Friday, August 31, 2012

RNC 2012 Day 4: The best they can do

Willard Mitt Romney gave his acceptance speech last night.  It was a fitting performance.  Romney appeared robotic and blasé.  Those portions of the speech where he feigned passion were particularly uncomfortable.  And, try though he might, I have to believe he did little to convince middle class Americans (let's say those who earn less than --oh, I don't know --a million dollars a year) that he has even the faintest inkling of what it is like to struggle financially in these hard times.

A couple choice excerpts:
You deserved it because you worked harder than ever before during these years.  You deserved it because, when it cost more to fill up your car, you cut out moving lights, and put in longer hours.  Or when you lost that job that paid $22.50 an hour, benefits, you took two jobs at $9 an hour.
You deserve it because your family depended on you.  And you did it because you are an American, and you don't quit.  You did it because that was what had to do. The driving home late from that second job, or standing there and watching the gas pump hit $50 and still going.  When the realtor told you that to sell your house you'd have to take a big loss on your house.  In those moments, you knew that this just was not right.  But what could you do except work harder, do with less, try to stay optimistic, hug your kids a little longer, maybe spend more time praying tomorrow would be a better day.
The audacity of this rhetoric, coming as it does from a man who was born into wealth and who has a current estimated fortune of $150 million is breath-taking.  This is a man who has never worried about paying bills, about buying school clothes for his kids, about making a car or mortgage payment.  His delivery revealed as much.  Tinny, shallow, insincere.  He tried, though.  I'll give him that.
My mom and dad were true partners, a life lesson that shaped me by everyday example. When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still hear her saying in her beautiful voice, "Why should women have any less say than men, about the great decisions facing our nation?"
I wish she could have been here at the convention and heard leaders like Governor Mary Fallin, Governor Nikki Haley, Governor Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. As Governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman Lt. Governor, a woman chief of staff, half of my cabinet and senior officials were women, and in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.
Polls show Romney (and the GOP generally) is sucking wind when it comes to support from women.  Small wonder, eh?  But this pitch shows that Romney is at least aware of the problem.  He dropped some names to try to suggest that the GOP is a party for women.  But he can't change the fact that Republicans in Virginia passed legislation requiring women to endure medically unnecessary vaginal probes.  He can't blot out the ugly sentiments behind the "forcible rape" legislation sponsored by his own vice-presidential nominee and Todd Akin.   And, please --if he wants people to take Republican women seriously, why mention Condi Rice?
The President hasn't disappointed you because he wanted to. The President has disappointed America because he hasn't led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.
This reasoning befuddles me.  How is it that being a successful businessman qualifies one to be president?  The only recent chief executive who made his bones in business is Junior Bush, who f*cked it up so badly that he's not even welcome to appear at his own party's convention.
It's the genius of the American free enterprise system – to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that is dedicated to creating tomorrow's prosperity rather than trying to redistribute today's. 
Idolatry of ideology.  "Free enterprise" is one of those trance-inducing terms that lull Republicans into a suggestive state.  You know?  Just like "Founding Fathers," "freedom," "patriotism," "sanctity of life," "Ronald Reagan," etcetera.  But there was more:
And let me make this very clear – unlike President Obama, I will not raise taxes on the middle class. As president, I will protect the sanctity of life. I will honor the institution of marriage. And I will guarantee America's first liberty: the freedom of religion.
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY to help you and your family.
"Sanctity of life," "institution of marriage," "freedom of religion."  More vacuous blather.  In terms of policy, what is he really saying?  Given the performance of the Republican congress, it's easy enough to translate:  restrictions on abortion, a ban on gay marriage, and a blurring of the constitutional separation of church and state.  If that's what you want, Romney's your man. 

Then, of course, he went on to mock not only President Obama, but anyone who might be concerned about global warming.  Head-in-the-sand ignorance that the redneck rabble eats up with a spoon.
If I am elected President of these United States, I will work with all my energy and soul to restore that America, to lift our eyes to a better future. That future is our destiny. That future is out there. It is waiting for us. Our children deserve it, our nation depends upon it, the peace and freedom of the world require it. And with your help we will deliver it. Let us begin that future together tonight.
His closing remarks, I'm sure, are sincere. He said "The future is our destiny," and I'm sure he believes that. He believes the future is his destiny and the destiny of his people.  The problem is that he's not speaking to me when he says it. Not me and not anyone I know.

That's it.  That speech that we saw last night is the best Mitt can do.  And Mitt is the best the Republicans can do.

They got nothing.  Let's see how many people are dumb enough to buy it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RNC 2012 Day 3: M'eh

Last night, I enjoyed a flavorful repast with wife and two dear friends.  I would not spoil the hopeful ambiance with poison from the Republican National Convention.  The television was off.

I peeked in on it this evening. As my barrista put it:  "It's good to keep an eye on those people."

Well, yes.  That is true. It's an appalling sight, though.  That is also true.

Caught a glimpse of a nostalgic video reverie on Bush Elder and Lesser and could not sit through it.  Distaste for Junior evokes a physical reaction.  Less so Bush the Elder.  The man was at least capable.  I never hated him.  It is sad to see age cloud about him. 

But Junior is a different story.   They knew they needed the Old Man to be there with him.  Junior humiliated himself again.  But hiding behind his father --his age-enfeebled father --is the only thing he knows.  He's done it all his life.

Mitt Romney?  Empty suit.  A man with a single mercenary conviction.  Mormon?  More like Mammon!

Paul Ryan?  He's been groomed.  He was chosen.  The shadow people chose him.  A farm boy from Wisconsin who would advocate against hated entitlement programs and not burn for it.  As a kid, he read Atlas Shrugged and took it to heart.  (You can bet that made them smirk.)  Now he's on the ticket.  If Romney is elected they will claim (more or less legitimately) that the election was a referendum on the future of Medicaid, Medicare, maybe even Social Security.  You know where it goes from there.

If they ever get everything they want, the whole country goes wild west.  Oligarchy, protected by a massive publicly-funded military; unconstrained by social responsibility. Unstable and unsustainable.

But they don't look that far ahead.  It's a quarterly-report game for them.

There's no point in listening to Ryan's speech.  He's got nothing to say.   The Republican Party has nothing to offer me.  Nothing. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

RNC 2012 Day 1: Rained out

Party, Reince?  Isaac wanna come!
For the second consecutive occasion, opening day of the Republican National Convention is cancelled due to inclement weather.

Remember four years ago?  Opening day of the 2008 GOP convention was cancelled because Hurricane Gustav was bearing down on the Gulf Coast.  Even though Republicans were safely slouched on their bar stools in Minnesota, a thousand miles from the "action," the media-savvy amongst them could not stomach the thought of GOP festivities juxtaposed against footage of wind and rain savaging American cities.  Besides, Junior and Cheney were slated to speak that night.  Gustav did them all a favor in that sense.  In an astonishingly frank concession, Republicans did not reschedule time for their own sitting president and vice-president to speak at their party convention.

Well, here we are in 2012, and history is repeating itself.  Tropical Storm (and soon to be Hurricane) Isaac is set to lash the Gulf Coast on the very day that the GOP was to open its convention in Tampa, Florida.  And while this time, the Republicans don't have a hated incumbent to hustle out of camera view (neither Junior nor Cheney will be speaking at this year's convention), they are worried about the safety of their delegates.  (As an aside, anyone remember that myth about domestic turkeys being so stupid that they would drown themselves by gazing skyward during a rain storm?)

I'm sure it's no skin off their collective shoulder.  They'd probably rather just hang out in the bar, anyway. God knows, if I were a Republican, given the state of my party, that's what I'd do.

Don't wanna get all Pat Robertson on you, folks, but if Republicans believe even half the claptrap that spews from their blowholes, they really ought to be sweating just a hair.  Remember when Pat Robertson claimed that legitimizing gay marriage would call down the Wrath of God on this nation?

What, then, are we to infer about God's Judgement now that the second consecutive Republican national convention is being squashed by another massive, blustering storm?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What's with the demonization of the poor?

Tea Party raving
More and more it becomes clear that the Tea Party, no matter what its constituents purport to believe, is driven not by patriotism, and most certainly not by logic.  Rather, the Tea Party seems to be driven by a deep-seated resentment toward the vulnerable and weak in our society.  The mind-blowing remarks of Tea Party Senate candidate Todd Akin, revealing the contempt Tea Party folks have toward women is only part of the story.  More generally, the Tea Party seems to scorn poor people.

Remember Newt Gingrich's remarks during the South Carolina primary?  "President Obama is the most successful food stamp president in American history."  That's how Newt put it.  Rick Santorum added a racial twist with his remarks in Iowa:  "I don't want to give black people someone else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to make money."

As the Tea Party graphic at the top of this post suggests, Tea Party folks work under the assumption that people who apply for any kind of public assistance are lazy sponges looking to take advantage of the labor of others, that they are the leeches and mooches that Ayn Rand raved about.

When my parents divorced in 1971, we three kids went to live with my mom in Salem, Oregon.  Mom was out on her own with 3 kids and no education. (She'd started college, but the birth of her first child (me) prevented her from finishing.)  Even though Dad paid his child support every month, it wasn't enough to cover all the bills and expenses associated with raising three kids in the 70s. 

So Mom decided to go back to school to get her degree. While she was attending Oregon College of Education (which is now called Western Oregon University) she enrolled us in the Food Stamp program.  I remember she was embarrassed by it, but felt there was no other way to get by.

Eventually, she earned her teaching certificate and went on to teach in public schools in Oregon and Washington.  Each of her three kids also went on to earn college degrees and become productive members of society as well.  So, society got a big return on its investment.  

I believe our story, the story of my mom and my brother and sister and me, is fairly typical of those who apply for food stamps.  To be sure, there are probably people who take advantage of the system.  But so what?  Which is more egregious:  a few people getting something that they don't deserve?  Or people with legitimate needs being denied nutrition in this land of plenty?  

I don't have a problem with food stamps (the program is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)). People need help sometimes and all in all, my life is very good. It doesn't bother me to kick in some money to help folks who don't have it so good. I'd much rather spend my money that way than give a tax break to people who already have everything.

What about you, Christians?  What about you, Tea Partiers?  Does it bother you so much to think that somebody somewhere might get a tax-payer subsidized box of Kraft Mac and Cheese?  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Todd Akin exposes Republican rift

As I see it, the GOP has long been controlled and directed by persons serving the interests of the mega-rich:  oil extraction executives, old money estates, high-stakes financial swindlers.  These monied elites have carefully cultivated a fearful resentment in cultural conservatives by playing to racial and religious prejudices.  That's how, they've managed to stay competitive in national elections even though they flagrantly push economic policies that are hostile to the vast majority of the voting public.  That old "Southern Strategy" that they cooked up  in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has served them well --so well that they've spawned other similar (and similarly ugly) strategies.  They've promoted loathing for homosexuals; hostility toward Muslims; rage at Hispanics.  Playing to people's fears and prejudices is an easy way to win votes. 

This dependence on fear and hatred is like heroin addiction.  Just as a junkie must increase his hit to get the same high, so must Republicans go ever farther with their xenophobic pandering to evoke the same response from the redneck rabble.

The election of 2010 was the culmination of this Republican strategy.  When the Tea Party (which is a manifestation of the warped ideals of cultural conservatives) swept into power, the Frankenstein's monster was unchained.  The GOP owed their 2010 victory to right-wing populism and the Tea Party knew it.  "Old Guard" Republicans like Senator Dick Lugar (IN), Senator Bob Bennett (UT) and Congressman Mike Castle (DE) were all deposed by Tea Party upstarts in the primary season.  The monster is run amok.

Todd Akin:  the man of the hour
So when Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin shot his mouth off on Sunday, unintentionally revealing his contempt for women (a contempt that is shared by the hard-right elements of the Republican party), so-called "main-stream" Republicans pounced.

On Monday, big time Republicans publicly called for Akin to resign.  The list is long:  Mitt Romney, Senators Scott Brown (MA) and John Cornyn (TX), Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, GOP fund-raiser supreme Karl Rove, former Senator Roy Blunt, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Rove's PAC, Crossroads GPS, released a statement saying it was pulling all funding and advertising out of Missouri.

Akin is a Tea Party candidate.  He won the Missouri primary by beating John Brunner, a multimillionaire businessman, a plutocrat. So, today, when Akin faced them all down, right-wing populists like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Mike Hukabee the Christian Warrior were cheering.  They have the plutocrats on the run!

All of this puts Romney in a bad position.  His pick for vice-president, Paul Ryan, is a Tea Party favorite.  That's why Romney chose him.  Romney, after all, is mega-rich money changer --which is to say --an "Old Guard" Republican.  Ryan is supposed to win Romney street cred with the plebs.  But what happens when the two sides are locked in combat over control of the party?  Can Romney bring them together?

The civil war within the Republican party is escalating.  The stakes couldn't be higher for Republicans.  Seventy-six days until the election, and the knives are out.  Aristocrats versus snake-charmers.  Harvard Business School versus Oral Roberts University.  Grasp versus gasp.  Greed versus ignorance.

I hope there will be lots of blood and guts.

Monday, August 20, 2012

GOP just can't get its sh*t together

My God! As Election Day gets closer, the GOP crazy train is picking up steam!

Aw, Paul.  You know you love her.
Paul Ryan hearts Ayn Rand

Ever since Mitt chose Paul Ryan as his running mate, the media has been all atwitter with glowing comments about Ryan's youthful good looks and his well-maintained physique.  I concur.  The man is a physical specimen.  At 42 years of age, he looks great.

But alas, in addition to his youthful physique, his emotional maturity appears to have advanced little beyond the adolescent.  How else can one explain his boyish fawning over Ayn Rand, author of the Objectivist manifesto, Atlas Shrugged?

As Paul Krugmann so aptly put it:  "There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

Ryan used to proudly taut his Objectivist creed, claiming in 2005: “There is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works."   But now that he's figured out that Tea Partiers hate atheists, he's changing his tune.

I suppose the falling out between Ryan and Rand should come as no suprise.  Ayn's habit of taking up with younger men seems to always end in the same way.  Badly.

"I's a proud Tea Party Republican.  A-yup."
Todd Akin and legitimate rape

Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin, who faces off with the heretofore endangered Senator Clair McCaskill of Missouri this November, gave an astoundingly ignorant response to a question about abortion.  In an interview with the Jaco Report, a St. Louis political talk show, the questioner asked Aikin if he would support abortion in rape cases where the woman is impregnated by her assaulter.  Quoth Aikin:

"It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." 

Putting aside the baffling notion of "a legitimate rape," does Akin really believe that a woman's physiology includes some kind of anti-rape spermicide that prevents pregnancy?  If so, what else does he believe about human reproduction?  Do storks deliver babies?

"I can't explain it.  You had to have been there.  Everything just felt so... free!"
Tea Party Republican Kevin Yoder's morning-after regrets

When the Tea Party crashed Congress, back in 2010, we were assured that serious, no-nonsense citizens were coming to Washington.  One of them was  Representative Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas.

Last year, on a congressional "fact-finding" mission to Israel, Yoder and some other GOP congresspersons and staff had a little party on a boat in the Sea of Gallilee.  (You know?  The place where Christ walked on the water?)

Well... drinks were served.  One thing led to another.  And then?  Well, here's what the Honorable Mister Yoder had to say about it:  "A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit."

Pause for a minute to allow our conservative readers to catch their breath...

Personally, I've got no problem with skinny-dipping.  In fact, I think Republicans in particular could benefit from a little loosening up.  Maybe go sit in a clothing-optional hot springs or hang out at the Oregon Country Fair.  But Yoder was part of an official congressional delegation, (funded to the tune of $10,000 per attendee by an AIPAC-affiliated group). If the Israelis had any doubts about the gravitas of their staunchest allies in the US Congress, I'm sure the incident went a long way toward reassuring them.

House Majority Leader and Serious ManTM Eric Cantor was reportedly livid when he heard about the incident.  But I think Eric ought to cut Mr. Yoder some slack.  We've all been there, eh? 

Keep swinging, kids

All of these incidences are but manifestations of the misogyny, sexual repression, and ignorance that is today's Grand Ol' Party.  Yuck it up, folks.

And if the Republicans win in November?  Well, in that case, there won't be anything to do but laugh all the harder. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Brave young woman ends the holy month of Ramadan

This morning, gingerly footsteps gave notice that Maty was risen.   I gazed up from the computer screen to the landing.  She appeared, but not as I'd expected to see her.  She wasn't in the loose, easy clothes people normally wear when they recover from surgery.  She wore a traditional Senegalese dress, a West African beauty.  The black headdress she's worn for the last two weeks gave testament to the love she has for her departed father. 

She came down the steps slowly, tottering slightly.  The pain meds make her dizzy.

Grief-stricken Maty has been almost completely housebound for the last ten days. 

But today is Eid, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  Maty dressed to commemorate. 

This evening, we drove downtown and I led her out to a bench on the waterfront where we sat and watched the people go by.  I tried to get her to laugh by remembering our first date, seven years ago, when we'd come to walk by the river and been caught in the rain and had to run for it.  How little we knew of each other back then!  How very differently we see each other now! 

She smiled, but no laughter.  Just as well.  Although I miss the sound of it, I wouldn't want her to agitate her wound.  My brave young woman

Friday, August 17, 2012

Another politically-motivated shooting

WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) - A Virginia man has been charged in federal court in the shooting of a security guard at the headquarters of a conservative Christian lobbying group.

Federal authorities say Floyd Lee Corkins II told a guard at the downtown Washington DC headquarters of the Family Research Council, "I don't like your politics" before shooting him in the arm. The guard and others helped subdue Corkins, who was taken into custody. He's been charged with assault with intent to kill and with bringing a firearm across state lines.
Read the whole story here.

In the last month, this country has experienced a bewildering orgy of random gun violence.  The thing in Aurora.  The thing in Wisconsin.  The thing at Texas A&M.

And now this.

Thankfully, the security guard at the scene showed acuity and courage and prevented the incident from becoming much worse.  

Corkins appears to have been motivated by politics.  The Family Research Council is a well-funded anti-gay organization (you can get a dose of its ugly rhetoric here) that has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.  But hateful words do not justify violence.  Nor can the wounded security guard or the potential victims in the office building be blamed.  Except, of course, in the mind of a deranged lunatic.

This incident is another demonstration that, in today's society, there is nothing to be done about lunatics with guns going on killing sprees. 

As I asked in my open letter to Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice-President of the National Rifle Association, since reasonable gun control laws are unacceptable, what is the solution?  Must we accept these incidents as an inherent part of our lives?  Are they part of the so-called "price of freedom?"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Il n'y a rien à dire

Darkness falls swiftly in August.  That is the nature of it.  How quickly we pass from raging, glorious daytime to heat-heavy night.  The city is made eerie by electrical effluvia.  Candle against the void.

I have a memory.  It was the day I left Ouagadougou.  Djeneba and the other serving girls had taken down the laundry from the lines running across the small courtyard.  Your father stood at the edge of the patio in his powder blue boubou, chin shaking.  "He's crying," you said.  I saw that and I saw you wiping at your eyes.  And Mama too.  He was small; he held himself like my Grandpa Cariaga had held himself; with unforced dignity.  And, though I knew it was not the African way, I put my hand on his shoulder and said "Merci, ma pere pour ma femme."  It was the best I could do.  Gilbert waited outside the gate.  The car door was open.   That's my memory.

Catastrophes befall people who do not expect them.  For the rest there are troughs and ridges.

But it's such sad news from Africa, love.  Such sad, sad news.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How the hell do you write fiction?

So, I have this story I've been working on for over a year now.

And when I say "working on," I mean the story has been chewing on me, pushing me, not letting me rest. Perhaps foolishly, I published two episodes (see here and here) on this blog in the hope that the public "commitment" might impel me toward completion.  And while I have succeeded in imposing a tormenting sense of urgency on myself, I haven't so far made much tangible progress on the story.  In fact, if anything, the story has gone backwards.  I'm less sure of where it should go, what it should be, than I was when I wrote those first sentences for Ryan Blacketter's PCC class last July.

Most of the problem stems from a lack of faith.  When you read something as magnificent and unique as David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, or Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, or Nelson Algren's A Walk on the Wild Side, the whole endeavor of creating fiction seems hopelessly beyond the abilities of a humble blogger.  How does one string together a series of words, phrases, and sentences to not only tell a story, but create a mood, evoke an emotion, confirm truths that readers will recognize?

I've read many books and articles.  I've conversed with writers.  I've read their interviews.  And from them all, I've concluded that no one can teach you how to do it.  All they can do is encourage you to try.

Well, fair enough.

I stumbled onto an article, recently, in the New Yorker.  It's written by Keith Ridgway, the author of some 4 fictional works (none of which have I read... yet).  The article is entitled "Everything is Fiction" and apart from revealing that Ridgway is a fantastic writer, it offers reassurance to those floundering souls who struggle with the magnitude of creating a believable, engrossing world:
I know how to wait until the last minute before putting anything on paper. I mean the last minute before the thought leaves me forever. I know how to leave out anything that looks to me—after a while—forced, deliberate, or fake. I know that I need to put myself in the story. I don’t mean literally. I mean emotionally. I need to care about what I’m writing—whether about the characters, or about what they’re getting up to, or about the way they feel or experience their world. I know that my job is to create a perspective. And to impose it on the reader. And I know that in order to do that with any success at all I must in some mysterious way risk everything. If I don’t break my own heart in the writing of a book then I know I’ve done it wrong. I’m not entirely sure what that means. But I know what it feels like.
So, I'll keep on this story. I wish I had confidence that I might, someday, have it in a form that I can call complete and that is close to what I want it to be. But, lacking confidence, I'll have to go on faith. And just keep writing.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romney picks Ryan

This morning, as my temporarily bed-ridden wife and I watched the Olympics, I happened to glance at the headlines on my iPad and noticed that presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has selected a running mate.  There didn't seem to be much fanfare.  In fact, but for my iPad, I might have missed the whole thing.  But sure enough, it's true.  Romney has a running mate.  The enigmatic Governor Romney chose Paul Ryan!

Interesting choice!

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is an Ayn Rand Disciple and one of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's "Young Guns."   He's generally considered to be a rising star in the Republican Party.

He is also the author of the hugely unpopular Ryan budget which the Republican-majority 112th Congress passed to demonstrate its supposed "fiscal responsibility."  But as folks became familiar with that budget --with its restructuring of Medicare, its elimination of Medicaid, and its ultra-regressive tax structure --the hoi polloi started raising hell.  It got so bad that even House Speaker John Boehner backed off it. 

So, in the context of the current election, with Romney falling 7 to 9 points behind the President in the latest polls, what is the appeal of Paul Ryan?

As a person who regularly engages in political --er, let's call them "discussions" --I've found that, while conservatives intensely dislike President Obama, they're not at all thrilled about Mitt Romney.   For Romney to win, he needs to generate some enthusiasm for his candidacy.

Perhaps the Ryan pick is calculated to demonstrate once and for all Romney's conservative bona fides.  Right-wingers still suspect that Romney is a closet moderate from Massachusetts.  (And for good reason!  There is footage of Romney making diametrically opposed statements on any number of issues.)

Tea Party folks will respond well to the pick if it can be spun as a demonstration of contempt for President Obama.  After all, that's what's important to them.  They never have shown much interest in policy.

And Paul Ryan is a big hit with the plutocrats in the party. So Romney can keep counting on those big contribution checks right into the fall. 

I'll give him this:  Romney knows who it is that is buttering his bread.  Putting Ryan on the ticket is the one calculation Romney made from pure conviction.  The man serves money.  The man serves the monied elite.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Mosque burning in Joplin: Time to crack down

Two acts of domestic terror in two days.

The day after a neo-nazi opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances.

The Islamic Center, Joplin's only mosque, was described as "a complete loss" by Fire Chief Bill Dunn.  It was the second time in just over a month local firefighters were called to the scene.  On July 4, video surveillance equipment recorded an individual toss burning material onto the roof of the compound, but that fire had minimal damage.  You can read a full account of the incident here.

A Sikh temple in Wisconsin and a mosque in Missouri.  Natural targets for rednecks. 

This summer's crescendo of domestic violence makes one thing perfectly clear to me.  Rednecks excel at only one thing:  terrorizing vulnerable minorities.   But if you confront them, if you stick your finger in their redneck chests, they sputter and spit; they quail and quake; they cower.

So, it's time to stick some fingers in some chests.

Wade Michael Page, the shooter in Wisconsin, is dead.  But there's at least one redneck yokel in Joplin who is feeling the heat right now.

The FBI has dispatched 50 agents.  Large sums of money are being offered by that bureau and by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for information that leads to arrest and conviction.

When they catch you, Skeeter, it'll be hard time in federal prison.  And they will catch you.

This is why I pay taxes.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Right-wing terror strikes in Wisconsin

Grieving Sikh-Americans
One wonders at the frequency of these horrific events.  They jitter our national consciousness in flurries.  Blips on an EKG measuring the heartbeats of William Golding's Beast

Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old ex-Army veteran and a white supremacist (he was in a racist band known as "End Apathy") opened fire at a Sikh temple in Racine, Wisconsin on Sunday, killing 6 and wounding 4.  Page was killed in an exchange of gunfire with responding police officers.

Wade Michael Page doin' his white power thing
As we have seen in the aftermath of two other similar incidents (the shooting in Tuscon last year and the recent shooting in Aurora), it is futile to hope that this incident will create any momentum toward sensible gun control laws.  And with guns and ammunition so readily available, there is not much that can be done about blown-fuse lunatics who go on killing rampages.

But that doesn't mean that nothing can be done.  This case is a bit different than the other two.  Unlike Jared Loughner, the shooter in Tuscon, and James Holmes, the shooter in Aurora, Page had a political agenda.  He was a white supremacist, after all. 

Once again, I'm reminded of that 2009 Department of Homeland Security report.  The one entitled  "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."  When it was issued, right-wing blowhards from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh to Michelle Malkin, tore their beards and wailed, claiming the report was to be the Obama administration's justification for oppressing conservatives. What will they say about the report now?  (My guess?  Nothing.)

The FBI is treating the Racine incident as an act of "domestic terrorism,"  whatever that may mean.  But if it involves putting the thumb on right-wing paramilitary groups and hate-filled redneck zombies, I say "crack down and crack down hard."

Got no use for Nazis.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Old Man Hood
I have this little ritual.  An old friend I turn to in all times --kind and cruel, feast and famine.  Nothing so grand or reassuring as the Catholic Mass, but it's come to serve me well enough over the years. 

I take me up to Mount Tabor, to the top of the rounded old pate, and I stand by the Julija Laenen bench and pay homage to Old Man Hood.  I study him.  I try to fathom his intentions.  Of course it's hopeless, but I never tire of trying.  In winter, he often does not deign to show himself.
Witches' work?
From there, I go to visit the sapling white oak.  I have so much hope for this tree.  It's a gift that we, the people of Portland today, are giving to the people of Portland in the many decades to come.

On this day, ashes and crow feathers, carefully arranged around the slender bole.   My ritual intersects with another's, then.  Might it be the witches?

View from the Edgar Francis Conant park bench
The Edgar Francis Conant park bench affords a westward view out onto the canopy of my home.  A nearly straight shot down Hawthorne Boulevard.  The soil in which I've been planted.

In memory of Frank Conant and his dog, Rusty
My ritual is complete when I burn some incense at the feet of good Mr. Harvey Scott.  I'm sure, were he to speak, Mr. Scott would have some interesting tales to tell.  I chased an Irish sprite up this mountain, once.  But I caught her before she reached the top.  So, Harvey Scott didn't see us.  He's seen plenty, though.  Believe me.

In the pride of my youth, I would mock ritual as a crutch for the weak.  But years will change perspectives.

Submission is not weakness.  Submission is strength.  I've come to know that.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Book review: Ghostwritten

In many ways, Ghostwritten, David Mitchell's 1999 debut novel is the precursor to his more highly-renowned work, Cloud Atlas.  Discerning readers of both novels will quickly recognize that the patterns and presentation of Ghostwritten very much foreshadow the ground-breaking structure of Cloud Atlas.

Like Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten consists of several distinct but intricately-related stories.  Each story is a separate chapter and has a unique setting and protagonist.  The book opens with the story of Quasar, a member of a doomsday cult in Japan who is seeking to elude authorities after releasing nerve gas in a Tokyo subway.  The penultimate chapter is the story of Bat Segundo, a late-night radio talk show host in New York who is thrust into the roll of emcee as humanity approaches apocalypse.  In between these two stories, readers follow the lives of a Japanese saxophone player, a Hong Kong financier, an aging Chinese woman running a tea house, a spiritual noncorpum inhabiting the body of a traveler in Mongolia, a Russian art thief, a womanizing musician in London, and a genius scientist on the run from the CIA.

Mitchell's gifts as a story-teller are so exquisitely tuned that, although each chapter ends on a note of expectation, he manages to provide resolution through indirect reference in subsequent chapters.  With the exception of the Quasar story, none of the other stories are directly revisited, and yet, at the end of the novel, Mitchell has somehow managed to tie up all the loose ends. 

Now that I've nearly completed the Mitchell canon, I've noticed several recurring themes in his novels:
  • Mitchell is never satisfied, it seems, to draw definite conclusions.  He presents his case in convincing fashion, then once the reader is sold, injects uncertainty, calling everything he has created into question.
  • Mitchell's characters recur throughout his works.  Characters in Ghostwritten also appear in Cloud Atlas and number9dream
With Ghostwritten, Mitchell yet again displays his versatility and imagination.  There is not much more to say, really.  Just like each of the other three Mitchell novels I've read, Ghostwritten fascinated me start to finish.  In today's hyperbole-infested zeitgeist, the term "genius" is all too often abused.  But in David Mitchell's case, I believe it's justified.