hearings officer approved the plans for the 10-acre campus of OSU-Cascades, further cementing Bend's status as Bend-Over, Oregon.

The new four-year university in Bend will be about the size of a high school parking lot.

Oh, and the 5,000-student university will have about 300 parking spaces, since most college students don't use cars, according to OSU officials.

Higher education here is reaching new lows before any ivy-covered walls are constructed.

The best part of the hearings officer ruling, according to the daily paper, is that he knows the whole process is bogus, but that's what the city code allows.

The hearings officer noted that OSU's piecemeal approach to building it's west-side campus (the 46-acre pumice pit wasn't included this time) "comes very close to thwarting sound planning and the very purpose of the city's master planning provisions."

"It is understandable that the opponents of this application view the 'ownership issue' as a convenient excuse to avoid the master planning process."

But, code is code and master planning be damned.

Uh, no kidding. Most residential streets don't even have sidewalks, particularly on the west side.

The state spent $120 million building the parkway through town and the city allowed massive retail development on the parkway's northern end, creating gridlock, which defeated the purpose of the parkway. The state estimates it will cost $240 million just to fix that problem.

The city just hiked its storm drainage fee because it refuses to assess any such fee on developers.

Afterall, developers essentially wrote the city's codes.

That is why parking issues are so vague.

The hearings officer wrote that even evaluating the parking plan "represents a difficult if not perverse exercise because there is no legal standard set forth in the code for determining whether a parking plan is adequate."

Therefore, the hearings officer was "left little choice but to conclude that the City Council, in adopting this provision, intended to provide a very flexible tool for estimating needed parking for colleges."

Um. "A very flexible tool?"

Was the hearings officer referring to himself?

And is the "perverse exercise" referring to the fact that developers are bound and determined to destroy the goose that laid the golden egg in Bend?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Racists should rue the day

A protester is treated for tear gas effects after being hit
  Sunday night in Ferguson, MO.
| Alex Wroblewski / for Sun-Times Media
What's so distressing about the events in Missouri this month is that they're a repeat of a rerun of a redux.

Is this the 1960s or the 1990s?

No, it's Teens, the 20-teens. "Post-Racial" America.

A white police officer gunning down an unarmed black man with a dubious past is so commonplace that it hardly rates as news in America.

Yet, with no major catastrophe for the TV/cable networks to cover during the "dog days" of summer, we're left with a one-time mainstay of TV coverage: blacks rioting.

For most white Americans, it doesn't matter that a majority black community is "safe-guarded" by almost a completely white police force, that is armed like our Army. Or that this same community is governed by almost a completely white city council. They see blacks looting and they get angry.

They see this as further proof of how President Obama is dividing America.

Actually, it's their perception of President Obama and of most African-Americans that is dividing our country.

Leave it to The Onion to explain how an unarmed black teen should behave in their own community in 2014. Also, watch any episode of Key and Peele on Comedy Central. Those guys nail it.

The rest of the world is covering this story because they assumed that by electing President Obama twice in a row that this country had put its racial problems behind us.

Obviously not.

Check out any of the comments after stories on this crisis on Yahoo and you'll read unbridled hate towards African-Americans or anyone who isn't white. It's rather depressing.

I fear for the safety of President Obama should he visit Ferguson or anywhere in Missouri, the state from which Dred Scott sought, and lost his freedom, his personhood.

Many white, racist Americans are agitated these days. They're enraged that a black man occupies the White House. They're tired of movies like "12 Years a Slave," which accurately depict how this country treated slaves. Actually, they're just tired of hearing about black people. They've got problems of their own.

Well, get used to it. Soon enough, white people will no longer be the majority racial group in this country.

Notice how the NRA is silent in all of this. Had the dead black teen been properly armed, along with "open carry" protections, perhaps the story would be different. You know, "stand your ground."

One of the hidden reasons why African-Americans mostly prevailed in their civil rights struggle, is that they could buy guns and protect themselves when the police would not. Certainly, the NRA does not promote gun ownership by African-Americans.

This country lives by the gun. We are also dying by the gun.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Compared to Obama, Bush was a slacker

Clearly, Obama is more presidential
Of course, comparing anyone to W. does that person a disservice.

But, at the same point of both presidencies, Bush has crushed President Obama when it comes to days off and overall number of trips.

It seems that the Obama-haters are a bit indignant that he takes "so many vacations," particularly during what they deem "crises."

Yes, Iraq and Afghanistan haven't gone away, with Muslims killing Muslims and some Christians, too.

There's an ebola outbreak in West Africa that affected a couple of Americans.

There's trouble in the Ukraine, which so distresses most Fox News viewers that they cannot locate the country on a map.

And, Israelis and Palestinians, surprise, surprise, are at it again.

With trouble like that in the world, trouble that won't go away for decades, if ever, getting out of town for a few days seems like the right thing to do.

In the Yahoo story linked above, don't forget to read some of the thousands of comments after it. They reveal that the collective voice of America is a bit cranky.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Road cleared for OSU-Cascades' move to Juniper Ridge

Now that the Oregon Dept. of Transportation has finalized a plan to deal with the traffic on Hwy. 97 on Bend's north end near Juniper Ridge, the path is clear for OSU-Cascades to build its new four-year university there.

The state expects the federal highway fund to pay for the estimated $150-million to $250-million project.

This means that OSU-Cascades won't have to pay for the mandated road work. It frees up money to spend on utilities and roads at 1,500-acre Juniper Ridge.

Juniper Ridge is now the much cheaper alternative than the pumice pit and demolition dump, which total about 100 acres, on Bend's overcrowded west side.

A recent engineering report said OSU-Cascades could build on the pumice pit, but there is much remedial work to be done that could push the tab close to $20 million just to make the pumice pit ready for any utility work or roads. Naturally, OSU has not set a limit on what it will pay to fix the site, according to the local paper.

In other words, OSU-Cascades could save at least $20 million taxpayers' dollars by simply opting to build OSU-Cascades at Juniper Ridge, which was designed for such a school. The pumice pit and demo dump were not created so that a four-year university could be built there.

The Bend-La Pine School District spent $7.2 million just to fix a football field and the track that surrounds it and there are no buildings on the football field or track.

Also, developers at nearby NorthWest Crossing replaced about 600,000 cubic yards of pumice on land for its expansion of that development. But, this area isn't for homes, but rather a large park that will have no sizable buildings on them, let alone a two-story home.

And yet, we are supposed to believe that multi-story classrooms and dorms could be built on land more unstable than the land at NorthWest Crossing.

What a bad joke.

Juniper Ridge is looking better and better than the money pit on Bend's west side.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Movies of World War I

Kirk Douglas in 'Paths of Glory'
Considering that it was pointless war, but one that changed the world forever, it is amazing how many films have been made about World War I. And, how few of them are worth remembering.

The Great War, which officially began 100 years ago July 28, doesn't get its proper due because when footage of it is shown on TV, we get fast-motion, black-and-white footage. It makes the horror seem comical.

That's not to say there wasn't some comic relief during World War I. Or that there wasn't "black" humor. Or that some movies didn't capture those aspects.

Although, check out this link of an interactive documentary that has some amazing normal footage.

The war to end all wars gave us the Treaty of Versailles, which is better known as the peace to end all peace. With millions killed and maimed and with four empires dissolved, WWI should have more than it's fair share of stories.

While I haven't seen all the movies made about WWI, I have seen a few that are worth recommending.

1) "Grand Illusion" (1937). Directed by Jean Renoir, this wonderful film chronicles French soldiers in a German POW camp. In German, French and English, this gem usually makes the list of top movies because of its heart and soul. Erich Von Stroheim, the legendary Hollywood director and actor ("Sunset Boulevard"), plays a classic role. Renoir first served in the French cavalry and then as a reconnaissance pilot. He suffered a bullet wound in the leg which left him with a lifelong limp.

2) "Paths of Glory" (1957). When I first saw this Stanley Kubrick opus as a kid, I was horrified that French generals would order the execution of three of its own soldiers in order to keep the other soldiers in line. After seeing it years later, of course, I finally got the dark humor that Kubrick was famous for in other films like "Dr. Strangelove," and "Lolita." Kirk Douglas is great as a French officer who must lead his men out of the trenches in suicidal attacks.

3) "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962). While this David Lean epic is far from the western front, it does highlight the fight in the Middle East as Arabs sought independence from the Ottoman empire. Peter O'Toole is great as T.E. Lawrence, the self-styled British leader of Arab resistance. Always a visual stunner of a film.

4) "Gallipoli" (1981) Peter Weir directed this film about one of the most important events in Australian history that was commemorated during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Conversely, it's regarded as one of the greatest moments in Turkey's history. Starring Mel Gibson, the film chronicles how Aussies were ordered to make suicidal runs against machine guns of the Turks on the Gallipoli peninsula. Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, championed this catastrophe and would be ostracized because of it until World War II.

5) "King of Hearts" (1966) While it's not about warfare directly, this movie is a cult classic about an insane asylum that is left unattended after the Germans retreat. Alan Bates is the King of Hearts.

6) "The African Queen" (1951) This John Huston epic uses WWI as a backdrop in German East Africa to explore the relationship between the boat captain and the missionary, played by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, respectively.

Other films of note include:

"Joyeux Noel" (2005). Although I have yet to see this film, it is on my to-watch list. Based on a true story, it takes place during the Christmas truce of 1914 when French, Scottish and German soldiers put down their arms to celebrate Christmas. Unfortunately, the soldiers returned to their posts so that they could kill each other rather than lay down their arms. Imagine if troops had led their officers and political leaders to end the war. Yes, a grand illusion. Actually, troop rebellions on both sides helped end the conflict.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930) A sympathetic portrayal of German soldiers on the Western Front. Considered the first serious film to win best picture.

"Wings" (1927) This silent flick won the first best picture award. While anachronistic, this film of the aerial war is worth checking out.

"Sergeant York" (1941) Directed by Howard Hawks, starring Gary Cooper at Sgt. Alvin York, the pacifist turned war hero.

"War Horse" (2011) Haven't seen this Steven Spielberg epic about a fabled horse before and during WWI.

"A Farewell to Arms" (1932 and 1957) The earlier version, starring Gary Cooper is the better version.

There have been a number of films about the aerial part of the conflict including "Flyboys," "The Blue Max," "The Red Baron," "Hells Angels," etc. What's amazing is that planes had almost no impact on the war. And these movies had little, lasting impact.

Finally, one of the best anti-war statements emerged from WWI in the form of Dalton Trumbo's  novel "Johnny Got His Gun," which was made into a largely forgotten film in 1971.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The smallest 4-year university in Bend?

Also known as OSU-Pumice Pit
It appears that the brain trust behind OSU-Cascades/Pumice Pit wants to create one of the smallest four-year university campuses in the world.

Imagine squeezing 5,000 students (or 8,000 to 10,000) onto a 10-acre parcel.

Let's see, Central Oregon Community College, which is just a two-year school in Bend, sits on more than 200 acres and serves about 12,000 students.

According to the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, a 300-student elementary school needs 13 acres. A high school with 2,000 students needs 50 acres. But, OSU-Cascades needs only 10 acres. Yeah, right.

Since OSU officials believe their plans for Bend's overcrowded west side should not be judged on their future expansion to the adjacent 46-acre pumice pit, then they must be content with a 10-acre campus they bought at 22 percent above the assessed value.

Actually, they're lying to the taxpayers of Oregon.

They have an offer to buy the pumice pit, but are delaying the completion of the deal until they can get city approval for the entire campus based solely on its plans for the 10-acre parcel.

It's deceitful and wrong.

They absurdly claim that they shouldn't be held responsible for land they don't currently own.

So, do they plan to expand to the pumice pit and also to the adjacent 72-acre demolition landfill?

Shouldn't "planners" be looking ahead to what OSU-Cascades ultimately plans to do?

Actually, the lack of planning plagues Bend and most cities in the country. It is why basic infrastructure -- roads, water, sewer -- is such a mess here and elsewhere.

Is a 10-acre campus big enough for the long-sought, four-year university in the state's fastest growing area?

The answer is no. The hearings officer should reject the current plans for OSU-Cascades until the school's leaders tell the truth about what they plan to do.

You would think, with the thousands of acres of vacant land in and around Bend, there should be more than 10 acres of decent land available  on which to build an expandable four-year university.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Impeachment heat wave

It's hot in Bend with 90-degree temps forecast through next week.

Evidently, it's hot all over the country because people are doing some stupid things.

In Nebraska, a 4th of July parade had a float that featured an outhouse with the words: "Obama Presidential Library." Apparently, it was a big hit there.

A New York newspaper ran an op-ed column with the headline: "The Nigger in the White House."

The column, while supportive of President Obama, attracted scores of comments  from various websites that defended the headline as largely accurate.

These incidents come on the heels of a poll that says President Obama is the worst president since World War II. 

Of course, the joke is that these poll respondents also blame President Obama for starting WWII.

After House Speaker John Boehner threatened to sue President Obama, impeachment fever has swept the teabagging landscape. Of course, talk of President Obama's impeachment began before he even took office years ago.

This week, though, the most powerful Republican woman, Sarah Palin, now calls for President Obama's impeachment.

The real joke here is that Palin still commands respect among teabaggers and GOPers alike.

The GOP in Montana and South Dakota are now calling for President Obama's impeachment.

Republicans are upset about a host of things like Benghazi, which so upsets them, that they can't even locate it on a map.

They also have their panties in a wad over President Obama's and use of executive orders. Nevermind, that Obama has used  this tactic far less than any president of the 20th century.

GOP Lawmakers also allege his "lawlessness" in not enforcing our immigration laws. Evidently, President Obama is enforcing the 2008 immigration law, which passed with substantial bipartisan support and was eagerly signed by President Bush.

Republicans love saying that President Obama is a "feckless" president and, at the same time, rail against him for being dictatorial.

Gee, is he weak or strong? Make up your mind.

Republicans need their base of racists to come out and vote this fall if they hope to retake the Senate. They'll resort to any tactic to get out this vote.

Good luck with that "Southern strategy."

That dog will no longer hunt.

Monday, June 30, 2014

High court backs Sharia law, servitude

By voting 5-4 today in two cases against human and worker rights, the Supreme Court returns America back to sectarian and class warfare of the Dark Ages.

While the rulings may seem narrow in scope, one applies only to "closely-held corporations" and the other to home health-care workers, the effect will be broad and deep.

Since corporations are people, too, they can now deny health insurance coverage if it goes against the corporation's religion. Of course, the real religion of any self-respecting corporation is greed, but now they have free rein to discriminate against anyone based on whatever religion they choose.

Now, some dim-bulb Christians out there believe that this only applies to Christianity.

However, Islamic business owners can now enforce Sharia law and Scientology business owners can enforce their "religion"  on their employees and patrons. And, discrimination against homesexuals has just been sanctioned.

Isn't that special, as the Church Lady would say.

Of course, the Supreme Court is dominated by men as are almost all religions.

And religions, historically, have suppressed the rights, if not the dignity, of women.

The "deeply religious" owners of Hobby Lobby, which is expected to open a store in Bend this year, brought the suit against the Affordable Care Act.

But, Hobby Lobby invests in the companies that produce the contraceptives that Hobby Lobby supposedly objects to. Also, Hobby Lobby sells mostly junk made in China, which mandates abortion. Yes, like many "deeply religious" folks, they are hypocrites.

I urge everyone to boycott Hobby Lobby.

Religious rights should never, ever, ever, ever, ever trump human rights. Well, news for the high court, women are humans, too, and they should be allowed to decide what's best for them.

Some say that this ruling means we shouldn't depend on employers to provide health insurance. But, if we have Medicare for all Americans, corporations like Hobby Lobby will then refuse to pay taxes that support Medicare, based on this ruling today.

As for the anti-union ruling, the Supreme Court did not apply this decision to public-employee unions, but those challenges will come quickly.

The corporate war on workers is so successful that just over 11 percent of American workers belong to a union. Because of that victory, the middle class, which built American prosperity, is disappearing quickly.

And, since this case involved home-health care workers, who are predominantly women, this ruling was another attack against women. No wonder Republicans cheered both rulings.

As workers opt out of paying union dues, the unions themselves will die out.

When unions cease to exist, we can see the minimum wage eventually extended to all hourly workers.

This is the goal of corporate America. They're telling American workers that if you want those jobs we shipped to China, Vietnam or Mexico, then you have to be paid what they are paid.

With these rulings, it is obvious that we desperately need more female than male justices on the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Boehner crying sue-y

As teabaggers pray for deliverance from the "imperial" president, the "weeper" of the House finally claims to hear their pain.

Yes, John Boehner (R-Ohio), plans on suing President Obama over his "misuse" of "executive orders." Such a lawsuit would be a first for Congress.

For those who drool at any tidbit from Fox News or hate radio, they are certain that President Obama has issued more executive orders than any other president in history.

It is true that President Obama has issued far more executive orders than any African-American president in our history.

Yet, when compared with presidents who were not African-American, he is somewhat of a laggard.

The Brookings Institution, a liberal think-tank, reported in January that President Obama has been issuing executive orders at the slowest rate since Grover Cleveland, who was president in the 1800s.

In fact, President Obama has issued only 171 such orders so far. Meanwhile, W. issued 291 and Reagan did 381.

It would take a lot of executive ordering for President Obama to even reach W.'s level.

But, facts don't really matter anymore.

Conservative white Americans are desperate to get that black man out of the White House.

They'll stoop to anything.

Hopefully, this is their low point.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

'Chinatown' at 40

'Either you bring the water to L.A.,
or you bring L.A. to the water'
It seems like yesterday when I saw "Chinatown" for the first time in Westwood, where a huge copy of the poster (at right) was painted on the side of the theater.

I knew then, as did most of my college friends, that it was a classic movie, one that would surely stand the test of time.

Forty years on and I still feel the same way about it.

"Chinatown" is not only a great detective mystery film with impeccable art direction. It's not only a master work from one of the more controversial directors in history. It not only has the best acting of the stars' careers. It not only has memorable dialogue and a haunting musical score.

"Chinatown" also has one of the best scripts ever written, about something that matters.

And that issue is water. And the power that ensues from it. And the venality that follows.

In 2014, California faces a critical time of dwindling water resources combined with increased demands on that most essential element of life. 

As screenwriter Robert Towne said, "Why not do a picture about a crime that's right in front of everybody. Instead of a jewel-encrusted falcon, make it something as prevalent as water faucets."

"Chinatown" worked so well then and does so now because it showed how corruption, evil men and greed combined to control the destiny of a city and a state.

It could be any city or any state.

Bend has its OSU-Pumice Pit fiasco, which is being guided by the greedy hands of a few players.

Anywhere in America, you can find examples of how a few, rich men can control how and where a city, a state or the nation grows.

Few films have done so well in all those style categories listed above as "Chinatown."

It's beautiful to watch, to listen to and to feel.

The film is as much about multiple crimes as it is about what we've lost in the pursuit of "progress."

While still in college, I got a copy of the original poster, screenplay and vinyl soundtrack.

Yet, I'm nowhere near as obsessed as others about "Chinatown."

Here's another appreciation of the film that shows what a fetish "Chinatown" is to some people.

Also, check out this link to read how Towne was inspired to write about L.A.'s water issues by reading a book he checked out at the University of Oregon.

Forty years later, though, the line by Noah Cross to J.J. Gittes says as much now as it did then: "You may think you know what you're dealing with, but, believe me, you don't."

Just when you think you've got it figured out, you sense that it's much worse than you could possibly imagine.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

1914 not so different from 2014

Trench warfare that accomplished little for four years
In catching up with the history of World War I as the 100th anniversary kicks off June 28, it's apparent the mindset that produced that catastrophe is alive and well today.

In reading Christopher Clark's "The Sleepwalkers," a passage about the reasoning to assassinate the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne stood out.

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who looked down on the Serbs, was apparently a reform-minded monarch who wanted to assign more autonomy to the Slavic lands such as Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia, after the controversial annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary in 1908.

Many of the Serbian terrorists "recognized this idea as a potentially catastrophic threat to the reunificationist project."

"The targeting of the archduke thus exemplified one abiding strand in the logic of terrorist movements, namely that reformers and moderates are more to be feared than outright enemies and hardliners."

Sound familiar?

Also, in 1910, a Serbian terrorist tried to assassinate the Austrian governor of Bosnia, in Sarajevo no less. He fired five shots, but they all missed. The Serbian then used his last shot to kill himself. For this, a statue was built in his honor and he's still considered a national hero for failing so spectacularly and then committing suicide. 

Fortunately, they didn't have suicide vests back then.

What's striking about the cauldron of the Balkans where WWI began, is that it mattered little in the overall scheme of things then and matters even less now. Afterall, much of the war was waged far from the Balkans in Belgium and northern France.

Yet, the uneasy peace between Bosnia and Serbia brokered in 1995 after the "ethnic cleansing" committed by Serbs and Croats against Bosnian Muslims in their 1992-1995 war, is as fragile as ever.

This area of the world has been in constant conflict for centuries and there is no sign that it won't flare up again. Maybe, Serbia is waiting for the Ukrainian crisis to boil over before making another move. There is always some score to settle in the Balkans.

Serbia still pines after Kosovo, which has suffered eight major conflicts since 1369. It was the Battle of Kosovo Field in June 1389, when the Serbs were routed by the Turks, that is considered one of the most important dates in Serbian history and was cited as justification for Serbia's invasion of Kosovo in 1999.

Good grief. Serbia is still living in the Dark Ages.

Most of the blame for the problems in the Balkans before World War I belong to the Serbs, who had this notion that they needed to govern all Serbs in neighboring states. They were involved in two Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913 that set the table for the really, big show.

Anyway, if point A is the assassination of the archduke in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, how did the world get so quickly to point B, which is the Great War, beginning July 28, 1914, between the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia) and the Central Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary)?

It's complicated.

Here is a link to a thumbnail sketch that shows Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which prompted Russia to defend Serbia. Since Germany was allied with Austria-Hungary, it declared war on Russia. France was aligned with Russia and declared war on Germany. Then, Britain, with her colonies and dominions who were all allied with France, declared war on Germany as well. Because of its military agreement with Britan, Japan also declared war on Germany. Italy, aligned with the Central Alliance before the war, finally joined the fray in 1915 on the side of Triple Entente.

The U.S. wouldn't get dragged into it until 1917. In the 17 months that America fought in Europe, it lost nearly 117,000 men.

In essence, the world's dominant powers were playing Risk for real. It was a game for many of the leaders of that era who exploited nationalism and patriotism to horrible consequences.

The Industrial Revolution ushered in many amazing things including more effective ways to kill more people more quickly. Poison gas was just one of the many new ways to die.

The result was about 9.7 million combat deaths, another 21 million or so seriously injured and about 6.8 million civilians killed.  Serbia, for starting the war, lost almost 20 percent of its population.

Four imperial empires ceased to exist: Russian, Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman.

And, it was all merely a prelude, of course, to the far more disastrous, truly worldwide conflict: World War II. The Greatest War?

After WWI, the map of the Middle East was redrawn by the British with little thought about the separate realities of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds.

The chickens have now come home to roost.

In 2014, the Middle East continues to be a thorn in the world's backside much like the Balkans remain today.

There have been a number of conflicts for decades in the region between Israel and its Arab neighbors and now between Muslims themselves.

Iraq's civil war was inevitable, even if the U.S. military stayed there for a thousand years.

Does anyone really care about the bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites? Or between Syrians?

Unlike the Balkans, there is oil in Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia that underpins the reason why this god-forsaken area matters to anyone outside the region. Plus, Israel is our unofficial 51st state.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Saudi Arabian nationals belonging to al Qaeda, led to the escalation of instability in Middle Asia. In 2003, President Bush decided to throw gasoline on the embers smoldering in the Middle East by invading Iraq.

Will there be another Sarajevo-type event to drag the whole world into what is really just a neverending regional conflict?

If there is, it could get ugly fast.

Russia and China want to battle the U.S. for worldwide supremacy and the conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan could be the ticket to that eventual confrontation.

The difference now is that Germany and Japan now side with America, Great Britain and France.

Russia still has some scores to settle with Germany, as does China with Japan. And we owe the Saudis, who finance much of the terrorism in the region from oil they sell to us and others.

Gee, sounds like Risk all over again.

Now that we live in the nuclear age with a seemingly ceaseless supply of suicidal terrorists, we could see a war of total annihilation of many countries and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

The human mind hasn't evolved much in the past century in spite of the changes to almost everything else in the world.

This is no time for hotheads to decide things.