Saturday, October 06, 2007

George W. Bush's self-subjection to "non-torture"

George W. Bush has now flatly declared, “This government does not torture people.”

There are several ways to respond to the president.

This president and his government are, metaphorically at the least, torturing America. He and his administration are torturing our Constitution, twisting it beyond recognition.

But to be fair, the president doesn’t mean “torture” in that way. He means literal torture — inflicting extreme physical and mental pain and anguish on prisoners as punishment or as coercion.

Extreme pain and anguish is what torture victims feel and experience.

In order for the president to understand whether his government is truly torturing people, he might voluntarily step outside his presidential bubble and subject himself to whatever American agents are doing to, or ordering to be done to, prisoners here and abroad.

This should be no idle, purposeless exercise. Since the start of the Bush administration, the American people, through Congress, have demanded and been denied information from George W. Bush about the workings of our government under his administration.

So we might use his voluntary submission to “severe interrogation” to extract it. Presumably, if the methods used aren’t coercive and punishing. he will remain steadfast in his silence.

What sort of interrogation will it take to find the truth about the make-up of his and Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force back in 2001, about whether those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were utter fabrications from the outset, about the administration’s denial of scientific evidence and utter refusal to acknowledge global warming, about rigging voting in Florida in 2000, about suppressing the vote in Ohio in 2004 ….

In the course of the “severe” interrogation, the inquisitors might ask whether the president really, truly his administration does not torture.

Further, let the president’s “non-torturing” be conducted in public and be televised. Commercial space might be sold to help pay off our war debts (anything to protect those tax cuts for the rich.)

With a huge, world-wide audience attracted to the broadcast, the ad revenues should be in the millions, possibly billions. DVD sales would add more millions to the total.

When the president’s experience of this non-torture is over and he’s had a chance to shower, get caught up on his sleep, change his clothes, and recuperate at the ranch, he should be asked again about whether his government tortures.

Because the people of the world will have witnessed his experience, they can decide for themselves whether he is telling the truth.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Whole Foods: Closing your store to better serve you

The cleverly word-crafted sign in front of the Hillsdale Wild Oats store informs customers that the store will close Oct 13 “as we can better serve you through the other Whole Foods Markets and Wild Oats Markets locations.”

Let’s see, to better serve us in Hillsdale, Whole Foods, which recently bought out Wild Oats, closes its store here …. That’s a novel approach to customer service.

Interestingly, Judy Hertz of Hillsdale, concerned about the closing of the store, e-mailed Whole Foods noting that the closure was happening just as senior citizens were moving into the new Watershed housing project 100 yards or so away. (The photo below shows the closure announcement with the new Watershed building in the background)

Hertz urged Whole Foods to reconsider in light of the needs of neighboring seniors.

Instead a Whole Foods PR representative replied that the closure shouldn’t be a problem because Hillsdale customers could shop conveniently at the Whole Foods store in nearby Tanisbourne.

Yes, you read that right: Tanisbourne.

Could this be the old confusion between Hillsboro and Hillsdale? Does Whole Foods even know where Hillsdale is?


Texas-based Whole Foods, which clearly has not a clue about what is convenient for us, may be doing our community a big favor by closing its Hillsdale store and making it available to a more responsive, less geographically challenged occupant.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

A "Christian" government's "severe interrogation"

If it is true, as a pandering John McCain asserted recently, that this is a “Christian nation” that is best governed by a Christian, then America is giving Christianity a bad name.

The besmirching has been going on quite a while. Think of “Christian” America’s record regarding native peoples, African slaves, African-Americans, Chinese workers, the internment of Japanese-Americans, the dropping of atom bombs on civilian populations, capital punishment, My Lai, Abu Ghraib, the environmental destruction of the planet ….

The list goes on and on and on.

Our virtuous “Christian” governance, if that is what it is, is as current as today’s headline.

The so-called Christian government of this so-called Christian nation, which is led by a so-called Christian president, is treating its enemies, to say nothing of innocent civilians, in a most un-Christ-like way.


To: George W. Bush
From: Jesus Christ


When is the last time you, regardless of your faith, showed your love for fellow human beings by slapping them in the head, holding them naked for hours in a frigid cell, denying them sleep for days and nights by battering them with thundering rock music, by manacling them in stress positions, or by waterboarding them? The latter creates the sensation of being drowned.

Christian nation? Christian government? Christian president?

Get real.

Let’s just forget the sanctimonious religious invocations and, to the best of our ability, do what is right and just and, yes, even compassionate. If we do that, we have the right to expect and, if need be, invite and even demand the same of our "enemies."

Media observation: The headline on the front page of today’s Oregonian reads, “U.S. secretly OK’d severe interrogations.”

“Severe interrogations”?

The lead to the story clearly refers to “torture” and brutality — a long way from “severe interrogations.”

On rare occasions under deadline stress, my interviews with reluctant sources (often paid PR “spokespersons”) could be described as “severe interrogations.”

No, save "severe" for the weather forecast. Severe storms, severe rains, severe winds.

Today’s headline reminds me of when the Oregonian uncritically passed on Neil Goldschmidt’s characterization of his relationship with a 14-year-old as fact in the following headline: GOLDSCHMIDT CONFESSES '70s AFFAIR WITH GIRL, 14.

I suppose readers should expect a front page that describes statutory rape as an “affair” to transform torture into “severe interrogation.”

The news is so much nicer that way — in this “Christian nation.”

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Game-day advice adapted for the game of life

Useful advice comes in many forms.

I’m on the mailing list of the e-newsletter for Wilson High School, which has its share of nuggets.

One of them was mined at the request of Scott Aker, WHS athletic director, and Mike Clopton, WHS baseball coach, in the most recent edition. Aker and Clopton wanted to share some advice on how parents and students should behave civilly at games, particularly toward officials and opposing teams.

So, at their suggestion, editor Linda Doyle included a “Game-Day To-Do List for Parents,” which was adapted from materials prepared by the Positive Coaching Alliance and the American Youth Soccer Organization.

It struck me that the advice could be further adapted to the game we call “life.” I have tried to do so here:

A life-preparation to-do list for parents:

• Tell your children to have fun.

• Tell them to make a commitment to honor life in action and language.

• Show your child that truth is everywhere. Teach them how to find it and how to live by it.

• Teach them to acknowledge good deeds by everyone.

• Encourage them recognize good decisions and ask them to consider withholding judgment about bad ones.

• Tell them to gently correct the errors of others around them.

• Don’t do anything that will embarrass them or their friends.

• Teach them to thank those whose job is difficult and sometimes controversial.

• Instruct them to thank their teachers (and coaches, even when the blow it).

• Teach them to be gracious and respectful to those with whom they may disagree.

• Congratulate your children and their friends when they do their best to follow all of the above.

• Ask your children if they are having fun.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Metro "bout" bobs, weaves around key issues

Last Wednesday a standing-room-only crowd that over-flowed into an adjacent video-viewing room packed a Metro Building auditorium on Grand Avenue.

The draw was two academics from British Columbia debating “different strategies for implementing the 2040 growth concept, our region’s plan for the future….”


How is this possible? Didn’t the crowd of, say, 250 to 300, have better things to do?

Well, as a matter of fact, they decided they didn’t.

And why was that?

In a word, marketing.

Metro Councilor Robert Liberty promoted the presentation as a pseudo-prize fight between sparring Professors Patrick “Corridors” Condon of the University of British Columbia and Gordon “Centers” Price of Simon Fraser University.

The set-to featured goofy raised fists, buffo posturing, “rounds,” judges and a “decision.”

It was a great come-on. The two opponents, after some entertaining verbal parrying, didn’t really disagree all that much.

The decision by a vote of the house was deemed a draw.

The disagreement, such as it was, was an effort to get the audience to think about how communities develop, or should develop. Should we “grow” them as nodes along established transit corridors, or should we plan and develop them as stand-alone communities and connect them later?

Importing two academics from Vancouver actually wasn’t as odd as it might seem. For several years, planners have recognized an eerie similarity between the two cities — in Metro size, growth and setting. Planners and planning consultants have shuttled back and forth between the two regions, comparing notes.

I have to confess I went into this verbal slug fest as a “center” guy from the Hillsdale Town Center. But here it all gets fuzzy because a major factor in Metro’s designating Hillsdale a “town center” (one of 27 in the greater Portland Metro Region) was its being located on no less than seven transit lines, which places it on a corridor, or, to be more exact, a pass through the hills.

The hills of southwest Portland are hardly known for straight-edged “corridors.” We don’t even have sidewalks. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and Barbur Boulevard are obvious exceptions—but they don’t have sidewalks either.

Real corridors are linear trunks like Division, Powell, McLaughlin, Sandy and Hawthorne. Interestingly, none of them is considered a neighborhood.

Hillsdale, by contrast, is undeniably a "neighborhood" and a nascent community despite its dependence on sinuous Capitol Highway and the swerving Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

So centers versus corridors, as discrete concepts, seemed far less worth of debate than several crucial planning topics — all of them having as much to with people as place. That may have been the reason they were avoided — people are tougher to plan for and manage than places.

Here is some of what I missed:

Schools: Amazingly, a huge disconnect exists between city planners and those of us who see schools as essential to defining community. My guess is that the problem originates with schools and neighborhoods (communities?) being governed by separate entities — the school district on the one hand and city government on the other.

Integrated parks, plazas, farmers markets and civic centers. Could it be that these topics were avoided because they really are magnets for local organizing, and organizing is a direct threat to the centralized, entrenched power of city hall?

Community governance: This too is a threat. Power in cities should devolve to communities, where people know each other. For the devolution to happen, the present centralized establishments would lose power. Existing, traditional political networks would be disrupted. The topic never entered the ring last Wednesday.

Despite these concerns, Counselor Liberty is to be commended for promoting this “bout.” The promotion worked, but I learned more from what wasn’t discussed than from what was.

I’d suggest that Liberty think beyond the rigid “corridors versus centers” debate and present a debate of human substance and relevance.

Suggestions: “Should neighborhoods be given more power?” and “Should Schools be Community Learning Centers?”

Topics like these promote themselves.

Unfortunately, they are beyond the current purview of our Metro regional government. They shouldn't be.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

New Zealand school named for corporate benefactor

My brother-in-law, who is visiting us this week, is a math teacher in an Auckland, New Zealand, secondary school.

We got to talking about school financing here — and there. The conversation led us to the Portland Tribune's Dwight Jaynes' tongue-in-check suggestion that his alma mater, Cleveland High School, sell its name to Burgerville (make that "Burgerville High"), in exchange for a major donation.

My brother-in-law didn't blink.

Consider Bairds Mainfreight Primary School in Auckland, he said. Mainfreight is a New Zealand-based international shipping company that supports the school, which serves minority kids.

I've searched the web and can't find any debate over naming the school after a corporate benefactor. Apparently it was approved by the Ministry of Education 10 years ago without question.

There is a slight twist here from the Burgerville (or Coca Cola or Twinkies) example. Mainfreight is hardly a consumer product aimed at kids. It does not cause obesity or rot teeth, just for starters. But granting naming rights to Mainfreight does open the door to others with marketing on their minds. It is at the top of the proverbial slippery slope.

And the question remains, why does Mainfreight feel compelled to have the school adopt its name? Wouldn't a simple thanks and a plaque do?

Getting back to the Tribune's Jaynes, I've written a letter to the editor with my suggestion, first posted here, that Jaynes sell his own prominent name to Burgerville (Make that "Burgerville Jaynes") and give the proceeds to Cleveland.

The letter seems to have received some attention as the editors now want me to write a "My View" guest opinion.

Stay tuned.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seventeen syllables for Powell's

A soggy day splashing through the city with out-of-town relatives led us to "The City of Books" where I fleshed out my E.B. White collection with "Essays"and "One Man's Meat."

But wait! There's more!

Complete Idiot's
book credit at Powell's snags
Motor Scooter Guide!

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