Monday, April 30, 2012

Whine all you want, Mitt. Bin Laden's still dead.

In one of the most audacious displays of political hypocrisy I can ever recall (and, people, that is one very high bar), Ed Gillespie, a former adviser to Junior Bush and current adviser to the Romney-for-President campaign, whined on Meet the Press that President Obama is using the death of Osama bin Laden as a political weapon.  Indeed, Gillespie claims that the President has "managed to turn [bin Laden's death] into a divisive partisan political attack."

This desperate, nonsensical plaint is but half of the Republican effort to diminish the accomplishment of bin Laden's death.  The other half of the "argument" is that, given the same set of circumstances, any president would have done just as did President Obama.  "Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order," Romney pooh-poohed in answer to a shouted question on the campaign trail.

Get it?  No big deal.  Obama got handed a golden ticket.  But Romney himself is on record saying "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."  And remember how, in the 2008 presidential campaign, Romney attacked candidate Obama for suggesting that Obama would order a military strike within Pakistan if there were actionable intelligence on bin Laden.

As I said:  jaw-dropping, bald-faced hypocrisy on the part of Romney and his minions.  But it doesn't seem likely to work.  Even the notoriously forgetful American voter can recall that, a mere nine years ago, two months after the illegal invasion of Iraq, it was Junior Bush who played dress up and arranged a jet fighter landing on an aircraft carrier off the coast of California so he could deliver a boastful (and utterly inaccurate) speech before a red, white, and blue banner reading "Mission Accomplished."

God knows who the Romney campaign hopes to win over with this kind of inane, fabricated nuance.  Anyone who might swallow it is someone who would never vote for Obama anyway.  Those people will buy anything that validates their ignorance and confirms their hatred.

Romney is in a tough place.  President Obama rendered all the bantam-cock strutting by Junior Bush, and by extension, all Republicans, as the fantasy musings of small-minded posers, of narrow-shouldered huff-and-puffers.

Tough break, that.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dwight Holton for Oregon Attorney General

Well, Oregonians, I've given it some careful thought.  And I've come to the conclusion that Dwight Holton is the better choice for Oregon Attorney General.   

In watching the debate on Straight Talk, I found Attorney Holton to be much more specific regarding his priorities:  consumer protection, neighborhood safety, environmental protection.  He has prosecutorial and administrative experience, having served as US Attorney for Oregon.  He's got a long list of endorsements from organizations, law enforcement, and elected officials. 

I was most impressed with his repeated opinion that we need to initiate conversations about our laws.  I agree.  The law is a living institution that must evolve with society.  And since I'm generally of the opinion that we need to spend more on education and prevention and less on prosecution and incarceration, I was encouraged to hear Attorney Holton express a similar sentiment.  And I quote:  "The best way to fight crime is to prevent it in the first place." 

He and Judge Rosenblum agree on many issues.  They agree that medical marijuana is useful and helpful. They agree that Measure 11, the "three strikes" mandatory-sentencing law, should be reexamined (but not repealed).  They both support same-sex marriage.  They both believe in universal health care.   

Those are Oregon values.  And while Judge Rosenblum shares them, she failed to articulate them clearly.  She meandered.  Meandering doesn't seem like a good trait for an attorney general.  I found Judge Rosenblum's positions and opinions to be boilerplate liberal chaff.  (Keep in mind, I write this as a proud liberal!)  She complained that mandatory sentencing restricts judicial discretion.  She invoked Oregon's legislative legacy, recalling our bottle bill and other achievements.  She repeatedly stated that her priorities as attorney general would be to protect vulnerable citizens (the elderly, kids).

Yes, Your Honor, we know.  All of that is good, but what's the plan?  How would you go about doing it?

She also insinuated she's more "Oregonian" than her opponent.  I have to admit, this dog whistle caught my ear.  I'm a born-and-raised Oregonian and that has burdened me with a sense of superiority, I'm afraid.  But I can't go so far as to vote for an inferior candidate based on that factor.

My gut reaction, when I heard the attack ads that Ellen Rosenblum is running on KPOJ radio --the ads that label Dwight Holton as an outsider from Virginia who wants to gut Oregon's medical marijuana law and spend resources prosecuting marijuana users --was to think "Hell with him!  Ellen Rosenblum has got my vote!"

But, you know, the ad was a little too shrill.  It didn't pass the smell test.  It seemed calculated to hit all the hot-button issues that are sure to rile up a community of "twenty-first century hippies" (as a publication in Paris recently labelled Portland).  I dislike being manipulated in that way.

So Dwight Holton gets my vote.  I think he'll do a fine job.

(And Oregonians, I must say, I find it satisfying and reassuring that Republicans are so toxic in this state.  They don't even bother to run for statewide office.  In the Beaver State, the GOP is reviled and despised.  It's a sad development for traditional Oregon Republicans, with their legacy of great Oregon leaders over the years.  But until they can ditch the rednecks that run the GOP on the national level, I just can't see them recovering.  Not here in my house.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Those early days of love and sadness

In those early days, we were always together.  You folded laundry.  I looked at picture books.  Sometimes you played records.  We liked the Beatles.  I remember them as quiet days.  I remember that you took my hand and we walked to the fire station near our apartment where a fireman slid down the pole from above.

I remember the day that a bumblebee stung me on the elbow.  I was playing on the swing set with Stevie when it stung.  I remember pain and not knowing where it came from, and I wailed, as much out of fear as pain.  You came across the grass and took me in your arms.  The bee was dead and stuck to my elbow by its stinger.  You plucked it away and carried me inside.

Sometimes you sang to me and read me books.  You made pop-tarts.  Even then I loved you because you were kind and gentle.  Not just to me.  To everyone.  You put out milk for the neighbor cat.

It could have been a good home.  You did your part.

But he didn't want it.  He didn't believe in it.  He was always gone.  And when he was not gone, he was cruel.  I feared him because he made you cry.  He was not above hurting me or my brother to hurt you.  I cried to see you cry.  I used to wish I was strong.  So I could stop him.  And I know you know I did my best.  For you and for my little brother.

He thought he had the best of everything.  He thought he could have a home with an obedient wife and good kids and still have girlfriends and go fishing and go hunting while he kept you and us in his three-bedroom prison. 

But we know what he didn't have.  I know what he didn't have.

He didn't have those quiet days, listening to the Beatles and being together.  He didn't have the field day at the fire station.  He didn't have the trust and the faith and the love that we had.  He wasn't part of our little family.  He thought he was.  But he wasn't.

So, why remember now?  Why, you ask?  I suppose because I grieve for that little family that we had.  The family that he spurned and ridiculed.  As if there was something wrong with it.  As if it wasn't true and good.   

Well, you always forgave.  I never have learned how to do that.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cast your bread upon the waters

New Direction Community Church dishing out soup
On Saturday Dave Hauth and I took a stroll down to the river.  Down to the space near the eastern terminus of the Hawthorne Bridge.  The place by the fire station on Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade where homeless folks set up camp.  They're always there.  The overhead traffic ramps provide shelter from rain and there is a portable toilet:  attractive amenities for people who have nowhere to go.  They lay bedrolls on the concrete and drape plastic tarps over the carts and wagons that hold their possessions.

A gaggle of people were gathered around a folding table set up on the pavement. Women from the New Direction Community Church were serving soup the color of the Mapocho River out of a stainless steel kettle.  Chunks of onion, potato, carrot, and beef. 

Virginia Noggle then (inset) and now
"We're here every Saturday, 10am," said Virginia Noggle. "We serve food, no questions asked."

"Good of you," I said.

"Cast your bread upon the waters," she said.  She held up a wallet-sized photo.  A pale and emaciated person of indeterminate gender glared.  The face was the face of a person without energy to pretend.  "Here's me back in the day... I was doing it all back then."

"Crack?" I asked.

"Crack, booze, cocaine, heroin.  Anything I could get my hands on."

"And now?" I asked.

"I found redemption through Jesus, my Savior.  I'm here to spread the Word."

"And you come down here every Saturday and dish out soup?" I asked.

"Every Saturday," she confirmed.

"Good for you," said I.

River keeps on rollin'
That evening, the air was warm from the persistent sun.  As I sat in my big lounge chair in my living room, playing games on my laptop, my thoughts returned to that place near the river.  It might not be so bad, on an evening like that, to be lying on a bedroll on the cool pavement, with a bellyful of Mapocho River soup and the song of the river in your ears.  Not so bad, knowing you had not been forgotten.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Christmas tree bomber case stinks like a frame-up

Winston Ross, of the Daily Beast, has written an article discussing the pre-trial maneuverings of prosecution and defense in the case of Mohamed Mohamud, the Christmas tree bomber.  You can read it here.

The whole thing stinks like a god-damn frame-up to me.  As Ross points out in his article, defense attorney Stephen Sady says that Mohamud was lured into his crime by federal investigators eager to teach the Rose City (my city, god-damn it!) a lesson about opting out of its Big Brother Joint Terrorism task force.  Sady says Mohamud, after initially making contact with someone whom he believed to be a terrorist operative (but who was, in fact, an FBI agent), lost interest in the scheme and had gone as far as to line up a fishing job in Alaska in the summer of 2010.  But then, the FBI, directed by a Justice Department positively salivating for a terrorism conviction, lured him back into the scheme.  They gave him $2700, set him up in his own apartment, and convinced him that he needed to help "the brothers."

Now that the discovery phase of the trial is underway, it turns out that many of the crucial recordings of the early conversations between undercover FBI agents and Mohamud do not exist.  Someone "forgot" to turn on the recording device.  Sets it up nicely for the prosecution, doesn't it?  I mean, who are jurors more likely to believe?  FBI agents or an embittered and confused Somali kid?

This case points up all that is wrong with this country in the wake of 911.  The Federal government brings to bear its resources to target and entrap a Muslim kid (because everyone knows Muslims are terrorists) and uses the case to get a free-thinking city to fall into line with the New Order.  Muslims are alienated,  Portland One-Worlders are chastened, and some hot-shot Federal prosecutor adds a gold star to his resumé.

Let's see what the trial reveals, but things don't look good for Mohamed Mohamud.  Or for any of us.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012

Bull of the Woods mushroom

Earth Day, 2012.

Two years after the BP-inflicted Macondo Oil disaster exploded onto the national consciousness, thousands of Gulf of Mexico dolphins are stranding themselves on the shore and food fish (red snapper, in particular) are pulled from the water bearing lesions and strange infections.  (But, don't worry!  FDA mucky-muck Robert W. Dickey assures us the fish are safe to eat!)  Meanwhile, gas prices are running at about $4 per gallon and Big Oil continues raking in money hand over fist. 

In these economically shaky times, environmental worries recede before the urgent and immediate concerns of people struggling in the pitiless currents of a "free-market economy."

Cue Dick Cheney and the resource extraction pirates.  Start the chanting and the disinformation campaigns.  "Drill, baby, drill!"   "Tree-hugging hippies want to take your jobs."  "Global warming is a hoax!"

Even if they don't believe it, people will espouse that kind of claptrap to assuage any vague discomfort that might arise from watching Creation wither before mankind's rapacious appetites.

I don't know.

We were born into this world, full of beauties and wonders.  It doesn't seem right that we should deny these things --the Siberian tigers, the white rhinoceroses, the Northern Spotted Owls, the Amazonian rainforests, the Great Coral reef --to the people of the future.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jefferson Smith for Mayor

Well, Portland, it's time once again to choose a new mayor.  Sam Adams, tainted by scandal almost as soon as he took office, is coming to the end of his term.  A quick gander through the Voter's Pamphlet reveals that there is a host of ambitious personalities vying to take Sam's place as chief executive of our fair city.

And while it is entertaining to read the various candidates' statements in the pamphlet (after all, anybody can publish a statement by paying a fee), there are only three viable candidates in this year's race.  ("Viable,"of course, is synonymous with "adequately-funded."  In the end, it's still a money game, I'm afraid.)

Those three?  Charlie Hales, Eileen Brady, and Jefferson Smith.

Charlie Hales has served as a City Commissioner and has experience working in City Hall. He's got a good reputation as an effective administrator and I suppose he is probably the odds-on favorite to win.  I considered voting for him for a good long while, but in the end, decided against it.  Charlie is in tight with former mayor Vera Katz and the Portland "old guard." I'd prefer to see some new blood in city government.

Eileen Brady bills herself as a co-founder of the News Seasons grocery chain, which is sure to put her in the good graces of a lot of folks in my neighborhood.  News Seasons opened a store on Hawthorne in the last several years and it does a brisk business with urban shoppers.  But I'm not one of those who believes that success as a business leader qualifies a person as a good government administrator.  (That's how the GOP sold us Junior!  Remember?)  Her candidacy seems light on proposals.  And ambition without direction rarely leads to anything good.  (Again, think of Junior --or Macbeth!)

I met Jefferson Smith at the 2008 Democratic Convention for Oregon's 3rd Congressional District.  Truthfully, I didn't much like him.  He was smooth, alright.  Too smooth.  He came across as insincere.  Nonetheless, I know he's a hard worker (ambitious men always are) and, as Neighbor Mac pointed out, Jefferson had success with his Oregon Bus Project.  That's democracy at the grass-roots level.  His statement in the Voter's Pamphlet hits all the right notes:  "grow local businesses," "balanced transportation options," "stand up to powerful interests," etcetera.  He's endorsed by my party, the Working Families party, and by Neighbor Mac, and I bear witness that Jefferson supported the Occupy Movement.  I saw him at the demonstration.  And while Portland's airwaves are saturated with ads from Hales and Brady, I have yet to see an ad from Jefferson.  I always prefer a campaign that relies on the ground game over a campaign that bombards voters with paid advertising.

So, Jefferson Smith gets my vote this year.  But, you know, this being Portland, any of the candidates will probably do a good job.  We don't elect right-wing freaks in the Rose City.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New addition to Mount Tabor Park

From this, in 2012...
Today, on Tabor's crown, I discovered a sapling tree in the open space behind Harvey Scott's statue.  It was planted either today or yesterday, because it was not there Monday, when last I was on the mountaintop.

I checked the tag.  My heart leapt.  Oregon White Oak.  Quercus garryana.

White oak is a noble and majestic species.  Tall, solemn, dense and strong.  Slow growing and long-lived. 

White oaks hold a special place in my memories.  White oaks lived in our yard when I was a boy in south Salem.  My best friend, Edward, had a tree-house in the arms of a white oak that stood near his house on Argyle Street.  And Salem's Bush Park is full of them. 

Two of the big Dougs on the northern slope of Tabor fell down recently, which was sad.  But a white oak sapling at Tabor's very summit is hopeful and good.  Mount Tabor Park, already 103 years old, seems an apt home for a sapling oak with a long life ahead of it.  The bole of the sapling is still slender enough that I can wrap my hand around it and overlap finger and thumb to the first knuckle. 

On the way home, I imagined some future Portland stroller, one hundred or two hundred years from now, climbing up Tabor and discovering this oak sapling, grown to its full stature.

A gift from us, the people of today's Portland, to the people of future Portland.

Enjoy, future Portlanders!  A gift of love from us.  A glorious Oregon white oak. this, in 2212? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mount Tabor sunsets

A sunset is a beckoning. A call. A gesture toward a mystery we cannot conceive. Just a few of the fabulous events I have beheld from the top of Mount Tabor. In chronological order.

February 8, 2010
On this day, up until the moment I beheld this sunset, my mind was occupied with thoughts of Sarah Palin.  She melted away when I saw that bright orange scar of light silhouetting Council Crest.

January 25, 2011
Cold and dry on this day.  The clouds seemed to spiral out from the sun.  An infinitesimal fractal of the Milky Way, spiraling out from the chaos of the Galactic Center.  President Obama was finishing up his State of the Union address on this day.
September 27, 2011
I wrote a little post about this sunset.  A farewell to summer:  Sunset eulogy.

October 3, 2011
This sunset was the perfect antidote to appalling revelations about Rick Perry from Texas.

December 2, 2011

Although Governor Kitzhaber spared the life of the murderer Gary Haugen, it is certain that Haugen will never see a sunset like this one.  I wonder, could a creature like Haugen be immune to it?  I doubt it.

March 22, 2012
On this day, the sunset underwent an amazing transformation.

March 22, 2012
This is the same sunset a few minutes later.

Watching a sunset, one can sense a wisdom underlying the foundations of human reality.  We can't conceive it.  Solace comes from simply knowing that it is there.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anarchy in the underpass

Havin' a snooze in March
Some homeless folks have set up camp on the south side of Powell Boulevard in the railway underpass between 16th and 18th.  They've been there for a while now, tucked up in the walkway between the chain link fence and the concrete wall, about 10 feet above the street.  It's a noisy place.  Powell is a busy thoroughfare and the noise of the traffic is amplified by the concrete.  But at least it is dry, I suppose.

Back in March, as I walked through, camera in hand, a toothless old crone angrily informed me that it was illegal to take her picture.  She shook out a dusty sleeping bag as she spoke.
A common enough sentiment, I warrant
About a month later, when next I passed through, someone (the old crone seems an unlikely suspect) had scrawled graffiti of a political bent on the walls.  No one was "home" at the time.  But the gear piled against the concrete indicated that folks would be back shortly.

Urban campsite
The black crayon scrawls had a distinctly anarchic flavor --leading me to wonder if these are perhaps diaspora from the Occupy protest last year.

Angry Occupiers?
There were plenty of homeless folks in Lownsdale Park at the height of the protest and they all went somewhere.

I find it interesting that Occupy slogans are still floating around on the street.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Move review: The Hunger Games

Gary Ross' cinematic adaptation of the Suzanne Collins novel The Hunger Games is all the rage in the theaters nowadays. With $335 million in box office receipts over the last 24 days, the film is an unmitigated success.

It's the story of a futuristic society, Panem, in which two youths from each of Panem's 12 districts must compete to the death for honor and adulation.  Sort of an "American Idol" with carnage.

Did I like the flick?  No.  But Ross isn't aiming his arrows at me. It's a flick intended for adolescents. Girls, in particular. A fifty-year-old man is a mile wide of the targetted demographic. 

There were a lot of things that bothered me about the film.  I found Ross' use of slow-motion as a means of creating suspense to be amateurish and unimaginative.  I was disappointed with Woody Harrelson's performance as the drunken has-been hero Haymitch Abernethy.  It seemed that Harrelson just couldn't bring himself to take the role seriously.  I gritted my teeth through Jennifer Lawrence's appalled gaping and over-the-top hysterics in her role as heroine Catniss Everdeen.  I'm not quite sure that Donald Sutherlin (as President Snow) ever did wake up as he delivered his lines.   And I cringed to see Lenny Kravitz reduced to a meaningless bit part in a teeny-bop chick flick.  (He was Cinna --a PR guy, not to be confused with the conspirator from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.)

But, as I said, this flick wasn't aimed at me.  I'm not supposed to "get it."

Hunger Games is a paean to youth.   And why not? Who isn't attracted to youth? Not just because young people are physically beautiful, but because of their innocence and idealism.  We're a youth-obsessed society. 

So here's my beef with the film.  It makes no attempt to challenge its intended audience.  The film doesn't give young people enough credit.  Hunger Games doesn't so much celebrate youth's nobility as it plays to its least attractive qualities: narcissism, sullenness, and an insufferable sense of martyrdom.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kitchen remodel -after

New kitchen
And now it is done.

Yesterday we signed the final invoice and cut the final check to our contractor upon completion of our new kitchen.  Honestly, the entire ordeal was not nearly as painful as I had been led to expect.  Yes, we ended up spending more money than we had originally intended.  Yes, we spent 5 weeks without a kitchen.  Yes, at times, our nerves were frayed, causing some tense marital moments.

But we're very pleased with the results.  Have a look for yourself.

The contractors had not even left the house before Maty was in there organizing and setting up. Also, cooking. As she organized the cabinets and arranged where things would go, she simultaneously cooked ném for one of her Senegalese friends.

When you consider how much Maty loves to cook (and how much I love to eat) this new kitchen is an investment that will certainly pay off.  (And that's not even considering how we have improved the market value of the house.  Not that we're planning on moving any time in the foreseeable future.)

Alder cabinets and brand new appliances
Anyway, we're pleased as punch with the results.  Maty is cooking even as I write.  She's happy, and therefore, I'm happy.

Every honest man likes for his wife to be happy, yes?

New specs, new kitchen

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Everything comes apart

Spun around the orb enough times to know.
Everything comes apart in time, in time.

Foundations bend, foundations do crumble--
Rain melts clay men shaped with love and care.

Roseate dawns birth hope and joy and fear.
Dusky sunsets evoke both grief and peace.

You can't hold it against anybody.
Not you nor he nor anybody else.

There's no mystery, no puzzle at all.
Worlds will fall my friend.  Worlds will ever fall.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Happy 52nd, Senegal!

52 years of independence
April 4th is Senegal's Independence Day.  On that day, in 1960, France signed a transfer of power agreement that awarded Senegal and other French territories in west Africa their independence and political autonomy.

Senegal's status as a republic, with an elected government, came under duress last year when former President Abdoulaye Wade, nearing the end of his second term as president, amended the country's constitution to allow himself to run for a third term.  Autocracy is not uncommon in Africa.  All too often, African republics evolve into dictatorships or fall victim to coups d'etat.

Senegal, however, overcame the danger.  Last year, students and other political activist groups began demonstrating against Wade's amendment.  Touch-and-go for a while.  There was some rioting and the threat of escalating violence.

But then, in February of this year, Wabe agreed to comply with the results of a national election that replaced him with the new and current president, Macky Sall.  A victory for democratic politics in this young republic!

M'barou, Maty, and Nadiya setting up for the feast
As I've mentioned before, there is an active Senegalese community here in Portland.  Every year they have a party celebrating Senegal's independence.  As the husband of a Senegalese immigrant, I've become part of that community and thus, attended the party this last Saturday.

This year's party was smaller and more somber out of respect for one of the Senegalese families in town which is struggling with a child's illness.  This is a close-knit community and it didn't seem appropriate to have a big bash while one member is gravely ill. 

Senegalese ladies in their finery
Nonetheless, the Senegalese folks got together for a feast and a little music. The festivities started off with a call for donations to help the family in need and a singing of Senegal's national anthem.

Then came the food and the dancing. Good times.  Senegalese folks know how to party.

Happy Independence Day, Senegal.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Agnostic query on Easter Sunday

There are very few areas in the vast, mind-boggling expanse of the Christian creed upon which its billions of adherents have attained enough agreement to achieve any kind of coherence.  Easter celebration, the discovery of an empty tomb in Golgotha, is one such, however.  Christians choose this day, arrived at through an archaic calculation involving the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs after the year's vernal equinox*, to celebrate the day that Jesus rose from the dead, revealing Himself as the Christ. 

It's a fascinating and wondrous story with moral and spiritual meaning worthy of a lifetime of examination.  What is the significance of Christ's death and resurrection?  As Judas Iscariot asks in the 70s rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, "Who are you?  What have you sacrificed?"

Seeking the answers to those questions is fascinating and rewarding.

But, in order to be Christian, one must believe in the literal truth of the story.  One must believe that the broken and tortured body of Jesus was restored and reanimated and walked again among the living before ascending to Heaven.  In fact.  Actually.  To be Christian, one must believe that, had you been there, you would have seen the healed wounds, might have witnessed Jesus being lifted from the Earth.  For yourself.  With your own eyes.

In other words, in order to be a Christian, one must believe something which is counter to everything we perceive in the world around us.


The Gospels tell us that Jesus, Himself, revealed His wisdom in the form of parables.  He told stories that conveyed lessons for those who would learn them.  The literal truth of the parables was not important.  What was important was the wisdom, the Truth, that the parables revealed.

So, why is the Resurrection story different?   If one spends one's life pondering the story of Jesus' death and resurrection, examining it for meaning in one's daily life, striving to see how it reveals truths that might be otherwise unattainable, why does the literal truth of the story even matter?  The same holds for the Virgin Birth, and for Jonah and the Whale, and for Noah and the Great Flood.

Respectfully, Christians, I have to ask:  Why must the story be literally true?  What difference does it make?   

*The tie to the equinox is a dead-giveaway that the early Christians supplanted the Pagan vernal celebration with Easter as a way to facilitate conversion, ce n'est pas?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Santorum's Last Stand

I'll say this about Rick Santorum:  the dude is a true-believer.  He's putting it all on the line in Pennsylvania.  If he doesn't win the Keystone State primary on April 24, his presidential ambitions are dead.  Not only for 2012, but for any and all future presidential races.

Consider:  Republicans have a tendency, in their presidential politics, to nominate the candidate who is deemed to be "next in line;" the candidate who came up short in the previous cycle.  There's plenty of historical evidence.   
  • In 1976 Ronald Reagan lost the Republican primary to Gerald Ford, but then won the nomination in 1980.
  • In 1980 George Bush the Elder lost the Republican primary to Reagan, but then won the nomination in 1988.
  • In 1988 Bob Dole lost the Republican primary to Bush the Elder, but then won the nomination in 1992.
  • In 2000 John McCain lost the Republican primary to Junior Bush, but then won the nomination in 2008.
  • In 2008, Mitt Romney lost the Republican primary to McCain, but now appears to be on the verge of winning the nomination in 2012.
Using this pattern as template, Rick Santorum would seem to be in prime position to win the nomination in 2016.  (Or 2020, were Romney to win the Oval Office this year.)  

But Santorum could blow it all by losing the primary in Pennsylvania.  It's his home state.  If he doesn't win his home state (which even Newt Gingrich managed to do earlier this year) it is hard to imagine that anyone will ever again see him as a viable national candidate.  Keep in mind that when Santorum lost his Senate seat in 2004, Senator Bob Casey blew him out by 18 percentage points.  So, Santorum is already on shaky ground.

Polls currently show the primary to be neck-and-neck, with Santorum leading Romney very slightly.  But Romney's got lots of money and, judging by the results of Tuesday's primaries, it appears that rank-and-file (emphasis on "rank") Republicans are bowing to the inevitable.

Despite all that, Santorum soldiers on.  He's taking positions that are anathema to much of the voting public.  (Who but he really thinks contraception should be an issue?)  His rhetoric toward Romney is scalding.  He's playing it as if there is no tomorrow.  If he wins Pennsylvania, it stills seems nearly impossible that he'll get the nomination.  If he loses, he's done forever.

In 1876 General George Armstrong Custer, who some say had presidential ambitions of his own, charged into Sioux Territory spoiling for a big victory.  We all know how that turned out.

Or do we?  Has anybody asked Rick Santorum?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Nice wins, Mitt, but there's a problem...

Aw, you kids!

Well, Mitt, you may have finally done it.  Your victories tonight in Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, and Santorum's own next-door neighbor state, Maryland, might just mean that Republicans are coming home to roost.  Santorum made some defiant noises in his remarks tonight, but I wouldn't let it worry you.  He's fading.  Everyone can see it.  In the end, he didn't make the sale.  The koo-koos weren't convinced.  They were never really for him, anyway.  No more than your supporters are for you.  Republicans aren't for anything.  Republicans are against.

It's smart to be out doing events with Paul Ryan.  He's as close to a rising star as exists in the GOP.  Young, reasonably photogenic.  His relative youth is a great accent to the gray at your temples.  Give you that distinguished air of savoir-faire.  He dresses like you.  Nothing says "vice-president" better than a kid who's smart enough to dress like the boss.  He's got a budget problem, of course.  And he's an Ayn Rand disciple.  But at least he comes across as intelligent.

There are other problems, though, Mitt.  You may have won over the rednecks, but you pissed off a whole lot of everybody else while you were doing it.

Women, for example.  It's bad enough that you wouldn't stick up for Sandra Fluke, the young woman whom Rush Limbaugh called a "slut."  It's bad enough that you had nothing to say about that sickening, monstrous "vaginal probe ultrasound" legislation that they tried to pass in Virginia.  But stating that you'd "get rid" of Planned Parenthood, the country's largest provider of reproductive health services, blows the top off it.  That kind of "show her who's boss" crap plays well with the rednecks, but it'll have women stampeding to the ballot box for Obama come November.

Then, there's Latinos.  Senator Marco Rubio can say whatever he wants to try to reassure them that you didn't mean it when you said you'd veto the DREAM Act.  Or when you called that oppressive Arizona legislation which allows local police to demand immigration status papers from anyone at anytime a "model for the nation."  But, you know, no matter what Marco says, people get touchy.  Especially when you suggest the Federal government should start deporting their families.

So, okay, tonight's your night, Mitt.  Congratulations.  These primaries have been a dog fight, and it looks like your dog is the only dog that's still breathing.  But, man, we got a good look at your ugly side.  And it is ugly.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Willamette River decides not to flood --this time

Willamette Falls after 3 days of solid rain
The Willamette River crested today after last week's Pacific Northwest downpour.  Three days of steady, heavy rain.  The National Weather Service says that the crest reached 16.28 feet in Portland.  Just about a foot and a half below flood stage, and nothing at all like the Flood of '96, when the river crested at 28.6 feet, surpassing flood stage by a full 10 and a half feet!

But the Flood of '96 was itself dwarfed by the Great Flood of 1861.  The Great Flood completely drowned some townships, including Champoeg, the site of the first organized government of the Oregon Territory.  The Great Flood was so massive that, at its peak, the volume of water flowing in the Willamette River surpassed that of the Mississippi River itself.  The Great Flood is the biggest Willamette River flood in recorded history.

The first Oregonians, the Chinook, the Clackamas, the Long Tom, the Yamhill, who bequeathed their names to the Willamette's tributaries, came here some ten thousand years ago.  In those days, before recorded history the Willamette still flooded, but there were backwaters and sloughs to absorb the floods so they wreaked less destruction on the valley floor.  The floods were less severe in those days before civilization channeled and deepened the river.

But a few thousand years before mankind first came to Oregon were the great floods.  These were the floods  that came from the north and east.  They were caused by the melt of retreating glaciers.  The first and greatest was the Lake Missoula Flood which came when a glacial dam broke open and unleashed an entire ocean of water through the Columbia Gorge, scouring the earth.  Over the next few thousands of years, scores of floods literally scrubbed eastern Washington of its topsoil and deposited it in the Willamette Valley. The land still bears the scars of those great washings.

Clear demonstration of two truths, I suppose:  the Willamette River is a flood-prone river.  And recorded history really isn't much time at all.

I'll tell you this, though:  the water made an impressive sight.  Roaring and rioting over Willamette Falls.