Friday, November 30, 2012

Senator Merkley pushes for an end to Afghanistan nightmare

Hats off to Senator Merkley.

On Wednesday, Oregon's junior senator and 23 others signed and delivered a letter to President Obama, urging an accelerated withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan.  Then, yesterday, the full Senate adopted the letter by a vote of 62 to 33.  Perhaps as an indication of the degree of war-weariness dragging on the country, the "ayes" included 13 Republicans.

(Although Oregon's senior senator, Ron Wyden, signed the original letter, for some reason he did not participate in the full Senate vote.  Sigh.  Aren't you getting ready to retire, Ron?  Maybe that would be for the best...)

The administration has already set a date, the end of 2014, as the goal to complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  If it adheres to that schedule, we will have been militarily engaged in that country for 13 years --the longest war in the history of the United States.  As explained in the letter, the United States is spending $10 billion per month on the effort in Afghanistan, which is not to mention the 2000+ casualties we've sustained since the obscenely-named "Operation Enduring Freedom" began.  (And should I mention the nearly 13,000 civilian casualties?  Or would that be in poor taste?)

This letter reminds and remonstrates the President:  Part of the reason you were elected is because supporters believed you would get us untangled from the Afghanistan nightmare.  It is time to make that happen.

Will it make a difference?  Hard to say.  In its first term, the Obama administration stuck pretty closely to the playbook advocated by top brass military.  Undoubtedly and perhaps despite his personal sentiments, President Obama played it that way in order to avoid the typical Republican "national security" attack when he ran for reelection.  Well, as we all know, that bird has flown, so the President has more of a free hand when it comes to these matters.

But, perhaps and at the very least, Senator Merkley's advocacy for a quick withdrawal is symptomatic of something else.  Might it be that liberal and progressive lawmakers are growing more assertive, pushing on President Obama from the left?  If so, that would be an unlooked-for but welcome result of this month's sweeping repudiation of the political Right in the national election.

Thanks, Senator Merkley.  Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An' she purty tonight?

A path of stone and concrete took me to the river.  No rain fell in the moment, but the city was water-saturated and the rain not far off; a taking of breath between inundations.  Gutters choked on fallen leaves and the air was sweet with rot.

Light dies swiftly at this time of year.  It was daytime as I started across Hawthorne Bridge.  By Waterfront it was night.  The sky whispered rain walking north along the river-wall.  Morrison Bridge arced the changeful void.

The sated river lolled and cast back the stark and beautiful audacity of the City of Roses.  Bright little city, if not happy, at least comfortable in the rain. 

As I beheld her, my heart swelled full as the river.  But the river sang low.   "An' she purty tonight?  An' she purty?"

Mock, if you must, Willamette.  We'll rise and fall and you'll just push on past.  But we make a pretty little spark against the void.  If I do say so myself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Plutocracy wobbling

Things don't look so good for Grover Norquist right now.  The super-influential lobbyist, the man who created the anti-tax pledge and held the whip hand for Republicans in federal budget negotiations is facing some snarl and snap from normally faithful lapdogs. 

There was a time --hell, it was just last year! --when no Republican congressperson would dare suggest that he or she might consider raising revenue as a means of addressing the federal deficit.  To do so, would be to invoke the wrath of Grover and his multimillion dollar Americans for Tax Reform lobby.  Any Republican who went off the Norquist reservation could look forward to a primary challenger and a huge money bomb in negative advertising when it came time for reelection.

But in the wake of President Obama's November victory--a development that seems to have caught Republicans flat-footed --some in the GOP are making noises like they are willing to give on the revenue issue.

Check these quotes:
  • "We are so far in debt that if you don't give up some ideological ground, the country sinks." --Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC
  • "[W]e’ve got to deal with the crisis we face. We’ve got to deal with the political reality of the president’s victory.”  -Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL
  • "I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge. If we do it his way then we’ll continue in debt, and I just have a disagreement with [Norquist] about that."  --Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-GA  (I know, I know.  Patriotic sanctimony from a poltroon like Saxby Chambliss is hard to endure, but the statement illustrates my point.)
This is just a taste.  There are more quotes out there.

Up to now, Grover Norquist has enjoyed nothing but dogmatic support in his drive to "drown the federal government in the bathtub."  But as the above statements reveal, the times they are a-changin'.

Grover has been on teevee stating that he's not worried.  He claims to believe that, when push comes to shove, his Republican minions will fall into line.  And he may be right.  Fear is what motivates Republicans, and they're a craven lot. 

But they're in a very tight spot.  Hearken back to December, 2010.  In the lame duck session of congress that followed the sweeping GOP victory of the mid-term election, the President struck a deal with Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on taxes.  Obama agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for all income levels for 2 years in exchange for other legislative goals. 

Well, at the end of this year, if Congress does not act, the Bush tax cuts will expire.  The President wants an extension for middle and lower incomes, but has vowed to veto any legislation that extends the tax breaks for upper incomes (those making $250K or more).

This puts Republicans in an untenable position.  If they hold the line, as Grover Norquist demands, the tax cuts expire and everyone (lower and middle incomes as well as plutocrats) gets an increase in taxes.  The President can then follow up in the new congress with a bill to lower taxes for the middle class and dare Republicans to oppose it.  None of them want to do that.  But if the Republicans concede the upper income tax breaks and pass a partial extension, Grover Norquist goes apoplectic and the GOP blood-letting begins. 

It's a no-win sitch for Republicans and they've brought it upon themselves.  No matter how it goes, somebody is going to have to walk the plank.  Who will it be?  Grover Norquist?  Mitch McConnell?  John Boehner?  Eric Cantor?

No one knows for sure.  But as far as I'm concerned, the more the merrier!  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Movie review: Lincoln

One thing I'll say for Steven Spielberg:  the man can fill a theater.  Even this afternoon, more than a week since Lincoln opened, the viewing I attended was quite nearly full.  No surprise when you consider the long list of films on Spielberg's ceevee.  Lots of big hits.

Nonetheless, I can't say I'm a big fan.  Spielberg resorts to gratuitous heart-string pulling and tear-jerks more often than I find tasteful.  Remember how we all cried when Elliot had to say goodbye to ET?  Or how about that cloying scene with elderly Private Ryan on his knees at the graveyard in Normandy?  We all cry at Spielberg flicks, yes?  We all laugh on cue, too, yes?  Remember all the cutesy one-liners in the Indiana Jones flicks and Jurassic Park?

Spielberg has a tendency to lay it on thick.  That kind of emotional manipulation makes me feel sheepish.  And feeling sheepish makes me resent being manipulated.  

This rather lengthy digression is just to explain the reservations I had about going to Lincoln.  But I'm happy to say that Lincoln, the film, eschews the worst of all that.  It's a good film, well worth the acclaim it's receiving.

Start with the cast.  Everyone expects excellence from Daniel Day-Lewis and he delivers.  He allegedly relied on Doris Kearns Goodwin's highly-esteemed Lincoln biography, Team of Rivals in his preparation for the role.  One wonders how much we can really know about Abraham Lincoln the man these 147 years since his death, but Day-Lewis' interpretation worked for me.  His Abraham Lincoln is humble, wise, and charmingly American. Even for the versatile and enormously talented Daniel Day-Lewis, this could be a defining role.

For my money though, Sally Field delivered the best performance.  Her Mary Todd Lincoln was a forceful, determined woman, sharp-witted, terrible, and never for a moment free of grief for her dead son. Those times during the flick when I cried (and, yes, I cried) were due to Field's stark performance.

Even besides those two, it is a star-studded cast.  Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from Pennsylvania with the outlandish belief that colored people are in every way equal to and as deserving of rights as white people.  Hal Holbrook plays Preston Blair, the powerful journalist and backroom politician.  James Spader was Mr. Bilbo, one of Secretary of State William Seward's favor-givers.  David Strathairn played Seward.

Credit Spielberg for making an interesting and entertaining film about vote-getting.  That's what most of this film is:  political arm-twisting, backroom deals, and factional subterfuge.  Even given the historical significance of this particular event, that doesn't ordinarily count as good entertainment. 

But of course, the biggest draw of this film is that it is an opportunity for us, the people of the United States, to reexamine one of the men we most revere in our common heritage.  Abraham Lincoln, the man, is a source of endless fascination and reverence.  Lincoln, the film, brings that man to life for all to see.  Any film that does that, and does it well, is sure to succeed.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Embrace it. All of it.

Thanksgiving day, 2012.  Pavement still wet from Tuesday's deluge, but it was warm and no rain fell.  If you live in Portland, you learn to take advantage of these days.

On the way up, Tom Waits mourned the Reeperbahn in the earbuds.  I met a family walking a dog. A couple, about my age, with a teenage daughter.

The daughter held the dog's leash and walked a little ahead.  Her face was bloodless, pale as old candle wax. Dark circles under her eyes suggested an apathy beyond the trials of the world.  An enigmatic resignation, shocking to see on one so young.

Her mother's face was also haggard and weary. Pale lips, downcast eyes.  An aura of weary endurance. 

Those morbid miens contrasted with that of the father-husband.  The vital color in his cheeks, the brightness of his eyes, spoke of a world that yet held promise for him beyond the tragic destiny of wife and daughter.

I was struck by the thought that the masks worn by the woman and her daughter were ghastly premonitions.  Of what, I cared not to guess.

In the end, I was able to shrug it off.  After all, God only knows how I appeared to them.  What might they have seen in my face? 

Up on top, the Old Man stood naked.  His long, long thoughts conjured clouds about his temples.  He'd no interest in my supplications.  So I gave thanks.  For wife, for home, for family and friends.  For sight, for sound.  For joy and agony.  For reassuring knowledge that I am a part of it --of all of it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book review: Wool

Wool by Hugh Howey is a grass-roots phenomenon.  Howey published and promoted the book (actually a compendium of 5 novellas) via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing system.  It gained popularity by electronic word-of-mouth and is now an unqualified success.  Howey has reportedly sold movie rights to 20th Century Fox.

Wool is the story of a dystopian society that exists in a vast silo, hundreds of levels deep, centuries after an apparent apocalypse has destroyed the world outside.  So far as the denizens of the silo are aware, they are the only survivors on the lifeless planet.  Their society is governed by hidden hierarchies and subtle politics, with factions distinguished by trades and professions:  politicians, farmers, mechanics, etcetera.  For the most part, the people in the silo are content to perform their duties (and everyone in the silo has certain prescribed duties) and live out their lives.  But occasionally someone expresses a desire to know more about the world outside.  When that happens, the survival of the silo is threatened for reasons that are revealed as the novel progresses.
What I enjoyed most about this novel was Howey's excellent pacing.   Like all the best science fiction novels, Wool discloses progressively.  Each new plot development uncovers more of the truth about this strange world.  And each new revelation is more mind-blowing than the last.  By the time you get to the end of the novel, the world is much different than it appeared at the beginning.

The biggest problem with the novel is its dull language.  The prose is wooden and at times awkward.  Howey is not a poet.  Further (and this is true of many science fiction novels) the characters are thinly drawn and lack complexity.  But, even considering those two weaknesses, the novel succeeds.  And that's because whatever Howey lacks in eloquence, he makes up for in raw imagination.

Howey has already published another book in the Wool series --a prequel.  There is certainly room for it.  The world he created has a myriad of realms to explore.

And just for kicks, here's a tease for would-be readers:  The people of the silo have an important ritual that involves wool.  (Hence, the title.)  After reading the book, see if you can determine why that particular substance --wool --is significant.  (Will Johnson illuminated the rest of us at our book club meeting.)

Happy Thanksgiving, lads!

Monday, November 19, 2012

John and Mitch sink a drink

SceneFriday night, November 16th, 2012.  Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sit at an elegant bar.  A few hours earlier, they stood with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a joint press announcement, expressing optimism in the coming "fiscal cliff" negotiations.  Boehner is well into his fourth apple martini.  McConnell sips gingerly at a mint julep.  They sit in silence for a long time.

Boehner (glancing at McConnell):  One of us is going to have to say it.

McConnell (removing his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose):  John, I'm not in the mood for this.

Boehner:  Oh, really, Mitch?  Is that right?  I'm sorry.  Didn't mean to spoil your aperitif.  If you need a little time, it's not a problem.  It's not like I'm holding you responsible for humiliating me in front of the entire nation.

[McConnell sips his julep.]

Boehner:  Remember what they were saying back in 2010, Mitch?  They said you were a shoo-in for Harry's office.  They said the Democrats were defending so many Senate seats that even a fool like John Cornyn couldn't screw it up for you.  [Boehner knocks back his drink, waves the empty glass at the bartender.]  Well, here we are, Mitch.  Here we are.

McConnell:  Before you climb up on your high horse, let's not forget that the only reason you're in the Speaker's office is because of the Tea Party.  Without Eric Cantor you're nothing but a sad-sack inebriate stuck on a bar stool.

Boehner (smiling):  Here's lookin' at you, kid.

[Senator Jim DeMint enters the bar, espies the two of them and approaches.]

DeMint:  Well, well, well...  John Boehner and my very own leader.  Just saw you boys on the boob tube with Harry and Nancy.  Mitch, you looked like you just licked a toad.

[McConnell rubs his temples.]

Boehner:  Say, Jim, too bad about your friends.  The caucus room won't be nearly as much fun without Richard Mourdock and Todd Aiken crackin' wise, eh?

DeMint:  Win some, lose some, John.  You, of all people, should know how that goes.

Boehner:  And how!  But I thought you were gonna lead the Tea Party revolution.  What the hell happened?

DeMint:  John, don't get all sassy on me, now.  We've had a setback.  There's still time to set things to right.

Boehner:  That's what they said after Gettysburg.

McConnell:  Jim, the Speaker and I were having a private conversation.  Do you mind?

DeMint: Fine, fine.  You boys enjoy your pity party.  I got better things to do.  [Exit.]

Boehner (watching him go):  That's the difference in our jobs, Mitch.  I can make the idiots in my caucus shut up.  You can only wish you had it so good.

McConnell:  Tell me, John.  Do you think it might be helpful for us to discuss how we're going to coordinate strategy for the fiscal cliff negotiations?  Or would you rather just sit here and bait each other?

Boehner:  Strategy?  There's no strategy.  Tax rates go up on Sheldon Anderson.  Grover Norquist blows a gasket.  We all end up with primary opponents.

McConnell: You're still the Speaker of the House, John.  That counts for something.

[Boehner stares, open-mouthed.]

McConnell: Don't give me that look.  We've managed in the past.  All we have to do is find the right dog whistle.

Boehner:  Mitch, if Rove's meltdown on Fox News didn't convince you, I suggest you take a look at the exit poll data.  There just aren't enough Jim DeMints in this country for us to win that way.  Not anymore.

McConnell: Demographic trends are what they are, but we've got Marco Rubio.  We've got Bobby Jindall.

Boehner (shaking his head):  Are you serious?

[The frosted glass door to the bar bursts open to produce former Republican presidential candidates Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich along with their coteries.  Sarah Palin is among them.  One of Cain's aides is carrying a stack of Godfather's pizza boxes.  Boehner and McConnell watch from their bar stools as Cain's party lays the pizzas out on the tables, then distributes paper plates.]

Palin:  Hey, look!  It's Mitch and John!  Perfect.  They can join the discussion!

Cain:  Howdy, boys!  Glad to see you're putting your heads together.  Come join us at the pizza table.  We're going to discuss how to expand our appeal. 

Gingrich:  Yes, gentlemen.  Come join us!  You can share all you've learned from your failures.

Boehner (aside):  I think I'm going to be sick.

[He glances at McConnell, waiting for a response, but there is none.  McConnell dabs at the corners of his eyes with a handkerchief.]

Cain (holding up a slice of pizza):  Future of our party?  It's all about minority outreach! Two-for-one taco pizza from Godfather's during election season!

Santorum:  That's right, Herman.  Splash taco sauce on a cardboard box and they'll come runnin'.  Fence or no fence.

[Boehner slugs down his fifth apple martini.  McConnell, sobbing quietly, is inconsolable.]

Saturday, November 17, 2012

ASL scenario setup: Valhalla Bound

Note to readers: This post won't make a lick of sense to anyone who isn't familiar with the Advanced Squad Leader game system.

Hard for me to believe that I haven't played Advanced Squad Leader in almost a year.  This is by far the longest stretch I've endured without dropping dice into a dice tower since I started playing Squad Leader 30 some years ago.  There are reasons for this hiatus, but perhaps I'll leave those for a later post.

Anyway, a rainy Saturday in fall in Portland, Oregon, got me to reminiscing on the game.  Rainy fall Saturdays will do that.  So, I got out an old copy of the ASL annual of '92 and, just for grins, threw together a setup for an old, favorite:  Valhalla Bound.

I've played this old chestnut a half dozen times, I suppose.  It's a nail-biter. 

As far as developing a setup, Valhalla Bound no doubt seems an odd scenario choice.  After all, as anyone who has played it will tell you, the real test of this scenario comes when the German's reinforcing Panthers crash into the Russian armor long about Turn 3 or 4.  The initial German forces, a couple platoons of infantry, supported by half-tracks and an armored car, are little more than a screening force.

But that initial force has three important objectives.  As I see it, they are:
  1. Slow the Russian advance for a crucial turn or two, buying your reinforcing Panthers time to gain position.
  2. Disrupt the Russian infantry.
  3. At all costs, prevent the Russians from forcing the paved road.
So, with an eye toward achieving said objectives, I submit the following.
The setup.
When I approach a setup, I have a look at the given order of battle and try to organize it into functioning groups with specific purposes.  In this case, I've divided my forces into three groups which I informally name Team Tank Trap, Team Fire Base, and Team Kamikaze.
  • Team Tank Trap consists of the PSW 234/4, the 8-1 leader, and two and a half squads.  They're tasked with guarding the road from Y10 to CC7.  The PSW is in Z10, HIP by SSR, and set up to open fire when a tank advancing down the road turns to face the infantry in Z9 and W6.  Hopefully the little armored car can score a side or rear hit.  At the very least, it will unsettle the advancing Russians.  Hex Z10 is a great hex for the armored car.  Russian infantry are unlikely to enter the hex and inadvertently discover the armored car and anyway they'll have to approach the position from one of two open hexes regardless.  (Credit to Dave Hauth for first discovering this position.) Meanwhile, the hidden squad and panzerschreck-toting half squad will threaten any armor that tries to skirt through the woods.  The 8-1 and his squad will hold off the Russian infantry. 
The setup, up close.
  • Team Fire Base consists of the 9-1, both half-tracks, and a full platoon of machine-gun toting stormtroopers.  This group is here to blaze away at Russian infantry.  If the Red Army tanks approach aggressively, these troops will rely on panzerfausts to keep them off.  The half-tracks can also provide cover for a fall back across the Y1-Z1 road.  (An optimistic scenario.)

  • Team Kamikaze consists of a half-squad, the hero possessing a panzerschreck, and the 7-0 possessing the demolition charge.  This group sets up hidden in hex W5.  Hopefully, this team will find itself with a plethora of targets when it reveals itself.  Hex W5 is an orchard hex where there is no backblast penalty for firing 'fausts or the 'schreck.  If circumstances allow, they will reveal themselves progressively.  That is, the half squad might reveal itself to fire a 'faust.  Then later in the same turn, perhaps when a Red Army tank seeks to overrun the half squad, the hero, assisted by the 7-0 leader fire the 'schreck. None of this team will likely survive beyond the turn in which it is discovered.  Hence, the name.
Ivan sees this.
The Russian wave will wash over the initial German force.  But if they've achieved their three objectives by the time the Panthers engage, they've earned their places in Valhalla.  Survivors can harass the Russians from behind, but there won't be many.  The Valkyrie maidens will be busy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Old Man Hood casts his gaze

Old Man Hood
After a week of brooding, the Old Man shrugged off his ethereal cloak and cast his imperious gaze across the valley floor.

Humans blithely played out their laughable, petty dramas.  A piteous sight. 

When first they came, although they were fewer, their struggles had more meaning.  Which band of flea-bitten apes would spear the salmon that thrived in the rivers at his feet?  Which would summer in his highland meadows?  Back then, they settled such issues with sticks and stones. 

They do it differently now.  They've abandoned the sticks and stones in favor of obscure and meaningless rituals.  Elections?  The people kept their leader?

New leader, old leader... who cares?  The Old Man has seen them rise and fall over the last 20,000 years.

In this blink of his eye, they are numberless.  In the next, they'll go the way of the giant sloths and the three-toed horses and the wooly mammoths.

And he'll still be gazing out across the valley floor, toward the unconquerable vastness of Pacifica, by whom he is rendered as inconsequential as the flea-bitten tribesman that gazes upon him even now from the top of dead little Tabor.

Monday, November 12, 2012

May I ask?

Fall's yellow squash and polished apples heap in the kitchen basket.  The green melons and berries of summer followed the sun away south.  These are the days for homemade chili and halal lamb, for hunkering down against the rain.

Tender words, like fingers pressed to a wound, suss out the edges of your grief.  Has it been long enough that we may talk about it?  I suffer to see you suffer.  I fear you will fear I've forgotten. I have not.

Your wisdom discloses itself.  In the way you know to remember that you are loved.  In the way you lean on me because you know how I long to help you. 

Your faith is a blessing endowed by your father and your people and it is fitting that you rely on it.

When God calls, we go.  That is what you have said.  Agnostic though I be, I see the truth of it.

Père est allé avec DieuToutes les choses doivent passer.  Il est vrai.

So much wisdom.  So much quiet courage.

So proud of you.  So proud.  

Friday, November 09, 2012

To my Republican friends and family: Hang in there!

As previously stated, I'm happy and satisfied with the results of the 2012 election.  The election was a big victory for me, for Oregon, for the United States, and for the world. 

But I'm not just happy because (for the most part) the candidates and issues I supported were successful.  I'm also happy that, even in the thick of the election, I didn't allow myself to hate Mitt Romney.  (I wish I could say the same about Junior.)

I've said it before and I say it again now:  I think Mitt Romney is a decent guy.  Yes, he's a plutocrat.  Yes, he pandered to racists and misogynists.  No, I never considered voting for him.  But I'm sure he loves and is loved by his family and friends.  And I'm reasonably sure that he is a moral person.  He's a Mormon, and by and large, the Mormons I've known in my life are first-rate people.  If his ambition caused him to stray, if the heat of battle caused him to throw some below-the-belt punches --well, we've all done it.  I certainly have.

In keeping with that sentiment, I'm not going to use this blog to gloat about the victory.  Gloating would be cruel, and cruelty is never the answer.  On Tuesday, Republicans got a startling slap in the face from the electorate.  It hurts when that happens.

Trust me.  I know.  November 3, 2004, was one of the worst days of my life.  For months afterwards I was befuddled and bewildered.  Eight years and several successful elections later, I still haven't overcome the bitterness and sense of betrayal I felt on that day.

I know there are conservatives who are feeling that way right now.  Some of them are my own friends and family.

Well, I want you to know, friends and family, that I'm not going to rub salt in your wounds. Instead, I want to assure you that you'll get through this. I'm not saying the pain will go away.  It won't.  But it'll diminish.  It'll become just another jagged stitch in your life's tapestry.

Hang in there.  If it is not too presumptuous, I'd like to suggest that this defeat offers an opportunity.  Reflect, analyze, rethink.

But don't be too hard on yourselves.  You're decent folks.

I'd love to see the Republican Party return to its days of greatness.  If you can do something to make that happen, it'll make me happy.  It would be good for everyone if you did.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

2012 ballot: results

Whew!  Another election in the bag.  Here's how it went from my perspective:

US President:  Barack Obama, Democrat

The national ground game unleashed by the Democrats and the vileness and ignorance of the Republicans propelled President Obama to his second term.  The President's victory was bigger and more convincing than the pre-election polls suggested.  He won at least 8 of the 10 battleground states (Florida is still undecided).  And he won the popular vote by about 3 million votes, denying Republicans their yearned-for outrage.

Representative in Congress, 3rd District:  Earl Blumenauer, Democrat

Earl won.  No surprise.

Secretary of State:  Kate Brown, Democrat

Kate Brown beat Republican Knute Buelher extending the 20 year losing streak of Republicans for state-wide office in Oregon.  This state is about as blue as they get.

Treasurer:  Ted Wheeler

Wheeler won easily.
Attorney General:  Ellen Rosenblum, Democrat

Not my favorite candidate, but acceptable.  Let's see how she does...

State Representative, 42nd District:  Jules Kopel Bailey

Jules ran unopposed.  He's a good fit for this district.

Labor Commissioner:  Brad Avakian

Six-point win for Mr. Avakian. 

Supreme Court, Position 3:  Richard Baldwin

Soon-to-be-justice Baldwin won a close race against Nena Cook.

Court of Appeals, Position 6: James Egan

I voted for Tim Volpert. Can't win 'em all, I guess.

Portland Mayor:  Charlie Hales

Charlie won by over 30 points.  Fast-talking Jefferson Smith got a taste of humble pie.  Charlie's election means we will have a seasoned and experienced mayor.  That's good.  We've got problems that need addressing.  And I don't think Jefferson is finished.  He'll be back.

City Commissioner Pos 1:  Amanda Fritz

Amanda won despite an aggressive campaign to defeat her.

East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Director at Large:  Rick Till

Rick Till kept his position.


East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Director, Zone 1:  Bob Sallinger

Congratulations to Bob Sallinger.  He ran unopposed.

  • Measure 77 Revision to responses to catastrophic disasters


  • Measure 78 Changes terminology in the state Constitution for the three state government branches


  • Measure 79 Would ban real estate transfer taxes

    Passed.  Bummer.  Advocates for this measure ran effective political ads claiming that, if this measure failed, Oregonians would see an increase in their property taxes.  It was misleading, but it worked.  Ah, well.

  • Measure 80 Would create a cannabis commission to regulate the cultivation and sale of cannabis.

    Failed.  Bummer.  I had hoped to torch a celebratory spliff when this measure passed.  But Oregonians rejected it.  So, being the soul of law-abiding honor, I dutifully stowed the spliff in my freezer against the day when Oregon will see the error of its ways.  (Cough, cough.)

  • Measure 81 Bans Columbia River commercial salmon fishing with gillnets by non-tribal persons, allows seine nets instead.

    Failed.  The task now falls to Governor Kitzhaber and concerned parties to implement an alternative plan.   

  • Measure 82  Authorizes establishment of privately-owned casinos.

    Failed.  Miserably.  Oregonians aren't ready to turn the state into a giant casino.

  • Measure 83 Authorizes Multnomah County casino

    Failed.  See above.

  • Measure 84  Phases out estate and inheritance taxes.

    Failed.  Oregonians vote not to exempt the plutocrats from civic responsibility.

  • Measure 85 Allocates corporate income/excise tax "kicker" refund to additionally fund K through 12 public education

    Passed.  Good news for public schools.
County measures
  • 26-143 Forms library district to fund libraries 

    Passed.  Stable funding for libraries!

  • 26-144 Portland public school bonds 

    Yes.  Money for schools. 

  • 26-145 Changes provisions for Fire/Police disability retirement system 


  • 26-146 Restores school arts and music education through limited tax 

    Passed.  Good news.  Arts and music are important elements to a well-rounded education.
This was a good election for Democrats, both state-wide and nationally.  Republicans, on the other hand...  Get ready for the GOP blood-letting.  Fun times!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

2012 election: Ground game and demographics

Another cycle through the nutty pageant of presidential politics.

President Obama won reelection by a margin of at least 60 electoral votes and by a popular vote margin of approximately 3 million.  The President's margin of victory was greater than most pollsters predicted (although Nate Silverman called it perfectly, state for state) and in defiance of the dead-certain conviction of deluded conservatives that they were going to win. 

NoteAs of this writing, Florida's 29 electoral votes are still up in the air, although President Obama holds a slight lead

President Obama and the Democrats did a lot to win this election with their ground game.  I saw and took part in the turnout machine right here in Portland, Oregon.  It was an impressive display of organization and coordination.  And Oregon wasn't even a battleground state!  I'm sure the machines in Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, and Florida were even more effective.  Labor unions in the Rust Belt states lent their support as well, spurred on by the union-busting efforts of Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio.  That's the kind of support that the Republicans can't counter, even with all that plutocrat money

And the Democrats were amply assisted by the the Republican party.  Take a look at these numbers:
  • 60% of voters under the age of 30 went for Obama 
  • 93% of black voters went for Obama
  • 75% of hispanic voters went for Obama
  • 55% of women voters went for Obama
What do those numbers say to you?  I'll tell you what they say to me.  They say that all the foul rhetoric --all the racist dog-whistles, the homophobia, the misogyny, the ignorance --all that stuff that the GOP threw around throughout the campaign came flying back into their faces.  

Even as recently as four years ago, Republicans could sustain those kinds of margins and still have a shot at winning a national election.  But those days are over.  As every pundit, prognosticator, and casual observer will tell you, the demographic makeup of the United States is changing.  It's becoming less white.  Unless the GOP can find a way to appeal to women, to young people, and to racial minorities, they will never again win the White House.

So as much as this was a victory for the Democrats and their magnificent ground game, it was also a resounding defeat for Tea Party conservatism.

Democrats will come out of this election emboldened.  And well they should.  The coalition they've built has a bright future ahead of it. 

Republicans, on the other hand... I'd like to think that they will use this defeat to grow, to find a way to ditch the frothing racists and the tongues-speakers and the xenophobes in their party.  But then again, if they did that, would there be any Republicans left?

Let's enjoy our victory, Democrats.  Let's enjoy our victory, progressives.  We walloped them.  Think they'll learn anything from it?

Tomorrow, I'll post about how my ballot matched up with the results of the election.  

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election day memories

No advocacy today.  There's no point.  The die is cast.

Take a little walk down Memory Lane with me.  Just to kill some time before the returns come in.

This election is the ninth presidential election in which I've voted.  I remember them all.
  • 1980 - John Anderson

    In the end, although I was tired of President Carter, I couldn't stomach voting for Ronald Reagan.  So I cast my ballot for John Anderson, the independent congressman from Illinois.  On election night, I watched the returns come in from the living room of my good friend, Rick Means.  When Jimmy Carter gave his concession speech, Rick's mom said to me, "He [Carter] would be a good neighbor, but he hasn't been a good president."  Now, all these years later, I think she had it right.

  •  1984 - Walter Mondale

    Right after Reagan's election, I went through a brief interval as a registered Republican.  By 1984, I was back on board with the Democrats.  I cast my vote in the cafeteria of Pelican Elementary School in Klamath Falls, OregonBrother Eric and I may well have been the only two blue votes in that very red precinct.
  • 1988 - Michael Dukakis

    I'd only just moved to the Portland Metro area when this election went down.  The day before the election, I went to a Dukakis rally downtown.  There was a big crowd, but folks pretty much knew the gig was up.  I watched the returns all alone in my little Lake Oswego apartment.  As the red tide covered the map, I got a call from Mom.  "You holdin' up alright?" she asked.  I can't remember how I replied.  Probably something like:  "People are stupid."
  • 1992 - Bill Clinton

    This election occurred in the days when my ex-wife and I were co-habitating in the Vermont Hills neighborhood, a few months before we got married.  The polling place was right across the street from our apartment at a local church.  After we voted, we talked to an exit pollster from CNN in the church parking lot.  This was the first time I voted for the presidential candidate that won.  It would be a long time before it happened again.

  • 1996 - Ralph Nader

    Clinton had this election in the bag, right from the get-go.  I voted for Nader to register my wish that the country move farther to the "left," away from unfair trade agreements like NAFTA and the WTO.
  • 2000 - Al Gore

    I voted for Gore, but I didn't hate Junior.  When the Republicans pulled off their coup d'etat in Florida, I was angry, but I still didn't hate him.  By 2003, I hated him.  I still do.  F*ck him..
  • 2004 - John Kerry

    This election happened in the Year I dropped out
    I awoke that morning certain that John Kerry would win.  At about 7pm that evening, I was disabused of that notion.  I worked hard to defeat Junior Bush.  It was the most devastating defeat I've ever suffered.  I will never fully lose the sense of betrayal I felt toward the American people.
  • 2008 - Barack Obama

    We all remember this one.  It was only the second time in my life that I'd voted for the candidate who actually won.  Obama has a long list of accomplishments (Affordable Healthcare Act, two Supreme Court Justices, food safety regulations, student loan restructuring, financial reform) as well as some egregious abuses of power.  Still better than the alternative.
  • 2012 - Barack Obama

    Obama is the only candidate I've ever voted for twice.  Why?  See here.  Outcome to be determined.
All over but the shouting now.  Let's see how it shakes out.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Eve of the election

In the thick of battle, you rally around your people.  So, Portlanders, here we go.

It's too late to drop your ballot in the mail if you want your vote to be counted.  You'll have to drop it at an official ballot drop site.  Go here to find the nearest.

Nate Silverman's election eve assessment is that President Obama has a 92% chance of winning tomorrow.  Romney's been running on fumes since just before Sandy crashed into the East Coast.  I'm confident. 

Now, it is just a matter of following through.  The vaunted Democratic ground game is churning. 

No victory is ever complete, progressives.  Every step forward leaves behind something we cherish.  But we can't ever stop.

Let tomorrow come.  Chins up, no matter what happens!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Gettin' the vote out 2012

Crowded canvassing headquarters
Back in  February of 2011, I participated in a grass-roots organizing event run by state and national Democrats, local labor unions, and a group called "Organizing America."  The event was part of a national organizing and planning effort in anticipation of the election that was still 20 months away.

Those early organizational efforts are now bearing fruit, as I clearly saw when I took part in a highly-organized canvassing drive this weekend.

Let me tell you, if the drive here in Portland is any indication of the Democratic ground game nationally, President Obama will win going away on Tuesday.

Mayor Adams rallies the troops
About a week ago, I got a phone call from someone with a  group called "Defend Oregon" asking for my help with the election.  I've volunteered a lot in past elections, and it was no surprise that I might be on a list. 

I'd actually decided earlier the year that I wasn't going to participate in this election as vigorously as I have in the past.  But the caller was courteous, so I listened.  He gave me the wheres and whens for the drive, but the call came as I was driving home from work.  I wasn't in any position to write down the particulars.  I explained this.  His response?  "No problem.  We've got your email.  I'll send you a reminder."  I was impressed. 

So, about 2pm on Saturday, I made my way down to the Defend Oregon Headquarters on 6th and Stark to participate in a get-out-the-vote canvassing operation.

Defend Oregon folks instruct the volunteers
It was an impressive display of organization.  I'd no sooner walked through the door than I was signed in and directed to an area where staffers gave us  instructions and materials.  There were some 3 dozen campaign workers on hand directing people and answering questions.  Mayor Sam Adams was there too, shaking hands and rallying folks.

Fired up, ready to go
The materials I was given included data sheets listing the names and addresses of registered voters (Democrats and Independents).  The data were organized by neighborhood.  The names on the lists were voters from whom no ballots had been received by the county elections offices.  That is to say:  people who, so far as the county elections office knew, had not yet voted.

"We're not collecting ballots," our instructor told us.  "We're reminding people that it is time to vote and informing them of ballot collection points in their neighborhoods."  Real easy.  No message to sell.  Just reminding folks to get their ballots in.
My canvassing partner, Faye, on the right
In addition to our canvassing data, we took three or four dozen door-hangers:  flyers that we would leave on doors.  These flyers had ballot collection point information as well as helpful recommendations (from a progressive point of view) on specific ballot measures.  The recommendations matched my own ballot, right down the line.

I got partnered up with Faye, a woman from my own neighborhood.  She's professor emeritus from Portland Sate and quite a personable woman.  We drove to the Alameda neighborhood, right in the heart of Northeast Portland.

In 2010, when I volunteered with the Kitzhaber campaign, I learned that the single best predictor of how a person will vote is the neighborhood in which he lives.  Well, Alameda is a very blue neighborhood.  My canvassing data had me literally knocking on two to five doors on every street block.  Obama/Biden campaign signs were everywhere.

A map with specific addresses to visit
Faye and I had a big area to cover, and we didn't get to it all.  I knocked on about 50 doors.  Many of the folks I spoke with had already turned in their ballots.  Some planned to drop them off soon. 

The reception I received from folks was fairly positive.  Several people thanked me for canvassing.

Darkness was coming down fast when we headed back to headquarters.  Volunteers ate bread and soup from Old Wive's Tales.  (I took a bowl of very rich and hearty split pea.  It was the perfect post-canvassing repast.)

All in all, it was a highly-organized, efficient operation. 

Democrats have the ground game, folks.  Republicans have never been able to match it.

Bring on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Romney panic?

Mitt... Buddy!  Tough times!

For two days, teevee screens broadcast New Jersey Governor and Republican hero Chris Christie's effusive testimonials for the Great Enemy.  Quote:  "[President Obama] has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit. I think this is our sixth conversation since the weekend, and it’s been a great working relationship to make sure that we’re doing the jobs that people elected us to do. And I cannot thank the President enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state."

Chris Christie said that!  Mitt, buddy, that's gotta hurt.  It wasn't three weeks ago you had him out there throwin' pitches for you, and now he's talking about what a great guy the President is.

To make matters worse, the President is getting all that soft coverage doing the "disaster relief" thing.  Hell, he doesn't even have to say anything!  He just shows up on camera, comforting "victims," like that 47 percent you talked about, and everybody falls all over themselves.

You, on the other hand, can't catch a break.  At that fake food collection you staged in Ohio, all people wanted to ask you was did you really mean it when you said you'd dismantle FEMA and send it all back to the states.  What the hell?  Some kinda nerve, I tell ya. 

The Christie thing was so bad that you probably didn't even notice Bloomberg endorsing the President, did you?  Well, at least, Christie and Bloomberg knocked Colin Powell's endorsement off the radar.  And I think you've still got that guy from Missouri --what's his name?  Akin?  I think he's still in your corner.

You know how this game goes, Mitt. You're a politician.  Endorsements don't persuade.  At least not at the presidential level.  But they do reveal.  When guys like Bloomberg and Christie and even Powell sense that a parade is forming, they run to get out in front of it.  You'd do it in their place.

The election is in 5 days and, Mitt, I gotta tell ya, the smart money seems to be moving in the other direction. 

And then there's the muttering amongst the crew.  Did you see that memo that one of your campaign advisers in Palm Beach County circulated?  Another quote, speaking of early turnout:  "..the Democrat turnout machine cleaning our clock."  Palm Beach County is in Florida, Mitt.  The pundits are saying that you must win Ohio, and that's probably true.  But if you don't win Florida, Ohio won't even matter.

The polls are close, I grant.  But, buddy, as close as they are, you're still behind in most of them.  About a week ago, I wondered whether you'd hit your high water mark after the first debate.  I don't know how you feel about it but, buddy, it looks to me like I may have been right.