Why I live in Oregon

by Steve, March 26th, 2006

photosSince becoming a dad, I haven’t spent nearly enough time appreciating the glory of nature around Portland. The kids, suddenly, are old enough to actually want to go out and hike. When did this happen? Now they can’t get enough.

Oneanta Gorge

So last weekend, the whole wacky family packed it up and headed up to the Columbia Gorge and saw some waterfalls and did some nice little kid friendly hikes. It’s a truly spectacular place, with giant waterfalls, monolithic rock outcroppings, and the immensity of the Columbia River. (Click on thumbnails for larger views.)

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Zamboni Blues

by Steve, March 22nd, 2006

hockey postWell I went down to the local arena
Asked to see the manager man
He came from his office, said, “Son can I help you?”
I looked at him and said, “Yes you can…”

I want to Drive the Zamboni…hey
I want to Drive the Zamboni…Yes I do!

—Zamboni Song by the Gear Daddies

As if I needed proof of the old adage that life is better with a Zamboni than without one, I got to the old rink today for my lunch hour pick up hockey to discover the Zamboni (actually an Olympia) had blown an intake manifold.

“No ice cut today!” said Swede. Well, how bad can it be, I’m thinking to myself. “Pond hockey!” says Swede. Zamboni

Indeed. The ice is so clouded, the lines have been hidden for months. And the Zamboni broke down last night (not this morning), so we weren’t talking about a few little scratches from the ice dancers this morning, but the gravel and snow that’s left after a hockey game. The only thing missing were carp frozen in the ice. Swede said it sounded like a gunshot to his head when the thing blew.

They’re closed tomorrow for “building repairs,” which means they’re going to keep the roof beams from falling off their concrete pillars. Well, that’s good. I guess it means they’re not going to condemn the old barn and bulldoze it. So I asked Swede if he was going to take the day to shave down the ice. Nope, they’re going to have all kinds of heavy equipment out there. So we’ll be skating without lines for some time to come. But at least we’ll have the Zamboni back.

Harkin gets it right (again)

by Steve, March 16th, 2006

politicsTom Harkin has posted this statement on his Web site in support of Feingold’s censure:

We have a President who likes to break things. He has broken the federal budget, running up $3 trillion in new debt. He has broken the Geneva Conventions, giving the green light to torture. He has repeatedly broken promises—and broken faith—with the American people. And now, worst of all, he has broken the law.

In brazen violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), he ordered the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless wiretaps of American citizens. And, despite getting caught red-handed, he refuses to stop.

Let’s be clear: No American—and that must include the President—is above the law. And if we fail to hold Bush to account, then he will be confirmed in his conviction that he can pick and choose among the laws he wants to obey. This is profoundly dangerous to our democracy.

So it is time for Congress to stand up and say enough! That’s why, this week, Senator Russ Feingold proposed a resolution to censure George W. Bush for breaking the FISA law. And that’s why I fully support this resolution of censure.

Nothing is more important to me than the security of our country. Of course, we need to be listening to the terrorists’ conversations. And sometimes there is not time to get a warrant. That’s why the FISA law allows the President, when necessary, to wiretap first, and obtain a warrant afterward. But that’s not acceptable to this above-the-law President. He rejects the idea that he should have to obtain a warrant before or after wiretapping.

We have an out-of-control President whose arrogant and, now, illegal behavior is running our country into the ditch. It’s time to rein him in. And a fine place to start is by passing this resolution of censure. I hope that Senator Feingold’s measure will be brought to the floor. And when it is, I will proudly vote yes.

Feingold sticks to his guns

by Steve, March 14th, 2006

politicsWhile the Democratic right slinks in the shadows and sends minions out to issue statements critical of Russ Feingold, Feingold shoots back. Feingold to Fox News’ Trish Turner:

I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide. … Too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues. … [Democrats shouldn't] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question the administration, you’re helping the terrorists.

Feingold 2008?

by Steve, March 13th, 2006

politicsRuss Feingold continues to tug and pull at the Democratic right, attempting to shine the spotlight on the 800 pound gorilla in the room: The President of the United States broke the law, and continues to break the law, violating fundamental constitutional rights, while the Democrats finish their posturing as tough on national security vis a vis the bogus security issue of Dubai and wait for the Republicans to take the lead on the next Bush stumble.

Even with the Republican party wallowing in scandal (Abramof-gate, Plame-gate), open revolt among the ranks (the religious right on Harriet Meirs, congressional GOPers on Dubai, George F. Will, Wm. F. Buckley, and a growing list of neo-cons opposing the war, etc. etc.), Cheney shooting a guy in the head and chest, and the worst polling numbers since Nixon, even with all that, the Democrats aren’t willing to take the opening and define a new message.

Only Russ Feingold is willing to stand alone (again), this time calling for Censure of Bush for the NSA’s domestic spying.

As predictable as the Republican’s response was, it was most galling to see the Democratic response—or lack thereof. So far only Tom Harkin and Russ Feingold seem to be willing to define a leading edge of a more assertively dovish, civil-libertarian policy package to counter the insane, fear-based myth of a national security state offered by the Republicans (and willingly abetted by the Dems).

I’m still waiting for the putative ’08 Dems (Hillary? JFKerry? Obama?!?) to take a clear constitutional case against the Eternal Warfare and Surveilence State. Right now I’m wondering if the Dems can even take back a single house of Congress. Even as the Republicans themselves abondon that profligate wastrel son-of-a-Bush, how can the party of FDR have become nothing but a echo chamber of the Republican party, only challenging the President when the Republicans do first?

I smell a weak showing in ’06 and defeat in ’08 without stronger leadership on every issue, but especially civil liberties and peace (both prime political openings and righteous issues). Hopefully Russ Feingold will start a trend.

Zero tolerance for the playoffs

by Steve, March 9th, 2006

hockeyZero tolerance, the calling of all infractions regardless of the situation, is here to stay in the NHL, even as we head down the playoff stretch. So say NHL hockey operations vice-president Mike Murphy and league officiating director Stephen Walkom in an article in Slam! Sports:

“Our motto is to stay the course and the playoff intensity will still be there,” Walkom said. “I don’t look at just one game. I’m very pleased at the way the guys have called it all year. The players dictate whether there will be a lot of calls or not.”

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Tom Harkin leads the pack

by Steve, March 6th, 2006

As the first Senator to call the situation in Iraq a civil war, could Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin be at the fore of a new attitude among the dems going into the mid-term elections? From the Des Moines Register:

“I’m firmly convinced now, after all this time, that it really is a civil war,” Harkin said.

The senator, an opponent of the war, said the only solution to the surge of sectarian violence is to begin withdrawing U.S. forces.

“You keep hoping for the best,” Harkin said. “And then after a while you say, wait a minute, this isn’t working. This isn’t working.”

The White House responded with their stock answer: “We would undermine the morale of our troops by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed….To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness.”

Right… to honor those who have died (for a lie), we should make sure more die (so that we don’t hurt troop morale). Do they really believe there are soldiers on the ground in Iraq who wouldn’t rather be home with their families?

Chicken-shit dems

by Steve, March 3rd, 2006

politicsI’d list the chicken shit dems in the Senate who voted to extend Bush’s Patriot Act, but the list is too long. Instead here are the few that voted against it:

Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold (of course)
Hawaii’s Daniel Akaka
New Mexico’s Jeff Bingaman
West Virginia’s Robert Byrd
Iowa’s Tom Harkin
Vermont’s Patrick Leahy
Michigan’s Carl Levin
Washington’s Patty Murray
Oregon’s Ron Wyden.

Vermont’s independent Senator Jim Jeffords voted against, too; Hawaii’s Daniel Inouye was absent. All republicans voted for reauthorization.

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Now comes George F. Will

by Steve, March 2nd, 2006

politicsWhy is it that the message of dissent on Iraq from conservative quarters is so much more coherent than anything from the “left”? (Is there now or has there ever really been an American left? Bernard-Henri L�vy tosses that question around in the February 27, 2006 issue of The Nation.)

To wit, George F. Will in today’s Washington Post (free subscription required):

Last week, in the latest iteration of a familiar speech (the enemy is “brutal,” “we’re on the offensive,” “freedom is on the march”) that should be retired, the president said, “This is a moment of choosing for the Iraqi people.” Meaning what? Who is to choose, and by what mechanism? Most Iraqis already “chose” — meaning prefer — peace….

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Only four…

by Steve, March 1st, 2006

politicsOnly four senators have stood up to defend the constitution today. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Tom Harkin of Iowa, all Democrats, and James Jeffords, an independent from Vermont. Everybody else in that august body (with the exception of Inouye, who did not vote) voted yes on an extremely weak compromise ammendment to the Patriot act “meant to clarify the rights of people under surveillance and to further limit the government’s ability to scrutinize library records,” according to the Times.

The San Jose Mercury News quoted Feingold:

“If Democrats can’t stand up on something like this when the president’s poll numbers are 34 percent, I just wonder how much right we have to govern this country,” Feingold said in an interview Tuesday. “You’ve got to show people you believe in something, not just that you’re gaming the issues.”

Feingold protested the “cosmetic” nature of the reform by reading the constitution (with emphasis on the Fourth Amendment) to his colleagues.