Thursday, November 27, 2008


Stockholm harbor
I sat by the water in Stockholm harbor and felt the September sun warm my skin. I played music in a foreign land to raucous applause. I have befriended a hundred strangers in a hundred different lands and glimpsed worlds strange and alien.

Love, love, love
I have held a sleeping child to my chest and felt a surge of love that, even then, I knew I could never fully comprehend. I have beheld a beautiful woman, naked and in love, at the foot of my bed, ghostly in the moonlight. I have had my life confirmed and cleansed with the agony of despair; and had it buoyed with the searing pain of joy.

I saw blond death on a riverbank and floated beyond it, awestruck and solemn, but unafraid. I have seen the magical dragon wending its way through the flutter of shadow and light that played beneath summer leaves. I have taken comfort in the realization that, no matter what, one can know nothing, nothing at all about truth and the nature of things.

Whatever may come, I have beheld a marvelous tale. It's all mine. Forever.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Portland Community College: What a racket!

It's all about the money

My wife, Maty, is an immigrant from Burkina Faso. She is currently working as a nursing assistant and studying to obtain certification from the Oregon State Board of Nursing. The course required for certification is challenging: there is a lot of study of anatomy and medical terminology and procedure. It is doubly hard for Maty, since she must study in English which is not her first (or even second or third) language. Maty speaks four languages.

Maty, like most immigrants is not afraid of hard work and she is a very determined woman. So, despite the daunting challenges involved, last summer she enrolled in a Certified Nursing Assistant course at Portland Community College (PCC). The classes are always full, and one has to enroll right away to be sure to have a seat.

Well, let no one say that the sharks at PCC don't know how to leverage a legitimate community need to squeeze money out of the local populace that they supposedly serve.

The classes are so crowded that there is no individual instruction. There are lectures. Period. Students are constantly reminded that they are lucky to have been included in the class and the instructors pedagogical techniques are heavy-handed, to say the least. While she was enrolled in the class, Maty was informed that missing a class, regardless of the reason, would require that she attend a make-up session at a cost of $79. This, of course, was in addition to the $650 tuition fee. As a result, Maty attended one session while she was suffering a fever and severe headache. I took her to the doctor immediately after class, where she was diagnosed with streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat). She suffered through a day long class session because she felt we couldn't afford the 79 bucks for the make-up class!

After two weeks of classes, the instructors administered a preliminary competence exam. Maty had been studying diligently and doing her very best. But she did not score high enough on the test and was expelled from the class. It was a terrible emotional blow to her.

Well, just to add insult to injury, we are now receiving threatening letters from PCC, demanding that we pay the $650 tuition. Got that? They want us to pay for a class from which they expelled my wife! I called to talk to them, because I do feel that we should pay for the first couple weeks of the class. It is reasonable. But I'll be damned if we're going to pay full price for an inferior class, with inferior instructors that could not be bothered to help their students succeed.

As proof that Maty, given halfway decent instruction, could succeed, she has since passed a certification course at another institution, which provided the instruction for free on condition that she work there for 6 months.

Earlier this month, I cast what I believed to be a principled vote in favor of Measure 26-95 which will issue bonds to expand and update PCC's "educational facilities." Now I feel like a sucker.

Well, dear reader, here's my take: Don't suffer under the illusion that Portland Community College exists to serve the community. Like any other parasitic entity, it is interested in sustaining itself, growing, leeching off its host.

What a racket!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Confused meanderings

Casual reading, grim memories, and revealed truth all coincided serendipitously to produce today's installment.

Casual reading that drains the soul

I'm a big fan of writer Joe Bageant, which is not to say that I've actually ponied up and bought his latest book (Deer Hunting with Jesus), but that I enjoy his prose and (generally) his outlook. I've recommended Joe before, on this blog.

Well, a friend of mine alerted me to an essay Bageant wrote entitled The Sucker Bait Called Hope. I leave it to you, dear reader, to peruse the essay yourself, if you're interested. But I offer a synopsis of my interpretation here: Bageant believes that, due to environmental degradation and the ravages of unbridled capitalism, mankind is on the irreversible path to extinction. Irreversible.

The human condition in this civilization which revolves around the acquisition and rapacious consumption of material goods is such that we are robbed of the concept of a "common good," of compassion, of fact-based optimism (as opposed to effortless hope). Technology, our great savior, has become merely a distraction as we await the end. Or so argues Joe Bageant.

But his tone in the article conveys the strength of conviction. It is resigned, matter-of-fact. (Well, okay, there is a tinge of sadness from time to time.) To those of us who would wish to reject his conclusions, this is a frightening prospect.

Grim memories of a (perhaps portentous) conversation

Years ago, I had a discussion with a friend about his recently-deceased father-in-law. The man had died of cancer (lung cancer, if memory serves). The diagnosis had precluded any hope of survival and the family had lived with this knowledge for several months. The man's demise was a long, sad, and painful affair.

My friend recounted to me how the deceased had spent his final days. His life, at least those episodes of lucidity between morphine hazes, consisted of sitting in a chair in front of a television, doing crossword puzzles. Crossword puzzles. Crossword puzzles to run out the clock.

I remember fairly clearly that as we discussed the death, I said, "So, he was just sitting around waiting to die."

"Exactly!" my friend said. His face was distraught as he said it... as if I had confirmed a fearful suspicion.

Revealed truth exposes the illusions of the past

And then, there is another recent conversation that has thrown my world off its axis. I can't get specific here, folks. I'm bound by my word not to reveal the exact nature of the truth I have learned. Suffice it to say that I have become aware of a reality, a stark reality, involving people close to me that has changed my perceptions. A period in my past was other than I had up to now believed it to be. Cherished memories of a blissful, happy, and relatively carefree time in life are now tainted, made false, by new knowledge.

Paul Simon said that "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest." And almost everyone can recognize the truth in that. Well, besides the recognition, I've had a demonstration. Armed with this new, momentous (for me, anyway) knowledge I am now destined to relive various scenes from my past, and reinterpret them in light of what I have learned.

Bah! What a bunch of drivel!

What, then?

So, Dade, are you going somewhere with this? Is there something that connects these three topics? Are you making this up as you go along? What's the buzz?

Only this: If Joe Bageant is right, and humanity is on the irreversible path to extinction, then maybe that explains why we humans (those of us that are not entirely occupied with individual survival) spend our time on television and video games and... well, crosswords.

But also this: You never know when you might happen upon some truth that renders false everything you have believed up to that point.

In short, keep the faith.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Out with the tide

In a recent post, entitled A note of support to two good friends, I wrote about the sadness and empathy I felt for two friends of mine that had decided to end their marriage. Well, the tide of dissolution has surged and ebbed, inexorably and painfully. And as it has receded, it has taken many things with it, washed them out to a desolate sea.

Today, I helped pack the worldly possessions of a dear friend, the flotsam that remained to him after the tide, into a U-Haul truck. He's moving north to a new life and a new start. I wish him the best.

I'm hopeful and confident that his new life will give him a better than even chance at being happy, and I'm glad for that. But I'm sad, too. When you get to be my age, you start to recognize when something good is coming to an end. And, as we hauled boxes and furniture out to the U-Haul, I saw it plain as day.

I have a long list of friends that I've compiled over my lifetime. With many of these good people, the tides of life have swept us apart over the years. Relationships fade... even relationships that had once been so meaningful and intimate that just a glance or an inside joke could serve as well as an entire conversation. There may be a sporadic phone call every few years, or even an occasion to get together and reminisce, but the warm feelings are based on memories, not on a vital, growing relationship.

And today, I acknowledge the inevitability of it. My friend, a friend that traveled halfway around the world with me, that journeyed through the maelstrom of Mahatma Candy and employment transitions, and bouts of heavy drinking and chaos, that stood by my side as I married my wife, is moving on to the next phase in his life.

The tide has gone out, and on the gray horizon I see my friend, paddling out with it in his U-Haul kayak. Godspeed, David!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

82nd Avenue: Street of Lost Souls

Livin' the dream

Over the past couple years, I've occasionally been visited by a certain sentiment, a slightly melancholy emotional cocktail of regret, sadness, resignation, recognition, and pity, when I consider the not-too-distant future of our society, our civilization. The feeling, no doubt, has its genesis in the dark days that followed the 2004 general election, when it seemed that the forces of ignorance and fear had been utterly and irrevocably triumphant.

But that sentiment came upon me less and less frequently as this election approached, and I dared to hope that the American people had finally become aware of the futility and malignancy of the so-called "conservative movement."

Well, last night, Maty and I had occasion to get in the car and take a drive down 82nd Avenue (sometimes called "the Avenue of the Roses") in East Portland, and that old, by now familiar, feeling took hold again.

Eighty-second Avenue runs all the way from Portland International Airport, at its northern terminus, to the city of Clackamas, in the south for a distance of about 7 miles. This main artery of north-south traffic is chock full of single-occupant vehicles stacked up at interminably long traffic lights all day and all through the night. It is lined on either side by strip mall after strip mall, each indistinguishable from the 50 that precede it and the 50 that follow it, populated by ridiculously unnecessary retail outlets, fast food restaurants, cheap hotels, and convenience stores. Each strip mall is well-back from the actual street, buffered by vast acres of black-top parking lots. Only the bare minimum amenities exist for pedestrians. The outlay is such that it is easier and safer to drive than to walk from one parking lot to the next a few hundred yards away.

In short, 82nd Avenue is a soulless desolation devoid of anything nourishing to the soul, the spirit or the body. Or so it seems to me.

Last night, as we did the brake-and-gas shuffle from Division Street to somewhere south of Holgate, the utter waste and inanity of it all gripped my soul. Not for the first time, mind you. But with the triumph of the last election still fresh on my mind, the usual despair remained at bay.

Well, it is true that this zeitgeist we have created perverts so much of humanity's better nature. We have become soft, pathetic creatures, morally and physically obese, feeding on salt and fat and corn syrup. We sit passively while a never-ending stream of images passes before our eyes, convincing us to buy, to consume, to submit.

But as realities assert themselves on a global level, as civilization itself is threatened by the rapid depletion of fossil fuels and by the environmental degradation that looms ever more direly, it seems apparent that 82nd Avenue and the lifestyle it represents, is doomed. A new world is being born. What will it be? No one really knows.

Bye, bye, baby.

There will be pain. There will be suffering. And I suppose it is natural to be somewhat afraid, somewhat wistful. But the old life of living for the moment, with nary a thought for the future? That is doomed. Gone. Terminal.

There is little enough to mourn in the passing, anyway. In fact, this past election gave me hope that most people recognize that it is time for us to change our ways. It seems that we're facing the future at last, rather than ignoring it.

As my friend, Ridwan, says, "Onward!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"Life of pain, life of pain,
Son of Cain, son of Cain,
Break the chain, end the reign,"
Cry the slain, voices strained,
"Break the chain!"

Lad insane,
Thy refrain, once again,
Most mundane, ascertain:
Spake in vain, to the strain,
Of the rain!

Blind pain, mind reign:
Cannot feign;
Light-bane, ordained,
God profane;
Your pain, my gain,
Of the twain,
No strain, small brain,
Choice is plain;

Mange murrain,
Brings disdain, patchy mane;
Can't explain, honor stain;
This quatrain, on the wane,
Once again!

(Note to readers: the cadence for this verse is loosely based on the progression used in the Led Zeppelin tune "Kashmir." See if you can pick it out!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Racist cockroaches lurking in the shadows

The future of the GOP
I wish I could say I was surprised to hear reports that Barack Obama's electoral victory has caused a flare up in the activities of right-wing racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. But I'm not. If one examines the results of the election, it becomes rather obvious that by electing a man of African descent to the White House, Americans have stirred up agitation and fear among the primitive, uneducated rubes that comprise the Republican "base."

The one region of the country in which the GOP showed any strength at all was in the Deep South; the former Confederate States of America; the region that has given us such forward-thinking individuals as Trent Lott, Tom Delay, and Junior Bush himself.

Check out these comments from various (white) denizens of "the land of cotton."
“I think any time you have someone elected president of the United States with a Muslim name, whether they are white or black, there are some very unsettling things,” George W. Newman, a director at a local bank and the former owner of a trucking business, said over lunch at Yellow Creek Fish and Steak.
Don Dollar, the administrative assistant at City Hall, said bitterly that anyone not upset with Mr. Obama’s victory should seek religious forgiveness.
“This is a community that’s supposed to be filled with a bunch of Christian folks,” he said. “If they’re not disappointed, they need to be at the altar.”
Customers of Bill Pennington, a barber whose downtown shop is decorated with hunting and fishing trophies, were “scared because they heard he had a Muslim background,” Mr. Pennington said over the country music on the radio. “Over and over again I heard that.”
Mr. Obama remains an unknown quantity in this corner of the South, and there are deep worries about the changes he will bring.
“I am concerned,” Gail McDaniel, who owns a cosmetics business, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save. “The abortion thing bothers me. Same-sex marriage.”
“I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks,” she added. “From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”--as reported in the New York Times, November 10 edition
Real enlightened thinking, eh?

Recently, two incidents have served as examples of what civilized people may expect from the befuddled hillbillies that still imagine that Junior Bush is anything other than a half-assed conman and that Obama poses a threat to their "freedom."

Firstly, federal authorities arrested two self-described "skinheads" who, in a (relatively) stupendous feat of intellectual endeavor, had conspired to go on a killing spree in the days before the election. The two, Daniel Cowart, 20, of Tennessee, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of Arkansas, planned to murder 88 people by gunfire, and an additional 14 African-Americans by decapitation. (The numbers, 88 and 14, and the act of decapitation apparently have some significance in racist circles.) The spree was to end with the two attempting to assassinate candidate Obama. Read about it here.

In this case, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives caught wind of the plot (the conspirators, apparently, planned the whole thing via Facebook accounts) and arrested the would-be murderers before they could act.

Raymond Foster, proud Son of the South
Another case (read about it here) involved the murder of one racist by another. This incident involved an Oklahoma woman, Cynthia Lynch, who traveled to Louisiana to be inducted into a group linked to the Ku Klux Klan. This group, known as the Dixie Brotherhood, had an elaborate initiation ritual and was led by a man named Raymond Foster. Apparently, there was an argument between Foster and Lynch during the initiation, which took place at a campground, and ended with Foster shooting Lynch through the head. In a truly awesome display of criminal genius, Foster and his cohorts then attempted to hide Lynch's body, burned her clothes, and drove to a nearby drug store, where they asked a clerk what they could use to get the blood stains out of their clothing. Sheriff Jack Strain, one of the arresting officers was quoted as saying "The IQ level of this group is not impressive, to be kind."

Well, as I stated at the beginning of this post, I'm not surprised that an Obama victory has caused the most extreme of the ignorant masses to react in this way. We've all known they are out there, looking for a cause for which they can sacrifice their miserable lives.

The way I see it, this is good news (of a sort). Get the cockroaches out of the shadows and into the light. Those that don't kill each other, we can toss into the clink. God knows, they'll probably be happier living the highly regimented, low-demand prison life than having to worry about feeding and clothing themselves.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Breaking news: Junior has regrets!

On Tuesday, in an interview with CNN, Junior Bush, who is arguably one of the most despised and hated men in the world, admitted to having "regrets."

The admission struck me like a thunderbolt. Could Junior actually regret that he is placed at the forefront of an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths? Might he actually be suffering in some psychologically karmic manner for issuing executive orders authorizing the barbaric practice of "extraordinary rendition?" For torture of detainees? Or, could he regret indulging in the Karl Rove politics of setting various demographics of Americans at each other's throats in order to retain his tenuous grasp of power?

The very thought that a beast like Junior might be struck by conscience threw my world off-kilter. I have, for the last 15 or so months, believed and argued that Junior Bush is a sociopath, incapable of empathy for people whom he believes to be below his social station. Were he now to express regret at his lack of decency, his repugnant self-interest, his indifference toward humanity, I would be forced to confront an uncomfortable possibility: perhaps I have been unfair to him!

But, for once, Junior came through for me, rendering my fear baseless. And I quote: "I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said."

He elaborated, somewhat, saying that he regrets his "Bring 'em on" fit of bravura made on July 3, 2003, wherein he invited attack on US military forces in Iraq. He regrets his impotent and ridiculous "dead or alive" remark made about Osama bin Laden on December 14, 2001. He regrets the "Mission Accomplished" banner that his campaign people raised behind him when he dressed up like a big boy soldier and landed on the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln to declare victory in Iraq on May 1, 2003.

In short, Junior's regrets are due to saying things that have made him look ridiculous and foolish. No regrets, apparently, for the agony and suffering he has imposed on countless millions.

What a relief! For a minute, I was afraid I might have been terribly mistaken about the old boy.

But Junior came through. He is a sociopath. He is an emotionally-stunted creature of privilege, incapable of basic human compassion and decency.

I am currently re-reading Leo Tolstoy's novel, War and Peace. (The word "classic" seems woefully inadequate to describe this work. It is one of the greatest literary pieces ever produced by humanity.) In it, Tolstoy portrays Napoleon Bonaparte as a tormented puppet, enslaved by the laws of history. At one point, as the horrendous battle of Borodino draws to its close, Napoleon catches a fleeting glimpse of his own true role in the great events of the day. But immediately, he rejects that truth and turns again to his delusional vision of himself as a great leader.

And so it is with Junior:
And he passed back again into his old artificial world, peopled by the phantoms of some unreal greatness, and again (as a horse running a rolling wheel may imagine it is acting on its own account) he fell back into submissively performing the cruel, gloomy, irksome, and inhuman part destined for him.

And not for that hour and day only were the mind and conscience darkened in that man, on whom the burden of all that was being done lay even more heavily than on all the others who took part in it. Never, down to the end of his life, had he the least comprehension of good, of beauty, of truth, of the significance of his own acts, which were too far opposed to truth and goodness, too remote from everything human for him to be able to grasp their significance. He could not disavow his own acts, that were lauded by half the world, and so he was forced to disavow truth and goodness and everything human. --Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Belated birthday wishes for Jeanne Carnini

Jeanne (right) and family
Last week, in the heady days of electoral excitement and the euphoric, triumphant aftermath, I overlooked a very important date: November 7th. That day was Jeanne Carnini's birthday.

Jeanne was my father's second wife and is the mother of my sister, Mia, and brother, Calee, as well as the grandmother of my new nephew Gino. She has played a huge role in my life, and in the lives of all of my father's children. She has alternately been our counselor, friend, teacher, advocate, and defender at various points in our lives.

Jeanne was born in Klamath Falls, Oregon, the daughter of one of that city's Italian-American entrepreneurial founders, my nephew's namesake, Gino Carnini, and of his wife Barbara. Jeanne was and is a compassionate soul, always concerned with the lot of the downtrodden, the less fortunate, society's forgotten. Like most Catholics I know, her relationship with the church has been tormented and rocky, but continues to endure, much like the church itself.

Jeanne's passion in life, apart from her kids, is dance. For many years, she owned and operated the premier dance studio in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Her school is still listed in the Klamath Arts Council archives. Every year, for many years, her Christmas season dance recitals were a highlight of our family's holiday season. These recitals were the vehicles through which I grew to love the music of Tchaikovsky and to appreciate the performing arts to the degree that I do.

Of course, being a socially-conscious, left-leaning activist in Klamath Falls can sometimes seem rather hopeless. But Jeanne's idealism never abandoned her. She has worked for years in social services aimed at assisting abused women, first in Klamath Falls, and now in Eugene.

Jeanne and my father were married for 10 years. That relationship was passionate in every sense of the word. When things were good for them, they were blissful. When things were bad, they were nightmarish. Everyone involved in that agonizing union came away from it shaken and awestruck. It took a lot out of all of us. I ascribe it to the roiling emotions of hot-blooded people for whom the driving force in life was passion.

But now, Jeanne seems sanguine and relatively content. She has her kids and her grandson and a good life in a peaceful part of the world. She's surrounded by family and friends, and remains involved in her community.

Happy Birthday, Jeanne. Thanks for everything.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

El voto hispano

Demográfico cambiando

Malas noticias, republicanos.

Muchos expertos piensan que los demográficos de los EEUU estan cambiando en una manera histórica. Específicamente, se predicen que dentro de treinta años, los EEUU no será una nación de mayoría de "blancos."

En la semana pasada, Barack Obama ganó 66% del voto hispano. Este margen estuvo un gran parte de su victoria, especialmente en estados con poblaciones hispanas grandes como Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, y Florida. McCain ganó un 33% lastimosa.

A pesar de los esfuerzos (supuestos) de la administración de Bush en las dos campañas presidenciales pasadas, ahora parece que el voto hispano es asegurado para las demócratas. Por lo menos, para el futuro inmediato.

Bien, los republicanos no pueden culpar otros que el mismo. Cuando el partido incluye una gran parte de racistas como Tom Tancredo, cuando ellos gritan incesantemente de las personas marrones peligrosas, es cierto a distanciar hispanos, ¿no?

El problema para los republicanos es que, para muchos años, cuando ha habido ventajas, ellos han solicitado el voto ignorante. ¡Bien, el perro ha vuelto a casa, hombres! ¡Qué lástima para ustedes!

¡Sí, se puede!

(Perdóneme por favor para mi español malo.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Seed of pride

Like any good liberal, I question everything. And most especially, I question my own convictions. Constantly. Agonizingly.

I know that the opinions I hold on one day may very well be starkly different at some point in the future. Even my most cherished ideals will be bombarded by disillusionment, by stark reality, by the indifference of a cold, ever-expanding Universe. (We are angst-ridden souls, we liberals.)

This diffidence, this lack of certainty is, in itself, assuring. When the inevitable fall from grace occurs, the heart-break is tempered by the recognition that the Universe is either morally ambiguous, or is governed by a morality that is far beyond our petty human comprehension.

Preamble thus articulated, as I have read and watched the news over the past week, I have slowly become aware of something stirring in my heart. Something hopeful. Something joyous. Something that has been completely alien to me for a long, long time. It is the seed of pride. Pride in my country.

I've had fleeting similar sentiments before in my life. But never like this.

My country did the right thing last Tuesday. It rejected the politics of fear; it saw through the shrill bleating of the right-wing smear machine; it chose not to be afraid of diversity and change, but to reject ignorance and small-mindedness; it moved beyond the Karl Rove method of electoral politics.

It took an enormous amount of pain to awaken my country from its fitful sleep. But we are now awake. Watch the whisperers and the shadow-dealers run for cover!

President-elect Obama will not be perfect. The Democratic majorities in the two houses of Congress will certainly succumb to the temptations of abuse. But, independent of Obama, himself, and the people cutting the deals on Capitol Hill, the tone and tenor of American politics has fundamentally changed. Rather than a nation of wealth-hoarders, warlike in our efforts to maintain our dominance over other peoples, we are becoming a nation where we all work together for the common good, with a more equitable attitude toward each other and toward people outside our borders.

To be sure, there is a lot of work to do. A staggering amount of work. A titanic and Herculean effort will be required if we are to fix things.

Well, let's get started, then.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff

Obama is out of the gate and running. Everyone seems taken aback at the alacrity with which his organization is moving. Less than 48 hours after his (our) historic victory in the general election, big decisions are being announced in rapid-fire succession.

Well, that's all to the good. The crises being faced by this country require immediate response, and Obama is not dithering.

Unfortunately, I find his first and most important personnel decision to be appalling: Congressman Rahm Emanuel is to be the chief of staff.

White House Chief of Staff is a very powerful position. The WHCS controls the flow of information into and out of the White House. The WHCS is the gateway to the President, determining who gets in to the Oval Office and who gets escorted to the exit.

From a practical standpoint this is a good choice for Obama. He and Emanuel are personal friends, both coming from Illinois. Emanuel "made his bones" working for the Clinton administration as a senior advisor from 1993 to 1998. He's been in Congress, representing Illinois' 5th Congressional district since 2002. By all accounts, he is a hard-nosed individual and by many more, he's a son of a bitch. Emanuel knows the ins and outs of how things work in the halls of Congress and so will be a huge asset to Obama when it comes to getting his agenda passed. No problems with any of that.

Emanuel is less of an idealist and more of a pragmatist when it comes to left-versus-right politics. While that doesn't endear him to me, I can live with that.

The reason Emanuel's selection troubles me is because of what it means in terms of US policy toward the Israel-Palestine issue and toward the Muslim world, generally. Emanuel supported the illegal invasion of Iraq; is by all evidence, fanatic in his support of Israel (he went so far as to join the Israeli army as a young man, in spite of being a citizen of the United States); and is harsh in his rhetoric toward the oppressed Palestinians.

Any hopes I have may have harbored that an Obama administration might take a more equitable position in addressing the grotesque Israeli occupation of Palestine and the criminal oppression being perpetrated on Palestinians may not have died completely, but they're on life support.

I hearken back to a recent conversation I had with a Palestinian man and have to agree with the sober assessment he uttered about the next President of the United States: there ain't a lick of difference between Obama and McCain when it comes to Israel-Palestine. The Emanuel selection shows that Obama isn't going to ruffle any feathers over at AIPAC.

I'm still hopeful about an Obama administration being more equitable and just in its relationship to the world outside our borders. But Obama's selection of Rahm Emanuel as his most important advisor points up the fact that there is still a dire need for social activism and dissension.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Surveying the post-election battlefield

This is how it turned out...
A day of elation. You should have seen it. On Wednesday, walking around my neighborhood in southeast Portland, everyone was grinning, happy. It was rainy and cold, as is typical at this time of year, but there was a "lightness of being" (to borrow a phrase from Milan Kundera) prevalent in the demeanor of everyone I encountered. What a great day!

Over all, the election cannot be considered as anything other than a decisive victory for progressives and a defeat for conservatives. It is also the second consecutive election to repudiate Junior Bush directly. The Democrats picked up at least 25 seats in the House of Representatives for the second time in as many election cycles; it's been 70 years since that has happened for a party. In the Senate, the results are not as decisive, but the Democrats will pick up at least 5 Senate seats.

On to the results (as of Wednesday evening at ~5pm):


President: Barack Obama, Democrat.
Obama 364 EV, 63,550,666 (52%)
McCain 174 EV, 56,178,963 (46%)
Note: Missouri and North Carolina results are not yet final.

This is a proud moment for our country. No matter what else this victory may portend, the United States has overcome a major hurdle in its struggle against racism. The battle is not over. Indeed, it will always be with us. But Obama's victory is a huge step toward equality.

US Senate: Jeff Merkley, Democrat.
Merkley 652,276 (48%)
Smith 650,262 (47%)
Brownlow 75,162 (5%)
Note: This race is still being contested. However, Merkley seems to have the advantage since most of the uncounted ballots come from Multnomah and Lane counties, which are Democratic strongholds.

The thought that we might finally be rid of Gordie Smith is a blissful thought, indeed.

US Representative, 3rd Congressional District: Earl Blumenauer, Democrat.
Blumenauer 160,645 (75%)
Delia Lopez 44,484 (21%)
Michael Meo 8,733 (4%)

Earl didn't even break a sweat.

Attorney General: John Kroger, Democrat.
Kroger 775,150 (73%)
Leuenberger 120,240 (11%)
Albies 115,906 (11%)
Brown 51,538 (5%)

Kroger wins. Fine.

Secretary of State: Kate Brown, Democrat.
Brown 666,985 (50%)
Dancer 634,544 (47%)
Woolley 38,146 (3%)
Note: This race is still being contested. Kate Brown has been holding a slight lead.

State Rep. 42nd, District: Jules Kopel-Bailey, Democrat.
Kopel-Bailey 13,511 (87%)
Extine 2,001 (13%)

Easy victory for Jules. No surprise.

Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries: Brad Avakian, Democrat.
Avakian 489,807 (67%)
Goberman 134,282 (19%)
Welyczko 100,201 (14%)

Foregone conclusion.

Multnomah County Sheriff: Bob Skipper
Skipper 125,364 (81%)
Ra'oof 28,900 (19%)
Danielson At least 1 (.0001%)

This one hurts. I know it was a long shot, but I was pulling for Andre until the bitter end. I just know you would have made a fine Sheriff, Andre. I'll be your deputy any time.

East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District , Director at Large #1: Rick Till.
Till 42,640 (36.53%)
Klock 38,569 (33.05%)
Sweeney 34,293 (29.38%)
Other 1,214 (1%)
Note: This race is still contested.


East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District , Director at Large #2: Ron McCarty.
McCarty 72,673 (69.35%)
Fry 30,637 (29.24%)
Other 1,478 (1.41%)

McCarty wins handily.

City of Portland, Commissioner No. 1: Amanda Fritz.
Fritz 90,469 (71%)
Lewis 37,227 (29%)

An easy victory for Amanda.

State Measures

  • 54: Standardizes voting eligibility for school board with other state and local elections.
    Yes - 839,892 (72%)
    No - 329,144 (28%)

  • 55: Changes operative date of redistricting plans; allows affected legislators to finish term in orignial district.
    Yes - 884,507 (77%)
    No - 265,139 (23%)

  • 56: Provides that May and November property tax elections are decided by majority of voters voting.
    Yes - 665,538 (55%)
    No - 536,965 (45%)

  • 57: Increases sentences for drug trafficking, theft against elderly and specified repeat property and identity theft crimes; requires addiction treatment for certain offenders.
    Yes - 747,685 (61%)
    No - 474,289 (39%)

    Good. The margin of victory sinks Kevin Mannix's Measure 61.
  • 65: Changes general election nomination processes for major/minor party, independent candidates for most partisan offices.
    No - 759,864 (66%)
    Yes - 394,495 (34%)

    I voted "no" on this, but I didn't feel that strongly about it. I know a lot of people that voted the other way. Frankly, I'm surprised at the margin by which it was defeated.
Sizemore Measures

Bill Sizemore took a bath this election, losing on 4 of 5 measures. Too bad we didn't get him on all of them. Nonetheless, one wonders how much longer corporate fat cats will be willing to cut him checks when he keeps getting pounded at the polls like this. It'll be a glorious day when his funding dries up.

  • 58: Prohibits teaching public school student in language other than English for more than two years.
    No - 669,160 (54%)
    Yes - 559,263 (46%)

    Sorry, Bill. Oregonians just don't hate Mexicans like you do.
  • 59: Creates an unlimited deduction for federal income taxes on individual taxpayers' Oregon income-tax returns.
    No - 759,600 (63%)
    Yes - 447,024 (37%)

    This one has really got to hurt. If Sizemore can't deliver for his sugar-daddies, he's going to be out of a job very soon. In light of the financial crisis that is occuring even now, Sizemore's timing couldn't have been worse for this kind of measure. People just aren't very sympathetic toward Fat Cats.
  • 60: Teacher "classroom performance," not seniority, determines pay raises; "most qualified" teachers retained, regardless of seniority.
    No - 739,836 (60%)
    Yes - 488,914 (40%)

    As hard as teachers have to work, and as underpaid as they are, I'm damn tired of people like Sizemore complaining about them. Looks like most Oregonians feel the same way.
  • 63: Exempts specified property owners from building permit requirements for improvements valued at/under 35,000 dollars.
    No - 645,393 (53%)
    Yes - 570,736 (47%)

    It's probably mean-spirited of me, but Sizemore called this his "favorite measure." That makes its defeat all the sweeter. Kiss it, Bill.
  • 64: Penalizes person, entity for using funds collected with "public resource" (defined) for "political purpose" (defined).
    Yes - 675,077 (51%)
    No - 659,653 (49%)

    This is a real bummer. I don't understand why this country cannot grasp the advantages of organizing in unions.
Mannix measures

Mannix can't win for losing. Not only was he humiliated in the Republican primary election, but both of his measures get thrown on the s**t-pile!

  • 61: Creates mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain theft, identity theft, forgery, drug, and burglary crimes.
    Yes - 686,114 (51%)
    No - 684,044 (49%)

    Although this would seem to be a victory for Mannix, this measure is nullified by virtue of the fact that measure 57 passed by a wider margin. Too bad, Kevin. So sad, Kevin. No matter how much you try, you're always going to be a loser.
  • 62: Allocates 15% of lottery proceeds to public safety fund for crime prevention, investigation, prosecution.
    No - 723,601 (60%)
    Yes - 488,885 (40%)

    Denied, Kevin. The lottery money is supposed to be for schools, not for your nasty fantasies about punishing people.
  • 26-96 Bonds to protect animal health and safety; conserve, recycle water.
    Yes - 238,571 (56%)
    No - 186,465 (44%)

    Hooray for the elephants!
Portland Community College
  • 26-95 Portland Community College bonds to update, expand local educational facilities.
    Yes - 158,346 (51%)
    No - 154,763 (49%)

City of Portland
In summary, a few disappointments, but taken as a whole, this election can only be viewed as a titanic success.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Glory, glory, glory!

I knew that we had won when CNN called Pennsylvania for Obama. The Keystone State was McCain's last, desperate grasp for victory, and it wasn't even close.

Ohio went for Obama a short time later and the penultimate nail was driven home.

My anticipation grew as I watched the various pundits calculating various electoral combinations, trying to piece together something even remotely plausible for a McCain victory.

But as 8pm Pacific time loomed, with polls closing on the west coast, and with Washington, Oregon, and vote-rich California all hued the deepest of blue, and with Obama already sitting at 207 electoral votes, we all knew what was coming. For the McCain campaign, it must have been a sad eternity, waiting for that axe to fall.

When the hour finally came, I stepped out on my front porch and yelled at the top of my lungs. "Glory!"

The United States has crossed an historic threshold by electing a man of African descent to the White House; a man with a Muslim father; a man that is the product of an interracial marriage; an eloquent, thoughtful man; a deliberate man; a leader.

The GOP is crushed and humiliated. It will be interesting to see how they respond to this defeat. Will they do the soul-searching and painful self-examination that will put them on the road to recovery? Or will they seek external reasons for their defeat in some fearful attempt at denial? As it stands, the Republicans come away from this election as a rump party; a regional party of the Deep South, consisting mostly of Confederate state males. For all our sakes, I hope they grow out of it.

But tonight, I choose to savor sweet victory. We've won. You, me, Democrats, progressives, liberals, moderates, and even Republicans (though they might not know it). We've won! We've won! We've won!

There is a hard road ahead. Dark times are upon us and the night will be long. But day will come again. Working together, we can't lose. We've won! We've won! We've won!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today is the Day

My prediction: Obama 347 McCain 191

There is not much to say today. Whatever happens, the Good FightTM has been fought. If things come out as nearly everyone predicts, today will be a fine denouement for the long, arduous, and at times hopeless, struggle against the ignorance and fear perpetrated on the United States (indeed, on the world) by this heinous phenomenon that is called the "conservative movement."

As recently as two years ago, I could not have believed that I would see an African-American elected president in my lifetime. As recently as two years ago, my faith in humanity, the very core of my creed, was wavering.

Well, today, we just may have turned the corner.

The challenges ahead of us are daunting. Financial catastrophe, climate change, deforestation, energy depletion, religious fanaticism, and so much more. None of these challenges has been acknowledged, let alone addressed, during the reign of the filthy Bush regime. Indeed, most of the problems have been exacerbated.

But the scales may have finally fallen from the eyes of the American people.

An Obama presidency will certainly not be a panacea. I believe that Obama is far superior to his opponent and (most especially) to his disgusting predecessor. But I know already, that Obama will make decisions that will anger me, that will disappoint me, that will infuriate me.

Nonetheless, I believe he is trustworthy. I believe that he will be receptive to the views of progressives and people working for social justice. That alone, is a vast improvement in the general state of affairs.

We'll know soon enough...

Monday, November 03, 2008


Stand up, you people, you lovers, you fools!
Stand up and make yourselves heard!

Confront the bleating, mindless hordes
That murdered their god
So they might love him,
And burn their witches
Before his bloody, broken corpse;

Stand up, you needy, you mighty, you free!
Stand up and make yourselves heard!

Dethrone the blue-blood, powder wigs
Who wept your misery
Nobless oblige
Frowning at your stench
While their butlers turned loose the hounds;

Stand up, you blesséd, you sinners, you saints!
Stand up and make yourselves heard!

Bring down the tottering castles
From which they watched you
With growing alarm
Behind chimeric
Prophesies of bleak disaster;

Stand up!
Their fear can't stop you!

Stand up!
Their japes can't hurt you!

Stand up!
Their lies can't fool you!

Stand up! You people, stand up!