Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I learned from Amy (hippies in yuppieland—a private journal, or I’d give a link) that long-time AOL journaller Pam (his1desire) was diagnosed last week with lung cancer. Though I know her only peripherally, I thought I would head over to Just One Girl’s Headnoise to add my words of encouragement to the stack of well-wishes sent Pam’s way. I immediately became gripped by Pam’s saga and her willingness to share it with the journal community.

Today, I read her entry about being contacted by the billing department at the hospital where she is being treated, and being dunned for what basically amounts to a "down payment" on her treatment. WTF!!!!???? Here is a woman who is still in the "deer-in-the-headlights" stages of trying to deal with the dreaded "c" word, coping with huge issues like how she’s going to break the news to her children, how she’s going to make sense of all the input from a multitude of different doctors, which tests with which specialists are on which days, and these IDIOTS have the unmitigated gall to call her on the phone and start hounding her for money! And she has insurance! But the ever-sensitive, ever-compassionate health care providers are making sure their priorities are lined up…get the money FIRST, and then start the treatment.

I could not believe this. To me, this is like having my auto mechanic tell me that he wants $500 up front before he even starts fixing my car. Like I would do that! Like anybody would! Why should health care be any different? Doctors, hospitals, the entire health-care world, are providing a service, for which I don’t believe anyone should have to pay before the service is provided. That’s just plain common sense. Add this to the fact of what we’re actually talking about here---treatment that could very well be a matter of life and death for a patient. Patients who are having to deal with huge emotional and practical issues…and the first thing we do is ask them to bring $500 with them when they come in for their biopsy? Absolutely inexcusable.

I had to wonder…what is wrong with a society that allows this? Are we so immersed in our "I got mine" philosophy in this country that even the industries that are supposed to deal in healing and compassion put their own bottom lines above everything else? Anyone who thinks there is not a health-care/insurance crisis in this country, should just go ahead and come down with a life-threatening disease, and see what happens. Something is very, very broken here.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Stolen (I want to play too...)

Please leave a one word comment that you think best describes me.

It can only be one word.  No more.

Then copy and paste this into your journal so that I may leave a word about you...

Stolen from Sorting the Pieces

Thursday, June 23, 2005


With uncharacteristic fanfare and ballyhoo, NPR’s Talk of the Nation aired a segment last week featuring what was touted as an opportunity for listeners to ask questions and voice concerns over the issue of the politicizing of the content of public broadcasting programming with NPR’s ombudsman, Jeffrey Dvorkin. I was looking forward to an intelligent, informative dialogue addressing my fears about what appeared to be the genesis of a right-wing vendetta against public media. What actually occurred was a watered-down twenty minute yawner that imparted little useful information and didn’t come close to addressing the issue in any kind of depth. The highlight of the segment was Neal Conan’s tapdance to assure an irate frequent caller that there was indeed no conspiracy in place to keep that caller and his opinions off the air for the last several months.

Did NPR get a flood of negative feedback about the segment? Possibly…because today, for the second time in less than a week, Talk of the Nation made another stab at addressing listeners’ concerns over Congress’ politically-charged proposals to cut funding for public broadcasting. Having heard the lead-in to the program, I made sure I had my radio close at hand as I went about my daily chores. I was sure that this time, important ideas would be exchanged, with concerned listeners lighting up the switchboard, with savvy questions and informed opinions. Once again, I was sorely disappointed.

The featured guest was Nick Gillespie, editor-in-chief of "Reason" Magazine—a Libertarian outlet with a mission statement that reads, in part:

The mission of Reason Foundation is to advance a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including free markets, individual liberty, and the rule of law. We use journalism and public policy to change the frameworks and actions of policymakers, journalists, and opinion leaders.

Did Neal Conan choose a distinguished Libertarian guest in an effort to sidestep the Democrat vs. Republican, Right vs. Left slant on the issue? Or did he choose Mr. Gillespie in order to advance a particular agenda…specifically, that Public Broadcasting would not suffer, and, indeed, would be better off without federal funding? Since Mr. Gillespie came off as the most reasonable voice for most of the program, it’s likely his oft-repeated opinion that Public Broadcasting would not be injured by the removal of government funding was intended to be the central point of the segment.

The "keep government funding" plea was presented by U.S Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), who adhered strictly to the Democratic "Don’t let the Republicans Kill Big Bird!" party line. We all know that this is an (anemic) attempt to hoist the Right on its own petard of lining up support by exploiting the hot-button, emotional issues in a political conflict. (Why do the Democrats suck so badly at that?) His presentation came off as whiney and weak, and he was cut off after about a minute and a half by a judiciously inserted commercial break. After the break, Neal’s featured guest, Mr. Gillespie, was allowed to contemptuously disparage Mr. Markey’s presentation, without the Congressman having the opportunity to engage in any kind of give and take about the merits of his argument.

Skillfully, by presenting Nick Gillespie as the most reasonable voice on the topic, the program almost succeeded in softening my opinion toward the absence of government funding for public broadcasting…without ever discussing the actual politics behind the debate. I say "almost," because Mr. Gillespie just didn’t know how to quit while he was ahead. Mere minutes from the end of the program, in response to a caller’s suggestion that government funding might actually provide a better environment for objective and balanced reporting than corporate or private funding, these words escaped Mr. Gillespie’s lips:

"The worst journalism in the world is journalism that is objective and balanced. You can’t bring passion to that…"

Excuse me?

Obviously, I thought, this guy slept through journalism class. Then I went online and read his bio, and found he didn’t actually attend journalism class. In fact, he holds an MA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. What the hell does he know about journalism? This man has accepted as the rule, what passes for journalism in twenty-first century America. Journalism is not supposed to be about passion. Editorials are the forum for passion. Journalism is the facts, the story, finding out what might otherwise not have been known and telling about it. NOT opining about it. Reporting, and letting the public make its own decisions based on the information provided by responsible, balanced, objective journalism.  Right here is where they lost me, whoever was trying to set the hook and reel me in.

So, this is how NPR tackled the issue of the political debate surrounding government funding for Public Broadcasting. By staying as far away from the actual conflict as possible, copping a stiff upper lip, and assuring listeners that if federal funding goes away, public broadcasting has more than enough remaining resources to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. This is one time when I wish the" objective and balanced" programming of NPR had cracked, just a little, under the political weight being put on it, and aired a more lively (read, realistic) debate on the issue. One can only wonder what outside pressures combined to inspire the little farce that was aired on today’s Talk of the Nation. Sorry, Neal!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Chance to Air Our Concerns About Public Radio?

Tomorrow (June 15) on "Talk of the Nation," one of host Neal Conan's guests will be NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin.  According to the NPR website:

"The Ombudsman is the public's representative to National Public Radio, serving as an independent source of information, explanation, amplification and analysis for the public regarding NPR's programming."

Perhaps this is our chance to bring forth our concerns about the Bush Administration's agenda for public radio/television.  If enough of us listen and call in to bring up the right points, perhaps we will make a loud enough noise that someone will pay attention... 

"Talk of the Nation" airs from 11 am to 1 pm here on the west coast.  Make the calculations for your time zone, make sure you know which station in your area airs the program, and tune in.  It couldn't hurt. 

Now, I've Heard Everything...

From a letter to the editor of the Oregonian, June 13, 2005:

"The president went into the war without a clear plan and with lousy intelligence. He never would have given the go-ahead if he had known the terrible complications and loss of life. George W. Bush? Probably. Abraham Lincoln? Absolutely!

"Most of the country did not support Lincoln’s war, especially when the death toll rose to the hundreds of thousands (620,000). Nothing went as Lincoln had hoped or planned.

Today, a grateful nation praises him for a war that freed the slaves and saved the union. At the time, he was savagely attacked…"

A hundred years from now, people will be standing in front of the George W. Bush Memorial, on the mall in Washington D.C.--a clever design featuring a vaguely pyramidal openwork steel tower carved out of dark marble, with a fountain of thick, glistening black liquid continuously oozing from its top.  A fitting tribute to the first American president of the 21st century,who gloriously liberated the oil, I mean the people, of repressive Middle Eastern regimes.

Mr. Bush’s likeness will be chiseled into Mt. Rushmore. His ears alone will take ten years to craft.

Not a single mosque tower will spoil the orderly array of simple crosses adorning the roofs of public and private buildings in towns along the Tigris and the Nile. Towns with names like "Desert Bush" and "W-stan," in honor of that illustrious American, president.

Since Mr. Bush’s birthday (July 6) falls so close to another major national holiday, perhaps we’ll simply tweak the 4th of July from Independence Day to "Nation-Building Day"…sort of a two-for-one, a la "President’s Day" in February.

Ah, the glory! Makes one shudder, that is, shiver, just to imagine it.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Parable

There once was a Man who lived on top of an ant hill. Big, red, fierce, biting Ants inhabited that anthill. The anthill sat on top of a valuable treasure. Only someone who could control the Ants could reach the treasure. And the Man had learned to live in peace with the Ants.

It came to pass that the Man began to act strangely. He began to scream at his neighbors, and became violent. He laid his hands on his neighbors’ possessions and tried to take them away. He started to boast about how well he controlled his Ants, and how he was the only one who could make use of the treasure they guarded. His neighbors, stunned and disturbed by his behavior, banded together and decided that the reason the Man was acting so strangely was because his heart had become bad. It had to be cut out and replaced with a new one, and the man would go back to being a good neighbor. They went to the man and told him what they thought should be done. They told him that he was sick…surely he wanted to be healed?

Though his heart was paining him, and he had begun to feel ill and light-headed, the Man didn’t believe his heart was bad, and he wanted nothing to do with his neighbors’ plans. He just got angrier, yelled louder, and tried harder to take things away from them. The Ants, meanwhile, sensed there was something wrong, and began to swarm, and occasionally to raise their pincers and bite. The Man, now crazy with pain and drunk with power, forgot how he had once made peace with the Ants. He stamped on them, poisoned them, and burned them to keep them under control. The Ants subsided, but they were not happy…

The Man’s behavior became so alarming that it was storied far and wide. His neighbors met again, this time enlisting the help of People From Faraway Lands who had never known the Man, but had heard stories of how evil he had become…along with tales of the treasure he sat upon. They all agreed that a man who had been turned bad by a bad heart should not be in control of a treasure. The Man must be cured, whether he wanted to be or not. The Man’s neighbors hinted to the People From Faraway Lands that perhaps after the Man received his new heart, he would be so grateful that he would share his treasure with them. At that, one big, strong, warrior from among the People From Faraway Lands declared that he was the only one in the world who could disable the Man, cut out the bad heart, and replace it with a good one. Some tried to warn the Warrior about the Ants. The Warrior scoffed, and said he had heard stories of Ants, but he didn’t believe they really existed. Besides…what harm could they do? They were only ants, and he was a huge, strong, brave warrior. The Ants would be no problem for him!

By and by, the time came for the Warrior to carry out his plan. He stormed across the Big Pond, knocked the Man senseless, and laid him out flat on the ground. With the skill of a fine surgeon, he cut the Man open from throat to belly, incised out the bad heart, and flung it aside. Then, from out of his pocket, he drew the new, good heart, and dropped it into the Man’s chest. But something was wrong! The new heart looked small and weak inside the great barrel chest of the Man. The Warrior struggled to stretch it and sew it into the cavernous void left by the Man’s old heart. Sweat trickled from the Warrior’s brow, and his head ached with strain as he tried one thing after another to get the new heart to fit. And as he sweated and struggled and fitted, the Ants awoke. Sensing that the one who had kept them down had been disabled, they came…first one, then two, then a trickle, then a horde. They bit and stung and pinched…punishing the senseless Man lying splayed out and split like a watermelon on the ground; though barely alive, the Man flinched and moaned and cried out in pain.

The ants boiled into the Man’s gaping wound, and over the hands of the Warrior, stinging and biting. He brushed them away, and kept working, furiously trying anything, now, to simply save the Man’s life. But the Ants came and came and came by the thousands. The Warrior could hardly see what he was doing anymore; Ants filled the wound, covered the Warrior’s arms and hands, streamed up his neck toward his eyes. Jackals and vultures and rats, smelling the fresh blood, edged closer and closer to the two human figures swarming with ants.  Emboldened carrion eaters dodged in, ripped away mouthfuls of the Man or snapped at the Warrior, and scuttled back into the darkness.

Finally, the Warrior sprung up from the ground and feverishly scraped the enraged ants off of his hands and arms. He looked down, appalled, at the Man lying on the ground, still split open from throat to belly, with the small, weak heart half attached and leaking the Man’s life blood into a widening, sticky dark pool on the ground. The Warrior didn’t know what to do next. Should he call for help, and risk appearing weak and foolish before all those to whom he had boasted that he was the only man for this job?

Should he return to his knees in the dust beside the man, open to the attacks of the ants and the jackals, holding the small, weak heart in place with his bare hands until it became strong enough for him to close the wound and leave the Man to heal?

Should he turn on his heel, brush off the rest of the ants, and walk away, because, after all, it is not HIS anthill, and the Man was not HIS neighbor, and he really didn’t want a share of the treasure anyway…

What should the Warrior do?

Thursday, June 9, 2005

Taking Care of Business...

As I tuned in to another day in quiet Journal-land, wondering why it is that people are just not writing much these days, I realized that it has been almost a week since I posted an entry myself! What’s my excuse? I am in the throes of one of the two busiest months of my season this year. We had an event last weekend, will be doing one this coming weekend, and have one the following weekend as well. Whew! I have been beavering away, either in the trailer doing production, or packing, unpacking, and repacking all the paraphernalia. I shelled out $600 on yet another piece of equipment (ouch!) and worked my fingers to the bone today making over 400 sandwiches. And more to do tomorrow.

Here is a picture of what we looked like last weekend in Canby at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. It is such a lovely venue (well, except for the garbage cans...) I think I’d go back even if we didn’t make any money.

That’s one of the reasons I will probably never be much of a success with this business. If I’m attracted to the location of an event, I will find some way to rationalize returning, even if the event was a bust. Luckily, we did pretty well at this little event, the "Canby Wine and Art Festival." Showed a 51% increase in sales over last year. Even though it DID rain a lot on Sunday. I’ll take it!


It’s almost midnight, and I need to go to bed. I just thought I’d drop a little line in here to let you all know I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth. I HAVE been listening to NPR while I work, so I’ve been tucking away a few bits of inspiration for some political ranting. And I’ve been trying to keep up with other journals. A few folks have written things that have switched on that little lightbulb above my head. As soon as I wade through these next few busy weeks, I’ll have some time to do some serious writing again. However, when I come back, I may be more inclined to vent in the direction of the birthday I’m looking forward to (not) in approximately 5 ½ weeks… Ugh! How can I possibly be that OLD!

Friday, June 3, 2005

More Bad News

There is news afoot of the existence of a document which could be potentially damning for the Bush administration. Apparently, the British press has uncovered minutes of meetings from as early as July 2002 which suggest that the President and Vice President had  deemed that Iraq must be invaded, and were applying themselves to the task of "fixing" the intelligence to create the emergency. To whom does this come as a surprise? And what possible difference is it going to make?

A great deal of the 21st Century’s bad news problem can be blamed on the explosive expansion of the television medium. In the last decades of the twentieth century, we went from the Big Three, public television and a handful of large-market independents, to literally hundreds of stations available to any viewer across the country. Wouldn’t this appear to be a golden opportunity to get a previously impossible amount of good, useful news to an unprecedented number of people?

Perhaps predictably, this didn’t happen. Networks, now hotly competing for the viewers’ eyeballs (and advertising dollars), quickly wiped their hands of the old educating-the-public news model. They set their sights on going in whatever direction the now option-drunk audience dictated. Unfortunately, given the choice, the public didn’t choose to be well-informed. What child, released from the rigors of the schoolroom, would opt to go back into those dusty hallways and sit at the feet of the sages soaking up useful (read boring) knowledge? The viewers chose excitement, sensation, tear-jerking "reality," and contentious bickering. They gorged themselves on "marshmallow" news.
And, they showed a markedly short attention span when it came to important national and international stories.

That was, perhaps, the most distressing and ultimately damaging consequence of allowing news content to be dictated by the consumers’ choices. Less and less time was devoted to the hard news for which the public showed little affinity.

Pandering to the mental laziness of the typical viewer, television news reduced complex political issues to an "us vs them" dynamic. Choose a side, plug yourself into its party line, then grab the remote and click back to Jerry Springer. And should you experience the rare compulsion to wax political, you can simplytake advantage of the preponderance of near-information at your disposal, and tune to whatever station or commentator speaks to your particular comfort level. You can literally choose to hear only the news you want to hear. Only what speaks to what you already believe. Nothing that would challenge or confuse your personal prejudices.

Savvy political strategists, particularly in the Bush Administration, have learned how to play the American public’s disinterest in hard facts with the artistry of Heifetz on a violin. They have crafted the administration’s rhetoric to contain buzz-words and buzz-concepts that they know will rouse people just enough to get them to choose sides. Using kindergarten concepts like "good and evil," they consistently align Bush and his policies with all that is good, holy, patriotic, and wholesome. Intimating that anyone NOT in agreement with the current occupant of the White House comes down on the opposite side…which would be evil, sin, treason, and perversion.

The powers behind the throne have continuously pushed the right buttons to keep an adequate majority of the electorate hypnotized into thinking our president is the embodiment of all things wonderful about the United States of America.

Many times, pushing those buttons meant spinning, embellishing, or outright changing the facts. But the disinterested, uninformed American public doesn’t know the difference. Or chooses not to know the difference. So, this business about Bush and Cheney "arranging" the facts and intelligence to justify the rush to the war in Iraq? Anybody who was paying attention to what was going on at the time knew, or at least suspected, that was exactly what was happening. Anyone who didn’t know, didn’t want to know. And undoubtedly still does not want to know. People created their own reality about the need to attack Iraq. For many, it was as simple as the need to avenge 9/11…and it didn’t matter that Iraq was not guilty of those attacks. Easy enough, with the help of the President and his spin-doctors, to make Iraq guilty. Someone had to pay.

The "bad news" situation in this country has contributed immeasurably to this phenomenon of choosing reality. The American people know that there is enough contradicting information floating around out there, that some of it must be untrue. But how does one determine the truth? Without the assurance that news must be factual, and with a minimum of hard facts readily available, people have turned to their own "inner compasses" to identify truth. Anything that speaks to what I already believe must be true. Anything else must be a lie. The Bush Administration is taking that ball and running with it. Or hiding behind it. The "British memo" story will suffer a speedy demise and be forgotten in a matter of days.