Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Can Our Government Shine?

The weather has gone abominable in the Pacific Northwest, and, since people are staying home in droves—which means they are not darkening the doors of the café—I have found myself with considerable amounts of time on my hands. My first instinct is to wring those very hands in worry and frustration with the evil-looking numbers we are putting up for this week (and probably for the rest of the month, considering that the weather is not slated to improve much between now and New Years'…) Instead, I've decided to pick up the book I've been trying to read for the last month, and see if I can't get through to the end. Yes…I'm still reading Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope.

When I first cracked open the book several weeks ago, I found myself often reading through tears. I was still in the "relief bordering on disbelief" stage of post-election euphoria. I could hardly read a well-formed, comprehensible sentence crafted by the man slated to become our next president without experiencing an almost overwhelming feeling of awe, gratitude and victory. It felt for all the world like a religious conversion experience. (And I know from where I speak on such things, believe me…)

As time has passed, the euphoria has given way to practicality. I'm starting to wonder how many wheels our broken economy has to lose, as one seems to go spinning off into the gutter every few hours. If the wails of woe issuing from the Senate, the auto industry, the energy and oil industries, China, real estate and construction concerns, and just about every other contributor to our nation's financial stability don't snap one's attention back to dire reality, nothing will. So I have continued my reading in a more subdued state of mind.

And, here's the thing. It's not that Mr. Obama isn't intelligent, well-read, even-tempered and introspective…all traits that will indeed be pleasant to attribute to an American president. It's just that he is very much a regular guy. The things he writes are refreshing and reasonable, but they are not revolutionary. What makes him look like the second coming is the backdrop of the last eight miserable years of intellectual and moral retreat through which this nation has suffered under the Bush Administration. It would be hard for anyone not to look like a knight in shining armor coming out of that cistern of muck. What I fear now is that the media, the government, and the American people are going to expect way more from Barack Obama than any human being could possibly deliver. And then turn on him like a pack of wolves…

The nation is watching closely as Mr. Obama selects his cabinet and top advisors. Everyone is still gun-shy of the cronyism that was the hallmark of Bush Administration appointments. We ooh and aaah over Obama's thoughtful selection process as he calls upon experts and scholars, people who might actually have credentials, some of the best credentials, in fact, to fill key roles in his government. Once again, why do we find this so fascinating? Isn't this how the process should look?

Yes, there will be quite a contrast between the government assembled by a privileged, ne'er-do-well scion of a Texas oil baron-turned-politician, and the one brought together by a middle-class Constitutional scholar who came to politics via the route of public service. Bush's philosophy of government is that it act only in ways that will enhance the power of the powerful…thereby keeping our nation strong and, through trickle-down, improving the lives of those without power. And all that power must intersect in the person of one central figure: the President. The guy who at least appears to hold all the cards and make all the rules.

Mr. Obama's philosophy is that government is a coalition of the best minds and practitioners, even those with opposing viewpoints, working together for the greater good of society. The president is the guy whose responsibility it is to call all these various factions together and facilitate their cooperation. I think we can expect Mr. Obama's to be a government of conviction rather than agenda. It is one thing to have solid beliefs and to live by them; it is quite another to have an agenda to force everyone else in the country to live according to your convictions. In Mr. Obama's mind, the way to govern—indeed, the very foundation of our government—is to bring the best, most capable minds together and allow them to have at it. Here are his words on the subject:

"Whether we are for or against affirmative action, for or against prayer in schools, we must test out our ideals, vision, and values against the realities of a common life, so that over time they may be refined, discarded, or replaced by new ideals, sharper visions, deeper values. Indeed, it is that process, according to Madison, that brought about the Constitution itself, through a convention in which 'no man felt himself obliged to retain his opinions any longer than he was satisfied of their propriety and truth, and was open to the force of argument.'"

Imagine that. A government that would be all about encouraging people to open their minds, or even change their minds; as opposed to a goose-stepping regime that adheres to a strict list of written-in-stone commandments, crying "flip-flop!" at the slightest prospect of an enlightened recalculation.

I don't know about you, but I personally am very eager to see Mr. Obama's—and the Founders'—theories of government get a chance to shine. No matter what happens, we will no doubt be living in a very different country than we have been of late. And it is SO about time!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Presidential Reality

I didn't actually hear the entire speech. In fact, I didn't even know Mr. Bush had spoken at a commencement on Friday (or that there was a self-respecting school on the planet that would want him) until I found this little quote on a friend's blog.

And I immediately thought, "This explains a lot." And it is more than a little disturbing, coming out of the mouth of the man who has been the Leader of the Free World for the past eight years:

"Remember that popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind. Character and conscience are as sturdy as the oaks on this campus. If you go home at night, look in the mirror and be satisfied that you have done what is right, you will pass the only test that matters."
-- President George W. Bush, from his commencement address Friday at Texas A&M

Isn't this just a fancy and inspiring way of saying, "Choose your own reality?" To hell with truth, justice, and everyone else in the world. As long as YOU can live with what you've done, that's all that matters.

Evidently, Mr. Bush wants everyone to rest assured that he will be able to sleep like a baby every night in his approaching retirement. I'm SO reassured…aren't you?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bursting The Handbag Bubble

As is typical of the season, I receive about ninety-five ads, catalogs and solicitations in the mail every day. My kitchen counters are awash in shiny, full color spreads from Home Decorators', Walmart, Kohl's, Touch of Class, Fred Meyer. All clamoring for their share of the general population's fast-disappearing discretionary dollar. Some retailers are even trying to adopt the, "Our loss is your gain" tactic. Kind of like, "We're sinking fast but you can get some real good deals before we go under…"

And then…and then, there's Nordstrom. Steadfast in its appeal to the "Haves." As opposed to the "Have Nots." Or the "Did Have but Won't For Longs."

Nordstrom with its hand-picked selection of $250 costume jewelry watches, with which one can adorn one's wrist while toting a $600 designer handbag. Nordstrom…in all its unerring allegiance to pricey, unnecessary affectation.

Nordstrom stands alone here in the Pacific Northwest as a testament to the excesses endemic to the lifestyle of riding the economic bubble. That bubble which burst…sometime in the relatively recent past. (The Bush Administration is allowing now that it actually burst sometime last December…?)

But burst it has; causing those of us who might once have foolishly considered the purchase of a $600 purse to pull the strings on our shabby little $25 tote bag as tight as we can, the better to hold in the funds we need to merely survive.

Not that I ever entertained the notion of owning a multi-hundred dollar handbag. But it makes you wonder…who would? What in god's name would make a stupid purse worth what many people pay in monthly rent?

What were we thinking?

Makes one realize that this country was badly in need of an…economic correction, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On Our Black Magic Economy

Here is the opening paragraph in Wikipedia's entry under "Economics:"

"Current economic models developed out of the broader field of political economy in the late 19th century, owing to a desire to use an empirical approach more akin to the physical sciences.[2] A definition that captures much of modern economics is that of Lionel Robbins in a 1932 essay: "the science which studies human behavior as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses."[3] Scarcity means that available resources are insufficient to satisfy all wants and needs. Absent scarcity and alternative uses of available resources, there is no economic problem. The subject thus defined involves the study of choices as they are affected by incentives and resources."

Okay…I am not a stupid woman. Perhaps I'm less educated than I would like to be, but I think my intelligence level is right up there. And I have no idea what any of that means. A couple of weeks ago, my landlord rather sheepishly confessed that he has a degree in Economics. "Geez, Brian," I groaned, "That's like having a degree in witchcraft."

From all that I can gather, I've come to the conclusion that economics is an infuriating concept which no one really understands, and upon which no two people seem to agree, yet it governs the relative ease or challenge of my daily existence. It can dictate whether I have a roof over my head, food to eat, and decent medical care when I need it, yet it is so ethereal that I have as much personal control over it as I do over spirits on The Other Side. There are words, like incantations, that only a privileged few are allowed to speak, and even those chosen few are loathe to utter them. Words like "recession," "slow-down," "correction," and the most powerful of all—the "Beetlejuice" of the economic lexicon—"depression."

Somewhere along the line, the decision was made that the best way to rebuild the economy after the September 11th terrorist attacks was to hand the whole smoking mess to the richest of the rich, promise a stream of unlimited profits pouring into their treasure chests, turn the other way and let them have at it. It was so vital that the United States be able to stand up, dust itself off and say to the world, "Ha-ha, didn't hurt!" that we sold our souls to the devil. And the economic witch doctors to whom we turned have conjured and chanted and eye-of-newt-ed us to the top-heavy, over-inflated monster that is even now falling down around our heads.

"Black Friday" is the aptly named holiday upon which we celebrate the apex of our greed-based economy. The traditional game of this holiday involves retailers dangling irresistibly priced carrots in front of frenzied customers, who must then jump through demoralizing hoops—like lining up in the middle of the night in the rain outside the local Wal-Mart. This is the reward we get for carrying the nation's economy on our backs, year-round, by dutifully streaming to the stores and trading a hefty portion of our income for the latest technology, newest toy, or flashiest bling. What is wrong with this picture?

In the past weeks, the demise of our black magic economic model has been the star of the global stage. The entire world has watched as our booming gaseous blimp of an economy has lumbered toward the same end as the Hindenberg. And it is to be hoped that any country in its right mind, rather than queuing up behind us to subscribe to the same system (and help bail our burning butts out of our flaming ship), will run screaming in the opposite direction. I have no idea what healthy national economies are supposed be based upon. But it's pretty obvious, for a whole host of reasons, that rampant consumerism isn't it. For the past seven years, we've built an economy based largely on lending large amounts of money that did not really exist to people and entities that were not likely to be able to pay it back. How can that not fail, in the end?

It seems to me that a healthy economy must first and foremost be a moral economy. There needs to be equal opportunity for all members of society regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion; fair wages for fair labor; an equal chance for any business—large or small—to succeed. There needs to be access to superior education, and the best health care must be considered an inalienable right. There needs to be a sense that enough is enough, and too much is never a good thing. There needs to be a sense of stewardship, of protection of the earth and its resources. There needs to be a spirit of service, of the necessity of doing things that help other people, and not just looking out for number one. In short, there needs to be a means to responsible sustainable growth, rather than rampant irresponsible expansion.

Change is always difficult. It is too easy to get into the middle of something that you come to realize is wrong, but you don't know how to get yourself out of it. Perhaps the Universe is doing us a favor with this economic crisis. It is giving us the opportunity to start over. Let us hope it isn't too late. Let us hope that the people taking over the reins now will be bright enough and far-sighted enough to build something meaningful and substantial that will carry us well into this century, and beyond.

Cross-posted at Women On...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

What a Difference Four Years Make

Four years ago, I was so depressed by where our country found herself, so saddened by the depths of inexplicable depravity in which she had wallowed for more months than I cared to count, that I could barely rouse myself on the morning after the 2004 election. I had held so tightly, so desperately,to an unfounded hope that the silent majority would miraculously arise, shake the fog from their heads, and hand the Bush Administration its walking papers. I could not quite believe that my fellow Americans would award the Axis of Evil an additional forty-eight months to indulge its acquisitive lust for power, money, and more power.

And so I rose on the morning after Election 2004--the election that I firmly believed would be the most important of my lifetime--hope warring with dread in the core of my being, looked out the window at the new day and contemplated…

I decided I would let the dawn be the omen. If we had a spectacular
sunrise, no matter who won, things were going to be all right. A rainy, drizzly,
weeping dawn would foretell of dire consequences for our nation. Funny thing…I
knew the forecast was for sun today…knew the rain had stopped and the clouds had
scuttled away before we went to bed last night. I think I was creating a
scenario in my mind where my "good omen" daybreak was more than likely to

But we didn’t have a spectacular sunrise. The day dawned bright and
brittle. The sun just marched up over the horizon, cold and hard in the east.
And it frosted last night…the first frost of the season. The bright hard rays of
the rising sun glittered off the sodden masses of my garden flowers that were
killed by the frost. So, tell me…what kind of omen is that? Coming to Terms… November 3, 2004.

November 5, 2008 dawned grey and drizzly and dark…very much a typical late autumn day in the Pacific Northwest.

Yet I jumped out of bed, bustled into the café and gushed to my staff and any customer within earshot:

“Isn’t it a beautiful day!"

And I wasn’t talking about the weather.

Tears for the Victor

Did anyone else watch an eloquent, intelligent young man humbly accept the gift of the presidency of the United States from the hands of the American people—a people burdened and burned by eight dark, oppressive years of an administration devoid of hope, empty of compassion, bankrupt of honor—with tears welling up and spilling into your lap?

I couldn’t help it. There stood a man, a bright articulate man, speaking of change and hard work, healing and unification… instead of mouthing platitudes, whipping up blind nationalism, reminding us of our fears and encouraging our craven trembling in the face of all manner of threats and dangers. And this man…this well-spoken, inspirational man… was designated our next president. Representing the absolute antithesis of the buffoon we have borne in that capacity for way …too…long.

It hardly bears believing.

As I watched Barack Obama address his people, I literally felt as if a great heavy cloud was lifting from our nation. A cloud that no matter how hard we’d struggled or how loudly we’d shouted at it, would not budge, but rather settled more and more heavily upon us until we were utterly immobilized by its weight, a weight more analagous to the granite of a tombstone than the insubstantial mist of cloud.

Oh my god, it’s been a long time coming. I can believe in this country again. I can hope for this country again. I can look forward to seeing her regain her proud place among the nations of the world.

I emphatically wish we hadn’t had to endure the past eight hideous years in order to see this day. And I suppose it is likely that if the past eight years had been any less hideous, we would not be seeing this day. We have seen the worst. Dare we hope that, now, we may see the best?

All I know is..for the first time in a really long time, I can say with some conviction…

I’m proud to be an American.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On the "Sport" of Hunting

Cross-posted at "Women On..."

This morning, I left for work just after dawn. I poked my head out my front door, and was greeted by the staccato pop! pop! pop! of shotgun fire from across the channel: Sportsmen taking potshots into the great flocks of game birds wintering in the wetlands on and surrounding Sauvie Island. That sound never fails to grip my heart and squeeze.

I hate guns.

My dad owned a pair of pistols and a rifle. They weren’t loaded, they weren’t kept at the ready in case some hoodlum broke into the house in the middle of the night intent on murdering us in our beds. In fact, the pistols were locked up in a metal strongbox.

Dad was brought up with guns; he grew up in a small town in Oregon where guns and hunting were part of the culture. He spoke proudly of earning enough money on his paper route to buy his first rifle when he was twelve years old. He treasured his guns as a connection to his roots, a memento of a time and place far away and fondly remembered.

But he respected their potential to create mayhem in the wrong hands…knew they really had no place in the sleepy, mid-century exurbs of Chicago. Dad’s guns lived in the back corner of my parents’ bedroom closet. We girls were sternly threatened never, ever to touch, look at, or interact with those guns in any way. Ever. So sternly that I don’t remember even being tempted to burrow into their hiding place to look at them. So began my hate affair with guns.

I’m no longer that frightened little girl, totally cowed by the demonic presence hiding in the dark reaches of my parents’ closet. But even in adulthood I have not acquired any love for or acceptance of the role of firearms in 21st century society. “Guns don’t kill. People kill.” Small comfort, really, when you think about it.

Today, with the sound of shotgun fire echoing in my ears, I wondered about mankind’s fascination with guns. And with killing.

We kill the animals over which, our religious tradition tells us, we were given dominion. We kill each other. For the hell of it.

What is wrong with us? Why must we kill? Why are we the only species on earth that has constructed such an elaborate ritual around the senseless killing of other animals? We call it “hunting.” We do it for sport. Not because we need the food. Not because these animals are capable of, or interested in, killing us if we don’t kill them. They don’t come looking for us. We take it to them.

We kill because we can. Because we want to. Because it gives us some kind of perverted feeling of power.

How sick is that?

Fall is my favorite time of year to walk on the dike. I go to see those stunningly huge flocks of birds flying in shifting waves across the marshes to the island. I go to hear their chaotic barking and honking. That sound always stirs up something wild and restless in me.

And when I think of some idiot dressed in camo with his designer dog at his heel, pointing a blunderbuss into those great wild flocks and blowing the life out of bird after bird for sport…for the fun of it…

I wonder where to hand in my resignation from this race that is truly beyond hope.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Better Terms Rises From the Ashes...Sort Of

Sometimes, this whole blogging experience can be SUCH a challenge. More challenge than I really want to encounter, most of the time.

This evening, I have discovered two things:

Deleting multiple entries from “Blogger” is WAAAY more trouble than it is worth…


I can SOMETIMES outsmart the capricious cyber-gods and actually bend this recalcitrant medium to my will. To a certain extent.

In other words, I figured out how to convert this old blog to the “Layout” format from the “Template” format, even though it refused to show me the magic buttons through normal channels.

But I will not be able to make the 300+ old “Coming to Terms…” entries I painstakingly copied and pasted into this journal go away without deleting them one by one. Something in which I choose not to invest precious time at this juncture.

So, I cannot restore “Better Terms” to its original ideal of a blog that contains only my “next level” writing.


I can now mess with the template and pretty it up to my heart’s content.

You win some, you lose some…

Thursday, October 09, 2008

For Those Who Followed "Coming To Terms..."


AOL actually did something right for a change. I was indeed able to export "Coming to Terms..." in its entirety to blogger.

It's here. It's intact. And it's where I'll be from now on.

I'm not sure exactly what to do with "Better Terms." It was originally supposed to be a repository for my "next level" writing. A way to present my better stuff to the larger blog audience.

But here I am, with three (count them, THREE) more blogs out here in front of this "larger blog audience."

I'll have to think about doing a little paring down.

Until then, all you who thought you needed to follow me here to "Better Terms," please tune me in at Coming to Terms, blogger version...

Monday, October 06, 2008


With all the things I have to do, all the responsibilities I’ve accumulated in the past few years, with the café, and my husband, and my family…I’m driven to save my journal.

Of late, I have barely had two hours a week to invest in the writing I so love, and have so missed. Now, I spend four or five hours a day, copying, pasting, saving.

As soon as the danger became known, there was never any question.

Never any thought that I wouldn’t find the time. Never an ounce of consideration given to just letting it go because I would not find the time, in my real life, to deal with this.

Because this, this journal, has been such a huge part of my life for the last five years.

In many ways, and on many occasions, it has BEEN my life.

Or saved my life.

So, yes, I have AO-hell to thank that my world has been turned upside down. And that an additional dire deadline is hanging above my head.

And I have them to thank that I will spend the next 26 days more stressed, more sleep-deprived, more desperate than I would have otherwise been. Something I definitely did not need.

But I will not let my words disappear at the whim of…well, who knows whom.

Thanks AOL. Thanks for treating us like negligible, expendable crap.

It’s the American Way, is it not?


Saturday, October 04, 2008

How Much Fun Is This?

Funny how no one has been posting much. AOL tells us they’re going to be closing their doors in 30 days, and we all just…abandon ship. Actually, if everyone else is spending the hours and hours it is taking ME to painstakingly transfer my entries and comments to blogger, I know exactly why everyone has been so incommunicado.

I have spent, oh, about ten hours so far on the "copy, paste, redate, publish" thing… It reminds me of the hellish months I spent trying to re-invent myself as a data entry clerk. Very much why I ran screaming back to the foodservice business. B-O-R-I-N-G!!!!!

And, yet, the entire time I’m doing this, I feel this sense of doom hanging over my head. As if there is no way I’m going to get this all finished before the deadline. Auugh!!!

I have gotten all the way through March of 2004. Which means I have only 4 ½ more years to go.

And I haven’t noticed any helpful e-mails from AO-Hell telling us they’ve figured out how to move our journals to…somewhere else. I’m thinking it will be a cold day in hell when that happens. And I’m also thinking there is no way I would entrust THEM with this precious compilation of the last five years of my life. Sure as s**t they would lose it all into cyberspace, never to be seen again. There is no way I would take that risk.

So, soldier on, everyone. We shall meet again on "the other side!" :-]

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Okay...I posted a title.


Anyhow, the woo-hoo was because I just found out that you can pick the date of a post. So, theoretically, that means I can go to "Coming to Terms..." bring the posts here, and put the proper dates on them, and they will go back into the archives and line up just the way I want them.


And now I have to go DO that thing and see if it works...

Okay...IT WORKS. It's going to be tedious and time consuming. But it works.

And if anyone knows a better, faster way to do this thing, I'm listening...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Election 2008

You all knew I'd have something to say on this subject, didn't you....?

Dubya is possibly the lamest duck in the history of the genre. Legless, headless, plucked and gutted, he lies, rotting, while his presidency grinds to a merciful close. And the American people are engaged in the process of choosing his successor.

Four years ago, I firmly believed Americans were facing the most important election in their lives. After four years of goose-stepping nationalism, state-sanctioned racism and payback fever, the 9-11-induced madness appeared to be abating. There was a slim glimmer of hope that we as a nation would come to our senses and reject George W. Bush and everything he stood for.

Or not.

It’s fair to say the Democrats didn’t present us with much alternative. Rather than take a stand and advance a candidate who embodied everything that King George wasn’t, they gambled that Americans would back a Democrat only if he promised do everything Bush was already doing, only better….? So they created "Bushenstein;" I mean, John Kerry. Kerry was easily dispatched by G.O.P. hatchet men back in 2004, perhaps because he was never more than a cardboard collage of a candidate to begin with. My sincere apologies to Mr. Kerry, who, I think, took his candidacy much more seriously than did just about anyone else in the world.

And now, it is 2008. The year for which the sidebar on my original aol blog has yearned since shortly after the 2004 election results became final. But I find myself curiously detached from the process, this time around.

First of all, I’m sorely disappointed in the American people. Oh, they’re all for change…now. They see what a mess Bush has gotten us into…finally. They’re crying, screaming, clamoring for a drastic, sweeping leadership transformation…at last. I’m sorry…for me, it’s a case of way too little, far too late.

So, when people tell me this upcoming election promises to be the most exciting in their lives, I just…cringe. And shake my head. I can’t help feeling they showed up four years late for that boat.

We could have made a statement, could have made a difference, in 2004. We could have shown the world what we thought of Bush and his cronies and their power grabbing, world-dominating, civil-rights-stealing ways. We could have served notice that it isn’t all about the money. That the peons of the world do not prosper or starve, live or die, at the will of the rich and powerful.

Instead, we granted the Evil Empire another four years. Four more years to dig deeper into the cookie jar. For more years to hone and polish the art of the spin, the embellishment of the truth, the outright lie. Four more years to brand the values of greed, dishonesty and arrogance indelibly upon of the Spirit of America.

But change is in the wind. It has to be. We won't be allowed to give Bush another four years (thank god.) So we're hopping up and down and clapping our hands at the excitement of it all!

As the Democratic candidates spar and bicker and one-up each other right down to the wire.

And John McCain sits quietly on his nomination, and the Republicans contrive to dial down the rhetoric and bide their time. Hoping that, in doing so, they will morph the GOP into looking like the perfect alternative to…the GOP.

It looks like it could be a very long four more years….

Settling In and Rearranging (or trying to...)

Now, I suppose I should make it look like I really LIVE here…

I’ve been screwing around with the template, trying to get it to where I can customize it, but that doesn’t seem to be working for me. And I am not, by god, going to abandon this blog, too, and start all over AGAIN! I’ll make it look like I want it and do the things I want it to do if it takes forever.

And it might…

Anyhow, to any of you sliding over here from "Coming to Terms…." (y’know, I get a little misty just typing the name…)


Let’s see if we can curl up and get comfy here. Or feisty. Or whatever mood strikes us.

Lisa :-]

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Very Cool

Today the city of Scappoose held its annual festival. Which bring the entire community to the blocks right outside the door of my café.

But what we learned from enduring the past two years' Sauerkraut Festivals is this:

Yes, the entire city parties right outside the doors…but they bring their own food.

So, this year, we decided to just…be open. And let the citizens of our fair town feel obligated to buy a cup of coffee so that they can use our bathrooms. Sigh!

Business being what it was, husband and I had the opportunity to "do" the festival. Which took all of about ten minutes. We did, however, come up with one incredible find.

An original oil painting, entered into the fine art contest at the library: 

Look familiar?

Probably not.

Hint: The painting is titled "Café in the Heat of the Day."

My café. On the right. Tables on the sidewalk and all.

Very cool.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Our Worst Nightmare

Sarah Palin is our worst nightmare.

She’s not, as she claims, a pit bull with lipstick.

She’s George W. Bush with lipstick.

She’s everything we’ve loathed, everything that has gone wrong with this country for the past eight years. She’s an uncurious, uninspired, unflinching Fundamentalist. She has deep, deep ties to the oil industry. She’s uneducated to a laughable degree…at least Bush’s rich family made sure he was availed of an undistinguished tenure at Yale. You want to talk inexperience? She’s lorded it over the less than 700,000 souls that inhabit America’s largest and most remote state for just short of two years. Before that, she spent ten years in the city government of Wasilla, Alaska—with a population of not even10,000. Foreign affairs? Here is a woman who freely admits that she has not spent much time thinking about the War in Iraq. Though she seems to have guessed enough about it to call it “God’s work.”

Put a dick on her and she could BE George W. Bush.

Do we want, need or under any circumstances hanker to be saddled with four moreyears of this sort of character in high office in Washington, D.C.?

Not on your life.

She’s an insult to women, an insult to democracy, and an insult to government in general.

And when I think of all the worthy women who have toiled and fought and cajoled and struggled in American government for the past 100 years—women like Bella Abzug and Madeleine Albright, Elizabeth Dole and Hillary Clinton, and, yes, even Condoleeza Rice—I swear that if this, this person becomes the first woman to be elected to high office in this country, I will have to seriously consider renouncing my citizenship and moving to Canada. Or Europe. Or any nation that couldn’t so disregard the good work of so many and award the prize to a hand-picked charlatan from the Evil Empire.

If Sarah Palin is elected Vice President of the United States, it will be the death blow for my faith in or respect for the American people.

We may not be able to change the minds of those who have allowed their pastor or their bible or their red-neck neighbors to dictate their vote. But we can and we must energize any and all voters likely to sympathize with the Obama ticket to VOTE. Don’t take for granted that the other guy is going to make sure thecountry is put in safe, sane hands. Without every possible opposing vote, there could be just enough nut-jobs to give the nod to a McCain/Palin victory.

We’ve weathered so many Bush-generated disasters that perhaps we are desensitized to them. But, mark my words, we haven’t begun to witness the kind of destruction a Sarah Palin administration—should Mr. McCain die in office—would visit upon this country and the world.

Stand up. Vote. Throw these ignorant good ole boys--and gals--out of Washington to the back of beyond, where they belong…

On Poor Choices and Sarah Palin

I’m sure Sarah Palin is a very nice woman. And she is probably even a competent governor. Of a very large state. With very few people. And a budget fat with oil and gas revenues.
I have to wonder what exactly John McCain was thinking with this pick. Palin has no national credentials. No one has ever heard of her or the dinky Alaskan town in which she cut her political teeth. Her main claim to fame seems to be a strong tie to that mystical, magical, black substance that currently rules the fate of the free world. Isn’t that just exactly what we need? Four more years of someone intrinsically connected to the Big O plunging fingers into pies in Washington D.C.?

And now…we find out she has a seventeen-year-old unmarried daughter who is five months pregnant. Okaaayyyy…exactly what was that little factoid supposed to bring to the national political table? Oh, yeah….that’s another thing for which our nation has been crying out: More validation for teen-agers to have careless, unprotected sex, get knocked up, and give birth to the next generation of young people with dysfunctional moral compasses. That “one man, one woman” sanctity of marriage thing that the right-wingers claim is the basic building block of our society seems to be getting a bit of a bashing from its own side of the aisle. Looks like they can't even get their kids to swallow it.

The moral values people would have a field day with this, if it was a Democratic candidate’s daughter sporting a “baby bump.” I’m dying to see how they spin this for a (recently) prominent player in the good ole GOP.

I’ll be the first to admit that American voters have made really dumb-ass choices in the voting booth over the past eight years. In fact, we are pretty much a laughing stock on the world political scene. McCain must be counting on some truly overwhelming idiocy out here in the electorate… Apparently, he believes we don’t require experience, competency, or charisma of our female political hopefuls. Any person sporting a nice set of tits will rope in the gals’ vote. Oh. My. God.

Up until now, I had leaned toward conceding that McCain, who probably has the upper hand in the coming election due to his general whiteness, might not make an utterly objectionable chief executive. No one, I thought, could possibly be as stone stupid as the Current Occupant.
Recent events have caused me to reconsider that opinion…

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

little squares cut
from the past
or doors
flat and neat
no dimension
no substance
no emotion

when I look at them
I’m there, but not
I see, but I don’t
through those little doors
little windows
forever sealed

Sunday, August 03, 2008

On Religion: Pros and Cons

I’ve written in this space previously about my spiritual agnosticism. I’m not an atheist. I believe there exists a spiritual plane to which we are intimately connected, and about which we know almost nothing. Our chance encounters with the power of that realm have led us to create our pitiful forms of religion—mankind’s weak attempts to put something infinitely too huge for our comprehension into terms that we can understand. And manipulate…

Religious clashes have led to some of the most heinous human behaviors in recorded history. For whatever reason, once a group of modern homo sapiens has crafted a set of beliefs based on its perception of the Source of All Things, it has felt obligated to use those beliefs as a club with which to beat other groups into submission. We’ve gone so far as to weave the concept of "blood sacrifice" into our religious fabric, as a means of sanctifying our primal and uniquely human drive to kill large numbers of our own species. Oceans of blood have soaked the pages of history in the name of "God." The overriding question that comes to my mind in view of all this is, "What the hell is wrong with us???"

Clearly, I am no fan of organized religion. And I’ve often thought that if we could purge religion from modern society, the world would be immeasurably better off. Which is not to say that we could then live in blissful moral anarchy. There need to be rules, need to be codes of ethics in order for human beings to coexist peacefully. Yes, religion has traditionally bade us slit the throat of the guy who doesn’t believe as we do, but it has also passed down admonitions to feed the hungry, care for the indigent, honor our elders, and "Do unto others as you would have done unto you." If we do away with religion, what delivery system are we going to use to express and pass on those codes?

My own recent experience has led me to wonder about this. In the past two years, I’ve had the chance to work with young people of varying religious and social backgrounds. Some of the girls who work for me have had little or no religious training. Others were raised in strictly religious households. And there are marked differences in the way these two groups function.

The non-churched group has real problems with moral ambiguity. Having never been instilled with the codes of behavior that are part and parcel of our human "faith," they’ve been left to their own devices to create the filters through which they view their own behavior and make decisions. They’ve been forced to rely upon something else which permeates every aspect of their lives to form their moral foundations: the media. The media have assumed the role of moral compass. Bounced upon the knee of modern media, these children absorb such credos as "Does it work for me?" "How do I get mine?" and "What’s in it for me?" The idea that their behavior and their choices might have real consequences for other people is entirely secondary, if it’s considered at all.

In contrast, the young people who have been raised in a strict religious atmosphere have been endowed with a completely different set of filters through which they view the world. They were born into a belief system that set forth specific rules of behavior. They were brought up believing that they answered to a higher authority than themselves—higher yet than their parents, teachers or other earthly authorities. They’ve understood almost from infancy that any decision they made needed to be made in the context of that authority. They understand that their actions have implications that go far beyond themselves.

I see this in my own life. I was born and raised Catholic. By the time I reached high school, I had almost entirely rejected the confines of the faith in which I was raised. The bigoted, unimaginative written-in-stone-ness of the dogma drove me away as I grew old enough to chafe at the restrictions of it. But the moral foundation I received as a child of the church—any church—was mine for a lifetime. Catholicism and Judaism have been half-jokingly called religions of guilt. We joke about the knee-jerk guilt we experience whenever we try to color outside the lines of our upbringing. But I’m beginning to think that guilt is not entirely a bad thing. A little guilt—a twinge of understanding that what I do creates ripples that go far beyond myself—can be a healthy and necessary thing.

Those young people I encounter who were given a religious upbringing are now at the age where they are questioning, and in some cases, rejecting, their parents’ religious views. But they will carry the moral imprint with them for the rest of their lives. It will serve them well. It will make them more compassionate, more generous, more respectful and more aware of their duty to others than their unchurched peers. Viewed simply from my own little corner of the world, it certainly has made them better employees!

There are those of my generation who bear some responsibility for the lack of moral upbringing of the youngsters I’m working with now. Our churchy childhoods clashed head-on with the social changes of the sixties and seventies. We had to reject the conservative confines of the faiths in which we had been raised in order to embrace loftier ideals like civil rights, world peace, women’s rights, gay rights… As a result, many of us made the conscious decision NOT to church our children. Let them go on their own voyage of spiritual discovery, we thought, when they reached the age of reason (whatever that is.) It seemed like a logical and fair line of thinking. But in the end, it backfired.

Evidently a spiritual quest is best performed from the platform of having rules in place to accept, reject or build upon. We will seek to change or improve upon the moral code handed us by previous generations; but if we were never given any kind of ethics, we don’t seem inclined to go looking for them. At least, not in the right places. If parents leave the void, it will be filled with whatever pop culture jams into it. So by the time our children reached "the age of reason," they were perfectly satisfied with the self-absorbed me-first lifestyle with which they had been stuffed since they were old enough to watch their first television commercial. They're not the least bit inspired to seek out a new set of rules.

I have heard young couples say that, though they don’t go to church now, they will start going as soon as they have kids, because "kids need that." And I have thought, "How hypocritical!" But now, I’m not so sure they aren’t correct. Kids DO need that. Some of it, anyway. So how do we go about rejecting the negatives of organized religion while preserving the benefits? How many centuries will it take mankind to come up with some other way to codify positive moral values and pass them on to succeeding generations, while leaving out the mumbo jumbo of blood sacrifice and the admonishment to beat the snot out of those who don’t view the Almighty in exactly the same way?

I don’t think we have that much time.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On the Obama/New Yorker Flap

So I guess we’ve all heard the flap about the Obama cartoon on the cover of The New Yorker.

My first thought when the cartoon was described to me (I only just saw it for myself this morning) was that the GOP submarine machine must have paid someone some important money to create and publish something so abhorrent and out of line on the cover of a national magazine. It appeared to be a sly, sophisticated, almost subliminal form of “Swift-Boating”—a political weapon invented and honed by Karl Rove (although I’m sure you’ll never hear him take the blame—I mean credit—for the maneuver…)

But something doesn’t quite ring “Right Wingnut” about this New Yorker thing. It’s too sophisticated. No doubt the Republican smear-meisters would love to have thought of it; and they’re secretly thanking someone for all the mileage they’ll be getting out of it. But their thought processes just don’t tend toward the subtle. They’re much more about in-your-face pandering to the not-so-secret prejudices and fears of the American Everyman.

No, I’m thinking this is a case of the uber-educated left wing having their heads so high in the stratosphere of sophisticated humor that they have left the planet upon which the other 99.99% of Americans reside. They seem unaware that in this age of You-tube and sound-bytes, all most people are going to absorb of this oh-so-witty satirical cartoon is an image of Barack Obama in Muslim garb on the cover of a national magazine. Even I thought, at first, that the kind of people who read The New Yorker would not be likely to miss the point, so how much harm could it do?

But, here’s the thing. Joe Hayseed may live out in the back of beyond, but he has a computer and an internet connection, by golly. Satire, sarcasm, tongue-in-cheek? They are completely lost on him. Why else does he base his political beliefs on the gospel according to Rush Limbaugh? And I can just picture him, yesterday, pointing to his monitor and crowing, “See Martha? I told ya he was one o’ them Muslims. I told ya!”

So The New Yorker editors poke their heads out of the portholes of the Starship Mensa, look down their noses upon the unwashed masses and huff, “Tsk! It was a joke! It was satire. It was Mark Twain...Jon Stewart...Stephen Colbert...!”

Sorry guys. Any idiot knows that a joke isn’t funny if you have to explain it.

Thoughts on Patriotism

(Originally posted on "Coming To Terms..." July 4, 2008)

Today is Independence Day. The day we Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence—our first step toward becoming a sovereign nation. Not a difficult thing to celebrate. Our founding fathers were a brilliant, driven group of men. They had it in their heads to wrestle their freedoms out of the hands of an absentee monarchy and command their own ship of state.

It was a logical and progressive thing to do, to throw off the chains of an obsolete, distant government—one which was unfamiliar with and often contemptuous of the special needs of its subjects settled halfway across the globe for more than a century. It made much more sense to create a seat of government for this land on this side of the Atlantic. Yet, even considering these things, it was a difficult and eventually a bloody undertaking.

Patriots won us our independence and put us on the road to becoming the country we are today. We bought our independence with blood, we bled to keep it. Our willingness to spill blood—both ours and others’—took us from sea to shining sea, and it nearly tore us in half. A hundred or two hundred years ago, it might have been necessary to pour out blood to preserve and protect the freedoms our founding fathers spelled out in The Declaration. There were plenty of forces in the world for whom success of a nation which trusted the people to choose their leaders and form their government was a dire threat. We needed patriots who were willing to fight and die for that freedom. We needed the concept of patriotism to flourish far and wide in the land, in order for the people to stand behind, and continue to fund and send forth, those soldiers and sailors charged with the protection of our freedoms.

But here in twenty-first century America, “patriotism” has largely lost its purity of purpose. We don’t use the word to describe an abiding love and concern for our country and its revolutionary concepts of freedom and government by the people. We use it to defend indefensible acts—like our president choosing to invade and destroy another country simply because he could. Acts like waterboarding and other forms of torture. Acts like not prosecuting a private citizen in Texas for grabbing his trusty shotgun and killing two men who broke into his neighbor’s empty home.

We use the word as a weapon of fear and hatred. We throw it in the faces of those who disagree with our personal politics. We use it to measure the worth of the guy next door, and he generally comes up wanting. I have never lived through darker days than the tenure of our current commander-in-chief, days when people actually feared to utter criticism of our government and the direction it took us in the aftermath of 9/11. One stunning attack on our homeland was enough to cause us to renege on the freedom for which so many patriots had fought and died on so many battlefields. “We’re afraid,” we cried. “Protect us and you can take our freedoms.” And the administration was happy to oblige. Surely patriots were spinning in their flag-adorned graves…

So who can blame me, now, if I hesitate to snatch up the banner of “patriotism” and wave it over my head today? It looks like something that fell out of Pandora’s box. It’s ragged and putrid and covered with blood. Yet, I should shove it under my neighbor’s nose and growl, “Love it or leave?”

I love this country. I love her diversity, I love her beauty, I love what she still stands for, in most of our hearts, despite the direction in which she has been dragged for the past several years. I love that she has been a noble force in the world, and she can be again. I love that there is still hope in our hearts that the next administration to whom we entrust the wheel of the ship of state can steer her gently but confidently back toward her original worthy course.

And I love that, because of the freedoms for which American patriots have fought and died for centuries, I can declare that I’ll take a pass on waving the beaten-up scrap that passes for patriotism today…until the shining banner of the genuine article is available once again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Get OVER it!

This just makes me want to break something. Politics are a hopeless string of lies in this country. There are no such things as honor, accountability, telling any truth without spinning it to make one's own party look good, and the other party look responsible for ANYTHING bad.

What bothers me is, the Conservatives now want to blame Clinton. And/or they declare that blaming the current president would not be showing the proper patriotism or "respect" for the office of the presidency. I see...only Republican presidents are worthy of respect.

I am of the opinion that NO president was responsible for what happened on 9/11. Certainly not Bill Clinton, who had been out of office for nearly a year, and a lame duck long before that...unable to properly conduct the duties of his office because he was dealing with a constant stream of Republican attacks every time he made any move in any direction, personal or political.

But neither is George W. Bush responsible for those attacks. NO ONE, no matter what the 9/11 panel tries to dredge up, or whom they attempt to blame, had a clue that Al Quaeda would plan and be able to pull off such a spectacular example of modern urban terrorism. Now we know. Let's go forward. Let's grow up and try not to pin the blame on anyone. Let's let today be the first day of the rest of our lives.

I think Mr. Clinton might have made a big mistake releasing his book before the election. I don't think he realized that he continues to be a lightning rod for Conservative slander. He won't be doing the Democratic party any good by allowing the Right to dredge up all the old garbage about him and fling it in Kerry's way. No amount of bad news coming out of Iraq, or stories of the Bush administration's collusion with the energy industry, or tax cuts for the wealthy, seem to be able to attract the attention of the American public away from the sensational roasting of Bill Clinton by the Conservative loudmouths in this country. Yet another not very attractive example of human nature....

This entry has 18 comments:

Comment from ginskia
Hi,It is not right that people who don't even vote want to judge our presidents. Our country is a total mess right now and there are still die hard Bush supporters. I have also been featured on AOL right where you were on Mr. Clinton's book site. Here is the link to my entry I made on Mr. Clinton and feel free to read the rest of my journal:,:) Anita

Comment from mlraminiakEntry Author
It disturbs me that anyone who writes like the comment below (a.)Ever got promoted even one grade level in this country and (b.).....VOTES! Please, please, please...anyone who wants to see a change in our leadership, don't forget that these people vote!

Comment from d448d
I think Mr. Clinton is a very sick person. He doesn't think he was to blame it takes two so he was one of the two. I feel Mr. Clinton has lower the morals in American. Now we have Kerry who thinks men can marry men and women can marry women. At less we now have a Christian in the White Hiuse who believes in the the Bible. Why would anyone want Kerry who throw his medals away?? D448D

Comment from jyoun10461

Comment from warnerauctionco
Bill Clinton is and was a bum for this country. He is out for Number One! He showed his lack of integrity throughout his presidency. Why doesn't he go back to Arkansas and help his home state with its numerous problems.

Comment from obll1963

Comment from lbrown1641
This commentary does not even deserve time on the air. The man (Clinton) wentdown, and on his time and determinations. We were Hit, on our Homeland,, as early as 1993, with several interceptions. This was Clinton's watch and he knew what was in the midst. Time will tell; God Bless America and President Bush; Our future is about America and not the Clinton's pocketbook. By the way, did you forget that this man was Impeached from office and is NOT our President?

Comment from nkatz4
the "spin" is incredible!

Comment from mazzari7
Just wait until Kerry picks his running mate (Edwards) they probably have tons of dirt on him already, and O'really and Limbaugh and Hannidy will lead the pack.

Comment from mlraminiakEntry Author
Here is a copy of the email I sent to "oawinburn" about his/her comment. I thought it would be good to put it here for everyone to read:Thank you for visiting my journal and leaving a comment. I am all for encouraging well-thought-out, polite exchange of political ideas. And you were doing just fine until your last two words: "Wake up." Why did you have to add that? It's rude, and is just too "Rush Limbaugh" for the journal community. If you want to share ideas in an open-minded, non-judgmental way, you are welcome here. If you want to pretend you're sitting behind a microphone on a conservative radio talk show, calling anyone who doesn't agree with your beliefs stupid, then stick to the message boards, please.

Comment from huberburke
Whoa! While I agree that neither President is responsible for the 9/11 attacks, one also should remember that Mr. Clinton, as President, sent a missile attack against what was believed to be an Osama bin Laden hideout in Afghanistan in 1998. The attack was hours too late. I think the perceived threat has been recognized at least since Oliver North testified before Congress. And, I think Mr. Clinton's actions vis a vis al Qaeda and Iraq were completely overshadowed by the witch hunt that began with Whitewater and culminated with Lewinsky.What I find disturbing is the web of lies, half-truths and distortions that Mr. Bush's administration continues to disseminate to the American public. Rather than a concerted attack on al Qaeda after 9/11, we were told that Iraq posed the greater threat because of weapons of mass destruction and we went to war. Oops, no WMDs. Now the justification is ties between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, for which the bi-partisan 9/11 committee found no evidence. And, think about it: Saddam is a hedonistic dictator, surounding himself with opulence. bin Laden is an aesthete, eschewing worldly pleasures for what he believes awaits him in the next life. Why would Saddam jeopardize his position by allowing this charismatic madman to use Iraq? Where is the outrage? Our leaders were posturing and preening when Mr. Clinton lied to us about "inappropriate contact"...aren't the latest lies a bit more dangerous to the health of our nation?

Comment from oawinburn
This appears to be a pro democratic or "Pro Kerry" endeavor written under the guise of a conservative. To completely resolve the clinton presidency of any blame in the terrorism attacks and the state of affairs surrounding that inhuman and cowardly act of war is obviously an effort to gloss over the fact that clinton did absolutely nothing during his presidency to stem the tide of terrorism either at home or around the globe where we, the USA were constantly under attack. Another matter worth comment is the biased view of aol in promoting the democrats without giving the republicans equal time as required by all ethical standards. I believe that the clinton administration was a disaster in all respects. Bush inherited a hot potato that was the result of 8 years of overdrawing on the fruitfulness of the American economy by the clinton administration. Prosperity built on false premises that selling your birthright is a legitimate method of increasing the wealth of a nation. Wake up.

Comment from justcherie
You know what I find interesting? When the first World Trade Center bombing happened on Feb 26, 1993, about a month after President Clinton took office, I don't remember anyone in his administration blaming Bush I for that. I have been reading your journal for a week or so (can't remember if I have commented before or not), but I haven't seen ONE thing that you have had to say that I fundamentally disagreed with! Good job :)

Comment from krobbie67
Wow, I didn't think of his releasing his book now being a blow to the elections, but now that you've said it, I can totally see that. I don't think 9/11 can be blamed on any one individual either. I think it was caused by a collection of missteps. And, yes instead of trying to blame, let's figure out what and how it was missed and take reasonable steps to thwart future attacks. :-) ---Robbie

Comment from merelyp
thanks. i needed that. there are people out there who realize that "i told you so" and "it was his fault" is what we hear on the playground until about age 9. then we start to know better, and we take responsibility for ourselves. Grow up, America!

Comment from snkwarren
Pal, the BIPARTISAN 9/11 commission looked at this tragedy at all angles, including what went on during the Clinton years right up to and past that tragic day on Bush's watch. I do believe Clinton's administration was passive and Bush's team raeacted slowly and eventually didn't have enough time to analyze and re-structure.However, I, too, feel there is no blame to lay. You know the old saying, 'the only people a lock keeps out are honest ones.' Those people were so determined to inflict pain on our great country, they would've found a way despite our best planned defense.I haven't read Clinton's book and don't plan to. But no matter when it would have come out, it would have hurt your party... remember only the sensational sells, and the only thing Clinton is about is his own bottom line.

Comment from debdoc777
greetings! i've been reading your journal for awhile, and generally agree with your thoughts on topics non-political. but since i'm one of those conservatives you seem to need to go off on every few days, i haven't left any comments -- kind of intimidating, you know? but today i just felt that i had to comment as i so agree with your assessment that no one -- neither bill clinton nor george bush -- are responsible for 9/11. the responsible parties were flying the planes, or gave orders to those flying the planes. you are SO right -- now we know. let's go forward.

Comment from punky5678
Whoa Lis! Why don't you tell us how you really feel! LOL I agree At this point no one is to blame accept for those who planned the attacks. Should of's would of's could of's are just a waste of time we should now be focusing PEACE.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Absorbed as I am in my own mercilessly hectic life, I have sort of taken a pass on Election 2008. Too, the experience of Election 2004 left me cynical and jaded. I’ve suffered from a profound disappointment with the American people, and a conviction that not only is our country not headed toward anything resembling progress or greatness, it is in full retreat away from those things.

Still, it has been physically impossible for me to stay entirely ignorant of the over-reported details of the campaign. One would have to be confined incommunicado in a lead-lined room to avoid being poisoned by the latest media-hyped campaign news. I heard about the Geraldine Ferraro flap (and cringed during Keith Olbermann’s five-minute overwrought lambasting of the Clinton campaign over the Ferraro remarks on "Countdown.") And I heard about the latest conflagration over remarks made by the pastor of Barack Obama’s church. (I can hear the wheels grinding in Karl Rove’s evil, twisted mind…"Okay, maybe we can’t believably make Obama a Muslim…but, oh look! We can make him a racist!!!)

So I have been hanging on the sidelines, waiting for the dust to settle in the Democratic campaign. Staying out of the line of fire and lining up to vote for whoever came out on top. I had no preference, as long as it was a Democrat. They seemed equally capable to me.

And hoping against hope that the candidates didn’t do so much damage to each other in their protracted battle for the nomination that they torpedoed the party’s chances to win in November.

News of Obama’s inspired "More Perfect Union" speech—they’ve already given it a name to go down in the annals of American History—just made me more tired. How different could it be from the "you attack, I defend (or back-pedal)" see-saw game that went on in 2004? The issues might be slightly different, the principals are mostly different. But 2008 has promised to continue the onslaught of inflammatory sound-bytes, trumped-up charges of dishonesty, immorality, inexperience, weakness and "flip-flopping;" pelting the American people so fast and so furiously that even those who want to will not be able to withstand the barrage to get to the real issues. And I just DON’T want to play this time around.

But then…I was visiting a friend’s blog, and there was a link to a transcript of the speech.

And I clicked. And I read.

Now YOU click. And YOU read.

And then come back here and tell me whether these words are not the exact polar opposite of everything this country has been about these last eight years.

And whether this is not exactly the direction in which we need to turn, at exactly this time in our history.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Here's An Itty Bitty Band-aid

I got my notice in yesterday’s mail. The little tear-along-the-dotted-line herald of the Bush Administration’s "Economic Stimulus Act of 2008." Seems I’m to receive $600, with which I am tacitly instructed to run right out and purchase a flat-screen TV. Oh, that’s right….TVs cost more than $600, don’t they? But GW wouldn’t know that. I imagine it’s been, well…maybe never. I imagine George W. Bush never purchased a television in his life.

Any more than George the First had bought a gallon of milk or a pound of ground beef at the local grocery store.

Economic Stimulus. Right. How about "Economic Boo-boo Kiss?"

Dad has ripped off my right arm and beaten the snot out of me with it. And as I lie on the carpet exsanguinating, Mom kneels beside me and coos, "Here, honey…let Mommy kiss the boo-boo…"


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Gas Prices Rise to New National Record

Watch for prices of just about everything to reach a bone-crunching crescendo as the Bush Administration grabs for every dollar it can for its Big Energy puppet masters, before it goes down into the tarpits at the end of this year...

Can they accomplish this without laying complete waste to the nation's economy?  Probably not.

Do they care what happens to the nation's economy?  Obviously not. 

Their solution:  Go borrow a bunch of money from China, throw a few bucks at the general population as you bow out, stuffing your pockets all the way, and let the next administration worry about cleaning up the mess.


Not really...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More on Dignity...Point and Counterpoint

Here is a (the?) comment I received on my last post. He makes some good points, and I would like to open up a little more dialogue here:

One of your bottles washed up on my beach and I must say I've rarely endured such a tongue lashing re: dignity. Yes, I am a baby boomer, aged 54 years as of yesterday. I grew up in the deep south, Birmingham, Alabama to be exact and had it not been for iconoclasts like those you condemn as the source of our cultural decline I dare say we would still have white and colored water fountains. Granted, you seem to make an exception for opposing racism and antisemitism but then make sweeping generalisations about the negative impact my generation has had on subsequent generations. True, there were excesses but that is true of any cultural change. You mention the "greatest generation" and their sacrifices during the depression and WW II but go back and take a look at prohibition and the "roaring twenties". I suspect there were more than a few of those paragons of virtue you describe that drank untaxed liquor and danced in a speakeasy. I could go on but I think the one that needs to practice moderation is you, before you throw all the boomers out with the bath water, like so much sewage.

Arguing that a return to the values of our elders is the only chance of saving the planet must be one of the most grandiose things I've ever read. As the father of two daughters, that would be anathema.

Sometimes, in order to be treated with dignity, one must DEMAND IT!


Randy Johnson

You are right, Randy. I did make some sweeping generalizations. But in-depth treatment of this particular subject would have required a book…perhaps several. In trying to keep this short enough to make a point in the space of a decently readable journal post, I omitted a lot of the peripherals.

Yes, history is, to some extent, a parade of generations, each rebelling against and rewriting the rules of the previous one(s). Without that intrinsically human desire to stretch the envelope, civilization would have stagnated and disappeared eons ago. But I think that we boomers and our parents faced some unique challenges that caused some rather larger blips on the civilization meter than have transpired in a long time. Or perhaps it’s simply that since I am a part of this particular generational schism, it seems like a really big deal to me.

The "Greatest Generation" (our parents) attained adulthood to find a World War—against a true evil—staring them in the face. Fighting that war, and then reconstructing their lives afterward, kept them from doing too much rejecting of the values of their elders. I suspect that after the upheaval of the war years, they actually craved the relative calm and ease of their parents’ lives, and set about trying to emulate rather than break free of it. They settled down and gave birth to—the post-war baby boom. And because many of them had also faced the deprivation of growing up during the Depression, they wanted to make sure we had all the things they couldn’t have when they were kids. Which may have been one of their biggest mistakes…

The Boomers were presented with a very different set of rules. First of all, we were (here comes another of my infamous generalizations…) spoiled. Our parents, rich or poor, did everything they could do to make our lives better than theirs…because they could. To a point. Unfortunately, we also grew up in the shadow of something our parents gave us that I’m sure they wished they could take back—the mushroom cloud.

Perhaps we believed that if we were going to make changes, we’d better hurry up before the world exploded around us. Perhaps we felt betrayed that our parents not only didn’t contrive to leave us a better world; they created the means by which our world might be snatched out from under us at any moment. I think it’s safe to say that could make anyone a little bit crazy.

Too, as we came of age, many of us were sent halfway across the world to die in a war that we were told had direct bearing on whether that mushroom cloud would indeed explode in our faces. When we figured out that was a lie, I don’t think we had a whole lot of patience left to pick and choose what parts of our parents’ social codes to reject and which ones to keep. We just picked up the whole mess and heaved it.

My argument is not that we need to return to the values of our elders. My point is that we need to understand that some of the things we threw away were not "values of our elders" at all, but things basic and necessary to the survival of a society. What makes dignity one of those things? To have dignity is to be "worthy, honored, esteemed." Respected. What does our society, as a whole, respect anymore? We don’t respect each other; we don’t respect ourselves. Respect, compassion, empathy, charity—these are the things that keep us from annihilating ourselves. As we reject these concepts, we move closer and closer to the brink.

The question is, how does a society go about recouping when it starts throwing away the basic building blocks of its very survival? I don’t know the answer to that. There must be historical examples; then again, how successful could they have been, as it seems that every great society in human history has eventually gone down to decay. Are we there now? Are we on the brink of that extinction? And since we—the Boomers—took such an unusually large step down that road, can we discipline ourselves to take a giant step back? Or is it too late?

…And as to "DEMANDING" to be treated with dignity… One can demand to be "treated with dignity," but if one is not dignified, one would be demanding acknowledgement of a trait one did not possess. That would be like McDonald’s demanding to be treated like a fine dining establishment. (President Bush’s handlers have demanded that he be treated with dignity…but since he hasn’t an ounce of dignity in his body, at least none that he has ever demonstrated to the public, how can he realistically expect to be "treated with dignity?" For that matter, Bill Clinton’s exploits demonstrated his lack of dignity as well). Dignity is no longer cultivated, even in the highest echelons of our society. For whatever reason, our generation branded dignity a stuffy and outdated concept, and we set about not only throwing away our own, but making damn sure no one else had any, either. A glance at any of our highfalutin 21st century media will leave no doubt about that.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On Dignity

Main Entry: dig·ni·ty
Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural dig·ni·ties
Etymology: Middle English dignete, from Anglo-French digneté, from Latin dignitat-, dignitas, from dignus
Date: 13th century
1: the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed

Lately, I’ve contemplated the concept of dignity. We argue and wrangle and orate, these days, about "death with dignity." For whatever reason, it’s of profound importance that we die with our boots on, with our heads held as high as our failing faculties can hold them. But apparently death is the only activity upon which our society will confer the blessing of dignity. Perhaps that is because such a large block of us—we, the ubiquitous baby-boomers—step closer to that eventuality with each passing moment.

Yes, we boomers demand Death With Dignity. But aren’t we also responsible for the death OF dignity? Worth? Honor? Esteem? Haven’t we contrived, since we were old enough to brandish protest signs and burn our bras, to tear down everything our parents—indeed, everything every American generation before us—esteemed, honored, or thought worthy?

Much as we would like to assign the blame for the state of our society to those generations that came after us—to gen-x or –y or Little Cat "z"—the fault is ours. It was our generation that scorned our parents’ etiquette and social behaviors, creating a nation of inconsiderate boors committed to "looking out for number one." Our generation that spawned the shock jocks and the foul-mouthed comedians and the gritty violence of modern cinema. Our generation which threw off the sexual constraints of our forebears, creating a societal obsession with all things pertaining to below-the-waist relations. We were too cool, too hip; too busy cultivating our infant world vision to be constrained by our parents’ "hang-ups." And now, as our parents die and we step into the roles of matriarchs and patriarchs, we wonder why our children, and their children, wouldn’t know dignity if it bit them in the ass.

Dignity is an old-fashioned concept. Our grandparents were dignified. And a little bit scary. They mostly didn’t stray much outside the communities into which they were born. They walked tall through adversity—and they walked through adversity that we can’t even imagine. They kept their personal business to themselves. And yet the community always rallied to stand behind a member or a family in need. Quietly. Without fanfare or hullabaloo, they went about the business of life. With dignity.

Our parents were born into those communities. And the monumental events of the Great Depression and The War changed and molded them. But still, they understood about dignity. They had it themselves, and they allowed for it in others.

Then, along came the Boomers. We didn’t understand the social codes that were handed down to our parents from their parents, and we were in too much of a hurry to take our places as the movers and shakers to learn. While our parents’ society was heavy on loathsome concepts like anti-Semitism and racial bigotry, it also embraced the injunction to care for those less fortunate; the mandate to protect the weak; the obligation to fulfill the needs of others before looking to one’s own needs. The softer and nobler concepts that differentiate humans from lower animals, and that keep a society from destroying itself from within. But we….we were so eager to throw over the outdated prejudices of our parents’ society that we didn’t take the time to sort the good from the bad. Wholesale change was the order of the day. And we threw out the baby with the bath water.

Why is it surprising to us that our children, and their children after them, took our selfishness, our carelessness and our impatience, and ran with it? It’s unfortunate that our progeny did not wholesale reject us as we did our parents, and turn in the opposite direction: toward mercy, compassion and…dignity. Unfortunate that the downward path—toward corruption, self-centeredness and anarchy—is so much easier to tumble down than it would be to clamber up a road to a nobler, more liberal plain.

Life, now, has to be lived at fever-pitch and light-speed. Everything is exaggerated. We all live as perpetual adolescents, where there is no happiness, only ecstasy; and sorrow can only be utter desolation. The measured, circumspect concept of dignity has been utterly forgotten.

I don’t know about you, but I’m too old for this…this world that we have created. What should we do now? What can we do now? Do we bug out of the 21st century? Fade out and live our remaining decades in the quiet shadows of the world we wish we had created? Or do we rouse ourselves, become the critical mass of which we are capable, and foment one more colossal change? Can we all—all xxxx-million of us—drop our feet off the side of the merry-go-round and slow it down, just enough for society to shake its head, get its bearings, and find the stuff that we threw off thirty years ago?

I think the future—of our nation, if not the planet—depends upon us doing exactly that.