What troubled times we live in. Threats and dangers coming at us from every direction, and we seem to be bumbling about in response. Where is that leader, strong and decisive enough to handle Vladimir Putin, the Israel conflict, the disaster in Iraq, immigrant kids and gang violence?

How about Darth Vader?

According to a poll on the FiveThirtyEight website, Americans prefer Darth Vader to any of the potential 2016 presidential candidates. I can see the appeal. Darth could never be accused of being too diplomatic. He likes to resolve problems by blowing stuff up, and at this point many of us may be frustrated enough with the world to want to blow it up too. So what if we end up serving the Dark Side in the process? Do we care?

Well, I hope we do, and that this is just a momentary twitch of stress and bad news overload. If we take these poll results at face value, then the person who should win in 2016 is Dick Cheney. I gotta think that by then our tempers will cool and a more reasonable candidate will get elected.

So it seems we are now deep in the doldrums of a presidency. I guess this is what people mean when they say the second term is always a problem.

And a problem it is indeed. I’m not happy about a lot of things. I’m not happy about the situation with Russia. I’m not happy with the IRS losing e-mails. I’m not happy about the flood of kids coming across our border, although in that case I’m unhappy with both sides for a muddled immigration policy. And I’m very unhappy about the conditions at the VA.

And, with all that being said, I still don’t regret my vote for the President’s re-election. With all the things I’m unhappy about, would I have voted for Romney/Ryan? Nope. I would not have voted for someone who would’ve done his best to repeal the ACA–definitely not voted for someone whose budget plan would have cut Medicare and Social Security. And I would not have voted for someone who would possibly have gotten us involved in another war with Iran.

Politicians are flawed, so they will not always make me happy. As long as I’m less unhappy than I was during the W years, it’s all good. Happiness, after all, is the absence of pain. It will remain to be seen what Obama’s legacy will be in the end, and we will not be able to determine that until his presidency is over and some time has passed. All I know is that one day, when we have a Republican in the White House again? I will miss this guy soooooo much.

I hear a lot about the real America. I’m told it’s a very particular kind of place. It’s the heartland with its God-fearing and armed Christians which is the real America. Not the perverted coasts. Not elitist New York or liberal Hollywood.

Problem is, I love the fake America. I’m an immigrant–I know, we’re not quite as fashionable as we used to be–and I definitely didn’t come here for the real America. If I wanted to be surrounded by farms and church-goers, I could’ve stayed in rural Eastern Europe. Those of us around the world who dream of America dream of a glamorous and exciting place. I dreamed of the land of skyscrapers and city skylines, of jazz and rap. I didn’t think of Americans as people who followed conservative tradition, I thought of them as people who outraged their elders by doing inappropriate dances, and doing them with inappropriate dance partners. My parents imitated Americans with jeans and hippie hair and rock’n’roll. When we lived behind the Iron Curtain and we fantasized about the States, we didn’t fantasize about being a televangelist (except maybe for their wealth).

Our patriotic pundits like to remind us that America is exceptional. I agree that it is. But if it looked like they wish it did, it wouldn’t be exceptional at all. There are already plenty of narrow-minded and theocratic places on this planet–there’s no need for more. There’s not nearly enough of the mixed-up and the crazy and the sinful. Those are the parts of America I love the most. And I hope that God or Goddess will continue to bless them for many years to come.

An endless blue summer sky stretches over me. The only sound I hear is the birds chirping in the trees. Hardly a blade of grass is stirring on this quiet, peaceful day.

It’s…kind of terrifying, actually.

There are many days when I wonder how, exactly, I ended up in the suburbs. It must have been the lure of homeownership–and granted, that was a great investment. But I had always imagined myself in a red brick apartment building somewhere, suspended above hot concrete, preferably staring down at the world from a fire escape. As it turns out, the flow of life deposited me in a very different place than I had expected.

However, even on this stale summer’s day, something is stirring. Something is moving, like insects eating away at the insides of an old tree. A transformation is happening in my neighborhood. My town is growing, and we’re filling up.

Back in the 1970s, Oregon established an urban growth boundary requirement for its cities. It’s a strict zoning regulation–urban development is not allowed beyond the boundary. The Portland metro area can’t sprawl. This means there is rolling farmland right past our city limits. It also means that my suburb is running out of room, and so there are high-density three and four story condo developments cropping up in every nook and cranny.

A lot of Portland residents dislike this sort of growth. Some of my neighbors are worried about too many people, problems with too much traffic and too much noise. I’m secretly loving it. I like that there are more pedestrians walking the streets, bigger crowds at my train stop. The area is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse as well. I will miss the meadows I used to see from the train window, but let’s face it, I’m excited about the cafes and bars that will take their place. My house is going up in value, and I’m already eyeing the condos for when I’m ready to make the jump–I’m not into having a yard anyway.

Most days, the only sounds I hear are still the birds and those damned sprinklers. But more and more often, as I close my eyes and listen, I hear other sounds–honking horns, loud voices, motorcycles–drifting in my direction. Things are never going to be the same–and that’s wonderful.

July 4th seems like a good time for an optimistic post. I’ve been experiencing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) first hand, as I work in the health care industry, and here’s a little update about how that’s been going….

The start of this year was complete insanity, as the insurance company I work for scrambled to deal with a steep increase in business. And no, the fact that we weren’t *quite* as prepared as we should be was not the government’s fault… Thankfully, things have stabilized now and my days are no longer crazy and overwhelming. However, we still have a lot more customers and a lot more work, so there is still overtime available. And this, of course, means fatter paychecks for me. Sheesh, thanks a lot, Obama! ;)

At home, my mother finally has health insurance, after years of going without. Now it’s just a matter of talking her into going for a check-up…but that’s not an issue of cost anymore, just her dislike of going to the doctor!

So far, the effects of the Affordable Care Act on my life and the lives of my loved ones have been positive. Could things have been better? Sure. A friend of mine recently received some very bad news about her health, and this has been a blow to all of us who know and care about her. The one silver lining? She is very grateful that she made the decision to move to Canada shortly before she was diagnosed with her illness. In her Facebook posts, she almost always mentions how thankful she is to be part of the Canadian health care system. She has more than enough to deal with right now, but at least she doesn’t have to worry about going into debt or not being able to afford her treatment. And that’s a relief.

So yes, single payer would be even better. But, since that doesn’t seem like a realistic option in the States anytime soon, I’ll take the health care reform we’ve had over nothing. Here’s to our beautiful country reaching even higher in the years to come. And remember, you don’t have to believe the anti-ACA propaganda–Happy Independence Day!

Conservatives are not opposed to contraception.  They’re fine with me using contraceptives, as much as I want to.  They just don’t want to have to pay for them, either with their tax money or increased insurance premiums or whatnot.  But as long as I’m paying for them myself, it’s all good.  Or so they tell me.  Because they’re all about freedom for everybody.

So then why does every conservative rant about insurance coverage of contraception inevitably end with the suggestion that I shouldn’t be having sex?  There was Foster Friess joking that I should stick an aspirin bottle between my knees, the way the good girls used to in his day.  I’ve listened to endless talk radio hosts discussing this issue and somehow, it always comes down to “What about just being abstinent?”  Sure, I guess that’s an option–it’s not as if I need to enjoy my life.  While I’m at it, I could also spend my free time flogging myself for my many sins, but I think that custom is as passe as celibacy.  It also doesn’t help that the guys promoting virtuous behavior get caught trying to pick up men in airport bathroom stalls.

There’s an answer to all of our problems, an answer which can bridge our partisan divide, and that answer is oral sex.  Both liberals and conservatives love it.  It will not cause an abortion, it will not have to be paid by anyone else’s insurance premium, and it doesn’t give me the horrible side effects of the pill.  It can be gay or straight.  If one so wishes, it can take place within the bounds of a traditional religious marriage.  It might keep Catholic couples from trying to use that silly calendar method.  It’s an experience of pure beauty and ecstasy, and it unites all of us, no matter who we are, in that one happy moment of orgasm.

So if conservative talking heads wanted to prove to us that they are not, in fact, prudish killjoys, they would promote oral sex.  Instead of advising women “Maybe you should stop having a love life,” how about “Find a boyfriend who will give you head.”  But they will never say that, because contrary to what they claim, they are uncomfortable with women enjoying their sexuality.  Deep inside, they’re still stuck on the idea that sex for women is only okay if the goal is baby-making.

But I’m always open to the idea that I could be wrong.  It’s possible–Tea Party Patriots For Head can happen!  It could be the most powerful pro-life movement of our new century.  And it’s one Tea Party organization that I would be glad to join.

This week, Rush gleefully reported on a study which seems to show that, as the headline on his website proclaims, “The Ugly Support Liberal Causes”.  Naturally, Rush believes that this is proof that liberal causes attract losers.  Since, you know, physical attractiveness is the ultimate measure of one’s worth.  Here I thought conservatives touted themselves as the ones who base their lives on deeper spiritual values, but I guess those values go no deeper than the skin.

The study was conducted at Stanford University and the results indicated that those who think of themselves as unattractive were more likely to be willing to give a donation to Occupy Wall Street.  Ah, people who support Occupy have lower self-esteem, right?  Well, here’s the interesting part of the study Rush didn’t talk about–those who think of themselves as physically attractive also think that they belong to an elite social class–whether or not that’s actually the case.  So it might be that those who see themselves as beautiful are in fact…delusional.  They might be like the working class schlubs who vote Republican because they have a firm conviction that they, too, will strike it rich one day.  Hey, they don’t need to worry about the social problems Occupy wrestles with, because they know they are gorgeous and successful–or at least imagine that they are.

As for Rush, the unattractive have been a topic of his for a long time now.  He has often claimed a link between unattractiveness and liberalism, and is quite proud of himself for doing so.  Poor Rush–he’s still in middle school.  He thinks that if he keeps bashing the other uncool kids, he will become one of the beautiful people himself.  Obviously, money and fame can’t buy you a sense of emotional security.

So here goes from the ugly liberal to the ugly conservative–Rush, you’ll always be one of us.  You can’t get away from that.  Stop picking on your own tribe.

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