Wednesday, April 30, 2008

White Men Can't Jump

"White Men Can't Jump," filmed in 1992, is a text book illustration of how the races can work together. Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes play a pair of white and black basketball players who team up together and hustle pickup games in the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Wesley Snipes, the black guy, says to Woody Harrelson, "white men can't jump."

But Woody fires back at the black guy and says, "You'd rather look good than win."

These short vignettes reveal the complex psychology between the two races in America.

We should all watch this movie again. The other good movie to explain race relations is Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," filmed in 1989, where Danny Aiello plays the last Italian selling pizza in an all-black neighborhood in Brooklyn. Aiello and his two white sons display a nasty attitude to their all-black customers, who retaliate by burning down their store.

The result? Danny Aiello goes out of business, the young black people have no place to get pizza, and the only people to win are the Koreans who have a grocery store across the street. This movie is an example of how race relations can go badly.

Frog Hospital is teaching race relations now because it has become clear that the General Public needs remedial instruction.

Take Wesley Snipes, for instance, who was recently convicted of income tax invasion and sentenced to three years in prison. We can draw two conclusion from this. One, Snipes is a real idiot. Did he think no one was watching? The second point is that Snipes will do three years in prison because he's black. He gets two years for breaking the law, and an extra year for being a black man with an attitude.

Now, for remedial instruction, we need to point out that Wesley Snipes and Barak Obama are both black men of a similar age, but they are not related and do not even know each other. So if Snipes commits a crime, that doesn't that Obama is also a crook. It doesn't mean that Obama should denounce Wesley Snipes or refuse to see any of his movies.

But there's a reason why white men rule the world -- it's because we know how to keep all our ducks in a row. When a white man runs for President, he knows how to silence any disturbing relations. Presidents like LBJ, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter all had stupid and embarrassing brothers -- who were firmly silenced and kept in place.
That is the natural habit of dominance.

Experienced politicians, like Bill and Hillary Clinton, with their razor-sharp, ruthless skills, know how to put away the old friends from the old neighborhood. They carefully analyze their relations. If you're going to cost them votes, they drop you like a hot rock.

But Barak Obama, being young and green and only slightly corrupted, does not have the ruthless habits of the Clintons. Instead he is deeply conflicted, because he has loyalty and long affection for Jeremiah Wright, and he knows it's wrong to put down his old friend.

And yet political necessity is driving Obama to renounce this old friend.

And, it should be said, Obama has been ill-advised by high-priced political consultants who tell him to act white. "You gotta act white like a white guy, otherwise the white guys won't vote for you."

Hillary knows how to act white, she's inventing new code words everyday, and subtle ways of communicating to her new darlings of the working class. "I'm like you," she says, "I feel your pain," she says.

The breakdown between Senator Obama and his old friend, Reverend Wright, is a sad situation and a personal matter.

Or it would be a personal matter if both parties were white.

But I will repeat my support for both men. Senator Barak Obama will make an excellent President. And Reverend Jeremiah Wright is like a fire in the night.

I love both of these guys. Senator Obama is being knocked around by friend and foe alike and he is not reacting smoothly. That just makes me like him all the better -- because he DOESN'T know how to play the game very well.

That's the whole point of his candidacy

On My Own. The subscription drive has failed. Frog Hospital has plenty of readers but a scant few paid subscribers. I need to let that go. I did appreciate the income I received, but more importantly, my paid subscribers served as an informal board of directors -- people who I answered to, people who backed me up.

But I'm on my own now, and I'm starting to see the good of this -- a chance to try some new things. Frog Hospital will be evolving be your eyes. Be sure to get off the mailing list if you're not enjoying the ride. All you have to do is hit reply, and type "Unsubscribe."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Say Uncle

I claim the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as my true South Side uncle. If you disrespect him, than you disrespect me. If you walk out of his church, than you're walking out of my life.

There is a tidal wave of religious bigotry and racial intolerance focused on Rev. Wright, but I stand with him. America needs to hear what he has to say.

I am surprised at the furious reaction to Wright's sermons. I see now that we have not overcome race -- we can get there, but we can't runaround race, we have to go right through it. And we can get through race and get to a better place where Barak Obama serves as President.

But if Rev. Wright makes you mad, or if you think he ought to keep quiet in order to improve Obama's chances, then you have a racial problem and you need to deal with it.

I am calling on every single American that I know about this. We need to deal with it. But telling Rev. Wright to shut up and go home is like if you had said the same thing to me. The Rev. Wright is my uncle. He gets to talk, I get to talk, and we all get to talk.

God Bless America

Acting Tough

Golda Meir was the Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. She didn't act tough, she WAS tough. She didn't need to convince anyone that she was serious, because she WAS serious. And because she truly had that strength, she was also warm and kindhearted. Look at this photo of her -- not a mean bone in her body. Furthermore, Golda was not a pretty woman, but she was nice to look at and pleasant.

In contrast, our dominant American female needs to prove something. Hillary needs to act tough -- but she's not tough, she's mean. That might explain why she arouses so much hostility.

Why did she stoop to calling my man Obama an elitist because he wouldn't shoot pool in a small town in Pennsylvania? A strong and sympathetic woman would have let his remarks go by -- or would even have backed him up on that. Let's see -- a black man from the South Side of Chicago goes into a small town in the countryside of Pennsylvania and he doesn't feel very comfortable?
I wonder why.

But Hillary just steps up and gives us a new code word, "blue collar worker." She says Obama is not in touch with them. Hillary is from Park Ridge, a leafy north side suburb of Chicago -- near to where I grew up. I know this territory and the status rankings that go with it. People who grow up in Park Ridge have the world at their feet unless they blow it. People from the South Side of Chicago face an uphill struggle, and yet Hillary calls Obama an "elitist."

She's mean, not tough. She's destroys and brings ruin.

So how is Obama going to finish her off? Well, Barak, she's a girl and you can't hit her. But I'm thinking, Obama is too smart for that. What he does -- he stays cool, he stays steady, and he keeps going. Hillary taunts him and goads him over and over again, but he keeps cool. What is he a wimp?

Then out steps Michelle Obama, the fierce one. She turns back to Hillary and calls her out, "Girl, you think you're tough. I'm gonna show you tough. You're ragging on my husband and I'm going to take you downtown."

And Michelle Obama will tear Hillary to pieces and there will be justice in the land.

Cold Spring

If this global warming gets any worse, we're going to have icebergs floating down the Skagit River. The cherry crop in eastern Washington has been devastated by late spring frosts, so your Washington-grown Bings and Queen Anne's will cost double. But look on the bright side -- that solves the labor crunch. Washington farmers have been facing a serious shortage of farm labor this season, but if half the fruit crop is ruined, they won't need so many workers.

Which brings us to the heart of the Frog Hospital policy of energy independence. The key is diversity -- just like what the farmers do. Farmers around here know they can never depend on just one crop, because everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Same with energy -- every source of energy comes with its own problem. Energy from foreign oil causes war. Wind power kills birds, ethanol from corn drives up food prices, solar energy is just plain pricey, and nuclear energy can blow up in your face.
The solution is to get a little here and little there. Diversify.

And conserve.

The Poconos

SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA. In 2004, I spent a week in late November walking the woods in the Poconos, in eastern Pennsylvania. All the leaves were down from the beech trees, making a copper-carpet, and soft for walking from the rain. I don't hunt, but I never saw a woods that looked so right for it -- fat bears in those hills. I didn't see the bears, but I know they saw me. Deer and wild turkey too -- I could have gotten my Elmer Fudd hat and shotgun and just gotten lost in those woods.

People from the West Coast think there's no country in the East, but they haven't seen places like the Poconos.

Besides the hunting news, there is little to report on the dreary debate between Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, as the Pennsylvania primary approaches. One hopes for a decisive outcome.

Old John McCain, the War Hero. First, I have several good things to say about McCain. He is an indifferent fundraiser, and I consider that high praise. He has refused protection from the Secret Service and won't live in a cocoon. His son, a Marine, is serving in Iraq. McCain is one of few office pubic servants who can say that, and yet he never says that, because talk is cheap.

But his war record in Viet Nam -- yes, I know what he did, but why? He thought he was defending his country, but he wasn't. He was on a military adventure in a country we never heard of, protecting people who never did anything for us, and attacking people who never did anything to us.

Viet Nam wasn't our fight, and so my genuine praise goes to thousands of men my age who served their country best by refusing to fight in that damned, useless war.

Zimbabwe Independence Day Celebration. Saturday, April 19, 9 pm,
SIAM ON LAKE UNION,1880 Fairview Ave. $10, cash bar, live music. Open to one and all. Meet the real people from Zimbabwe -- those immigrants who have settled in the Seattle area. Hear the wonderful Shona music -- it is so good for dancing. It promises to be a great party this year, in celebration of Robert Mugabe's imminent departure.

"Don't Get Me Started"

At the Water Cress Medical Center, where I work in a stress management position, I have noticed a lot of "guarding" behavior in the nursing staff. Guarding is a medical term, defined as follows:

Abdominal guarding: Tensing of the abdominal wall muscles to guard inflamed organs within the abdomen from the pain of pressure upon them. The tensing is detected when the abdomen wall is pressed.

But in the nursing staff, guarding is not evidence of a diseased organ, but rather a psychological defense. It means, "Don't ask me how my day is going, because I just want to get through it. And please don't ask me what's wrong, because if I start talking, I won't be able to stop, and I'll start screaming..... I have to get back to work."

Medical Modesty. Last summer, the White House announced, with full-color illustrations, that President George Bush was about to undergo a colonoscopy. We got all the details of his intestinal examination, because our beloved president was being "open" about it. But I didn't want to know. Why don't they just say "a routine medical procedure" ?

And Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, several years ago, bravely and openly, told the public at large about her breast cancer.

I don't actually know these people. We are far from being intimates. So, why, in God's name, are they compelled to literally spill their guts to perfect strangers?

I'm going to vote for the first candidate who makes the following statement:

"My health is my own business. I see a doctor and I have a loving family and friends with whom I discuss these matters.

I will only tell you that my health is quite good and I am as certain as anyone can be that I will be able to complete my term of office. But if I become seriously impaired, I will resign.

And if you can't trust me on what I just said, then don't vote for me."

This statement of privacy applies to the rest of us. It's a matter of modesty, not shame. Of course, one should never be ashamed or embarrassed about their health, or some disease that threatens their life, but one ought to be modest.

Modest -- such an old-fashioned word. Do you know what it means?

Retirement Plans

I'm going to retire when I stop working. At that point I will continue eating, but not as much, since I won't be working. When I'm too old to drive, I plan to resume hitchhiking. It will easy for an old geezer to get a ride if he waves his thumb. Also, I will continue to take care of myself until I am no longer able, at which point I will become someone else's problem.

I'll work out the details on a day-by-day basis.

Also, old men tend to be long-winded when they talk about their past. I intend to keep it short, unless someone really wants to hear it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


By Fred Owens

A lot of my attention is on the news from Zimbabwe. The Old Man, Robert Mugabe, is packing his suitcase now, a suitcase full of diamonds and bundles of Euros -- but he is on his way out. The Zimbabwean community in Seattle has an Independence Day party every year on April 19 -- this year they will have something to celebrate.

I lived in Zimbabwe for a year in 1998 and married my second wife there. We came back to America and lived together for five more years and then divorced. She stayed in America. She has a decent job and is able to wire money to her family back in Zimbabwe

I called her this morning to get the news from her home. For the past few years, news from her is about which one of her relatives back home has died. Today she told me that her cousin Francis, a young man, was dead, and that her cousin Tante will soon die. Tante is in her mid-forties and has eight children. I didn't ask what caused their death, I only said I was sorry and how I remembered the times I spent with them.

It's like that for every family in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's departure might not make things better.

SAY IT IN A NICE WAY. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week that the United States still has trouble dealing with race because of a national "birth defect" that denied blacks the same opportunities as whites when the country was founded.

"Black Americans were a founding population," she said. "Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together -- Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That's not a very pretty reality of our founding.

Didn't Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, say the same thing?. Of course Rice is a diplomat, so she said it in a much nicer way.

NATIONAL HEALTH CARE. Of 2,000 American doctors surveyed, 59 % said that they favored a universal national health care plan, according to a survey published by the Reuters News Service. The U.S. has over 800,000 doctors.

Frog Hospital surveyed only one doctor, Dr. Roy Berkowitz, who practices family medicine in Somerville, Massachusetts, a working class suburb of Boston. Dr. Berkowitz said, and I quote, "Anything is better than what we have now."

Berkowitz was my family physician when I lived in the Boston area 15 years ago. He likes his work and he makes a good living, but he is buried in paperwork from HMOs and insurance companies.

WORLD'S LARGEST BUREAUCRACY. Frog Hospital does not support A universal national health care plan for over 300 million Americans. It could create the largest bureaucracy in the nation's history. The next President needs to first demonstrate competence solving a more tractable problem, such as immigration reform. Or California and Massachusetts can forge ahead with their single-player plans -- if those work, a bigger program might be attempted.

YOU CAN KEEP YOUR HAT ON. You get sent to the hospital, you get admitted and sign a million papers, and then they take you to a room, and you take off all your clothes, and you put on one of those ass-waving-in-the-breeze hospital gowns. This is nothing to the hospital staff, in terms of your personal nakedness -- they are SO not interested. But your sense of modesty is challenged, and worse, your identity has been stripped -- because there is nothing in that room that looks like home. Of course it's spanking clean, and the sheets are fresh, and you have a TV. It doesn't even smell like hospitals used to smell -- they have an excellent ventilation system and they use odor-free soap.

And the nurses are all very nice to you -- it's just that you can't actually do anything, they won't let you.

But you can keep your hat on.

I will need to explain this. With all the gizmos and wires and tubes they are using or might use on you, they need to get hands-on access to every part of your body -- that's why you're wearing that skimpy gown. But you can keep your hat on, because it won't get in the way, and so, be you a lady or a gentlemen, you can still BE YOURSELF.

I've been thinking that I would visit the Big Nurse down on the first floor, and make a suggestion that we put a sign at the entrance to the unit that says, "You Can Keep Your Hat On."

A sign wouldn't cost very much money, and the incoming patients would find it re-assuring.

Actually, I get lots of ideas about how things could get better at the hospital. I kept a notebook for jotting down ideas, but when I reviewed them all, I found a common thread -- they all cost money. And do the Higher Ups want to hear my expensive suggestions? I think not. So I am searching for ideas that will save money and discovering that is not so easy.

SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE CONTINUES. With sufficient funds this newsletters could be proof-read and edited. Editors fix problems -- they make sure that facts are really facts, and attributed to a source -- stuff like that. It would not cost a great deal to engage an editor for this newsletter, but it would make a great improvement.

Please mail a check for $25, made out to Fred Owens, and mail it to

Fred Owens
Box 1292
LaConner WA 98257


American voters move to the left and find --- there's nothing there! My God, it's all been deconstructed. Meaningless, virulent data swarming over the ruins of a once powerful, political language. There's nothing left, on the left, except for "gender-free, inclusive, diverse, multi-culturalism." Huh?

Just another nightmare, never mind.

For myself, as a writer, I have to go over to the right every now and then, to borrow some good, solid language -- they're always glad to share. "Fred, try this one -- Truth, Justice, and the American Way!" Oh yeah, I remember that, it was from Superman's TV show in the 1950s.

On the Obama front: It would really help to hear from Pastor Jeremiah Wright. This is what he could say,

"First of all, I'm a plain spoken man, and if you don't like my preaching, then don't come to my church. As for my brother Barak, he is and always has been his own man. He is a leader, not a follower. I don't give him orders. I am proud beyond measure that the next President of the United States has turned to me for advice from time to time, about his spiritual life, and about the words of Jesus Christ which guide both him and me. I stand with him now in this hour of bitter controversy, as he stands with me, but Barak Obama speaks for himself -- don't ever forget that. And he faces judgment for his deeds, not mine."

Preacher Wright is off the front pages now, but the right wing is still hammering away at him. Let me summarize what Michael Medved said, "It's un-American to chastise the American people from the left. We are the only ones allowed to issue condemnations."

HEADLINE. The Newspaper Association of America reports a nearly 10 % drop in advertising revenue this year -- the biggest drop in 50 years. Why do you think I'm working at the hospital?

I spoke with the traveling press when I attended the Barak Obama rally in Austin, Texas, in early March -- reporters from the New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, and Associated Press -- the boys on the bus. They were haggard, unkempt and weary, slogging their laptops and carry-on bags from one city to another. The LA Times man had to check his Blackberry to find out what city he was in -- it all was a blur to him.

I pitied them on this endless campaign. The pay is not great, and their job security becomes more tenuous every year. The print journalists, whatever you want to say about their bias, work awfully hard at their craft. Covering the campaign seems like a raw deal. Obama took in over $50 million in campaign donations in the month of February and he will spend almost all of that on TV advertising -- lining Rupert Murdoch's pocket. McCain and Hillary are doing the same. In other words, the print journalists do all the hard work, and the TV guys get all the money.

Maybe the newspapers should stop covering the campaign -- what's in it for them? They could make more money reviewing "American Idol."

The national press has always liked Obama better than Hillary. That couldn't be liberal bias, because Obama and Hillary are equally liberal. But it's simple to explain -- journalists have a much deeper bias -- they like a good story, something fresh, and Obama fills that need. It certainly works for me. The Clintons have been on the national stage for 16 years now -- it's getting to be a pretty stale soap opera.

However, I am in favor of getting all the firsts over with -- first woman, first black, and so forth. Let's look at the roster of powerful Greek-American politicians, running the gamut from Vice-President Spiro Agnew to Governor and Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. The Greek have not yet reached the very top -- but someday they will. And they're way ahead of the Italians, despite being fewer in number.

THE TEMPER OF THE CAMPAIGN. That reminds me of the Dukakis campaign in 1988 -- a competent man, running a well-oiled machine, experienced, qualified, with substantial positions on substantial issues. It was all so well organized -- and he lost. In a similar manner, John Kerry was the Democrats' compromise choice in 2004, equally disliked by all factions, but competent, experienced, and ready to serve. The Democrats marched behind Kerry with a spirit of grim determination -- and they lost.

In fact, that's how the Democrats lose. But when the mayhem rises, and the troops get a little wild, and fists start flying, and the music gets louder -- that's actually a good sign. These people do not get their ducks in a row. As Will Rogers once said, "I don't belong to an organized political party, I'm a Democrat."

This is how I read the unending battle between Obama and Hillary -- it's getting absurd and little crazy and that's how you can tell the Democrats are going to win.

Except, Old John McCain is doing pretty well, making calm, statesmanlike speeches about the economy and about the war in Iraq and testing the waters about a likely VP -- Mitt Romney could give him very good support on the economy.

And -- this is getting interesting -- Condaleeza Rice is sending out some feelers about her prospects. She will be out of a job next January, so she might as well consider being a VP for McCain. She brings a lot with her, like intelligence.

The last really intelligent Republican President was Richard Nixon, and he had to resign. This gave intelligence a bad name in GOP quarters, so they made character an issue and won a lot of elections.

I'll agree on that -- character is always more important than intelligence, but is it asking too much to have both?
It'll get worse. Osama Bin Laden, up in his cave, is planning to endorse Barak Obama -- he's just trying to figure out the best time to cause the most mayhem. Wouldn't he do that? Reaching his long, nasty fingers into our domestic choices. It's too bad our cowboy President didn't take him out.

Excuse me -- just my nightmare.

The Obama pastor flap explains why Colin Powell didn't want to run for President in 2000, because race will rear its ugly head sooner or later. Powell, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and then as Secretary of State, rose as far up as he could go without getting into electoral politics. Nobody ever threw mud at him -- but if he had taken one step out into the public arena, it would have gotten rough. Powell knew what would happen to the first serious black candidate, and he knew he wasn't going to be that man.

Powell saw what happened to Clarence Thomas in 1991. Thomas should have been challenged on his judicial merits. Instead, among so many men who were as bad or worse, Thomas became the poster boy for sexual harassment.

Then there was OJ Simpson in 1994. Powell saw that one too. And he said now way. Or maybe his wife said no way.

But Obama is going through with it -- with more courage than Powell or too dumb and young to know better. Obama is getting all kinds of static about his pastor and his white grandmother. The critics are clairvoyant -- they know the exact words that his white grandmother spoke, those words that made Barak cringe. Because they happen to know those exact words, they judiciously say that it didn't amount to much -- I guess they have better sources than I do.

I am not certain that Obama is the best man to become President, but I am 100 percent behind him on this racial nonsense. It seems to me a rather personal matter whom you choose for a pastor, but this lurid fascination with the "dark" lives of our darker brethren disgusts me. Usually it's about sex -- at least that's not happening this time.

But here's the good news -- with Obama becoming a national figure, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will no longer be the "official spokesmen for black America" -- Those guys are finished, praise the Lord.

Obama does not owe a dime to the civil rights establishment which has ridden herd on black America since the 1960s. Let my people go!

Meanwhile, Hillary, driving a car with no reverse gear, has announced that she would not attend such a church, or would walk out. Thanks for the input.

But I had a secret litmus test between the two all along -- the first one to take a break would get my support. Hillary slogged on through the Easter weekend. Obama, who actually has a life, went to the Virgin Islands for a three-day rest.

Obama, as much as he is driven by ego and ambition, also likes to take a walk on the beach with his family.

So much for politics. I am combining campaign reports with news from the hospital where I work because political enterprise needs to be grounded in our daily reality. I cannot give the name of the hospital because that would imply that I am speaking on its behalf. The hospital has an excellent director of communications, and I'm not going to step on her toes. And patient privacy is a priority. And I want to keep my job.


"It's a routine surgery."


"Well, it's a fairly common procedure, and the outcome is almost always positive."


"Of course, in a very small number of cases, it's possible that..."

That's what I thought, I'm gonna die.

"Look, it'll be over before you know it, and you won't feel a thing.... I mean, again, there is the slight possibility of some discomfort, but that's not likely, and we have very good pain medication."

I'm gonna die. You're going to put me unconscious and cut me open with a knife. I can see my guts spilling all over the place and there's blood everywhere.

The patient screams. The surgeon makes a wordless, reassuring gesture. The patient shakes his head, looks out the window for a moment and says, "Okay, whatever, give me the form, I'll sign it."

Thus concludes the world's shortest medical drama. Stay tuned next week for a story called, "The Wonder of Phlegm."

Also, the annual Frog Hospital subscription drive is coming soon, so get your check books ready.