Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sanity South of the Border

Mexico recently announced a bill that would remove penalties for possession of minor amounts of most illicit drugs, including marijuana, peyote, LSD, ecstasy, coke, heroin and meth, among others. President Vincente Fox is expected to sign the bill into law. Way to go, Meh-hee-co. This makes the first time you've come out ahead of the U.S. since the Alamo. And you haven't even begun to tap your true potential.

The latest issue of Petey's Pipeline E-zine takes a wild guess at how global and national economies will look in the near future (10 - 30 years), and brings you the first in a planned series of articles advocating hemp legalization. Look for more writing tips for aspiring Web page writers, too.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Altered States

When health issues forced some major lifestyle changes on me a few years back, I couldn’t foresee what profound and lasting effects they would have on my life. In retrospect, I have to say that there was probably as much good to come out of them as bad, so I’m not complaining. Not too loudly, anyway. I think it has something to do with being able to turn whatever lemons life delivers into orange juice.

Knocked for a loop by a triple-whammy of chronic pain, chronic sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue, holding any kind of job was out of the question. Apparently, so were Social Security or Supplemental Security benefits. The loss of income was devastating and, slowly, my support infrastructure began to crumble as my savings drained away.

One of the first things to go was my car, a 1985 Honda CRX. In need of a clutch that I couldn’t afford, insurance I couldn’t afford, and license tags I couldn’t afford, it made more sense to sell it than it did to park it and let it devolve into a pile of rust. With the proceeds from the sale I paid a month’s rent, updated my eyeglasses prescription, and bought a used Gary Fisher mountain bike, among other things.

Being afoot, being unemployed (and unemployable), being broke, and getting evicted all had hidden benefits, as I would later discover.

Being afoot taught me that a bike is a good substitute for a car, and that it’s possible to break one’s addiction to oil. It also got me acquainted with neighbors I might not have met, otherwise.

Being unemployed taught me that entrepreneurship has potentials and advantages not shared by traditional employment.

Being broke inspired creativity and resourcefulness, and taught me that I really didn’t need all the things I thought I did, and that by consuming less I was helping to save the environment.

Getting evicted taught me that once one leaves the perceived safety and comfort of a toxic mold-infested home behind it’s actually possible to get well.

Yes, there’s been adversity, and an ongoing struggle to overcome it. Still, adversity hasn’t been all bad; unpleasant as it is, it’s given me some valuable lessons, provided new insights, changed attitudes, opinions, perspectives and values.

But what adversity has given me, most of all, is hope.

That, and a royal pain in the neck.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Child Safety on the Internet

On-line sexual predators are such a pain in the ass, aren’t they? And not just our ass, but sometimes our kids’, too.

Worried about your kids’ safety, you’ve begged your ISP, threatened various domain hosting companies, written intimidating letter to ICANN, and petitioned the Supreme Court to write the First Amendment out of the Constitution, all to no avail. What’s a concerned parent to do?

Well, worry no more. Now there’s a strategy you can use to keep your kids from accessing online pornography, inappropriate chat rooms and questionable Web sites that are frequented by online predators -- sites like, for instance.

Surely you’ve heard about, that teen-oriented Web site where members can advertise their virginity, vulnerability and availability to lure legions of unsuspecting pedophiles to their doorstep. It’s been in the news, often, as of late.

You say you’ve tried everything you can think of, but your teens and ’tweens are still chatting up every ‘Chat Room Charlie’ with minimal social skills and a maximum amount of stupid and a hankering for fresh, young meat. You’ve tried everything, but nothing seems to work.

Oh, ye of limited imagination, ye of little faith! Here’s something I’ll bet you haven’t tried, something I guarantee you will work.

Keep your kids off the Internet. Problem solved!

That’s right! If you’re really concerned about your child’s safety and you’re half the responsible parent you pretend to be, simply forbid your child access to the Internet. Problem solved!

Show some balls, Mom! Don’t be a pussy, Dad! Your child’s safety and welfare are your responsibility. Don’t try to fob your parental duties off on anyone else. Don’t expect others to sacrifice their Constitutional rights because you lack a spine.

Maybe we should start limiting online access in the same way we limit access to cars. No one takes the car out for a spin until they’re old enough. In the case of Internet access, 18 would seem about right.

Problem solved!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A disaster scenario to suit every taste . . .

The problem with global scales is that they invite global disasters. Today, a myriad of disasters is poised to strike a series of fatal blows to the global community, and at this late date there’s probably not much anyone can do to prevent them. Business as usual and play now, pay later mindsets have gotten us in too deep.

In the same way that people are blind to the idea that all things are connected, they’re also blind to the irony attached to approaching catastrophic events. Although the timeline and order of events might be a little bit skewed, the show looks something like this:

Industrialization leads to human greed leads to consumer culture leads to fossil fuel addiction leads to environmental destruction and war in the Middle East.

When the debt-financed U.S. economy collapses, economic shock waves circumnavigate the globe, toppling the economies of Europe, Asia and South America.

Global climate changes raise sea levels, which inundate coastal communities around the world and disrupt international shipping. Changing weather patterns cause floods, droughts and increasingly severe storms, which disrupt food production and distribution worldwide.

Fuel shortages cause a cessation of international air travel, but not before a few global pandemics infect all but the most isolated countries on Earth.

The Middle East war expands as 1st-world nations vie for remaining resources. Soon, the war goes “nukular” (as the idiot cowboy in the White House would say).

Had enough, yet?

Don’t worry, you will!

Right about the time an asteroid smashes into Earth, triggering an eruption of the supervolcano at Yellowstone Park.

It all makes going to hell in a handbasket look pretty good, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Racism: Victim Complicity?

Fifteen years ago, the following exchange took place on a Seattle loading dock:

“Occum fody braid, mon, occum fody braid.”

Startled by the voice as I banged across the dock plate with a handtruck bearing trays laden with snack pies, I turned to see a heavy-set black man, in his late fifties, standing on the ground next to my trailer, hands planted firmly against the dock. “I’m sorry,” I yelled, “I couldn’t hear what you said. Would you mind repeating . . ..”

“Ahsayd occum fody braid, mon, occum fody braid.”

“I don’t understand . . .”

“Yodeefer, sump’n? Ahsayd occum fody braid, debraid, debraid, mon, juzz gimdy braid.”

So far, I haven’t understood a word this man has said, but there’s enough communication going between us that I can understand that his initial mild arrogance is progressing through various phases of surliness to outright hostility. I sense that if I don’t do something to placate the man, this situation is going to devolve into a physical confrontation.

“Oh, well, why didn’t you say so. Actually, I’m not a Gai’s employee, so I’m not authorized to take any action on my own. Let me get the dock supervisor. I’m sure he’ll be glad to take care of everything for you.”

It wasn’t until later that I learned the man wanted to pick up a load of three-day-old bread for a local food bank.

Thus, we come to Earl Ofari Hutchinson’s article posted on AlterNet, today. Earl laments that black males are victimized by a 40% unemployment rate, citing racism as the cause. But how much of black unemployment can be attributed to racism, and how much of it is culture related?

In academia, in business, in the public spotlight, perception is everything. Ineptitude with language reflects negatively on one’s (perceived) level of intelligence.

Racism played no part in preventing Ken Boddie, Rhonda Shelby, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Marsha Thomason, Gabrielle Union, Dennis Haysbert and Halle Berry, all of whom are black (or, maybe, just lovely shades of brown), from achieving success. Character, talent, determination and perceived intelligence carried them every step of the way.

A white person meeting with a prospective employer for the first time doesn’t have any better chance of getting hired than a black person if he carries to that meeting a shitty attitude, bad manners, disrespect and a propensity to mumble unintelligibly. Most white people get it. Many black people don’t.

When people try to surpass inbred redneck Texas hillbillies in mangling the English language (as if such a thing were even possible), they can expect to be unemployed, as they rightly deserve to be.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Peak Oil & Rising Prices

Peak oil is something nearly everyone has heard about. It’s been bandied about on the Internet; it’s been the subject of countless print media articles and cocktail conversations, but it’s getting little, if any, TV exposure. Apparently, not enough people are taking it seriously. At least, they’re not taking it seriously enough to actually do something about it. You know, like change lifestyle behavior, or something.

Gas prices are already a buck higher than they were a couple of years ago, and they could go up another 50 cents or so before Labor Day. Have people cut back on their driving? Not enough for anyone to notice. People still fill their gas tanks (bitching the whole time about how the oil companies are ripping them off) before heading to the freeway.

Well, guess what, people. It’s not going to get better. It’s only going to get worse. Much worse! You ain’t seen nuthin’, yet.

Okay! Okay! Stop yer cryin’, it’s unbecoming of an adult. There are a few things you can do to make higher gas prices less painful. Stop driving!

Get rid of the SUV!

Get on your feet!

Get on your bike!

Get on a bus!

Alternatives abound, but you have to be smart enough to use them.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Earth Day and Hemp Awareness

Saturday’s Earth Day celebration at Sellwood Park, in southeast Portland, was about what I expected -- an eclectic mix of the curious and clueless, of passionate progressives and extreme environmentalists, of posturing politicos and crusading capitalists. Whether they came to learn or to teach, to share ideas, to promote public or private agendas, or just to enjoy fresh air and sunshine and music, everyone who showed had a personal reason for being there.

My own reason for showing up was straightforward, no less altruistic nor more selfish than any other. I wanted only to ask one question and gauge people’s response. The question, of course, is one that I’ve asked, in varying forms, for more than a decade. In essence, the question is this: Do you support the legalization of cannabis hemp, and if not, why not?

Responses varied from adamantly opposed to wildly enthusiastic. It’s not surprising that opponents outnumbered proponents by more than three to one, but it is discouraging. That so many people can remain ignorant in this age of computers and the Internet and Google searches and alternative media is truly mind-boggling.

In striking up a conversation with Jim Hill, democratic candidate for Oregon Governor, I asked, “Mr. Hill, if you’re elected governor, will you support the legalization of cannabis hemp?”

“Uhmm, no!” he replied, as if my question had triggered an automatic response. “With the medical marijuana laws we already have in place I don’t think we need to expand . . ..”

“But Mr. Hill, I wasn’t talking about marijuana, per se. I’m talking about cannabis hemp, about its industrial and commercial applications that go beyond what you’re likely to find in a sandwich bag.”

“Uh, oh, well . . ..”

Thus did Jim Hill reveal his ignorance. That someone who aspires to solve Oregon’s environmental, economic, educational, healthcare and energy crises, all of which loom large on the horizon, can remain so uninformed in a deluge of positive knowledge about something that can help achieve those worthy goals goes beyond belief. Ignorance of this magnitude strains credibility and speaks loudly of incompetence.

You can’t denounce hemp and save the planet at the same time, Mr. Hill. That’s being hypocritical. Especially on Earth Day.

To Jim Hill’s credit, he did indicate a willingness to reevaluate his position if presented with a suitable amount of credible evidence that hemp legalization would be a net gain for society. In which case I’ll have to reevaluate my decision not to vote for him.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rethink marijuana policy!

Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., opposes medical marijuana initiatives because he thinks they're "a front" to legalize all uses of marijuana. Before I weigh in on the subject, let's define "marijuana."

Marijuana is a Mexican slang term that refers to the leaves and flower tops of cannabis sativa, the common hemp plant. The U.S. Government expanded its definition of marijuana to include stalks, branches, stems, seeds, roots, and root balls of both cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. Never mind that only the leaves and flower tops contain enough THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) to actually get someone high.

Rather than using lame-brained arguments to maintain a strict ban on marijuana, maybe we should more closely scrutinize the government's obsession with marijuana prohibition. And maybe we should try to figure out what constitutes "all uses" of marijuana. Does it mean that some people might smoke marijuana recreationally instead of medicinally? So what if they do? Or does it imply that marijuana -- more specifically, cannabis hemp -- has industrial uses that, if allowed free rein in a market-driven economy, would threaten to upset the status quo?

Stay tuned! I'll explore this issue in greater detail in an upcoming issue of Petey's Pipeline E-zine.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gas prices heading north!

Back in mid-September of last year, in
issue #15 of Petey’s Pipeline E-zine, I stated unequivocally that gasoline prices would turn upward in the spring of this year, eventually hitting $3.50 per gallon before Labor Day. How prophetic is that?

Yesterday, crude oil closed at a record high $74 per barrel, ratcheting gasoline prices closer toward $3.00 per gallon – to about where they were in the days immediately following Katrina. Last year, gas prices topped $3.00 per gallon before settling back into the $2.20—2.30 range. Now, prices are on the move again, and the direction they’re heading is north.

Not to worry, though. Summer is still two months off, and Labor Day nearly two-and-a-half months beyond that –- plenty of time for my prediction to come true.

In fact, I’m so confident about my gas price prediction that I’m going to make a couple more. Quite a few people are going to cancel or change vacation plans, this year, and quite a few are going to get reacquainted with walking and/or their bikes. But, hey! Walking isn’t so bad. After awhile, you get used to it. And bike riding? Well, that's just plain fun.

In case you’re wondering why I’m sounding so smug about this, it’s because I sold my car nearly five years ago. No more $300 per month car payments, no more $60 per month insurance payments, no more rush hour frustration, no more gas pump blues.

I’m feeling good about higher gas prices. Are you?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

There's a good reason for . . .!

When I started Petey's Pipeline Blog, my intention was to post once or twice a week on topics that would later be explained in greater detail in a forthcoming issue of Petey's Pipeline E-zine. As you can see, it hasn't exactly turned out that way. So far, I've been compelled to post daily, largely because I find blogging to be more gratifying and satisfying, and certainly more exhilarating, than trying to meet a publication deadline for a bi-monthly e-zine. In short, the blog has turned into what
Random Ramblings & Miscellaneous Musings (in the e-zine) was originally meant to be.

That’s not likely to change in the near future, especially because short opinion pieces, memoirs, and social and political commentary are particularly well-suited to subtle applications of irony and satire, with an occasional dash of sarcasm thrown in for effect.

There are different ways of perceiving reality, probably as many different ways as there are people. Most people see only a version of reality that, from their unique perspective, allows them to focus on comfortable fictions that obscure a grimmer reality behind a veil of glitz, glitter and hype. They're more concerned with the latest gossip about Brad and Jen or Tom and Katie -- or which NBA team is going to win the championship -- than they are about corporate or political malfeasance.

We live in unsettled times; global environments, global politics, and global economies are undergoing profound changes, but many people seem oblivious to the upheavals taking place all around them, blind to the changes yet to come. The raison d’ĂȘtre for Petey's Pipeline (both e-zine and blog) is to challenge popular perceptions of reality, to rouse people from their lethargic apathy, to encourage them to take off or shake off the blinders that confine them to a narrow world view. We are a society set to self-destruct, and each day brings us closer to that end.

We know who the "Hot Dogs" are; they occupy corporate boardrooms and political capitols everywhere. They've already exposed themselves and revealed, if obliquely, their scurrilous plans. Join me in turning up the heat. It's time we had ourselves a "weenie" roast.

Read the latest issue (#29) of Petey's Pipeline E-zine on-line.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Utopian dreams?

Pantisocracy is a term, coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, used by idealists to describe a classless utopian society in which all people have equal rights and all people rule. Is it possible to create such a society? Nah! Not even close.

In the first place, a pantisocracy implies that my 98-year old blind aunt has as much right to drive a Champ car or an Indy car as Catherine Legge or Danica Patrick. Actually, I don't see that happening anytime soon. There are just too many legitimate reasons why people can't, or shouldn't, be treated as equals, but that's not to say that people shouldn't be treated fairly.

In the second place, in order to establish a true pantisocracy, the privileged elite 1% of the population that hoards 80% of the nation's wealth would have to give up a significant portion of that wealth, and I don't see that happening anytime soon, either.

To round out the top three reasons why a pantisocracy won't soon replace our current arrangement, corporations would have to give up virtually all of the power they've managed to grab over the last 120 years or so. What are the chances of that happening? Jesus, I can hear them howling already.

No, I don't think we'll soon see our current form of government replaced by a pantisocracy. Too many people benefit from the kleptocracy that's already in place. And too many people are afraid to change the status quo.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Oxy-and other-morons

By definition, oxymorons are figures of speech in which apparently contradictory terms are combined to produce epigrammatic or paradoxical effects. For example, "government intelligence" is an oxymoron. I think this stems from the fact that more than a few people in government are morons, if not outright idiots. I'm not sure how "oxy" fits into the picture.

Want some more examples? Okay, how about "intelligent design" (at least in the way the term applies to our little dot on the Universal Star Chart)? The state of the world today argues more against the possibility of God's existence than it does for it. What God-fearing person of sound mind (wait, that's probably an oxymoron, too) would dare suggest that God had a hand in creating this mess we commonly refer to as "reality"?

If God did create this mess, then one must logically argue that the design is less than intelligent. Oh, you're arguing that God created mankind and that mankind is responsible for the mess. Excuse me? Doesn't that imply that God's design of mankind is faulty? Once again, the argument for intelligent design flunks the test.

But, I digress.

What other oxymorons can we come up with? How about "golf action"? That's certainly an oxymoron, and "baseball action" is borderline, at best. "Slow speed"? How much more contradictory can you get? "Working vacation"? I'll take a week off and get back to you.

There are many more oxymorons, I'm sure, but I just can't think of any, right now. Guess I've got a forgetful memory.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Racing Legend

Stunned is the single word that best describes my feelings on that fateful Easter Sunday morning, 44 years ago, when I heard the news. Just hours earlier, at the Goodwood Racing Circuit in England, Stirling Moss had crashed his racing car (a Lotus Formula One car, if I remember correctly) head-on into a dirt embankment at 100 m.p.h., suffering life-threatening injuries in the accident.

Although Moss went on to recover from his injuries, his professional driving career, perhaps the most brilliant career in all of motor racing history, was over.

Stirling Moss' consummate driving skill made him the quintessential driver. Whether in an open-wheel or closed-wheel car, in open cockpit or closed, Moss excelled. His prowess at the "LeMans start" became legendary, and his unique "long arm" driving style made him the most recognizable driver on the track.

Unarguably, Moss was the greatest driver never to win the World Championship. During a career that spanned about 12 years, he racked up scores of victories, driving such cars as Jaguar, Maserati, Cooper, Lotus, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, on the premier circuits of Europe and North America. His early victories in Cooper and, later, Lotus formula and sports racers helped ensure that rear-engine cars would become the norm, not the curious exception, at modern racing events.

Moss set yet another milestone when he became the first professional driver to earn more than $100,000 in a single year. Because driver salaries were notoriously low throughout the 1950's, Moss became one of motorsports' early pioneers of product endorsements.

Today, Sir Stirling Moss, nearing 80 years of age, continues to be a crowd pleaser. He still writes books, still does speaking and promotional tours, still inspires awe. Not too long ago, at Laguna Seca Raceway, he made what was to be the final run of the vintage Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR roadster that he drove to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia. Jay Leno, comedian, late-night talk show host and avid car enthusiast, went along for the ride. And I am soooooooooooooo envious.

Thanks for the inspiration, Stirl. And thanks for the memories.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Issue #29 & other issues . . .

Petey's Pipeline E-zine
(issue #29) is on track for late Sunday publication. Features include new business trends and opportunities, an article about a previously untapped source of energy, and the usual writing tip for do-it-yourself Web page writers.

Do I believe in freedom of speech and of the press? You bet I do, and I'll defend your right to say or publish anything you want (short of outright slander, libel or child sexploitation), no matter how stupid or foolish it is.

Thanks to the Internet, anyone who has access can become a writer and/or publisher. Lots of people who write and publish on-line claim to be editors, too, but evidence suggests otherwise. Many self-proclaimed editors seem to be strangers to the editing process. Ah, well! Time and experience will sort it all out.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

11:11, and all is well . . . maybe!

Does anyone have a grip - and I mean a really firm grip - on what 11:11 is all about? Some say it portends the end of the world, others say it portends the end of the world as we know it. Most people, however, have no opinion one way or the other because they don't know anything about it.

This is what I know for sure:

Whenever I spontaneously glance at a digital clock, the time 11:11 shows up far more often than mere chance would allow.

According to 11:11 theorists, 11:11 marks the time on the morning of December 21, 2012, when a catastrophic event of some kind will forever alter life on Earth. 11:11 is the warning sign.

The late Terence McKenna (by all accounts an extremely bright fellow) wrote an article in which he stated, unequivocally, that the Mayan calendar, which was projected several hundred years beyond the end of the Mayan civilization, ends on December 21, 2012. After creating a complex graph consisting of overlapping circles that represent the timelines of various events, McKenna found that all the overlaps converged at a specific point in time -- precisely at 11:28 a.m., December 21, 2012. Coincidence? Or too close for comfort?

What kind of force could alter life on our planet, or end it? Unfortunately, there are several, none so far-fetched as to be considered impossible, or even improbable. A meteor strike could do it, as could nuclear war (Duhbya's workin' on it). So could an eruption of the supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park, weather events due to global warming, or a series of massive earthquakes.

In fact, there's probably too much to worry about to worry about it. Or, as my old friend Alfred E. Neuman always said, "What, me worry?"

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Now, it begins!

Petey's Pipeline (Blog Edition) Hits the Ro . . . er, the Information Superhighway. Yeah, I know! Some of you are saying, "Well, it's about time."

Actually, it's way past time, but give me a break, anyway. I knew as soon as that damned fool made me Webmaster for the Perfect Text Web site and put me in charge of all things technical that there was going to be trouble. Well, sure enough, I was right. A deficiency of technological acumen and a critical shortage of qualified staffers mean that this blog and the Perfect Text Web site will continue to bumble along, using the same inept management style that George Duhbya Bush uses to run the country: Play it by ear, ignore reality, shun advice and deny responsibility. It’s a surefire formula for . . . for . . . for absolute disaster.

Hey, ya go with what ya got.