Friday, October 30, 2009

An eerie episode from my past



Being a (mostly) secular, pragmatic person, fully convinced of the virtues of Occam's razor, I don't know that I believe in the supernatural per se.  But any open-minded person must eventually admit that there are phenomena in this world that, if one precludes such, simply cannot be explained.  So, in the spirit of the Halloween season, I offer this true episode from my past.  Perhaps not frightening, but weird.  Make of it what you will.

In the spring of 1973, I was living in Salem, Oregon, in a house on Doughton Street, with my mother and my younger brother and sister.  Next door to us, there lived a boy who was my age (11), named Danny.  He and I became friends.

One bright, cool day we were standing in his kitchen talking.  The sun shone weakly through the window over the kitchen sink.  It was an easy, relaxed situation:  just two boys hanging out together.  The conversation revolved around things that eleven-year-old boys tend to think are important:  school, friends, toys, television.  Then, rather abruptly, Danny said "Let me show you something in the basement."  He walked past me to the far end of the kitchen; to a door that opened onto descending stairs.

He opened the door and started down.  I distinctly remember seeing him halfway down on the staircase, stomping his feet, descending.  I followed him.

But sometime during my descent, I experienced a brief --what shall I call it? --interruption of cognizance?  Whatever.  The sensation was similar to that which one experiences when brought abruptly out of a reverie.  It was as if I had been interrupted during a cast-afar daydream.  It lasted no more than a second.   

Then I found myself at the bottom of the stairs, in the basement.  And it was empty.  No Danny.  No nobody.  Just me standing in my next-door neighbor's basement. 

I wandered through the basement looking for my friend, but he was nowhere to be found.  I was puzzled.

And then, I heard Danny calling for me.  From upstairs!

I climbed back up the stairs, and there was Danny, still in the kitchen.  He asked, "Why did you go down to the basement?"

"I followed you!" I said.

He shook his head, saying "I didn't go down there."

That was thirty-six years ago.  To this day, I still can't understand what happened.  The human mind, of course, remains an enigmatic entity.  Is it possible I experienced some kind of narcoleptic episode?  That I lapsed instantaneously into sleep and thence to a dream?  Or, going further afield, had I momentarily come into contact with some parallel universe, a la Roger Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber, wherein Alternate Danny and Alternate Dade had gone into the Alternate basement?  Or had I been visited by some desperate underworld shade trying to reveal some dark secret?

I've never since had a similar experience.  And, at this point, I'm convinced that I will go to my grave never knowing what truly happened.  But once I get there... who knows?

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A letter to a conservative friend from 2005

While rummaging through the My Documents folder, I found this old letter that I wrote to a college friend of mine who was a Bush supporter. What I find interesting about this letter is that the sentiments I expressed when I wrote it, in early 2005, still accurately reflect my beliefs. As the nature of the Bush administration continues to slowly come to light, I find that all the fears and revulsion I felt back then are being validated.


Hey, Mark.

I'm finally starting to get over the heartbreak of the election. But mark my words: someday the people of this country will realize the magnitude of the mistake it made in allowing Bush to be in the Oval Office.

The corruption in this administration goes up to the highest levels. I don't know how long it will take, with a Republican congress, but eventually the truth will come out about Halliburton, the Carlisle Group, Bechtel, Enron, and all the rest.

The morality of this administration is utterly non-existent. They played up wedge issues (homosexual marriage, abortion, religion in government) for honorable people, like you, for whom those issues are very important. But those issues really don't matter to them. The issues that matter to them are the acquisition of resources and power. That's all they care about, and if they can use the wedge issues to get good people like you behind them, they will. Further, they will smear anyone that dares to denounce them: Richard Clark, former Treasury Secretary John Snow, General Eric Shinseki, and John Kerry. (By the way, if you believe that John Kerry's medals are not merited, can you tell me how many of the medals that are awarded are for real?  Or are they all hoaxes? And, if that's the case, why should there be any honor associated with them at all?) But the cruelest of all their campaign ploys was to unleash Ariel Sharon on the Palestinians in the hopes that they could pick up a sliver of the Jewish vote.

They are ruthless killers. No matter what anyone in (or out) of the administration says, the war in Iraq was unjustified. In order to fulfill their power schemes, they unleashed the hell of war on the people of the world. Furthermore, they are so lustful for power that they ignored even the hard-won rules of engagement, hammered out by centuries of warfare, by torturing prisoners.

They have no respect for the Constitution. Although the courts rejected their most extreme proposals, they have held American citizens without access to attorney. (American citizens, Mark!)

I know you don't think Bush is all that great, but I'm here to tell you, "You ain't seen nothin' yet." These guys are corrupt to the bone.

Bush a Christian? Maybe, but only in its most blood-thirsty and hypocritical form The despair in the faces I saw around Portland after the election is gone. People are angry. I really dread the future.


Yer pal,
Dade
One world, one people.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coming into fall


When you're coming into fall, it's good to see it;
When you're coming into fall, it's good to see:
Each long-toed town-crier donning his many-colored vestment;
Each portly hard-shelled gourd resting in serene contemplation;


When you're coming into fall, it's good to feel it;
When you're coming into fall, it's good to feel:
Eos' crisp breath brushing crimson cheek in gentle admonition,
Ancient yearning stirred from slumber:  surrender to ever-kind Father Morpheus!


When you're coming into fall, it's good to know it;
When you're coming into fall, it's good to know:
Timeless cycle, ever spinning to greet approaching season;
Orb tilts from Apollo's bright face; prophesying a drowsy end;

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Question of the day: Can Harry Reid count?


"I'm all in."

Well, well, well...

Turns out I may have been all wrong about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  In the big poker game that is the health care debate, Senator Reid has pushed all his chips into the pot. 

Yesterday, Reid announced that the health care reform bill that will be submitted to the floor of the Senate will include the so-called public option.  Oh, my!  How must this cause the defenders of the status quo to chafe at their collars!  The public option has been pronounced dead by the punditry, by various congresspersons, by nearly everyone.  At times, even the Obama administration has expressed skepticism.

And then Reid goes and does this...

According to the all-wise punditry, Reid's plan works like this:
  1. In order to pass a bill that includes a public option, supporters must first overcome a Republican filibuster.  That takes 60 votes.  But, as we all know, if you count the two democratic-leaning independent senators, Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and icky Joe Lieberman (Connecticut), the Democrats have the magic number

    That means that Reid has to hold together his entire caucus, which is no mean feat.  God knows, every single senator has an ego that cannot be comfortably confined within a given state's geographical borders.  And some of the more conservative members of the caucus (for example Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)) are on record against a public option. 

    But the fact that Reid has made this announcement indicates that he is confident he can hold his caucus together.

  2. Provided he can achieve cloture, Reid can then bring the bill to the floor, where it will require only a simple majority to pass:  a minimum of fifty votes, plus Vice-President Biden's tie-breaker.  But according to Senator Tom Harkin (Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, there is a "comfortable margin" in favor of the public option.

    That gives conservative Democratic senators an "out."  They vote for cloture, then they vote against the bill.  That way, Mary Landrieu (for example) can say:  "Although I did not support a government-run health care plan, I felt that the American people deserved an up-or-down vote, yadda, yadda, yadda."
 A couple of points to mention:
  •  There is still the possibility that, when the Republicans realize they cannot stop the bill, they will start defecting from their party's position and vote in favor of passage.  Senator Reid left the door open, in particular for Maine's two senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. 

  • The proposed public option is likely to be less than perfect from a progressive point of view.  It is likely that there will be an "opt out" provision for states.  That is, individual states can decide not to participate in the public option.  (There will be another battle over how that decision can be made.  Is it up to a state's governor and legislature?  Or is it a public referendum?)  Also, of course, the public option is itself a compromise from the Medicare-for-all, single payer solution that progressives advocate.

    Personally, I don't think the "opt out" provision is a big problem.  Once a public plan is in place, states will clamber over each other to get into it.  It's going to save money for everyone, and no neo-confederate state governor is going to put much into fighting it.  Remember how the supposedly principled GOP governors all gobbled up the stimulus money that they so vociferously opposed?

  • The Obama administration is (infuriatingly) staying out of the fray.  Call it pragmatism; call it good politics; I call bullsh*t.  The President has an amazing capacity to resist pressure from his base.  But he needs a health care bill, any health care bill.  The rumor is that the administration was pulling for a so-called "trigger" that would stipulate that a public option be implemented only if health insurance providers failed to meet certain criteria after a given amount of time.  The "trigger" might have brought Snowe on board, giving the bill a sheen of bipartisanship.  But progressives objected, stating the obvious:  health insurance providers would do the bare minimum required to avoid the "trigger," all the while jacking health care consumers.  Same old game.  (And, besides, Mr. President, you can't bargain with a rattlesnake.)

  • If this all plays out, and a health care reform bill that includes a public option becomes law, it is a huge victory for progressives.  Just yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Illinois) admitted that progressive Democratic senators forced Reid's hand, by threatening to sink any bill that did not include a public option. 
In the Senate, counting votes is an important skill.  One would presume that, in order to attain leadership status in that body, one would need to hone that skill to a fine point.  Harry Reid thinks he's counted to sixty.

So, returning to the poker analogy, Harry Reid is all in.  Now let's see how the other players respond.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Home (A Hallowe'en story)

Note to readers: This is my adaptation of a story I heard told by a professional story teller years ago on the Jay Leno Show.



Nights on end, she dreamt the same dream: a lonely cottage in the woods.  At the window, a solemn, ancient face. In the space beyond, only darkness. A sense of inevitability, of inescapable fate. She would start awake, haunted by the vision, sensing somehow that it held her final destiny.

So urgent and frightening was the vision that she came to dread her nightly repose; found herself fearing sleep, avoiding it.  Friends noticed the circles under her eyes, her haggard appearance.  "Some time away," a friend suggested.  "Go away for the weekend.  There is an inn on the coast that will provide the perfect setting."

And so, she set out on a drive through the coastal mountains, winding along the narrow roads, through the dense, mossy woodlands.  The road map lay open on the passenger seat beside her as she drove.  She glanced down to reference it quickly...

The shock of impact transformed the windshield into a crystalline spider web.  The car hood crinkled around the bole of a tree.  Steam hissed from the radiator.  She brushed the hair out of her eyes; was amazed to see blood on her hand.  A long moment to gather.

She must find help.

She climbed out of the car and set off down the road.   The mists had risen, obscuring vision.  Trees were pillars of gray shadow.  The night was cold and still, like a crypt.  No breeze stirred the air; no creature rustled in the fallen leaves.

She walked long, alone.

And then came upon a cottage.

A single light shone through a smoky window pane.  A thread of gray smoke snaked out of the chimney to be lost in the mist.  Realization came slowly; her heart rose to her throat at the recognition.  It was the very cottage from her dreams. 

Unable to stop herself, she passed through the gate, made her way to the dark, thick door on the stoop.  She paused to listen:  hushed footsteps.

She swallowed, then knocked.  The movement beyond ceased.  But none came to the door.  She knocked again.  Still no answer.

As she slowly raised her arm to knock a third time, the door opened.  A withered, old man, holding a lantern.  He peered at her with solemn eye, his cheeks sunken and gray. 

"What... what is this place?" she asked.

"This is my home," he said.  The voice was tired and dull, as if reciting a ritual.

"But who lives here?" she asked.

"Only I," he replied.  "No one else will live in this cottage."

"But why?"she asked.

"Because," the old man replied, "it is haunted."

"But what is it?" she asked.  "What haunts it?"

He dropped his eyes.

"It is haunted," he said, "...by you."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

H1N1 virus: Let the Big Cat jump


The Big Cat

Don't you find it interesting?  The effect of the H1N1 virus on society?   

Thus far, the virus is proving to be prolific, certainly.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is "flu activity" in 46 states.  And the number of doctor visits related to the flu is increasing steeply.  And the number of deaths.

The Kansas City Star reports that Shawnee Mission Medical Center is admitting 6 to 22 swine flu patients per day.  Just yesterday, President Obama declared a "swine flu emergency."  (Pity the poor tea-baggers!  On the one hand, they are afraid of the flu; on the other, they are afraid of President Obama.)  Hospitals are opening "alternative clinics" in anticipation of a surge of infections.

Swine flu has been very active in the northern hemisphere throughout the summer, which makes it exceptional for flu viruses.  Typically, influenza viruses don't do much during the summer.  Heath care experts seem nervous about what might happen during the cold months.

So far, the virus has not been particularly lethal.  There have been 1000 H1N1 related deaths in the United States.  That is not atypical for flu viruses.  But viruses tend to mutate. 

Who knows how this will all play out? 

A good friend of mine sent out an email late last week.  It was addressed to a dozen or so friends.  I quote it here:
I have seen the flu spread at work (all the media inspired panic aside) and it has hit some people pretty hard.  If any of you find your household laid up and want some help please don't hesitate to call [my wife] and me to pick up groceries, medicine, or whatever you might need. 
Times of crisis come and go.  And, in the end, of course, each of us will succumb to something.  What matters is how we face these emergencies.  I think my friend's email epitomizes the noble heart of mankind:  community, cooperation, taking care of each other.  That is how our species managed to get through its hunter-gatherer desperation; that is how we managed to spread from the Serengeti plains to every far-flung corner of the globe.

So, who knows what the swine flu will bring?  But if we face it together, it will be a whole lot nicer, win or lose.  

The Methodists have a proverb that I find apt for this time:  "If you're born to hang, you ain't gonna drown.  So let the big cat jump!"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Write every day


Write ev'ry day.
To ward off the uncertain lion that knows not what it means to be.

Write ev'ry day.
To complete the vision of a man who would not shrink.

Write ev'ry day.
To call after the ripples of one's own little splash.

Write ev'ry day.
To join a voice to the Great Joyous Chorus.

To write, so you can write; so you can write ev'ry day.
To write, so you can write ev'ry day.

Note: Cousin Nancy asked me about it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nancy's got stones!

Bare knuckle politics

Oh my goodness! What a development!

The US House of Representatives is about to pass its health care bill with a "robust public option" as described by the office of the Speaker. Hats off to Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Whip James Clyburn for an excellent whip operation! Madam Speaker, I take back almost every word I spoke of you in anger. Almost.

The fact that the submitted bill includes a public option suggests that Pelosi is confident she has the required 218 votes. The question soon will become this: What will happen in the Senate?

There are two possibilities that I can see: 1) Pelosi is gambling that the Senate can pass a bill that includes a public option; 2) She got the word from the Senate Leadership that they can surmount a Republican filibuster and get the bill to the floor of the Senate. I think its the latter.

The Republicans are about to get railroaded. There are already rumors that their own caucus is starting to fracture around the health care issue.

The insurance companies tried to mount a last ditch resistance effort with their bought-and-paid for study, released last week, that warned that health insurance premiums would go up drastically if the Senate Finance Committee's version of the bill were implemented. But President Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders defanged them by raising questions about the wisdom of continuing the health insurance exemption from federal anti-trust laws. That's bare knuckle.

If I'm right about all of this (and I could very well be wrong), it is a stark indication that this country's political environment has changed. Karl Rove has called this a "center-right" country, which I always thought was wishful thinking on his part. If a health care bill that includes a public option actually becomes law, it will certainly prove him wrong.

Pundits and politicians have been pronouncing the public option dead-on-arrival since early summer. And yet, here we are, after all the procedural obstacles, tea-bagger hot air, and mulish political prima donnas, on the verge of getting it passed.

Things have changed. Oh yes, they have changed, haven't they?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blood-letting on the Right


Horror! Who could have seen this coming?
  • In Florida, Republican Senator Mel Martinez is retiring at the end of his term. When he announced that he would not seek reelection earlier this year, it was something of a surprise. Martinez, it is rumored, is uncomfortable with the "tone" taken by the right-wing of the Republican party in the immigration debate. The obvious favorite to replace him, as far as Republicans are concerned, is Governor Charlie Crist, a reasonably popular fellow with the advantage of name recognition throughout Florida. But conservatives are uncomfortable with Crist's moderate positions on some issues. And so, in spite of a long list of endorsements from Republican leaders, Crist finds himself facing a primary. The conservatives have introduced their own candidate, Marc Rubio, the former House Speaker in the state legislature. Rubio is more of a fire-breathing conservative with lots of tea-bagger appeal.

  • In New York, there is a special election to represent the state's 23rd Congressional District. The seat is currently held by Republican John Hugh. But Hugh is taking a job as Secretary of the Army in the Obama administration. So party officials selected State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava to run as their candidate in the election. The Republican National Committee quickly moved to support her. But Scozzafava, apparently is not conservative enough for right-wingers in New York. They have their own party over there. The Conservative party. They're offering up their own candidate, Doug Hoffman. I'm sure Mr. Hoffman is a beacon of enlightenment.
Right now, the various factions within the Republican party are drawing their knives. Although it has been difficult to discern for the last 10 or so years, Republicans aren't monolithic. Now, the various wings of the wing-nut party are all flapping in different directions. The party is in a shambles. There are no leaders beyond the vile mob orators that bellow on the air waves.

There are all kinds of Republicans: xenophobes, and homophobes. Know-Nothings, deranged gun nuts, and Old School Dixiecrats. Junior held them all together by pointing at the things they feared while he and his buddies looted the treasury. But Junior left town in January and he didn't exactly clean up on his way out.

The media is full of stories of the sniping that goes on between RNC Chairman (and comic genius!) Michael Steele and congressional Republicans. (And what a sorry lot they are.) Meanwhile, the angry rabble is howling. And there is none in a position to harness that anger.

Sweet Sister Sarah

Not yet, anyway. Although they tout glamorous photos of their thrift store gal from Alaska, that will come to nothing. The woman is not up to the task.

Eventually, they will rally around some fast-talking carnival huckster, just like they always do. But first, there is going to be a fight. Lots of blood-letting. Lots of people destroyed, including many people who richly deserve it.

It is beautiful to watch the so-called "conservative movement" destroying itself. Indeed. Very beautiful.

Monday, October 19, 2009

About that pot thing...

Circa 1978: I'll play the odds and venture that I was stoned for this picture

On January 25, 1975, my family was crowded around our kitchen table in Salem, Oregon, having dinner, when my mom asked me, out of the blue: "Dade, have you ever tried marijuana?"

I remember the date for two reasons: 1) It was two days before my thirteenth birthday, and 2) it was the last day of my life in which I could answer truthfully by saying "no." Which I did. I may even have been able to work up some affected indignation.

The very next day, I smoked pot for the first time with my friend, Daryl, and his older brother. Put it down to peer pressure. My two best friends (and when you're a tween, your friends are the wisest and most important people in the world) had already experimented and I found it unbearable that they had a shared experience from which I was excluded.

So, that's why I started smoking dope, nearly thirty-five years ago. Since then, I have had long stretches (years, in fact) during which I did not smoke at all. And there have been other stretches during which I have been stoned every day, all day.

Smoking dope is a lot less habit forming than is using caffeine, and nowhere near as dangerous to one's health as are nicotine or the Grand Daddy of all abused substances, alcohol. I say this as a result of my own experiences, but there is plenty of evidence to back me up.
Compare those reports with the statement made by former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders:
"Unlike many of the drugs we prescribe every day, marijuana has never been proven to cause a fatal overdose." _Jocelyn Elders, MD in the Providence Journal, Mar. 26, 2004
That's pretty definitive, isn't it?

I refuse to entertain arguments that there is anything at all immoral about marijuana. Anyone who makes the argument is misinformed and blatantly hypocritical.

Being "high" is much less likely to lead to abhorrent behavior than being drunk. Ask any cop which situation is more likely to become dangerous or violent: a confrontation with stoners or a confrontation with drunks? When I think back to the most shameful episodes of my own life, those memories almost invariably include using alcohol.

I've had conversations about this with persons who are close to me, persons who don't necessarily approve of my habit, and my argument usually boils down to this: in our society everyone takes drugs. Anti-depressants, coffee, aspirin, you name it. We take these drugs for some desired effect. So, how is marijuana any different?

Ganja makes me a more content, more tolerant person. It alters perspective, shifts viewpoint ever so subtly. It stimulates abstract thought, acts as an aphrodisiac. It enhances creativity.

Of course, like any drug, marijuana also has some less-than-desirable side effects. Torpor, lack of ambition, sloth. I've experienced those effects as well. But none have the same degree of negativity associated with it as say-- cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatic inflammation, or heart disease.

So, I was very pleased to read this in the news:
The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.
--Huffington Post
It's about time. Prosecuting sick people for using marijuana to alleviate their suffering is an injustice and a glaring example of the topsy-turvy priorities of our society. My state, Oregon, is one of fourteen states that allow for medicinal use of marijuana without fear of prosecution. It is good to know we no longer need be concerned about a reactionary federal government kicking down the doors of sick people and seizing their property because they dared to smoke ganja.

But if it were up to me, marijuana would be legal and available to everyone.

Well, not for kids.

We wouldn't want any thirteen-year-olds smoking dope, would we?

Heh.

Illegal, immoral behavior
Note: Apologies to my darling Maty, who will not be pleased that I have written this post.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Movie review: A Serious Man


With A Serious Man, the Coen brothers once again deliberate on matters existential. This time their prism is Larry Gotnick (played by Michael Stuhlbarg), a Jewish professor of physics in 1960s Minnesota suburbia.

Larry is enjoying a relatively prosperous and successful life as the story opens. He and his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) have two teenage children, Sarah (Jessica McManus) and Danny (Aaron Wolff). Larry is being considered for tenure at his job and looks forward to Danny's bar mitzvah in the near future. His brother, Aaron (Richard Kind), is sleeping on the couch after having some trouble with gambling.

When one of Larry's students tries to bribe him for a passing grade, Larry rejects the offer out of hand, with the certitude of a morally-aligned man. Then, things start coming apart. In rapid fire succession, a series of catastrophes cascade down upon Larry. His wife, he learns, has fallen in love with another man, the cloyingly avuncular Sy Abelman (Fred Melamed). His tenure at work is in doubt as a result of the review board receiving anonymous letters accusing Larry of "moral turpitude." Brother Aaron's troubles flare up again. Legal bills and lawyer fees mount.

In his time of crisis, Larry turns to his faith. He consults with three rabbis hoping to equip himself with the ancient wisdom of his people, with the tools his faith offers for such times.

That's about as far as I want to go in recounting the story.

For Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man is a return to their own childhood, their own upbringing. And the poignancy implied by that reality is visible in this flick. Firstly, Serious Man is as funny as any of the brothers' previous efforts. At the viewing I attended, the audience laughed out loud throughout. Permeated with a wise resigned pessimism, the film offers another fascinating (at least, from a gentile perspective) glimpse into Jewish tradition and worldview. (The prologue for the film is a tale from European Jewish folklore, involving a “dybbuk," or evil spirit.) But also, Larry Gotnick is perhaps the most sympathetic and noble protagonist the Coen Brothers have yet created. He is the portrait of all well-meaning, bewildered, and frightened-but-brave human beings. He faces his fate admirably and courageously.

I believe it is a measure of the respect that the Coen brothers have for their audience that they do not deliver cut-and-dried answers to the questions that their movies pose. One should never expect from them a story with conclusion neatly nailed-down in all four corners. A big part of the appeal of their work is that they invite intellectual participation from their audience.

Well, with A Serious Man, the result of their efforts lives up to what we have come to expect from them: a flawlessly written, delightfully peopled tale that poses ancient questions about morality, about faith, about acceptance.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Comin' out of Klamath

Klamath Basin
Comin' as I do, from the Klamath Basin down over on the cold and dry side of the Cascade Mountains, I guess I got a certain way of looking at things.

Estimates vary, but the general belief is that the Klamath Basin is home for somewhere between 60 thousand and 75 thousand souls. The main population center is Klamath Falls, which sits on the south end of Upper Klamath Lake. The lake'll freeze over in the winter thick enough to where you can walk all the way across it.

The folks down there's a little rougher, a little more wary. Largely skeptical about people's motives. Dress is less refined, more attuned to the outdoors than you'll generally see in the bigger towns. Everybody wears jeans in Klamath Falls. Which prob'ly accounts for why I grew up thinking there's nothing that looks better on a woman than a good-fittin' pair.

You live there a while, your skin gets leathery, you get hard corners about the mouth. All that high and dry desert air leaves its mark.

It all comes down to the water
Fierce pride and independence, I can vouch for that. There's some hard-fisted folks down there. Reputation more for handin' out ass-whup than for writin' books.

If you remember back, there was a big controversy over water usage in 2001. It all stemmed from a federal court's ruling that curtailed farmer and rancher irrigation privileges (or "rights" as the folks down there call 'em) in order to protect endangered fish in Upper Klamath Lake.

I had occasion to go back there during that time, and I tell you, the place was smoldering like a mound of dry peat. Farmers, ranchers, and concerned citizens up in arms, saying "Civil wars've been started over less than this!" They busted the lock placed by the authorities and opened up the head gates to the irrigation canals. In defiance of a federal order. Feds showed restraint, but it was touch-and-go for a while.

For now, there's a truce on, but don't be surprised if things flare up again in some time of drought.

Lumber mills built this town
When I was a young man, fresh out of high school, I worked and lived the way many a Klamath Basin resident had before me. In the timber industry. My dad's old friend Joe was a foreman out there at DG Shelter and he got me a job in the planer mill. "Pullin' chain," as we called it. The boards would come through the trim saws on the belt and we'd read the grade on them and pull them off to stacks. Sometimes they came out of there pretty fast, and we had to move. Wasn't so bad in the dead of winter, when it was colder than hell. Kept the blood flowin'.

They paid me $7.40 per hour back then. That was real money. But it was work that took a toll on the body. Lots of the old veterans were missing fingertips or pieces of their hands. And they were all pretty broke down, too. Had plenty of 'em tell me, "Son, get an education. This way of life's comin' to an end and it ain't no life to speak of, anyway."

And that was true, for sure. Used to be that a guy could get a job out at the Weyerhaeuser plant going out towards Keno, and make enough to raise a family in comfort. No longer. No sir. World moved on past all that.

OIT campus
Grew up believing in the divine law of Providence. That is, if something lands at your feet, you'd be a fool not to take it. I guess that's why I went to OIT for my schoolin'. It was right there in town, had a good job placement rate, specialized in technical degrees, which was where all the money was back in those days. Besides that, Dad was a football coach there. So, that's where I got my bachelor's degree. Computer engineering.

Can't complain about that. When you go to college in the mountains, the horizons aren't exactly wide open, but that diploma landed me a good payin' job a month after I graduated and I've never lacked for work since. 'Course, I had to leave the Basin. No opportunities there.

Upper Klamath Lake

One thing that never did change: Come Friday night, it was time to go out and get drunk and look for girls. Most of the time didn't get much past the first part. But there wasn't much else to do at night when you didn't have to get up to work or school the next day except get inebriated. Seen more drug abuse and alcoholism in Klamath Falls than I ever have up here in the Big City of Portland, an' that's the God's honest truth.

Hog's Back mountain
Generally, folks from the Klamath Basin have a certain indifference to the opinions of others when it comes to their behavior. If a law doesn't fit the needs of the moment, it just wasn't meant to be followed. Or, to revert to the parlance of the blue-collar stiffs pullin' chain at the lumber mill: "Huntin' license? What for? There's lots of muleys in the woods, 'sides which, if we don't get 'em the Klamaths will." (Klamaths were the Native Americans that lived up on the north part of Klamath Lake before John C. Fremont forced them onto the reservation. We always called them "Indians.")

Some say there is no contempt so strong as self-contempt, and that's about all I can put it down to. Friend a mine used to say of the folks from Klamath Falls, "They're dumb as hell, but you won't catch me tellin' 'em that."

'Course, he was from Klamath Falls, too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Acknowledgment of Good Fortune

Wheel of Fortune
Times like these come upon you unawares, it seems. In contrast to my usual melancholy as we head into the long rainy winter, this year I have been taken by a gradual epiphany: I'm happy!

No particular reason for this development. It just is.

Life is good. In spite of dark economic times, in spite of looming disasters, myself and my people have a lot. I'm gainfully employed; I have a wife I absolutely adore; my family is all in good health; even the baffling American zeitgeist seems to be modulating within a relatively sane amplitude --a phenomenon that I had nearly forsaken over the past eight years.

All of this came about less as a result of any choices I've made or actions I've taken, but more due to the inevitable spin of the Wheel. As my friend Andre has reminded me from time to time, I'm one lucky man.

The wisdom of the Tarot tells us that the Wheel of Fortune heralds a new cycle in life, good luck and fortune brought about by fate rather than one's own doing.

And that it can all change in the blink of an eye.

All the more reason, then, to take note of the moment.

When you know even for a moment that it's your time
Then you can walk with the power of a thousand generations;

--Bruce Cockburn

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rush Limbaugh and the NFL

Pig to buy Rams?
Word has it that right-wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh wants to buy the St. Louis Rams' NFL franchise. Big football fan, apparently.

But Rush's big mouth is apparently getting in the way of a smooth power grab of the poorly-managed team. DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players union released a statement on Saturday, opposing Limbaugh's bid, saying "I've spoken to the Commissioner [Roger Goodell] and I understand that this ownership consideration is in the early stages. But sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends. Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred." (Read about it here.)

Rush has a history with the NFL, of course. Back in 2003, he was a color commentator for the ESPN show, Sunday NFL Countdown. Being the gasbag that he is, Rush stepped right into it when he made the following remarks about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, who is African-American:
I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn’t deserve… --Fat Rush, 2003
Many found Rush's injection of race into the discussion to be offensive. After all, the NFL became racially integrated in 1946, a generation before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (at least with respect to players --with coaches and owners, not so much). ESPN summarily showed Rush the door soon after he made these comments.

Rush Limbaugh is a petty, vindictive man in my judgment. And I suspect that this bid to buy an NFL franchise is a way for him to flip the bird at ESPN and at people who find him offensive. Whatever, Rush.

Two of the four black NFL players that entered the NFL in 1946 were Kenny Washington and Woody Stobe, who ironically, played for the Los Angeles Rams. I used to be a big Ram fan myself. The Rams were my team, mostly due to the fact that my dad's one-time football coach at Oregon State, Tommy Prothro, was the head coach of the Rams from 1971 through 1973. But I long ago gave up on the NFL, mostly because of the ridiculous catalog of rules that governed the game. By the time the Rams had achieved their only Superbowl victory in 1999, I had already lost interest.

Nonetheless, I hope Limbaugh's bid fails. I know that such a failure would gall him. And that alone is enough for me. But if the NFL rejects the bid, there is a possibility that it just might get through to some of the Ditto-heads that lap up Limbaugh's spew like cats at the milk pail: Rush Limbaugh is really not anyone to admire.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Earthly purpose


Trekking o'er the Four Great Lands
Saw woodlands, stone temples, volcanoes;
Vistas, each with wide embrace,
Exotic, warm bosom did offer;

But ever onward must I roam,
To seek my earthly purpose;

For thee, the springtime was at hand:
A new home, a new hope, good fortune;
"Afrique, au 'voir!" and turned thy face
From childhood, from fam'ly, from homeland;

But never Allah did forsake:
Upheld thy earthly purpose;

Arrived, awaited what would come,
Expecting no warm-bed companion;
Defenseless to thy virtue, grace,
Was taken ere even I noticed;

From slow decline was lifted up;
And given...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What to make of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize?


Friday morning, it was all the news. Norway's Nobel Committee awarded its prestigious Peace Prize for the year of 2009 to President Obama.

The Prize is awarded annually as part of the endowment of Alfred Nobel, the 19th century chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. According to Alfred Nobel's will, the Peace Prize is to go to whoever "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

And, given that criteria, small wonder that the announcement of this year's winner was greeted with surprise. Even those inclined to support President Obama (and they include me) are a bit puzzled. After all, the deadline for nominations occurred on February 1 of this year, not even two full weeks into the President's term of office.

"Some people say — and I understand it — 'Isn't it premature? Too early?' Well, I'd say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now," said Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, as reported by the Associated Press.

That pretty much says it all, I guess. If I may be permitted to restate Herr Jagland's remarks, stripped of their rich diplomatic robes, I'd put it this way: "We are grateful and relieved that the United States is turning away from neo-conservative foreign policy. We very much hope President Obama will follow through on his campaign rhetoric."

Well, I for one (and I know that I'm not alone by a long shot) share in their gratitude, their relief. and their hope. Those Bush years were bleak!

But the Obama administration hasn't exactly resembled the Rainbow Family on the international stage. Drone attacks on targets in Pakistan; a potential escalation in Afghanistan. (Read more about all this on Ridwan's blog.)

I've traveled in Norway. And I love those Norwegians. Upstanding, moral people. Unimpeachable integrity. But they're also a distant people. I think they sometimes view our American sensibilities, our raw emotions, as vulgar.

So, the way I interpret this award, the Norwegians, in their formal, Scandinavian way, are expressing their approval and their encouragement to America's progressive elements. They're longing for the days when the United States fostered global cooperation. They're relieved that the rednecks aren't running the show.


President Obama, for his part, seems to understand the message. He said he was "surprised and deeply humbled." And, according to CNN, Obama said he viewed the decision less as a recognition of his own accomplishments and more as "a call to action."

Let's hope that the action that the President takes as a result of this call might make a real difference. Maybe we can see an end to the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe we can make some progress toward a just and fair peace in Palestine. Maybe we can initiate global, international responses to some of the big problems that face our species.

And to our Norwegian friends I say, "Mange takk , meg venner."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

GOP resolve wavering in health care debate?


Things just keep getting weirder in the health care debate.

There has been a spate of high-profile Republicans who have made statements vaguely in support of some kind of health care reform. These include former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS), California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and even another former Senate Majority Leader, the loathsome Bill Frist (R-TN). Then, last night, Erick Erickson, from Redstate.com reported this:
I am told quite reliably that in a meeting today on Capitol Hill, Republican Senators began to rapidly move toward concessions on health care because they are afraid they cannot hold their members. Some Republicans are now thinking of supporting a government program. --Erick Erickson
Erickson later updated his post, playing down the possibility of GOP capitulation with this:
I’m hearing this evening from both some Senators in the room and staff that the fears of GOP caving are overblown and we should not be concerned. --ibid
The update sounds to me like a hastily constructed anonymous assurance from some freaked-out Republican staffer who is trying to tamp down a fire. If the original report is true, the GOP is right now trying to come up with an equivocating message that will allow them to support health care reform while maintaining a facade of opposition.

And check this: even House Republican Whip Eric Cantor has made noises about a sudden willingness to compromise. Quoth he: "What I think would behoove all of us in this country would be to see if we in Congress could try to work together for a change."

No sh*t, Eric? That's quite a turnaround from earlier in the year.

Not to toot my own horn too much, but I did predict last Friday that the health care debate would be won by those of us who advocate real reform, including a public option. Now, it looks like Republicans are starting to see the writing on the wall.

If this does play out with congressional Republicans capitulating and voting for reform, there are a number of implications:
  • Some elements of the GOP are finally realizing that the tea-bagger support that they have been soliciting is doing them more harm than good in terms of how they are viewed by the general public.

  • President Obama and his staff end up looking positively ingenious. Even at the height of the tea-bagger sturm und drang, Obama never relented in his calls for bipartisanship, leaving the door open for Republicans who might secretly want to get on board, but who were afraid to buck their caucus leadership. The administration even resisted the increasingly angry outcries from their own base (including this author). That was something the Bush administration never would do.

  • This whole game, even the implied threat of a GOP filibuster has been a gigantic bluff by the Republican leadership. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner could very well end up looking like fools yet again. (Mercifully, they're probably used to it by now.)
Watch out, Republicans! All that latent tea-bagger anger that you whipped up over the summer is going to come crashing down on you.

And it ain't gonna be pretty.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Beatles play list


I'm listening to a quickly-constructed play list of some of my favorite Beatles tunes. Here it is:

1. Hey Jude
2. Don't Let Me Down
3. I'm Only Sleeping
4. She Said She Said
5. Martha My Dear
6. Day Tripper
7. I Am the Walrus
8. Helter Skelter
9. I Should Have Known Better
10. I Feel Fine
11. Lovely Rita
12. Rain

There's no such thing as an obscure Beatles tune. And I venture that there are few persons in the English-speaking world that cannot sing at least a few bars from something on this list. But there are also those disaffected souls for whom the Beatles have become so ubiquitous that they can no longer muster interest.

God save me from such a fate!

I can understand how it is with younger people, especially, who were never given the opportunity to discover the Beatles, having had the Fab Four forced upon their aural senses while they rocked in their very cradles. They didn't choose to listen to the Beatles. They came into a Beatles-influenced world.

Unlike so many artists today (and maybe always), the Beatles were never content to rest on their past successes. Listen to Meet the Beatles, the first album released in the United States, and compare it to The "White" Album or Abbey Road. Their artistic evolution is fascinating. (No disrespect intended, but have the Rolling Stones done anything new in the last 25 years?)

The idea that the Beatles is now part of the "establishment," the accepted norm, is ironic when one considers that, in the impassioned '60s, the Beatles were part of the movement that transformed culture. The Beatles, believe it or not, were edgy back in the day. They admitted to experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs, smoked dope more or less openly, went to India to study with an Eastern-tradition holy man. To be a fan of the Beatles implied an open-mindedness, a willingness to examine new ideas and societal mores.

People will sometimes offer that Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Michael Savage have significant influence on our culture. Well, even Rush Limbaugh with his 30 million listeners has a long way to go before he comes close to the influence of the Beatles. And this: what the Beatles gave us was positive, expansive; not like the vitriol of right-wing loudmouths who influence culture through revulsion and disgust.

Apple Music and MTV just released a Beatles version of the popular video game "Rock Band." The advertisements are all over the media. I suppose some of the mystique remains. And I think younger people will one day find themselves humming tunes from their childhood days, Beatles tunes.

I hope so. A world that admires the Beatles is a better world, in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Takin' a trip down Memory Lane

Thus, am I
Stream-of-consciousness blather because, after all, I have been encouraged by the validation afforded by Facebook Friends, buoyed by mood enhancers, and held aloft by a general sense of health and happiness. In spite of one or two embarrassing moral slip-ups that resulted in my looking like a fool.

It ain't like it hadn't happened before. Once or twice. Heh.

Hell, if I was going to worry about that, about every time I had made a fool of myself, I'd have long ago laced up the hiking boots, strapped on a backpack and just walked up some river (it's always a river, for some reason) to see if I might find some isolated earthly paradise away from people. Just like brother Noah from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. It would be too painful, otherwise.

Maybe that's what it means to leave youth behind. World's no longer at your feet, you know? So, why pretend that it is? From time to time, life is going to punch you out. Happens to everybody. Roll with it, baby! Because the world's going to keep on going, for sure. You look back on pictures from 20 years earlier and say "Damn! I was a good-lookin' kid and I didn't even know it." And when the day comes that you can look at your younger self as a not-necessarily-innocent-but-at least-well-intentioned young man... well, it's official... you've crested the ridge.

Hope to have a good long stretch of trail on the downhill side, too, though. Lord knows, the ascent has been spectacular.

Tonight, for whatever reason, I remember the loves that came before.

Youth
I had an Irish girlfriend for a short while... after my divorce. Dark-haired beauty, complete with Black Irish freckles and eyes that sparkled --sparkled like the sun coming off the water, and I don't care if it is a cliché. But she was running from something. Running, running, running. I'm glad that she slowed down enough to walk with me for a little while.

And, of course, Tormented Enchantress, who was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. And liked the music I liked. And laughed at Woody Allen and read good books. And our ministrations to each other, not just those ecstatic pleasures that for a time kept us afloat, but also those thoughts we tried to share --when they weren't accusatory or hurtful or fraught with traps and tests, they were poems written by poets trapped on a doomed vessel. That one hurt.

Or she who roiled and bucked like a thunderhead that comes storming in off the Pacific. All the fury of a lightning-struck heart. Impatient with the God she had known in her childhood. In that time, I was angry, too. We raised our fists together. We struggled mightily, trying to prove to each other and ourselves that we would not be subdued. Not even by the whole mad world. When she came, I believe I knew that it wouldn't take her long. Not as long as it would take me. Sure enough, sooner than I would have liked, she had pushed on past. I waved at her back.

Still smilin'
Loved them each and no regrets for nothin'. Every day I spent crying fades to shadow when I think about those rare moments that were so perfect we were afraid to believe in them:

Sun on the waves at Oswald West State Park, just the two of us and the dog.

Hugging each other like kids at Christmas as we contemplated the prospect of our new home.

Laughing giddily over the embers of the white-hot fire we had only just quelled.

Can't post photos. It wouldn't be right. But if any of them ever read this, they'll know.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday dinner with the family

Calee, Kris, Maty, Chae, Sarah, and Nadiya
My family, the Tribe of Ross is spread all up and down the west coast of the "Lower 48." I have cousins in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Arizona, and California. My immediate family is scattered all over Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. Two of my siblings, Calee and Chae, live in the Portland Metro area, like me.

My family makes a real effort to stay close, to stay in touch. But, there are often significant stretches of time when even those who are in relatively close physical proximity don't see each other much. Life is that way: you fall into your daily routine, and the next thing you know, a month has passed.

Some sociologists point out that there has been a trend over the decades since the Great Depression, toward smaller family units. Typically, grandparents or cousins or siblings do not live in a single household. They are dispersed in multiple households, in different cities, even different regions of the country.

I think this is an unintentional by-product of the unprecedented wealth generated by this country in the years following WWII. In that time, the factories and industrial centers of Europe and Japan were in ruins and the entire world looked to the United States for goods and services. That put American labor and capital at a premium, which, in turn produced spectacular wealth to the point that every household could have its own residence, its own car, its own refrigerator, its own color television. Thus, came the explosion of the traditional household to smaller units, resulting in today's god-awful suburbia.

(Well, if certain futurists are correct, if the global demands on energy and clean water and even food continue as they are going, our society might be compelled to change its ways.)

But now I've gone far afield...

I write all this as preamble to announcing a pretty simple, but in my mind important, enterprise: Maty and I are starting a new tradition at my house. First Sunday of every month, we host dinner for our family in the area. A "family dinner" in the old sense, with everyone sitting around a table and eating.

Last night was our first such occasion. Our attendees were brother Calee, his wife Sarah, our lifelong family friend Kris, my sister Chae, and our friend from Togo, Nadiya. We had chicken, salad, green beans, rice, and strawberries. For dessert, sister-in-law Sarah brought over some cupcakes from Bliss Bake shop. Maty, as usual, cooked like a madwoman, and everything was seasoned to perfection.

Calee came over early to "help" me install some new flooring in the spare bedroom. (By "help," I mean he did all the work and I stood around with my finger up my a** trying not to get in the way.) We got the floor installed, it looks great, and we had a wonderful repast with friends and family.

After dinner, I drove Chae back to her dormitory (she's attending college in the area). I dropped her off and headed back to Portland. I rolled down the window and hung my elbow out to catch the wind as I drove. The evening was cool and clear, and although the darkness came down quickly, it seemed benevolent.

I had just spent an entire day improving my house, and I had enjoyed a great meal with wife and family. "This is the life," says I.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Tea-bagger sturm und drang is spent


Don't look now, folks, but those who advocate real health care reform, with a public option to pin back the ears of greedy health insurance executives, are going to win the health care debate. Earlier in the week, Republicans were positively gleeful that "public option" amendments to the health care reform bill put forth by the Senate Finance Committee failed to garner enough votes to be included. But watch and see who gets the last laugh.

Since that time, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has crafted an amendment that would allow individual states the option of negotiating with insurance companies for lower rates. In effect, this is a "back-door" public option, although Senator Cantwell studiously avoided calling it such. And it did make it out of committee, albeit by a single vote.

Consider also that Senator Tom Harken (D-IA) said on September 29 that he believes there are enough votes in the Senate to pass a public option by a "comfortable" margin. Then, just yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated flatly that a public option will be in the final health care bill.

There are all kinds of procedural hurdles to overcome (including an almost certain Republican attempt to filibuster) and some tough negotiations that must occur, but when the Democrats start talking like this publicly, it is a good indication that something is afoot.

So, what about all that sturm und drang that occurred in August, when the tea-baggers were waving their moronic signs and bleating about "death panels" and "pulling the plug on Grandma?" What about all that shrill wailing about encroaching socialism? Nascent fascism?

Well, there's a Mexican proverb that sums it up nicely: Perro que ladra no muerde. "The dog that barks doesn't bite." Or, put another way, they got nothin'.

When President Obama signs a health care reform bill that includes a public option, all the Glenn Beck tea-baggers and Rush Limbaugh dittoheads and Fox News zombies will once again be reminded that, although they have a Big Voice, there really just aren't that many of them. At least when compared to the overwhelming number of doctor's unions, labor unions, and, indeed, the general public, all of which support some form of "public option" by overwhelming majorities.

You poor clown! You lose again.
The tea-baggers are about to be handed another big defeat. Add it to the ever-growing list that starts with the 2007 mid-term elections, runs through the destruction of Junior Bush's Social Security reform ponzi scheme, the slaughter of the Republicans in last year's general election, and most recently culminated in the passage of the President's stimulus package early in the year.

The Republicans, for their part, are in dire straits. The rhetoric has devolved to the point where any hint of a willingness to work with the President or the Democratic majorities evokes hysterical vitriol. And, having catered to the every whim of their "base," Republicans have alienated anyone who is not a tea-bagger.

They'll continue to scream bloody murder as we move forward. But they can't stop it. Sound and fury, signifying nothing!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Let 'em have it, Alan!

US Rep. Alan Grayson

Night before last, US Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL), took to the floor of the House and let fly with some tough rhetoric aimed at Republican obstructionists in the health care debate. Quoth he:
It’s my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America… It’s a very simple plan. Here it is. The Republican health care plan for America: “don’t get sick.” If you have insurance don’t get sick, if you don’t have insurance, don’t get sick; if you’re sick, don’t get sick. Just don’t get sick. … If you do get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: “die quickly.” --Rep. Alan Grayson, Sept.29, 2009 (Watch it here.)
The Republicans, as usual, were quick to beat their breasts and wail at how they had been wronged. Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) called on Nancy Pelosi to officially rebuke Grayson. I've got a feeling that that ain't going anywhere. (Could there be any more perfect example of Republican mimicry than the name "McHenry?"It sounds like the McDonald's version of the name of the original Confederate, Patrick Henry.)

I'm not in the least surprised at their hypocrisy, but for those of you who have actual lives, who aren't obsessed with the ins and outs of partisan drama, I'll show you just a few examples of the rhetoric that the Republicans have been throwing around in the last couple months:
Last week Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America’s seniors: Drop dead. --Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), 7/21/09

They’re going to save money by rationing care, getting you in a long line. Places like Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe. People die when they’re in line. --Rep. Steve King (R-IA), 7/15/09

[The Republican plan will] make sure we bring down the cost of health care for all Americans and that ensures affordable access for all Americans and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government. --Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), 7/28/09

That’s exactly what’s going on in Canada and Great Britain today…and a lot of people are going to die. --Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), 7/10/09

One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine! … I would hate to think that among five women, one of ‘em is gonna die because we go to socialized care. --Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), 7/15/09

(You can see a video compilation here.)
I've come to expect hypocrisy like this from Republicans. Haven't you?

Well, I think it's about damn time that Democrats start fighting back with some tough rhetoric of their own. Good for the goose, good for the gander, and all that. And a little stridency might just stiffen the spines of some of the mealy-mouthed cowards in the Democratic caucuses.

When you consider Alan Grayson's remarks, along with those recently made by Representative Barney Frank, and President Jimmy Carter, it looks like there are others who feel the same way I do. The tea-baggers are a loud minority... but they are a minority, as evidenced by the last national election. If they want to rant and scream, let them rant and scream. But we can serve them the same sauce.

So, continuing in that vein: Ann Coulter was on CNN recently. She admitted to being "a little bit jealous" of Glenn Beck. And why not? He's more of a woman than she'll ever be!