Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's the most wonderful day of the year!

Happy Halloween!!
The Wicked Witch of the West with Glinda the Good Rat

Medusa 6:30 am

A community organizer, Elphie the Witch and Medusa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not that there's anything wrong with that

Remember that classic Seinfeld episode where a reporter thinks that Jerry and George are gay because they faked a same-sex relationship? Only they find out who she really is, and that she plans to write about Jerry and George's relationship which catches them in a quandary. They want it known that they are not homosexual, but at the same time they don't want their denial to mean that they are homophobic, hence, the statement, "not that there's anything wrong with that!"

Charges of socialism and socialist are being lobbed around by the McCain/Palin campaigns in response to Obama's tax plan. In fact, during the third Presidential Debate, while discussing providing health care coverage to those who currently don't have it, McCain stated that it would be a fine thing to do if we wanted to be like Canada or Britain—said like they were democracy's bastard step-children. Those crazy, English-speaking, crap-buying, frumpy, dentally-challenged foreigners!

I've actually visited a number of socialist countries, and some communist ones as well. Countries like Norway, that have the highest literacy rate in the world, some of the lowest infant mortality rates, a universal health care system and cradle-to-grave social services. Walking down the streets in Oslo, there is plenty of commerce. People are out eating, making money, spending money and doing pretty much the same thing that we do here in Portland, except the weather is crappier.

Of course these things don't come free, which is where the socialism bit seems to rile up the American public: they get taxed a lot in Norway. Somewhere along the lines of 48% of income is taxed. Most Americans pay much less than the highest U.S. tax rate, which is currently 35%. Obama has proposed doing away with the tax cuts for high earners ($250,000+ a year) that Bush Jr. put in place during his first administration, which would put the rate at 39% rather than 35%. Yes, that's higher. And in today's stinky economy it would pinch even those who make that much—I guess. It's not like we've ever seen that much money in two years, let alone one.

Yet here is something to digest: historically in the United States, the highest tax rate on the top earners has come at one of the worst economic times and under the the most conservative of conservatives. Even the Freakonomics guys and the Economist are wondering where we stand in comparison to other countries with our tax rates?

But back to our visit to the lands of socialism—or worse, communism (which, given the McCain/Palin criteria, seems to be everywhere but America). We visited health clinics in Australia and New Zealand, shopped in hypermarts in London and Bangkok, had freedom to post our blog from everywhere, except Tibet—and only because we were writing critically about the Chinese while there--and accessed the Internet in every country we visited, and guess what: the planet didn't spin of its axis. People got up, worked (harder than Americans in some places, like Korea & Japan), shopped, ate out and generally seemed pretty sane. While we saw people who were desperately poor, and some with more money than God, what we mostly saw were a lot of folks in the middle. Kind of like a middle class. The same class we are losing in this country, year after year.

I remain stumped when I hear charges from politicians against raising taxes, or that having taxes is akin to socialism. I think of fairly non-partisan things like the police, the fire department, emergency dispatch services, teachers in public schools, medicare/medicaid, social security, stop signs, bridge repairs, and libraries and wonder, who pays for these things if we don't pay taxes? Do I really want to pay as I go whenever I need to call 911 to get the police at my door after a break-in? On the other hand, I understand my taxes are also paying for federal agencies to wiretap private citizens, detain and torture at Gitmo, and wage an unpopular war in Iraq. So if we really wanted to toss ism's around, I could probably find an appropriate label for these things--like, uh, maybe fascism? But when you look at the bottom line, doesn't having a funded government, even when you despise some of the things that government buys, bring a lot more advantages than problems for the general populace?

So, Canada, Britain, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands, you socialist dens of equality and decency, some Americans will never adopt your compassionate, fair and somewhat cavalier ways. We will always desire to feed that insatiable appetite of our defense industry, needed to battle never-ending wars. We will happily watch as insurance companies deny their insured health care, so long as we know we're going to stay strong and healthy. We will even vote against our own interests time and time again, as a tailsman of our hope that someday, we too may be as rich and powerful as The Donald, or Oprah. Just remember, whether we spend like you or not, don't call us socialist--not that there's anything wrong with that!

P.S. Just wanted to pass along another blog you might enjoy if you find mine the least bit interesting. If I’m only half as spririted as these ladies when I’m 82, I’ll be happy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Elections from Hell

Here's an election suggestion: If you think the 2008 presidential election is wacky, and you need a good diversion, netflix Election, starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick for some good old political fun!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If only Finnegan could vote...

It's time Only Planet introduced its newest subscriber, Loey's nephew Finnegan! Nice Bunny ears, Miles!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Travels with Henry

Last night my friend Ruby introduced me to the brilliance that is Henry Rollins. He did a three hour show in Portland and talked about politics (as expected), his mediocre acting talent, and his forays through the quagmire that is the TSA at most airports. Seems he spends a lot of time at airports, since he’s assigned himself the job to travel where most folks thinks he shouldn’t. Islamabad Pakistan, Phom Penh Cambodia and the very Orwellian country of Burma have been some of his recent destinations.

Henry—man—you’re my kind of traveler! While Italy is very nice and all, and New Zealand is different than Oregon (more sheep in NZ for instance), they just don’t titillate the tiny chunk of my brain that thrives on the absurd, dangerous or different. That’s what I like to gather from my favorite travel destinations.

One place that really sticks out in Henry’s mind is Cambodia. Walking in the “killing fields” of Cambodia, he describes picking up human bones (which still remain after thirty years, despite repeated attempts to gather them up) and leaning them against a tree. Cambodia has a way of affecting those who travel there. I know that for me, the only country I constantly go back to—at least in my mind—is Cambodia. This is a country that killed its scientists, engineers, educators and writers in a great political purge because they were dangerous eggheads—an obstacle to attaining a state for the common people.

How such a massacre could happen seems especially nefarious. Yet Henry drew the conclusions I’ve drawn: we don’t believe that this page of history is something unique to just Cambodians. It may seem a long stretch, but the continual slide towards anti-intellectualism in our country—where evolution is “debatable,” science is derided, math is “too hard” and knowledge of geography is bordering between comic and dismal—makes me wonder. Did half the population in Cambodia wake up on April 17, 1975 and just decide to kill those who wore glasses because they associated wearing them with intellectualism, or was it a slow, herky jerky trip?

Bob Herbert wrote an op-ed in the NY Times today, which travels down that same road of thought with Henry and me. Herbert laments low math scores, disinterest in scientific careers and our desire to amuse ourselves to death. History isn’t mentioned as one of the suffering subjects, but it’s not a favorite subject for most Americans. As Mark Twain said, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Rap, beat or sonnet, this is not a rhyme I think we want to hear from our shores.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Made in Korea

I read an interesting article today in the NY Times about South Korea's policy to make all adoptions domestic by 2012. Unwed mothers, abandoned babies, overseas adoption, and untraceable bloodlines have been a source of embarrassment, grief, and sadness for many in Korea since the Korean War. From 1958 till present, over 150,000 babies (including yours truly) were adopted by families who lived outside of Korea, a majority of them from the United States.

I often wonder what my life would have been like had I not been adopted in 1969. Given the stigma that adoption held in Korea, if not adopted by another, I would have remained an orphan. Rather than the rich life I have now (complete with education, loving family & friends and abundant calories) I’d probably consider myself lucky if I had a job cleaning bathrooms in the subway, since I would have been denied an education or entry into proper society.

I’m the first to acknowledge that figuring out racial identity—during a time in history and in a geographical space where few look like you–can be difficult. And I sense the psychic wound is not small for my fellow Koreans who try to reconcile their country/themselves being unable to care for so many of its own babies. But something inside me feels an equally deep loss knowing that there could be no more adopted babies—from Korea, and if the trend continues—any other place outside our country.

In Korea adoption is a highly political issue, but at the same time intensely private. While there will always be babies who need homes, and finding families in the country of origin should be encouraged, I fear (pardon the pun) that discouraging international adoptions could be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

note: Andy and I are cuddling baby boys while at the Holt Adoption Agency in Seoul Korea, 2005.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Did you watch the “debate” last night between Obama and McCain? I did and the one thing I learned that I didn’t know before, is that I’m John McCain’s "friend." In fact, we all are his friend, his bestest buddy and if we only knew that—along with knowing what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are—we’d be voting for him, gosh darn it!

Repeatedly last night when answering a question, he’d refer to the questioner and the general audience, which includes us out there in TV-land, as “friend”. While McCain may have thought he was “coming down” to our level by continually calling us friends, what it felt like to me was something Gavin DeBecker in his book the Gift of Fear calls forced teaming. Using this word is trying to establish a pre-mature trust. Hey, we’re sharing a predicament and I’m here to help us out. But it’s a tactic a persuasion-predator uses, says DeBecker. Unlike someone charging us with a knife, what a persuasion-predator does instead is look for someone vulnerable (undecided voters?) who will allow him to be in control, and then attack.

The last time I saw someone calling another “friend” as much as McCain did last night was during the movie No Country For Old Men. In an especially tense scene, Anton Chigurh, the killer and antagonist is having a conversation with the owner of a gas station. He’s calling him friendo, and whether he kills the man or not, depends upon how the old man calls the coin toss, heads or tails. Chigruh was not this man's friend, and I, Senator McCain am not yours.

The outcome of this election feels like it could be determined by the flip of a coin. Call one side and we could see health care as a right and withdrawal from Iraq before the next Olympics. Call the other, and we could see health care as a responsibility (or privilege as it is now) and another 100 years of our troops in Iraq. It does seem that we navigate a balance worthy of Philippe Petit.

In the meantime, McCain’s twitching, his attempts at humor, and his condescending attitude, (Yes Sen. McCain, I actually may know the names and whereabouts of countries we will be in conflict with in the future—hell my friends and I have probably visited them—unlike your vice-presidential pick) left me feeling that perhaps this is no country for old men. Or at least this old man.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Travelin' Politics

An article that I've written has just been published on the highly-trafficked travel website Bootsnall. I've written for them before and you can find those articles here, and here.

Please check out the article. If it gets a lot of looks, it will be moved high in the queue and sent out to all subscribers to bootsnall's newsletter at the end of the month, which can only help the self-marketing needs of this struggling-to-publish writer.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Do You Think She'll Be My Friend???

Sarah Palin's Facebook Page (not really, but better than actual one!)

My Facebook Page (Wanna be friends?)

Master Debaters

Will you be watching the Vice-Presidential “debate” tonight? We will, though I’m not sure that it should be called a debate. See, for four years I participated on my high school’s speech team, in debate and extemporaneous speech. Debate was an event where my partner and I would research a topic (in the pre-internet world) and make reasoned contentions to win talking points. Usually our topics were something of national importance, like the death penalty, or abortion rights or prayer in school. Moments before our competition we would find out which side we had to argue, so we always had to be prepared to argue either side. In competition we would unleash our arguments, not like junk yard pit bulls (we did wear lipstick) but more like tactical surgeons.

In extemporaneous speech I had to be well-read on dozens of current issues (preparation usually included reading Time, US News & Newsweek every week—again the pre-internet world) and then half hour before the event, write and give a cohesive and fairly comprehensive speech about anything from—using current examples—the currency crash in Zimbabwe, to the skirmish in post-soviet Georgia.

Even in law school I participated on the Federal Indian Law Moot court team where over the course of a semester my partner and I prepared a case arguing pro/con about some sort of fuel tax on Federal Indian Land.

All of these events supposed two fairly evenly-matched opponents. Both teams would have a similar amount of time to prepare, similar world experience and maturity.

But tonight, well it will be a different kind of match. After the Couric and Gibson interviews, expectation of Palin are so low, that unless she enters the forum scratching her butt, and dragging her knuckles on the ground, pundits will call her performance a success. Biden on the other hand, has a more difficult job. If we weren’t living in Bizzaro-land we would declare him the victor if he spoke strongly, backed with all of his experience, knowledge and reasoning powers. Hell, he could even lick his finger, sizzle it on his butt, and do a happy dance and we could just chalk it up to be the most entertaining political spectacle in history. But since we are in the United States of Stupid, he’s going to have to balance on a fine line between displaying expertise, without looking like an ass because he knows Hamas has nothing to do with Iran. And avoid being called pompous because he understands that knowing the cause of global warming is the best way to fix the problem.

What would help me during tonight's info-tainment is if they had those little bubbles that come up on some VH-1 shows where you listen to what the people are saying, but actual facts appear in writing. Or something like Stephen Colbert’s The Word, just give us some editorial guidance.

It could be done by Fact Check, or any other neutral organization. But wouldn’t that be helpful?

In lieu of that sort of help, I'm offering a link to your own personal Palin Bingo card, courtesy of my friend Peg. At least it might help alleviate some of the head-banging frustration that has become a symptom after watching Palin's recent performances and allow someone be a clear-cut winner when the debate is over.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bicycle! Bicycle! (Channeling Queen)

In case you haven’t heard, there are some pretty huge gas shortages in the Southeast part of our country. For a couple of weeks now there have been reports of long lines, tapped out pumps and angry people wanting their gasoline. I feel like I’m having a bit of a flashback to 1979. But a couple of things come to mind when I read about this. First—though this story did make the mainstream news the last couple of nights, this has been going on for weeks. And there’s barely any coverage. I know, the bail out and the news that our economy is going down the drain is getting a lot of press, as it should. However, since gas is second in importance to Americans—after water—why such little reportage?

And second, driving for hours to look for a station with gas seems kind of counter intuitive. Perhaps it would be best to just say “what the hell”, and pull out a bike to get to work, school, etc. Except that we’ve developed a country where sprawl, private humvees, and mini-mall blight dot our landscape. Who has time to bike when the kids have to be dropped off to school, home is a twenty mile commute from work and dodging clueless drivers adds hours onto an already packed day.

The 2008 Bike Commute challenge just finished and Andy has placed second at FEI for racking up the most miles ridden to work during September. Over the course of the month he’s ridden 500 miles, and 60% of his trips to work were on a bike. The guy who ranked #1 rode 544 miles and did 94% of his trips to work on a bike. As you can see, he lives much closer to FEI than Andy. Andy usually bikes from home (In NE Portland) to Goose Hollow, gets on our light rail (MAX) and takes that to Hillsboro where he bikes the last leg to work. Sometimes though, he bikes all the way home from work—which is a 20 mile commute. Since June he’s been biking more than driving which makes him happy, saves money on gas and leaves me the Prius for my own lazy drives around our hood—however I did bike to Milo’s yesterday! Give the girl a medal.

Whatever the reason for gas prices, or shortages, there needs to be some deliberate, thoughtful dialogue happening. I’m afraid we’re not going to get that given our current leadership and our future leadership options. The degrees to which there may be changes from either McCain or Obama will be different, but both are playing within the same paradigm--a world where EVERY American (with the exception of the blind and those with DUI's) must drive everywhere.