The Oracle

by Steve, January 30th, 2009

I was a lesser incarnation of myself when I stumbled upon the Oracle. But this was not clear at the time, obviously.

We were in a labyrinth, we being me and some other, whose identity also was not clear at the time, when we came across him.

“You could have left when you were fifteen,” said the Oracle to me.

My companion gave me a puzzled look. “Left?” he said.

“Died. I could have died,” I said, knowing what he meant, but not recalling any particularly harrowing incidents from my youth.

“But you did something to the control panel,” continued the Oracle. “We have photographic evidence.”

“When did I do this?” I asked.

“When you were 42.”

My companion was even more confused. “But he’s 41 now. How could he be 42 when he changed something for when he was 15?”

I looked at him and explained: “I changed the time stream. It’s infinitely variable, you know.”

“But how does he know all this?”

“He is me, he is us,” I explained somehow. Maybe I didn’t say it. Maybe I just thought it. My companion couldn’t understand. I understood myself, but just barely.

I tried to puzzle through it as my companion was addressing the Oracle. “When can I see you?” he asked. “Can I see you in my dreams? Am I dreaming now?”

The Oracle ignored him, and kept his gaze fixed on mine. I was thinking of why I would have chosen to stay on this level of existence, evidently 27 years longer than I needed to.

Suddenly I spoke, without forethought. “I’m addicted to the pleasures of the flesh, ” I said, as if to justify having overstayed my time. Images of women flashed through my head.

“Of course,” scoffed the Oracle. He turned and faded from view.

Soon all that was left of him was a hazy, flickering mist, which suddenly compressed on itself with a pop and disappeared completely.

My companion eyed me suspiciously. “Who are we?” He asked. “What was that? What the hell was he talking about?”

I smiled as the line of an old song went through my head: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”

He’d understand sometime, but not today. I turned and left.

Prudes v. Adams

by Steve, January 29th, 2009

Some of the prudes, Victorians and hypocrites, who, as evidenced by their statements, obviously want to turn back the clock on sexual liberty:

  • The editorial board of Just Out: “By his own admission, by committing the act of lying to the citizens of Portland, Adams has failed to show the principled character that this publication feels is a basic requirement for an elected official.”
  • Jeana Frazzini, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, as quoted in Willamette Week: “We condemn what he did, but we support him going forward.”
  • Oregonian columnist Anna Griffin, as quoted by Byron Beck in Willamette Week: “Way to go, Sam. Way to play into the stereotype.”
  • Dan Savage in the Stranger, July 2008 (tip o’ the hat to Matt Davis): “Gay men in their 30s and 40s who will date teenage boys are almost always scum….”
  • Mark Wiener, quoted in Time: “I believe what I said was, ‘You’re a f___ing moron,’” says Wiener. “I was, and am, pissed and saddened by it.”

“…detached from reality”

by Steve, January 25th, 2009

That’s how Commissioner Randy Leonard describes Mayor Sam Adams, who declared today that he will soldier on as mayor, shortly after the Oregonian broke the news that his relations with Beau Breedlove were closer to the thin blue line than previously reported.

Adams should understand that his political future depends much more on what guys like Leonard think than the thoughts of court musician Thomas Lauderdale, Breedlove’s attorney Charles Hinkle (“…if he committed a crime by having sex with a boy two months shy of his 18th birthday, that is not a crime that looms large in the history of mankind”) or one-time reality TV star Storm Large (who tells us she’s “kind of a big deal”). Or Dan Savage (described by Kevin on Wacky Mommy’s blog as “the aging sex columnist who parachuted in from Seattle like Al Sharpton”).

Or Gus van Sant. (“The only people in this town who still want to think that 40 something gay guys screwing teenagers is hot made Mala Noche,” says Rose on Wacky Mommy, who also wonders whether Michael Stoops and Walt Curtis will step forward with their support and reminds us of “Portland’s sordid history of chickenhawks, from our heyday as the country’s boy prostitute capital in the early 1980s to how we treat gay pedophilia with our glitterati with a wink and a nudge.”)

Of course, if you are the parent of a teenager, or if you think maybe a the most powerful gay man in the state just maybe oughta have avoided playing so strongly to the stereotype, you must be a hysterical prude. A Victorian, I say! Why, you must want to turn back the clock on all the advances we’ve made in society for middle-aged men who love teens! (Never mind that Sam Adams himself has brought tremendous shame to the gay community, and that Just Out, the state’s largest gay newspaper, was among the first voices calling for his resignation.)

The outcry from Sam’s crowd of extended-adolescence admirers has been nearly deafening. They want desperately for this to be about sex and sexuality, which gives them what they humorously think to be the moral high ground. As long as it’s about sex, those who talk about honesty, loyalty and — heaven forbid — getting work done are just bigots and prudes.

Tell that to Randy Leonard, the guy Adams has thoroughly snaked. Adams leaned heavily on Leonard when the rumors of his affair with the young intern first broke, and Leonard bestowed his own credibility on Adams’ mayoral campaign.

So instead of giving a shit what middle aged men who romanticize sex with teenagers (van Sant, Savage) or local pop stars (Large) or cocktail pianists (Lauderdale) have to say about things, we should be asking how Sam’s patrons like their chances now that their man will not have the trust and implicit backing of his colleagues on the council (Dan Saltzman is alone in his unconditional support, Amanda Fritz has backed down after earlier support, and Nick Fish seems disinclined to put his name on the line for Adams).

How does Michael Powell like his chances of having his Burnside Couch couplet/streetcar dream fast-tracked now? How are the Naitos and Edlens and Williamses and Walshes feeling about their subsidized “green” development plans under a hobbled Adams administration?

Tell them this is about sex.

My cautious optimism about Adams’ education agenda has been all but dashed. Seriously… who won’t be distracted now when Adams talks about helping more high school students graduate on time?

Having no direct control over any educational institutions in this city, all Adams has to go on is his name. When it comes to improving opportunities for disadvantaged teens, that name isn’t going to be one many people want associated with the cause now.

Tell me this is about sex, as my hope of a mayor pressing the school board for meaningful, progressive changes in our schools evaporates.

Randy Leonard has made it pretty clear that his trust was betrayed by Sam Adams, and it doesn’t seem likely there’s much that will repair that relationship. This means that this will be more than a distraction when it comes to getting the city’s business taken care of. If Adams thinks that’s what’s best for Portland, I believe he’s mistaken.

Sam’s supporters fight back

by Steve, January 22nd, 2009

Say what you will about Sam Adams, he’s got a lot of friends and supporters. I have never been one of them; I’ve always considered Adams to be overly-motivated by personal ambition, and in the pocket of Portland’s real estate developer mafia.

So I see this scandal in the light of somebody who wanted to advance his career so badly, he was willing to lie publicly and vociferously, and coach others to do so, too, regardless of whom those lies may have hurt.

Like I said in my initial reaction, this isn’t about sex, it’s about the cover-up. Sam’s supporters want to make this about sex and sexuality, which would make this whole thing a sanctimonious, Victorian which hunt.

The Web site Sam Is Still My Mayor couches it like this:

  1. Consensual sex between adults does not impact one’s ability to serve in public office;
  2. The personal affairs of gay officials face a level of scrutiny that is not equal to that of their heterosexual counterparts;
  3. We acknowledge Sam Adams’s dishonesty in this matter and do not endorse it;
  4. Sam Adams is the person we want to lead our city.

I can agree with number one, to the extent that the law is very clear on this. But since the matter is still under investigation, we don’t know the facts. But this is not just about law, it’s also about ethical judgement.

The issue is clouded by the fact that even if Sam waited until Breedlove was 18 and legal, he may have groomed him for sex when he was a minor. At the very least, even if legal, this shows a colossal lack of ethical judgment. This is not a question of sex, it is a question of use (or abuse) of power and position for personal gratification.

Number two is easily dismissed. How about Packwood? Goldschmidt? Clinton? In Clinton’s case, there was no question that the relationship was between consenting adults, yet he was nearly hounded out of office for it. (Packwood and Goldschmidt clearly engaged in criminal activities.) How is Adams facing a higher level of scrutiny?

If Tom Potter had befriended a high school girl, had sex with her as soon as she turned 18, then lied about it, coached her to lie about it, and engaged political allies to defend him at the outset of his mayoral campaign, would we have given him a pass when the truth came out? Would we be saying things like “some young women seek out older men for sex” or “consensual sex between adults does not impact one’s ability to serve in public office”?

Acknowledging Adams’ dishonesty and refusing to endorse it is a cop out. How about addressing how this may impact his ability to lead the city? What about coaching Breedlove to lie? Abusing the loyalty of Randy Leonard? Smearing opponents as homophobes? Trashing the trust of the LGBT community?

Finally, Sam was never the guy I wanted to lead our city. His sense of inevitability as our next mayor was distasteful to me, as was his predilection for high-end, glitzy development in the central city, while poor neighborhoods lack basic services and infrastructure like paved streets and sidewalks.

But I was willing to work with him. I was cautiously optimistic about his 100 days plan, and met with his education team last Friday to discuss how his education agenda relates to the work I’m doing with Portland Public Schools. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to see much progress on that now.

Fill-in-the-blank, Portland style

by Steve, January 20th, 2009

Bob Packwood

  • Offense: sexual abuse and assault, cover-up.
  • Cover-up aided by: The Oregonian
  • Story broken by: The Washington Post, November 1992
  • Outcome: resignation in disgrace from the US Senate after a unanimous Senate Ethics Committee vote to expel him

Neil Goldschmidt

  • Offense: statutory rape, cover-up.
  • Cover-up aided by: The Oregonian
  • Story broken by: Willamette Week, May 2004
  • Outcome: far-reaching public disgrace and resignation from life as a public figure

________________________

  • Offense: sexual impropriety, cover-up
  • Cover-up aided by: The Mercury (whose former news editor took a job with the administration)
  • Story broken by: Willamette Week, January 2009
  • Outcome: ________________________________

This has nothing to do with Sam Adams being gay, obviously.

This story is about powerful men from Oregon who can’t keep their dicks in their pants, and the local newspapers who protect them.

Atheists, welcome. Socialists? Not so much.

by Steve, January 20th, 2009

politicsI should be thrilled, as an atheist, to be on President Obama’s short list: “Christians and Muslims. Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.” Seriously. For all the God goin’ around today (some of it a tad — ahem — intolerant), I was surprised to get an atheist shout-out. (As for my Sikh, Buddhist, Wiccan, Pagan, Confucianist, Shintoist, Jainist, Bahá’í, and agnostic brothers and sisters, they may not feel so special being grouped in with us non-believers.)

Less surprising was President Obama’s ode to the market and its “power to generate wealth and expand freedom.”

Well, it’s sure provided the idle rich with a lot more wealth and freedom over the past 30 years, but any student of economics knows the market doesn’t create wealth. It merely distributes wealth, which is created from capital and raw materials by human labor. The market has proven itself very adept at the upward redistribution of wealth from those who create it to those who finance it.

Obama’s proposed trillion dollar (we all know it’ll get there) stimulus plan is a bastard child of New Deal-style public works investment and Reagan-era trickle down (better-termed “shovel up”) economics.

Them rich capitalist bastards don’t need any damned retro-active tax breaks. In fact, we need to levy a wealth tax on their accumulated capital, and use it to finance even more public investment. The kind that not only builds roads and schools, but also reinforces our tattered social safety net with universal cradle-to-grave health care.

Don’t get me wrong, folks. I’ve been doing the happy dance all day, ‘cuz George W. Bush went riding off into the sunset today, and the election of Barack Hussein Obama II is undoubtedly one of the most important milestones in our nation’s history. His suspension of the kangaroo court at Gitmo is a significant ray of hope, even as he continues the jingoistic talk of being “at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”

(The notion of a “war on violence” is more ironic than a “war on terror” is risible, and equally absurd, isn’t it?)

Sam Adams: It’s not the crime…

by Steve, January 20th, 2009

…it’s the cover-up.

Also, it’s not about sex, it’s about power.

Randy Leonard says this wouldn’t be an issue if Adams weren’t gay.

Evidently, he never heard about “that woman.”

That’s all I’ve got to say about it for now.

Let us pray

by Steve, January 20th, 2009

There are about 2% of Americans who are homosexual or gay and lesbian people. We should not let 2% of the population change the definition of marriage.

This is not even just a Christian issue. It’s a humanitarian and human issue.

Pastor Rick Warren, in support of California’s Prop. 8

Clinton waited until he was sworn in before pissing of the LGBT community members who helped elect him. Obama went ahead and did it before being sworn in.

Huh.

Aretha almost makes up for it. Almost.

How about a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Mr. President?

For those who fetishize consensus

by Steve, January 19th, 2009

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I do not determine what is right and wrong by looking at the budget of my organization or by taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion. Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

–Martin Luther King, Jr., in his speech “Domestic impact of the war”, National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace, November 1967

Portland rallies for the people of Gaza

by Steve, January 9th, 2009

warI have been completely unable to take in, process and write about what’s going on in Gaza right now. Juan Cole, as usual, has expert analysis on his blog, as well as on Salon.

If you know nothing else about this carnage, know that your tax money is going to slaughter women, children, and the elderly. This is not “fighting”, as they keep saying on NPR, this is a massacre.

Cease fire now!

Protest the attacks on Gaza, 11 am – 1 pm Saturday, January 10, NE 13th and Broadway in Portland.

Demonstration against the Israeli attacks on Palestinians

3 pm, January 10, Pioneer Courthouse Square

Called for by Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, Sabeel North America, American Jews for a Just Peace and other organizations. For further information, contact Hala Gores at Hala@goreslaw.com or (503)307-9339 or Peter Miller at Pmiller@auphr.org or (503)358-7475.