Resistance and Patriotism

Given the snarky nature of my FaceBook and blog posts, I often get taken to task for ‘Rooting against America.’ I can see how some might interpret the words I’ve chosen as unpatriotic. The fact is though, there’s a method to the madness.

Good sportsmanship was high on the list of lessons my parents tried to teach. I seriously doubt that anyone who has played a board game or an athletic game with me since about 1970 would comment that I’m a poor sport. My hope is just the opposite. This is what makes it challenging to be an unapologetic part of the #resistance to the GOP agenda led by the most unethical President in the history of this great country. I write and say things that sound like sour grapes — like I’m a sore loser or something. If that’s the perception by a few, then I can live with that. I’d add that there’s more to what meets the eye though.

Few people have provided Americans with more inspiring quotes than Robert Kennedy. The one that rings true for me the most right now is:

The sharpest criticism often goes hand in hand with the deepest idealism and love of country. –Robert Kennedy

At this point, I’ve given up on the ‘railing against the machine’ approach. Given the players in the clown-car and the predictability of the outcome, more often than not I simply share the enjoyment I receive watching the dysfunctional soap opera coming from the West Wing of the White House. Admittedly, I’ve been the recipient of an extremely high entertainment factor since November 8th.

Am I anti-patriotic for sitting back and enjoying the shit-show? On the contrary. The main reason is that the criticism is absolutely warranted and justified. One cannot be a champion for social justice by being complicit in today’s world events. Silence is acceptance.

Have you ever had to deal with someone who is struggling, wanted help, but you didn’t quite have their attention yet so your words fell on deaf ears? That’s how I feel about the state of the union today. We haven’t reached rock bottom yet and until we do, we won’t have the attention of the hard line GOPers who are still pedaling the myth of trickle down economics. I firmly believe it’ll take another financial crisis similar to 2008 or the great depression of the 1930s or — God forbid, an attack on the homeland before we have the attention of the GOP faithful.

So in the spirit of wanting what’s good for America, I’m rooting for us to reach rock bottom as soon as possible so that it can be turned around for good. At that point, the debates about Trickle Down, throwing people off HealthCare, increasing our obscene military budget, treating immigrants like terrorists, building walls, defunding public education, and ignoring ethics in the federal branch of government can come to an end. Once and for all. Rush won’t be able to peddle that crap. Hannity won’t get away with it, nor will Tucker Carlson. The debate will have ended and I see that as a necessary thing to have happen.

Call me unpatriotic if you want, sometimes things have to reach rock bottom before things can get better.
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Letting go of the Sauce

Today is July 8th, 2017 and I have made what I think will be a life changing decision for myself for the better.

This might come as a surprise to many, or maybe not. Maybe you could see it coming better than I could. I would not classify myself as an alcoholic, but I have progressed from light social drinker to heavy drinker in the past 5 years or so. I’ve decided it’s time to give it up.

I don’t expect much difficulty moving forward with this decision. I’m not someone who is tied to the sauce to the point where I would need to enter a rehab facility to get dry or anything like that. I’m just someone who has finally realized that it’s not in the best interests of my health to continue. There is a family history of addiction in my family, and I’ve noticed that in myself there are just some things that are difficult for me to moderate.

Diet soda was one for example. I haven’t consumed a diet soda in about 4 years, but when I did drink diet soda, I was an over the top consumer of it. I could easily go through a 12 pack of cans a day, or an 8 pack of the 20 oz. Pepsi bottles. Every day. I knew it was getting bad when I practically had to carry around a 2 liter container with me everywhere I went. I’d had this issue since childhood. When I became an adult and was responsible for buying my own groceries, there were just no limits. I was pretty conscious of my weight back then and I saw it as a way to try to stay full with zero calorie beverages and manage weight that way. Ironically what everyone eventually learns is that it stimulates cravings for sugar, which is the root problem anyway. So it makes it harder to manage weight, not easier. Having stressful jobs along the way doesn’t help either. The caffeine becomes necessary to work the hours required. Pretty soon you depend on it. I had given up diet soda probably 20? 30? times in my adult life and failed every single time, complete with massive headaches during the come-down phase where I became lethargic and pretty much useless for 2 days before my body adjusted. But eventually I prevailed in 2014 – knock on wood.

Wine/Beer is different. For the vast majority of the time I drank, I never felt the need to get drunk. That would usually happen if I was somewhere and having a good time and not thinking about the choices I was making and then all of the sudden it would catch up to me, but overall, pretty rare. I was usually good with a couple of beers or, a couple of classes of wine and that’s it. But lately, it’s been a half a bottle of wine per day. Or like last night, 4 beers because I was having a good time. I rarely woke up hungover. It did cause me to get sleepy early however, and I think it messes with my sleeping patterns, which is never helpful to one’s health.

After a pretty fun-filled week with a good combination of social events, and physical events (a challenging hike and a few really long walks), I began to feel like I’d overdone it. My clothes were getting tighter than usual. That’s usually a signal to me that something major is going to need to change pretty soon because that’s not sustainable. I was feeling uncomfortable from the moment I got out of bed and for the rest of the day. In the morning I read an article on CNN about how alcohol is the worst contributor to belly fat because it’s just all empty calories. It has no health benefit whatsoever and sure, if I could moderate a few drinks a week and work out more, I probably would not be writing this. But that’s not how it’s been working for me. A few drinks per week has turned into a few drinks per day. Not all the time, but more often than I should.

The CNN article was not news to me. I, like a lot of people had read that many times. I just conveniently forget about these things until some other factor comes into play and then it’s like, oh, right. Not such a good idea.

With 2 days of vacation left and feeling like I’d had a little too much fun for the week, I’d made the decision my Saturday was going to include a longer walk of about 5 miles or so. When walking long distances by myself, I get in my head as my wife likes to say, and thoughts start running deeper than normal. Having read the article on CNN just before I left, some what-if scenarios started going through my mind.

What if wine/beer is just like diet soda to me and I’ll never be able to moderate it? What if I just quit altogether — what would that look like? I started thinking of all the positive benefits that would result and the list started to get pretty long. After a short while, the answer just seemed pretty obvious. Do it. You’re 57. Your quality of life will improve noticeably if you take this step, based on the benefits that just came to mind.

These included things like weight loss — I’m positive it will result in some but it isn’t the only contributor to the extra flab, but certainly managing weight will become much, much simpler. Sleep patterns will improve. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to get up at 3am to go to the bathroom and then not be able to get back to sleep. I’d frequently lose 1, 2, even 3 hours of sleep because of this interruption (admittedly, my affection for Twitter doesn’t help in getting back to sleep either). More energy overall, and with that more likely that I’ll feel like getting some exercise and pursuing the hobbies I supposedly love, but haven’t felt like doing lately. Will look better and feel better. Not that I got completely drunk very often but never having to experience a hangover again is a definite plus. Not having to ever worry about a DUI is also something I’ve thought about. It will probably increase my life-span. I’m almost positive of it. I’ll save a ton of money. At this point I can’t think of a reason not to do it.

I did consider the downside of it. It will make some social situations a little more awkward. Right now a big part of our social life is centered around food, drink, and friends. But I think this change is manageable there. I probably won’t get invited to do any wine tours and those opportunities come up once in awhile living in the middle of wine country. Or if I do go, I’m not sure how I’ll contribute to the conversation much. Last but not least, I think it will be a bit of an adjustment for my wife Donna, but I’m hoping she’ll understand the upside and get behind the new me.

Another factor I almost forgot to mention is the overall ‘path to better health’ I have been supposedly been on since my stroke in 2014. Because it was determined that I had extremely high cholesterol, I/we have made some food changes for the better. We consume a lot of fish and chicken and a I don’t eat red meat. I try to stay away from dairy, especially cheese and eggs. I was a heavy consumer of dairy for a while there. You’d think such fundamental changes would result in a healthier Bill, but if you combine a set of positive changes with a big negative change – like an increase in alcohol intake, then you’ve just negated that hard word. And that’s exactly what I was doing. My path to better health includes some weight loss and more exercise. Weight loss is extremely difficult to accomplish if you consume as many empty calories as I was doing. It’s nearly impossible. Exercise is also more difficult if you’re a heavy drinker because the number of hours a day at your disposal for exercise is decreased. After 2-3 glasses of wine in the evening there’s no way I’m working out on the weights or getting some aerobic exercise. My day ends before I get the chance. And it’s not just the exercise. It’s the hobbies as well. Music, writing, building stuff. All things I really enjoy doing but I think alcohol is getting in the way of me doing more of these.

So I’ve made a pretty major decision today. It feels right. This isn’t one of those things you proclaim “okay, I’m going to try it for a while and see how it goes.” I think you have to either be all-in or else forget it. At least it’s that way for me. I’m not particularly good at moderating and probably never will be. It’s just part of my DNA that I have to accept. It sucks that I can’t handle it like other people can, but that’s life in the big city.

So here we go. I appreciate everyone’s understanding and support! It’s not an easy decision to come to, but there it is.

-Bill

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Patronizing Local Businesses

One of the things I struggle with in the modern world is who to patronize with the measly amount of dollars that I float back into the economy. I know, it’s not enough money to lose any sleep over, it’s the principle of the thing. I’m a recent subscriber to Amazon Prime and while I love the convenience of home delivery, it bothers me that I’m making the Amazon executives richer with every purchase. I’d really rather patronize a local business and help a family in my neighborhood, but sometimes the convenience of it all is just too tempting to pass up.

One of the things that I appreciate about my parents (both deceased now) is the example they set in this regard. We belonged to a local Parish in SE Portland, which in and of itself is a community of people who are like minded in certain ways. Mostly in religious beliefs, but also in things like child rearing, education, morality, and work ethic. Not 100% aligned, but to a large degree.

My parents patronized their fellow parishioners to a fault. They didn’t have a ton of money to follow this ideology. Dad was a teacher. Mom was a part time nurse. With 4 kids, there was, as Dad used to say, “A little extra month at the end of the money.” Nevertheless, they were extremely faithful at patronizing their fellow parishioners who owned local businesses. The gas was almost always gassed up at Pliska mobile on Division street. The weekly grocery shopping trip was always to Hebers, a very small privately owned grocery store on Stark — which also had a hardware store adjacent to it. The two stores were owned by brothers Ed and Fred which was a family business for decades until the larger chains forced them to sell. Make no mistake about it, the prices at Hebers were not favorable to what they could have purchased down the street at Fred Meyers. But they went there anyway.

When we needed a fence built, or something fixed in the basement, the local carpenter from the parish Chuck Higgins got the call. Every single time. Cost wasn’t every a primary consideration. It was the principle of the thing.

This thought process crossed into my consciousness this evening as we tried a new local pub for happy hour called Stickmen Brewing. We loved it! There are a few places around that are locally owned. Ancestry Brewing is one. Haydens Lakefront Grill is another. Anything but Applebees or Olive Garden please.

Donna and I typically give this issue some thought before we decide on where to spread our limited cash around and we try, but it’s getting harder. The big chain grocery stores like Safeway, Winco, Fred Meyers and New Seasons have pretty much obliterated businesses like Hebers. People call Geek Squad for technical help. I challenge you to find a TV repair shop. I found one in SE Portland a year or so ago and the crook still has my broken TV. We had a falling out over his atrocious communication skills.

This just makes me think of two things. First, I appreciate the example my parents set for me, though I was to blind to see it at the time. Second, I think it’ll be a sad world in front of us if all we are able to do is rotate between Costco, IKEA, Winco, Target and Wallmart for our personal shopping needs. We need to look out a little bit for each other.

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Give the ball to Norton

It’s true what they say about the benefits of joining sports teams in general. You learn a lot of life lessons not necessarily having anything to do with the sport you’re involved with.

Just for the hell of it, my junior year in high school I decided to go out for football. I hadn’t played in a couple of years and sort of missed being on a team and the fun of Friday nights. I guess I didn’t want to let all of my high school years go by without joining in on something besides golf.

I was a 5’7″, 145# junior who practiced with the linemen, mostly at center because that’s the position I played in middle school. You can see the problem here already. If I’d had any wheels at all, I would have entertained receiver or tight end, but such was not the case. I was slow as hell, and still am.

In mid August we reported for “daily doubles” which was 2 a day workouts that definitely tested your mettle. Since I was practicing with the centers, I was privy to a life lesson that summer which has stayed with me and I think relates to the current political environment.

One hot sunny afternoon we were working out with centers, quarterbacks and receivers on some basic routes for the receivers. Varsity and JV practiced together early on as they don’t split up the teams until it gets closer to the start of the season. There were about 4 or 5 centers who rotated hiking the ball to a few guys vying for the starting quarterback job, and a line of receivers on both sides ready to run routes.

We had 2 seniors competing for the starting center job at the time. I won’t mention their names because it’s not important to the story, but if I recall correctly, they were pretty close in size and ability, so it was going to be a close call for the coaches on who gets the starting nod.

It was probably the coaching staff’s fault a little bit for not making it clear what the depth chart was at the center position, but I remember an incident where the coaches yelled out “line up by the depth chart” at each position for some receiving route reps. Both seniors thought they were the #1 center so a fairly ugly scene ensued where they fought over the ball for a couple of minutes while the rest of us looked on in disbelief. One guy grabbed the ball and inserted himself at the front of the line and the other guy snatched the ball from him and shoved him back. This repeated a couple of times while the coaches grew impatient with the situation because it broke the rules about being a team player and good sportsmanship.

In a rather stunning move, the coach blew the whistle and sent both seniors to the back of the line, and handed the 3rd string guy, Rob Norton, a junior in my class the ball. He never relinquished the ball for the rest of the season. He was the starter from that point on.

I’m reminded of this as I watch the toxic, hostile environment between Republicans and Democrats today. The unwillingness to compromise on anything.

I write frequently about my disdain for the Republican agenda and I feel strongly about it. At the same time, I see Democrats as the other senior in this fight. Participating in the toxic nature of partisan politics and too far out of touch with what has historically been the party of the working man. They lost the working man this time for not paying enough attention to jobs.

The current battle over classified leaks, obstruction of justice, pathological lying and programs to reward the wealthy makes me sick. But I’m tired of the fighting and I do not root for the Nancy Pelosi wing of the Democratic party to gain ground in this fight.

No, I’m on board with a youth movement. Let’s give the ball to Norton. You two clowns get to the back of the line.

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Out with the old

I’m a Sunday morning news show junkie. I hardly ever miss Meet the Press or Face the Nation. I just find the dialog of the analysts extremely interesting.

One of the main themes on Meet the Press today was “The first 100 days” of the Trump administration and what it had accomplished. Reince Priebus did a reasonable job of defending Trump’s record so far I thought. About as well as you could do for someone with a 40% approval rating. Then Nancy Pelosi came on and countered.

Just watching her reminded me of some things I have been thinking about for a long time. As a self proclaimed ‘lefty’, I probably agree with Nancy on 95% of her liberal policy positions. But at this point it doesn’t matter. I’d like to see her retire.

I’m not here to write about or otherwise add commentary on women’s looks, but it struck me that she just looked terrible. Not surprising when you’re 77 years of age and still getting up early on a Sunday morning to be interviewed in front of millions of viewers. I’m sure the makeup artists did what they could, and who cares what she looks like anyway, but it’s the first thing that struck me was that this country is being run by too many old people. It’s time for younger voices to start getting air time.

Pelosi is a polarizing figure. There are people on the right who HATE Nancy Pelosi. I do not hate Nancy Pelosi, in fact as I said, I probably agree with her on most of her positions, but I think if she were to retire and we could get a fresh, new, youthful liberal voice in there, it would energize the younger generation to get out and vote.

The same thing is true in music. I saw a picture if Iggy Pop on TV this weekend. The guy is still trying to look like what he looked like in the 1970’s, and it looks ridiculous. At some point it’s time to step aside and let the next generation take the stage. Bow out gracefully.

I can tell just from dialog from my children, the youth of this country feel disaffected and disengaged to some extent. The Boomers have held power for far too long and history will record that we didn’t do a particularly good job of stewardship with respect to fiscal policy, educational direction, or protecting the environment. Our foreign policy is dangerous at best.

I am a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, but he’s 76 years old. Bernie did a pretty fine job of inclusion of the younger generation in his bid for the White House in 2016, but unfortunately, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, who I will never forgive, had her thumb on the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton and Bernie could not overcome the inside bias against his candidacy, though he came pretty close. Bernie embodies everything that needs to happen in the U.S. He’s got the perfect message in my opinion. But he’s too old now. He’s 75 and will be close to 80 in 2020. That’s just much of an age gap to run for President. I would love to see Bernie pick an heir apparent to the Democratic Socialistic movement and support that person in 2020.

I like Elizabeth Warren as well. She’s a fireball that doesn’t take guff off of anyone, and a true progressive. But again, at 70 years of age, she’s too old to be the messenger / leader of the younger generation.

It’s time to pass the baton to the next charismatic leader who can connect with our youth. We Boomers have had our turn in the barrel and it wasn’t a particularly great ride. “The Greatest Generation” as Tom Brokaw wrote in his book of our parents’ travels through WWII, we are not.

But I have witnessed the youth of this country up close and personal. In a previous role I went to college campuses and interviewed engineering candidates who impressed me to no end. There is no shortage of really smart, well educated, thoughtful, hard working youth in this country, contrary to what the right wingers will tell you. They get labeled the trophy generation for the way we raised them and for sure that approach didn’t help, but make no mistake, there are some high achievers in this group and we old fogies would do well to step aside and let them lead. It’s their future.

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Fox and the Far Right

Conservatives like to point out that when liberals look down their noses at them as imbeciles, this is exactly the reason Republicans won the 2016 election. It was perceived snobby elites vs. the lunch bucket crowd and this time around, the lunch bucket crowd bought the Make America Great Again sales pitch, such as it is.

I’m no literary genius as most of you are keenly aware, so full disclosure up front. I’m a life-long 3.1 student who underachieved in the interest of being a well rounded person with other things to do besides just read books.

I say this because the main theme of this post has to do with just how dumb average Joe Republican has become, but I don’t want to sound like an elitist, because I’m average IQ at best. I just think I’ve given these issues more serious mind-share than most Republicans have and am sharing some observations from my own personal experiences.

The best example of mindless followers are the evangelicals. These people give the pastor full reign over their brains to the point where he can stand at the pulpit and literally say “And the Egyptians used the pyramids for grain silos” while the faithful shake their heads in unison with agreement. There are some highly educated people in this crowd too, so go figure. But when it comes to once they get inside the chapel doors, all critical thinking goes out the window and they morph into sheep.

Fox News is a master exploiter of this level of blind faith / ignorance that exists in the evangelical community. They cater their message in the same way the paster’s do and the sheep get in line.

In the 2016 election, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity should have been credited with an assist for the election victory. Hannity just spews vitriol for 60 minutes and is not a serious journalist but he does have a following and they eat it up. O’Reilly would literally try to use his on-air time to ‘coach’ Trump into managing his campaign in ways that would benefit him. He was not interested in a deep policy probe, it was all about helping frame a strategy that would beat Hillary Clinton. To his credit – and our detriment – he was successful. After today’s news of his unexpected departure from Fox, it’s too little too late. The damage is done.

But my main point is that there is a lack of critical thinking that goes on, especially in the Republican party. I know some pretty smart Republicans and they vote GOP for their own reasons, but they are in the minority. The vast majority are people who are easily fooled into voting against their own self interests. Things like tax cuts for the rich / trick down economics. The American Health Care Act ( Paul Ryan’s baby ). Climate change. Military spending. Women’s health issues. Even though all of these things have been debunked by the experts and will hurt them personally, the Duck Dynasty crowd likes to back the candidate with the GOP moniker. I haven’t been able to figure out other than to resign myself to the dumbing down of America. I ain’t no Robert Reich with a PhD, but I listen to him as well as Dr. Krugman to try to learn from truly smart people. That’s why I can’t get into debating the Duck Dynasty crowd. Colossal waste of time.

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Town Halls

A Facebook friend recently ‘liked’ a post about a friend of theirs who was lamenting the fact that recent Greg Walden town halls in The Dalles and Hood River were difficult to listen to because there was so much shouting.  I was tempted to chime in but it wasn’t a Facebook friend of mine so I decided to keep my mouth shut (yes, every once in a blue moon this happens).  But I really wanted to chime in.   I deserve some credit for resisting the temptation.  Seriously.

I have no sympathy for Greg Walden.  Zero.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  He deserved every ticked off constituent he had to face.  To his credit he faced them – unlike Marco Rubio who begs out of town halls altogether because they are too contentious.

His constituents are trying to send a message to him that if he goes back to Washington D.C. and gets behind Healthcare legislation that screws the common man in favor of yet another tax cut for the 1%, stands up there smugly with Paul Ryan on the national stage and pretends the bill is a ‘good deal’ for the average American, he’d better think twice because he’s not representing the interests of the people who put him in office.

The Affordable Healthcare act of 2009 turned out to be not as affordable as everyone had hoped.  Yet more Americans are covered than ever before and many literally depend on keeping their coverage to stay alive.  It’s recognized by both parties that there are obvious ‘fixes’ that can make it better.

Are the Republicans interested in fixing The Affordable Healthcare Act?  No.  Their primary intent is first and foremost to destroy any positive legacy from the Obama Administration.   As an example, selling across state lines has been proffered by both parties as a way to improve competition and lower prices.  Do you think this idea could possibly get any traction for the good of the American people?  With the Republicans governing, not a chance. To me it’s laughable that the bill failed the House because it wasn’t abhorrent enough for the so-called “Freedom Caucus.”

The primary thing that crossed my mind when I read “Why can’t we just listen to each other better” were scenes from my own childhood.  Remember a few times when you got in trouble with your mom?  Like, really in trouble.  You were getting a what-for for a reason.  To prevent future what-fors.

Walden’s support of Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) – which benefited the top 1% and kicked 24 million people off of covering under the canard of ‘choice is better’, was worthy of a tongue lashing from Mom.  His constituents gave him an earful and he deserved every rude interruption he received.

Normally I would be supportive of civil discourse.  If it were just a disagreement over a policy issue, sure.  Be polite.  Listen.  Wait your turn and voice your opinion.  But this is different.  Walden sold out.  He chose party over Country and he was getting called out for it.  I couldn’t be happier about that.  I only wish I could have been there.  I would have participated in making him as uncomfortable as possible.

I’m sad to say we’ve reached the point where civil disobedience is a reasonable option.  When the sins are so egregious that lives are at stake, courtesy can go out the window and I’m fine with it.  Sleep tight Congressman.  And welcome back to Oregon.

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