Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Defining the times through music: rock legends Rush achieve greatness with 'Snakes' album & tour

In the universe of rock music, sometimes there are moments where an artist’s music simply hits its stride with the times. U2 accomplished it in the 1980s with the song “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and the Joshua Tree album, and Queensryche upped our awareness of how high the stakes can be with Operation: Mindcrime, their anti-right political manifesto. In the late 1990s Radiohead helped to define the negative impact of technology on society through their masterpiece OK Computer, and of course Bob Dylan accomplished the unimaginable—and a since unrepeated feat—by serving as the protesting voice for an entire generation in the 1960s. I’m sure there are many other examples out there that I’m leaving out, as I can only comment on the works I’m personally exposed to.

This being said, yet another artist has emerged with such an engaging piece of work (and an ensuing tour to boot) that captures the mindset of where we are at in the world and as a nation these days. Rush, having been a band for nearly 40 years and having spent 33 years as a recording artist (34 if you count the Moon Records single "Not Fade Away" from 1973, covering the Buddy Holly classic), emerged in 2007 with their latest music offering, Snakes & Arrows. The theme of the album (or CD, depending on your preference) echoes the frustration many of us feel over today’s political climate and the direction the world has taken over the last 6+ years.

It doesn’t necessarily address the complicated issues of today, nor try in earnest to search for any solutions; it simply gives many of us a coping mechanism and a sympathetic message of “I feel your pain, let me share mine with you.” Do you ever notice that when you’re down and need to recharge your engines, sometimes all it takes is an understanding friend to listen to you while you vent your frustration? (Dandy, that's for you) When that friend isn’t around to listen to your thoughts, rants and screams out of your 6th floor apartment window, Snakes & Arrows is your trusty companion; and it's delivered in a sophisticated fashion that will have you amped and running to join the Sierra Club rather than crying in your beer (not referring to you that time... [in Burgh accent] seriously... it's like a dodge & weave... dodge & weeeeeeeave maaaaaan...). One can argue that sentiment for Rush’s entire catalog, for that matter, which noodles into micro and macro themes focusing on the various conditions of human nature and its effect on the planet (but that’s a thousand page analysis for another day).

As a side paragraph, I openly admit a bias toward Rush being my favorite band for 25 years, since the blossoming and impressionable age of 12. Ahh, the memories of the summer of 1981 when Tom Sawyer was all over the airwaves... along with leaving burning paper bags of dog shit on neighbors' doorsteps and doing the ring & run... and I ripped my adidas shorts while getting my knee-high striped tube socks dirty in the process... yes, we were bored... there was plenty of time to absorb music and bands such as Rush that summer...

In addition to being the Drum God of planet Earth, Neil Peart has been the band’s primary lyricist. The lyrics are submitted to and filtered by singer /bassist Geddy Lee. The band’s lyrics and disposition toward themed albums throughout a body of 19 studio projects present a very compelling case study—and a musical bestowal of a lifetime—a treasure trove for current and future fans (especially when the catalog is shuffled on an iPod).

Snakes & Arrows accomplishes more than giving its audience mere sympathy and brainy subject matter for contemplation, however. An insightful analysis of a world gone mad helps us to simplify the nebulous and overwhelming nature of today’s societal issues into an understandable and quantitative sandwich for the brain to munch on. Subject matter on this album touches on many variations of the theme, ranging from views on morals and religion ("Faithless") to personal struggles through adversity, such as an illness ("Good News First"). Other tracks on the album are autobiographical, cherishing the freedom of travel and life experiences ("Workin' Them Angels"). In terms of specific lyrics; for example, as stated in the opening song on the CD, Far Cry: “It’s a far cry from the world we thought we’d inherit, it’s a far cry from the way we thought we’d share it. You can almost feel the currents flowing, you can almost see the circuits blowing.” Simple, direct, realistic, and dead on. I can't think of any other lyrical passage in music that sums up the current political mood of the world we live in.

To be a singer and go through the process of successfully interpreting and delivering someone else's lyrics, you need to be able to get behind them and feel their vibe as if you've written them. Here’s an excerpt from Ged in a recent interview with the Boston Herald:

I think that in his travels around the country, Neil was noticing the fear that North American travelers are inundated by. I think he felt the need to draw the parallel. You can sit on one side of the world saying, ‘These guys are crazy fanatics,’ and someone on the other side is saying the same thing. He felt that a successful society has to grow beyond that and that was a sentiment I could get behind. So it’s not so much political as being a philosophy of survival.”

Neil expands on what Ged is mentioning, via transcript from an interview with Toronto radio station Q107 FM:

"It is a kind of process of discovery because, and I found this in prose writing too - if you’re gonna say something you have to figure out what you want to say. “How do I know what I think until I hear what I say?” So in working on the lyrics and themes of course, faith and spirituality and religion are a big part of the themes, so I had to think about that. What do I really think? And the writing of Rocho was a large part of that research in a way and the whole armour and sword metaphor came from that book. Because I had to think about what I was seeing as I traveled around on my motorcycle around the central United States and the South and that and seeing the church signs everyday that were becoming oppressively overwhelming and I was thinking about what’s good about faith, and what’s good about spirituality and what’s bad about it became a part of the thinking."

To visit the guitarwork in Rush for a moment; Alex "Lerxt" Lifeson takes Neil's words and the rhythm section to add his electric guitar parts... excuse me, it's the 12 string acoustic... no, his mandolin parts... wait, he plays all three at once... Lerxst is the piece of the puzzle most folks overlook, but as the heart of the band he gives the music the feel that gracefully surfs above the mindblowing jams and woodshedding technical prowess of the band. He's essentially 3 guitarists in 1; his dynamic ability allows him to canvass the music as both lead, rhythm and acoustic player. Oh, and he does a mean standup comedy act, with a style all his own.

Peart’s ingenious use of metaphor adds further context and understanding to the subject matter in the band’s music. An excerpt from a song from Snakes & Arrows called “The Way the Wind Blows” states: “We can only grow the way the winds blows on a bare and weathered shore, we can only bow to the here and now in our elemental war. We can only grow the way the wind blows, we can only bow to the here and now or be broken down blow by blow.” What an English college professor would need 45 minutes to explain in literal terms to a class of raised hands, Peart sums up through the use of imagery and metaphor in essentially 20 seconds of music lyrics.

Neil has defined this work, through numerous interviews and in Hemmingwayesque fashion, as his “lover’s quarrel with the world.” When listening to some of the songs from the new CD, one might interpret the ebb and flow in the storylines being a relationship between two individuals, when the intention actually pairs Neil with a particular group—or simply the rest of the world at large. Whether or not the band will come out and say it, Snakes & Arrows has a definite political leaning and fires some shots over the bow of the Bush camp while pressing the big red button on religious fanaticism and the lunatic fringe of the right.

Then there’s the tour. For those of you who are lovers of music and excellent artistry, Rush is a live act to not be missed. Through the light show, synchronized videos on the back screen—and most importantly the music—and a mindbender of a drum solothe spectator gets an ultimate audio and visual experience. On this tour in particular, left-of-center bloggers and environmental advocates will walk away with an added appreciation and satisfaction, similar to how one might feel after venting with a friend over a beer.

The concert photos you see here are from the recent show in Pittsburgh, the 8th stop on their tour. Unfortunately I can't show you ALL the photos I took over that weekend with my hidden camera. It was a special night, the people there were really into it, and it was the most festive tailgating crowd I've run into at ANY event, even beating out the San Diego scene before a Chargers game in the late 90s. There's no messing around here, this is Steelers Nation. I was accompanied by Pittsburgh royalty of the finest caliber; who referred to me as a "Rush snob" (I can't think of a higher compliment, actually, thank you for that). The company during the show was fabulous, but then upon trying to leave I had a head-on collision with a nic fit, and I even experienced an amusing mini-opera on the way to the car when it was thought to be lost... but wait, I have a secret weapon you probably don't know about, being that I'm a geography major, so I don't GET lost... ha! ...but wait, there's that damn orange rental car! ...no, it's the Bozo Bus... Look out! Here come the clowns!

I felt fortunate to have the ultimate "Burgh experience." It was a dandy one for sure! Cuckoo! Cuckoo! (from out of the woods)

Anyway, sorry to digress. For you music lovers out there who are miffed about the current state of things and looking for a lift, Snakes & Arrows will do it for you. Rush have hit this one out of the park, and it's still flying. S

Friday, June 22, 2007

One little victory! Can we score again?

You know, sometimes I think of being an environmentalist like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill. There really isn’t much of a difference. The battle rages on, and on, and on, and on. You get tired, you get worn, you get beat down to the point of not being able to look up anymore, but somehow you manage to keep the faith and keep pushing that f'in rock! You fight the good fight with a vision, but with the frightening specter of not being able to predict the future—when the future doesn’t always look so good… however…

However, every now and then the spirit of John Muir, or some other hero of days passed appears to help chip away at that stone and make the load a bit lighter. Maybe it’s when the Tohono O’odham or Navajo do their spiritual rain dances, who knows. If that’s the case, I think they should do it more often, because I believe they’ve had a positive effect on Capitol Hill with the energy bill (so far). I got this message just now:

Dear Paul,

What a fantastic victory for our environment! And your flood of phone calls to the Senate helped make it happen.

Last night, the U.S. Senate passed an energy bill that would greatly improve the fuel economy of our nation's cars for the first time since 1975 -- cutting America's oil dependence and global warming pollution in the process.

By a 65 to 27 vote, the Senate adopted a measure that would require cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles to get 35 miles per gallon by 2020 -- compared with a paltry 25 miles per gallon today.

It was a stunning setback for the auto companies, who fought tooth and nail against an energy bill that will drag America out of our gas guzzling past and into a more energy efficient future.

And what a historic moment for millions of us who have worked so hard -- for so many years -- to break the automakers'

stranglehold on Washington for the sake of a healthier planet.

Thousands of you exemplified that can-do spirit yesterday when you received my emergency alert and swamped the Senate with phone calls in opposition to the automakers' latest amendment.

You spoke out for the vast majority of Americans who are sick and tired of our oil habit and the terrible price we pay for it.

And that's why the Senate, after decades of doing Big Auto's bidding, made a sudden U-turn last night.

What a difference five years makes! The last time we fought this battle, in 2002, the automakers barely broke a sweat. But since then, the American people have glimpsed an oil-dependent future of skyrocketing gas prices, catastrophic global warming and unending wars over fossil fuels.

America does not want to go there. You delivered that message to the Senate loud and clear, and the Senate heard you.

We still have to fight this battle all over again in the House before this fuel economy measure becomes law. And we'll be calling on you to make your voice heard in that chamber at the critical moment.

But you and I deserve one day to savor a victory that has been so many decades in the making. Thank you for doing your part to make it happen.

Sincerely,

Frances Beinecke
NRDC Action Fund

Ahh Frances, always on her A game keeping me informed up to the tee. Well there you have it, one little victory! Now to savor this moment and do a little dance! Bring out the show girls!!! S

“Celebrate the moment

As it turns into one more

Another chance at victory

Another chance to score

The measure of the moment

Is the difference of degree

Just one little victory

A spirit breaking free

One little victory

The greatest act can be

One little victory” —Neil Peart

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The P-Cubed Corner: A calling to save the White Beluga Whale

In yet another subtopic of discussion, The P-Cubed Corner puts a focus on specific hot-button environmental causes; canvassing subjects such as endangered species, threatened pristine areas, ecosystems in peril, or exposing blatant polluters and eco-saboteurs. Think of it as something out of "Mr. Rogers neighborhood of make believe," where we take the neighborhood choo-choo to go visit His Excellency The King of the neighborhood, but minus the props and cheesy sing alongs (although if I get enough requests, I'm sure that could be arranged too).

This is the latest update on a friend who’s in trouble; the White Beluga whale out of Alaska. The following message is from our colleagues at the NRDC, which stands for the National Resources Defense Council.


Dear Friend,

The magnificent white beluga whales of Alaska's Cook Inlet are headed toward extinction -- unless we act swiftly.

Today, there are some 300 belugas left in these increasingly industrialized waters -- a 77 percent decline from the 1,300 whales that lived in the inlet in the early 1980's.

Right now, you have a unique chance to help save the survivors.

After years of foot-dragging, the National Marine Fisheries Service is finally proposing that the Cook Inlet belugas be protected as an endangered species.

http://www.nrdcactionfund.org/beluga_action

But in the face of industry opposition, that proposal will not become reality without an outpouring of public support. That's why we're gearing up to generate 100,000 pro-beluga comments in the next three weeks.

Please click now to send an Official Citizen Comment that says "YES" to beluga protection:

http://www.nrdcactionfund.org/beluga_action

It's truly zero hour for this special population of belugas.

With only three weeks until the public comment period ends on June 19, we must act immediately to save these 300 surviving whales -- one of the smallest populations of marine mammals left on the planet!

Their situation is so desperate that the World Conservation Union added them to its "Red List" of threatened species as "critically endangered" in April 2006. The next category is "Extinct in the Wild."

Yet industry and business groups -- backed by all three members of Alaska's congressional delegation -- are opposed to the whale's endangered species designation.

That's why we're counting on you to make your voice heard on behalf of this struggling population of beluga whales that cannot live anywhere else. Even the slow-to-act National Marine Fisheries Service admits that "no similar beluga habitat exists in Alaska or elsewhere in the United States."

Please seize the moment to save the belugas while there is still time. Send in your Official Citizen Comment now and help give belugas a fighting chance:

http://www.nrdcactionfund.org/beluga_action

Sincerely,

Frances Beinecke
President
NRDC Action Fund

See if you can help to make it a more "wonderful day in the neighborhood" for this whale!
I will try to stay current with the notices I get from the NRDC, and other watchdogs championing environmental causes. Stay tuned, friends and neighbors, for such alerts at The P-Cubed Corner.
S

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Same old song and dance from the Republicans... and why doesn't this surprise me?

An update on the latest Republican shtick and their asinine approach towards the environmental realities we're facing today. Good show as usual; I wonder who's in bed with who this time.

So then let's give John Kerry, our distinguished Senator from Massachusetts, the floor now...


Can you believe these guys? Sometimes it just boggles the mind how people can be staring a problem like our climate crisis in the face and keep on playing the same political games of the past. We have major proposals before the Senate to start the process of real change in our energy production and use in this country, and what amendment do the Republicans insist on bringing forward? Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

We'll fight that fight (again), but, amazingly, the Republicans' intransigence goes even deeper. Last night we tried to start to bring amendments to the floor to make the energy bill a true blueprint for a new future, and the Republicans simply refused to vote up or down on the first amendment, essentially demanding that any amendment have 60 votes to even be considered. The best science tells us we have 10 years to act on climate change, and they waste time with stubborn procedural roadblocks. And the Bush Administration tells Congress that it is strongly opposed to ANY numerical requirements on vehicle miles-per-gallon standards (CAFE standards).

But we have a Democratic leadership now, and we're fighting for change. In particular, I'm fighting for an energy plan that includes three things as the minimum to start to deal with our energy and climate crises:

• a major increase in the efficiency of all sources and uses of energy, from pickup trucks to fluorescent light bulbs, including raising the CAFE standard for cars and light trucks to 35 mpg by 2020

• dramatic incentives for all renewable energy sources, including the requirement that at least 20% of our energy come from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2020

• A comprehensive plan to get clean coal technologies and carbon sequestration off the drawing board and under construction

We can get a new direction, but there are many entrenched interests fight change. As I've learned since I worked as an activist on the first Earth Day, big environmental change only comes with the activism of the American people. So, if you want Congress to deal with this major issue, please call your Senator today and demand action on these priorities.

We're considering these amendments today, so pick up the phone and call immediately.

Thank you,
John Kerry

John Kerry For U.S. Senate
129 Portland Street, Boston, MA 02114-2014
www.johnkerry.com

Okay John, that's enough. So there you go. We'll obviously keep having further review on this issue as things develop. S

Monday, June 11, 2007

My endorsement of Barack Obama for President of the United States in 2008

Why do I support Barack Obama for President in 2008? He's a uniter and he inspires me. He's got brains (imagine that - should we make that a requirement for the Presidency? . . no further comment), he has a vision for the country, and he thinks big picture. He's a man of the world and can help bring back the country's credibility that it so desperately needs on the international stage.

Barack Obama listens to differing opinions without allowing himself to be puppeted - probably the most important quality a decision-maker can have. (Isn't it so simple yet so hard to come by?) My vote usually swings on a politician's stance with the environment. I believe, and have thought so since I was a young child in the 1970s, that the human race and the stability of the planet we live on have been on a crash course towards an unimaginable train wreck. IMO we MUST not only slow down this runaway train of environmental degradation - - - we must stop it dead in its tracks and figure out how to put the beast in reverse - - - and there's proof we can do it. Look at the recovery of the ozone layer, for example.

It's this notion of care for the environment that drove me to a career in land use planning - trying to do my part, however small, in an endeavor to affect change for the better. I spent 8 years trying to help protect the Sonoran Desert in Tucson, Arizona - and had a few small victories. I believe when these victories add up, and we look at the aggregate total of our efforts, that we posture ourselves to break over the crest when someone like Barack Obama takes office. I haven't been very hopeful lately, but now I am again with him in the picture.

A mentor of mine once referred to the definition of "luck" being "when preparation meets opportunity." We have all been preparing in our various ways - therefore our time to act is now - in doing everything we can to help Obama get into the White House. Thanks for reading and I encourage you to share your ideas with me - in our drive to swell this tidal wave for Obama’s success—in next years primary and general election—to unprecedented heights!

If you’re interested in helping with the campaign, here’s more information: Help Obama!. Barack Obama and I are committed to changing the political process by building a campaign built on a broad base of support from ordinary Americans. S



Saturday, June 9, 2007

THE POCKET PISSER -- NASCAR: I don’t get it...even a little.

As a series similar to The Bozo Bus, The Pocket Pisser targets groups or institutions whose behavior, policies, and /or principles are in need of review and critique (opposed to an individual Bozo). That's not to say that any group in question doesn't have Bozos in it; they more than likely do. We can only hope that The Bozo Bus will get around to them eventually, but the clowns have a regimented schedule to adhere to (no scoffing now, snooty peeps---many of the clowns wear ties to work just like the rest of you).

So today we’re pissing in the pockets of the NASCAR world, because I just don’t understand what in God’s name is appealing about this sport. Is it an adrenaline junkie thing? Moreover, it tends to attract the uneducated hicks, snaggletoothed lowlifes and degenerates of the world; even a few notches below that of hardcore NFL football fans… and as I just wrote that, in my universe I can’t think of a greater insult in the “sports world,” if NASCAR even qualifies as one in the first place. This all begs even more questions…

The sport seems to require zero brains cells to watch. If I’m ever flipping through the channels and bump into it, I move on. If I stay on the channel for even a few seconds (usually by mistake), or in the rare occasion I find myself trapped in a sports bar watching it, I can only take a few minutes of it at most. I simply go away feeling more stupid than before watching it. After witnessing the images on the screen going around on a track, my head starts to get dizzy and the thoughts about the excessive gas consumption and environmental impact disgust me. The noise and smoke from the emissions seem unbearable, but perhaps the folks in the crowd are immune to it by now. To that effect, when I see the television cameras scanning over the crowd, honing in on some of the folks, I say to myself “Oooooookaaaaaay” and try desparately to escape so I can move onto something else. I realize that's a blanket judgment of sorts, but let's be real---there's a reason this sport was bred out of the South, along with plenty of other cultural attributes we can all be proud of as Americans (excuse me, I just choked on my torpedo of King Cobra).

I once worked with a guy who was a big fan of NASCAR, who said he lived for it every weekend while it was on—he just couldn’t wait for the weekend races to occur. First, I’ll say with certainty that this man did not graduate from Harvard. I don't claim to be any brainiac myself, but maybe the education factor bears some weight here. So we had a discussion and I posed my questions to him, essentially trying to figure out how you could even classify NASCAR as a sport. I explained that my definition of a sport contains some sort of athletic movement of the body on a court or field, but his definition was more expanded. He argued that NASCAR involved the skill of driving, and while I responded in agreement, my caveat was: “However, if that were the case, my commute to work every day would then officially need to be labeled a sport.”

Just for shits and giggles, let’s see what the Free Dictionary by Farlex has to say about the definition of a sport:

sport (spĂ´rt, sprt)

n.

1.

a. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.

b. A particular form of this activity.

2. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.

3. An active pastime; recreation.

So maybe part 3 of the definition then answers one of my questions, and while it barely qualifies it, it seems that it technically qualifies NASCAR as an official sport. So there ya go good ‘ol boys, enjoy your fuel consuming, noise nuisance low level brain hum on yer weekends. Miller High Life hath shall flow unending.

Moving on, I’d like to peer into another room and highlight for a moment the environmental end of this sport. Wikipedia has the following to say about the environmental impacts of NASCAR.

According to NASCAR, about 6,000 US gallons of fuel are consumed during a typical NEXTEL Cup weekend. [12] For the 2006 season, which includes 36 points races, the total for the season would be 216,000 US gallons. One environmental critic recently estimated NASCAR's total fuel consumption across all series at 2 million US gallons (7.57 million liters) of gas for one season; [13] however, the methodology used has been a point of dispute.

At race speeds, NEXTEL Cup cars get 2 to 5 miles per gallon. [14] [15] [16] Consumption under caution can be estimated at 14-18 mpg, based on comparable engines generally available to the public. Interestingly, the rate of fuel consumption tends to be the same regardless of the actual speeds of the cars, as teams change gear ratios for each race to ensure that the engine always operates in its optimum power band; however, the fuel mileage will vary for each race, depending on the maximum speeds attained.

The consumption figures above provide no insight on environmental impact in terms of emissions. NASCAR vehicles are generally unregulated by the EPA, and in particular, they have no mufflers, catalytic converters or other emissions control devices. However, some local short tracks which run under NASCAR sanction require certain emissions control devices. Many short tracks run mufflers in compliance with noise ordinances at some tracks; in the early years of the Craftsman Truck Series, some races were held at venues which required mufflers, a requirement still used in some Busch East, AutoZone West, and Whelen Modified races.

NASCAR continued to use lead additives in its race gasoline until the 2007 Daytona 500, which led to concerns about the health of those exposed to the fumes of the cars (fans and residents living near the race tracks). Lead is a well-known environmental risk, but the performance needs of race engines (in particular, the high compression ratios) once made it difficult to switch to unleaded fuel.

So there you have it, and nothing I read here surprises me, as I would never expect anyone involved in this "sport" to even consider the environmental impact. It simply has no place in their brain capacity.

So, in conclusion, my only real intention here was to simply bring the topic to bear and expose my thoughts and observations on this corner of the universe. It looks like the whole western United States needs to drink a gallon of King Cobra (or Old Engish 800, or even water, take your pick) and venture into the South... we have LOTS of pockets to piss in!

All zippers down please and wait for my signal. S

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The global agenda: stewardship vs. stalling

This editorial appeared in the Seattle Times this morning. I'd been planning on writing something on Kyoto in the near future, but this beat me to the punch. A good update of basic information.

President George W. Bush is not fooling any of his G-8 colleagues in Germany with his belated call to set long-term goals reducing emissions related to global warming. The same is true here at home.

In the absence of leadership on climate change from the White House, remarkable movements are under way in statehouses, boardrooms and places of worship. A coherent federal plan is needed, but no one is waiting while the incumbent stalls. Six years ago, the president announced the United States would ignore the Kyoto Protocol and its mandatory emissions goals for industrialized nations.

In advance of today's gathering of the world's eight leading economies, Bush said he wanted to convene meetings that formulate a plan by the end of next of year.

The timing is too clever by half. That is when Kyoto expires, along with his presidential term. European nations are all but rolling their eyes.

Others in the United States are not waiting. A coalition of major corporations and environmental groups formed the United States Climate Action Partnership in January to push the federal government to get involved in global-warming issues.

At the state level, California is trying again for an exemption from the federal Clean Air Act so it can put in place its own strict controls on auto emissions. Washington and nine other states have a stake in the outcome, each having adopted similar standards.

All this was spurred on by an April Supreme Court ruling that said the federal government could regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from cars. If the feds will not act, California and other states are eager to step in.

The extent to which climate change is becoming part of a much broader discussion in society was amply demonstrated by a four-day interfaith gathering last Friday through Monday in Seattle.

Religious leaders from Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions around the country explored the role of their faiths in caring for the Earth and all creation. The Faith & Environment Festival was held in four locations: Town Hall, Seattle First Baptist Church, Temple De Hirsch Sinai and St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral.

Being stewards of the environment is a theme crossing civic, business and theological traditions and organizational lines. Stalling politicians will be evermore irrelevant as others step forward to do the work and work around them.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

Okay, who’s this ass writing in our blog? What a yawner! These editorials piss me off—they can be so damn boring! Yes, the goal of reporting was accomplished. However, come on, buddy, give us something interesting to read about, don’t just report because it’s your fucking job.

For example, tally the number of times Bush stuttered, dropped food on his shirt, or at least give us an account of the numerous European customary or cultural faux pas that occurred, such as farting at the dinner table (that’s probably what the Euros were rolling their eyes over—oh, excuse me, that’s a custom over there).

These are the moments where I realize I got into the wrong profession. S

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Bozo Bus, Rt. #1: Look out Marie Callender, Dollar Bill’s Frozen Dinners are heading up the competition!

This is a special subtopic of The P-patch that will be posted periodically, known as The Bozo Bus. The intention is to focus on a Bozo out there in the news, or even a Bozo walking around whose behavior is in need of comment… yes, we take no prisoners... we only kidnap them for awhile... and yes, it’s EXACTLY as you envision it: there’s literally a VW bus painted in swirling psychedelic 60s colors, packed to the hilt with clowns, speeding—braking hard—swerving erratically, who swing into the residence of the person in question to literally pick them up and take them on a ride. Think of clowns executing a brief kidnapping and forcing their victims to perform acts in the vein of the show Jackass. Sound the clown horns, we’re off to our next stop!!! **honk**honk**honk** Throw the bastard in the back.

So The Bozo Bus begins its maiden voyage with a stealthy Democratic Representative, if you can believe it. See? Even the lefties aren't immune to receiving a fun ride. On today’s bus route, we’re swinging by to pick up “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, who represents Louisiana’s 2nd District (essentially most of New Orleans). The man was recently indicted on charges of multiple accounts of, it appears, almost anything a congressman could theoretically do wrong to artfully abuse his power. It appears that this Bozo and his clown posse have been performing a major world tour with multiple encores---and obviously their circus is no philanthropy---they're definitely in in it for the money.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia giving some background to the thing:

On June 4, 2007 Jefferson was indicted on 16-counts in a 94-page indictment that included charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes, wire fraud, money-laundering, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If convicted, he faces a possible maximum sentence of 235 years.[35][36]

Jefferson was videotaped by the FBI receiving $100,000 worth of $100 bills in a leather briefcase at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington, Virginia.[8] Jefferson told an investor, Lori Mody, who was wearing a wire, that he would need to give Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar $500,000 "as a motivating factor" to make sure they obtained contracts for iGate and Mody's company in Nigeria.[9] A few days later, on 3 August 2005, FBI agents raided Jefferson's home in Northeast Washington and, as noted in an 83-page affidavit filed to support a subsequent raid on his Congressional office, "found $90,000 of the cash in the freezer, in $10,000 increments wrapped in aluminum foil and stuffed inside frozen-food containers." Serial numbers found on the currency in the freezer matched serial numbers of funds given by the FBI to their informant. Louisiana State Representative Karen Carter on December 9, 2006.

I’m curious about a few things here. First, why doesn't this guy resign? He's simply refused to, which is just bizarre to me. It's like crashing a party where nobody wants you, but you're so enraged with ego that you refuse to leave. He's no longer on the House Ways and Means Committee he served on, and that's because he was booted off---because he also refused to resign from that. Well Bill, you better keep your powerful footing in Congress while you still have it. Yuk it up, buddy.

...which, with further thought, begs an interesting question to all the Congress rulebook folks out there: Is it possible for a Congressman to serve part of a term while he's in prison? Considering that, he might actually be able to be more productive while behind bars with what he should be doing.

Second, performing all these acts seem like they would have taken lots of work, time, covering up, and lying. Seems like a HELL of a lot of work (and for not very much money). Better yet, what did his constituency think he was doing this whole time? "Oh, as your humble representative I'm off to Nigeria again, uh, to assess the African tribal mask market for the World Bank." Forget how they keep track of him, how does he keep track of it all with the covering up and lying? ...and while we're on the subject, who were the other Bozos who reelected this guy to a new term last fall while he was being investigated for these heinous acts? Believe me, I do understand innocent until proven guilty, and apparently appearances to that effect mean one's immune to being put under the spotlight during an election year... or maybe it's voter apathy again? (and again? and again? and... )

Third, it seems that there was money stashed away in the freezer for a protracted amount of time. So when dinner was being prepared on all those nights, did someone intending to reach for the chicken pot pie ever accidentally grab the Dollar Bill pie? Or perhaps a salad would have been more fitting—the Dollar Bill salad, as cash has a more leafy texture—but I guess that would involve thawing it out under running water with a head of lettuce. Sounds like a lot of fiber in the diet. Even sounds nastier than a Banquet frozen dinner, which has so many preservatives in it you're left feeling like you're literally glowing as if you walked out of Chernobyl on a bad day. I guess rule #1 is not to leave the money on the immediate premises, otherwise it may be accidentally consumed at dinner. Or maybe found in an FBI raid. Better yet, don’t be stupid enough to take it in the first place. That leads me to rule #2, which is if you are going to be involved in such acts, I'd be going after a hell of a lot more than $100K. That's pocket change compared to what he should have been going after, considering what he stood to lose and the jail time that hangs in the balance.

I'm dying to know what else Dollar Bill stashes in his freezer. I can only imagine, and the more I consider it the more terrified I am to ask and find out. That's almost as frightening as trying to figure out how to defend the Bozo if you're his attorney.

Finally, and this is the part that really honks off the clowns; according to a news report I heard, during the Katrina event the guy corralled a couple of National Guards to escort him to his house in New Orleans so he could allegedly collect his cash that was being stored there at the time. Unfortunately those were warm bodies that could have been helping to save lives during that horrific event.

So while the clowns should just throw this Bozo into the river, we figure we shouldn’t do that on our maiden voyage as it’s a test run of sorts. Plus that’s not any fun. So we threw a pint of scotch down his throat, painted him up in bad makeup, super glued frizzy rainbow hair to his noggin, and pulled his tighty-whities up to his shoulders. Now he’s an official Bozo; drunk and stinky with bad makeup on. The final step was to send him on the next one-way cargo ship to Nigeria with no passport. Now that was enough to get a cackle out of even the Joker... and it would probably be a blessing compared to the time this Bozo is looking at in the slammer.

We thought of leaving a clown fish with him as a souvenir, but decided he wasn’t worth it. Happy trails, Dollar Bill, you're the latest Bozo on The Bozo Bus. Applause, applause, for your wonderful performance! **honk**honk**honk** Good show!!! S

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A big thank you to Colorado Jyms

For those of you paying attention, this blog is pretty new --- less than a week old. I wanted to take a moment to thank Colorado Jyms over at RANT FROM BOULDER (a.k.a. "The Rant") for bringing me into the blog brotherhood and for persuading me to get into this whole thing.

I have lots of thoughts swimming around my head these days, and I'm sure many of the readers do as well. I've been very upset and miffed about the direction this country has gone in the last 6 years, and I've been saddened by the whole scene with the environment and the runaway train it's become.

Not to wallow in a broken record of old wounds, but I think I'm still recovering from the 2004 election, as that was nothing short of a iron boot kick to the nuts, and I've been trying to get up off the floor ever since. As some of my friends on the other side of the aisle probably presume, it's not because "my guy" lost --- as Kerry was never my guy --- it's about what was at stake.

The number and weight of all the problems needing to be addressed can serve as a heavy burden at times, and it's easy to feel helpless. As The Professor Mr. Peart says, "It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit --- it's a far cry from the way we thought we'd share it."

But I don't want to just bitch about things from the bleacher seats --- I want to find solutions to today's problems as well. Maybe there's some readers out there with some ideas to contribute?

Like Jyms mentioned in his blog a few days ago, I too also do this for personal reasons that involve getting my thoughts organized and out on paper. Having a forum for which to express your thoughts, frustrations, and ideas is therapeutic, and it's good to create some discussion. While the focus of this blog is environmental issues --- which will also inevitably canvass subtopics or related topics such as land use, transportation, and energy issues --- I will also make comments or post on The Rant for matters falling farther outside the environmental spectrum, as Jyms has kindly invited me to do so.

I hope that some of you readers out there catch the bug, if you haven't already, and put your passion on paper to start your own blog. I know many of you have it in you --- and like me, just need a little kick in the pants to get started.

So dust off that keyboard, and let those fingers fly! S


Saturday, June 2, 2007

“That’s not who we are.” — Barack Obama

Repeating. "That's not who we are." That was the most memorable moment we came away with from Obama’s campaign fundraiser speech in downtown Seattle yesterday afternoon. It’s a catchy saying that can be applicable in many situations outside of politics. In Obama’s case, he was referring to the stubbornness of the current Administration to maintain the status quo with the continued strategy being applied to Iraq, how the broken health care system has been ignored, the narrow-minded plague that resists our science in matters such as the time sensitivity in taking action with global warming and discoveries through stem cell research. He spoke to a plethora of other issues that the current Administration has left unresolved, broken or ignored in (my opinion) a sea of apathy, disinterest, and a focus on shady backdoor deals as a result of whoring it up with big oil and sectors of corporate America.

He also said: “There’s nothing broken that can’t be fixed.” In his vision of America’s future, Barack Obama sees the country going a different direction (uhhh, I hope so). He sees us leading in the world by example through diplomacy, not through the hasty flexing of military might. He sees a bolstered education system that focuses on the early developmental years of a child. He sees an America that will turn a listening ear to its scientific community for guidance and expertise, and maybe transfer some of those war monies towards the causes and cures they seek—advancements our society so desperately needs.

Obama stated that he recognizes how folks might have lost faith in the American political landscape—and what hope they have left for it. That in mind, I thought he made a good point on our ability to rebound from the horrible track we’re on right now. He figured that if we were able to overcome the shadow of the Cold War—where we all lived under the specter of nuclear annihilation—then we can roll up our sleeves and muster the teamwork to fix a broken health care system. We can end the war in Iraq. We can address global warming through advances in clean fuel technology and make America energy independent, while at the same time essentially creating a new clean energy economic sector—and therefore creating jobs. He covered other subjects and canvassed related details in the same vein.

There were many other angles he covered, the most memorable involving his experience—some of which harkened back to his days where he was a community organizer on Chicago’s south side. He made the comment that the 3.5 years in that capacity and setting was the most educational of his life. Having gone through a parallel work experience myself, I would concur. I’ve always been of the opinion that Obama’s time in Chicago in the early 1980s is the Rosetta Stone to his success as a politician, and will be at the core of his success as President. It’s rare that we get the opportunity to support a candidate who has successfully navigated through this kind of grassroots experience—by choice. Can any of the other candidates add that to their resumes? I believe those who rip Obama for his alleged lack of experience simply haven’t done their homework. I don’t think you can appreciate what that kind of experience means if you haven’t been close to a situation like that—and knowing through my own personal experience what something like that amounts to, I can see how it would be an incredible tool for a President when making decisions in the seat of the Oval Office. With the organizing experience, in addition to the Illinois State Senate and U.S. Senate experience, I fail to see how the "lack of experience argument" is valid or even an issue in the first place. Oh, I almost forgot, this guy is also a professor who taught American politics and history --- and the American Constitution... and hey, maybe he'd actually follow it and not make it up as he goes along.

On that, I think I can go to bed now. Actually it's late, and I've been on busses all day, at political rallies, playing photographer, and putting this all on paper (figuratively).

However... I’m pumped! I’m jazzed! I’m friggin' amped!!! I believe in this man and what he stands for. Hearing him speak, and feeding off his enthusiasm, is a hard thing to describe. I believe we’re in for the unfolding of special events over the next 597 days—as I look at my “Backwards Bush” countdown clock. Obama is the kind of person who shapes the crowd. He believes America can, and should, lead the world rather than follow it. I also believe Barack Obama has the makeup to unite America, help to unite the world, address the issues that are the calling of our times, and help us accomplish the unthinkable. S

Friday, June 1, 2007

It's Obama Day in Seattle!!! Woo-hoo!!!

I’m off to see Barack Obama tonight at Qwest Field downtown. I’m riding METRO, Seattle's public transit system, to avoid traffic and in the spirit of “carbon-friendliness” — as there can’t be too much of that to go around.

Anyway, I’ll let you know how it goes. S