Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

The Prince of Peace has come to bring peace in men's hearts. The Prince of Peace will come again to bring peace to the world. Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6)

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Oregonian Vendetta

The Oregonian has its claws out again. One of its arch-enemies, Bill Sizemore, has won a court ruling, and the Oregonian just can’t stand it. Grabbing for any weapon at hand it compares Sizemore to O. J. Simpson.

In 1997 a California jury found O.J. Simpson liable in the stabbing deaths of his ex-wife and a man she was with, but Simpson got out of paying the $33.5 million civil judgment.

If that was a victory for him, it was a perverse one. And that's pretty much how Oregonians ought to look at the courtroom victory claimed by initiative peddler Bill Sizemore last week.

You know people have lost their rational balance when they rate a murderer who has stabbed two people to death and an “initiative peddler” not indicted or convicted of a criminal offense as somehow equivalent.

Here’s how the Oregonian describes Sizemore’s heinous acts in comparison to O.J.’s:

Let the man have his victory lap, but don't forget what he and his sham operation did. A Multnomah County civil jury concluded that they had forged petition signatures and falsified financial statements that are required from political action committees.
[emphasis mine]

Mind you this is a civil verdict. Sizemore hasn’t been convicted of criminal activity--which says something about the nature of the evidence since forging and falsifying are criminal acts. But, to the Oregonian, Sizemore is Oregon’s O. J., worthy of a vendetta, and to be hounded to his dying breath whether he wins a judicial verdict or dares to sponsor a measure.

The Oregonian had a tough time this last election because “initiative peddler” Sizemore introduced one of only two measures the Oregonian supported (Measure 42). And the Oregonian ground its teeth and searched high and low for anyone--anyone--it could praise for the measure rather than Sizemore. It finally found an organization that didn’t even go to the trouble of plunking down a measly $500 for a statement of support in the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet, but did, in principle, support that sort of thing.

Just another reason to take Oregonian fulminating with a grain of salt--or a big dose of antacid.

Friday, December 08, 2006

President Carter’s Woes

Poor former President Jimmy Carter. His one term presidency and low marks for presidential accomplishments have been an albatross for decades.

He wasn’t listened to in the Reagan or Bush Sr. years because people still clearly remembered his ineptness in national (energy crisis/inflation/high interest rates) and foreign policy (Iran hostages). He wasn’t listened to in the Clinton years because President Clinton was a Democrat and popular within the party and with the American people.

So during those years, Carter worked on his image with projects like habitat for humanity, helping to monitor foreign elections, and peace missions. And his personal stature rose.

But, the temptation to leave a positive political legacy to overshadow his poor presidential legacy was too powerful to resist. Contrary to the tradition of former presidents, Carter began speaking out more and more on political issues--made easier when a Republican president took office in 2000.

However, after years of being listened to with rapt attention by a mostly adoring press, Carter now sees “troubling” blocks--especially by Jews--to his access to readers and listeners:

Although I have spent only a week or so on a book tour so far, it is already possible to judge public and media reaction. Sales are brisk, and I have had interesting interviews on TV, including "Larry King Live," "Hardball," "Meet the Press," "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," the "Charlie Rose" show, C-SPAN and others. But I have seen few news stories in major newspapers about what I have written.

Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organizations who would be unlikely to visit the occupied territories, and their primary criticism is that the book is anti-Israel. Two members of Congress have been publicly critical. Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for instance, issued a statement (before the book was published) saying that "he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel." Some reviews posted on call me "anti-Semitic," and others accuse the book of "lies" and "distortions." A former Carter Center fellow has taken issue with it, and Alan Dershowitz called the book's title "indecent."
. . .
My most troubling experience has been the rejection of my offers to speak, for free, about the book on university campuses with high Jewish enrollment and to answer questions from students and professors.

[emphasis mine]

Worse yet, his current book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, is drawing fire--and not from partisans on the other side. This time criticism is coming from key Clinton figures, Democratic and black leaders, and even former supporters of Carter. They are not only critical of Carter's ideas, but of how he manipulates and distorts facts.

A long-time friend, former aide and collaborator on Middle East affairs, Kenneth Stein, professor of Middle Eastern history at Emory University, went so far as to resign his position as a fellow at the Carter Center. In stark terms he described his dismay at Carter’s lack of integrity in a number of areas.

President Carter's book on the Middle East, a title too inflammatory to even print, is not based on unvarnished analyses; it is replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments.

Aside from the one-sided nature of the book, meant to provoke, there are recollections cited from meetings where I was the third person in the room, and my notes of those meetings show little similarity to points claimed in the book.

Being a former President does not give one a unique privilege to invent information or to unpack it with cuts, deftly slanted to provide a particular outlook. Having little access to Arabic and Hebrew sources, I believe, clearly handicapped his understanding and analyses of how history has unfolded over the last decade.

Falsehoods, if repeated often enough become meta-truths, and they then can become the erroneous baseline for shaping and reinforcing attitudes and for policy-making. The history and interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is already drowning in half-truths, suppositions, and self-serving myths; more are not necessary. In due course, I shall detail these points and reflect on their origins.

It’s sad to see former President Carter damage his integrity and reputation crafted through decades of work. And now all that work and acclaim whirling down the drain.

There’s a saying that it’s best not to give advice when it’s not asked for. Maybe that’s why former presidents have a long tradition of staying away from political pronouncements. When you ignore the path that your predecessors have blazed, it’s easy to fall in the mud. Even worse is to blame critics, Jews and newspapers for your predicament. Poor President Carter.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Portland--Not Elderly or Handicap Friendly

Steve Duin's column yesterday ended with an interesting observation.

Schumacher is loath to admit the protesters wore him down and are driving him out of town. I don't think it's a victory worth savoring, but I know it's not a major defeat for the downtown's retail reputation. The aging generation that draped itself in fox and mink may be souring on the city center, but their sons and daughters are finding plenty of other downtown diversions.
[emphasis mine]

I speak from personal experience of parents who are elderly and a brother with multiple handicaps. Portland is not a friendly city to people who have physical weaknesses--irrespective of whether they buy spendy garments, jewelry, cars or the like. And my family doesn't.

My parents will not go downtown. Duin makes fun of Gregg Schumacher's observation that Portland is not safe for people to shop in because of "musicians on the street".

The musicians on the street?

You mean, when the Santa Claus at Southwest 10th Avenue and Morrison Street pointed a trumpet at me, the damn thing was loaded? With something more than a melody as crisp as the November morning?

You mean something other than the cold explained the blood on the callused fingertips of Jesse Brandon, the 24-year-old whalin' on his Kona guitar beneath the eaves of the downtown Nordstrom store?

Duin looks fairly robust in his photo. I'm assuming he doesn't have trouble walking, or even running. Which is probably why he doesn't think about the people who do have trouble with mobility around obstacles. Impediments on the sidewalk are a real danger to some elderly and handicapped people--even if the impediment plays a musical instrument.

I've always enjoyed street musicians. I can walk around them rapidly and easily. Steve Duin apparently can too. But if Portland is a city only the vigorous and strong feel comfortable in, it's not much of a city. The real test of a city is how it treats its weakest members.

Portland is real friendly to the quick and the strong. You gotta have good reflexes to even drive downtown--with bicyclists and pedestrians ignoring traffic laws. I don't mind. I've lived in and driven in a major world city where Formula 1 drivers have honed their skills as young drivers. But, people with regular driving skills have to be on super-alert in downtown Portland.

It's even worse for pedestrians. Not only impediments on the sidewalks, like street musicians, but aggressive panhandlers and not-so peaceful demonstrators are tolerated without a second thought. The old adage "Your free speech ends where my nose begins" doesn't apply to the aged or handicapped in Portland.

Portland has had poor marks on this for a number of years. The Schumacher incident just underlines the point. And my parents have gotten the point. They avoid downtown Portland like the plague. It is a real, physical danger to them. And apparently the Mayor, City Councilmen and Steve Duin aren't that concerned. They don't have much trouble in downtown Portland, so why worry about those who do? After all,

Nor were there any complaints from Wendy Fouts and Betsy Jones at Binyon's Eye World, just to the west of Schumacher's. The two women love working downtown and the more cosmopolitan customers who shop there, none of whom, they said, has ever complained about the anti-fur demonstrations or safety concerns.

Are they on their guard while waiting for the bus at night? Of course they are. That's life in the big city.
[emphasis mine]

If that's the kind of big city you allow, that's the kind of big city you will have. New York decided it wanted to reverse that trend (obviously a worse situation there, but a much bigger city too).

When will Portland's leaders decide they want to reverse the trend here so that the elderly and handicapped will once again feel welcomed in downtown Portland?