Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Price of Fame

This past weekend, I read plenty of articles on the Huffington Post about Michael Jackson's death as well as remembrances by Deepak and his son Gotham Chopra, and others. There was one lengthy article from a British newspaper that was particularly revealing. The journalist who wrote that article claims that greedy bankers are the primary ones to blame for Michael Jackson's death. The article was pretty fair in its assessment of Michael Jackson (not glossing over his dark side). The descriptions fit what we pretty much know about the singer: after his 2003 molestation trial and acquittal, he pretty much was a broken man. He left the country to be a guest with a wealthy Arab from Bahrain, who ended up suing Michael Jackson for living expenses (Michael claimed that he believed the offer was a gift).

Anyone who has seen Martin Bashir's damning documentary on the superstar can well remember the scene of Michael in an expensive store in Las Vegas after hours, pointing at objects he wanted to buy. It was shocking in its extravagence and taste. Why would he want stuff like that? That was a major problem for him. His lifestyle simply became too expensive to maintain and he wasn't selling music like he was in the 1980s. Not only did he buy a lot of expensive and unnecessary baubles to fill his mansions, he would rent entire floors in Las Vegas casinos, despite his having a Neverland Ranch to maintain (with the assorted employees and security details, not to mention amusement park operations).

It has been known for years that Michael Jackson was in serious financial trouble. And the trouble with being so super-wealthy with mega-mansions galore is that they are notoriously hard to sell because very few people could afford what he might be asking for.

According to the article, financiers who are trying to deal with Jackson's debt came up with a plan to have a series of 50 concerts at London's O2 Arena starting in July and running through March 2010. Jackson apparently claimed to have agreed to 10, but was pushed into accepting 50. The journalist found this baffling as it was common knowledge that Jackson has been sick for sometime and could no longer sing. That wasn't a problem, because the high tech stadium was equipped for lip synching. All Michael had to do was dance and people would pay hundreds of dollars to see one of his last shows. The concerts were to be called "This Is It." How prophetic!

Getting back into shape and rehearsing the show proved too much for him. He was in a lot of pain and had to use a variety of drugs daily just to cope. There is speculation that Jackson knew his talent was gone and he didn't want to expose that fact to his fans, so death might have been a blessing for him. However, I think there ought to be investigations into the entire deal that was set up. Who was involved? What did they know? What was their intent?

I've read some comments online by people discussing that article and it was interesting to read some ideas thrown around. Basically, many people don't seem surprised at the way music execs behave. Its all about their greed and Michael was their Goose who laid the golden eggs. It wouldn't surprise me if someone who arranged this deal knew that having to perform these concerts would eventually kill Michael Jackson, who will still make money in death. Because of the amount of money the record company will earn on sales of his music, at least now they won't have a high spending Michael Jackson to pay. More money for them! Well...if it is true that greedy people pushed Michael into accepting this performance gig in the hopes that he would die so that they can have his assets for themselves, they might be the ones who will be in danger of going to hell someday. It is wrong to leach off of a talented artist like that.

Michael Jackson is not the only person who was screwed out of what's rightfully his. In the 1990s, Prince went through the same thing of wanting the freedom to create his own music and reap most of the profits. George Michael and Madonna also had the same fight with their record companies. This past weekend, I watched Great Balls of Fire for the first time in 20 years. I forgot about how good it was (I love biopics, what can I say?). Even Jerry Lee Lewis and many of his musical peers from that era of rock n' roll's beginning were ripped off by their record companies. Is it right that some no-talent business person gets so much of the creative artist's earnings? Don't they realize what leeches they are?

Its funny that many people desire fame, especially in today's "reality" show environment. There's a huge cost to fame that many don't consider. In Gotham Chopra's essay about his friendship with the King of Pop, he said that Michael seemed to envy his easy ability to hang out with his friends in public without strangers and fans noticing him. Another article I read indicated that Michael spent his entire life trying to recreate a normal childhood for himself and the author reflected on the irony of that. It kind of makes you think of Citizen Kane and the mystery surrounding "Rosebud." They have anything they desire, yet its not enough. Sometimes, the simplest thing matters the most.

During the 2003 molestation trial, a few of us would talk about it at work. When I made critical comments about Michael, one lady would always defend him and claim that I was jealous of Michael Jackson. Jealous? I nearly laughed. She did not know me at all. There is no way in hell that I'd want his fame. His whole life testifies to a deep-rooted unhappiness that all the money and fame in the world could not solve. There is something to be said about living a normal life.

In honesty, though, there was a time when I did want to be famous. Back in high school, I often thought of fame as a fantasy game. I saw it as a solution to not being part of the "in" crowd or being rejected for dates. Fame would be a perfect revenge. A look at me now kind of thing to show all those who were mean or indifferent that they made a huge mistake not being friends with me. Yes, at that time, I did desire to be famous one day. Then something happened. I graduated high school. The shallow superficial people were out of my life. And I did my own thing and racked up some amazing experiences in my young adulthood.

I even got a taste of fame. Granted, it was very small, but it was enough. When I lived in La Maddalena, Sardinia, I happened to be assigned to Submarine Squadron 22. I was actually part of ship's company (the USS ORION), but because they needed a Yeoman and I happened to be arriving to the ship as the Squadron's Command Master Chief was heading out for an evening on the town, it was serendipitous luck. However, it came at a cost. One Yeoman was already set to be assigned to Squadron but because I had arrived, it didn't make sense to have to train me while he would be trained in Squadron. I think he hated me for taking his job, but it wasn't like I knew the difference between the two commands. I'd learn soon enough. To this day, Squadron 22 is the best place I've ever worked. I mostly worked with Chief Petty Officers and Officers. Only a few E-6 and below worked there. I think we could all be counted on one hand.

Because of my job, I was well known among the Americans who lived in La Maddalena. I think the town had 13,000 Italian residents and 2,000 American servicemembers (not sure how many additional Americans in terms of dependents). So, my fame was limited to the 2,000 member community. Anyhow, I couldn't go anywhere without people knowing who I was and where I worked. It proved embarrassing when I didn't know the person's name or where he worked, yet he knew a lot about me. When the next ship replaced the ORION, it had a crew made up of 30% females. So, my fame continued, but this time, every woman I went out with would be noticed and talked about. I did not like being subjected to this kind of scrutiny, where people knew what I did and who I did it with. I learned that I liked being anonymous.

There were moments when I felt like a celebrity, such as in Alexandria, Egypt when a young kid attached himself to me during my 3 hour walk around town looking for cool souvenirs. I would mention wanting something (a prayer carpet, a robe, sandals, hieroglyphics on papyrus) and it would appear instantaneous. I guess it was a lot like Michael Jackson's point and spend manner of shopping. But, the kid wasn't interested in me as a person. Just me as an ATM machine. That's what people who seek fame don't understand. Yes, its nice sometimes to be noticed for who you are, but famous people generally aren't noticed by fans for who they really are. Its an image or brand that the fan has in his or her mind. If you don't live up to their expectations, you end up dealing with some angry people. Who wants that?

In the downside to fame, I saw it up close and personal in D.C. A lot of mentally ill people hang out near the Capitol and harass members of Congress every day with their weird requests. I hated dealing with them in the phone calls Vice President Gore's legislative affairs office used to get from crazy folks who made unreasonable demands.

It's no wonder that fame made Michael Jackson very paranoid. You simply don't know who to trust because everyone wants you for some reason or another. Very few want your friendship without attachments or expectations.

So, I consider myself blessed that I got to experience fame on a minimal basis. It satisfied the urge and made me understand the larger implications. Besides not desiring fame any more, I also learned that part of the reason I desired fame was to be able to get things easier or to meet people who are famous that I happen to like. What I learned was that I was able to experience all that without having to be famous. I've met plenty of the famous people I had been wanting to meet and I have been able to experience a lot of the things I wanted to experience. I've traveled to many places and I've met plenty of "star quality" people who aren't famous.

Truly, life is enjoyable as a nobody. The fame thing is a bad illusion. It attracts the wrong people into your life and for some famous people, they need a security detail to protect them from the crazies out there (like Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon because he believed himself to be the real John Lennon). Nope. I don't envy famous people at all. The biggest trade-off fame requires is personal freedom. I'm all about my personal freedom. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Below is an interesting picture of Michael Jackson. Even heavily disguised, you can tell its him. He's such an odd person with all the disguises. But, considering how horrible his face became over the years with the endless plastic surgeries, its not surprising that he would want to hide it. Hopefully, in the spiritual realm, he's finally free to be himself as he envisions his ideal reality. I can even imagine that the souls in heaven are in for a special treat. They will get to hear him give a concert, if such things exist in the spiritual realm. That would be an awesome site to behold.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Music Video Monday: Michael Jackson

In honour of Michael Jackson, this week's music selection is a performance he gave in January 1993 for the President Clinton Inaugural Gala. I was hoping to find a music video tribute to Michael Jackson featuring his melancholy song "Gone Too Soon", but this performance will do. It shows Michael Jackson in the face we know best (before plastic surgery turned him into an unfortunate freakshow). This performance was among the last few before things turned really bad.

His Dangerous album was released in November 1991, but faced some competition with a surging Garth Brooks and the much anticipated new U2 sound. A year later, his album wasn't selling the numbers his record company had expected, so at the start of 1993, he began a big promotional push, which included singing at Clinton's inauguration activities and the halftime show at the Superbowl, and a much publicized appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. After all that occured, news hit with the allegations of sexual molestation of a boy he had befriended, and the rest is "HIStory." His career never truly recovered after that. Follow-up albums (1995's HIStory, which featured classic hits on disc one and new material on disc two, and 2001's Invincible) basically featured a lot of angry songs to get back at his "enemies." Gone was the fun-loving, happy Michael Jackson who knew how to laugh and loved to laugh. Though he did have a few good songs from both those CDs, the sound was essentially the same, like they had all been written in this Thriller days.

He was supposedly working on a new album (titled This Is It) along with a final series of concerts in London. Perhaps it was this pressure to be who he was at 25 that truly overworked his body and ended his life so early. He was 50 years old, for Christ's sake! Fans shouldn't expect him to be who he was at 25 or 35. I personally would have loved to have seen a complete makeover with a fresh new sound. But, it's not meant to be.

Now that he has passed, I am lifting my buying ban on Michael Jackson CDs and DVDs. After 1995, I refused to buy any of his stuff because I didn't want to support his lifestyle and possible inappropriate behaviour with children. This meant no DVDs of his awesome music videos or even his complilation CDs that featured some songs with his brothers that I liked. I was especially tempted to buy the 25th Anniversary edition of Thriller (featuring remakes of songs from that album with current recording stars of today), but I held off. Now, he's gone and his music lives on. Hopefully, "his" children will benefit from records sales. According to news reports, Michael Jackson has supposedly left over 200 songs for his children. I don't know if these are recorded or just written. If Michael recorded the songs, then we are in for quite a few CDs of new music over the next decade.

According to the news, itunes and amazon.com saw sales spike on Michael Jackson music after his death was announced. Yesterday, I went to a couple places that sells CDs to get a copy of Dangerous on CD and was shocked that in both places, all Michael Jackson CDs were cleared out. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought the same thing this past weekend. All I have on CD are the Bad and Thriller albums. I haven't heard Dangerous in years and was looking forward to an evening of listening to the awesome songs on that underrated album.

About his children, I had forgotten that he had named both boys Prince Michael Jackson (the older one is 12 and the younger one, best known as "Blanket" who was held over a Berlin balcony, is 7). I did not know that he had named his daughter Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. Weird. Personally, I'd like someone to do a blood test on the three of them to determine who the real father is. I can't help but wonder if any of them ever thought their father was weird...or does growing up that way and living that life for their entire lives to this point made it "normal" to them? Boy are they all in for a rude awakening when they learn what "normal" really means!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lying is a Virtue for Republicans

As soon as South Carolina Governor was discovered arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta last Wednesday, thus having his "hiking the Appalachian Trail" cover blown, the news media ran with the story. He had to call a press conference in which he confessed to having spent the last five days (which included Father's Day) "crying" in the arms of his Argentine lover. Automatically, this conjured up that famous song from the musical Evita: "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." His wife was probably relieved that she no longer had to keep lying for him for the sake of his political career. She had apparently known about the affair for months and asked for a separation, though they kept up appearances for the sake of his job.

It wasn't long before vigilent critics of the Fox News Propaganda Network noticed that the station once again put the "(D)" after his name (see photo above) to indicate his party affiliation. This happens practically every time a Republican politician gets caught in an embarrassing sex scandal. They did the same for Louisiana Senator David Vitter who paid a prostitute to put him in a diaper, for Idaho Senator Larry Craig who was caught trying to solicit sex from an undercover police officer in an airport men's room in Minneapolis, and for Florida Congressman Mark Foley who sent sexually explicit IM messages to underage Pages. Its laughable that they always do this because it only adds to the increasing amount of evidence that Fox News is not an unbiased news source. In fact, it is the propaganda arm of the Republican Party.

People should be disturbed about this blatant deception. The loyal viewers of Fox News should be outraged because the lie is so obvious. When someone lies to you, that means that they don't respect you. Or they think you are too dumb to figure it out. Or they want something from you (unquestioning loyalty to the Republican Party, in this case). If a news channel I watched pulled a stunt like this, I would stop watching them because they would lack credibility. To me, credibility is everything and once its lost, its too late. There are far too many competitive news sources to get information from, so I would have no problem dropping any network or newspaper that blatantly did what Fox News constantly does. By contrast, when Governors Spitzer, McGreevey, and Blagojevich along with former Senator John Edwards (all Democrats) had their recent scandals, Fox did not change their "(D)" to be "(R)." It appears that Fox wants its viewers to associate sex scandals with the Democratic Party, even though it is far worse when a Republican politician is caught.

I've read opinions by conservative people about the unfairness of how Democratic politicians are treated versus Republicans when caught in a sex scandal. This is especially true in Portland because our liberal, Democratic and gay Mayor was recently relieved to learn that criminal charges will not be pursued against him regarding his inappropriate relationship with a borderline legal teenager in 2005. Critics say that if the Mayor was a conservative Republican, he would've been forced from office or if he was straight and the teen in question was a 17 year old girl, there would have been enough outraged parents that his career would be over as soon as news broke in January. Because he's the first openly gay politician to become Mayor of a Top 40 U.S. city, he "gets a pass."

I understand the criticism, but conservatives don't seem to understand several things. Though Clinton did not get removed from office for his affair with an intern, he was impeached (which was politically motivated. No president deserved impeachment more than George W. Bush). He was also disbarred from the National Bar Association. Its in the historical record that President Clinton is the second U.S. President to be impeached (President Andrew Johnson was the first, and that impeachment is also regarded by historians as politically motivated rather than substantial). New Jersey Governor James McGreevey resigned after his sex and lies scandal. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned after his. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the Illinois Assembly and removed from office. John Edwards was effectively marginalized in the Democratic Party and most likely will never serve in political office again.

Contrast that to Republicans. Senator David Vitter is still in office. Senator Larry Craig remained in office. Florida voters threw Congressman Mark Foley out of office by voting for the Democratic opponent in 2006. Now, we will see if Governor Mark Sanford has the decency to resign. He was widely expected to be one of the candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2012. Now that's unlikely to happen (Mitt Romney still looks like the odds-on favourite at this point).

So, conservatives who claim that Democrats get a pass while Republicans are judged more harshly are incorrect in one way, correct in another. They are incorrect because when Democratic politicians find themselves in a sex scandal, it usually ends their career. This was true of Gary Hart, the odds-on favourite to win the Democratic nomination for president in 1988 until he was caught with his mistress on his lap on a boat appropriately named "Monkey Business." Clinton is the only one who found success despite his adulterous ways, but I think its more reflective of his amazing political gifts (he is super smart regarding politics and interpersonal relations). Other Democrats weren't able to maintain their political office (as noted above).

In contrast, Republicans keep their office even after the scandal breaks. I see this reflection as an indication on how little the people have a say in the hierarchal Republican Party (its truly a top-down organizational structure). The powers that be don't care about sexual impropriety, so they keep their damaged politicians (better for blackmail and control). The loyal shock troops can be easily distracted by focusing on abortion or some other sideshow issue. That the low party members and volunteers don't demand accountability shows just how insignificant they are in that party.

Conservatives are correct about Republican politicians being more harshly judged than a Democratic politician regarding a sex scandal. However, it doesn't suggest a "liberal media bias" as they like to claim. The reason for this "double standard" is the involvement of hypocrisy. That's the main difference between the two parties. Democrats don't run on family values issues. Republicans do. They put themselves on a higher moral pedestal and smear Democrats for being "immoral" when all the Democrat wants to do is focus on the issues that matters to voters, rather than the personal life of the politician. When you put yourself on a moral pedestal, of course the media is going to have a field day if its revealed that you do not live the values you preached. That's common knowledge. Hypocrisy is distasteful and deserves to be punished more harshly than a crime of passion.

I once told a fundamentalist woman I worked with: "I'd rather be a sinner like Clinton than a hypocrite like Gingrich." She used to get angry when I said that because she liked Gingrich and hated Clinton. Gingrich was a conservative "family values" Congressman from Georgia, despite his having divorced two ladies, including one when she was in the hospital, and was having an affair on his second wife during the time he was traveling the country trying to make the mid-term 1998 election a national referendum on Clinton's sex scandal.

A friend of mine once told someone that "the problem with electing Democrats is that you don't get morals." He's not a partisan (he was equally strong in his dislike of President George W. Bush), but I was shocked to hear him say that, so we discussed the issue. I asked him, "would you rather vote for the politician who does not talk about family values but lives a moral life or the politician who runs on a family values platform yet is revealed to have committed adultery?" To my shock, my friend said that he would support the family values politician, even if he does not live the values over a candidate who does not talk about family values but lives it. To me, that told me everything I needed to know about the conservative mindset.

Interestingly enough, last year, he decided to vote in the Democratic primary instead of the Republican one and voted for John Edwards over Barack Obama. I don't know how he felt about Edwards after the affair was revealed last summer, but I find it funny that my morals obsessed friend voted for the wrong candidate. Out of all the candidates on the Democratic side, Edwards tried to paint himself as a strong morals person. Another hypocrite who fell on his sword!

That's why I don't identify with conservatives (even though my personality is generally pretty conservative). I believe that it is important to live your values. Because we've seen time and again politicians who preach values on one hand while failing to live them on the other, it does make one cynical any time a politician talks about morality. After the experience of the 1990s in seeing the way so many of the Gingrich Republican Revolutionaries of 1994 fell by the moral wayside, no Republican will ever convince me that he or she has any greater sense of morals than a Democrat who doesn't speak about morality issues or attacks an opponent in personal terms.

Its interesting to me that Republicans who love to talk about the Bible seem to fail at learning the main point of Jesus' teachings. In passage after passage, Jesus was most critical of hypocrites than sinners. He even saved a woman from being stoned to death because hypocritical men were making the judgment about her sexual immorality. Jesus advised followers that praying to God in secret was preferable to the public prayers offered by the Pharisees, who "love to be seen by men." Reading the New Testament, its just baffling how conservative evangelicals simply cannot seem to understand why hypocrisy is such a bad thing and even worse than the sin itself.

In 2000, when I got back in touch with an old high school friend of mine who was conservative and went to Oral Roberts University, we discussed the whole Clinton versus Gingrich sex scandals. He and his wife didn't understand why Clinton got a pass while Gingrich ended up resigning. Both were guilty of adultery. When I brought up the issue of hypocrisy and how Clinton never personally attacked an opponent (he always ran on the issues), I also explained the best definition I could come up with about "hypocrisy." The word is highly charged and most people (even those who most certainly are) don't see themselves as hypocrites. However, to diffuse the charge of that word, I told my friend Ben that "all hypocrisy means is that you don't really believe what you claim to believe." In explaining further, I said that if you make a moral stand about something and condemn your opponent for not sharing that same stand, but it turns out that you don't even live what you claim, why should anyone listen to what you have to say? If you can't even convince yourself that the moral stand you take is the right one, how can you convince someone else?

I used as an example another friend of mine, who had always claimed to be against co-habitation. Yet, when he met the lady of his dreams, he ended up co-habitating. When I brought this up with him, he got angry and accused me of holding him to a higher standard. To which I replied, "I'm only holding you to the standard you set for yourself." I had several other friends who co-habited before marriage and did not raise the issue with them because they (like me) don't believe that co-habitation is immoral. My conservative friend who did believe co-habitation was immoral ended up doing it. After he got married, I asked if he still thought co-habitation was "immoral." To my surprise, he said "yes." Its frustrating to me that conservatives I've talked to do not seem to understand hypocrisy. They make moral pronouncements even though they obviously don't agree with their own moral arguments, yet they judge others who don't believe those "moral values." It all boils down to honesty and self-awareness.

That's the difference, I guess, between a liberal mind and a conservative one. To a liberal, morality is a personal choice we allow others to make without our judgement (so long as no one is harmed). To a conservative, morality is something that should be forced on everyone and it doesn't matter if the person making the moral standards lives up to it or not. Morals are morals and apply to everyone.

The funny thing about co-habitation is that while I don't believe it is morally wrong for a man and woman to live together before (or outside of) marriage, I don't see myself doing that. I rather like the idea of moving in together after the wedding, thus enjoying my own place up to the moment of matrimony. When I was at BYU, I moved out of the dorms into a house where the landlord was a woman (also a BYU student. Her parents owned the house and she rented the basement rooms to three guys). At BYU, I was assigned to an LDS ward (for the point of hoping that I'd convert) and when I moved, I supposedly changed wards, but I continued to attend the same ward I was assigned to while I lived in the dorms. Anyhow, the Bishop's wife found out about my move (I don't know how, as I did not tell them) and knew which house I lived in and who owned it.

She said to me, "I heard that you are living in a house with women in it."

I replied, "That is correct, Sister Trowbridge."

Then to my surprise, she said, "Nicholas, sometimes I worry about you."

I was shocked. I kind of played it off as nothing for her to worry about, but in my mind it only confirmed how controlling the LDS Church is about personal business. What I wanted to tell her but didn't was that I can live in a house with women in it because I'm not attracted to every women I happen to meet and get to know. I do have my standards! Besides, if the Bishop's wife could have seen what the landlord and her sister looked like, she would not worry at all. I believe at BYU, the appropriate term for those women is "sweet spirit." Even more amusing, one Mormon guy had the room next to mine and sometimes, I could hear him and his girlfriend having sex. I certainly didn't get any while at BYU...so, who's the sex crazed morals obsessed person and who's the celibate, liberal monk?

For the record, though, I don't believe sex before marriage is wrong or "immoral." I've had so many arguments with conservatives who claim that it is, yet they engage in it without realizing that they are undermining their own claims of morality. Get real! Your actions reveal what you really believe, not what your mouth claims to believe. They think we're too dumb to figure it out. If I'm not mistaken, I think Dante placed hypocrites near the core of hell in his literary masterpiece The Divine Comedy. Why Republicans can't seem to understand the distasteful nature of hypocrisy is infuriating. They would solve their credibility problems if they just admit what their actions reveal: what two consenting adults do with each other is not immoral, so long as no one is harmed in the process.

The above photo is from Fox News that correctly showed the appropriate party distinction for Governor Sanford. He was a darling of the right during his "principled" stance of not accepting any of President Obama's bailout money (along with his participation in the whole Tea Bagging nonsense). I guess that's the power of Fox. If you fail to live the conservative values, they will brand you a Democrat. I guess that's to be admired. Fox doesn't tolerate hypocrisy and they have the power to change a politician's party affiliation without the politician's consent. And if it's on Fox, I guess you can believe it because they are "fair and balanced", right?

Jon Stewart summed up the affair best. He said something to the affect of Republicans having "a conservative mind but a liberal penis." Maybe they should work on some kind of consistency. It'll be far healthier in the long run and more credible.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Remembering the Fabulous Farrah

I wasn't planning to write a tribute post on Farrah Fawcett because I really didn't know much about her. However, Friday after work, I decided to hook up my digital converter box so I could watch any possible memorial programs about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. That turned out to be a frustrating exercise. The strange thing is that I was able to get my analog TV to play the new digital signal. But it only picks up CBS, NBC, OPB, and about five evangelical Christian channels. I wanted my favourite station (ABC) but my TV won't pick it up. I'm not happy about that.

Anyhow, so I was able to catch the documentary film about Farrah Fawcett's struggles with cancer and the papanazis. I was actually interested enough to watch the whole thing and really felt sad for this beautiful woman who endured five years of fighting cancer and finding hope in remissions only to see its reemergence. There were many fascinating tidbits in this documentary that are worthy of mention.

The first one is that she went to Germany frequently to receive treatment in fighting the disease. The other night, President Obama had a Town Hall meeting on Health Care reform (his big push this summer). Opponents of a national health care system always knock the Canadian and European health care system as "socialism" and say that its a bad thing. They cite incidents of people coming to the U.S. just to be treated in our "excellent" hospitals. However, the best quote I ever heard on our health care system is "we have the best health care in the world...if you're rich." Yet, here's this pretty well off celebrity going to Europe to get treatment. What's up with that? She did this, even though her doctor did not recommend that she fly back to the U.S. so soon after her release from the hospital's care. I'm hoping that Americans will be more sensible about the debate on health care this summer and fall. This is not 1993, with an unelected First Lady leading the charge and serving as a lightning rod of controversy. Too many Americans have found financial ruin because of a health crisis (either themselves or a family member). To me, a lack of health care insurance is a scary thing. I've read too many stories of people filing for bankruptcy after raking up huge medical bills.

The second interesting thing in this documentary was that Farrah's doctor compared cancer cells to terrorism and Farrah seemed to take to this idea and wasn't offended by the analogy. I like the idea of thinking of cancer as "terrorism." It makes sense as an analogy that might be useful in helping patients deal with their "war against cancer."

The most infuriating thing were the scenes with the papanazis in her face and the garbage printed in the National Enquirer, as well as an employee at the UCLA Medical Center releasing private patient records to the gossip rags. Hopefully that person was fired and blacklisted from working in another hospital. Some might argue that celebrities waived their rights to privacy when they became famous...but that's just jealousy talking. Sure, many people love the fame and understand that the intrusive gossip press comes with the territory. However, I believe that if a celebrity is not seeking attention, they should be afforded some privacy. There's a difference between a Lindsay Lohan getting drunk and dancing on table tops at a popular club and kissing another girl versus a Farrah Fawcett hiding behind sunglasses and a scarf, riding a wheelchair through LAX.

Unfortunately, so long as people buy these trashy tabloids, there will always be a market for the papanazis and the photos they snap of unsuspecting celebrities doing mundane things we all do. At work, one lady keeps bringing old issues of various gossip magazines to the break room for others to "enjoy." I have glaced at a few to see what the appeal is and I can't say that I see any. Its a waste of paper, newsprint, thought and energy. Its sad to me that too many women (yes, women!) buy this shit.

After the documentary, I gained a greater appreciation for Farrah Fawcett. The height of her fame was actually before my time (I was only born in the 70s. The decade doesn't interest me much). I always thought she was just another brainless beauty queen. From the documentary, she looks fun, smart, and compassionate. Once the documentary finished, NBC's Dateline featured an hour long program on Michael Jackson. This was the point when my TV lost the digital signal and now I can only watch CBS and the evangelical Christian channels (which I won't). I really wanted to watch the program on Michael Jackson. In fact, that was the entire reason why I decided to break the digital converter out of the sealed box it came in. So much for that. I won't be watching a lot of TV this summer. I'll stick with TV on DVD (I'm currently watching The West Wing Season 3 and Tell Me You Love Me; up next is Mad Men Seasons 1 and 2).

When I lived in Bellevue, Nebraska as a tween, during the summer, one of the TV channels showed Charlie's Angels in syndication. I was too young to appreciate it when the show originally aired. Besides, in the 70s, my favourite shows were Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, Batman, The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island. I remember that the TV station would make watching Charlie's Angels fun because they offered contests where the clues were in each day's episode. Not that I called in or anything. Out of the three ladies, Jaclyn Smith was by far my favourite. She seemed classy and I found her to be the most attractive. Kate Jackson came in second for me. And like I said...I thought Farrah was more beauty than brains. At the time, I was aware of her famous photo that was the most popular pin-up at the time. Maybe that sealed my impression of her. I haven't seen the show since I left Nebraska, so I might check out Season 1 on DVD just to see if the show holds up or if its so dated that I'd be bored watching it.

As for the movie versions, I didn't agree with the actress selection (not Drew Barrymore!). Then again, it would be difficult to find a younger equivalent of Jaclyn Smith. Growing up, Jaclyn Smith, Jacqueline Bisset, and Candice Bergin were the epitome of classy, attractive ladies. All three have an air of high culture and sophistication about them. I like Drew Barrymore, but thought she was wrong for the role. Cameron Diaz was hilarious, but Lucy Liu was the only one I could see as an "acceptable" Charlie's Angel (in terms of honouring the show). The sequel was the one of the worst films I had ever seen. They totally hoodwinked the audience and I was not pleased. I remember leaving theaters thinking that the makers of the film were laughing all the way to the bank about the moviegoing saps who paid money to see that tripe.

The other famous role Farrah Fawcett will be remembered for is the made-for-TV film The Burning Bed. For some strange reason I still don't understand, in high school health class, we had to watch The Burning Bed. I remember only watching it in school and it happened at least twice. The movie was good and I don't remember complaining about watching it in class, but as I reflect on my high school education from the standpoint of an adult...I'm of the opinion that schools should not waste class time showing movies at all. If teachers want to require a student see a certain film, it should be done outside of class and have a quiz or paper assignment so that the teacher knows if the student watched it. That's the state of education in America though. The Burning Bed in health class! Come on, people!

I might watch this film again since I haven't seen it in a couple decades. At the time, I remember thinking how infuriating it was that this beautiful woman remained in an abusive marriage until pushed to the breaking point where she felt she had no choice but to burn her husband alive while he's sleeping before running away with the children. It might have been my first awareness that spousal abuse does happen, but I simply could not understand why a woman would remain in such abusive relationship. Why do bad boys seem to "get" the beautiful girl and destroy her self esteem (Rihanna and Whitney Houston, for example)? Why doesn't a beautiful lady fall for the nice guy? Sheesh.

With that, I will have to say that while I certainly appreciate Farrah Fawcett's courageous fight against cancer and her wise decision to make a documentary of her struggles so people can see what its really like to fight such a devasting disease (maybe even spur on research and funding for a cure), her acting career was pretty minimal. She was more famous for her name, looks, and especially hair (even Madonna seemed to copy her style with 2005's Confessions On a Dance Floor series of music videos). She was married to the other 1970s television star Lee "Six Million Dollar Man" Majors, but her one true love is probably Ryan O'Neal.

My heart and prayers go out to the soul of Farrah Fawcett and to her family and loved ones. No more pain from those terroristic cancer cells. I hope that she rests in peace. In the documentary, she had mentioned loving the rain and wondering if she would experience rain in heaven. She hoped that God would at least let her dip her angel wings into the rain on earth. It was a lovely thought. Now, she probably knows the truth about how the spiritual world works in relation to ours. She has gone from being one of Charlie's Angels to now being one of God's. Best wishes, beautiful lady!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King of Pop: Gone Too Soon

Today's post was going to be about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, because that whole episode is so worthy of a blog post...but he got pre-empted by one of the world's biggest icons of popular culture: the shocking death of Michael Jackson. One thing I love about the age of the Internet is that we get these news stories right away, rather than learning about it at the 6 o'clock news at home. I wasn't surfing the Net when I found out, though. My know-it-all co-worker loves to be the one who breaks all kinds of news to people at the office (I suppose it makes her life feel important in some way, because she learned of it first and gets to tell everyone else about it).

At first, she was ranting on and on about Farrah Fawcett and how that lady's son doesn't plan to attend the funeral, and Miss Prissy School Marm was going on and on about how she'd slap that boy silly and lecture him (of course she would...she's a damn School Marm personality that truly grates on my last nerve)...then she switched to rant about Michael Jackson's debts and cancelled concerts and blah blah blah.

Anyhow, that's how I found out about the death of the pop culture phenomenon. Michael Jackson's fame around the world probably rivals Coca-Cola and Mickey Mouse as America's most enduring symbols of popular culture. Though his popularity waned in the U.S. since the late 1990s due to his legal problems and the allegations of inappropriate conduct with children, he was still a major star in Europe and especially Japan. Its amazing to see footage of girls around the world having crying and fainting spells at his concerts and public appearances.

I already wrote a comprehensive retrospective on Michael Jackson for his 50th birthday in an August 2008 post (check my archives if you want to read it), so I won't go into detail my entire thoughts about his career and the tragic waste his life became in the end. I want this post to be an honourable In Memoriam, paying tribute to the talented genius of this global superstar and how his music affected my life personally.

One thing that amazes me about Michael Jackson's universal appeal is that everyone seemed to like his music and music videos. I was in my tweens in Bellevue, Nebraska when Thriller arrived on the music scene. The album was released in 1982 but it didn't really get popular until late 1983 and particularly 1984. At the time, most of the boys I knew were into heavy metal music and considered pop music to be "girly." I loved pop music and hated heavy metal, and one guy at church used to make a big deal about it. In fact, he "brainwashed" his 3 year old sister to like his type of music and I admit that it was funny to hear this little girl say things like, "bark at the moon!" (an Ozzy Osbourne reference) and "shout at the devil!" Despite differences in musical tastes, he liked Michael Jackson. I'd watch MTV at his house sometimes (my parents didn't get cable until last year) and we always wanted to see a Michael Jackson video.

Its hard to imagine, but before Michael Jackson, MTV didn't really feature African American singers. Videos were pretty lame, though, until the genius of Jackson saw the potential to make mini movies with storylines that may or may not reflect the lyrics. All of it was eye catchingly mesmerizing...from gang knife fights in "Beat It" (lifted from the classic 1950s film Rebel Without A Cause) to sidewalks that light up when he walked on it in "Billie Jean" (I remember a Steve Martin parody on Saturday Night Live) to the cinematic short film "Thriller" that riveted just about everyone. Today, the zombie dance sequence is still popular (look it up on YouTube...you'll see everything from wedding parties to prisoners in the Philippines dancing the unique steps).

No star was more untouchable in 1984 than Michael Jackson. His guest vocals made a hit single out of "Somebody's Watching Me" by a one-hit wonder whose name escapes me. He became the highest paid celebrity endorser when Pepsi paid him $10 million to appear in ads (and famously caught his hair on fire during the filming of a commercial). He reteamed with his brothers for the stadium "Victory Tour" concerts (I had unsuccessfully lobbied my dad to take the family to Kansas City for the concert). He wrote and gathered the largest group of singers after the Grammys in 1985 to record "We Are the World" for charity relief of famine victims in Ethiopia (sadly, Ethiopia jokes were popular at that time). And Thriller became the biggest selling album of all time (by some accounts, over 100 million albums sold to date).

If anyone did much to break down the racial barriers between black and white Americans, Michael Jackson was instrumental in doing so. His fan base was truly universal and crossed all racial categories. Like I said above, even heavy metal headbanger tween/teen boys liked Michael Jackson. All of my friends liked his music, even if we disagreed on every other group out there. He was a unifying figure in the music world. I simply cannot imagine what my life would have been like without his music, videos, and transformational popular cultural impact. You can see his influence today in Usher's dance moves, Britney Spears and Chris Brown's music videos, Justin Timberlake's music, and countless others. Even President Barack Obama owes some of his popularity to the trail Michael Jackson blazed in the 1980s. Would he even be president today if Michael Jackson hadn't broken through America's race obsession and showed an appeal that went beyond "Black or White" (a hit song from 1991)?
Though I believe the unprecedented success of the Thriller album at the age of 25 set into motion the self-destructive path Michael Jackson would follow in his second half of life, he did record two really good follow-ups (I think 1991's Dangerous is actually better than 1987's Bad, partly because the album had catchier songs and better videos--particularly "Remember the Time" and "Black or White"). None of them could reach the sales numbers of Thriller, though and in our numbers-obsessed culture, we seem to judge a person harshly if they can't beat their previous sales records (this is certainly true at my work). But no one has been able to match Thriller's numbers. Many of today's stars would be lucky to sell as many albums as Dangerous or 1995's HIStory compilation two-disc set.

On Dangerous, he had a beautiful song that he wrote for his friend Ryan White (the teenager who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion in the mid-1980s and faced the brunt of people's ignorance and fear regarding the new disease). Now, that song could very well be used at Michael Jackson's funeral services: "Gone Too Soon."

We don't know yet the full details of his death. All we know is that he was only 50 years old and had a cardiac arrest that put him into a coma before he finally passed into the spiritual realm. With all the botched surgeries on his face, you never know if it ultimately proved too taxing on his body. There's also the idea that people generally "kill off" their heroes and icons, because the demands and expectations fans place upon an entertainer often seem to be too much for any human to withstand (its no longer surprising that celebrities have periods of freaking out: Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Danny Bonaduce, Corey Haim, and David Cassidy to name a few).

So, Rest in Peace, Michael. You've earned it. While he touched millions of lives around the world with his musical genius, it would be interesting to know what his life review might be like. There's debate on whether or not he's a child molester. My sister said that in a college psychology class she took, they debated this issue and the class came to the conclusion that he was not one. They believe that he felt more comfortable around children and animals because they didn't judge him the way adults did. What's undebatable, though, is his undeniable talent and personal pains he carried his entire life. His most revealing song is "Childhood", where he asks the question "Have you seen my childhood?" and makes a plea not to judge him without understanding his childhood, which is well documented. His father was basically a bully who deprived the Jackson boys a childhood with his dreams of fame and fortune at Motown for his family. That's the trade-off, it seems. The financial and career success came at the expense of the kind of simple pleasures the rest of us mortals get to enjoy in anonymity. Since the Jackson 5 days, the youngest brother became the most successful and spent the rest of his life creating a dream childhood for himself. Now the judgment on all aspects of his life rests in the spiritual realm.

For the rest of us, his music will live on forever. There will never be another performer like Michael Jackson. He truly belongs to the Ages. Best wishes to you, Michael, on the next phase of your spiritual progression. Thank you for the great music and videos over the years. I will never stop listening to his songs, especially my personal favourite: "Man in the Mirror."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Revelations About Our Lying Mayor

I guess not setting up my digital converter box proved to be a wrong decision. I was hoping for a quiet summer in which I would focus nearly all of my energies on landing a new job before my three year anniversary of arriving to Portland passed me by (in August). I figured summer would be a slow news season. Boy, was I wrong. Election fraud and protests in Iran! A D.C. Metro train accident! The Oregon Attorney General's long awaited report on the investigation of Portland's mayor! Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada confessing to an extra-marital affair! The disappearance of Republican Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, where even his staff members and wife thought he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, only to show up in the arms of his Argentine lover, bawling like he's Evita Peron on the balcony of the Casa Rosada! Holy moly! And to top it off, President Obama gave a televised Town Hall meeting on Health Care last night. I'm missing out on some major news events.

But, as much as I want to comment on these stories, Willamette Week (always released on Wednesday) had a special cover page article on their take of the Attorney General's 17-page report about Mayor Sam Adams. They were the ones who did the initial investigation into the rumour and presented the evidence in an interview with Sam Adams, who denied everything before he left for D.C. in mid-January. Sometime in those four days between that interview and his public admission, the details the reporters dug up must have convinced him that he could not convincingly continue to lie when the story was published the following week. This alternative weekly newspaper was also the one that revealed in 2004 that the formerly beloved Mayor Neil Goldschmidt (who led Portland in the 1970s before being selected to President Carter's cabinet) had a sexual relationship with a 14 year old babysitter during his tenure as Mayor. This news revelation turned "Goldschmidt" into a dirty and toxic word. Too bad that news didn't break while he was Mayor, for he would've been removed from office and not been asked to serve as Secretary of Transportation during the Carter years.

Anyhow, because of the good reporting of this alternative weekly newspaper, I was quite anxious to read their take on the Attorney General's report. They did not let me down. There were several good information I hadn't heard or read about previously (how can there be more than what we already know? Its a scandal that keeps on giving!). The article featured 14 items that the Willamette Week reporters learned from the report (wow...even they learned a few things!).

One of the three items I find most interesting include a section about Jennifer Yocom, the campaign manager of his successful 2008 Mayoral race who is currently his policy director of arts and culture. According to the article (the italicized and bolded passages below are lifted directly from the article), Yocom was "worried when Adams displayed a knowledge of other states’ ages of consent for sex with minors, and she urged investigators to probe whether Adams took Breedlove to Washington state."

She was also concerned "because she was going to be his campaign manager and advisor and had not even started the position, and there was already a scandal,” the AG’s report says. “She said she wanted him to assure her there was no inappropriate contact or a relationship prior to her accepting the position as his campaign manager. He assured her that there was not...She told Adams she could continue to work for him if he would be honest with her about it. Yocom told investigators Adams did not respond.

Yocom also said that in an interview with an unidentified reporter after the story broke, Adams was asked what he thinks the age of consent should be. Yocom told investigators she urged Adams not to answer the question, but that he told the reporter off the record there are 20 states where the age of consent is under 18.

“Yocom was concerned that Adams answered this and had knowledge pertaining to other states’ legal age of consent,” the AG’s report says. “She learned that Washington’s age of consent is 16 years of age. Yocom said she feels it is important that this topic be addressed with Breedlove and Adams.”

The report says Yocom was visibly upset during the interview.

“She said it is hard for her and other colleagues,” the report says. “She said for her sake she felt she needed to address Adams because she was very emotional and angry.”

After her interview, Yocom called an investigator to clarify by stating she had no knowledge Adams and Breedlove traveled outside of Oregon. She said she simply wanted the investigation to be “as thorough as possible.”

I was quite surprised and impressed with the way they presented Jennifer. As well as proud. When I volunteered on the campaign last year, I enjoyed working with her and learning about local politics, campaign strategy, and just having a good laugh about some of the more ridiculous political moments in the Republican primary. I thought of her as a good and honourable person, trustworthy, and someone I would enjoy working for and/or with. I'm glad to see that impression confirmed in this article. She did the right thing, raising concerns about her candidate's behaviour. He put her in a really bad spot with his lying.

The most disturbing revelation is that Adams knew which states had a lower age of consent law, with Washington state at 16 years of age. This puts into a new light, Adams traffic accident on Jantzen Beach this past May. He had claimed that he went to Vancouver to see a movie with a friend, when there are plenty of theaters in Portland. Was he really watching the Wolverine, or was he doing something else? It's pretty sick that he would use a different state's letter of the law to do something he obviously knew was illegal in Oregon.

Jennifer has a good job, so I doubt that she'd resign. It'll be interesting to see if Adams survives the recall and runs for reelection in 2012, if she will once again serve as his campaign manager. All I know is that I will never vote for Adams for any office again. I look forward to working on the campaign of whoever his main opponent will be in 2012. I hope, though, that the recall effort will be successful and his tenure as mayor (and future political aspirations) will end this year.

The second fascinating thing about the Willamette Week article was the revelation that Mayor Adams had a resignation letter already written. It was actually a pretty noble gesture. When I read the entire thing online Tuesday evening, I was impressed that he would write something like that. It ran against what I've learned about Adams in the past couple years (his bullying impulse and tendency to lie his way out of trouble, which only gets him into deeper trouble). Had he submitted this letter of resignation, I would've gained tremendous respect for him. The letter was dated 22 January and he would've resigned effectively at 2 p.m. that day.

Of course, he didn't resign and decided to ride this scandal out. With the Attorney General's report basically calling Beau Breedlove an unreliable witness and all out liar who can't be trusted, once again someone takes a fall for Adams' lying and career ambitions. Bad Sam lives to fight another battle while Good Sam (the one who contemplated getting some much needed therapy about his personal demons) dies. The question remains...is he truly a changed man? "Humbled?"

Finally, the third most intriguing item in the article is a letter that was found in Sam's computer which attempts to explain his pattern of destruction regarding his love life. The content is shocking not for its salacious descriptions as much as the amount of mispelled words and names. He's either a horrible speller or a bad typist. As I read it, I had to stifle my laughter (I was reading it in a public place) because it is hilarious and I find it too incredible to be believed. You mean, Sam was so distraught because he fell for a straight man that he decided to take the passive role in letting other people ask him out on a date rather than face the humiliation of his "gaydar" not working properly? I have the contents of the document quoted below in its entirety. It totally gives a different impression of Sam. Not the predator he truly is, but a victim! He's only a victim of his lying self. If he truly wants to make amends, he should try brutal honesty from this day forward. That way, he won't have to worry about if his stories are correct, and backtracking, and having to think what lies he told to which people.

I've read on some blogs, comments about the Attorney General's report and the Willamette Week article. Some Sam defenders continue to say that this is pointless information, its none of our business, its a witch hunt, we have no right to judge, yadda yadda yadda. However, I bet some of these people were outraged when Republican Congressman Mark Foley was revealed to have sent x-rated text messages to underage Pages who serve in Congress. Or were appalled to learn about Neil Goldschmidt's relationship with a 14 year old girl hired to babysit his children. Where's the consistency? Is such personal and private details a business of the public?

My personal belief is that serving in public office is an honour and because of its nature of representing the public interest, there is a public good at stake. If someone has something to hide or exhibits conduct that undermines the public trust, they have no right to serve in public office. There are many good people who want to serve, but it seems like the most unsavory characters win elections.

Sam Adams may be pleased with the report and believe in his heart that he is fully exonerated from any wrongdoing. But, when he looks in the mirror, he has to see what a liar he really is. He and Breedlove may be the only two people on the planet who knows the truth about when their affair started, but his actions and lies reveal a man guilty of major impropriety. It's hard to regain the public trust after so sordid a scandal.

Without further delay, I present Sam Adams' explanation for his pathetic love life (all spelling errors were left intact):

So before I answer your questions, I want to give you some more details
about my life in late 2004 into 2005. My prupose in providing this background is not to excuse away any of the reposnsbility that I now take for my actions, but to publically explain what I have learned looking back on my own mistakes in judgement.

In 2005 I was still recovering after the amicable but painful break up with my expartener of 11 years who had moved out of our house in December 2004. I should have taken some alone time to reflect on my failed relationship but my well-documented trait for action in luie of reflection kicked in.

I was trying to move on by dating. I had never been out of the closet as gay and single. So that was new. I have notoriously bad “gaydar.” And I had a bad experince showing an interest in someone who turned out to be a straight guy.

And it seemed creepy to ask strangers out when they met me in the context of being the “the commissioner.”

These factors left me aimlessly circling in a dating culdesac.

I decided to only date guys who asked me out.

I dated John Vizzina in spring 2005 because he dropped a note asking to my office asking me on a date. I adventurllay dated Bueau Breedlove in summer of 2005 because he gave me a card and then asked me to lunch. In hindsight I should not have been dating at all. I was not ready again for it. I was not honest with John oe Bueau that seeing both of them. I was stupid enough to take John to Bueau’s 18th birthday party. So when they ran into each other on the street any traded notes they must have both realitzed the smuch I was bring.

It is humiltaing to have to share these detailed short comings of my personal life. But necessary to fill out the public record. I am a public figure and I knew the rules of the spotlight when I signed up to seek this job.

In the past four years I have leatrned a lot in the dating world. And I have found a very special person. I have been dating peter for the last 10 months and it has been great. I still work hard but I have more balance in my life.

I have leanred how to be more honest in my romatoinc realrtionships. How better to engage the dating scene as a public figure. I have learned an age difference of over 20 years was too big, That for me to date some as young a beau is not right because it is not fair them.

I apologize to Beau for asking him to lie for me.
I apologize to my colleagues for my poor handling of this matter.
I apologize to the people of Portland for my dishonesty.
As one of its leaders, I want to apoligize to the gay community for embarrassing them. I should have been truthful from the beginning.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Green Eggs on Sam

My post last week about Mayor Sam Adams' mortgage default ("Mayor of Bad News") was accessed on Twitter by a few people over the weekend, which surprised me. I don't even do Twitter, so how did people access it on there? The post was also accessed by a couple people in City Hall and by Oregon's Department of Justice in Salem. On Monday, the long awaited investigation into the Mayor's relationship with a borderline legal teenager was finally released to the public.

Result? Disappointingly lame, which leaves more questions than answers. Attorney General John Kroger claimed that Adams' paramour Beau Breedlove was unreliable as a key witness due to credibility problems over his background and history of lying, and a Grand Jury would most likely not believe anything the troubled young man had to say. The investigation interviewed 57 individuals, reviewed City Hall records and examined computer and cell phone records. The 17-page report (which I haven't read) is apparently free of any kind of details that would make Ken Starr blush. It also leaves out an interesting bit of information that surfaced in the news recently. Late last year, Mayor Adams left over $750 cash in envelopes with a City Hall receptionist to give to Beau Breedlove to "help with his moving expenses and car payment." It was supposedly a loan, but one Breedlove did not repay (even though he supposedly made considerable money selling nude photos of himself in a cover story of a gay magazine and signed autograph copies of that magazine in an adult bookstore earlier this year), nor did Adams seek repayment, even as he failed to pay five or six months worth of his mortgage. Can you say "hush money"?!? I'm shocked that Breedlove would be "bought" so cheaply, considering what's at stake (Adams entire political career. He does aspire to a higher political office than the mere Mayor's office).

That this didn't warrant a serious look into possible blackmail or a bribe in return for silence is baffling. Especially with another detail reported in The Oregonian: that the night the scandal broke, Adams' personal lawyer and private investigator appeared on Breedlove's doorstep at 11 PM to get a written affidavit about their relationship. The following day, during questioning by Adams' attorneys, Breedlove asked for a break, where he called Adams to supposedly corroborate their stories. Apparently, Adams wanted Breedlove to not mention that they had kissed a few times when Breedlove was just 17. His written statement matched Adams' account of their relationship, but later, Breedlove changed his story in interviews with state investigators.

Because of the changing stories, he was deemed an unreliable witness to bring charges against the Mayor. After all, if the two of them did have a sexual relationship before the boy reached 18, it would be hard to prove, even if Breedlove admitted it, because Adams swears that he waited until two weeks after the boy's 18th birthday. Its the word of a Mayor versus the word of a flaky young man who sought publicity in the aftermath of the scandal and has had run-ins with the law before (including being arrested for shoplifting over $750 worth of clothes from a Honolulu Macy's).

Based on that, I can understand why Attorney General John Kroger would not want to pursue the matter against Mayor Adams. The relationship between Adams and Breedlove, as distasteful as it is to most people, was consensual. Breedlove doesn't view himself as a victim nor does he view Adams as a sexual predator. They both got something out of the other. However, there are also a couple other reasons why I think AG Kroger wrapped up this case in the way that he did. (1) He and Mayor Adams share the same political advisor; and (2) He worked in the Clinton White House. As anyone who served in the Clinton Administration can tell you, Ken Starr's investigation into Clinton's sex life (based on an investigation with the original purpose of looking into the possible illegality of a failed land deal but kept expanding into investigating every rumour surrounding the Clinton's private life) truly left a bad impression on everyone, as well as put some junior staffers in heavy legal debts. I can see why former Federal Prosecutor Kroger did not want to go the Ken Starr route, and he is honourable in that regard. Unfortunately, though, the Mayor's indiscretion with a barely legal teenager is merely the tip of the iceberg in what has become an apparent pattern of dysfunction and lies that surrounds the Mayor.

Yesterday, I decided to look into a few stories I had only briefly heard about or read on Blue Oregon's website or Jack's Blog (the best political blog covering Portland's City Hall) or Oregonlive's website. First, let's look at the phonecalls. Then City Commissioner Adams made over 33 phone calls to Breedlove in the spring of 2005. Many of the calls were just a minute in length. The most intriguing one happened on June 4, 2005. Adams' flight had just arrived to Portland after his vacation in New York. The first person he called upon arriving to Portland was Breedlove. The next call was to the home of Breedlove's mother. Breedlove turned 18 on June 25th, and Adams also called on that day. It seems strange to me that a 40-something year old man would call a 17 year old boy as the first thing upon arrival back home from vacation.

Second, is Adams interview with the Willamette Week newspaper 0n January 15th (four days before the scandal broke). 38 minutes of the interview are available to listen to online. Two Oregonian reporters have listened to it and reported that the Mayor lies repeatedly and evades questions about Breedlove. This interview occurred before Adams finally publicly admitted to lying about his relationship with Breedlove. It makes you wonder what happened in the four days between the interview and his public confession that made him change his story. He was, after all, in Washington, D.C. to participate in the annual conference of U.S. Mayors as well as to attend President Obama's Inaugural events.

Third, a former City Hall security officer (Glenn Clark) was interviewed by state criminal investigators about an incident that occurred in City Hall during a First Thursday event. During his shift on the first floor, he was surprised when another security guard working the second floor (Jacoby Demissie) walked downstairs and told him "in a flat tone something to the effect of 'I just saw Sam Adams having sex with this younger guy in the bathroom'." He submitted a signed and notorized statement. However, Demissie denied that the incident happened and Breedlove did mention a security guard had discovered him and Adams in the restroom, but described an older white man, not a young African American (which Demissie is). Breedlove claimed the incident occurred in June 2005, though City Hall records show that Adams was in New York. Clark claims that the event happened in April 2005, which is more plausible.

Fourth, Mayor Adams car accident on May 1st has some strange claims about it. An eye witness (Scott Joslin) to the accident told the police officer that he thought Adams might be drunk. He claimed to have smelled alcohol on Adams breath when Adams got out of his truck to ask if the other drivers were okay. The police officer indicated in his report that he observed Adams and did not find that he exhibited the signs of intoxication to require a breathalyzer test. Three witnesses reported that when Adams got out of his truck, the zipper on his pants was down and that his shorts were unbuttoned. Joslin reported: "I went over to check the guy in the white truck. I said, 'hey, dude, your fly is down, and your pants are unbuttoned.' He said, 'oh, thanks.' I said, 'Are you okay?' He was a little dazed." According to The Oregonian, "Adams said that he didn't recall whether his fly was open or whether anyone mentioned it to him after the accident. But he seemed surprised by the idea."

Why is that an issue? Well, I must admit that I have a hard time believing that a guy would approach another guy and be so forward about telling him that his fly is down. The reason is because of the possibility that the guy whose fly is down might wonder why another guy is looking at his crotch area to begin with. This bit of information seems like a possible made-up detail to embarrass an already embarrassed Mayor. The witnesses who told the police about the unzipped fly claimed that they didn't know it was Mayor Sam Adams who was the driver of the white truck. It could be a cover, though, so they could put this detail into a police report and provide more grist for the gossip mill.

On the other hand, if it is true that Adams was driving with his pants undone, it makes you wonder what he was doing when he had his accident (he T-boned a car in front of him and ran over a curb, his feet fell off the brake and onto the accelerator and crashed into a parked car before realizing that he was pushing the wrong pedal). There were no reports of a passenger in his truck. According to his version of events, he had gone to Vancouver, WA to see Wolverine with a friend, dropped his friend off, went home to change into shorts, and then drove to Jantzen Beach to pick up connector cables for his TV and DVD player at Best Buy. I find this story strange. Jantzen Beach is an island in the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland. Adams lives in North Portland. It seems time consuming (for an always busy Adams) to go see a movie in Vancouver (what, Portland theaters aren't good enough for you?) and then to pass over Jantzen Beach on the way back to go all the way home to change into shorts before heading back to Jantzen Beach to buy a connector cable for the TV and DVD player. I just have a hard time buying that story.

As for the accident, he claimed that he had to pull down his visor because the sun had broken through the clouds and when he looked up, the Subaru he was earlier aware of was a foot in front of him, so he hit the brake and turned to the right to avoid a full T-bone. No one was cited in the accident, though Adams was clearly at fault. I think something more than the sun was distracting him, and if his pants were unzipped (ironic, isn't it...since a few months prior to this accident, Breedlove appeared nude on the cover of a magazine called Unzipped), who knows what he was doing? My advice for him? If you're going to engage in high risk behaviour like that, save it for the freeways late at night or the back roads. Don't do it on city streets, especially in broad daylight!

Finally, there is a lawsuit filed against Mayor Adams by his former spokesman who resigned the week when the scandal broke in January. Wade Nkrumah claims that his former boss "damaged his business reputation" when the Mayor told KATU news that he resigned because the job was "not what he signed up for in terms of stress." He is seeking more than $162,000 in damages. In the notice of the impending lawsuit, Nkrumah said that he resigned on January 26th in both a letter to the Mayor and in person that the reason was because the Mayor had lied to him twice about the relationship with Breedlove. He was present in the room when Adams was interviewed by Willamette Week. He also said in the notice that Adams was extremely nervous at a January 29th meeting with him about what he would say publicly. He indicated that he would repond with a "no comment" to any inquiries about his resignation. He expected the same of the Mayor's staff.

When Adams said on camera that his spokesperson resigned because of the stress of the job, Nkrumah considered that a breach of an agreement they had about keeping the reasons for his resignation confidential between them. He stated to Adams that stress was not an issue. "Rather, it was Adams' lying as a public official (with ethical obligations to avoid even the appearance of impropriety and a duty to treat the office of mayor as a public trust) that created intolerable working conditions. Adams' continued issuance of false statements to the electorate made it impossible to continue in good conscience as his spokesperson." He flat out told the Mayor: "The reason I am resigning is because of the lies."


Considering all of the above factors, Mayor Sam Adams is not worthy of the public trust and his continued lies contributes to a loss of any credibility to perform effectively as Mayor of Portland. He should be removed from office at the earliest convenience so that the residents of Portland can select a new Mayor who will have the public trust. There is little that Mayor Adams can do to restore any trust in him, other than to resign and get some serious therapy. As one columnist wrote, Adams is his own worst enemy. He displays self-destructive habits that continually undermine his intellect and charisma. His personal life and decisions are a trainwreck that will eventually bring him down.

That he feels cleared of wrong-doing is apparent with the email message that he sent out on Monday. He claims that he can now focus his energies on solving the high school drop out rate. However, because of his predilection for underage boys, no public school official or administrator want the Mayor to visit their school. Out of all the problems facing Portland, why does he continue to name the high school drop out rate as one of his top three goals? Its hard not to be cynical when a forty-something year old man has shown an inability to act mature and appropriate around a teenager. High school is the last place he should set foot in. Besides, its not the Mayor's responsibility or ability to decrease the drop-out rate. That's something the school board needs to handle.

The Mayor and his Monica Lewinsky

Finally, below is a quote of the City of Portland's Code of Ethics concerning public employees:

City of Portland Code of Ethics

Chapter 1.03

1.03.020 Trust.

The purpose of City government is to serve the public. City officials treat their office as a public trust.

B. City officials promote public respect by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.

*Explanations and Examples*



1.03.020 Trust.

The purpose of City government is to serve the public. City officials treat their office as a public trust. City officials have special powers, along with a special obligation to act only on behalf of the public. {ORS Chapter 244 declares public office a public trust, prohibits certain actions, and provides penalties. An explanatory guide is available from the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission.}

2. Ensure public respect by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. [Public service requires a continual effort to overcome cynical attitudes and suspicions about the people in government. For example, conduct which could appear dishonest to a reasonable observer will undermine the public trust even if the conduct is not illegal.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The First Twitter Revolution

Based on some articles I've read, the protests in Iran in the aftermath of an obviously rigged election are fueled by people Tweeting, texting, and blogging information from Tehran to the rest of the country and the world. Because the government also uses the Internet, it doesn't want to shut it down, as was done in Burma/Myanmar in 2007. This allows people on the streets to bypass the censors in the Iranian press and get their story out to a waiting world.

Amazing, how these networking sites are transforming our world. In 2006, Time Magazine named Americans as the "Person of the Year" in connection to YouTube, which helped to kill Senator George Allen's reelection chances (he was caught on camera calling an Indian-American "macaca"). With mainstream media reporting only the news corporations want people to know, the collective wisdom of individual people are able to bypass the traditional media through the use of new technologies.

It's too early to tell what may be the end result of this "Twitter Revolution", but hopefully, the days of the mullahs ruling Iran are numbered. The Islamists came into power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini (who was the face of Satan in my childhood). That revolution was a rebellion against the pro-Western Shah, who came to power in a 1953 coup led by the CIA to oust the popularly elected Mossadeg. To this day, the Iranian government says that no reconciliation with the U.S. can begin without the American government acknowledging wrongdoing for that event. Why our government can't own up to it is baffling. The CIA term "blowback" refers exactly to that idea...that U.S. covert operations to undermine or overthrow popularly elected governments could come back and explode in our faces with an even worse scenario. History has shown time and again that blowback is reality. Just think of it as the secular term for "karma."

One thing that amuses me in the aftermath of the Iranian elections is hearing Bush-supporting Republicans talk with glee about this election result. Its so obvious its a fraud, they say. Um, yeah...they can so easily see that its a fraud when another country is involved, but when their own illegitimate candidate gets the presidency through his own electoral fraud, they won't even entertain that thought. Its funny that people so ignorant about major issues facing our country and facts regarding 9/11 and WMDs in Iraq are such "experts" about Iranian elections.

Another source of amusement is that many Bush supporters hate Iranian President Ahmadinejad. I always got the impression that Ahmadinejad was the Iranian Bush. Both are religious fanatics and have a tendency to speak from ignorance, which causes laughter among audiences who know better.

In the 1990s, a conservative I knew didn't understand global politics. He didn't understand when I told him that liberal people, regardless of what nationality, have a tendency to get along, but conservatives in different nationalities tend to hate one another. For example, conservative Americans hate the French and conservative French people tend not to like America. If you had two rooms and put a liberal Jew, a liberal Muslim, and a liberal Christian in one room and an Orthodox Jew, a fundamentalist Muslim, and a conservative Christian in the other room...which group would get along and which would kill each other? I think the answer is pretty obvious (well...to everyone EXCEPT conservatives). Why is this the case? Because conservatives in every nation tend to be nationalistic and often are religious. That means they believe their country first, right or wrong. Liberals are more likely to see the other's point of view and share common values.

So, when I hear conservatives gleefully talk about the possibility of a revolution in Iran, it only reminds me of how little they know about their own philosophy. They have more in common with the mullahs and Ahmadinejad than they have the self-awareness to realize. I wish they'd just shut up and keep their ignorance about foreign affairs to themselves. They need to spend more time reflecting on why their beloved Bush was such a failure.

This possibility of revolution isn't surprising. According to numerology, the ninth year is a year of closures. Things long fermented come into fruition. We've seen revolutions happen in the ninth year before. The French Revolution of 1789. Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, sparking World War II. The Communist Revolution in China of 1949. Student uprisings in the U.S. in 1969. The Islamic Revolution of 1979. Student uprisings in Tiananman Square in 1989, the fall of communist regimes in East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania in the fall of 1989. The Battle in Seattle against the WTO in 1999. What else is new? Somewhere on our planet, people are moving towards greater freedom. Why not Iran? They've been oppressed for too long, and the majority of the population is too young to remember the events of 1979. All they know about their entire life is the oppressive rule of the religiously conservative mullahs who run the government of Iran.

Give America twenty years of Christian Coalition rule and people would act the same way. Rebellion against oppressive control is the natural inclination of human kind.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Iran. The people who are yearning for freedom. May they at long last finally get the government they deserve and shake off the oppressive rule of the mullahs. Secular government that allows individual freedoms is a good thing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Music Video Monday: Young Cons

A few weeks ago, I saw this video on the Huffington Post with a notice that this was not a satire, even though liberals might think of it as such. However, its hard not to view it as satire, because its downright hilarious. It proves to me how disconnected conservatives are from their ideology and history. The reason it's not satire is because the white rappers are earnest in their viewpoints. Meaning...they actually believe the shit they are rapping about! This is like basic Conservative-ology 101...with references to Ronald Reagan (who has pretty much become the god of the Republican Party) and Ayn Rand (why do conservatives love to quote her novel The Fountainhead?).

Why I find this rap funny is because conservatives were the ones who fought racial integration in the 1950s and 1960s. They fight change at every step of the way. Yet, today's conservatives don't seem to understand the history of their movement. That's because today's young conservatives, who were born in the Reagan years or afterwards, grew up in a racially integrated society. They probably listened to rap music like the Beastie Boys, Eminem, LL Cool J, Run DMC, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. The previous generation of conservatives saw black/urban culture as a blight on society. Not so the younger generation. These young conservative rappers are clearly comfortable in their rhythms. Watching them "act black", I couldn't help but wonder what the older generation of conservatives (those who reacted against the LBJ Great Society program and the liberal and hippie excesses of the 1960s) think of this newer generation of conservatives "acting black"? Do they see it as the ultimate victory of liberalism's crusade towards racial integration?

I've said before that conservative ideology is always on the losing side of history. They fight changes all the way, but they never seem to be able to stop change from occuring. That's because history moves. Life is about progress. People who want to stay the same as their ancestors fall into the margins of society (such as the Amish, who still live like its 1799).

Watching these young conservatives rap their ideology, I can't help but wonder what tomorrow's conservatives will fight against. Abortion is probably the only issue that will never die for this group, but you can bet that they'll probably accept gay marriages as a fact of life (society is moving towards tolerance, not exclusion).

Enjoy the video!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"The World" Came to Portland

This past week, the talk of the town was the massive cruise ship called "The World" docking in downtown Portland. Its amazing that this ship could make it up the Willamette River and fit through the various drawbridges that connect both sides of Portland. Its rare that we see a ship this size in downtown Portland. During the Rose Festival and "Fleet Week", the US and Canadian Navies usually send a Frigate or Guided Missile Cruiser, which are the smallest ships in the fleet.

The World is a unique kind of cruise ship. I had never heard of it until last week. Basically, people buy a condominium onboard (for $3.5 million or so) and the ship sails around the world in two years, stopping at the major ports of the world. Wow. That's my kind of living! In fact, if I won the lottery, I'd definitely buy a condo onboard and experience a two year adventure. That is the kind of life I dream of living. Too bad one has to be rich to afford such an experience.

Had I the money, I wouldn't mind living onboard for two years and seeing all the ports of call. I'd spend my time at sea reading books, writing, and meeting the other residents. Just think of all the books I'd be able to finish in two years!

When I was in the Navy, I picked for my last command the USS George Washington, which was the Navy's newest aircraft carrier at that time. The rumour was that it was going on a round the world voyage in 1994 and I wanted to be a part of that. Unfortunately, the rumour turned out to be false, but I don't regret requesting it or serving on board. The biggest irony of my Navy enlistment is that I joined in part to experience a six month deployment, and I was on three ships in four years...but NEVER got to go on a Med Cruise or West Pac (as they call it in the Navy). I could have, though. In 1996, the Admin Officer gave me two options: a two month early out or extending for the Med Cruise. Because of the Olympics in Atlanta and my fear of missing out on this major event (how often does an international sporting event come to your city?), I opted for the early out. I would have extended just to experience a six month deployment if not for my desire to see the Olympics in Atlanta. I hated making that choice, but I don't regret it. The ship didn't make a port visit to Haifa, Israel, which was the one place I wished I could've seen when I was in the Navy. My second ship, the USS Simon Lake went to Haifa, but I was assigned to the Palau Community Center. Because of that, I got to vacation in South Africa, so that's a trade-off that I accept.

After I got out of the Navy, I doubted that I'd ever want to go on a Cruise for a vacation. I felt like I had already done the shipboard thing and it wouldn't be much different from the Navy. However, since I've been out for a long time now, a cruise might be a fun thing to do at some point. Caribbean cruises don't interest me much. I'd rather do one that goes through the Panama Canal, or Alaska, or the South Pacific. A Mediterranean cruise wouldn't interest me much either because I had seen some of the most popular stops (Ibiza, Gibraltar, Nice, Naples, Corfu) and they're pretty much the same.

In college, MTV Road Rules featured a season onboard the Semester At Sea program. I had never heard of it before then and watched the show with a great deal of interest. Had I the money in college, a semester at sea would have been an awesome experience. A part of me would love to be a visiting professor on board for a semester if I ever become a successful published novelist.

Above is a photo I found online of The World cruise liner. Not sure what city that is, though. I took a few photos of the ship but because I have a backlog of 14 rolls of film to develop, it will be many months before I see it.

After I took a walk downtown to check out the ship, I searched online for information about the ship...and even if they were hiring staff. Well...why not? Since I can't afford to buy a condo on board, the next best thing is to work as an employee. But, they're only hiring a pastry chef at the moment. Its a nice fantasy, I suppose. Something to dream about, when the reality might not be as exciting. Wealthy people get great options in life. Its a shame that something like this is out of the price range of most of the residents of planet earth. I'd love to spend two years on a ship going around the world, with enough free time to read all the books on my list.

Its nice to dream...but the search goes on for my real career.