Saturday, December 24, 2005

Season's Greetings

We have arrived in Amherst, the family seat, and
are preparing to celebrate a traditional New England
Chrustmas Eve. Warm wishes to everyone.

Escape From New York

Dateline: Waben Massachusetts, December 23

We got out of town early yesterday. We woke up early and decided to make a dash for the bus station in the morning cold and dark. The hotel sent someone out to snag a cab. Cab was snagged by a guy who said we’d pay ten bucks apiece for the ten block ride. What the hell, we were saving almost two hundred bucks by not staying in the hotel for another night so I figured we were money ahead.

The four hour bus ride back to the family hospice on the outskirts of Boston was spent in a feverish haze never soundly asleep, so that we were always conscious that the seats were too small, and didn’t lean back far enough. I can only conclude that fully half the people on the bus were in the same state. They seemed to be asleep, but it was a sleep punctuated by wracking coughs. We resembled nothing so much as a group of vectors for a biological warfare attack; suicide coughers sent across the country in the spirit of Holiday terrorism.

This trip has confirmed in me a crotchety determination never again to stay with relatives, no matter how generous, or long suffering, or eager to attend to my comfort. I regret that I have become an "old guy." But I am an old guy, a man whose ability to accommodate has been worn down like an Eskimo’s teeth from trying to chew down on inconveniences until they are soft enough to be comfortable.

An example, if I may. Phone jacks…there are only two in the house. One is servicing a fax machine which I dare unplug at my peril since at any moment of the day or night it is likely to produce medical charts and records. The remaining phone jack ( a different line) is located where there is literally no flat surface to put the computer down and where the power outlet is well buried behind a heavy antique clothes cabinet.
So if I manage to post this you’ll know I found a Starbucks.

Enough grumbling. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, so we’ll travel from Boston (Waben) to Amherst to attend Christmas Eve church services with Katherine’s father, and then return on Christmas day with the rest of the extended family.

Note: This would have been posted in a timely fashion had I been able to plug in at the local Starbucks. My Computer’s battery is as dead as last Thanksgiving’s turkey and three folks had laid down a permanent claim to the only electrical outlest so I couldn’t wifi.

It is now December 24th, Christmas Eve. Back in a moment for a short, timely post.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

New York Report Three

Patient and her attendant have spent the day in their…what to call it?… bed stander. It is very nearly too small a room to be a bed sitter because the sole chair must do double duty as night table, clothes rack, or landing pad for odds and ends ferried in on behalf of the patient. The patient is not hungry, and she is hungry. It’s a problem for the attendant, who has so far observed the dietary niceties for himself with beer and tootsie rolls…to the snuffly, coughing disapproval of the patient.

Actually our hotel is clean and comfortable even though the room is little larger than the California King bed.

I went out this morning to fuel my caffeine hunger at Starbucks. I know, I know, some people don’t like Starbuck’s coffee, but it’s not under-roasted like the coffee in some local coffee houses. Tastes like coffee. Scours your nerve endings. The crowd was very unlike the gang at my (local) Tucson Foothills spot. There were lots of young people. Not high school kids; a post- college group with lots of very good looking young men and women. No golden geezers.

I had plenty of time to watch the crowd milling past outside. The huge purse…sometimes carried by men…is in. I suppose the guy’s bags are actually couriers’ bags but considering how well dressed some of the guys were I doubt they were couriers. Back packs are in, really in.

The courier bag makes a lot of sense. Busy professionals are so lumbered with ipods (saw plenty) cell phones, lap tops, and palms that they could hardly stuff all that stuff in their pockets without spoiling the look of their fitted overcoats. Of course women in this strike-struck city need some place to stuff dressier shoes while they are hiking to work in their tennies.

Incidentally, I know why they call this the city that never sleeps. Who could sleep with the screams, sirens, garbage trucks, and assorted shouts of joy and despair as crowds empty out of the bars that line our street.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New York Report Two

Say over and over again: The Bronx is Up, The Battery’s Down. We’ll not be going to either, in all likelihood. The subway strike is up, and the subways are down. We walked everywhere, which is fun, what we’d planned to do anyway, and what greatly inconvenienced New Yorkers had to do.

The chief assistant to the assistant-chief-housekeeper at our hotel had to start out at four in the morning. Up until eleven in the morning cabs must have four passengers. Folks have been pretty kind to one another, though—we saw a driver stop to pick up a woman who was waving futilely for a cab.

We had a tasty Starbucks coffee to start our day, but the only available seats were in the dormitory. I had to move a street guy over, chair and all, to make room at a counter. Street guy opened one eye and then went back to sleep. A woman came in, put a small pillow on the counter, put her head down and went beddy-bye. It was bitterly cold and windy outside. Can’t say I blamed ‘em, and the Starbucks people paid ‘em no mind.

My laptop is five years old, which means that in addition to being heavier than a new one, it’s incredibly slow to boot up. The strategy is to press "go" and then make a pot of coffee, or take a shower, or bake a loaf of bread and then when you get back old reliable is up and running.

There is no wireless in our hotel. They have free cable instead, but I have no way of plugging the cable jack into the computer. I’m using a Juno dial-up, which is annoying beyond measure. But what the hell, "Toujour Gai" as Mehitable used to say. Dial-up used to be great.

We walked a lot in crowds that were muffled up to the ears. Because of the transit strike Sixth Avenue turned into a very long parking lot, and the sidewalks were even more crowded than usual…or what I expect would be usual. All of us, out-of-towners and New Yorkers, did a terrific job of charging forward at the stream of people passing in the opposite direction and never touching. The opposing streams of people simply melted together to make a continuos stream moving in two directions at once, as if a river were flowing both upstream and down.

Best part of the day: A serendipitous discovery of an exhibit of illustrated manuscripts at the New York Public library. Fascinating.

The cold weather and general exhaustion have saddled Katherine with what promises to be a lalapalooza cold. Tomorrow we’ll take a walk with the cold to breathe contagion on a little grand-niece and grand-nephew who live about 30 blocks north of our hotel.

New York Report

We have arrived in New York after two excruciating four hour rides. Four hours yesterday packed in a Steerage Class seat on US Airways, and then four hours wedged into a Greyhound bus seat while we traveled from Boston to New York. On balance the bus trip might have been a tad more comfortable.

The next time I fly I’d just as soon not. And I’d like to travel to a city where the people servicing the tourist business speak English. Like Lisbon.

You can’t escape politics, even on vacation. The cab driver who drove us to the bus station this morning had an accent, but it was a Massachusetts accent and you could understand every word he said…which happened to be a very well-informed diatribe on the financial performance of the 60 worst performing companies in America. He showered us with statistics about the outrageous pay received by the companies’ CEOs. I tipped him handsomely.

The last time we had a hotel room this small was in New England, where Katherine and I had to put the room’s one chair on the bed in order to close the door.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Season’s Greetings and Jack Jackson, Jr.

Apparently it gets harder and harder, as the Season develops, to maintain a spirit of high moral dudgeon and political outrage. I notice, over in the StarNet forums, that a kind of cheerful drifting off topic is taking place.

I’m drifting off myself, tomorrow, to the Eastern gloom. First to Boston, and I can hardly wait for freezing cold and melting slush that slops over shoe tops. From Boston to New York for a short round of museum hopping, then back to Boston for Christmas with family and home to Tucson.

And during all that time I plan to avoid thinking about politics. Well, no, that’s not quite true. I’m going to try to avoid thinking about politics. I may drop a note or two into the blog from New York because I’m lugging my laptop with me, something I’ve never done before. It’s an old laptop, bulky and heavy, and will surely be a nuisance. But what the hell, it’s a new trick for an old dog.

As long as I’m still here, however, let me suggest y’all might like to take a look at Jack Jackson, Jr.’s web site. Jackson is running against Rick Renzi in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. The site has lots of information, well organized and easily navigated. Other candidates should take note.

The Coach's Wife and CD8

The most interesting political rumor of the day is that the former Christine Toretti, Pennsylvania Committeewoman on the Republican National Committee, is getting her paperwork in order to make a run for Jim Kolbe’s CD8 seat. She’s still registered to vote in Pennsylvania, of course, but that’s a small matter.

Eat your heart out, Randy Graf. How’re you going to compete with Mrs. Lute Olson?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Money and Volunteers Rally for Giffords

The Gabrielle Giffords’ CD8 campaign for Congress cranked up an impromptu gathering at Tucson’s Hotel Congress yesterday afternoon.
It was strictly an after work drop-in sort of gathering, but it was well enough organized to actually interview fifty volunteers to work the campaign. That was in addition to the more traditional volunteer cards filled in and left with the campaign.

I was not in attendance myself, but the gnomes who watch such things for me reported a large crowd, with people constantly coming and going, nominating petitions being turned in and a substantial amount of money raised.

How much? The gnomes failed me there, but the “suggested donation” was ten bucks and apparently some folks donated a lot more than that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A CD8 Candidate Heard From

Jeff Latas has responded to my December 10th post, "Election '06 or 'Election '96" saying that he welcomes open debate and discussion with voters and candidates. I have suggested that an easily used, neutral, venue for the project would be the Arizona Daily Star Forums. They are easy to use, and they are free. More importantly they cannot easily be tampered with.

Each poster can, of course, delete his own posts but it would be hard to completely obscure the direction that discussions take.

So what is to be done? Latas has begun and while I suspect, from his comment, that he would love us to proceed on his web site we have to convince him and others to use a neutral site over which they have less editorial control. I have already sugested that. We'll see if he appears in the forums. link

Next, if any of you out in the blogosphere think this kind of project has merit you have to contact the other candidates and urge them to participate.Let's see if we can change the nature of political campaigning... if only a little bit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Possible Senatorski?

The Data Port noticed with pleasure this morning a political note in the Arizona Daily Star to the effect that influential Arizona political blogger Ted Prezelski has thrown his hat in the ring to replace Gabrielle Giffords as District 28’s State Senator.

Some of us are speculating about what this might mean for our favorite political blog, Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.

The picture is that of brother Tom Prezelski, presently serving in the Arizona House. Some of us have never been able to tell these lads apart. This should prove useful as one Prezelski could serve double duty as necessary, dodging from House to Senate.

Good luck, Ted.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Torture or Military Necessity?

Many years ago, at the very beginning of our involvement in Viet Nam, I had a graduate school acquaintance who had just returned from Nam. A Princeton graduate, he had enrolled while still in school in a program called, as I recall, something like the Platoon Leader’s class.

At any rate, when he graduated (with a major in French) he went into the Marines and from the Marines to Nam as an interrogator. He was a fluent French speaker after all.

I was interested in this…what sorts of questions he would ask, how he would develop the interrogation process, in general how he structured the whole process. “Good guys”- “Bad Guys” or what?

Rather bluntly I asked him, “How did you do that?”

With equal bluntness he said, “Electrically,” and moved on to other topics. I have no idea if he was dramatizing for the girl sitting with us, putting me on, or telling me a painful truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the truth.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Election ’06 or Election ’96?

We need a new kind of political web site, independently maintained, that crosses party lines.

This web site would be apart from, and independent of, individual candidate pages...a place where candidates and voters would be urged to ask and answer questions directed at the candidates; where candidates would debate one another, their cross-aisle opponents, and the voters.

During the election cycle of 1996 The Arizona Daily Star’s StarNet launched a web site called “Election 96.” It was basically the work of seven volunteers working with the blessing of StarNet’s Robert Cauthorn.

The volunteers were Democrats, Republicans, A Libertarian and Independents. We were all starry-eyed about the capacity of the internet to transform politics. “Election ‘96” would be a place where local candidates would have their own sites, where letters and comments could be publicly posted to candidates and where the candidates’ answers would appear.

We were not just ahead of the curve…there was no curve. We either failed to convince candidates of the usefulness of this sort of public presence, or we convinced them and they were very uncomfortable with the notion of too much uncontrolled contact with constituents or their opponents

No one wanted to enter into a public debate with their opponents or the voters. And no one wanted these exchanges to be part of a public record. (The one exception was Barbara LaWall, who was then locked into a tough primary contest.) The few candidates who did come on board had merely a passive presence…stating a position, asking for donations, urging support. In other words they had the beginnings of what we have today: One way web sites.

You can send today's candidates an e-mail, or make a donation, but there is no way to post a public complaint, criticism, or compliment and read the candidate’s public answer. There is no place for a public debate between candidates.

I understand that no candidate wants to loft his or her own web site and then find s/he is giving time to the other guy. That’s why we need a new kind of political web site, on the model of “Election ‘96” and we have to tell all candidates that the voters want to hear from them, and hear them debate one another.

Look at the sites for Giffords, Graf, and Latas

Friday, December 09, 2005

As American as Apple Pie

The idea of the suicide bomber as a weapon to redress real (or imagined) social injustices is much older than contemporary Muslim fanaticism. I’ve been reading “Murdered by Capitalism”-- A Memoir of 150 years of Life & Death on the American Left—by John Ross and ran across a reference to American Radical Lucy Parsons.

What caught my eye was this quotation from Ross’s book:

“’Learn the use of explosives,’ Lucy Parsons would preach. She exhorted the homeless to strap on a bomb and take out a Capitalist rather than throw themselves into the Chicago River in despair. ‘Every dirty, lousy tramp must encamp on the steps of the palaces and shoot, stab, or bomb the splendiferous elites who lounged therein.’ That’s verbatim from Lucy’s To Tramps!.”

A brief biography of Parsons can be found here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


The Data Port has been running in two locations for a number of months.I have decided to wind up the Radio UserLand version of this blog. I simply find Blogger more user friendly. It’s much easier to post pictures here and posting can be done from any on line computer, while Radio User Land requires special software on my laptop, which I seldom carry while traveling. ( Motorcycle Bounce Bounce)

You’ll notice two links are gone from the link panel. “Motorcycles” and “The Curmudgeon” were sub-categories of the Radio UserLand version of The Data Port.

Nuff said. And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Another Precinct Heard From...Patty Weiss enters Arizona CD 8 race

So far, here’s what we know of this ex-anchor’s political views: "I have always thought that I would like to serve in Congress," Weiss said. "I am a fan of democracy."

Well, so say we all Patty.

There seems to be a certain fascination with Weiss’ name recognition and what that promises, but in a primary race I don’t think it promises very much. The active Democrats who have worked campaigns, walked neighborhoods, and performed all the political scut work know her as a TV personality, but not as a fellow worker.

Of course that was inevitable. She couldn’t even pretend to be an even-handed journalist and a political activist. It’s sure to affect her fundraising and she is already behind hand in this. It may be a sad reflection on the state of American electoral politics but two million bucks trumps being known as an anchor.

Some folks at the national level are reported to be saying that for Democrats this is a two-million-buck campaign. Does anyone think the Republicans will pony up any less? Ho Ho Ho…it makes to laugh.

Monday, December 05, 2005

As Long As You’re Up... Get Me A Grant

A friend from the StarNet forums posted an interesting question: Need a job? Want a billion? Well, who doesn’t? Who wouldn’t? And our very own government wants to provide you (us) with both the job and the bucks.Before we continue I suggest you follow this link and when you’ve read and digested it return here.

Ah, there you are, back again. So here’s what we have. Our nation’s wise leadership has sucked us into a war and they have no clear cut idea about how to get us out of it. But wait.. maybe the thing to do is to…”implement a social and economic stabilization program impacting ten Strategic Cities, identified by the United States Government as critical to the defeat of the Insurgency in Iraq.”

For this they will pay upwards of one billion, 200 million bucks.

Now of course for that amount of money the government would want to be sure that the program provider they chose had a program that had some chance of working. But if the Bush wizards don’t have the foggiest idea of what to do... what would work…if they are helplessly calling for outside assistance…how in the world will they be able to choose an effective program?

By what criteria will the clueless get a clue? I could use the money, I think I'll apply.

Pima Council on Aging "Overwhelmed"

According to Stew Grabel, the Ombudsman for the Pima Council on Aging, the PCOA has been buried under an avalanche of calls for help in dealing with what Grabel describes as “this complicated, poorly planned, constantly changing Medicare program.”

The phone system has been “overwhelmed” and staff has been driven to work evenings and weekends helping people figure out just how to cope with the “benefits” of Medicare. You want help? They’re booking appointments a month in advance.

Here’s the kicker, though. You’d think that the place to go for help would be to the folks in charge, not to an under-staffed county agency that’s struggling to keep up with the demands for service. You know…Social Security, AHCSS, The Center for Medicare Services.

But the folks in charge are apparently baffled and confused, too. They are referring people with questions to The Pima Council on Aging!

Oh, I get it…they either don’t understand the wonderful Bush drug proposals with their magic donuts and sliding enrollment scales or they do understand all that and are too embarrassed to say.

We can’t be bothered to explain em…we just write ‘em.