Monday, July 05, 2010


I spend very little time watching, reading, or listening to the political discourse these days. For awhile, just after the 2008 election, I was under the mistaken impression that things would improve; that the inanity was somehow going to dissipate with the presence of an intelligent, well-spoken man behind the desk in the Oval Office. We all know that didn't happen, don't we?

We all know that, if anything, the right has become more shrill and more inane in its proclamations and accusations. Including taking every disastrous, unpopular result of eight years of Bush Administration policies and immediately projecting them on to President Obama. The Economic Crisis? Obama's fault. The Bail-out? Obama's idea (No one mentions the free bailout money the Bush Administration dished out shortly before Bush left office. It's like it never happened…) It's Obama's fault that he has been unable to wave a magic wand and create new jobs for everyone who lost theirs as a result of a runaway financial system left unregulated by the Bush Administration. The Gulf Oil Disaster has been characterized as "Obama's Katrina," even though it was most probably the result of at least eight years (prior to Obama's election) of rule by a Big-Oil Puppet King. Last week, Michael Steele decided to add the war in Afghanistan to the list of Obama's transgressions. (We are supposed to forget this war has been going on for eight years and Obama's only been in office for two…)

And then there's Sarah Palin.

If I let myself think about it, I would still have a nearly irresistible desire to put my house on the market, pack my bags and my animals and head for some remote backwoods in Canada to live out my life in blissful political ignorance (with better health care…)

But I don't let myself think about it. In fact, I just can't go there, because it's all so flagrant and hopeless, this hype/attack/demonize/destroy political method that has taken hold of our country. For the past two years, I've been (metaphorically) trying to function with my fingers in my ears and humming really loud. I almost get to the place where I can choose my own reality—that I'm actually living in a country (a world?) governed by grown-ups. And then something happens that rudely drags me out of that rarified space and douses me with a bucket of cold, green, slimy reality.

Something like that happened last week. I was behind the counter at the café, and an old gentleman walked up to the counter and asked where the offices for the phone company were. (In fact he asked for the wrong phone company…the one that covers most of the county but NOT our little town. Evidently, he finds it inconvenient to read the name at the top of his phone bill…) Maybe it will just be easier to relate the conversation:

LOG (Little Old Gentleman): Do you know where's the office for (wrong phone company) around here?

Me: We don't have (wrong phone company.) We have (right phone company.) And their offices are right across the street.

LOG: I went over there. But there's nobody there.

Me: I know. They don't have a customer service office over there anymore. You have to call the customer service number on your bill.

LOG: Well, I done that. And she keeps sayin' all these things that don't have nothin' to do with what I want. (I assumed this meant that he got lost in electronic phone menu land and didn't hear an option that appealed to him…)

Me: Yeah…sometimes those phone things can be kind of frustrating…

And then he launched into the story all about how his phone bill was fouled up and he got it fixed once, but he can't find the right people to help fix it this time. Went on and on for about five minutes, while I was politely trying to extricate myself from his tale of woe and get him to move on so I could wait on the customers in line behind him.

Me: Well, you just have to call that number and see if you can get to the right person.

LOG: Yeah… But ever since that Obama got in, ever'thin's been messed up…

That's right, folks. This Old Gentleman was going to blame Barack Obama for his woes with the local telephone company.

That's how far the poison has spread. How ingrained and integrated into our society this insane bullshit has become. That some little old guy in Nameless Small Town, USA believes that anything bad, anything negative that happens to him personally is the direct fault of the President of the United States. And, by god, he is going to cast his vote for the other side next time around…because the phone company messed up his bill.

I turned away from that suddenly insane exchange with the Little Old Gentleman, with my fists balled and an almost overwhelming desire to go and beat my head against the nearest wall…

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Am I Supposed to Feel Sorry For This Guy?

Working as many hours as I do, I'm largely cut off from television news, and I wouldn't listen to a radio talk show if you chained a set of headphones to my ears and held a gun to my head. But I do get the opportunity to browse the headlines in the Oregonian when I pick it up off the sidewalk on my way in the door of the cafe in the morning.

I know newspapers are having a really hard time staying afloat these days. And I honestly think it's a terrible shame. It's possible that print media was the last place you could obtain actual news if you went looking for it. But since papers have decided to turn themselves into "news magazines" in an attempt to retain readers, there's nothing much besides a whole lot of fluff splattered between the first and last pages. And there's no such thing as a "news" piece written without a ton of very obvious editorial intent.

So the other day, I spied this story on the front page of the paper:

AT & T Customer Goes To Jail After Shooting At Thieves' Car which some jack-ass with a concealed weapon permit and a loaded .38 in his pocket decided to play "NCIS" and shoot out the tires of the getaway car of some thieves who had run out of the local cel phone store with a couple of hot I-Phones.

He missed. God knows where those shots went, or could have gone. And since when does one resort to deadly force to recover $700 worth of electronic gadgets? The Gresham Police hauled his ass off to jail. And everyone is outraged, because this ballsy guy was "just trying to do the right thing."

I have to say, we live in a crazy world. Every time the police around here actually have to kill someone, there is a monstrous investigation, the cop gets suspended until the investigation is complete, editiorialists from every nook and cranny put in their two cents about how the police misuse deadly force. A cop can hardly taser or bean-bag someone without being painted as an accomplice to the Rodney King assault. But let some Joe Blow on the street with a concealed handgun and an over-developed fantasy life take pot-shots at a petty thief, and he's painted as some kind of folk hero.

I guess this qualifies as my


for this week...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Buyer's Remorse?

The increased shrillness of partisan rhetoric caused by the passage of the Health Care Bill has caused my blood to curdle to the "political rant" point. I haven't felt one coming on this strongly since the 2008 election…

Let's face it. Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 for two main reasons: First, he was NOT George W. Bush or anything even remotely associated with that infamous administration; and second, he had not chosen Sarah Palin as a running mate. It's utter folly to believe that a majority of American voters carefully scrutinized the platforms of all candidates and chose Barack Obama based on anything he said or promised or represented. Which is not to say there were not those who voted for Mr. Obama for reasons other than his non-Bush-ness. But those true believers alone would not have pushed him to victory. George W. Bush let his house of cards fall down around his Alfred E. Newman ears about six months too early to allow him to hand the mantle of power over to a successor of his own political ideology. The American people were fed up with Bush and everything he stood for. And they voted that frustration.

So when I hear about this "buyers' remorse" that all of us who voted for Obama are supposed to be suffering now, I beg to disagree. Mr. Obama is, after all, STILL not George W. Bush. And he did not clasp hands with Vice President Sarah Palin upon signing the Health Care Bill into law. If he is or accomplishes nothing else in the next three (or seven) years, he will remain exactly what I purchased with my vote sixteen months ago.

However, I am beset by a certain amount of remorse connected with the Obama presidency. When I cast my vote, I foolishly assumed that an Obama victory would put an end to the madness. That the presence of an articulate, educated, intelligent human being behind the desk in the Oval Office would raise the level of political discourse in this country to something at least a rung or two above the putrid, sniping rhetoric of hatred and fear propagated by the previous administration. What was I thinking? What made me believe that the party of "Daschellism" and swift-boating had any intention of abiding by the will of the people, dropping their delusions of national domination and getting down to the business of government?

Mr. Obama, for his part, tried to implement the gospel of inclusiveness he had preached before the election. He was all about bi-partisanship; he did everything but stand on his head trying to get Republicans to come to the table and pow-wow about the changes he had promised the American people (after he spent the first weeks of his presidency desperately trying to keep the country's head above the treacherous economic waters into which the Bush Administration had cast it…)

The newly-demoted minority party richly rewarded the President's outstretched hand. First, they cast aspersions on the bail-outs he was forced to offer to floundering financial institutions (as if he was simply throwing our hard-earned tax money at a bunch of spoiled rich kids for no reason, or for reasons of his own creation.) And then they banded together as a rock-hard block to oppose anything and everything that the President tried to accomplish—with the expressed intention by their own admission of causing this President to fail. No thought to the needs of the people. No thought to the challenges facing any government in 21st century global politics. Their entire platform, all their energy was sunk into that single mission. Effectively solidifying the minority party into a giant turd clogging the pipes of our government. And, of course, blaming it all on the "other side."

Am I frustrated to near hysteria by what's going on? Of course. Do I blame President Obama? No, I do not.

I know who I believe in my heart is responsible for this entire mess. But I also know that, at this point, fixing blame is pointless. Our government is broken. Perhaps beyond redemption. The patient is dead. Will figuring out who's to blame bring it back to life?

How do you make them shut up? How do you make them care about anything but their own avarice, their personal delusions of power and control? I don't know. Obviously nobody knows. The country has gone completely mad and it appears there is no help for it. For the first time in my life, the thought of just getting the hell away from the madness, rather than working to calm or change it, looks tremendously appealing.

I've always wanted to travel…

Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I have been a tad out of touch since we bought the restaurant… We DO listen to the radio in the kitchen at the café. But after three years, the fact that every radio station we can pick up has a playlist of about ten songs that they crank out over and over again until you can’t stand it anymore led me to a dangerous decision. About a week ago, I rekindled my relationship with public radio. I decided, what the heck, I’d rather listen to “Talk of the Nation” than some pre-pubescent pop star whining through her latest smash hit for the umpteenth time. Now, I’m not so sure I’ve made the right choice. Because the political acid is starting to burn a hole in my gut right next to the cavity created by my job. Maybe not good for my health…

Seems there is a new book out there that has been stirring up the political scene: Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. It is supposedly a minutely researched expose of the highlights, and lowlights (of which there are surely many) of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Now, I have not read the book, nor am I going to promise to, given that I finished exactly three books in all of 2009. But my observation isn’t about the book, it’s about the firestorm it has created.

We on the left are still wondering what the hell qualified Sarah Palin for the attention she received as a candidate in 2008; and why the hell anyone still cares about her now, a year past her ignominious and well-deserved defeat. So, when additional tales of her incompetence and ignorance come to light, we can’t help but yuk it up a little at her expense. Game Change first hit the shelves a few weeks ago, and left-wingers took the opportunity to use it to poke fun at Sarah Palin. And of course it wasn’t all light-hearted, good-natured joshing. There are those who are aware that someone needs to make every effort to make Sarah Palin go away for good.

We hardly finish tittering over Palin’s miscues when we are assailed by a barrage of smear over Harry Reid’s comments as quoted by the authors of this same book. “Harry Reid is a racist!” “Harry Reid insulted the (not-yet) President!” “Harry Reid should apologize!” “Harry Reid should resign!” Note, please, that as far as I know NONE of these calls for Harry Reid’s head came from members of the black community (with the exception of RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and we all know where his loyalties lie…) and certainly not from the President himself. Everyone is mystified, even the authors of the book, that this particular aspect of Harry Reid’s involvement in President Obama’s campaign is the one that everyone has chosen to focus upon. After all, the point of the story was to illustrate Reid’s contribution to Mr. Obama’s victory.

What’s not to get, here? Let us not forget that across the aisle sits the party, not of “equal and opposite reaction,” but of “insane and hyperbolic over-reaction.” The party for whom the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are two of the more (in)famous mouthpieces. The party that, after years of practice, has honed “smear” to a stiletto point; and can—and does—launch it with the deadliest accuracy.

We snicker behind our hands about Sarah Palin, and they launch a full-scale “Daschellism” against Harry Reid. And no one gets the connection?

There are two morals to this story: First: Sarah Palin is the right wing’s Sacred Cow. (Love that imagery, don’t you?) Frighteningly enough, she represents redemption to many in the Republican Party, certainly to the rightest and shrillest wing thereof, and she will be defended with every weapon at the party’s disposal.

Lesson the second: We can't out-smear the Republican party. Democrats are so far behind in this particular arms race that it doesn’t do for them to even attempt to engage the enemy on this field. This is one game at which we can not beat them. And, in my opinion, trying to do so only raises the snarky political noise to a pitch that will surely turn all our brains to mush. If it hasn’t already.

So, here’s an idea for the Democratic Party:

Why not DO something? Why not accomplish something for which history, and possibly even the voting public, will reward you? Why not earn the public’s trust, instead of trying to out-yell the other guy for it?

Just a thought…