October 2013

Denial:  “I don’t really have to dress up, right?”

Anger:  “Why do I have to have such creative friends?  Human ouija boards?  Slutty Eeyore?  1920s-era gender-switched versions of Star Wars characters?  Do they seriously think I’m going to spend weeks making my costume?”

Bargaining:  *rifling through closets* “If I wear that old Christmas sweater with the gypsy skirt and beret, would that constitute a costume?”

Regret:  “Why didn’t I just get the devil horns?  Devil horns go with everything.  If I put devil horns together with a suit, I could go as Congress…”

Acceptance:  “So, the witch hat it is again.”


They’re always around.  When we’re going to get our pastries or our drinks, they’re there.  When we’re out on our Sunday morning stroll, their clothing is scattered on the sidewalks.  A constant presence, even though I only give them a quick glance and rarely say anything to them beyond “Sorry”.

On the weekends, I visit my boyfriend in the Pearl District, one of the pricier neighborhoods in Portland.  It’s the kind of place where you will find boutiques for little dogs and co-op organic grocery stores.  And it’s where you will also find a large population of homeless people.  There are encampments under the bridge and makeshift beds in the grass next to empty gravel lots.  Even when the homeless remain out of view, you can see that much of the neighborhood itself has been constructed to repel them.  Benches are made to be uncomfortable on purpose.  One of the trendy apartment buildings has what I can only describe as a moat of water around it.  The police try to clear out the sleepers, and residents are battling against an entire tent city which is planning to move in next door to them.

I can understand that.  It’s scary walking past the camps.  Many of the people are angry and mentally ill and unpredictable.  They should be receiving care for their illness, but they won’t be, because in an age of government shutdowns, there are no resources for that sort of thing.

The world I currently live in tells me that this is all as it should be, that the homeless and the poor made bad decisions and are now dealing with the consequences.  The people living in the glass homes above are smart, and the people living in the streets below are stupid and lazy.  In fact, the wisdom of our age is that it’s any attempt to fix the causes of homelessness that is the true evil–those horrible do-gooders!–and not poverty and homelessness itself.

As with most of us here, the extent of my involvement is that I’ve occasionally given money, so I can’t pretend to offer some great solution.  What I can say is that I’m unable to look around and believe that this is the good and natural way for human society to work, and that any change to it will ruin this perfect system.  Perhaps I have not yet become adult enough, even in my middle age, to accept things as they are.

Ohhhhkay…so as everyone knows by now, the Obamacare website isn’t working so well.  And sadly, neither is the local insurance exchange website for my state, even though I live in one of those states which were eager to participate in Obamacare, and did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming into it.

I’ve listened to Jon Stewart make fun of the problems.  I’ve heard President Obama quipping about how frustrated he is, in his usual suave way.  Conservatives have been mocking the situation, and rightly so.  It’s an embarrassing mess.  Although their solution would be to scrap the whole thing and go back to the old, badly functioning health care system, so I don’t know how seriously I can take their point of view. 

Thing is, this is no humorous matter to me.  I’m not laughing, I’m a little anxious.  As I’ve written before, I have family members who are uninsured and need access to the exchange.  I agree with President Obama–I think the Obamacare product itself is good.  And I love the hippie trippy psychedelic commercials Oregon is running for its CareOregon site.  But what’s the point of cool advertisements if you’re not able to purchase the goods?  As always, my home state is better at creative expression than it is at being practical 🙂

My family is going to give it a couple more weeks, as we hope that all the “glitches” will get worked out with time.  Worst case scenario, we’ll just fill out one of the paper applications.  We need this and are determined to get it.  But there could be an easier way.

So c’mon, President Obama.  We want to buy the product you’re selling.  Let us be your customers!

A while ago, I posted a blog saying that the Affordable Care Act is here, it is being implemented all around me, and that despite threats being made by Tea Partiers, it isn’t going anywhere.

And…yeah.  I’m happy to say that the sun rose this morning, Obamacare is still here (which is a win for me and my family), Obama is still President (with some new-found spine, it appears), the government is operating again, and we have not defaulted on our debt.

So can someone please explain to me what this was all about?  Most of the people I talk to in my daily life–people who work hard and are required to be responsible about their jobs–think that this was a massive waste of time.

Has our political world really merged so closely with the world of entertainment that these guys feel like they have to give us an exciting show every few weeks?  Let’s do it all again in January, I guess!

Today, I stopped my obsession with the government shutdown long enough to marvel at the possibility that I might be a car owner someday.  I never learned how to drive.  I’ve lived in the United States for decades now, so the excuse of “Oh, I’m European!” doesn’t work anymore.  I’ve been shaving my armpits, so I should be driving, too.  But I fail to be interested in cars, and I live in an urban area with public transit, so I don’t have to be interested.

But now it sounds like self-driving cars are the future.  Funny thing is, this Wall Street Journal article talks about how difficult it’s going to be to market those cars.  Self-driving cars are “boring”.  I can understand that.  You’re no longer grabbing the wheel, taking charge of the road and your own destiny.  You’re not revving the engine.  The engine revs itself and the car rolls along like a can with a limp sardine inside of it.  You’re basically a passenger pretending to be a driver.

Me, I love the idea of a self-driving car.  Put me in a comfortable seat and let me read my book while the machine moves forward.  But then again, I already have that kind of futuristic luxury–it’s called a train.  And I’m happy to let others have their human-driven automobile adventures.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the theatrics in Washington DC, the duelling banjos of Obama and Boehner, and to forget that what is going on has consequences which will extend beyond our own borders.  Whether this is still true or not, we continue to be perceived as the leader of the world, and when the leader of the world engages in absurd antics, the results might not be so great.

In an interview with CNN, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim reminded us that a United States default will painfully affect the world’s poorest as well.  As he put it, “it’s having an impact on the little guys,” with the cost of capital rising for those in impoverished countries trying to work or start businesses.  We may look at our own government and say  “To hell with all of them!”–I know I do at this point–but this thing has the potential to turn into a global economic crisis.

Of course, the fact that a default might crush “the little guys” probably means the Republicans will only support it even more.  After all, those Third World people should pull themselves up by their own nonexistent bootstraps instead of expecting a handout.  So I may be giving them one more reason not to raise the debt ceiling…maybe it would have been better to remain quiet about this one.

Seriously.  Because when the Republicans first started this shutdown mess, it was about defunding Obamacare.  Since that wasn’t going to happen, it then became about just delaying Obamacare.  Now it’s not about that anymore either, and most Republicans sound like they aren’t quite sure what it’s about, only that they want to get something out of it.

So before the economy collapses and everything goes to hell, let’s give the Republicans that pony they never got from their parents.  Or a plate of cookies.  A gold star.  One of those participation trophies that says you lost, but you still showed up to the game, so yay!  A kiss on the boo boo to make it better.  An apology from Obama’s election campaign team for being too smart?  More Benghazi hearings, this time with cheerleaders?  Another copy of the President’s birth certificate?

Is there a little holiday present we can give the Republicans to help end this insanity?  I can think of a lot of things, except for what they really want, which is to see the President impeached, tarred and feathered.  That ain’t happening, guys.  Take the pony instead.

As I sit here working away at my desk, I hear your voice shouting in my headphones.  “We need to stop Obamacare…we have to defund it…the American people must be defended…”

Psssst….hey you…health care reform is already here.  Our state exchange website is open, and in the next few days, I will be helping my parents to sign up on it.  My mother, who was previously turned down by insurance companies–not for any serious pre-existing conditions, mind you–only for a single visit to the doctor in her past–she will finally be able to get insurance.  So will my father, who recently found contract employment which does not offer health benefits.  At his age, it is difficult for him to find a job which isn’t contract or temporary.  Some of my friends who were uninsured will also be getting coverage.  If being able to breathe easier about their well-being means that I’m selling out to big government, I’m okay with that.

And here’s another thing–the medical insurance company I work for is already enrolling new members for our exchange plans.  My employers are doing what any normal business would do–competing for customers.  We are expecting tens of thousands of new members.  So what do you think is going to happen now?  Do you think that if you lie on the ground and kick your feet and scream, my company is going to turn around and drop all those people it just signed up?  Or do you think my bosses would prefer to see those premium payments come in?

And yes, this is why I’m still at my desk so late, listening to you.  I’ve been working long hours because of health care reform.  In the real world in which I reside, this law is a done deal.  But I can understand what you’re doing, you over there on the Congress floor.  Hey, I like a bit of good drama just as much as the next person.  And that’s all this is–drama.  Whether it’s being done for votes from your base, or prestige, or whatever else.  All that huffing and puffing of righteous anger is only for show.  And you know that as well as I do.