Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Loads of Bon Mots

Welcome to a special non-topical version of these Adventures! Take this one internally and let it work globally!

There are a couple of reasons for going the non-topical route this week. One of them, which also may apply next week, is the little fact that even editors are human (!) and want Christmases and New Yearses off. So I have to turn this in several days before Christmas so that somebody else can have a Wonderful Life.

The other reason that this column is going to be utterly non-topical is that six days ago I fell off a rolling platform and got a significant “owie” involving pain in multiple places. I don’t know about you, but for me pain induces an impatience for the minutiae of the daily news, and turns my thoughts to the universal and timeless. And, where my thoughts go, there I must Adventure also, or my thoughts and I would become separated. (Get it? Advent; advent-ure.)

So what I thought I’d do today is share some little sayings that I either have lived by for years, or just made up recently out of crushing boredom.

“The essence of humor is clown squeezings.” A lot of people misread this one as saying we should go squeeze a clown for jollies. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying hurt begets humor. Some of these are metaphoric, damn it!

“A baby is nothing to sneeze at.” I think that can’t be said often enough.

“When life gives you lemons, pucker up.” I know, it doesn’t quite work, but the meaning comes across anyway, doesn’t it?

“Honesty is the best front.” This is one of my all time favorites. Remember kids; don’t waste your lies getting dimes and candies, cigarettes and kisses. Save your fibs for the big stuff, like escaping the death penalty, or truly worthwhile wide-awake debauchery that you’ll be able to remember when you’re in the rest home while being “tidied up” by the nurse after your daily business.

“Politics is never a dirty word.” Sometimes politicians will counter critics by saying, “You’re just playing politics.” They want to make it a dirty word so they can have it all for themselves. They know that all politics is about the exercise of power, that’s why they want to alienate you from the very word, so you can’t exercise power that you are entitled to. So whenever someone, even be they on your own side, says someone else is just playing politics, you should make vigorous expressions of disapproval.

“If you let a wild pig eat off your ass, it's your fault when he bites it.” That was the cleaned up version. At the moment I’m imagining Karl Rove as the pig, but it could be anybody. “Codependence kills,” is another one in the same vein.

“Never do anything you would be ashamed of. First, stop feeling you should be ashamed of it. Then do it.” Some of these are just plain obvious.

“When a 250 pound man gives the seat next to me to a 90 pound woman, and the bus slams to a halt, the 250 pound man will collide with my face.” I learned this one long before Homelessness Czar Philip Mangano cooked up the whole “house the chronically homeless first” line he’s been selling. I still would add to it though: “Better yet, buy bigger busses, seat everybody.”

“Beating your neighbor’s spouse doesn’t show how much you love your own.” These days what passes for patriotism is really national chauvinism. No one loves any one country that doesn’t first love humanity, as a whole.

“Language matters.” Sticks and stones may break my bones, but the constant abuse of language, especially by authorities, is making slaves out of us all.

This one’s just for me: “My mind is like a Border Collie, it needs to drive sheep.” While you think about that, I’ll get next week’s column ready.
Have a Happy, and may Bono be pleased with the New Year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Ghost of Christmas Future

Now that the Christmas trees are back up at SeaTac, or those are up that haven’t since blown away, and now that people have calmed down a bit, I feel the need to work them into a frenzy again. That’s why this year I’m calling for all good Americans to stop recognizing foreign winters, and start recognizing American winters.

What I’m talking about is the fact that practically every calendar you can find around here, including calendars designed and printed right here in America, even right here in this city, show winter 2006 as beginning on the 22nd of this month! This is an outrage!

In fact, winter begins at a little past 12:20 AM Greenwich Mean Time. Did you know that’s code for British time, also known as ZULU time? Do we live in Britain? Do we live in Zululand? NO! We live in a city 8 hours ahead, or behind, depending on whether (math joke alert!) you’re positively or negatively oriented, ha. In any case winter starts on the 21st all across America from Maine to Hawaii, AND ANTI-AMERICAN CALENDAR MAKERS DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW IT. Are you paying attention, Lou Dobbs, or don’t you care about the American Way of Life? It’s time we celebrated Freedom Winter! No more Brit Winter!

OK, now that I’ve got that out of the way I can do what I came here to do. Apparently nobody else noticed it last week but me, but a huge shift has occurred in the culture wars across this land, a shift that promises to make the crooked straight and the rough places plain.

I am speaking of the fact that Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota came this close (see pinched fingers, crushing the head of a flea) to needing a living will and testament. Fortunately all is well, this time. I’ve read that Senator Johnson has been seen by no less than three highly qualified Democrats, who all say he’s “looking good” and has an excellent prognosis until at least January 2009, so it won’t be at all necessary for South Dakota Republican Governor Mike Rounds to appoint anyone to take Johnson’s place.

This is great because it means that I can forget about the bad scenario I have in mind happening to Tim Johnson. I can imagine it happening to a fictitious Democratic Senator. So let’s do that together, shall we?

There are 51 Senators trying to keep the Senate in Democratic control. Actuarially speaking, they are most of them old, and no one would be surprised if they didn’t all last the next two years. The same can be said for the other 49, less the difference. But what happens when, sometime in the middle of next year, the Democratic Senator William “Willy” Orrnot from the great state of South Macadamia, governed by a Republican, slips and falls in an off-duty hula competition and gets himself concussed and then doesn’t wake up from it, ever?

I’ll tell you what happens because I can see it coming as plain as a car hurtling south on a northbound one-way in rush hour, what with all the screeching tires and the smashing glass and crushed metal. At first everyone will sit back respectfully and watch as the life support system is put into action, “the way he wanted it.” Then someone will leak the man’s actual living will, which will turn out to stipulate “no unusual life-prolonging measures” be taken. Then lawsuits will fly, at first involving only the family and the wife.

When it starts to look like the plug could be pulled, that’s when you’ll see a cultural war realignment.

I don’t know about the rest of you die-hard liberals out there, but I for one am ready right now to sign a petition calling for my Congresspeople to support “An Act for the relief of the people who don’t want Democrats’ plugs pulled.”

Did I say that the Schiavo Bill was unconstitutional? I must have been smoking something.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Triple Bypass

It seems the story last week was less about the Kim family than, “How can you and YOUR family avoid dying if trapped in your car on a back road in Oregon in a blizzard?” TV news teams showed us how to assemble survival kits. On CNN, Anderson Cooper said, “Next hour: the survivalists’ Rule of Threes and what it means for you.”

That sounded very important so I had to wait for it. I often use a Rule of Threes when writing this column. For example let’s say I wanted to call attention to the fact that the winter solstice is approaching and how that means we can expect colder weather. I might remind you of three fun winter solstice events. There’s the (1) Annual Pigs Balanced On Their Noses Gala, the (2) Annual Pigs Squealing and Running Away Festival, and the (3) Annual The Planet’s Tilting the Wrong Way Again Observation.

It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are Goldilocks or if you are the Council of Nicea or if you are you, or whoever, threes are going to get your attention better than twos, fours, or seventeens. Threes are just enough to make you notice but not enough to induce a trance and result in your being possessed and dancing wildly until the god is done with you and leaves you exhausted and near death.

Which reminds me, we were talking about survival. So when Anderson Cooper told us about the survivalists’ Rule of Threes he mentioned the three rules: (1) You can survive only three hours in severe weather without shelter, (2) You can survive only three days without water, and (3) You can survive only three weeks without food.

Therefore, they say, it’s essential to get shelter first. Where have we heard that before?

While I’m trying to remember, I’ll let you all contemplate (1) the report by the Public Health Department that said they had to deal with 94 deaths of homeless people in King County last year. Or (2) the fact that we’ve exceeded that number this year. Or (3) the fact that if the same percentage of all housed people died in King County every year it would be declared a disaster area.

Oh, I remember. I said it. We need shelter first, because it doesn’t take a blizzard to kill you if all the doors in the city are locked to you.

They now say there was a well-stocked lodge within two miles of the Kim’s car that they could have reached had they known about it. But in the city there’s only enough shelter space to shelter about half the people who are homeless.

Meanwhile, Tom Rasmussen recently told a bunch of activists that the Human Services Department told him, when he asked, that the city’s shelters have no capacity problems.

I have three comments concerning that.

(1) The Human Services Department doesn’t keep track of shelter turn-aways, so their opinion on the subject is baseless. It would have been better if Tom Rassmussen had asked somebody who knew something about it, like the countless homeless people who have been turned away from shelters, who are all just trying their best, every cold night, to do what Anderson Cooper told the vast American TV viewing audience to do. So as not to end up on the Public Health Department’s roster of the dead.

(2) Rasmussen probably bases his perception in part on the truth that some homeless people won’t apply for shelter. What he chooses to ignore is that those who avoid the shelters cite dangerous overcrowding as their chief reason. So large numbers of non-applicants or zero turn-aways would not be evidence that the shelters are operating at capacity, but that the vote from the street is that the overcrowding has become intolerable.

(3) Because he was aiming for a triple, Anderson Cooper neglected to mention rule (4): You can survive only three months without love.

I’m not feeling the love.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Big Brother Is Watching YouTube

Isn’t it good to know that your government is keeping tabs on you by means of something called an Automated Targeting System, or ATS?

ATS is one big funky profiling system that profiles you as a terrorist based on a whole range of information about you gleaned from your flights in and out of the country. Let’s say you never get the pork for the in-flight meal. If you are always coming in from Tel Aviv, that might get you a low score. But if you are always flying in from Shiraz, Iran, that might dramatically raise your score. But if you are always also drinking the Shiraz, that might lower your score once more. And so on.

Fare Thee Well, in all your travels, and good luck on getting a low terrorist score! Remember it’s not personal – you’re being targeted by a heartless, mindless, soulless, automated data cranking system. What can go wrong?

But why should the government stop at collecting data about you from your flights in and out of the country? Well, I could tell you why, but it doesn’t matter – they WON’T stop! So let’s see what that will look like.

Fortunately my mathematics skills are still keen enough that I know exactly what it will look like. It will look like Netflix. Netflix’s founder Reed Hastings, who, like me and my homie Florence Nightingale, is/was also a mathematician, was just the other day telling Lesley Stahl how Netflix automatically knows how to recommend movies to you based on what you have already rented. I forget the exact words he used, but it boils down to this: the more you know about everybody, the more you know about anybody. The system simply learns what you will like from what the other clients currently like who have recently liked what you like now.

How will that work in practice? The government probably won’t mine Netflix’s data because it isn’t democratic enough. A potential domestic terrorist might not be willing to spend $5.99/month on DVDs when he could be using that money to stock up on fertilizer. Instead, our government will track things we get for free. Like YouTube videos.

Don’t kid yourself. All potential terrorists, even poor domestic terrorists nonfunded by foreign governments, enjoy YouTube. Because of that it will be very easy for Homeland Security to find terrorists by assembling a YouTube preferences terrorist score. In fact, it would be so easy they’re probably already doing it.

Think about it. If you think your personal iPod music list tells everybody everything they need to know about you, how much more will your YouTube video favorites do the trick? Just wait until Homeland Security’s computers get wind of your passion for 1930’s Soviet propaganda films featuring the Russian Internationale, with subtitles, or for 23-second clips of buskers in Budapest, annotated in Polish by someone who evidently speaks Polish but nevertheless chooses to call attention to her knowledge of English by calling herself tongue_lust.

What do you think it will mean to Homeland Security when their computer bank finds out you can’t resist scratchy videos of Uyghur lute players performing against backgrounds of Xinjiang Province landscapes? What it means depends on what all the other freaks out there with the exact same tastes do with their lives, and how often they get suspected of being a terrorist. If they (people you don’t know) are suspected of being terrorists, you will be too.

Here’s a stupid joke I just made up. How many Russians does it take to poison a light bulb? Answer: You are asking too many questions. Finish your soup!

Depending on whether you think my stupid joke is funny, the Bush administration can rate you on how trustworthy you are. It’s easy. I think my joke is a hoot, and the government knows I can’t be trusted. So if you like my joke, you can’t be trusted either.

Be beyond suspicion. Don’t do anything I would do.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

OJ And Me in the Lonely Crowd

Ever try to imagine the internal conversations of people who turn up in the news?

Did Michael “Kramer” Richards think to himself, “I’m a great comedic actor, but I’m having trouble getting roles these days. Hey, why don’t I try stand-up for a while? That’s got to be easy.”

Maybe the Pope thought, “I know what will show Muslims I’m cool. I’ll go to a predominantly Muslim country and let my people drive me around in the Pope-mobile and show them all how cute and harmless I am. They’ll love me for sure!”

I’m not going to try to guess exactly what OJ was thinking when he came up with that book idea of his. I’m afraid that if I ever got myself to think that way my brain would get stuck in that state and I’d never be able to fake normal again. But I’ll guess part of what he was thinking was “Hmm, money.”

Let me risk seeming to change the subject entirely. I’ve been noticing a pattern in the news lately. A lot is coming down to conflicts, real and imagined, between individual and group rights.

Example: Why should we have hate-crime legislation? Doesn’t that give rights to groups that individuals can’t share in? Why should it be worse to beat up someone because you don’t like the group they belong to, than to beat the same person up because you just don’t like their looks?

Come on, people, that one’s simple. The hate-crime beating is worse to the extent that, in addition to the immediate harm done to the immediate victim, other people are also threatened with future violence. Such threats amount to terrorism.

Here’s an example where the conflict appears genuine: Recently in Montreal the police had a brief internal discussion over whether it might not be good, when engaging with certain extremely patriarchal ethnic communities within that diverse city, to leave the police women in the back seat of the police car, so to speak. Apparently the discussion lasted just long enough for someone to write a memo about it, and then the decision was: no way that’s going to happen. I learned about this from an editorial I found that framed it as a case of women’s individual rights vs a minority group’s rights. But is it?

Wasn’t the decision really to go with offending the tiny minority groups rather than offending the one huge majority group of women? I’m betting the Montreal police department wasn’t looking out for any one woman’s individual rights.

If I’m wrong about that, then what do we make of the veil controversy in France? Veils are losing out there. Why? Because the majority of French women don’t care if they wear veils, that’s why.

Getting back to the questions that started this, the news says that the hecklers that Richards spewed racist language toward are interested in receiving monetary compensation. That puts the whole Michael Richards’ career-in-flames story in a whole different light, one that swings the focus radically from group to individuals.

Suddenly it becomes an issue not of how racist Richards is, or how offended African-Americans everywhere are by the man’s language, but how hurt were these two guys in the audience, and how much would it take to make it better. What we have here is a triumph of the individual-right perspective over the group-right perspective. The hecklers are individualizing the common demand for reparations.

I’m warming to the idea slowly. I’m seeing possibilities, as my individual sensibilities are pummeled wherever I go.

Just the other day, a motorist gave me the finger for delaying him while I used a crosswalk. I’m thinking, that could be $5, right there.

If Benedict XVI sets off World War III by stirring up trouble in Istanbul, I am personally holding him responsible, and I will sue him and the Vatican $100 for each day I am made miserable by the consequent global conflagration. After all, I can’t leave for another planet.

Hmm, money.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanks for the Memories

Usually on Thanksgivings I won’t give thanks for anything, because the whole concept of a day set aside to apply peer pressure upon everyone to force them to give thanks for every damn thing was dreamed up by the same bozos who invented uniforms, flags, floggings, genocides, and wars. Come to think of it, whenever anyone tells me to “Have a nice day!” my natural instinct is to say, “Take a hike, bozo – you’re not the boss of me.”

So the fact that I feel like giving some thanks this Thanksgiving tells you I might be coming down with something. All the more reason to share: I am thankful to Bill Speidel for introducing me to my home, the Pioneer Square District, and for teaching me so much about Seattle and how Seattle works, with a little help from my Dad.

Bill Speidel was a local author. When I met him in the middle of the Sixties I was a teenager who had never read anything he had written. I had to take his word for it that he was an author. Fortunately, he wasn’t shy about it.

I met Speidel in connection with a project he was doing. He wanted to get parts of Seattle that had been buried in the Jackson-Yesler regrade dug out, so he could draw tourists to them and so revitalize the Pioneer Square neighborhood. He got word out that he was looking for high school kids to volunteer for the excavation, and I was one of the ones who showed up.

The beginning of the first day we crowded into his office just off 1st Avenue to listen to him talk about the underground and what his plans were. One of the things that struck me was that the walls were exposed bricks. During his talk Speidel took credit for that interior decorating innovation that has since become de rigueur in that part of town. He admitted it wasn’t historic (historically the walls were plastered and wallpapered) but it looked historic, and looks are everything, he said.

As a suicidal sixteen year old with bad skin, crooked teeth, and disproportionately long legs, nicknamed grasshopper of all things, I resented that remark. Beauty had to be more than skin deep or I was screwed. Bill and I were not hitting it off.

But I hung in there, and I helped dig out what we now call the Seattle Underground. I spent several hours on two separate days in those dark dusty tunnels shoveling dirt and debris into wheelbarrows.

The dust got so thick we could only see a few feet in front of us. Sometimes I couldn’t see my feet. I had a cough for several days later and it made my mouth taste like dust. Even my Father, who usually didn’t care about me breathing or not, noticed. He asked me how I got like that.

When he found out I had excavated tunnels without the benefit of hard hat, face mask, or minimum wage, he got all union-y on me and started screaming about chains and slave-masters and something about “line them all up against the wall” and I don’t remember the rest, except that he said he wouldn’t let me go back.

Then my Father pointed out something that I had totally missed. He said that after the Underground was cleaned out it would be possible for Speidel to charge tourists to see it. So by helping clean it out without pay or safety gear I was investing my labor toward Speidel’s future wealth, and I had not been guaranteed any financial return on that investment. All I was getting for my sweat and my bad health was a little bit of a history education.

My Dad said, “You want an education? Come here and I’ll whack you upside the head with a board just like they did the strikers in 1919. It’ll teach you what it’s all about.”

Just then, I experienced satori. Thanks, Dad. Thanks, Bill.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanks for the Mandate

The question of the week is, “What will change?” Now that the Democratic Party has limited control of one of the three branches of government, will we feel any different in two years, aside from the added age? Will GOP-Lite improve our figures? Will it put hair between our toes?

Here’s a change. Fewer conservatives in right-wing paradises from Pissatchoo, WA, to Kissmahoochee, FL, will write angry letters exclusively to Seattle papers telling us what freak liberal losers we are. Instead they’ll write a fair number of such letters to newspapers in Billings and Charleston, thus easing up on us.

The Democratic Party has shown itself to be a national party. That means that anywhere you go in the nation you won’t have to come all the way back to Seattle to find freak liberal losers who have won local elections. You will be able to find them as near as the next state over.

Those of you Seattleites who are saddened by the prospect of no longer being the lightning rod of hate for America’s extreme right-wing will have to put your backs into going Green or Socialist next time. Good luck with that! I mean that totally in a friendly non-endorsing 501(c)3 kind of way.

Other major consequences of the Democrat’s wins:

America will rediscover its love of government gridlock. There’s nothing like the peace of mind you get knowing the government can’t ruin your health and well-being with a surprise midnight-to-dawn legislative session. People will sleep better. American workers’ productivity will begin to resemble that of the French, who have always slept soundly because they know they can always strike in the morning. As productivity increases, so will earnings, and so will taxes, and there will be public money to pay for the tunnel option after all. It will be so easy for people to get from West Seattle to Ballard there will be charges in Ballard that “West Seattleites are stealing our jobs!” and there will be calls for border control at the Ballard bridge. The issue will boost Republican support in Ballard, and the cycle of politics will go on.

After the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has had control of that body’s “agenda” for a while and the nation sees Congress isn’t emasculated as a result, one last prejudice will fall. San Franciscans will start to find acceptance in other walks of life as well. Don’t be surprised if, in a few years, you start seeing San Franciscans “manning” roadwork crews (if only to direct traffic) or, who knows, maybe joining a “manned” mission to Mars! Our great-grandchildren might live to see a San Franciscan vice president!

The less-asked question of the week is “What should change?” Last week when I said we should mass-impeach a substantial chunk of the Bush administration, that recommendation wasn’t predicated on a Democrat win. In a friendly way, out of consideration for their best long-term interests, I think the lame-duck Republicans should get that started now and not wait for the Democrats. That’s not a partisan issue.

But I see one issue where the Democrats can make a huge impact in the next two years, and I’m confident they’ll move on it quickly.

The Democrats have always been the Party of the Working Man and Woman, and the Party of the Poor and Downtrodden. They’ve always cared about making life bearable for all. I just know they’re going to bring us real relief.

I know you all know what I’m thinking of here, but I’ll say it anyway: Thank-you-notes for voting!

Not thank-you-notes from the Dems for voting Dem, but something really groundbreaking, namely thank-you-notes from the government for voting, period!

I’d love getting a post-card from the Washington Secretary of State, saying, “Dear Voter, Thank you for your excellent votes. Your ballot has been counted and has helped make our election a great success.”

I think they’ve got a mandate for it! Decent wages would be nice, too.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Rev. Haggard and Other Hazards

Five weeks ago we enjoyed Ted Haggard’s pronouncement that President George Bush is not Satan. Years before, the evangelical leader Reverend Ted Arthur “I Did Not Have Sex With That Male Whore And Never Used That Meth” Haggard made a key endorsement George Bush needed to win the presidency in 2000. He is a good honorable man and I, for one, totally believe his denials of wrongdoing.

Haggard was only being Christlike in his love for his male flesh merchant. His frequent payments of $200 to his for-hire boy toy were not for sex. They made Haggard an instrument of God’s Love to a poor struggling sinner. Likewise, when he bought unwanted meth from his drug-dealing hooker it was just a kind way to give without demeaning the recipient.

Who needs happy endings, when they’re on the Way to the Lord’s Eternal Happy Ending?

Speaking of lies, cowardice, and criminal conduct, as of last week I planned to spend this column conveying the idea that while Bush, Cheney, and a large percentage of their staff and cabinet are guilty of High Crimes and Misdemeanors galore and unquestionably deserve mass impeachment, it would be bad for the country to take that route.

There’s the NSA warrantless wiretapping surveillance program which violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and so violates the provision in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution that Congress “shall make Rules for the Government & Regulation of the land and naval forces” and violates the provision, in Article II, Section 3, that the President “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” It undermines freedom of speech (1st Amendment) and the right of counsel and to fair trials (6th Amendment, because the government eavesdrops on client-attorney discussions) and citizen’s rights to due process (5th Amendment.)

Gosh, while I was making that list I plum forgot to mention the 4th Amendment. IT SAYS DON’T DO WARRANTLESS SEARCHES RIGHT THERE IN PLAIN ENGLISH. The Supreme Court ruled some time ago (1967) that wiretaps constitute searches for the purposes of applying the 4th Amendment.

That’s at least six provisions of the Constitution undermined, and at least 3 flagrant violations of both the letter and the spirit of provisions that speak to the heart of what makes the United States a great nation and distinguishes its government from a worthless dictatorship. So George Bush and accomplices are guilty of continuous disregard of our founding law.

Then there’s the 2003 Iraq War, which satisfied the legal definition of a war of aggression and therefore was and always will be a war crime under United States law. It violates Article VI: “all... treaties made shall be the Supreme Law of the Land” and “all executive officers shall be bound to support the Constitution.”

The use of “unlawful combatant status” is also a flagrant continuous unabated and unmitigated violation of treaty law ratified by the United States Congress and represents an insult to the Constitution and to every citizen who gives a damn that this is a country of laws not ruled by a king.

When before has it been necessary to remind any United States administration that to torture a state prisoner is to commit treason against that state?

But, hey, a mass impeachment would be disruptive, so I was going to say, let’s live and let live, it’s only 2 more years, blah, blah, blah.

Then I learned that George Bush intends to deny detainees (not yet proven guilty of any crime) access to lawyers and to keep them in isolation IN PERPETUITY, on the unbelievable grounds that they have been the unwilling subjects of secret interrogation techniques.

This is the most despicable, vile, disgusting, assault on American Law, on fundamental human rights, on common decency, and the good name of the United States since this country practiced slavery.

Now we have no other choice but to try this man and every one who has put him up to this, simply to show the rest of the world that we don’t condone such depravity.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Lovingcup-full

Don’t we all have limits? I know I do. The Wellbutrin only works so far, and then Mister Smiley turns into Mister Where’s My Baseball Bat.

It takes me a long time to snap. This is a problem for me, or more precisely, for everybody else, because when I do snap everyone thinks there was no warning. In truth there was plenty of warning. There was me calmly saying, over and over again, “This better stop,” and there was everybody else calmly ignoring me because I am being so calm and cheerful. Then all of the sudden there’s a crazy man in the house.

Sometimes it takes years. About 1983 I became homeless for the second time in my life. I lived out of a ’69 Rambler for about eight months while I worked the night shift as a cab driver. I say I lived out of the ’69 Rambler because the police, security guards, and vigilantes wouldn’t let me actually sleep in said vehicle. Through a twisted logic I can’t possibly reconstruct, they deemed me a threat to civil society whenever I locked myself away from them in my car. So I was forced to sleep out in the open where I was constantly subject to harassment. I’m sure I said something at the time to the effect of “this better stop,” or “this sucks,” or “I’m getting royally steamed,” but I don’t recall anyone saying, “Oh gee, I guess in that case we’ll all have to stop using you as a whipping post.”

The whole situation -- being homeless -- reminded me of little Bobby Lovingcup. “Little Bobby Lovingcup” is not his real name but it’s so close that if he reads this he’ll know I’m talking about him. Bobby was the son of my parent’s best friends. I couldn’t stand him when he was sane, but I had to tolerate him because his parents and my parents hung together. Besides, he didn’t mean any harm by being a dork -- he just was one.

Then the Lovingcups moved to the Big City and one day some other kid who had his own problems threw a rock at Bobby’s head and it connected.

A year or so later my parents took me with them to visit the Lovingcups in the Big City, and the four parents sent Bobby and me out together to “play,” in order to leave them to their important adult conversation.

Bobby showed me a new game he said he liked to play since getting hit with the rock. It was called “whip” and it consisted of him whipping me repeatedly with a three-foot long branch from a tree. He hit me in the face first, and when I turned away he hit me on my back, oh, once every three seconds or so.

I didn’t mention that Bobby was then 9, while I was 12 and proportionately bigger, so I could have at any time reached past his switch, grabbed him by the arm, twisted it till it came off, and fed it to him. But I had to be nice to Bobby, because Bobby had been hit in the head with a rock, and you don’t hurt people who don’t know what they’re doing is wrong. So instead of breaking his arm I just took his whip away from him and broke it into 12 3-inch pieces, and went back inside and told his parents to keep him away from me if they liked him intact.

That’s how I feel about homelessness. I don’t feel like anyone owes me anything for having been homeless. But the fact is I was used as a whipping post while I was down by many, many, people. I try to tell myself those people didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. But I still want all the whips broken.

In Las Vegas, a municipal court struck down as unconstitutional Las Vegas’ recently enacted No Feeding the Homeless ordinance.

One less whip, for now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Horsemeat and Other Indelicacies

Recently Andy Rooney started one of his 60 Minutes essays talking about spinach making people sick and ended with some observations having to do with the eating of horsemeat. I’m not actually sure what he was saying in-between because I was drowning his voice out with my screams. Later I spoke to Timothy “Perfess’r” Harris, our director, and asked him to shoot me if I ever wrote like that and he indicated that in that case I’d be shot about once every four weeks.

This may be one of those times. I’m high on NyQuil and I feel an irresistible urge to lead you all on a tour of my mind.

Speaking of tours, I was watching Rick Steves’ Europe the other day, and he was touring Turkey. While my eyes were watching, my mind was spinning with thoughts of cattle swimming the Bosporus, the cow jumping over the moon, and questions like, “If Turkey can be part of Europe, then why do we have wars, and why can’t we all have vacation property on Bora Bora?”

As my questions went unanswered I noticed that Rick Steves was playing backgammon with some Turkish people on the screen, and I listened long enough to hear him say that you can’t make a bad move in backgammon when playing the Turks, they won’t let you.

I immediately thought of Sudoku, to which I have lately become addicted. Sudoku isn’t remotely like backgammon, except that it’s a game. For the purposes of my immediate thought the only significant feature of Sudoku is that you do it by yourself. Therefore the great thing about doing Sudoku, the thing that makes it so appealing for me, is I don’t have to play it with some ego-crazed spoiled crybaby sitting across from me.

You see, I used to think that I might like to play chess. But I discovered that everyone within a radius of 3000 miles of me who was willing to join me at it was an ego-crazed spoiled crybaby. Thanks to Rick Steves I now know that I only had to move to Turkey to find people who could enjoy a friendly chess game like human beings. Provided I first hid their dice from them.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with eating horsemeat. Well, one of Andy Rooney’s points, or pointlets, was that he was an American and Americans don’t eat horsemeat, and he, for one, wasn’t about to start.

Likewise, I would like to make a point, or pointlet, that I am an American, and that we Americans are by and large ego-crazed spoiled crybabies, and I, for one, have just about had it.

I’m not talking just about the lack of civil discourse evident during the current political campaigns, although that’s part of it. I’m talking about all the mean-spirited and uncivil and unsportsmanlike conduct that is revealing itself throughout our society at all levels, especially the highest, where it does the most monumental harm.

How can it be that I now have to write columns arguing against pre-emptive warfare and torture?

Last week George Bush signed the Military Commissions Act, which deprives almost all human rights to all non-Americans. It doesn’t prevent them from being tortured; it only requires torturers to avoid doing anything that might feel like organ failure or life threatening. So genital-electro-shock is out, thumbscrews are in.

The Act not only allows torture, it also lets the military tribunals use the evidence so obtained against the unlucky suspect. So if you are suspected of being a terrorist and they beat you or someone else into saying that you are a terrorist, then by the new rules, you’re a terrorist.

One of my former chess acquaintances made up the rule that he would always be White, because Black loses too much. I quit playing right about then. How soon before the rest of the world quits playing with America?

How long before the rest of the world catches on that our law treats them like dogs?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Insolence Abroad

Let’s talk about unmitigated effrontery or impudence!

Whether you call it gall, balls, chutzpah, or just plain bad manners, you have to admit unmitigated effrontery or impudence is continually entertaining. That’s why people watch sitcoms and the Today Show.

But we don’t have to leave Seattle to be entertained; we amuse ourselves!

A beautiful set of cojones was exhibited by convicted local lawyer A. Mark Vanderveen who cut off his court-ordered ankle bracelet 6 hours ahead of schedule “to go on a bike ride.” In admiration of his “flagrant, notorious, in-your-face attitude” toward the court the judge gave Vanderveen another 30 days of home confinement. Question: Why was I was not surprised to read that this tool was once an Assistant Seattle City Attorney? Answer: He had to learn it somewhere.

The other day a bunch of Seattle strip clubs revealed a survey they had commissioned that purported to show that strip clubs are not the magnets for crime that the city claims they are. The city then turned right around and showed they know what T-bagging is all about by saying 1) they had not studied the survey and 2) the survey is biased.

"It kind of reminds me of the tobacco industry hiring consultants to say tobacco was good for you," said Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis. “It would remind me of that too, Deputy Mayor, if I thought you had ever done any research of your own on the subject, and weren’t just repeating the prejudices of the least informed of the electorate in order to store up political points,” said me, just now.

For the record, I do not have any personal interest in seeing strip clubs overcome the four-foot rule in November. I’m a do-it-yourselfer: I do all my own stripping and lap dancing, at home. I also don’t really know what T-bagging is, I just heard John Waters say it on TV and I liked the way it sounded. Also, I don’t want strange nubile women to undulate their naked bodies in front of me and aim their private parts at my face.

How was that for ironic?

My next example is Ken Bounds. Ken Bounds is the chief of the Seattle Parks Department. That’s Seattle, as in City of. That means he works for the City of Seattle. But he doesn’t think his continued employment should be subject to review by the Seattle City Council. You might think that’s why I am going to cite him for unmitigated effrontery or impudence but it’s not. I don’t care whether the City Council can fire him or not, if they’re just going to keep on endorsing his policies regardless.

No, it’s this quote from Bounds that caught my attention: “I grew up in the segregated South, and the parks-and-recreation system was my avenue to befriending people of other races."

There you have it, folks. We can’t ever fire Mr. Emancipation!

Now I understand why Ken Bounds thinks it would be great to put fences around the City Hall Park to keep the homeless from sleeping there. Homeless people don’t belong to races, don’t you know?

The biggest and smoothest example of big-city cojones belongs to the Seattle City Council itself, in connection with its decision a few weeks ago to do without a public referendum and endorse the tunnel option to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct.

What makes this decision such a monumental case of effrontery is the fact that all involved justified it by the fact that the estimates for the cost of the tunnel option were rising precipitously.

The view was encapsulated by City Council Member Richard Conlin who said the issue would present "a moving target" to voters because the replacement design isn't complete.

To rephrase and expand upon those few words: “Dear fool voters! We on the City Council don’t know what the final costs will be, or what the tunnel plan really entails! You can’t hit a moving target and we ourselves can’t hit the side of a stationary barn! So we’ll decide for the tunnel for you!”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Democrats’ Gift Horse

The games congressmen play. These days it’s High Horse (AKA High Horse, High Horse, Now Who’s On Their High Horse?)

I have long enjoyed games myself. Growing up as an only child in a sick, sick, sick, (pretend I wrote it 13 times), family, often living in isolation, I became adept at what you could call the Meta-Game Game, also known as Now What Might I Want to Do? The idea of this game is to invent a game, then another game, then another game, until a death in the family occurs, hopefully not your own. At no time is it necessary to play the games invented. In fact, if you play one of them, you automatically lose at the meta level, and have to start all over.

Some of the best games I came up with had no rules or instructions. For example, Figure Out How To Walk On Air pretty much says it all in the name. The game consists in spending hour after hour trying to figure out how to walk on air. One day I made the mistake of actually playing a spinoff game called Figure Out How To Bounce A Ball Off Air, and broke a window.

Having become so good at entertaining myself in isolation, I tend to take that skill for granted. So I’m always a little surprised when I discover people who are incapable of ever playing quietly by themselves. People like ex-Congressman Mark Foley, for instance. This is a guy who will never be satisfied with an imaginary friend.

Foley was playing a fantastic game of High Horse. High Horse isn’t as sophisticated a game as the Meta-Game Game, but that doesn’t mean that great play isn’t possible. Foley’s move of chairing the congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus, in between exploiting underaged former pages for minor real-time titillations and jollies on the internet, was extraordinary, and will surely go down in High Horse history. For anything even close you have to go back to Dan Quayle and Murphy Brown in 1992.

Of course we’ve all been watching the entire Republican Party consistently win at High Horse for the past quarter century, ever since Reagan got even for that time Nixon fell off his. Their capture and ownership of the phrase “Family Values” continues to impress all of us, all the more so as their economic policies crush poor families.

Now the party that tried to force Clinton out of office for having extra-marital sex in the Oval Office and trying to keep it a secret is faced with charges of having a pedophile in their midst and trying to keep it a secret.

Now, I don’t know if you can necessarily say that Mark Foley is a pedophile. I mean, Jerry Lee Lewis married a thirteen-year-old girl. That was certainly something, wasn’t it? Did anyone call him a pedophile? Well, OK. But still, sixteen is practically ‘round the bend, when it comes to boys.

Anyway, for Hastert and Company to be aware that Foley was sending inappropriate emails to former pages and not call for an investigation, all the while trumpeting Family Values, that should earn them big points, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for staying on their game.

But the Republicans aren’t the only ones playing. We also have Democrats jumping onto their own Horses, pretending that if you vote Democrat next month it will be a vote for decency.

The Democrats are missing an opportunity to raise the game of High Horse to a whole new higher level. What they need to do is come right out and tell the truth, that the behavior of the Republican leadership was typical of all political leaderships in the face of such scandal, and that they, the Democrats, would have probably reacted the same way, because it isn’t the Republicans that are broke, it’s the whole system.

Then they could say, “Ha, ha, we told the truth and you didn’t.” And they’d be the new winners.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Bush Beats the Devil

George Bush is not Satan.

That was the final word on the subject from Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals, the day after Hugo Chavez claimed otherwise. Haggard was very clear about it: "NAE theologians and scholars have conducted a thorough exegetical study of the biblical texts concerning the person, disposition, and earthy manifestations of Satan (Beelzebub, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness). They have incontrovertibly concluded that, contrary to the assertion of Hugo Chavez, President Bush is not the Devil."

I totally agree. I have done my own extensive research using alternate tools, and have determined that, without question, President George W. Bush is not Beelzebub. Without going too far afield, I would like to add that he is also not Alfred E Neuman, a chimpanzee, or the latest reincarnation of the 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus.

For one thing, if he were Beelzebub, he would not have said this: “I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like a comma because there is -- my point is, there's a strong will for democracy.” Beelzebub would have had far better sense than to speak like that to Wolf Blitzer on national TV. However much you may dislike Beelzebub, you have to admit he is one shrewd personification of Evil. A chimp would have just flung his feces at Wolf. I don’t know exactly what Paleologus or Alfred would have said, but I’m sure they would have committed offenses on entirely different levels.

As usual, no one in the world really knows what George Bush meant to say. Did he mean that historians are such bad people that they would reduce to a comma the sacrifices of all the US soldiers who have fought in Iraq, including the now nearly 3000 who have died? Did he mean that he’s with these imaginary bad historians on that point? Or did he just mean to remind us that he doesn’t like to read, so if he were handed a history of the Iraq War in say, twenty years, he’d only read to the first comma?

Or maybe he has a deeper meaning in mind. What’s a comma anyway? It’s a hesitation and an interruption. Maybe he is using the word comma accurately as a metaphor for the way he has used the Iraq War and the so-called war on terror to interrupt America’s history of freedom, for the sake of creating and buttressing a sham democracy on the other side of the planet.

Maybe the comma is meant to indicate what he and Congress have together made of us.

The United States as we have known it is now hanging by a thread, with the passage last week of S. 3930. Congress was told by the Supreme Court to fix our policies on detaining and trying terror suspects, to bring them into line with the US Constitution. Congress has basically spit back in the face of the Supreme Court and said to hell with habeas corpus, to hell with the 5th Amendment, to hell with the 14th Amendment. Beelzebub can have all of them; we’ll take Bush and fear.

The thread I mean is the Supreme Court again. If the Supreme Court lets S. 3930 stand, there will be no branch of government left to preserve the constitution. Without a functioning constitution respected by any fraction of our government the United States will have essentially been comma-ed out of existence.

George Bush calls the Geneva Convention vague. I have to wonder if he has ever encountered any of his own pronouncements in print. Does he not even read himself? Not only does he not have the political acumen of Satan, he lacks the vanity, and in his case that’s not a good thing.

Satan would have a lot to teach Bush. He could show him how to google himself, teach him to take pride in his language, and how to reach new levels of competence, so he can screw us all even better than he’s doing now.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mend It Like Beckham

As of this Monday morning, Sept. 24, the Homeless World (Soccer) Cup has gotten under way in Cape Town, South Africa. It will continue through Sunday. If you have a fast connection and the right plug-in you can watch it live at

For those of you that don’t have a fast connection, I’ll describe it for you now. There are people on a field kicking a ball from one end to the other. Some of the people are trying to kick it to the right side into a kind of netted-enclosure like thing guarded by somebody. The others are trying to kick the same ball (hence the contest!) the other way, to where there is another person guarding another netted-enclosure like thing. There’s also the voice of a guy telling you about it while it’s happening. Some scores so far: two, zero, ten, one. Yes, ten! Blame the Hong Kong defense.

How can a World Cup be Homeless? The answer is that homelessness is a part of the eligibility requirements for this particular annual event. The rules state precisely that players in the Homeless World Cup must be a) male or female and at least 16 years of age at the time of the tournament and b) have been homeless at some point after the previous year's World Cup OR make their main living income as a streetpaper vendor OR be asylum seekers (who have neither positive asylum status nor working permit.) No, I don’t know why they have the restriction to male or female. It’s not my fault; I’m just the messenger here.

The first Homeless World Cup was held in 2003 in Graz, Austria, near Arnold Schwarzenegger’s boyhood home. The idea for it sprang into the heads of a couple of directors of street papers meeting in a bar during a conference of the International Network of Street Papers. Meeting in bars can result in that sort of thing. Usually the next day it’s all forgotten though. This time they actually went through with it. This year there are teams representing 48 countries scheduled to play, and it’s been reported by the Associated Press that there are nearly 500 players in attendance, presumably including substitutes.

The actual quote from the Associated Press article speaks of “nearly 500 drug addicts, alcoholics, orphans and vagrants” kicking the event off. This is where I really got interested.

I mean, as I have said often enough before, my interest in spectator sport is pretty much limited to watching women’s singles figure skating when my internet porn connection is down. So I wouldn’t care about the Homeless World Cup except for the fact that it might in some way have a positive impact on homelessness.

It’s just fascinating to me that when some people see a person kick a ball around as part of an organized sports match, they feel differently about that person. I ascribe it to trust.

Trust is a quality that you don’t hear enough about these days. It’s the thing homeless people need next most, after decent sleep and physical safety. If people so don’t trust you that they don’t let you interact with them at all, not even to say hello, it’s impossible to even start to earn any trust from them. The Homeless World Cup is a sustained interaction that can enable the participants to earn some trust.

Most of the news stories about the Homeless World Cup focus on the benefit to the players in “getting their lives together.” The Associated Press story I mentioned gushes about how 94 percent of last year’s players report “a new motivation in life,” whatever that means, and then says that 38 percent now have regular jobs. That’s great, but it misses the story.

The real story isn’t the players; it’s the relationship between the players and the spectators; it’s the trust. Let’s see how the same AP reporter describes the current players a week from now. If there’s a change, that would be the news.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Oddest Proposal

If you’re like me, you wince every time you read a letter to the editors of a newspaper that begins, “In the great tradition of Jonathan Swift, I would like to present the following Modest Proposal...” For one thing, the letter writers’ proposals are never as good as Swift’s idea to substitute Irish infants for veal. For another thing, it’s like saying, “In the great tradition of Halloween, boo.” It’s lame.

That’s why I want to use this column to do a Lame Modest Proposal Blowout. I want to make such a fool of myself doing Lame Modest Proposals, no one else will dare. Or, at the least, they will learn to keep their intentions hidden.

All Modest Proposals begin by naming a problem that begs to be solved. The less said about the problem, the better. In Swift’s case, it was the Irish Problem. My first Modest Proposal concerns something related to the Skinny Model Problem.

It turns out skinny models are bad for your health, because they cause anorexia, so some Spaniards have banned them from their Spanish fashion shows. This might have been my first Modest Proposal, but as I’ve just told you, it’s been done. So my First Modest Proposal will solve the Young Model Problem instead.

The Young Model Problem is that young models make people want to be young, which is bad for your health. Therefore I would ban all models under the age of 45. This would also solve the Skinny Model Problem in one swell foop, as they say.

As you may have noticed, cartoons and papal speeches have offended Muslims in large quantities, and this is a Problem, namely the Offended Muslim Problem. Therefore, I propose that all of us, men and women, wear burkas, pray however many times a day the Muslims pray (I suppose I should have looked that up before starting this), and take up the habit of ordering fast food only in Arabic, the language of the Great Prophet.

No, we don’t become Muslim. That’s not the idea. No one is offended by any of us not being Muslim. The idea is to be proactive. Instead of insulting them, we flatter them with imitation. Don’t forget to put all the Disney characters at Disney World in burkas. Otherwise, they’ll know you aren’t being sincere.

You might say, “But what about the American pig farmer? Won’t I have to stop eating hot dogs, and won’t that be devastating for the American pig farmer?” Answer: At this stage in the game, there’s no helping the American pig farmer, whose dreams were shattered long ago. But, as far as your jones for hot dogs is concerned, don’t worry; they make them from chickens these days, as you’d know if you’d ever used a food bank. Get out and live a little.

How about that Immigration Problem? I can solve it!

It often happens a problem’s solution leaps out at you when the problem is well-framed. Let’s frame it well! We Americans are upset that, instead of Americans doing crappy jobs for little pay, Mexicans and Guatemalans are doing crappy jobs for little pay.

When you put it that way, the solution is obvious, isn’t it? Ban crappy jobs!

Think about it. Why shouldn’t everybody from Bill Gates down be cleaning their own stinking toilets? Hey, I clean mine. I don’t pay Poles or Mexicans to do it. I own a scrubber and I use it.

Similarly, I can solve the Homeless Problem. What really is the problem? Too many street people! What’s the solution? Get rid of the streets!

Self-reliance is the American Way. If we didn’t have streets we would all have to walk to our decent, non-crappy jobs. So? That amounts to leg-reliance, and legs are part of your selves, aren’t they? So it’s self-reliance too.

No streets would mean no street people. And, as an added bonus, we would also simultaneously solve the SUV Problem, the Oil Problem, and the Asphalt Problem.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Men with Guns Shoot Man in Buns

I’m writing this on the morning of Sept. 11, 2006. Rudolph Giuliani is back on TV, this time to speak at a Ground Zero memorial ceremony. There’s no humor anywhere, life sucks, terrorists suck, and I have roughly 666 words in which to say something amusing.

OK, well. Speaking of tragedy, there’s a tragedy happening in slow motion in connection with court proceedings in El Paso that might have something to do with 9-11, but may still have funny bits in spite of that. I am speaking of the conviction and pending sentencing of two border patrol agents for shooting a drug smuggler in the butt and not reporting it, and the uproar over said conviction, etc. If nothing else I can say “butt” frequently.

Border agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean shot marijuana runner Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila in the butt as he fled from them, in February 2005. Since then Osbaldo Aldrete-Davila has filed a suit alleging violation of his civil rights and is asking $5 million. At the same time, even though Aldrete-Davila was found to have been hauling 800 pounds of marijuana when he was shot in the butt, he was granted full immunity to testify against the border agents, who were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of assault with intent to commit murder, assault with serious bodily injury, and assault with a deadly weapon.

Ramos and Compean both said they thought Aldrete-Davila was armed that day. But the jury didn’t buy it. The jurors were probably more swayed by the fact that the two agents refused to write up the incident and destroyed evidence of the shooting, than by any testimony by the border-flaunting, marijuana-toting, $5 million-wanting, Rosa Parks-wanna-be, woundee.

I mean, if I were a juror in the case, when I learned that Ramos and Compean not only failed to report the shooting, but went so far as to retrieve and hide their shell-casings in order to cover the incident up, I would immediately have wanted them to spend life in prison, because I don’t think armed officers of the law should have a free pass to shoot people on holiday whenever they feel like it. You gotta do the paperwork, and THEN we look the other way.

In any case, a jury has spoken and Ramos and Compean were convicted months ago. The next step is sentencing, which is due to take place in El Paso in October. The slow-motion tragedy of which I spoke earlier is, however, happening right now in Washington, D.C.

Not only are the usual Republicans, such as James Sensenbrenner and John Hostettler, trying to meddle in the federal court’s business in this case, but also so is good old Democrat Dianne Feinstein. They are all asking Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to order the case be reopened and re-prosecuted because they already don’t like the way it turned out, even before allowing the sentences to be read.

You can go to and sign their petition if you think it’s a good idea. I won’t. It looks to me like they want Bush to assign a new prosecutor in the case now, and then again in the future, and then again, until a prosecutor can be found that doesn’t bring charges, because Sensenbrenner, Feinstein, and the others have decided that if guys with badges can’t shoot Mexicans in the butt without anyone knowing, then the terrorists have won.

What really has the conservatives’ panties in a bunch is that the woundee and undoubted felon Aldrete-Davila got full immunity to testify against two white-hatted good guys, and they RIGHTFULLY see this as a travesty of justice.

It IS a travesty of justice when the bad guys get immunity to testify against good guys. But if you’re going to end that practice just for federal agents, we’re going to be stuck with two separate justice systems, one for liars with badges, and one for all the rest of us. That would be the tragedy.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Necessity Is A Mother

Recently I was in a van with a bunch of folks from my building, coming back from the food bank, when a man with a shopping cart pushed it off the curb across an intersection right in front of us, while we had the green light. I reacted first and said, “Smart!” Then the others all said, “Stupid!” That got me thinking. Why am I so unrelentingly ironic?

I’ve also thought about how a lot of people say things to me like, “Dr. Wes, you must be the smartest person who ever lived. Where do you get your amazing understanding and knowledge of everything, especially things you’ve never experienced, like racecar driving, or stellar nuclear fusion, or significant work, or humility?”

The answer, of course, is that I utilize my enormous gift of imagination (making stuff up in my head), combined with my equally enormous gift of association (making the made-up stuff line up with other stuff that’s not so made up).

Let me illustrate. I have never actually tied one end of a long elastic cord to the railing of a bridge and the other end to my ankles and then took a flying leap off the bridge into an enormous gorge over jagged rocks. So how could I ever speak knowledgeably about bungee jumping? It’s easy! I just imagine stepping in front of a #1 bus on its way past Yesler and imagine showing the driver my middle finger. When the driver slams on his brakes and stops the bus an inch from my nose, in my imagination, I’ve understood the essence of bungee jumping. And aren’t the essences of things all we ever need of them?

But being so gifted intellectually isn’t all sweetness and sunshine, or pizza and cheese, or pajamas and coeds. There’s hardship too. I have long been a target of bigotry, having to endure the taunts and slurs of brainists. Growing up, I was called vicious names like Egghead, Einstein, Brainiac, College Material, Smarty Pants, Smart, and Poindexter.

The turning point came in the 8th grade when my math teacher called in our homework and I had forgotten to do mine. Supposedly his difficult homework should have taken me an hour to do, but I said, “No problem,” and took some paper and did the assignment in front of him, in a minute. The teacher said I was “weird.” At first I took that to be a compliment. But then I realized he didn’t mean, “You’re refreshingly different” or “You’re oddly delightful,” but rather something dark and mean, like, “You’re never going to own a house on Mercer Island,” or “You’re never going to be a member in good standing of a major fraternal organization such as the Elks or the Rotary Club,” or “You’re never going to sleep with a cheerleader.”

At that, something snapped inside, and, all at once, I became mean-spirited. I began to plot revenge on all the brainists. I used my enormous intellect and inhuman imagination for evil rather than good, as I dreamed up one hideous punishment after another for my many tormentors.

Sadly, most of the punishments I dreamed up were out of my price range. Being 13, I had no credit, and as my parents were cheap bastards my allowance barely paid for my school lunches. So I was unable to realize my plans involving the fighter jet, the remote-controlled giant robot with the heat-ray eyes, and the genetically engineered jock-eating gerbil.

I could complain about that from here to the end of the column, but the truth is that “Necessity is a Mother” and never having a mass-murdering genetically engineered gerbil made me what I am today, and that’s something I’m thankful for.

Because there wouldn’t be any Adventures in Irony if I hadn’t been forced to learn more constructive ways to cope with frustration than bombing and strafing all of my enemies.

If only all of us could be as fortunate as I’ve been.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Public Interest

Let’s talk about something important! I have right here in front of me a 44-page decision by Judge Anna Diggs that says that Bush’s unwarranted wiretapping of Americans’ calls out of the country violates the Administrative Procedures Act, the Separation of Powers Doctrine, the First Amendment to the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and “the statutory law.” I need to read this thing and do all the other important analysis that an analysizer guy like me needs to do in order to talk about this judge’s momentous decision to grant a permanent injunction against this violation of your and my civil rights.

But first, how about that John Mark Karr freak? Did you hear how he got prawns and champagne on his flight from Bangkok to the U.S., even though all he deserves is dog food? He is a reprehensible pedophile who may or may not have killed a 6-year-old beauty queen, but regardless, he is a sick reprehensible pedophile who only deserves dog food. Did I just write the words “6-year-old beauty queen”? Well, be that as it may, it could not possibly be that the public’s interest in this case has anything to do with the fact that JonBenet Ramsey is the only 6-year-old girl most of us have ever seen competently wearing bright red lipstick, eye makeup, earrings, rouge, and high-heels, while showing off her thighs. We’re not the pedophiles, John Mark Karr is. And he only deserves dog food until proven guilty, at which point we’ll think of something worse to feed him.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, violation of civil rights, separation of powers, statutory something something.…

“This just in: Ernesto has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm! More details at the top of the hour!” The downgrading of Ernesto Saturday threatened to destroy the entire hurricane reporting industry. Fortunately for the public interest, several experts were quickly found to remind us that the weakened hurricane could re-strengthen and become news again, if we get lucky.

By the way, I’ve been wondering what we should call the movie version of Ernesto’s potential devastation of one or more as-yet-undetermined Southern or East Coast U.S. cities. Ernesto Blows Again? Ernesto Goes to Cuba? Ernesto Saves Bush from Bad Press? Ernesto Scares Us Stupid?

Back to Judge Diggs. She’s a federal district judge, whatever that means. I guess I’ll have to do some work and look that up. She says that the public interest in compelling the Bush Administration’s unwarranted wiretapping to end is clear. She says the public interest is.…

Stop the presses! Tom Cruise and Paramount have ended their relationship! They won’t be making truckloads of money hand-in-hand any more! They’ll be blocks away from each other, making completely separate mountains of change!

Fortunately for the public interest, Tom Cruise is not retiring. It’s not that we care about his acting, but we need him, like I say, for the public interest. If it weren’t for Tom Cruise, what public figure would we have to criticize or condemn? I’m sure I couldn’t think of one.

So let’s see. Judge Diggs spends about 12 pages discussing and ruling upon the Attorney General’s claim of a state secrets privilege, then about nine pages discussing and ruling upon the standing of the plaintiffs that had sued the government. I’m sure those discussions are extremely important, for the public interest, so that’s why I should be reading them carefully and discussing those discussions here.

But first, I’ll talk about whether Pluto is a planet or not. It is of the utmost importance to find out whether scientists in some dumb conference somewhere want to call a big rock six billion kilometers away a planet or not. It’s even more important to find out that the scientists don’t all agree in the matter, so their “agreement” to agree to say Pluto is not a planet isn’t worth anything.

We have a public interest in knowing that!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Down With The Lifeless*

[* Lifeless = Dead, NOT Tired.]

More and more laws now target the homeless. There’s the Las Vegas ordinance that prohibits feeding anyone who even looks homeless in public parks. There’s also a Sarasota law that lets non-homeless people sleep on public land if they’re neat and tidy and don’t dig holes, but makes it a crime for homeless people to do the same, no matter how good their behavior.

These laws are based on the governing principle that even if we can’t get rid of the homeless people we have, we can at least make them miserable in order to make examples of them and so discourage others from joining them.

As always, the organization behind this gutless, bleeding-heart, liberal rag is so opposed to such laws that I wouldn’t dare support them in this column. That’s why I want to change the subject and talk about another class of wastrels out to get a free ride at the public expense: the lifeless.

It’s time we decent, hard-working, voting, living people stood up to bone-headed, do-nothing liberals who always want us to mollycoddle lifeless people and who constantly apologize for their good-for-nothing behaviors. Or, I should say, non-behaviors. That’s the trouble with the lifeless: they’ve taken non-behavior and turned it into high art. You could call them “ne’er-do-e’er-agains.”

Come on, people, do you really buy the liberal line that lifelessness is almost always involuntary? These lifeless people may not enjoy being lifeless now that they’re all up in it and they’ve found out it means they can’t watch Survivor anymore, or eat pâté de foie gras, but I guarantee you, every last one of them got that way by means of their own bad lifestyle choices.

Even if a lifeless person is housed underground and out of sight, it still sickens me to know that I’m living in a city that lets them lie about in padded boxes every day and all night too, never lifting a finger to help themselves or to contribute to society. They may not be watching TV, shooting heroin in front of my kids, or taking up space on my sidewalk, but they’re sure as hell also not taking baths, working, paying taxes, or making America great, like the rest of us do.

Oh, wait; they do pay taxes, don’t they? For now they do, but they won’t be paying taxes when those liberal do-gooders, George Bush & Company, get their way. Here’s a population that pays not one cent of income tax or sales tax, and George Bush and his buddies want to relieve them of the one significant tax they do pay. Why? You know perfectly well they’re not going to use the break we give them to pull themselves up out of the holes they got themselves into. They’re not even going to use it to fly themselves to France and get out of our lives.

I first realized what a drag on society the lifeless could be a few years ago when comedian Bob Hope became lifeless. Instead of presenting him to our children and our feeble-minded as an example of how far a once-good man can fall, our liberal media spent an entire week praising the man and giving his current condition a complete pass. Sure, he was a great comedian years ago, but now he’s lifeless, and whose fault is that? It sure isn’t mine. I didn’t tell him to get 100 and die.

What we need is a law like Sarasota has, for the lifeless instead of the homeless. Say a person who isn’t dead lies in a box and decomposes. That should be legal. But if a person lies in a box and decomposes because he’s incapable of doing anything else, we should fine that person $500 and/or jail them for 60 days.

That may not end lifelessness, but it would show our impressionable children, and our feeble-minded, that being lifeless isn’t “cool” and it isn’t going to be tolerated. And that’s worth doing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cartoon Mice On A Plane

Let’s engage in some Vergangenheitsbewältigung!

I’m not sure what that means, but I think it describes what Danzig/Gdan’sk-born Nobel Prize–winning German writer and artist Günter Grass, best known for novels evoking Germany’s Nazi years, was about when he announced to the world that he’d been in the military branch of the SS during late WWII.

I too know what it means to overcome the past. I grew up in a military state within the United States: I was an Army brat. As a child in the Fabulous ’50s, I regularly lived on army bases, surrounded by machines of war, and talk of war, and by soldiers, and I loved it.

That’s right! I admit it! I loved it! I loved waking up before dawn to the sound of machine gun fire from a practice range. I loved watching troops forcibly marched past me singing their songs of loose women, Lieutenants’ tails, and birdies in the sky doing that in their eye. I loved having real Army junk to help play war, like real helmets, and mess kits, and ammunition belts. The roads were paved with spent shells.

My favorite thing was when, each May, on a Saturday, the army would roll everything out of storage and put on a kick-ass Armed Forces Day show, with mock helicopter and tank assaults, mock bombing runs, and mock commando attacks on mock enemies, mock enemy cities, and mock commando attack recipients, respectively. There were tanks, cannon, and aircraft to play in. We kids got to use real radar and practice aiming real anti-aircraft guns.

There were also army tent after army tent of exhibitions of cool army paraphernalia, like small arms and mortars and bazookas, cool gross stuff like surgical equipment for fixing soldiers up and sending them back to get shot again, and even information on how to survive a nearby tactical nuclear attack. (Step 1: When you see a massive fireball, you will know that the tactical nuclear weapon did not kill you instantly. Congratulations! You have completed Step 1!)

Needless to say, I avoided the Army later in life. It’s one thing to play soldier and pretend-die in your backyard. It’s another, I thought, to die submerged face-down in a rice paddy. Have you ever smelled a rice paddy, while face-down in one? OK, try this: Have you ever smelled a water buffalo? Now, have you ever smelled what comes out of a water buffalo? That’s what a rice paddy smells like from a distance.

Still, even as an adult, I confess loving war shows. One of my fondest memories as an adult, while dressed, was witnessing a Swiss Armed Forces Day event in 1979 in Zürich that included a mock tank and aerial assault on the café and surroundings in which Thomas Mann and James Joyce used to hang together. Take that one for Tonio Kröger, this one for Ulysses! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

And how I also have loved to see how the Seafair Torchlight Parade has been almost half taken over by military troops. What a thrill.

But, seriously, I’m not only overreacting to Günter Grass’ belated revelation. I’m also overreacting to the news, last week, that a theme park company that used to try to compete with Disney World in Orlando, Fla., now wants to build an “Army World” near Fort Belvoir, Va. The proposal talks about how visitors would be able to “command the latest M-1 tank, feel the rush of a paratrooper freefall, fly a Cobra Gunship, or defend your B-17 as a waist gunner.” In other words, Armed Forces Day, every day of the year, for the price of admission.

I don’t know how America can do better than that! It combines everything that is great about our military/industrial empire. We should have military theme parks in every state to celebrate our superior military might, which the whole world must tremble before.

If only Disney itself could do them! Imagine being able to throw Mickey out of a plane!

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Comedy of Terrors

I’m writing this the morning of Aug. 7, 61 years and more than a day after the dropping of “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. That event, in juxtaposition with recent history, no longer has the power to surprise me.

Consider this stupid quote from Osama bin Laden: “As I watched [in the eighties] the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me [to] punish the unjust the same way [and] to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.” So the destruction of towers of Lebanon inspired him to want to destroy the World Trade Towers... to start killing... so that we will be inspired to... STOP killing? Why does he think we are so different from him?

Oh, right. He thinks we’re different from him because he hears us telling ourselves so. He’s a terrorist. He targets civilians cheaply using our own overgrown commercial airlines against us. We are not terrorists. We are noble soldiers who have earnestly invested some of our unique vast hoards to amass expensive precision war machines so that we can kill only combatants, except of course when civilians accidentally get in the way, which of course they always do, saddening us always.

CNN says this morning that so far, on this 27th day of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, there have been 95 Israeli deaths, including 35 civilians, and 716 Lebanese deaths, mostly civilians. We are saddened by every one of those deaths, just as we are saddened by the non-terrorist unfortunate deaths of Hiroshima victims who got in the way of our non-terrorist justified war weapon which we dropped on them. Collateral damage is a bitch.

Some of you are probably thinking right now that I’m anti-Israel in all this mess and I want Israel to roll over and let Hezbollah annihilate it. I don’t want that at all. But before I discuss that, I want to talk about my favorite Shakespearean tragedy.

My favorite Shakespearean tragedy is the play I call Mercutio, a Tragedy of About Six Scenes Cobbled Together from Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. I call the whole play, Romeo and Juliet, A Comedy. What else can you call it when the so-called hero and hero-whine are candidates for the top Darwin Awards of their century?

How is “melancholy” Romeo, “Montague’s only son,” a tragic hero? What heroic stature does he have at the outset of the conflict? He is heroically melancholy? He is heroically hard up? He is heroically able to ponce around with a sword and pretend he knows how to use it? He is, heroically, a stupid fish? How do we pin down this guy’s tragic flaw? The same way we pin down Juliet’s tragic flaw — we lock them both together in a crypt without any air holes and wave generally in the direction of it. Oh, look now! We don’t have to; they’ve killed themselves with their mutual shared stupidity, saving us the trouble. There are your tragic flaws; they’re both perfectly dead, thus imperfectly alive.

Meanwhile, Mercutio has three things going for him. 1) He actually can use the sword, although nobody’s perfect, especially when Romeo’s on the team. 2) He actually has a brain and sense. 3) He knows they’re all ludicrous, and he has a heroic gift for saying so.

We have no trouble finding Mercutio’s fatal tragic flaw. In spite of knowing what I know, namely that Romeo is a fish (“... flesh, flesh, how art thou fishified!” —Mercutio to Romeo), in spite of correctly deducing that Romeo is a madman, Mercutio remains faithful to his crazy stupid friend until his very end when he is stuck, thanks to help from the very same stupid friend he is faithful to.

So where was I? I was going to say I can’t turn my back on stupid humans either. But I can still call down a pox on all their houses anyway.

I hope that makes sense to someone.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

On the basis of Race or breed

Recently I leapt out of bed with a brilliant flash of insight. It followed months of rumination about letters to the editor we had gotten. They were letters prompted by stories Real Change had run featuring non-White People. The letters’ writers said they wouldn’t buy the paper anymore, because we were always putting down the White Race.

Reading those letters through the tears of laughter it occurred to me that hidden deep beneath the expressed froths of the letter writers there may be this sediment of truth: We have NOT been glorifying White People in the manner to which they have been accustomed, during, oh, recorded Western history, or so.

But then, last Wednesday morning, it hit me: we ALSO haven’t glorified heterosexuals, or the breeding they do for all of us.

I mean I know you don’t have to be heterosexual to breed. We’ve all heard of the occasional gay guy who steels up his courage, closes his eyes, charges into the breach, and does one for the Pope. But heteros (like me!) do it (not sex, we’re talking about procreation here) with a grace and style that can come only from native-born talent.

Anyway, so I had that brilliant flash of insight Wednesday morning, and then I read the news. And there was Washington Supreme Court Assistant Associate Chief Jester Barbara Madsen stating that the Washington Defense of Marriage Act “is constitutional because the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation essential to survival of the human race,” blah blah, blah, “furthers the well-being of children,” BS, blah, BS, blah, “biological parents,” harumph, harumph, BS, blah.

Madsen’s words finally got through to me. What a huge disservice we have done, not only to the heterosexual community, but also to the entire human race, which depends so essentially, as she says, on that community for our vicarious continued existence on this planet (through descendants of that community, who shall represent those lessers of us who never step up to the procreative plate.)

Here’s what I see Chief Breeder Steward Madsen really saying: She’s saying human breeders are like pandas. Pandas are cute and sexy, to each other, sure, but skittish. Zoo keepers spend years, decades, coaxing nervous, sensitive, pandas into the sack, using imported Chinese bamboo leaves, playing imported soft flute music, and above all, insuring that there are no distractions.

Think of Genghis Khan, perhaps the greatest heterosexual breeder of all time. Genghis Khan’s people respected his needs. They provided him with plenty of women, quiet tents, and pillows. Had they not, there might not be a Mongolia today. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wouldn’t want to live in a world without a Mongolia.

Look. When there’s all this hoopla and raucous going on of gays same-sex marrying here and civil-unioning there (have you seen those people dance at their weddings?) our beautiful, valuable, but emotionally fragile breeders can’t mate to the degree that the survival of our species requires. “I’m sorry dear, two men just married in Skamania; I can’t focus tonight.”

Real Change has made matters so much worse by never once helping the delicate breeders of Washington State feel good about their selves so that they could settle down in the warm glow of constant emotional strokes, and get it on for Humankind.

So, belatedly, I want to say what great people heterosexuals are, and to tell you all that we at Real Change promise in the future to glorify our state’s prized heterosexual breeders the way we should have been doing all along. The same way, in fact, that we should have been extolling the greatness of White People all along.

Therefore, beginning next week and each week after look for our new Real Change Pro-Creator feature, replacing the current Real Change Agent stories on Page 3.

With all of us, including Real Change, working in solidarity with the breeding community, our great state may yet be the Mongolia of the fourth millennium!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stupid. Creative! But Stupid

Today I want to honor stupid creativity in the news.

I am a great fan of creativity. I especially enjoy stupid creativity. The things that the newsmakers I’m going to honor today have done are outstandingly, stupidly, creative.

To start with we have the Laotian government, which has recently been under pressure from the Thai government to repatriate and create homes for thousands of Hmong refugees that have been living in Thailand since Laos fell to the communists in 1975. The Laotian government has brilliantly, creatively, responded to Thailand’s demands by asserting that 6000 or so Hmong are not, in fact, Laotian.

“Hmong? What Hmong? Oh those. Those are Hmong, sure, but they are not Hmong Hmong. They are your Hmong now. Good day.” Way to go Laos, you are awesomely creative!

Also awesomely creative is an individual, Mayor Frank Melton, of Jackson, Mississippi.

Mr. Melton was elected mayor in a campaign in which he promised to reduce violent crime in Jackson. When his assumption of office did not in itself achieve his stated goal, even after it was given plenty of time to work its magic, Melton decided to declare a state of emergency in the Mississippi capital, and under his emergency authority ordered a curfew for all minors and homeless people.

No, he didn’t claim that the homeless people were responsible for Jackson high levels of violent crime. He just tacked the curfew for the homeless people on to his order out of sheer liberal utopian idealism: he was moved by the plight of a homeless teenager to want to help. Which he did, by threatening homeless people with arrest if they didn’t let themselves be packed into a school gym every night.

How stupidly creative was Frank Melton’s curfew? Well, in the one month since it’s been in place, Jackson’s homicide rate has more than doubled! Fantastically stupid! I guess it’s easier to murder people now in Jackson than ever before, what with all the witnesses being put out of the way every night. And, better than that, Jackson has become a liberal utopian paradise, because Frank Melton has ended homelessness there, just like Franklin Roosevelt, our greatest liberal president, ended Japaneseness during WWII.

I thought nobody could top Frank Melton for stupid creativity until I heard about the new Las Vegas ban on feeding homeless people in parks. This new ban, devised by the Las Vegas city council, is outstanding. It is breathtaking in its stupidity and depravity. Only truly creative geniuses could be so stupid.

Boring cities elsewhere are always coming up with laws that are intended to ban feeding homeless people but that actually say boring things like, “you need a permit to feed more than such-and-so many people, so apply for a permit, and we’ll charge you so much for it you could have just used the money to buy dinners at fancy restaurants for everyone in the park.” Unlike those boring cities, Las Vegas has written an interesting and creative law, which addresses the problem head on. Their law says you just can’t feed homeless people in city parks. That’s it. You can feed housed people all you want. You just can’t feed homeless people.

How do you know if the person you’re feeding is homeless? They’ve thought of that problem and they’ve dealt with it in their brilliantly creative direct way. If they look homeless, that’s enough. The actual law defines a homeless person as an indigent "whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive assistance." So it doesn’t matter if they’re really homeless, you just need an ordinary person, like a cop, to think they might be.

The beauty of the law, to me, rests with the idea that to be ineligible to be fed in a park a person has to be believed, by an ordinary person, to be eligible to be fed. Congratulations Las Vegas! I could never have made that up!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

On the Road to Pimpin' Rich

Recently, for no discernible reason, I became a mean-spirited conservative. Or maybe the reason was discernible. You decide.

It started late last fall. I was living down the street in my barren room in the basement of 2005 Sucky Nuts Avenue, a couple of cold doors north of the intersection of Sucky Nuts and Bush Street. I was chilling -- the radiator didn’t work. I had a bad dose of the post-WTO anarchistic clap, and a liberal itch between my toes, too.

Then a letter came. It was in a plain white envelope. Inside, it said, “Dear former math professor Dr. Wes Browning: We at Chuck Schtab and Cohorts have been trying to find you for 25 years. We believe we have finally succeeded. If we are in error and you are not the Dr. Wes Browning we’ve been seeking please let us know. Otherwise we will begin sending you quarterly reports detailing the holdings and value of your Chuck Schtab College Professional Retirement Account.”

In the past 25 years I had been homeless three times, and through it all I had completely forgotten the retirement fund I had when I was a math professor! I had untapped wealth, earned by itself during two and a half decades of market ups and downs! The reports showed my wildest dreams were true: I was set for life, if by “set” you mean I would always have bus fare and change for the laundry, or if by “life” you mean to say I have a very short life-expectancy.

Anyway, what matters is, I had experienced my first rush of seeing an investment reach maturity, take her clothes off, and show me her privates. What matters is, now I knew how it was done. You lock your money up in solid investments, you don’t spend it on booze or women, and 25 years later you’re 25-years-sober, unloved, and pimping rich. I wanted more of that.

But I wasn’t a mean-spirited conservative yet. Then I got my latest quarterly report. The first ones had reported positive earnings for my Schtab account. But the most recent report showed a drop in value of $300! I was losing money! I had to find out why.

It wasn’t hard to figure out. All the news about High Gas Prices, Global Warming, Cutting and Running from Vast Oil Reserves, Higher Gas Prices, and worst of all, Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness, was battering the stock market. Investors were getting skittish because the public sector was shifting priorities away from constant high-end investment growth. Sure, my Schtab account includes a hedge fund, but all that could ever pay for is my first month at the Home. I need the security that only ridiculously high earnings can provide.

So I looked into moving my money into real estate. I didn’t want a house; I wanted to partner with others on houses that could appreciate quickly. I read the trends and did the math and realized it would work. I could be truly set for life in the traditional sense within just one more decade. The papers said South Park/Georgetown was a high growth area, so my investment group loaded up on properties in those neighborhoods.

Just then we learned that new supportive housing for recently homeless people was planned right in the middle of our holdings. Now I’ve got nothing against the recently homeless, but those are my houses they want to live next to. I know about the studies that say supportive housing doesn’t lower property values, but I don’t invest according to studies, I invest according to my gut. What investor resembling me is going to want to buy my vacant houses in ten years for three times what I paid for them this year, if formerly homeless people are living next door?

The only solution I see is Three Strikes laws for vagrancy. We need to lock them all up in the state penitentiaries, where they can’t muck up my investments.