Friday, December 28, 2007

The Data Port Endorses… Voting!

I went on line this morning to change my voter registration from Independent to Democratic. There were two reasons for this, one of them perfectly trivial and the other rather more serious.

The trivial reason first: Ever since I’ve been old enough to vote I have voted in every election, city, state, and national, for which I was eligible. I include school board elections and bond votes, referendums, initiatives, and judges. I couldn't bring myself to break the string.

The more serious reason is this: As readers of this blog know (and, I suspect, certain unnamed government agencies as well) I am an unreconstructed old lefty. As unhappy as I am with the current thrust and tenor of the Democratic Party it still comes closer to my core political beliefs than the Republican Party.

I will vote for the Democratic candidate for president, whomever he or she may be.That being the case, it seems to make sense to cast a primary vote for that candidate who offers the best combination of viability and closeness to my personal political bent.

That candidate is John Edwards.

Monday, December 24, 2007

In Debt Yet? You bet!

As a follow-up to Saturday’s Data Port entry about credit card debt let me refer y’all to the front page of today’s Arizona Daily Star and an Associated Press story: Pocket Plastic is New Credit Crunch.

“Americans are falling behind on their credit card payments at an alarming rate, sending delinquencies and defaults surging by double-digit percentages in the last year and prompting warnings of worse to come.

“An Associated Press analysis of financial data from the country's largest card issuers also found that the greatest rise was among accounts more than 90 days in arrears."


If you read the article closely you’ll notice that the credit card weasels have done just what the mortgage weasels did, they've sold off the debt to investment trusts and now the trusts are in trouble.

The Giffords Conundrum

At least two of Congresswoman Giffords’ votes have been profoundly annoying to CD 8 Democrats and, indeed, to progressive Democrats across Arizona. Her vote to join Republicans in granting Bush’s $70 billion dollar Iraq funding request has been ably dealt with by Michael Bryan over at Blog for Arizona.

I, too, received the Giffords letter explaining her vote. Bryan’s analysis of that letter is, in the best sense, lawyerly. Of particular interest is Bryan’s note that the funding for materiel replacement is a separate issue and could have been voted for without a total capitulation. Less noted was Giffords voting with the Republicans against a bill that would have reinstated the inheritance tax.

Now what are Progressives to do?

Would they (should they) launch a ‘send-a-message’ attack in the primary? It doesn’t seem likely. The most obvious candidate happens also to be the Vice Chair of the state’s Democratic Party. I doubt that Latas is willing to fall on his sword just to send a message.

Another alternative would be to support some third party candidate, possibly a Green. But even if a Green could beat her in a primary race no Green could win the seat in the general election.

Under the circumstances Giffords’ single most valuable political characteristic is that she is a Democrat and will vote with other Democrats to organize the House. Progressives may not be “doing” well with her at the moment, but they can hardly do without her. They will have to bite the bullet and vote Democratic.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Are We in Debt Yet?

With four shopping days left before “Holiday” I toddled off to the malls yesterday to do my Merchants Day shopping. I had read that sales were down but business seemed pretty brisk judging from all the plastic I saw being tendered.

No money, just credit cards. No kidding. No one was buying anything with folding green, with money they had now; they were all contracting to pay with money they hoped to have sometime in the indefinite future.

When I was a kid (and don’t you hate it when some old guy, some really old guy, says that?) there were no credit cards. That’s right, Virginia, Santa was on a strictly cash and carry basis.

Instead of credit cards every bank had a “Christmas Club.” Folks made regular deposits during the year into modest little interest-bearing savings accounts. Then at Christmas they had money to buy stuff with.

Well, that was during the depression. We’re all better off now, which is why we’re all in debt.

Merry Merchants Day to my fellow bloggers!



Friday, December 21, 2007

Daily Star’s new E-Edition

If you are a newspaper junky, and especially if you follow the development of on-line journalism, it’s well worth your time to take a look at the new electronic version of the Arizona Daily Star.

I can’t think of any other papers that are presenting this way and I think it’s terrific. Until the end of the year you’ll be able to sign on for free but after that a subscription will cost you just what subscribing to the dead tree edition costs.

In itself I think that this attempt to charge for what the New York Times and other major daily papers give away on line is interesting. If you subscribe this way you see exactly what dead tree subscribers see…all the stories, all the ads, all the photos, the TV Guide, the obits, the comics, the want ads, laid out on each page just as they appear in the paper edition.

You leaf through the paper page by page, or skip to your favorite section. Click on a story and that story pops up on the right side of your computer screen in an easy-to-read text version with photos or graphics at the bottom.

To me the value of this is that I can read the paper, scanning page by page, exactly the way I read it at my breakfast table. I find that reading this way I miss a whole lot less than when I try to read the current e-version. For one thing you scan the whole first paragraph of a story and any photos or graphics catch your eye. When you’re through with the news you can read the funnies or check the TV listings.

In the end the great advantage of this new version is that it is uncluttered. The current (free) version of the Star on line is such a visual hodge-podge, filled with distracting visual snippets, mostly ads and promos, that it is painfully distracting to look at.

Of course in the new version you will not be able to comment rancorously on stories that offend you as you can in the current version. I love the new look and think it’s an interesting experiment, but for the same price I think I’ll stick with the dead tree edition.

To take a look at the E-Edition click here. Sign on as “Star,” password “Free Trial”

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Brass Monkey

One of my favorite motorcycle rallies is The Brass Monkey.The Monkey celebrates its 35th birthday in chilly February, hence its name memorializing a tragic emasculation.

I've posted all the details over at my other Blog, Data Port Two.



But in the meantime, what the hell is a Brass Monkey?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chemical Enhancements

The hoopla over the Mitchell report leaves me underwhelmed. The fact that successful athletes have been using illegal body boosters is old news, and slyly enhancing stuff is as American as apple pie.

Actors have “a little work done,” pit crews bend and break rules to go a little faster and NFL receivers put “stickum” on their gloves to help with impossible catches. We love the results and the sports merchants and team owners love the money.

Anabolic steroids don’t make athletes better, just stronger. If you lack eye-hand coordination, a mastery of the psychology of the sport, a natural passion and will to succeed, or the willingness to train, you can take steroids til your neck is the size of an oak tree’s trunk. You’ll still be lousy.

I think the validity and wonder of the sports records of the past 20 years are a lot less tarnished than people worry about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Political Silly Season

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus

This has been the strangest primary season in memory. Well, in my memory anyhow. The Republicans are intent on recasting political argument into theological dispute. Giuliani is seriously asked, during a national debate, if he believes in the literal truth of the bible. Shortly thereafter Romney argues that his position on the crucial political issue of the divinity of Christ (he believes He is the Son of God) entitles him to the support of people who otherwise consider him a cultist.

It’s pretty clear the Republicans now believe that not only religious belief but a particular sort of religious belief is a precondition for public office.

Then Huckabee turns out to be in favor of the submission of women to the benevolent and loving leadership of their husbands.


Habeas Corpsed or Fun In The Star Chamber

The principle of Habeas Corpus is being argued before the Supreme Court. The Republican administration is twisting and turning in the attempt to convince the court that the Guantanamo prisoners have no such right, no right to see the evidence against them, and no right to a speedy trial.

The argument proceeds with the political nicety one would expect. Sadly, one argument is lacking and it is this: Americans believe that the rights being denied the Guantanamo prisoners are the very preconditions of fairness in judicial proceedings. It has always been a source of pride to us that we have extended these rights to everyone, citizen or non-citizen, regardless of the crime of which they are accused. No rights, no justice, and we are no longer a government of laws and not men.

It was because we were strong that we extended these rights universally in the past. Are we now so weak, or fearful, that we can no longer do this? If so, then shame on us.


Terminal Boredom

I went to a party recently where the festive crowd was largely composed of political activists. I circulated asking folks how their favorite (Democratic is here assumed) presidential aspirant was doing.

I got pretty much the same answer. “Well I suppose I like so-and-so, but I’m not really terribly excited by anyone.” One woman, who I knew as a perfectly ferocious partisan and activist, simply said, “I’m a Yellow Dog Democrat, I’ll vote for whoever they put up.”

Wow! Talk about excitement. If the faithful are this excited by the primary debates just imagine how glassy-eyed the Independents must be.

Here are some links you probably hit upon--- but on the chance that you haven’t, click on these: What Mormons believe, Why the Democrats could lose.

Finally, Melissa McEwan says it all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

In Iraq Forever—Not!

Just received an action alert from MoveOn asking for signatures on a petition to halt the Administration’s scheme to keep a large permanent presence in Iraq.

President Bush is quietly negotiating an agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep our troops there indefinitely--an agreement that could include permanent bases and a massive military presence for years! Bush is trying to tie the hands of the next administration to keep us in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

If we let them get away with this it will seriously hamper hopes for future withdrawal by a subsequent administration.

Click here to sign the petition.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Civil Liberties Under Attack

Thanks to x4mr over at “Sustainability, Equity, Development” for sounding the alert on an extreme danger to our civil liberties. The danger lies in HR 1955, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007.

“Violent Radicalization is defined as the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” – x4mr

Hop over to “Sustainability” to read the post and comments. This is chilling stuff. Gabby and Raul and 402 other House members voted for it. Don’t these guys think about this stuff before they vote?

As for me, I expect I’m a candidate for investigation since I am heavily into Violent Radicalization. But then so was Mr. Jefferson:

"God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.It is its natural manure."—Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who Cares?

I mean who really cares about any of the Democratic presidential hopefuls? Do you? I’m not sure I do. Out here in the progressive blogosphere everyone wants a Democratic president but we don’t seem to care very much just who the candidate might be. Any Democratic president will do just fine, and any candidate can do it. Oh yeah?

The only candidate who stands solidly for Progressive values is Kucinich yet we read no passionate defense of him from the left, nor do we read any debates between supporters of the other candidates. Ho Hum.

In August 15,000 trade union men and women gathered in Soldier Field (Chicago) to hear our collection of “Luke Warmwaters” make their pitch. As John Nichols writes, in an excellent article in The Progressive,

“Dennis Kucinich delivered applause line after applause line—connecting with the crowd on ideological, political, and emotional levels that the other candidates could not begin to reach.”

Not a single union subsequently endorsed him.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Most American Holiday


Thanksgiving!…When a nation of tubbies gathers around the groaning board to overeat with every relative within striking distance. You don’t necessarily like all those people, but what the hell they’re family, and they’re not usually annoying while they’re packing it in and packing it on.

That’s Thursday, but Friday is really the big day. Black Friday! When food abuse is followed by credit abuse. Eat more than you need, spend more than you have. Makes a fellow proud to be a ‘Murican.

Oh well, Season’s Greetings to y’all.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Smart Car

I was happy to read an article in Salon announcing the full scale launch of Mercedes’ Smart Car. I saw my first Smart Car a little over a year ago in Lisbon. When I got home I priced what was available then and found that by the time required safety features like air bags were added the price had popped up to around 15 K.

I suspect this was due to the after-production cost of adding the government-required features. With those features added by Mercedes in the factory the reported base price will be $11,600.(Lots of luck to you buying one at that price.)

Small cars have always appealed to me and I have never felt unsafe diving one, or been bothered by fairly pedestrian performance. I’m just not a car nut. When I dream high performance I dream of sophisticated motorcycles, however impossible the dream. (A street legal high-p
erformance sidecar would be nice the next time I have a spare 35 grand.)


My first car was a 1948 Crosley, in which two friends and I took a post high school road trip. The Crosl
ey story is quite remarkable as are the engineering details of this nice little car. The picture comes from a great Crosley web site.

Like nearly half the world I owned a VW Beetle in the
60’s, but what was probably a more interesting vehicle was the slab-sided Citroen 2cv, affectionately known as the Deux Chevaux. It was very popular with adventure drivers who really loved the little car in back country conditions. (Front wheel drive and four-wheel independent suspension.)

And now, the Smart Car. There are a number of critical comments posted on the Salon article, but my own observation is that the shorter length (8.8 feet long -- a whopping total of 106 inches. It's 5.1 feet tall and just as wide) won’t do you much good in locations where the parking is marked off and metered for bigger cars. I doubt that Rita, the lovely meter maid, is going to let you get away with nosing two Smarts into one space.

40 MPG doesn’t seem too hot a ticket, either. My full sized 2003 Corolla gets about 32 in the city and has been known to sip gas at the rate of 39 to 40 mpg on the interstates.

I think I’d rather own a Mini.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Not Voting Today in Tucson

I’m not voting today, even though I’ve lived in ‘Tucson’ for 35 years or more. ‘Tucson’ is in quotation marks because although my life is centered in the city, and my mailing address says Tucson, I’ve never actually lived there—I’ve lived in the Catalina Foothills.

For nearly all of those 35 years I have favored annexation by the city. For the same 35 years my fellow Foothills residents have resisted annexation, willing to live as political eunuchs rather than risk an uncertain tax future.

But Tucson is the dog that wags the foothills tail, and they have given up all say in Tucson affairs, for instance important issues like water and development, that directly affect their own well being as well as that of the entire community.

Too bad.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Kucinich!

At a party a week or so ago I was surprised to find a significant undercurrent of pro-Kucinich support. Of course we were a sizeable group of Foothills liberals. Either there were no conservatives present or, if there were, they were cowed by being so outnumbered. Most of us were either actively supporting or reluctantly resigned to one of the big three Democratic candidates but “Oh, if only…if only…”

So today, in Salon, I read Rebecca Traister’s article, “Stop lying to yourself. You love Dennis Kucinich.” Consider the following paragraphs from Traister’s piece:

You are lying to yourselves. In a quest for an "electable," "not insane" presidential candidate, you are willfully overlooking the candidate who actually comes closest to representing the things in which you really believe: justice and peace and the basic freedoms that should be afforded to every American, regardless of race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation or galactic origin. In an effort to distance yourself from the squish of the Birkenstock and the stench of the patchouli, you have convinced yourself that compromise and pragmatism light the path to the White House. And you are correct. But still, before walking listlessly down the aisle toward our impending union with tepid centrism, let's rip our clothes off for one final, ill-advised fling with ideological honesty.

If you believe in universal, single-payer healthcare and that campaign finance and electronic voting are corrupt; if you hate the Patriot Act and believe it erodes civil rights; if you believe that gay people should have the same rights as straight people, that America should rejoin the Kyoto Protocol and take steps to halt global warming, that we should invest in alternative fuel sources, that our water and air need to be protected from pollution and overuse, that the government should reduce the amount of money it spends on war and instead work to improve the country's education system, and that going to war in Iraq was a terrible and tragic mistake, then (snip)…

Dennis Kucinich is our man! If he can't do it, well, that's because we're all chickenshit and condemned to a future of our own making. Yay, Dennis!

And after you read the article, take the quiz. Dare ya!

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Pillory for Hillary?

I am not a Hillary fan—she’s not really my kind of Democrat. That said, I find the piling on of the last debate distasteful and counter-productive.

Frankly, I think her response to the driver licensing of illegals was perfectly sensible. The state of New York does have an interest in knowing where the undocumented are, and absent any sensible immigration legislation by the federal government this may be a step in that direction.

On the issue of personal correspondence in the Clinton Archive the suits’ claim to be ‘shocked…shocked by this lack of openness’ is disingenuous. Unless of course they are willing to release their correspondence to be picked through.

C’mon, guys, tell us in detail how you plan to set things to rights and solve some of the nation’s problems. Let’s have those details and a debate about their merits.

Class War

It’s not fashionable to raise the specter of class warfare in America. It is especially frowned upon by the forces that have been most successfully waging it for the past quarter century. It is the war that dares not speak its name, if I may borrow the phrase from another context.

The war is one of Capitalism’s most successful projects, being fought not by those who control the means of industrial production, but by those who control the means of financial production…the great web of financial institutions, banks, merchant banks, brokerages, insurance companies, mortgage companies and real estate interests.

These are the “New Capitalists.” The old capitalists controlled the material means of production, the great factories that produced the cornucopia of consumer goods that were America’s pride and the envy of the less fortunate. They made money by transforming raw materials.

But where the old capitalists produced consumer goods, the New Capitalists produce only money, the precondition for the production of which is money itself. I intend to return to this theme in future posts. For now let me observe that most of us are victims of this class war, victims of an exploitation that is so subtle that we’re not only unaware of it but have already largely lost it.

I started thinking about this after reading a paragraph in a Judith Warner NY Times article, “The Clinton Surprise. She cites a new set of data from the I.R.S.

“It showed that America’s most wealthy earn an even greater share of the nation’s income than they did in 2000, at the peak of the tech boom. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, the Wall Street Journal reported, earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005 (the latest date for which these data are available), up from the high of 20.8 percent they’d reached in the bull market of 2000. The bottom 50 percent of people earned 12.8 percent of all income compared with 13 percent in 2000. And the median tax filer’s income fell 2 percent when adjusted for inflation (to about $31,000) between 2000 and 2005.” (Italics mine)


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Persona Non Grata

That’s me at the University of Arizona. I was reminded of this last week when I volunteered to take part in a reading of “How I Learned To Drive.” A member of the University’s English department had asked some of us to read for his class in dramatic literature. Happy to oblige.

Just try to park legally to do a good deed!

Readers of this blog know I’m a motorcyclist. There’s a family car that’s used by my wife, but my personal transportation is my motorcycle, and that’s why I’m not welcome at the University: Motorcycles are denied access to all University parking structures. It’s a real pain in the butt.

It’s not perfectly clear why this is, or why the university powers would prefer I drive my relatively low-gas-mileage, emissions-emitting car rather than my very high mileage, low emissions motorcycle. I guess they would rather have one big car occupy the space than three paying bikers.

The result is that living on the town side of the town and gown divide the University is as useless to me as a large box factory.
Maybe less—the box factory would at least pay taxes. The U? Can’t park so I don’t go.

Grrrr.



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Journalists’ Shield Passes


But are we journalists?

The Free Flow of Information act passed the House late this afternoon by a vote of 398 to 21. As I read the text of HR 2102 some (but possibly not all) bloggers would be covered. The bill defines ‘journalism’ this way”

“The term ‘‘journalism’’ means the gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing of news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public.”

Mathew Pollack, writing on The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press web site, reports:

“The bill only protects professional journalists who regularly engage in journalism 'for substantial financial gain' or a substantial part of their livelihood. Under this definition, some, but not all, bloggers will receive protection from federal investigators. Any terrorist organizations or media wings of foreign powers cannot claim protection under the shield.”

My problem, which some Lefty Blogger may solve, is that in the text of the bill on line I don’t find the ‘substantial financial gain’ limitation. Apart from that the notion of substantial gain seems fairly ambiguous.

A Blogger Shield (?)

The Free Flow of Information act to be voted on today.

Under H.R. 2102, online journalists for the first time would be afforded the same protection as their offline counterparts provided they are engaged in "gathering, preparing, collecting, photographing, recording, writing, editing, reporting, or publishing news or information that concerns local, national, or international events or other matters of public interest for dissemination to the public. ---Press Release News Wire

The Free Flow of Information act is a federal journalism shield law that protects journalists from being forced, by threat of jail, to reveal sources.

As you might expect the White House is unhappy about a law that would protect journalists and their sources. The WH thrives on secrecy, so it raises the ol’ national security bogeyman and talks veto.

Read the Baltimore Sun story:
White House recommends veto of 'shield law'


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Weekend Reading

I’ve been doing more reading than writing so I thought I’d pass some of it on.

..................................................

In politics sincerity is everything…
… and once you’ve learned to fake that you’ve got it made.

Along those lines let me recommend an interesting and somewhat skeptical piece about Hillary in this morning’s Salon. According to Michael Scherer Hillary’s performance is as smooth as silk:

“President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton says she has come for a "conversation," a candid give-and-take, a sharing moment to connect the politician with the people while the television cameras roll. She sits with two New Hampshire voters, Kim Beauregard and 16-year-old daughter Ashley, on a stage under bright lights. Beauregard explains how hard it will be to pay for her daughter's college education.”

Clinton is shocked and surprised to learn that Beauregard might have to sell her house to send Ashley to college. Later she reports that she had tears in her eyes and her listeners come away impressed by her sincerity, concern, and competence

“In this context, the blatant artifice of her campaign shtick hardly registers for many voters, who brag afterward about having just shaken the hand of the next president of the United States. Who cares if Clinton's shock and emotion at the Beauregard story was planned and forced? Does it matter that Kim Beauregard volunteers at the Clinton campaign in Laconia, where Ashley works as an intern? So what if Clinton held a card laying out the details of the Beauregard story even as she expressed astonishment at the details? For the Clinton campaign, what matters is that the day's message came through: Hillary Clinton cares. And Hillary Clinton has a plan.”

To read the whole piece, click here.

……………………………………………………….

Unhappy Days are Here Again?

Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect. On October 2 Kuttner testified before the House Financial Services Committee. His testimony, under the title 1929 Redux: Heading for a Crash, was posted at Alternet.org

We’ve all been reading about the sub-prime mortgage debacle, but there has been very little coverage of the slow erosion of investor protections that made it possible. Kuttner’s article is an excellent primer on the history of the control of the investment, banking and financial services business that followed the collapse of 1929. It is an excellent analysis of the attack on those controls, and an explanation of what is called the ‘securitizing of debt’

You don’t have to be an economist to understand the Glass-Steagal act or the fine American tradition of watering stock. Kuttner’s explanation of all this was so simple even a Congressman could get it. This is information every political activist should have in hand. This article is fairly long. You may want to print it out. Click here.

……………………………………………………………


The Sliming of Graeme Frost

Thanks to the New York Times’ new policy of open access we can read the columns of Paul Krugman for free. Krugman’s most recent column began thus:

“Two weeks ago, the Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address was delivered by a 12-year-old, Graeme Frost. Graeme, who along with his sister received severe brain injuries in a 2004 car crash and continues to need physical therapy, is a beneficiary of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Mr. Bush has vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have expanded that program to cover millions of children who would otherwise have been uninsured.”

What followed was the conservative sliming of Graeme Frost.Krugman nails those responsible for this despicable attack. Click here


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Patient Information

Normally, when my doctor prescribes some nostrum, I simply buy it and take it. I never pay any attention to the patient information document, which is usually a narrow strip of paper printed in tiny type designed to discourage any actual reading. Take my advice and remain discouraged.

I’ve been prescribed a medicine to help with a minor breathing problem, nothing life threatening and not even particularly inconvenient. Because I’m already taking so many pills that I rattle like a seed-filled gourd I thought I ought to check to make sure this new pill wasn’t going to go to war with the others. I would read the patient info sheet.

Bad decision. I found out I would run the risk of the following possible side effects: Stomach pain, stomach or intestinal upset, heartburn, tiredness, fever, stuffy nose, cough, flu, upper respiratory infection, dizziness, headache and rash. These were just the most common possible side effects.

I might also experience ‘less common’ side effects, among which were: agitation, including aggressive behavior, allergic reactions that might cause trouble breathing or swallowing, an increased tendency to bruise or bleed, depression, diarrhea, hallucinations, hepatitis, muscle aches and cramps, tremors, seizures or vomiting.

It looks like the cure might be worse than the disease. I think that maybe I’ll just risk panting a bit when I walk up stairs.
………………………………………..................

Strangest of all was this note:

“The side effects in patients treated with XXXX were similar in type and frequency to side effects in patients who were given a placebo (a pill containing no medicine).”

Think about it.

Oh, well, since swallowing was all that was common to the two groups I guess I’ll simply avoid swallowing small non-food objects.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Attention Senate Democrats: It’s Time for Spine

Here’s what happens: A majority of the Senate wants to discuss and vote on legislation of crucial importance; legislation touching on basic civil liberties and a disastrous and unjustified war. A minority doesn’t want to discuss or vote on this legislation.

The Republicans threaten a filibuster. The Democrats go for a cloture vote but can’t raise the required 60 votes. At this point the Democrats wring their hands and whine that they’re helpless to do anything. Poor pitiful Democrats.

Excuse me? Of course the Democrats can do something: Let the minority launch its filibuster. Let’s force the Republicans to filibuster. I’d like the nation to see some team of lonely suits reading from the Congressional Record in a nearly empty Senate chamber rather than do the nation’s business.

When the Democrats back off after a failed cloture vote they hand the Republicans the equivalent of a successful filibuster, but without any effort on the Republicans’ part.

Let’s at least make ‘em work for it.

………………………………………………………………………

On September 21 the NY Times published an editorial from which I offer the following clips:

“If you were one of the Americans waiting for Congress, under Democratic control, to show leadership on the war in Iraq, the message from the Senate is clear: “Nevermind.” The same goes for those waiting for lawmakers to fix the damage done to civil liberties by six years of President Bush and a rubber-stamp Republican Congress.”


“On Wednesday, the Senate failed to vote on two major bills. One would have restored basic human rights and constitutional protections to hundreds of foreigners who are in perpetual detention, without charges or trial. The other was the one measure on the conduct of the Iraq war that survived the Democrats’ hasty retreat after last week’s smoke-and-mirrors display by Gen. David Petraeus and President Bush.

“There were votes, of course, but not on the bills. They were cloture votes, which require 60 or more Senators to agree to cut off debate, eliminating the possibility of a filibuster, so Senators can vote on the actual law. In both cases, Democrats were four votes short, with six Republicans daring to defy the White House.

“We support the filibuster as the only way to ensure a minority in the Senate can be heard. When the cloture votes failed this week, the Democrats should have let the Republicans filibuster. Democratic leaders think that’s too risky, since Congress could look like it’s not doing anything. But it’s not doing a lot now.”

Amen

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ken Burns-- The War

I hurried home from the theater Sunday and hunkered down, along with an estimated 18.7 million other folks, to re-live (in my case) my childhood. I was 12 years old when the war started on December 7th 1941.

I was in the Loop (Chicago)seeing a movie with my mother and father. I don’t remember which movie, but when we left the theater we noticed a long line of young men standing outside what we later learned was a recruiting office. That I do remember.

As soon as I graduated from grade school I was expected to work during school vacations and during the summer. As you can imagine it was easy for a kid to get work during the war.

One summer I worked as a Western Union messenger. (Forty cents an hour, 16 dollars a week, minimum wage.) Notices of MIA status and of deaths were delivered by telegram, but not by messenger boys. An older man in the office had that job.

But one day a mistake was made and I was handed one of the starred envelopes to deliver. We were busy, so rather than tell the office a mistake had been made I went to the edge of our delivery district…like an angel of death in a brown Western Union messenger’s hat...with sorrow wrapped in a yellow envelope.

The address was a six-flat with a blue-starred service flag in a first floor window. I rang the bell and someone came to the door. (Odd, I can’t remember whether it was a man or woman I delivered that death knell to.) What I do remember was thinking I would never do that again.

I never again wanted to be that close to changing a blue star to gold.

My worst memory of the war.

Monday, September 24, 2007

End of The Run

The Rogue Theatre closed its three-week run of The Cherry Orchard with last Sunday’s matinee. This is the Rogue’s third season and I’ve been proud to be a Rogue in five of the theatre’s productions. I mention this in the interest of full disclosure, not to call attention to my own modest contributions but because I want to recommend this company and you should know where I might stand.

To begin with this is the kind of theater I adore…the kind that makes you want to get together with friends after the show, open a bottle of wine, and talk. There are all kinds of theater, or course, and each has its place. There are times only a light and refreshing May Wine is what you want, but there are times and tastes that only a big booming Zinfandel will suit; one that practically begs to be chewed on to release its flavors.

The Rogue is “Big Zinfandel” theater. It’s wonderful to play in and wonderful to see.

There is an audience for this kind of theater in Tucson and the Rogue has been slowly building it. Theater is a business as well as an art, and like all start-up businesses a new theater company must have the staying power to last through a sometimes dodgey period of ‘customer base’ building.

Judging from the respectable size of the house at a matinĂ©e on the last day of a three-week run it looks like the Rogue will be around for a while…as it continues to find its audience and its audience finds it.

There’s more exciting theater in store for Tucson area audiences. You can get a good sense of the Rogue by clicking through the archives and you can read about the rest of the current season here.

If you're new to the Rogue you can get a good sense of what it's about by looking over its past seasons, here.

Incidentally, the Rogue has a Manifesto, if you're so inclined. I love 'em, myself.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Edwards on Hillarycare

It’s almost enough to get me sucked back into actively supporting a Democratic presidential candidate. What’s that, you ask? Well it was Edwards address to the SEIU convention. You can view the whole speech here.

His comment on the Hillary strategy of giving everyone a seat at the table in planning health care was spot on. If you give the insurance companies and the drug companies a seat at the table they’ll eat all the food.

Edwards is the only candidate who is aggressive enough on the health care issue to satisfy me. (Or possibly Kucinich who, if I remember correctly, simply proposes Medicare for all.)

NY Times: Free On Line

The New York Times announced today that starting tomorrow it will terminate its TimesSelect service and offer complete access to the paper free of charge. This means that access to NY Times columnists, archives, and other services for which subscribers have paid, will now be free.

You can read the Times announcement here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bush on Bush...Mail This Link

X4mr, the keeper of the blog “Sustainability, Equity, Development,” has posted one of the best criticisms of Bush and his administration I’ve read. I imagine that Lefty Blog readers have already read it; we are, after all, the choir we all preach to.

This neat reminder of what Bush and his administration have brought down on us- nearly all of it in his own words- needs a wider audience. I’m mailing the following link to everyone in my e-mail address book.

http://x4mr.blogspot.com/
2007/09/bloody-words-bloodshed.html

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Support Your Local Union

In November of ’08 I’ll be voting Democratic. It won’t much matter to me who the Democratic presidential candidate is. The most I hope for is that he or she will put the brakes on neocon dismantling of civil liberty protections, the aggressive favoring of the rich over the poor, and the favoring of corporations over other economic stake holders.

Even with a Democratic presidency and Democratic control of Congress I doubt we’ll see a reversal of Republican tax cuts, universal single-payer health care, or a withdrawal from Iraq. At best I expect a series of slightly more liberal judicial appointments and a less fundamentalist approach to a spectrum of women’s issues.

Although greatly weakened, the American labor union movement is the last organization, or group of organizations, still actively committed to economic democracy, the defense of the poor and, generally speaking, the progressive social ideals that were once the heart and soul of the Democratic party. There are no “Blue Dogs” in the union movement.

Therefore, rather than volunteering for, or giving money to, the Democrats I’m going to look for ways to support the growth and influence of my local unions. Collectively they are the best alternative to a progressive 3rd party.

Let’s hear from Union folks out there…how can those of us who are not union members best help?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Naked Bike



The latest fad in powerful street bikes is the "Naked Bike," a bike stripped of all body work so that the structural elements of the motorcycle are exposed. This bike carries nakedness to an extreme.

I don't know if this is actually rideable and, because the photos were forwarded to me, I can't credit either the builder or the photographer. Can anyone out there help?


Monday, September 10, 2007

Surge is Working!

It’s hard for me to find new ways to express my despair and disgust with Democratic collapse in the face of our continuous, yet failing, involvement in Iraq. We are mired up to our ear lobes in the quag and Dems dither their way into inheriting the war and being forced to make it their own. I’m speechless.

Fortunately, other bloggers have been saying what needs to be said in new way, so I will pass the wisdom of others along.

Consider, please, these clips from Frank Dwyer’s “Working” Stiffs blog at the Huffington Post:

“The surge is working, of course. More than that, it has been a tremendous success. Who can deny it? Who?

“It has not achieved all of George W. Bush's goals in Iraq, whatever they are. It will not create a strong new city-on-a-hill democracy in the Middle East, which the US can benevolently oversee and protect (in a spectacularly lucrative arrangement) from large permanent bases to the end of time. It will not restore any real, lasting order in the chaos of Iraq (though it can provide some ideal photo-op pockets of peace and quiet-inside big Camp Cupcake, for example, where our stealth warrior-hero wannabe just had his picture taken). It will not stop the tribal bloodbath we have so innocently, ignorantly, criminally provoked (though it can turn it into a trickle, here and there, for a little while). It will not even help us identify which Iraqis we ought to be trying to kill and which are on our side. (In fact, with our selective and isolated applications of American power-not to mention our timely bribes-it makes that basic questions much harder to answer.)

“The successful surge has achieved none of the shifting list of goals that have been advanced to justify this war. It has only "worked" to accelerate the astonishing neocon assault on our fundamental security, our reputation, our national honor, our economy, and our soldiers. But it is working, nevertheless. How?

“The surge has sewn debilitating doubt, confusion, despair, and division in the enemy.” ---The Democrats. Read the whole post here.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Democratic Suckers

I know no polite way to put this: Progressive Democrats are being betrayed by Congressional Democrats and presidential candidates, who seem incapable of standing up against a continuation of the Iraq fiasco. They are suckers for the Republican ‘moving goal post’ trick.

The Democratic majority in Congress is the result of opposition to the war and the desire to move our troops out of Iraq as rapidly as their safety during withdrawal allows; yet Democrats wring their hands and whine that they are helpless to act in the face of a Republican presidency.

Sorry, but I’m underwhelmed. Consider the following U Tube piece submitted by David Sirota. Then, if your annoyance-and-despair level will allow it, consider these opening paragraphs from Paul Krugman’s column in Friday’s NY Times.

"Here's what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he'll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq -- as long as you don't count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.

"Here's what I'm afraid will happen: Democrats will look at Gen. Petraeus's uniform and medals and fall into their usual cringe. They won't ask hard questions out of fear that someone might accuse them of attacking the military. After the testimony, they'll desperately try to get Republicans to agree to a resolution that politely asks President Bush to maybe, possibly, withdraw some troops, if he feels like it."

Fortunately the entire column has bee posted at AlterNet.org. Read it here.

And for Keith Olbermann’s take on the ol’ move-the-goal-post strategy click here.


Does anyone really believe these Democrats are going to do anything even if they do win the presidency? May I sell you a bridge?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Proud To Be a Rogue

The Data Port’s political commentary has been pushed into the distant background by rehearsals for The Rogue Theatre’s production of The Cherry Orchard. We launch with a preview performance this evening and an official opening night tomorrow. You can visit the Rogue site here.

Performance times:

Thursday–Saturday 7:30 PM, Sunday 2:00 PM
Preshow music begins 15 minutes before curtain

Preview Night Thursday September 6 7:30 PM
Pay-What-You-Will Nights Thursdays September 13 & 20 7:30 PM

The Rogue’s performance space is Zuzi’s Dance Theatre, Historic YWCA, 738 North Fifth Avenue at University Boulevard.

Director Cynthia Meier notes:

"Anton Chekhov completed The Cherry Orchard in 1903, just seven months before his death. He wrote it for the Moscow Art Theatre led by Konstantin Stanislavsky. Chekhov was convinced he had written a comedy; Stanislavsky was equally convinced it was a tragedy. Set at the threshold between two worlds, the play is about a specific family, a specific time, and a specific estate, yet The Cherry Orchard speaks to the universal human experience. What is it we love? What does home mean to us? Does our ancestry shape our future? Is it possible to transcend class distinctions? Each of the fourteen characters in the play is caught in the interplay of social and economic forces which defined turn-of-the-century Russia, but each is also caught in questions of his or her own. We hope The Cherry Orchard will offer similar reflections for you. At The Rogue we feel very fortunate to have spent the last several months looking at and living this masterpiece."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Labor Day

I wrote what follows several years ago. It appeared in Tucson’s Desert Leaf.

Labor Day

Everyone loves Labor Day. It's a great three-day weekend, with a paid day off. The weather's fine and the back yard and patio look as good as they have all year. If you're not going to the mountains, lakes or seashore... kick back, light the grill, and suck down a brew.

You might also remember to thank the men and women of organized labor, many of whom were beaten, murdered, or run out of town so that we could enjoy the eight hour day, paid vacations, pensions, and guarantees that women and children would not be exploited in the workplace.

You may have forgotten, but the eight hour day and the paid vacation are not part of the natural order of things. They represent labor union victories.

I am now about to use a certain word. It's not a bad word, it's just a simple noun. I guarantee you I do not freight it with any nasty emotional overtones. Ready?

Capitalism. Our economic system is Capitalism. It is a nifty system; it really works. But it is intrinsic to that system that it treats labor like any other raw material and will always try to buy it as cheaply as possible. It will go overseas for it; it will confine it in little cubicles; and it will buy a lot of it part time so it doesn't have to pay benefits.

That's the way the system works...for labor. It doesn't work quite that way for other kinds of raw material. Sure, a contractor will try to buy cement cheaply, but he has to dicker with the cement guy, who will raise or lower his price until the two can agree to do business.

In the sports world, when a college basketball star hires an agent to negotiate with team owners we think nothing of it. The agents bargain with the owners for the players' services and the athletes refuse to play until they have a contract. But if a group of carpenters gets together to do the same thing it's socialism...or worse.

On the 2nd of November in 1909, during what became known as the "Uprising of the 20,000," female garment workers went on strike in New York. Many were arrested and a judge told those arrested: "You are on strike against God."

Wow...who'd have guessed?

There's nothing unpatriotic about the union movement; it's as American as apple pie. Boston carpenters walked off the job in April of 1825 in the interest of a 10-hour workday. Ten years later, children working in the silk mills in Patterson, New Jersey went on strike. Of course they had an outrageous demand: A six-day workweek of eleven hour days.

Sweatshops, eleven-hour days, inadequate wages and wretched or dangerous working conditions are largely a thing of the past. The result is we tend not to notice or care about Capitalism's continuous attack on the power and even the existence of the union movement. This may not be a good thing.

A union is the average hourly worker's only defense against the economic power of a system that always tries to buy raw materials at the lowest possible price. It's not dumb, if you're an hourly wage person, to remember you're just so much raw material to that system.

The union maid and her guy aren't opposed to Capitalism. If you stop and think about it, the fact is that just the opposite is true. These folks simply want to behave exactly like all the other links in the capitalist chain of supply and demand. All they ask for is the right to bargain for the price they get for their labor and the conditions under which it is supplied.

Why should they be the only players in the game denied that right?

But for now, enough. Get the ol' hammock swinging, pop another brew, and dribble mustard on your shirt. Enjoy the day off with pay. It looks like we've all profited from the American labor movement, even if we've never belonged to a union.

On Labor's special day let's all heed the old organizing slogan and "Take it easy...but take it."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hillary’s Coming! Hillary’s Coming!

She’ll be in Tucson in September, or possibly in October. The commitment is definite in a contingent sort of way since it depends on local organizers raising the $250,000 guarantee. That probably won’t be much of a problem. The goal is to find 20 people who will guarantee to raise $12,500 and I understand that 15 have already stepped forward.

If Clinton is the Democrats’ candidate, she’ll have my vote. As a matter of fact a yellow dog would have my vote, but I confess I’m bemused by the number of progressive women who are falling in line behind the Clinton candidacy. Perhaps gender politics is a factor, but it surprises me that they have no problem supporting a DLC Democrat. After all, gang, Hillary is just another suit.

Can we really expect an aggressive approach to the nation’s problems? For example, is the great triangulator likely to support a true single-payer health care system that covers every man, woman, and child in the United States? I’m skeptical.
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And for those interested a new post over at Data Port Two

Saturday, July 14, 2007

We’re Back

The Data Port was not intended to be a monthly, but that seems to be what it’s turned into. Stuff has intervened--- some of it important and sad (the death of a dear friend) and some of it a series of those little disturbances of man that madden, distract, and depress.

Two important projects have been pleasant. I’m working in the Rogue Theatre’s production of “The Cherry Orchard,” which has just gone into rehearsal, and Katherine and I are home from a two-thousand-mile-long motorcycle trip.

The ride suggested lots of mechanical tinkering on the hack and the Rogue project looks to be a six-day a week rehearsal schedule, so there are plenty of distractions. But I feel like writing again, and God knows there’s plenty to write about.

----------The Management

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Guantanamo Briefing

The following announcement, from Congresswoman Gifford’s office, was e-mailed to me by a friend at the ACLU. I pass it on as something worth attending.

June 6, 2007

Dear Friend:

I would like to invite you to attend a special briefing by Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, an attorney with the New York firm, Dorsey & Whitney, on the history and treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. The briefing will be held on Sunday, June 17 from 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM at St. Marks Presbyterian Church, 3809 E. 3rd Street, Tucson.

This is a good opportunity to learn more about the constitutional issues that have been raised by the situation at Guantanamo.

Mr. Colangelo-Bryan, has visited the detention center in Cuba 11 times, and provides pro-bono representation for Bahraini nationals currently detained there. His work in this area has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post and on NPR. Among the questions he will address are the following:

o Can habeas corpus rights for the prisoners be waived indefinitely?

o Are we in violation of Geneva Convention Accords in the name of Homeland Security?

o Is the treatment and interrogation of these Guantanamo detainees legal and acceptable?

I regret that I will not be able to attend the meeting because I will not be in Tucson that day. I am pleased to have my office host Mr. Colangelo-Bryan for this important discussion. Please RSVP to Tracy in my District Office at 881-3588 or to Joni.Jones@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely yours,
Gabrielle Giffords
Member of Congress

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Prairie Dog Report

Every so often I pop out of my hidey-hole like an ever-vigilant prairie dog and look around at the presidential prairie.

Currently I’m seeing lots of old guys in suits, a couple of not-so-old guys and one woman. Republicans and Democrats are viewing with alarm, and pointing fingers of blame for the nation’s woes. So far, the “debates” on each side have been mind-crushingly boring.

I have already picked the candidate for whom I shall cast my vote in November 2008. That will be whatever Democrat is anointed by the centrist old guard (AKA DLC) to be my next President.

Back in the bad old days of the smoke-filled room this was accomplished in less than two years and without what I hold to be the immoral waste of literally hundreds of millions of dollars.

I am pretty sure that that candidate and party will have done nothing significant in the meantime to get us out of Iraq, close Guantanamo, provide universal single-payer healthcare, or dismantle the Bush system of attacks on civil liberties and privacy. Habeas Corpus is a good idea, too. I wish we had it back.

(Finally, I’d like to hear someone attack the tired old Republican mantra that if we don’t ‘fight them over there we’ll have to fight them over here.’ Fighting them here is the only place we can fight and defeat terrorists. It’s called police work, not war, and the counter terrorist units of Britain, Italy, and the US have been pretty successful.)

The following is purely anecdotal, but I’ve talked to more than one Democrat who is really annoyed that we didn’t hold Bush’s feet to the fire for at least two more vetoes of war funding, all the time pointing out that he was the one denying shoes to the troops.

My prediction: When the new Democratic president takes office in 2009 we will still be fully engaged in Iraq and that quagmire will then belong to the Democrats.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Grijalva on The Supplemental

Statement by Congressman Grijalva:

NOT A DEAL AT ANY COST

I will oppose the Iraq supplemental to be voted on in the House this week. I continue to appreciate the difficult task that leadership faced in creating this legislation and the inclusion of a number of provisions in this bill that are desperately needed and that I wholeheartedly support. These include the minimum wage increase, continued recovery for the people and communities of the Gulf Cost region, and health care needs of our veterans and our children.

I have opposed funding this war from the beginning, and I have no interest in funding it now. The previous supplemental, The Iraq Accountability Act, though flawed and at odds with many of my beliefs, represented a chance for hope. It had represented a first, all be it tentative, step in the difficult process of finally bringing this devastating war to an ultimate end through accountability standards that were tied to a withdrawal plan to bring our troops home.

But I cannot in good conscience support this new version of an Iraq war funding bill. This bill removes important elements that hold the administration acountable for its decisions in this quagmire; no more unwaivable benchmarks, no more required certification of the Iraq government's efforts to resolve ong-standing political conflicts linked to a timeframe for transition allowing our troops to begin a long overdue schedule of redeployment home. These revisions have effectively reduced this supplemental to a paper tiger that will give the administration an unfettered extension to this ill conceived occupation, and an implied sanction by this Congress of the war, at least through the end of this
fiscal year.

I cannot tell those individuals and the families of those individuals who have died or been injured in Iraq that I supported their continued participation in an unaccountable war without end.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Absurdities

I’m a devoted fan of David Lynch, particularly of Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, so when his three-hour-long movie INLAND EMPIRE opened at the Loft I hurried out to see it.

This film has received considerable critical acclaim and a mind-boggling amount of discussion on blogs, fanzines, and the official Lynch web site. Don’t believe me? Google “David Lynch+Inland Empire” and drop down the rabbit hole.

Why all the fan buzz? I suspect it is because we love puzzles. We are particularly attracted to puzzles that are in some way essentially flawed so that they may not
, in principle, ever be correctly solved.

I think we can expect even of an absurdist or surrealist work that it’s elements exhibit a certain coherence in virtue of which it is a work of art. It can be puzzling, it can be ambiguous, it can challenge us with a variety of interpretations… but in the end it must be a whole.


I’m not sure I can fully explain what I mean by “an artistic whole” except to say that if anything were left out it would collapse into fragments. My complaint about INLAND EMPIRE is that you could chop out random scenes here or there and it wouldn’t matter. What’s annoying about this film is that it a collection of fragments, although some of the fragments are brilliant.

I suspect the critical acclaim may, in some part, be due to the fact that there is a natural tendency on the part of critics to fight shy of suggesting that the emperor is, if not naked, at least not completely clothed.

.......................................................................................


Now how about this for absurdity? Here’s a picture of Republican Presidential candidates. All about the same size, all dressed exactly alike, all old white guys, and all sanctimoniously asserting that they are “more conservative than thou.” Aren't there any young, exciting Republicans the party would like to push? Women? Hispanics? African-Americans? Someone, say, forty years old?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Downtown Re-development

Rio Nuevo is dead. Long live the urban renaissance, renewal, re-development, what have you.

If your life has been stuck in thralldom to malldom and you haven’t been to downtown Tucson recently you might be surprised at what’s going on there. It’s not The Loop or Broadway and 42nd street, but neither is it the last scene from “On The Beach.”

I spent last Saturday At the H.O.G (Harley Owner’s Group) rally taking advantage of events and venues that were on the rally list of things to do when not playing ‘bite the weenie’ from the back of a motorcycle.

Downtown was pretty exciting. There was a folk festival, the Hog Rally, and a variety of musical events that attracted crowds. It occurs to me that the first step in re-making downtown as a center of urban energy is to make sure that there are multiple events there every weekend.

Tucson should spend money to make that happen, which in the long run might be the cheapest way to re-energize the area.

The relatively new (six months, I believe) Downtown Museum of the Arizona Historical Society is fascinating. It presents a wonderful picture of downtown Tucson as it was

“…Pay a visit to a 19th Century hotel lobby, then check out an old-time barbershop. Learn about the capture of John Dillinger and his gang…Explore the history of downtown’s police force, firefighters, schools, libraries, businesses, theaters, and more.)

The museum is located at 140 North Stone, just opposite the library.

One problem: The museum is not open on Saturday and Sunday. That’s where the city might come up with money… to keep it open on those days.
Adults, $3.00, Seniors $2.00. Free the first Friday of each month.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Rest of The Story

Daniel Scarpinato’s “Political Notebook” in this morning’s Star reports that Congresswoman Giffords is co-sponsoring a resolution to support Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

He fails to note that in addition to the gaily-painted scooter/sidecar combination that graces a living room she is also a serious BMW rider. My wife and I have taken many a Sunday ride with her. She’s an excellent rider, although I don’t imagine she has much time for it now.

Here’s her wonderful old “toaster bike” a 750 cc BMW R75/5. (Called a toaster because of the chrome side panels on the
tank.)


Friday, May 04, 2007

Non-Political Poetry

Disappearing Bees

God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.
He staged the Rapture, but he took the swarm.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Travel Report

I got home Friday from the round-trip ride to Leonard , Texas. My old BMW K75 was hacked by the good folks at Texas Sidecars and you can see a picture by clicking on the thumbnail or by visiting Data Port Two.

Cruising west on I-20 I was surprised to see that the speed limit had jumped from 70 to 80 miles per hour. Oddly enough…or maybe not oddly at all… this happened somewhere between Midland and Odessa in the heart of the oil patch.

Non-truck traffic immediately pushed to 80+ while I motored on at something between 60 and 65. The new outfit would go a lot faster than that but I wasn’t sure just what gas mileage I’d get with the new sidecar at higher speeds.

I was passed by every vehicle on the road, including lots of enormous SUVs. At one gas station I stopped at the previous driver had put in 55 bucks worth of gas!

It seems to me that a good first step toward conserving energy would be to reinstate the 55 mph limit. Well, make it 60 and exempt trucks.

…………………………………..

On this trip I spent 5 nights in Motels and enjoyed five ‘augmented’ continental breakfasts while large screen TVs in each of the breakfast rooms reported the “news.” Frankly I never watch TV news. I listen to NPR, read newspapers on line and check what’s new in the blogosphere.

I can’t begin to imagine how uninformed people are whose only news source is TV. Pretty appalling.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bloggers as Journalists

I meant to comment about this story…or call attention to it…but then I had to leave town for a couple of days and it slipped by.

A newspaper in Boston, BostonNOW, is planning to incorporate reportage by bloggers on a regular basis. This will go a long way to breaking down the Chinese Wall that academically trained journalists think ought to separate the blogosphere from ‘real journalism.’

We could use one or two bloggers on a regular basis in our local press.

Example: Surely one of the best-informed political writers in Arizona is Ted Prezelski. His prose is clean and direct and he knows a world more about where Arizona’s political bodies are buried than the Star’s political reporter, who was just a pup when Ted started working in, and observing, local politics.

The BostonNOW web site is here. You can get to the NPR story here.

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On The Road

I’m riding the K75 to Texas tomorrow. More about that and occasional updates at Data Port Two.







Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Shape of Things to Come

Getting Hacked
By this time next week I will be just outside Leonard Texas, on my way to the home of Texas Sidecars, where I’ll be having a Ranger sidecar wed to my 1990 BMW K75.

This will be a much lighter, trickier, and probably slower outfit than what I have been driving for the past year…the renowned “Yellow Peril.” The YP is being reclaimed by its owner after a year in Tucson. He and I, accompanied by my wife Katherine (also a hacker) will take my K-Hack and the YP to Milwaukee for the BMWMOA national rally.


Close of “Good Woman”
The Rogue Theatre production of “The Good Woman of Setzuan” closed its three week run this past Sunday. Yes, I am a member of the Rogue’s ensemble company…but quite apart from that let me say that even if I weren’t my judgement would be that the Rogue Theatre offers the most challenging theatre-going in Tucson.

Next season’s offerings open with Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.”
Visit The Rogue Theatre!


The Other Blog
Posting to The Data Port will be thin during the summer as the riding season calls us out on the road and we let the nation’s political life grind on in the background. Oh, I imagine there’ll be something to say here from time to time but the other blog, Data Port Two, will get most of the attention.

Hey, Grand Prix sidecar racing is underway in Europe and North America!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A Play for Lefties

Forgive this shameless plug for a current job of work I’m doing, but I thought there might be some lefty bloggers in and around Tucson who’d like it.

This is the last week of The Rogue Theatre’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Setzuan.” Tomorrow, Thursday April 12, Is ‘Pay What You Will’ night. Not a bad deal for revolutionaries on a budget. Details on where and when at the link above.

Working on this show is one of the reasons I’ve let blogging slide. Once it closes, and I’ve taken a short ride, I’ll be back on a more regular basis.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why We Need Unions

The following is excerpted from a Blomberg.com story

By Mark Clothier

March 28 (Bloomberg) -- Circuit City Stores Inc., the second-largest U.S. electronics retailer after Best Buy Co., fired 3,400 of its highest-paid hourly workers and will hire replacements willing to work for less.

The company said its eliminating jobs that paid ``well above'' market rates. Those who were fired can apply for the lower pay, company spokesman Bill Cimino said today. He declined to give the wages of the fired workers or the new hires.

The job cuts are ``one of the most brazen examples of corporate America run amuck,'' said Greg Tarpinian, executive director of Change to Win, which represents seven unions and about 6 million workers. ``It's workers as disposable commodities, put in and put out based on whatever happens to the stock price.''

Chief Executive Officer Philip Schoonover was paid $8.52 million in fiscal 2006, including a salary of $975,000.

He has not offered to work for less even though stock price has plumeted during his watch.

It’s cheering to know that capitalism is alive and well!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Blackwater and The SA

The fact that the Bush administration has fostered the development of a private army, Blackwater USA, is probably not news to any readers of Lefty Blogs. What might be news is its size, and the extent to which this mercenary army functions beyond the normal control of Congress or the US Code of Military Justice.

There is a long article in today’s Alternet.Org adapted from Jeremy Scahill's new book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation Books). It’s a long piece, but well worth a reader’s time. Alternet’s lede is: “The Bush Administration is increasingly dependent on private security forces to do its dirty work.” (link)

Blackwater USA has a website you can visit here.

I believe that the sheer size of Blackwater, and the potential for its misuse for uncontrolled foreign and domestic political purposes is something we should at least be willing to consider. Years ago and in a universe far removed from most current bloggers there was another great private army: The Sturm Abteilung of the German National Socialist Party. You may read about it here.



Monday, March 19, 2007

Oversite

I’ve done no blogging, political or otherwise, for nearly three weeks. I’ve been preoccupied with rehearsals for the next Rogue Theatre production, Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Setzuan.” Over and beyond that I’ve really been at a loss to find something new and original to say about what has seemed to me to be the death spiral of Democratic action against the war and against what is surely the worst administration in my memory.

I received an e-mail this morning that has had an absolutely Kantian effect on my dogmatic slumber and despair: It has awakened me.

I was pointed to the following article in the LA Times, reporting in detail the most important effect of the Democrats’ control of Congress, the renewed and aggressive exercise of the congressional oversight function.

The thrust of the article is that although the Democratic margins in the House and Senate may be too slender to guarantee much effective legislation, the legislative oversight function is busily hammering the nails in the administration coffin.

The article is here. I don’t believe any registration is needed to read it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Empire for Sale- American Style









It is an occasional intellectual game to compare the American Empire to the Roman Empire and to ask if, like that first world power, we might not be in a period of accelerated decline. Our prestige and efficient use of power outside our borders seems in decline while inside a subtle corruption of our core political values appears to be underway.


An exact description and analysis of the latter event is still to be done, but it is in part characterized by a loss of interest and participation in the political life of the nation (how many vote anymore?) and a willingness to give up personal freedoms in return for “security.”

It’s ironic that we are willing to give up some considerable measure of those freedoms and liberties to a political system and government in which a majority of us no longer has sufficient trust or belief to participate.

This Rome/America comparison came to mind as I chewed on the consequences of the 100 Million dollar price tag to run for President.

In the year 193 AD the Roman Empire, in the person of the position of emperor, was put up for auction by the Praetorian Guard. It had long been the practice of newly established emperors to offer the guard a “donative” to assure their allegiance, but this was a flat out auction…who wants to be an emperor? Marcus Didius Julianus did.

The Praetorians effectively held the key to the empire. Who in the American empire might our praetorians be? It is tempting to point out the leaders of corporate America, but I’d suggest that our praetorians are the media---television, print, radio, and the political mercenaries who feed them. These are the primary recipients of most (if not damn near all) of the one hundred million dollars the candidate pays for his key to the empire. You can’t get elected without them.

The Left is nearly always fascinated by the prospect of publicly financed federal elections, but such elections still pay the praetorians and the Supreme Court has decided that money equals free speech which effectively allows end runs around campaign finance limits.

What, then, is to be done? Considering the political passivity of most Americans I don’t look for massive street actions. There is a seductive fascination in the net but except for fundraising I’m not sure there is evidence of its real effectiveness except in raising money for the praetorians.

What is the Left to do?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Surfacing

The Data Port surfaces after a short vacation from jiggery-bloggery. I have noticed with pleasure that my fellow lefty bloggers have been doing an excellent job of commentary and reportage--- such a good job that nothing I might have posted would have added anything new. R-Cubed continues to be sprightly in reporting all the news the local dailies don’t recognize as news.

I did notice that two leading Democratic presidential candidates have already signed up for the traditional circular firing squad and that Tom Vilsack has popped for the old inventory strategy of first in, first out. It seems the financial air was being sucked out of all his fundraisers. The “leaders” are vulturing around trying to pick up his Iowa experts. Who knows? He might have had something interesting to say.

If you have the patience for an extended analysis of the 2006 election and the coming presidential conflict of 2008 I’d recommend a piece by Steve Fraser at AterNet.Org, “On The Road to 2008.” Let me know what you think.

Vilsack had a very nice website that’s now nothing more than an historical artfact.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Too Many Candidates

I got a nice e-mail from Bill Richardson the other day. He’s running for President, he’s “in it to win,” he’s eager to serve his country in its time of need… or some such thing.

In this earnest appeal for my support (and my money) there isn’t a nickel’s worth o
f difference between him and:

Joe Biden
Hillary Clinton
Chris Dodd
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Denis Kucinich
Tom Vilsack
Barak Obama.

And those are just the Democrats. Over in the Republican camp we have:

Sam Brownback
John Cox
Duncan Hunter
Michael Smith
Jim Gilmore
Rudy Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Tommy Thompson.

At the bottom of Bill Richardson’s e-mail was a button I could click to unsubscribe. When I did this a little box popped up asking why I had done that. My reply: “Too early in the election cycle. Come back just before the first primary.”

The truth of the matter is that none of the pre-primary political rhetoric is going to make one iota’s difference in national policy or the fate of the nation. Each candidate will struggle to raise the required war chest of a rumored one hundred
million dollars.

That money will not be spent on the poor, on providing health care, on educating the young or preserving the environment. It will largely enrich television production units, TV stations, assorted political mercenaries, and consultants.

Will I vote in the primary? Sure. Will I vote in the general election? Well, I always have. But until September, 2008, my dears, I plan not to give a damn.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The Tucson Mayoral Race…What Are the Issues?

There’s been considerable speculation about who will throw a hat in the ring to become Tucson’s next mayor. What’s been missing to date is any speculation about what the key issues will be…or what they ought to be.

Tucson Symphony Conductor George Hanson (in a Star guest editorial) has suggested a topic:

“The vision: a performing arts, education and technology center, celebrating our Native American, Hispanic and European heritages — the centerpiece that is missing from the Rio Nuevo table. An 1,800 seat concert hall, easily converted into a ball- or showroom; a renovated Tucson Music Hall, perfect for opera and Broadway shows; a shared plaza with restaurants, coffee shops, a taqueria and open gallery space; a jazz club nearby; education and technology facilities to bring the enormous benefits of the performing arts to young people, and to thos
e who can't afford it.

“What's wrong with this vision? No one else sees it.

“Perhaps it's tunnel vision: bridge, arena, science center. But none of those projects can compete with the economic impact, dollar for dollar, of the performing arts.”

I think this is worth making a key issue of the election. It bears not just on the economic viability of Rio Nuevo and downtown re-development, but on what kind of city Tucs
on wants to become.

Do we want to be simply a great place for conventions (the Walkup vision, apparently) or do we want to grow as a great cultural center--- the Athens, if you will, of the Southwest. Do we want businesses to come here because the land and labor are cheap, or do we want businesses to move here because the cultural dy
namic attracts the leadership of those businesses?

However it plays out this idea should be a major issue in the coming election.