Saturday, April 09, 2011

Don't try this with your car!

Yesterday, the City of Portland Water Bureau began digging a trench across our exceedingly steep street. We have water run-off problems. Remember, this is Portland, Oregon. The rainwater is blocked somewhere in the subterranean storm sewer beneath the pavement and seeps up through the street.

The mid-street springs make it particularly dicey when the temperature drops below freezing. Did I say this is an especially steep street? It's worth repeating.

Then consider the matter of unseen sink holes. One never knows....

So, suddenly without notification to us and our two neighbors on this short block, the street was barricaded for jackhammering (that shook the house) and excavation work. I phoned to ask what was going on. (Ever try to talk to a guy who is jackhammering?) That meant leaving voice mail messages. By the end of the day I still had no response.

But never mind, at least the problem is being addressed — we hope. Perhaps the work, which continues next week, will stop the water running on top of the street from coming into our backyard and getting into our garage. It seems to have overwhelmed our French drain.

In the evening, after the excavation tumult, I went down to inspect the work and discovered an elephantine backhoe straddling the trench. The operator, a chatty, forthcoming guy, was still futzing around so I asked how he managed to get the hoe to bridge the trench.

"I'm asked that a lot," he said and gave his rote and ready answer. He plants the the hoe's bucket firmly on the ground out in front of the treads, then pushes the arm down to fulcrum and lift the tractor up and over the trench as he inches the machine forward under the arm.

Remember, you heard it here first!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 07, 2011

What Obama needs to do to get my vote.

If the president thinks it’s tough dealing with congressional Tea Party freshmen from the hinterland, he’s going to have real trouble winning my vote in the months ahead.

Here’s what it’s going to take.....

Call out the super-rich, every day. I mean publicly shame them. Sorry, but I think that’s what it is going to take. Make it so that the fat cats can run, but they cannot hide.

If it’s Monday, profile the extravagance and greed of CEO #1. If it’s Tuesday, move on CEO #2 etc.

Obama needs to lay out his vision of equity and fairness. He needs to level the income playing field. He needs to connect the dots between the rich and a corrupt and collusive American political system.

In short, he must propose to drastically increase taxes on the rich and super-rich. Shut down off-shore accounts. Stop corporate welfare. Restore the estate tax and raise capital gains taxes.

Replace the current plutocracy with a true democracy.

Some constitutional reform would help. States with 10 percent of the population in this country can block reformist legislation thanks to the filibuster.

“Close the circle” on the Tea Party. By that I mean expose its contradictions and redirect the anger to the real source of our problems. Revive true populism.

Anyone in the administration who has made (or makes) more than $250,000 annually and has wealth of more than $1 million (that includes the president) has a choice. Be fired, resign or sell the mansions, yachts and third homes and give the excess above $1 million away to certified humanitarian organizations serving the poor and the working poor.

Call out the Supreme Court. When the court is worthy of respect, they will get it. We know politics even when it is cloaked in black robes.

End our wars and shut down our military installations here and abroad. We will no longer play the “cop on the block” to the world.

Cut the “defense” budget by two-thirds.

Get non-violent offenders out of the prisons. The exception: white collar criminals. Use the money saved to support education. Not "schools" and the "schools establishment," but education, which needs serious rethinking in the computer age.

Push universal health care. No more fun and games with the health insurance industry.

Get tough with China and Russia on human rights. Link trade with Human Rights. The message: If you want to trade with us, do not oppress your people. That goes for Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Israel, etc. If it gets no response, the result would go a long way to returning jobs to these shores.

Whom will I vote for if none of this happens? I’m writing in Bernie Sanders, or maybe me or my cat.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, April 04, 2011

An Ocean of Ink

Quakers made the front page of the New York Times last Friday.

Was the story about the Religious Society of Friends' on-going struggle for peace?

Was it about the effectiveness of the Quaker lobbying group, the Friends Committee on National Legislation?

Was it about the fact that there are far more Quakers in East Africa than there are Quakers elsewhere?

Was it about the "timeliness" of the Quaker testimonies: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community and Equality and how they speak to today's world?

It was not.

The story was about a "tense" division between the Friends Seminary (in essence a Quaker preparatory school), tucked away in lower Manhattan, and the New York Quarterly Meeting, a Quaker religious governing body.

Excuse me if my eyes glaze over. The story may have been of interest to a relative handful of Times' readers. Quakers no doubt read it with raised brows.

As a journalist and as a Friend, I was saddened because I realized that the Times editors had just blown their quota of front-page Quaker stories for a decade. Quakers deserve better (see above).

On Sunday I was still grumbling about the story and the Times' definition of front-page news. In the course of being with Friends at our meeting house, I had occasion to consider Quaker founder George Fox's revelatory vision of an "Ocean of Light." In his journals, he describes his epiphany this way:

I saw the infinite love of God. I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death; but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness.

I've always related the Ocean of Light to Quakers' silent worship. Our worship room happens to be graced with a large, central skylight. The light well draws the sun's warmth and light into our worship. Light and silence; silence and light.

I have more trouble with the image of an "ocean of darkness and death." Death is as real as life. And darkness defines light. Indeed I have found as I have grown older that the prospect of death increasingly defines and enriches what I do with life. Could death recast "life"?

So what is this "ocean of darkness"?

Suddenly, with the Times story on my mind, it came to me. INK! It is a pitch-black sea of ink.

An ocean of stories about petty (or not-so-petty) conflicts written with barrels of ink. It is the ink that each morning greets me with the terrible news of the world and puts me in a sour mood until I push aside these black dispatches. It is the ink that obsesses over the foibles and tragedies of humanity. It is ink that so often blots out and ignores the light of love.

I confess that I smiled as this strange, inky thought came over me. I knew I would likely write about it, using the Internet's equivalent of ink. These very words you are reading may not be an "Ocean of Darkness," but they do constitute a puddle of black even as, I pray, they may reflect some light.

And so, dear reader, contemplate the "Ocean of Light" in the purity of silence....

Labels: , , , ,