Monday, June 27, 2005

I went to Oregon

I've long been known as someone who dislikes Oregon. Most of these reasons are personal and somewhat illogical so don't expect me to defend my thoughts on this poor state in this blog. Being that I have such disdain for Oregon, it is quite remarkable that I visited our southern neighbor this weekend and had such a wonderful time.

What brought me to Oregon was Larry Norman. I won't pretend you know who he is necessarily so I'll just tell you. He is a singer/songwriter known worldwide for many controversial songs about politics, culture and Christianity. He began performing in the 60's and recorded a very classic album collected by many called Only Visiting this Planet. Many of his songs have been in movies and have been performed by other artists. Larry's popularity in the United States was hampered to some degree by a recording industry that was uncomfortable with the Christian nature of his songs and a Christian music industry in its infancy that was frightened by his outspoken political viewpoints against the Vietnam war and the explicit nature of some of his songs. Apparently Europe has always been able to stomach his music just fine.

Larry performed a farewell concert in his hometown of Salem, Oregon. The venue was the beautiful and impressive Historic Elsinore Theater. I could go on and on about how wonderful this theater is and how proud Salem should be to have it in their town, but that would be another blog all together. Here is their website

Larry's concert was amazing, but I'm a great fan of his and of that era of rock music in general so I won't bore you with tons of details. The concert had an acoustic set, and an a cappella set featuring five members of an African a cappella choir from Liberia, (Larry has been raising awareness for the plight of the people of Liberia) The concert had video intermissions showing Larry's career from television interviews, movie appearances, fan club videos and concert footage from all over the world.

Salem is the capital city of Oregon and there are many government buildings around the city. I'm a big fan of architecture and I am always drawn to buildings that are unusual. Salem had very few unusual buildings but did have a tall old looking brick church just a few blocks from the theater so I went and investigated. As one might imagine the church was on Church Street. Because the Capitol building was just across a few blocks down the cross street was State Street. In short, I was standing at the corner of Church and State. I took this photo with my cell phone to prove it.

After the concert I ate in one of the worst restaurants I've experienced in many decades and slept in a crappy no tell motel by the freeway. I could've chosen better, but there was a dogshow in town and an Eagle's Convention so most of the first pick lodging was taken. Early the next morning I did what I love to do most when I'm in Oregon...leave.

I made some other stops along the way and took more pictures and will probably post again and tell a story about sliding down some slick marble that lined a majestic stairway in the Washington State Capitol building. Everything can be an amusement park if you just put your mind to it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Burn that Flag?

This is one of those issues that it's easy for me to chime in on. Some have asked me what the libertarian viewpoint is on this subject and to be honest, I couldn't tell you. This is probably an area where we are split. This is where I come down on it.

I hate laws that even look like they inhibit free speech. This said, I'm uncomfortable about a constitutional amendment allowing congress to have the authority to determine this issue.

While we're on the subject of comfort let me just explain what makes me even more uncomfortable. I'm uncomfortable with American citizen or people living under the protection of this country burning the flag. They claim it is free speech, but last time I checked...burning something isn't free speech. Speech is speech.

There are certain things you can set on fire which send a message. Some of these messages we like, some of them we ponder, some we label as pure hate.

I think when someone burns a cross and claims that it is free speech, they are guilty of being naive about the clear and distinct message they are sending. The message that is exclaimed by burning a cross should never be protected by law.

In the same way that people celebrate burning man the message is far more abstract. I mean, it's basically a big rave, a modern day hippy celebration. Is burning man something that should be outlawed or is it free speech? Should the DEA at least be nearby ready to make a big bust?

Maybe we burn things because we've become so inarticulate at actually SPEAKING that the only way we can come close to getting across what little is on our minds, is to just light stuff on fire.

When it comes to burning the flag, allow me to propose a happy compromise that is workable for everyone.

Let's not criminalize flag burning. Instead let's make it legal to burn the flag, but also legal for rednecks to kick the ass of anyone they catch doing it. Nothing lethal, just a good beat down. After that the rednecks can go hunting and drink beers and the pinko commie that torched the flag can show off his scars for "the cause."

That's as reasonable as I can hope to be.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Doctors and Pot

When I was younger I remember hearing the expression "You don't have to make a federal issue out of it," meaning of course that they were making a bigger deal out of something than it really was.

This week the Supreme Court thinks that if your Doctor wishes to prescribe marijuana to treat chronic pain, then that is a federal issue.

A handful of states (including my own) have adopted laws allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. In many of these states the issue has gone before the people and approved at the ballot box. Even though each state has their own laws on the drug, the Supreme Court now says that these state laws offer no protection because marijuana is a federally banned substance.

Consider for a moment that banning alcohol required a constitutional amendment. To end prohibition they once again had to amend the constitution to repeal the former amendment. All this fuss to just ban a substance. But now we have banned marijuana without the need for such fuss and now a doctor is not even allowed to prescribe it if they believe that the substance has some medical benefit. Even after the people have voted to legalize it for medical use, their wishes are ignored because of a federal ban imposed by a few.

You can argue all day long about how or if the drug should be prescribed, but I dare you to show me where the constitutional authority comes from to ban it completely. These types of court decisions come from bad law and from the worst kind judicial activism.

...and I thought Republicans hated judicial activism...not when it's their judges.

Friday, June 03, 2005

My brother

I usually refrain from speaking about family or anything more personal than my two dumb cats but I'll break my own rule to write about my brother.

My brother is 13 years older than I am. This age difference really only goes to demonstrate that we did not grow up together. He has movie star looks in the respect that he doesn't look 50 years old at all. I remember it not long ago that someone asked if he was my younger brother...nice.

Our relationship over the years has been stressed by an age difference and typical acceptance issues from parents. Perhaps the biggest factor is that we are really polar opposites. I like sports, he doesn't. I am a musician, he isn't interested in music. I love politics, he just basically knows he hates conservatives. As the years have gone by and our life experiences have increased, I've come to realize we have a few things in common:

We both like cars. While taking our mom to the hospital for a procedure our waiting room became the local auto row. Neither of us wanted to buy a car, but instead we merely wanted look at them. We really just wanted to use the local dealership as our own personal car show. As salesmen came up to hound us and answer questions we weren't asking I noticed that both of us knew more about the cars than they did. We both like cars.

We both can be jerks. I'll admit that when it comes to being a jerk, I can only sit at the feet of my brother and learn. I'm not saying that I don't have my own impressive set of skills, but my brother has an unrelenting stamina and doesn't let little things like social boundaries deter him. I found out this commonality while at the registration desk with my mom. The woman handing my mother all of these forms was telling her information about her insurance that was not correct. The reason we knew this was my brother works in the medical insurance industry and picked out this plan specifically for our mom. So my brother politely corrected her and this is how the conversation went:

Woman: I need you to sign here and confirm that this is a replacement policy.

My mom: Where do I sign?

My brother: It's not a replacement policy it's a supplemental policy.

Woman: I don't think that's correct. This company normally handles replacement policies.

My brother: Just trust me, I know what the policy is; I arranged it for her.

My mom: Where do I sign?

Woman: Well, I'll have to double-check then because this company normally handles replacement policies.

My brother: Saying it over and over again won't make it anymore true.

Woman: Sir, you have to understand that this....

My brother: I'm in the insurance industry, I don't need a lecture from a desk clerk about the policy I picked out for my mother, so just do your job.

Woman: I'll just have to double-check then.

Me: If you're not going to believe him can you just go double-check and quit giving us a bunch of grief about it? Geez lady get your act together.

Woman: Exits with fear in her eyes

My brother: Looks like she didn't realize she was facing both barrels.

My mom: I wouldn't wish you two on anyone. It's her fault; she wouldn't listen.

We both can be jerks.

I live pretty closely to my brother and we actually share a great deal of time together. There are times where I prefer his company to anyone else. This is an amazing development given our history.

In the last couple of years my brother has given me advice, friendship and has demonstrated that while I have a great devotion and willingness to care for our mom...his devotion is even greater. And best of all...we're both jerks.