Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Ganja never hurt no one


July 1, 2015. Portland, Oregon. It has finally happened. As of 12:01 am this morning, marijuana is legal for recreational use here in the Beaver State.

It is now legal in Oregon to possess as much as 8 ounces of marijuana in one's home. It is legal to carry up to an ounce of marijuana on one's person at any time. It will soon be legal to purchase marijuana legally at businesses. (Just as soon as the OLCC can figure a way to get its fingers in the pie). It is also legal to have up to four mature plants in your home. Smoking in public is still prohibited. (Good luck trying to hold anybody to that.)

I tell you from the heart, I thought I'd never see this day. I've been smoking dope since I was 13 years old. Marijuana is a part of my life, and always has been. Sentiments in Oregon have always been tolerant toward marijuana (don't forget, I've lived here all my life), but this common sense change is proof positive that people in Oregon make things happen.

Don't forget, in the eyes of the federal government, marijuana is a Schedule I drug. It's good to live in a state where people dismiss such an absurdity.

And done in the Oregon way: through ballot initiative. Put forth by the people. Approved by the people.

Hats off to the folks at NORML, who have worked tirelessly on this issue for many long years. They certainly have my gratitude.

And for the uptight folks out there right now, worrying about this new, more open, more tolerant world we're about to enter?

Rest easy.

Life is going to go on the same way it always has.

People are going to use marijuana to get high. They're going to be stoned.

They're going to be all around you.

Just like they always have been.

It's okay. 

Ganja never hurt no one.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Progressivism on the march!

Take a look, people. The last few weeks have revealed something.

We, in these United States are in the midst of a huge social transformation.

The Supreme Court decisions on the Affordable Care Act and the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, the sudden and surprising demise of the Confederate battle flag as a legitimate symbol of "heritage," and the flustered and flummoxed reactions of conservatives (as typified by Nino Scalia's ranting legal dissents, post-decision) all point to it:

Progressivism, liberalism, is on the march.

In a huge victory for President Obama, his administration and his legacy, the SCOTUS decision in King vs. Burwell cements the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, as an institution. Generations of Americans yet to come will reap the benefits of universal health care. The President's name will now be added to the liberal pantheon of populist heros. FDR had Social Security, LBJ had Medicare, and now Obama has the Affordable Care Act.

Today's SCOTUS decision, declaring bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, ensures that homophobes and bigots will not have the ability to discriminate, even in their own backyards. Homosexuals will now be able to get married not just in Massachusetts or Oregon or Hawaii, but also in Mississippi, Utah, and Texas.

And in the wake of the horrific mass murder in Charleston, South Carolina, last Wednesday, in which a racist who identified with the segregated South murdered 9 people,  a movement materialized to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol grounds. The stars-and-bars that Confederate apologists so proudly waved around as their dog-whistle symbol of hatred is revealed to be pernicious and despised by the greater American public. Retailers (Walmart and Amazon, among others) have discontinued sales of items bearing that hateful image.

There is more evidence out there as well: four states have now legalized the use of marijuana as a recreational drug; public attention is focused on police behavior nationwide, raising the possibility of national reform.

The cultural and political Right is in full retreat. Demographic trends offer them no respite.

President Obama, for all his faults, is presiding over a great social transformation that promises to extend into the foreseeable future.

We're winning, progressives!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Seth Cariaga: Fine young man

Sierra Lutheran High School Graduate
Last weekend, the Cariaga family congregated in Minden, Nevada, to honor and acknowledge the accomplishments of  the youngest of my six siblings, Seth Cariaga.

Eagle Scout
In addition to graduating from Sierra Lutheran High School, Seth is accepted to attend the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs in the fall (field of study to be determined). And for his dedication to community and his sense of duty, Seth has been honored by the Boy Scouts of America as an Eagle Scout, the highest honor awarded by that organization.

It's an impressive list for a lad of such tender years. Seth is definitely further along than was I at a similar point in my own life.

Seth expresses gratitude to his scout masters
Although he is 35 years my junior, Seth is my brother and the last child of my father, Ross Cariaga.

Tami beams with pride
It is a sad fact of his life that Seth had very little opportunity to know his father. When Dad passed, in 2001, Seth was only 4 years old.

I asked him once, "Seth, do you remember Dad?"

"No," he replied. But then, when he saw how his answer saddened me, he emended it. "A little bit," he said.

He was and is such a good-natured and upbeat boy. It has always been a source of heartache for me to watch him growing up without a dad.

Uncle Don honors and loves his brother's youngest son
It had been several years since I'd seen Seth. In that interim, he's grown from a boy to a fine young man. Much of it is due to the ceaseless and loving efforts of Tami, his mother and Dad's widow. But much of it is due, as well, to Seth's innate decency and morality.

I couldn't possibly be more proud of this brother of mine.

Seth and big brother
Eagle Scout, graduate, loving and virtuous young man: Seth Ross Cariaga is off to a great start!

I know Dad is proud.

Dad, Seth, and Tami, a few weeks before Dad's passing

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tsarnaev verdict confirms: US is no "Christian" nation

Last week the sentence came down: Death to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The verdict, zealously sought by federal prosecutors, dispels any right-wing pretense that the United States is a "Christian" nation. Or it ought to, anyway.

Consider: Tsarnaev is no longer a legitimate threat to others. Live or die, the man will never again be able to harm anyone. Not even himself. Howsoever long his life may last, he will spend his days in a prison cell, isolated from humanity. If he lacks remorse, as the prosecution asserted, he will have ample opportunity to learn it in the long years of emptiness that await him. (Ask Sirhan Sirhan about that!) And if he did somehow maintain his hatred over the course of his life? If he continued his defiance and anger? Would that not be a fate worse than death? Decades of impotent rage! God save us all!

None of this is to say that human beings should not do what they can to protect themselves. For example, in the case of Osama bin Laden, death was necessary for a dangerous man who remained a threat to civilization. There was small difference between him and a renegade grizzly bear (an analogy I've made before.)

But how quickly do we desert our purported faiths in favor of primal satisfaction? (I refer Christians to Matthew 5:39). 

Fifty-eight percent of the residents of the (very blue and very Catholic) state of Massachusetts, including family members of some of the victims, oppose the sentence. But in the larger pool of the United States' general citizenry 53% support it. And the justice system came down on their side.

It's a fascinating and revealing phenomenon. And, make no mistake: the sentence is not about Tsarnaev or even what he did.

It's about us. It's about who we are.

Killing this man fulfills some primal need humans have for vengeance. It's residual behavior from our Stone Age state-of-existence. In the ~10,000 years since civilizations first arose, there has been much progress, but barbarous relics like the death penalty remain.

We're not a Christian nation. Can we let go of that ridiculous notion?

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Hillary's immigration remarks demonstrate real political savvy

Disclaimer: As I stated in a previous post, for the 2016 Presidential election, Bernie Sanders is my man. So long as he's in the race, he has my vote and my support. This post is in no way an endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Let's see how many commenters (here or on Facebook) misinterpret it.

This is where I differ with everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake, not a single Republican candidate, announced or potential, is clearly and consistently supporting a path to citizenship. When they talk about legal status, that is code for second class status. --Hillary Clinton, May 5, 2015, Las Vegas, NV
Hillary Clinton made these remarks last Tuesday during a campaign event in Las Vegas and in doing so demonstrated formidable political acumen. Her Republican counterparts, those that haven't thrown in with quixotic xenophobes, have got to be tugging at their collars while they're thinking about how to respond.

Besides having the virtue of being true (bring up immigration reform in a Republican forum and watch how quickly the conversation devolves into racism and xenophobia), Hillary's remarks are a dagger thrust right at the Republican field where they are most vulnerable. Specifically, the dismal demography of the shrinking GOP base.

Consider: In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney won a whopping 59% of the white vote, nationally. Twenty years ago, that might have been an electoral landslide in his favor. But with demographic trends being what they are, Mitt still lost the general election by 4%. And a big part of his defeat was due to the drubbing he received from hispanics, who went for President Obama by a 71-27 margin. Simply stated, if Republicans cannot find a way to appeal to hispanics and other minorities, they are, as a party, doomed.

For some GOP candidates (Ted Cruz is the most obvious example), none of this makes any difference. They've already determined that their own electoral success lies in stoking up the anger and self-pity of the Republican base. You know? The people that are convinced that President Obama is a Muslim and a Kenyan and is planning to invade Texas and force everyone to attend gay weddings. For these candidates, Hillary's remarks are helpful.

But the numbers aren't lost on thoughtful Republicans. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, for example, know the delicate path they must walk if they hope to succeed. On the one hand, to survive the Republican primary system, they've got to reassure the vociferous base that they sufficiently despise President Obama, that they are sympathetic to the fears of the diminishing white majority, and so on. But, on the other hand, if they want to avoid Romney's fate in the general election, they can't completely alienate hispanics. It's a difficult position and it is one the Republicans made for themselves when they put all their eggs in the Far Right basket.

So, Hillary, with her remarks, has highlighted this dilemma and brought it to the fore. Soon enough, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and any other serious Republican candidates are going to have to state their positions regarding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And no matter what they say, they're going to alienate some portion of potential supporters.

Further, Hillary's tack puts her on the offensive. Rather than responding to white noise pseudo-scandals about emails or Clinton Foundation funds, she is staking out a position that is aimed right at that demographic that Republicans are so desperate to reach.

As far as the merits of her position, for my part, it only makes sense to find a way to bring the 10 million plus undocumented immigrants in this country into the fold, as full United States citizens. They are here. They're here to stay. And, being human beings, they deserve the same rights and privileges as anyone else.

Impressive, Mrs. Clinton.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Bernie Sanders for President!

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced this week that he will run for President of the United States in the upcoming national election.

The media is treating his candidacy with disdain, predictably enough. And really, I don't blame them. In today's political climate there are (at least) two sound reasons for doubting the Senator's chances.

Reason #1: Senator Sanders is running to be the Democratic nominee. That means he is running against Hillary Clinton and the well-funded, ruthlessly efficient Clinton political machine. A formidable (and if we're to believe the prevailing political wisdom, perhaps insurmountable) obstacle!

Reason #2: Although Senator Sanders is running as a Democrat, he is actually an independent and more specifically (hang on to your hats, right-wingers), he's a capital-"S" Socialist. He advocates raising taxes on upper incomes. He advocates a single-payer health care plan. Closed-minded right-wingers will be unable to see past those things.

But, unlike so many politicians from Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush and everyone in between, Bernie Sanders doesn't run away from his political positions. He defends them. Here's a video: Bernie Sanders announces run for Presidency.

 I've followed Senator Sanders for years and from my perspective, he knows exactly what this country needs. He recognizes and rejects the seemingly inexorable drift from democracy to plutocracy. He sees the disastrous resource gap that exists between the middle class and the affluent. He sees the importance of addressing the looming climate change catastrophe. He vociferously opposes the unfair trade deals that have decimated manufacturing jobs in this country.

But that's just the beginning. You can learn more on his Facebook page.

For you Democrats out there: Were you really all that excited about a primary season that was shaping up to be little more than a Hillary Clinton coronation? Like many of you, I was resigned to voting for her, if I had to, but what little enthusiasm I had for that endeavor was due solely to her not being a Republican! I really didn't look forward to the endless equivocating, empty populism, and spineless pragmatism that characterizes Clinton politics. And I especially resented the presumption of supposedly in-the-know Democrats and media pundits who assured us that the nomination was hers for the taking. I wonder how nervous they are now, knowing that Senator Sanders raised $1.5 million in small donations the very first day of his campaign!

Open-minded right-wingers, I urge you to listen to Senator Sanders. Listen to what he has to say. Here's a video of him on your favorite news network, talking with Chris Wallace last Sunday: Bernie Sanders on Fox News.

Senator Sanders is running a populist campaign and he's aiming right at every American who has to struggle to get by in this land of plenty. All of us: rural folks, city folks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, blacks, middle class, working class, and working poor.

I'm behind him all the way. Please join me.

Bernie Sanders for President!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday breakfast at Mickey Dee's

At McDonald's this morning for Sunday breakfast. Maty is working today, so I'm on my own and I really want to write. I need to start writing regularly again.

I've found, believe it or not, that sitting in this environment, taking advantage of the Mickey Dee's wifi, drinking coffee is helpful. The clientele at McDonald's is my community. There is much inspiration in sitting amid one's community, watching and listening.

At the table next to mine, a happy family sits and plans their day. The mother sits with her back to me. She's wearing her jacket. Feeling chilly, apparently. I can see that she is a proud woman, content with her lot in life. I can see this by the set of her shoulders and the neat cut of her well-combed hair. It is pretty hair and it is the color of carrots fresh from the ground. As I watch her she gets up from the table and turns and our eyes meet. She smiles and I smile back. Across from where she was sitting is her husband. A man about my age, maybe a few years younger. He's dressed in a gray hoodie and sports three-day salt-and-pepper stubble. His face has not known a razor this weekend. He sits back against the bench cushion, amiable and relaxed. His arm is draped across the back of the bench. Next to him sits the boy. He's about thirteen and he's a good-looking kid. Tall and thin, with an open face and a full rack of braces on his teeth. All the bloom of youth is about him and it is apparent that he is the source of the joy, the good vibes that emanate from their table. When Mom returns they joke with each other and talk about plans for the day to come, the month to come, the year to come.

A Mexican family, a father and two sons, sit at the small table near the window. The father is in his thirties, dressed in workman's jeans and sweater. A key ring jangles from his belt. His older son is paraplegic, in a motorized wheel chair. Maybe 12 years old. He has a big awkward head and a skinny body. He smiles and laughs. Beside him is his little brother, about 7 years old, with wide dark eyes, and a solemn expression. The young one seems wise, as if, at this tender age, he is aware that there is much to learn. All three of them have cocoa skin and a shocks of unruly black hair . The father's moustache is also black. They munch their food and chatter in Spanish, the boys asking questions of their father and he answering around mouthfuls.

These two families make a pleasing and beautiful sight. As I watch them, discreetly and without revealing myself, I realize that I want things to turn out well for them. Overcome by a sudden rush of brotherly affection, I realize that I love them.