Category Archives: current events

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

I don’t post much anymore and this post is long and it’s not funny but I really hope you will read it. I ask you to read it. And share it because it matters not just in Portland, not just in Oregon but throughout the U.S.

My mother was a teacher before I was born. She began her career in upstate New York and then moved to Portland, Oregon. In Portland she taught at Boise (pronounced Boyce) Elementary in North Portland which in 1963-64 was a very nasty neighborhood. Race relations in the U.S. were not good at that time (not that much has changed) and the Albina neighborhood where Boise is located, was a violent, rough place.

Police-in-Albina

Albina 1969

Joan, my mom, was 100 lbs of Irish power (her maiden name was Powers). She was a tough little customer and had tons of colorful stories from her time teaching at Boise. Joan taught a little girl named Maria Pia Gompetro (sp?). Maria was a spitfire and when parent-teacher conference time came, Maria had to sit in and translate for her mother, who was from Italy. My mom would say, “Maria needs to settle down and pay attention in class.” Maria would translate and her mother would nod and smile. “Maria, I don’t think you’re telling your mother what I just said.”

She had an African-American boy in one of her classes who she walked by one day and placed her hand on his back to look at his work and he winced. She took him out of the class and looked at his back. In her exact words, his back looked like “hamburger”. She called his mother to come in and his mother said, “Don’t you worry Miss Powers, I’m making sure so and so does his work.” Her method of making sure the little guy did his work was whipping his back with a wire coat hanger. My mother told her if she touched him again, she would have her arrested.

My mother had a theory, had a goal of identifying children who were smart and had the drive to do better and getting them the education that would get them out of the ghetto they lived in. She went to Boise school officials and Portland Public School officials and begged them. “I can tell you who these kids are, get them out of here and give them a chance.” Nope. No can do, that’s not fair.”

Floyd. I can’t remember Floyd’s last name. Floyd was far too old to be in the 4th grade at Boise. He was smart and funny and his home life was a violent hell hole. Floyd loved my mother and was very protective of her. He would walk up and sit on the corner of her desk when the class was acting up and lecture them all to shut up and listen to Miz Powers. He was NOT happy when he met my dad, Joan’s fiance at the time, when my Dad came to the classroom. But he skeptically gave his approval of the marriage. A couple of years later, my mom saw Floyd on the local news. He was arrested for armed robbery.

Fast forward to 2016. I am tutoring reading at the Portland Public School for homeless children, the Community Transitional School. I tutor two kids for 30 minutes each. Homer is in kindergarten and Maria is in 1st grade. I am sorry to say that Homer is a lost cause. He is a tiny, darling African American little boy who has no attention span, can sort of kind of read a few words. One of my kids couldn’t read in kindergarten but she also had a stable, engaged family and a safe, comfortable life. Homer doesn’t have that and I think society’s ills will win with Homer.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Oh my dear little Maria. Maria and I are pals. M is for Maria and for Maggie. I told Maria that my middle name is Mary, “Maria is Spanish for Mary.” Maria told me, “No, Mary is English for Maria.” This little girl is a live wire and she is smart. A couple of days ago, during our 30 minute time together, Maria said, “that word can’t be ‘babies’, baby has a Y in it.” Hurrah Maria! We spent the rest of our time thinking of nouns that end in Y but their plural is ‘ies’. Maria picked up on that, I didn’t point it out to her.

This kid has it goin’ on. She doesn’t want to be too obvious with her smarts but she brings it when it matters. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is smart. I want to help her progress. A few weeks ago I spoke to the reading program coordinator asking how can I spend more time with Maria? And the coordinator thought that Big Brother/Big Sister would be a good idea. Nope. The school doesn’t have a connection with them. Okay, what about Trillium Family Services? A local Portland non-profit that does amazing work with children and families. Nope.

Unfortunately, CTS, as a school, does not match students with mentors through any programs. There are a number reasons for this. One is that we are not able to extend the same services to each child. It is a matter of equity. We want our families to feel we are providing a service of teaching and helping every child.

 

Are you shitting me?! What if mentoring at CTS caught on?! What if we, the privileged of this country no matter what color, what if we go out and try to save one starfish at a time? What if it’s not fair? There is still good to be done, children to be helped and nurtured, it’s not always fair but it can work.

Must Maria, who is only 7, be lost to the lowest common denominator simply because if she gets extra help, it’s not “fair”?

I was raised by Joan Powers O’Connor and my siblings will remember one of Mom’s favorite lines, “life isn’t fair.”

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The Conscience of this Conservative

Let’s first set the scene. I am and always have been a registered Republican. I am a John Kasich fan. I live in Oregon so my primary vote rarely ever matters because the nominee for both parties has typically been decided by the time Oregon’s late May primary is held. In Oregon, if you are a registered independent, you cannot vote in the Democrat or Republican primaries. I think two years ago there was a ballot measure to change that. I voted for it but it didn’t pass.

I am in my favorite season: Presidential election season. This is my version of the Olympics. I love watching the spectacle. My guy never seems to win but I still love watching.

Which brings me to my plight. In the late ’80s I read a slim volume by Barry Goldwater entitled “The Conscience of a Conservative”. I read it and I thought, “Yep, this is me. I am a conservative Republican.” Read it. It’s only 123 pages long depending on the edition you find.

What did that book say that told me that I’m a conservative? Here is a brief summary of the ideas set forth in that book.

  1. States’ rights.  The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” I’m a strong believer in states’ rights.
  2. Civil rights. He promoted “natural” and “human” rights. He believed in integration (keep in mind this is back in the early ’60s) and voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because he didn’t think parts of it were enforceable constitutionally.
  3.  Farming. He believed that U.S. farming should be kept outside of federal regulation. Let the market set the prices. Of course, he didn’t have to compete with foreign price controls and tariffs.
  4. Taxes and spending. He was a flat tax kind of guy.
  5. Welfare (as it was called then). He thought the federal government was not the solution to joblessness and poverty. Goldwater believed the “welfare state” created a culture of dependency. I believe that LBJ’s Great Society programs caused the dissolution of African American families and communities and most certainly led to a culture of dependency and entitlement across the country, black white whatever. Bad idea.

Obviously, there is more to the book but I don’t like to write really long blogs. I think a conservative believes that government should leave the individual alone to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; limit the federal government’s powers; and follow the Constitution. The U.S. is blessed to have one Constitution, where many Western countries have plowed through many. I believe in looking back to the 10 Commandments and the Magna Carta. Good ideas are timeless and I think some of that has been lost in this country.

Sooooo, believing what I do and agreeing with Goldwater on the conscience of a conservative, I’m a gal without a party. To be a “conservative” now means that I must oppose the civil rights of a large swath of this country, that I must oppose abortion for any reason any time any way, I must think that we should deport 12 million people back to Mexico, that creationism is science and so much more that isn’t me.

In this election, I’m in for John Kasich. He’s not perfect but no one is. He is a guy in my party who I have liked for decades and he does work with both sides of the aisle.

I thought I was a Conservative but apparently I’m not anymore. I’ve kept this short but am happy to elaborate on any issues in the comments.

I am also pro-white wine and golf.

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Constitutionally Speaking: Guns and Religion

Some of you may be like me, trapped in an On Demand, Hulu , Netflix cycle of must watch TV that requires a spreadsheet to track schedules, characters and plots; which allows me (and perhaps you) to avoid the news detailing what a mess this country is.

The news is typically so dispiriting that I have stopped watching, listening, reading much of it at all. Still, the news reaches into my cocoon. I’m going to stick to stories local to me but the hue and cry is heard throughout this great nation of ours.

This fall there was yet another mass shooting, this time at Umpqua Community College in the southern Oregon town of Roseburg.

Constitutionally speaking, I’m going to look to the right and all the people screeching about their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. I’m looking at you “2nd Amendment Voters/Advocates”. Please read the text of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States before you tell me and the rest of the country about your right to own an automatic weapon.

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Do you see those first four words about the well regulated militia? Do you get what that means? It doesn’t mean that everyone for any reason can own a gun or an arsenal of automatic weaponry that would horrify the Founding Fathers of this country. I am not part of a well regulated militia thus I do not need to keep and bear arms. The Oregon National Guard can keep and bear arms.

I’m not for banning all guns. I think there should be a ban on assault weapons. Automatic assault weapons are made for hunting human beings, that’s not okay. I think we should enforce the myriad laws we have for background checks and that should apply to online sales, gun shows, pawn shops, retail stores, etc.

I also think that the people screaming about their 2nd Amendment rights, should SHUT. IT. Unless they are a member of a “well regulated militia” and I don’t mean regulated by your Uncle Wally and run out of his barn. If you are a member of a police force, US armed services, the National Guard — then please feel free to assert your Second Amendment Rights. If not, stand down.

bear arms

And this guy can also bear arms

Ohhh, look over there on the left…they are all snickering about the loser conservative gun rights people on the right. Hee Hee, Maggie sure told them!

Well, folks on the left, I’m now going to have a chat with you. It is holiday time, time to decorate the holiday trees and send the holiday cards and make sure that Portland Public School choirs don’t perform at The Grotto’s (The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother) Christmas Festival of Lights, the largest Christmas choral festival in the WORLD. As I said, I am keeping it local but there are examples around the country of…wait for it, the separation of Church and State! Right!? Separate those two before real trouble starts!

churchandstate

Inigo Montoya for the win!

Ahem, now that you folks have got your First Amendment knickers twisted, just a little reminder that the words “separation of Church and State” appear no where in the Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment leads with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” because our Founding Fathers came from Merry Old(e) England, where the government, then a monarchy, said to all of England, “your church is the Church of England.” Period. They added, “If you don’t like it, too bad, you cannot practice any other religion.” As I’m sure you all know as informed and interested American citizens, the Pilgrims left England so they could practice their particular religion without the King putting them in jail or gaol.

The phrase “separation of Church and State” comes from this letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury, CT Baptists in 1802. The phrase in no way means there is no room for religion in public life, it simply means the government will not dictate what religion its citizens practice and that said citizens are free to practice whatever religion they wish. Or practice no religion. Up to you, American citizen.

Again, as the 2nd Amendment folks need to get their facts straight so do you Separation of  Church and Staters, and again, SHUT. IT.

I am not saying that the discourse should end on topics so important to the well being of the United States of America. I am saying get your facts straight before righteously throwing around buzzwords like “the right to bear arms” and “separation of Church and State”.

“There is nothing so absurd but if you repeat it often enough people will believe it.” — Dr. William James, widely recognized as the Father of American Psychology

 

 

 

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Terror in France (and All Over the Place)

In 1793-94, the Reign of Terror led by Maximilien Robespierre resulted in the execution by guillotine of thousands of “enemies of the state”, as labeled by the Committee for Public Safety. The official number of death sentences served during the Terror is 16,594 infamously including Marie Antoinette of lemony cake fame.  According to the website HistoryToday:

For the first time in history terror  became an official government policy, with the stated aim to use violence in order to achieve a higher political goal. Unlike the later meaning of ‘terrorists’ as people who use violence against a government, the terrorists of the French Revolution were the government. The Terror was legal, having been voted for by the Convention.

Ironic that the use of terror as policy started in France. Not that the French government supports terror or has in centuries, but still an interesting bit of trivia. Honestly, nothing against France at ALL, just an observation.

I spent a semester of my junior year in college in Dijon, France. In 1986, there were terrorist bombings throughout France and Europe and the U.S. was battling Libya and Iran. One lovely spring day in 1986, I was walking home from class with one of my group’s French student advisers. I looked like a typical American goof ball in my Reebok high tops, drinking a Coke (because they didn’t have Diet Coke in France then), sporting a Sony Walkman and that’s all. No, I had clothes on, just joking. Christophe and I were walking down Rue Charles de Gaulle, chatting away and we passed a couple of guys of middle-Eastern descent who made some comments. I have no idea what they said. We kept on walking and then the Middle Eastern guys started yelling and chasing us and I realized they were yelling “You Fucking American” at ME. What?! Christophe and I took off running and we kept running past the house where I was staying so these assholes wouldn’t know where the American lived. We kept running till the jerks lost interest and turned around.

I'm just an 80s chick with a bad perm, what do you want from me?!

I’m just an 80s chick with a bad perm, what do you want from me?!

On Wednesday 12 people were killed in Paris by terrorists angered by magazine Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons mocking Islam and the prophet Mohammed. Charlie Hebdo satirizes all religions but this tragedy was due to their cartoons regarding Islam.

Je-Suis-Charlie-by-Jean-Julien-620x355

Sadly terrorism isn’t new to France and yesterday’s slaughter is the latest attack by Islamic terrorists on Western freedoms.

That’s what I think it all comes down to… Islam doesn’t like Western society’s freedoms of speech, assembly, religion and the press. They don’t like women having the right to an education or to be able to show their faces in public or to have a driver’s license.

Those of us of a certain age will remember what happened to Salman Rushdie upon the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses. After a “fatwa” was issued against him, Rushdie went into hiding for 10 years. Rushdie, born to a Muslim family in India, wrote a book that Muslim clerics didn’t like and he was in fear for his life for 10 years. As a matter of fact, the fatwa was restored about a year ago but Rushdie is not going back into hiding.

The following quote is from an interview of Rushdie by the New York Times:

There have been arguments made even by liberal-minded people, which seem to me very dangerous, which are basically cultural relativist arguments: We’ve got to let them do this because it’s their culture. My view is no. Female circumcision — that’s a bad thing. Killing people because you don’t like their ideas — it’s a bad thing. We have to be able to have a sense of right and wrong which is not diluted by this kind of relativistic argument. And if we don’t we really have stopped living in a moral universe.

Read more from Rushdie here

Theo Van Gogh was murdered in 2004 by a Dutch Muslim, Mohammed Bouyeri, unhappy with Van Gogh’s film “Submission” criticizing Islam’s treatment of women. Van Gogh was shot about 10-12 times, then the killer slit his throat in an attempt to decapitate him.

It seems almost every day we hear about a journalist being kidnapped or beheaded by ISIS.

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head three times (and lived to tell about it) for daring to blog about her life under Taliban rule and for advocating education for girls. She is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and is going to turn the ripe old age of 18 this July.

There seems to be some commonality here. Islam is at war with the West and Western ideals no matter where in the world they are espoused. And I, like you I’m sure, am getting damn tired of it.

Yesterday I read quite a bit about the savage attack in Paris. My reading included comments steeped in what I think of as historical and moral relativism. What about the Inquisition? What about slavery? What about the awful things done in the name of Christianity? What about the treatment of Native Americans? Blah. Blah. Blah.

Those things happened and they were awful but the glory of time is that it continues to move forward and civilization moves with it. Forward, better, new, improved. If the Inquisition was still going on. If Americans were still owning slaves. So on and so forth, then all of that ugliness could be compared to Islamic terror today but they’re not.

I am a practicing Catholic and I was horribly upset by the sexual abuse (rape) scandal in the Church that was going on long before I was born but really came to a head in the US in the 1990s. I never once sided with the priests or the Church hierarchy. I spoke out loudly against the abuse and the cover up. I refused to give money to the Archdiocese of Portland because I was not going to waste a penny on their legal expenses. Millions of Catholics in the U.S. and around the globe raised Holy Hell about the scandal and demanded recourse and change. It’s not over but it is glacially moving in the right direction.

catholics

Where are the millions of peaceful Muslims protesting the terrorism done in the name of their religion? Where is their Million Man March? Why are they not turning in those they know are terrorists and reporting those they suspect? Why are they not decrying the wearing of burkas by women and demanding that women everywhere deserve the same rights as men? Why are there no Islamic uprisings against stoning of women and girls? I don’t see it. I am told this is a peaceful religion and if that is true the peaceful branch must retake their religion from the savages that are causing death and chaos around the globe.

There is plenty of evil throughout the world but I ask anyone to name another group who is actively at war with modern Western civilization like these Islamic savages are.

I’ve been in trouble here before and I’m sure I will be in trouble again but this is my house and I’ll write what I want to write, just as everyone should. Ross Douthat wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said.”

voltaire

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Portland in Black and White

Saturday night Derwood and I went to dinner at Toro Bravo in NE Portland, I have heard that it is always crowded and doesn’t take reservations. It opens at 5:00, so we went at 4:45 so we could just scootch in when it opened. We arrived early and found that there were dozens of people already in line. Stunned, we drove around the block looked for a parking space, we drove by a housing project, Nike Factory Store, library, etc. We circled, parked and got in line. Food is fabulous, great night.

I tell you that to discuss this. Toro Bravo is a cool restaurant in an old building in an old Portland neighborhood, located 75 yards from a housing project. The area was a “Do Not Enter” sort of place 20 years ago but the area is gentrifying.  Do you know how many African Americans were in the restaurant?

Zero.

Portland, Oregon for all its progressive politics and hoopla over food and cycling, has a secret…although not a very well-kept one. Portland is a deeply segregated city. In my opinion (which you are all entitled to), this city is so busy patting itself on the back for its organic foods, farm to table restaurants, recycling and composting programs, trams and light rails, bike lanes and boxes, etc., it ignores the very ugly reality that the black community in this city has been systemically disenfranchised and continues to be pushed to the outer fringes of the metropolitan area.

Anecdotally, I know that Portland Public Schools has been failing African American students since before I was born. My mother taught at Boise (pronounced: Boyce) Elementary in Albina, a predominantly black neighborhood. She told me stories about dealing with parents who were beating the crap out of their children because they thought that would make the kids perform better in school, about begging the administration and school board to get certain bright kids out of the school and somewhere where they would have a chance, about watching the news and seeing one of her favorite students following in his father’s armed robbery footsteps.  Today Boise is in the bottom 15% of Portland Public schools, the population is 60% black, almost 91% of the students are on free or reduced lunch. Fifty years later and not much has changed, maybe nothing has changed.

I have done a bit of research for this post and these are my findings:

According to the 2012 U.S. Census, 2 (TWO, dos, deux) percent of Oregon’s population is African American. The nationwide average is 13.1%. The 2010 census shows that 6.3% of Portland’s population is black. A 2007 census report says 3.1% of Portland’s businesses are owned by African Americans.

Here is an excerpt from an article on OregonLive.com by Nicole Hannah-James:

The seeds of gentrification were planted during World War II, when African Americans from the South flowed into Portland to take jobs in the shipyards. Portland officials and community members, from real estate agents to bankers, pushed the black community into a small area called Lower Albina, near the present-day Rose Quarter, through redlining and other now-illegal practices. White Portlanders fled, and the city began a long pattern of disinvestment. Street and sidewalk repairs were neglected, and the city did little to develop businesses or enforce housing codes, said Karen Gibson, a Portland State University urban planner who has studied gentrification and is the author of  a 2007 study entitled “Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000.”

Many banks refused to make home loans in black areas. Some residents were denied loans for less money than their bank-approved car loans. Appraisers artificially devalued the area’s housing stock, so even people who did own saw little growth in wealth or equity that they could tap to maintain their homes. Predatory lenders swept in, and the area became ripe for drugs and crime.

“Portland is smug about its progressivism,” Gibson said. “But Portland is in denial, and whites don’t want to acknowledge how their policies benefit them — someone had to sacrifice for these nice 20-minute neighborhoods.”  She asked: “Do we want equality in this city? What do we want?” (Emphasis is mine).

I am a native Oregonian and I was never taught in the public schools I attended that Oregon has a long history of racism and segregation, albeit handled much like it is today. Say nice things but do the opposite. Back when Oregon was just a territory in 1844, slavery was deemed illegal BUT

“That same 1844 law ordered all black people out of the Oregon Territory under threat of lashing. This “Lash Law” mandated black people be publicly flogged every six months; however, before it could be enforced, it was modified and the whippings were replaced with forced labor.” Pete Shaw, Oregon Occupier.

The Oregon Occupier sounds like a publication that has a pretty strong agenda so I ran the Google on Lash Law and Mr. Shaw didn’t make that up, plenty of information available on that and other exclusionary laws.

Any of my native Oregonian friends ever heard about this? In 1848 an Exclusion Law was passed banning any “negro or or mulatto” from living in Oregon Territory.

You can read more here

So decades have passed, Portland mayors and city councils have come and gone, and nothing has changed. A few months ago Portland’s mayor, Charlie Hales, said “The job is starting to look like more fun now.” I suppose that is because all the tough problems have been taken care of. Oh Phew!

“He gets excited talking about the big issues: How to keep Portland’s neighborhoods livable, how to bring smart development and services to east Portland, how to maximize and accelerate development around TriMet light rail stations on the yet-to-open Orange Line through the eastside.”  Andrew Theen, The Oregonian.

Mayor Hales is also very concerned about Portland’s “basic services” like roads and parks and getting more money from the city’s taxpayers. I don’t find any discussion of the racial divide in this city when I read his state of the city address. Portland continues blithely down the Livable City path. We are so progressive! We are so beautiful! Who wouldn’t want to live in this Nirvana?! Welcome to one of America’s most livable cities and it is #1 according to this report and here’s another one.
 
 
Just don’t look behind the curtain, you might find out Portland is a fabulous place to live as long as you’re white.
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The Man Most Hated by Barack Obama

As some of you may know, my brother John and I went to Denver last weekend to visit my sister Katie. On the interminable drive back from the airport which is located out on the  Nebraska plains, we chatted about current events, as we are all political junkies. John asked us if we knew who, years from now, would be identified as Obama’s most hated man. We didn’t know and he told us to guess.

“Karl Rove?” Nope.

“John Boehner?” Nope.

“George W.?” Nope.

Okay, who?

He said, “John Roberts”

What?

Let me now present John’s theory:

It’s June 28, 2012, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was passed in March, 2010. The final bill is not what either side would have liked but it was passed and signed into law as President Obama’s signature domestic policy triumph. After months of arguing and bartering and lawsuits from 27 states the issue has made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court’s decision is expected any moment.

We see the President in the private family quarters watching Dancing with the Stars no Keeping Up with the Kardashians no Bill O’Reilly NO MacNeill/Lehrer no wait it’s Lehrer News no. We see the President chatting with his girls about plans for summer vacation. There is a knock on the door and Chief of Staff Jack Lew enters the room.

“Mr. President, a word?” asks Lew.

The President shoos the girls out of the room and waits for Lew to speak.

“The Court has handed down the opinion on the ACA.”

Obama waits.

“The opinion is in our favor! The ACA is constitutional according to the Court!”

Lew smiles waiting for Obama to exult over the decision.

Obama frowns and shakes his head as if to clear cobwebs.

“What?” he asks sharply.

Lew is taken aback. “Uh, the Court, voted in our favor. We can continue the implementation of the law.”

Obama furrows his brow and and looks at his hand, counting on his fingers, he mumbles to himself, “There’s Scalia, Alito, Thomas, well Kennedy probably…   Jack, who wrote the opinion?”

“Chief Justice Roberts, sir.” answers Lew.

“Are you kidding me?! There’s no way that Court voted in favor of ACA!” growls President Obama.

“Well sir, Roberts identified the individual mandate as a tax so even though you have repeatedly said this is not a tax, as long as it’s a tax, it’s constitutional. So they ruled in our favor despite the incredibly feeble argument put up by the government’s lawyers!”

“I can’t believe Roberts went for it. Shit, well make some calls, we better start some kind of website.”

And the rest is becoming history.

____________________________________________

HAHAHAHAHA

What? I think it’s funny!

obamacare-glitches-relief-somewhat-topical-ecards-someecards

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The Same Old Teenage Story aka Every Parent’s Nightmare

I remember my mom telling me about three kids in her senior class who were killed in a car accident right around graduation. I think they were hit by a train. When I was a freshman, a senior at my high school (Lake Oswego High School) was killed in a motorcycle accident. Last year, my friend Kitty’s daughter had a friend who died texting and driving. Too often across town, across the state, across the country; the news covers stories of teens who have died in car accidents.

On a Friday night in 1982, my BFF Trish and I dropped off my parents at a dinner less than a mile and a half away from home. We were driving back to my house for an evening of frozen pizza and movies on VHS. The streets were slick from the typical Oregon rain. I took a turn too fast and the giant O’Connor family station wagon spun around 360 degrees a couple of times. As luck would have it, there were no other cars on the road. We stopped and Trish and I looked at each other wide-eyed. Whoa! I was shaking a bit and carefully drove the rest of the way home.

Why would I do that? Why would I drive too fast around a sharp turn on wet streets in the dark? Because I was 17 and it was fun! I well remember the excitement and liberation of driving around with my friends in the car, no adults telling me to be careful, slow down, put on your signal. I am in charge of this hunk of steel and it is like driving a giant roller coaster car! Being a teenager can be a heady, exhilarating time; a time to believe you are indestructible. Time is on your side. Sadly we all have stories, we all know being young doesn’t guarantee longevity.

I was in Denver this past weekend visiting my sister. Saturday morning Katie told me, “Kathy posted on Facebook to pray for the LO girls in the car accident.” Um, what? My girls go to Lake Oswego High School. I did assume if one of them was in an accident, I would have received a call. I texted my girls and heard back from Annie. Sure enough, three of her friends were in a car, most likely driving one of them home after the football game.  Annie’s friend was driving too fast around a curve; a dangerous curve that has been a great one to take too fast since I was a teenager. The driver couldn’t control the car on the curve and went into the oncoming lane and hit another SUV head on.

In the blessings department, the people in the other car were not hurt. One of the girls was taken to the hospital and released. The driver had to be cut out of the car and remains in the hospital in fair condition.

The third girl is in the hospital in critical condition. I know this girl’s name well because she was one of the first to welcome Annie to LOHS when Annie was the new kid at school freshman year. This girl is on the dance team, she is actually as nice as she appears to be, well-loved by her family, friends and students, teachers, neighbors, etc. She is one of the good kids. The future is bright, it is blinding with possibility.

Today, she is in a medically-induced coma to help control the swelling in her brain. This is crunch time. Pray hard. If you don’t pray, just think good thoughts. She has pelvic surgery today, I’m guessing because they can’t put it off. She’s 17, she’s just a baby. I don’t know her family but I have cried or felt like crying since I heard the news. I think, “what if Annie had gotten a ride in that car Friday night?” I think of the terror of realizing the car was going to crash. I think of that phone call. Oh God, that phone call. And now her parents sit at the hospital praying the doctors can fix their girl.

And I, like millions of other parents, will continue to teach my child to drive. I will make her crazy with all my instruction and warnings. I will pray that I can convince her to be careful. Annie’s friends’ only crimes were being young and reckless because that is what the young are.

There is a Facebook page for updates which now has more than 1,000 followers. The family asks for prayers and good vibes, eat an Oreo and say nice things and mean them. I pray that a lesson can be learned here without any fatalities. I know we aren’t the only community to go through this but we need all of your prayers to who/whatever you pray to.

Jeremiah 29:11:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
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Such Weiners

As everyone with the interwebs knows, Anthony Weiner, former U.S. congressman from NYC, current NYC mayoral candidate, and all around selfie-happy narcissist… has been back at the sexting game.

Let’s review for those who don’t live in the U.S., have lives full of friends and family, don’t read news that includes the word “Weiner” (in the U.S. these people are known as Weinerists), or are generally disgusted with public displays of skinny, bulging politicians. Weiner resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in June, 2011 after weeks (or at least it seemed like weeks) of denying that he had been sending pictures of his partially declothed self to women he had never met, one of which went out to his entire Twitter following, as I recall. He was finally so busted, he resigned with his wife, his PREGNANT wife, Huma Abedin by his side.

weiner1

Well, now they have a little boy and Huma was back up by her husband’s side on the podium Tuesday because he had let the Weiner out again with a 20-something girl from Indiana. This time he ratcheted it up (heh heh) to include phone sex and he apparently has a shoe fetish.

I have no idea why this guy would get a second chance because if he would screw over his wife like this, what wouldn’t he do to a constituency full of strangers? No, need to answer that.  I bet the whole country, the Twitterverse, and most of Luxembourg wish this guy would take his Iphone-generated, reality TV-inspired, generally gross behavior and GO. AWAY. You know what Weiner? Have some dignity (just joking). Have some respect for your wife (more on her in a minute). Be a better father than this. And mostly….get the fuck over yourself. You have some serious issues that include needing to have anonymous, wireless sex with strangers and an inability to stay out of the public eye. The public is tired of you.

Now on to Huma. Huma, what are you thinking? The first scandal happened after you and the Weinster had been married a year. Two years later and you are back at his side. Why? Huma led Hillary Clinton’s transition team after Clinton was named Secretary of State. Did Huma learn the “stand by your man” from Hillary? Perhaps Huma has future political aspirations of her own. I would think, if that is the case, she would be  better served by kicking that Weiner to the curb and going with an “I am woman, hear me roar” approach.

The whole thing turns my stomach.

I tell you that, to tell you this.

Portland has its own little political/sexual drama going on. It’s always something here in Portlandia.

Due to an anonymous email going around Multnomah County offices, Jeff Cogen, Chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, has had to admit to an 18-month extra-marital affair with county employee, Sonia Manhas. Sonia was made to resign yesterday. Cogen is in a commissioner’s meeting right now, where an official request for his resignation has been presented by the other commissioners (all female), which he says he’s not going to do.

In 2012, Manhas was given a promotion and a 20% raise, whilst the affair was going on. She was asking to spend more time working under his desk in Cogen’s office. There are plenty of emails to read that contradict his story that she was not his subordinate and her promotion had nothing to do with him even though he was one of her two references for the job. If you want to read all about it go to the Oregonian website or the Willamette Week, both have plenty of coverage.

I’m not the first person to write about these sorts of scandals and the people involved in them. One would think that these people, all of whom APPEAR to be intelligent, would have more sense in this digital age than to assume they are going to get away with anything. The men plow on saying they will not resign or leave the race. The women stand by their men (best political wife EVER, Jenny Sanford left her guy twisting in the wind), they resign, they just take it and I have no idea why.

I honestly don’t care what goes on in the personal lives of politicians. In the case of Senor Weiner aka Carlos Danger, he is repugnant and needs to go get some professional help out of the public eye.  As for Portland’s Cogen, there is plenty of evidence to contradict his assertions that the affair in no way influenced Manhas’ career and that tax payer money and his public time was not abused. Hey Jeff, that’s MY money paying for your trips to Atlanta with your girlfriend.

Gentlemen, it is time to leave the building.

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Small Town Honors for Small Town Hero

I went into Lake Oswego (my hometown, pop. 37,000) at lunch today to do some banking. As I was entering the city limits, I noticed that traffic was pretty heavy which didn’t bother me but it was rather odd. And then I noticed a lot of police and fire vehicles. Not like 2 or 3 but a lot and they kept coming. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, SUVs. That’s weird. I got to A Avenue (the main street) and there were flags up and down the sidewalks and in the medians down the middle of the street.

I quickly realized that this must be the route being followed to bring home the remains of John J. Percin, Jr., a graduate of West Linn High School (next town over) and a Granite Mountain Hotshot, who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona on June 30.

John Percin was 24 years old when he died.

John Percin was 24 years old when he died. Photo courtesy kgw.com

John’s ashes were flown to Portland this morning and escorted by motorcade to the Fire Station in Lake Oswego where the public can pay their respects. The vigil will last until Friday and his remains will be attended 24 hours a day by a fire service honor guard.

I didn’t read anything about the tragic loss of 19 Hotshots in the Arizona wildfires. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The loss is so heartbreaking. The situation so horrific. I knew one of the lost was from this area. I saw his photo on news sites but I didn’t read it. He was only 24. As a parent, the mere idea of losing a child is gut wrenching. I can imagine something happening  to one of my girls and bring myself to tears. What of his parents? I’m sure they are so proud of him and so paralyzed by the loss of their boy. John left behind his mom and dad, two brothers and Champ, his black lab.

I suppose I shouldn’t hide from news like this but it is just so exhausting. I choked up today driving through the streets of LO, seeing the fire and police vehicles from all over the Portland Metro area and from around the state. All these people honoring this brave young man. I know my words aren’t adequate to the task of describing the sadness and the unity I felt in LO today. That’s an odd word to use, isn’t it? But people were unified, they were thinking of and noting the passing of a local boy whose ashes are resting just blocks from Our Lady of the Lake, where his family will hold his funeral on Friday.  I’m not doing my experience justice but it was a different feeling.

Depending on the day, my mood, the conversation, who I’m with; I may or may not claim Lake Oswego as my hometown. Sometimes it is easier to say Portland and avoid the possible “ohhhhhh, YOU’RE from LAKE OSWEGO!” LO has a justified rap of being an affluent, sometimes snotty enclave. My daughter Annie twittered something like, “Porsche Cayennes are Lake Oswego’s mini-vans” hahaha. Both my girls go to high school in LO, great schools and I effectively avoid the people there who might make me crazy.

But, for today, Lake Oswego got it right.

Rest in peace John.

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A Question of Offense

Some of you may have read my blog the other day and you saw 24 photos from my wedding. And many of you told me in the comments how happy we all looked and how you enjoyed the photos.

But one of my readers, a M. Le Clown, emailed me to let me know that the caption for the photo shown below is racist and xenophobic and generally “just fucking awful.”

Fending off the rain and doing our best terrorist impression (Judy, Kitty, Me and Lucy)

Fending off the rain and doing our best terrorist impression (Judy, Kitty, Me and Lucy)

Initially, I laughed at his comment and wrote back, “really, from you??” Since anyone who has read Le Clown’s blog knows that he can offend the hell out of people. And Le Clown and I went back and forth as we do and wound up strongly disagreeing with each other as we often do.

I didn’t intend this to be offensive unless it offends Terrorists and I am a strong supporter of offending Terrorists. In the photo, my friends and I have pashminas on our heads because it is raining. Then we thought it was funny and made our serious Terrorist faces.

Terrorists never look that happy.

Terrorists never look that happy.

I can see that it may have been construed as being racist or xenophobic, if I had captioned it:

“Fending off the rain and doing our best impression of Muslim women, Arabs, Middle Easterners, etc. who are all terrorists.”

But I didn’t. Eric says that the wearing of the scarves with the word “Terrorist” in the caption make this a racist picture caption. Here’s the uncomfortable truth is that many terrorists wear headscarves and make scary faces. That’s just true.  Racial profiling is frowned upon in international airport security but that doesn’t erase the fact that 99% of terrorist attacks are committed by Muslim men. (No, that 99% is not scientifically proven figure but I bet the number is up there.)

I think this is an example of political correctness going off the rails. In the U.S., in my opinion, we have gone overboard in our “sensitivity”:

  • The Washington Redskins football team is embroiled in a lawsuit because various groups don’t like their name.
  • It isn’t acceptable to say “Merry Christmas”  or have a Christmas tree in a public space because it might offend someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Thus the new December tradition the “Holiday Tree”. What holiday? Umm, I think it’s Christmas.
  • The mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance is offensive and results in children not being allowed to recite the Pledge, in let’s say a 5th grade graduation at my daughter’s school.
  • “Manhole” is not to be used for a the hole in the middle of the road that takes workers down to fix whatever is down there.
  • Don’t get me started on Chairman, Congressman, Waitress, Stewardess.

My point is, has this Political Correctness, Cultural Sensitivity gone too far? What has happened to Free Speech? If you don’t like what someone says that doesn’t mean it is wrong or racist, cruel or demeaning; it just means you don’t like it. And if you don’t like something then why not vote with your delete key, or your wallet, or your ballot?

In the U.S., I am finding more and more that Free Speech is fine as long as certain parties approve of what you’re saying. And that’s not really how it should work.

So what do you think? Am I wrong? I can be wrong, that’s fine. Is the caption to that picture offensive and racist? Or is it just some people goofing around?

I thank Le Clown for having a civil (kind of) conversation regarding our difference of opinion and for giving me something to write about.

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