Saturday, August 08, 2009

The whys of shout-outing and outshouting

What’s with the unruly shout-outing at meetings with members of Congress? Why the uncivil mobs?

The cause is a convergence of confusion, fear, ignorance, surrogate politics, communication fragmentation and cynical, strategic disinformation.

No one, not even the members of Congress, can get their minds around this issue with all its moving parts. The result: Confusion, which well-financed interests groups are only too happy to nurture into fear.

Some of those interests are the same people who brought us Swiftboating, the partisan mob disruption of the 2000 Florida vote recount and now the “birther” distraction.

The nation's vulnerability to such forces wouldn’t be possible it the health reform issue hadn’t become a dense fog of legislation. Suggestible protesters see their worst fears in the miasma Advocates of change, who have joined the shouting, cling to their highest hopes with no idea of consequences.

No one, from the president down, has a clue where all of this is headed. That is scary — as are the mindless shoutfests with their references to violence.

Ten years ago, we might have had a media investigation of the forces at work. Someone might have followed the money trail — and there is a money trail. Someone might have dispassionately dissected the complex health-care issue. (I'm open to suggested links....)

Now, we are now paying a terrible civic and societal price for a shattered media. The result is that few read or listen to opposing views. Minds close and the mouths open. The models for discourse are celebrity blabbers — the Rush Limbaughs, Bill O’Reillys and Keith Olbermanns of media land.

My guess is that growing unemployment may also be at work. Some of the shouting rabble are no doubt paid provocateurs, I don’t like to cite race as a cause for opposition to the president, but in parts of the land, some may be fueled by latent racism.

In any case, right-wing Republicans are already treating the healthcare issue as a test vote on the entire Obama agenda. If you voted against Obama, it’s time to storm the White House. “Socialistic Obama-Care” is the rallying cry. (Quick now, define “Obama-Care” Pause....)

I don’t know what the cure is for our sick, expensive, inequitable, burdensome healthcare system. But I do know that I’m not going to find the answer at the politically charged forums being held this August, the cruelest of months in this trouble-plagued time.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Porn seekers flock to tipsy beer truck story

I guess it had to happen.

A porn site has linked to this site's tipsy beer truck story, and the site meter is jittering into the stratosphere.

According to the meter, it all started last night at 2 a.m. That should have been a tip-off.

When I checked the meter this morning at 7 a.m., I already had 340 visits. This on a site that averages 50 or so visitors a day. (I’ll spare you the link to the porn site though for the motivated it shouldn’t be hard to find.)

It is 7:20 p.m. as I write this, and I’ve just hit the 2,000-visit mark for the day. I figure I’ll smack into 3,000 before midnight tolls. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

I’ve always heard that the only people making money on the web are pornographers. The record number of visits I’ve had from crotch-watchers turned beer-truck oglers bears that out.

And I thought Portland’s legendary Bojack had a following. I'm sure it's not news to Jack that he's a piker compared to smut-mongers.

I wonder if weeks from now I’ll get repeat porno surfers who might want to broaden their interests beyond beer trucks and exposed breasts to Quaker thoughts about peace and simplicity.

I think not, but then again, what does any of this have to do with thinking?

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Some Quaker questions for our times

In this time of greed-driven elitist wealth, of grinding, widespread poverty, of massive consumer and governmental debt, of foreclosures, of advertising chicanery, of layoffs, of homelessness, of the fast buck, I recently came across this “query” from our Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Quaker queries invite us to test our beliefs against the ways we live our lives. This particular set of questions was about money, wealth and poverty. How at odds the questions are with those pushed to the fore by “The American Dream” and our acquisitive culture.

Are we mindful, careful, and Spirit-led in our relationship to wealth and resources?

Is our use of wealth consistent with Friends’ testimonies of integrity, equality, social order, peace, right sharing of resources, and care for the earth?

If we have resources, do we share them generously, with humility and care for others? Do we give with grace? Do we give wisely?

If we do not have resources, do we accept with grace what others share? In times of our lives when we choose poverty, are we able to do so without envy or obsession?

Do we take care not to judge others, or ourselves, by the world’s criteria of wealth and status? How do we answer that of God in those who have less than we do? In those who have more than we do?

Do we keep to moderation and simplicity in our daily lives?

How do our choices around money, time, and energy reflect the working of the Spirit in our lives and in the world?

Are we clear, as a community and as individuals, that we are stewards and not owners of the property and resources in our care?

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Little Beer Truck Story that Could

Last Thursday's little story about Hillsdale’s tipsy beer truck has taken on a web life of its own. Sort of like the one posted here last summer about Sarah Palin’s glasses.

I confess to getting the beer truck ball of web-yarn rolling by forwarding photos to The Oregonian, which immediately posted them on OregonLive. That was good for nearly 200 visits to this site.

But OregonLive postings are ephemeral and maddenly un-user-friendly. (Note to Oregonian editors: Please tell your corporate managers at Advance Publications to give you control of OregonLive, which is presently run by folks who just don't get it.)

The good news from the OregonLive posting is that two TV stations e-mailed me go ask for photos. The bad news is that, as far as I know, the stations neither aired the photos.

I also sent the story to Jack Bog’s Blog (aka bojack), the hugely popular local blog put out by Jack Bodansky. Jack didn’t post a link to the story pictures until Friday, but when he did, visits to The Red Electric skyrocketed, at least by my normal, staid standards. Friday netted 400 plus visits, and the high numbers continued through the weekend. I reckon 800 visitors came over from bojack.

Today one of the photos was picked up by a site called Unique Daily, which posted a link to The Red Eclectic. The numbers are on the rise again.

It’s great to get new visitors. After interest in the beer truck wanes, I hope a few check in from time to time for my slightly less bizarre stories and comment. You know, the ones about outrageous executive salaries, Oregon's absurd "Civil War," Quakerism, TV-B-Gones, and Northwest wanderings.

Oh, and about media madness and the odd lure of stories like the one about a tipsy beer truck.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

India unbound

My friend Renee Chinquapin has spun her energetic prose into venturesome story-telling again. She’s just put out another self-published book that really, really, needs, nay, DEMANDS, a larger audience.

(Publishers and lovers of engulfing, bracing prose should contact her at

Her press run for this slim volume was 60, and she has two copies left after giving most to friends.

Her first book, “Bogotá to Buenos Aires: Riffs, Raps and Revelations on the Gringo Trail” was a similar stunner about her travels in South America. This one, called “Near Death India,” throws the reader unawares into the swirling sub-continent.

Here’s a sample from early in the book:

Winston Churchill quipped that India’s no more a country than the equator, so fractured is it by language, culture, sect, huge history and brokeback geography. What mind can grok a billion plus souls squatting by dung flies? Flooding third-class railroad cars? Sleeping on the street? Mending nets on the beach? Drying coconut meat? Training for war in Kashmir? Recapitulating colonial ontogeny in a million bureaucratic labyrinths heaped high with dusty unread reports and requests?

India’s an impossible jumble of overlapping galaxies of self-regulating chaos linked by cricket allegiance and sari-splendor.

All I can do is be here, now, as Ram Dass so wisely advised. Be here in this empty, tiled downstairs living room with lazily revolving ceiling fan barely blunting the blazing tropic sun outside. But immediately my mind leaps into action, wondering to where the toilet hole in the bathroom flushes? What lives in the tap water? How many gazillion ants swarm in the stripped-down kitchen? Is my mattress really horsehair? Why are there no sheets or pillow case? Are the bedroom shutters nailed shut to thwart thieves fishing for tourist goodies through open windows?

There’s no one to ask.

Outside, delicate poplars sway above a steady stream of tiny, three-wheeled trucks, unmufflered motorbike taxis and rented scooters. Dark-skinned Dalit (Untouchable) women beg. White-shirted, bespectacled mercantile Christian local men stride by, eyes set on profit.

I can no more know India than I can know quantum physics or God.

So be it.

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