Time for a little update about my midterms activities here in the Portland region.  I have been insanely busy canvassing and phone banking, as well as editing and writing articles for my local Democratic Party.  In particular, I have been spending a lot of my time volunteering for the re-election campaign of Kate Brown, our kickass female Democratic governor.

This race is the perfect example of why the midterms are so important.  It’s very easy to get complacent in a place like Oregon.  This is a blue state–the Democrat will win, right?  But while we were being complacent, this has suddenly turned into a very tight race, with polls showing Governor Brown and her opponent to be very close.  Not least thanks to Republican Knute Buehler cleverly portraying himself as a moderate, since he knows that’s the only way he can possibly win the Portland metro area.  Knute says he’s pro-choice in his ads!  He’s liberal on social issues!  He’s got an independent streak!  He criticized President Trump that one time!

While Knute does his “I’m really not a conservative!” song and dance, the Democrats are stuck with the problem of having a competent and hard-working incumbent who doesn’t get any exciting PR for being that way.  I frequently hear voters say “If only Kate had done something impressive!”  After I’ve done some deep breathing and lowered my blood pressure, I direct them to this list of accomplishments.

Some of my favorite highlights include:

She approved a minimum wage hike for the state.

She mandated 40 hour paid sick leave for all Oregon employees.

She set up a state-run retirement fund for any workers who are not provided a retirement plan at work.

She signed a bill which ensured that all Oregon kids receive health care.

She increased funding for the Oregon Promise Act, which helps low-income students attend community college.

She signed legislation to enforce universal background checks on gun purchases.

And she helped pass the motor voter bill, which makes any Oregon resident with a state ID automatically registered to vote.

My climate activist friends are rooting for a carbon pricing bill which is currently working its way through the state legislature.  If Governor Brown is re-elected, she is likely to sign this bill.  If Knute Buehler is elected, bye-bye carbon pricing.  Likewise, Knute claims to be pro-choice now, but before he started his centrist run for the governor, he voted against a bill expanding abortion rights.  A Governor Buehler would be much more likely to restrict reproductive rights for women.

Has Kate Brown’s leadership been ideal? Has she done everything I would like her to do? Nope, but I don’t expect that, because I inhabit reality and not a fantasy world. But…have the things she has done had a real effect on people’s lives? Absolutely yes. I would say she’s made a difference to the kids who were able to get health care, the women whose ex-boyfriend stalker wasn’t able to buy a gun, or the people who will get paid a higher minimum wage.

The problem is that all these things take hard, unglamorous, daily work.  And that kind of work is much less likely to get attention than, say, somebody sitting on his ass and sending out offensive Tweets, or heavily armed dipshits coming to our fair city and hoping to cause trouble.  And chances are even higher that a hard-working and qualified politician will get overlooked or criticized if that politician happens to be a woman (I can think of someone that happened to not that long ago, ahem).

Hopefully voters will take Kate Brown’s achievements into consideration in November. (I know, I’m asking American voters to actually think…that can seem like a stretch sometimes.)  Or, maybe Portland progressives will do what they do best…let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and thus snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  Aaaand months from now all those political purists will be complaining about something the Republican governor did which they don’t like.  Hey, don’t come crying to me…I was out here trying to prevent that from happening!

Speaking of which…the weekend is almost upon us, which means time to lace up my canvassing shoes and get out there.  Hope all of you are getting ready to fill out that ballot.  Only two and a half weeks left until the election!

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First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. — Todd Akin

The facts show that people who are raped — who are truly raped — the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant. Medical authorities agree that this is a rarity, if ever. — Rep. Henry Aldridge

Yeah. Remember these geniuses? Republican politicians trying to claim that women cannot get pregnant from rape, including Rep. Stephen Freind who theorized that when a woman is being raped, her body “secretes a certain secretion” which kills sperm.

I recall hearing about these statements and being amazed by them. I attributed them to a certain kind of ideological dishonesty. These politicians were trying to appeal to a voter base which would like to outlaw abortion–but even those who are pro-life will feel some sympathy towards victims of rape and incest, and it’s harder in those situations to trot out the standard accusation of “Well, she chose to have sex, so…” What better way to dismiss that twinge of compassion than by suggesting that a woman is not physically able to get pregnant from rape?

It still slays me how naive I am sometimes. No matter how cynical I claim to be, I don’t look to use and attack other humans, and so it doesn’t penetrate my thick skull that others do, and how easily they do it. I assumed that these quotes had to do with how these conservative men felt about abortion–but what if they also had to do with how they felt about rape? What if at least some of these men want to believe that they can sexually assault women with no consequence?

After all, they still think of women as objects to be used, whether it’s as sex toys or obedient wives. What could be better than to think that you could rape a woman without having to worry about unwanted pregnancy or the sin of abortion? Really, it might be enough just to make other people believe this. If she got pregnant, she secretly must have wanted it…the slut.

This puts a lot of insane Republican comments about rape into perspective. Like when Rick Santorum said women who did get pregnant from rape should “make the best of a bad situation.” Or when candidate for Texas governor, Clayton Williams, suggested that rape victims try to “relax and enjoy it.” Right! Relax and enjoy it when we assault you…after all, this is your job. Your role in life. Seriously, you should be thrilled this is happening to you.

Every time I peel back another layer of how these “virtuous” and “moral” people think about the world, it causes a wave of nausea to come over me. I will never completely understand where they’re coming from, and I probably don’t want to.

What I do understand: ­­­­Women absolutely have to vote this November. If we don’t want to live in a world in which rape is acceptable and tolerated, we need to speak up. Let’s, in Todd Akin’s words, shut that whole thing down.

A few decades had gone by, and still the war went on.  Nobody in the country even remembered who Osama bin Laden had been, although some had a vague memory of a terrorist getting killed at a televised White House dinner.

And yet, every Friday afternoon the same thing continued in my hometown–the old hippies came out to protest.  The real 1960s hippies had died out by then, but these folks proudly carried on the tradition.  They slouched down Main Street with signs proclaiming hilarious things such as “Troops Out Of Iraq!” and “No Money For Israel!” and “Funding For Infrastructure!”  They circled the downtown blocks, screaming at a President who couldn’t hear them, and who wasn’t listening anyway.

I could hear them, though, every week when I left the office.  The company I worked for manufactured toy drones, and I was always worn out after a long day of customers with malfunctioning drones which crashed into trees or attacked their children.  Friday was when I would treat myself — fries and a beer at my favorite downtown pub.  Even as I chewed, the hippie chants echoed in my direction.  Rain or shine, they were there.  And she was there.

I did my best to keep my eyes on my plate and avoid eye contact as she went past the glass. But on that particular day, much to my dismay, she came in to talk to me.

“Hey, Mom.”  I managed to fake a weak smile.  “I’m very tired right now, so…”

“Can’t I even say hi to you anymore?”

“Not if it turns into another crazy rant…”

“It’s not crazy.  It’s not crazy to tell you that your job is bad for you.  You’re wasting your life. You hate those stupid toys…”

“Oh, sure.  And you’re not wasting your time doing this?”

“I’m doing it for my country!”

“Look, Mom.  Nobody cares.  Your country isn’t paying attention.  This is my one reward for my shitty week–could you please leave me alone?”

“Okay.  Have a good dinner.”  I felt her move away and walk out behind me, but didn’t look back.

But once I’d finished my beer, my anger faded away.  Alcohol made me sentimental.  So what if she wanted to walk around and yell with her anti-war sign, or tell me about all the conspiracy theories she’d read on the Internet?  She was retired, and retired people got to spend their time doing whatever silly stuff they felt like doing.  Hell, maybe I’d join her at the rally.  I wouldn’t hold any signs, of course–I didn’t want any embarrassing pictures of me online–but I could applaud the speeches and pretend to chant along a little.

I paid for my meal and went to the city square, where the marches ended every week in a sparse, hoarse-throated rally.  I must’ve taken too long, because the square was empty by the time I got there.  The cops were half-heartedly arresting one or two people.  The grey-bearded little man who liked to throw eggs at them was being led away.

No rally, no protest, no chance to chant.  No chance to make it up to Mom.  It was now drizzling miserably.

I heard indistinct shouting to my right.  It was the other protester who was there every week — the one with pictures of chopped up babies.

“You’ll burn in eternal Hell!”  he boomed at me through his bullhorn.

He eyed me with suspicion as I approached.  I handed him a twenty.  “For your church,” I said.  I didn’t tell him that I felt sad for him.

He glared at me, but he did pocket the twenty.  In return, he handed me one of his anti-abortion brochures.

As I walked away, he called after me:  “Remember, God doesn’t just want your money!  He wants your soul!”

I laughed.  How sweet of him to assume I had one.

Living on an alien planet can be difficult sometimes. It requires work and effort. Every afternoon, I turn on the news and try to figure out what is going on around here.

The news anchor swivels his eyestalks as he lectures his audience. “On our planet, we believe in having as much freedom as possible,” he explains. “That’s why the clerk in Kentucky is keeping same sex couples from getting married…she’s doing it in the name of freedom.”

Okay, so that makes no sense. But hey, different lifeforms and all that, right? And what kind of strange name is Kentucky, anyway?

I keep watching, but it doesn’t get any better. An interviewer shifts herself and her low-cut dress towards the camera, so that we can more clearly see the cleavage of her five breasts. “Ooooh, is that really your answer?” she chirps. “You wouldn’t terminate your female partner’s pregnancy even if it meant ending her life? You would watch her die?”

“Oh, certainly! I will always stand in defense of life.”

“Well, blirpity blorpity, Senator!” she giggles.

This is becoming hopeless. Now, snippets from a press conference. A truly strange creature with a bizarre growth on its head leans into the microphones.

“The Latinos love me!” it yells. “The Mexicans, they love me! Just last week, I gave one of them a $10 tip, and he said to me…”

Is there no intelligence to be found out here?

It’s almost a relief to see the televangelist lifeform flail its tentacles up to the sky. “He’s coming back!” it screeches. “He’s coming back and when He does, everyone who didn’t listen to my warning will get TOSSED into the lake of fire!”

The lake of fire sounds preferable to this insanity…I hope I get tossed in there soon. To borrow a phrase from this crazy tribe, amen.

I’ve never been one to hide the fact that I find the libertarian point of view to be annoying and unrealistic. But now, there is a new kind of person which irritates me even more than libertarians: People Who Pretend To Be Libertarian.

Yep, a lot of folks out there are faking being a libertarian. Whether it’s because they’re desperate to appeal to a changing demographic, or because “libertarian” has become the latest trendy term to fling around, like pretending to be a geek. How can you tell they’re not genuine? It’s the “I’m libertarian, but” phenomenon.

“I’m a libertarian, but I’m against gay marriage.” “I’m a libertarian, but we shouldn’t legalize marijuana.” This statement is then followed by some flimsy excuse about why, even though “I’m all about liberty!”, this particular freedom shouldn’t be allowed. Well…okay. So…hate to break it to you…you’re not a libertarian. The one redeeming value of the chaotic, might-makes-right libertarian vision of society is that you’re supposed to be completely free to make your own choices about how you live your life. If you reserve that right only to the people whose preferences match yours, and do not grant others that freedom, then the entire point of this concept breaks down. If you want the country’s laws to be based on the Bible, then we’re not in a libertarian universe anymore. Mind you, you can base your personal life decisions on the Bible if you wish, but the moment you try to force that on others, you are no longer a libertarian.

No, if you want to outlaw abortion and ban gay marriage, then you’re just a same old, same old religious conservative. I get it, you want to call yourself something else, because these days, being a conservative Christian is considered kinda lame. But your disguise is see-through. If you’re really a constitutional conservative, traditional on social issues, then own that. Stand up for what you believe in. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

Because political labels come and go, but one thing remains the same–posers are never cool.

When you go on a journey, you discover that the world is full of dangerous people.  My life has been no different.  I’ve come far and faced off against many villains.

For example, when I was a child, I was told that evil American capitalists wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  But then I moved to a different land and found out that it was, in fact, evil Russian Communists who wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  That was confusing, but then things got even more complicated.

When I lived by the northern European seas, abortion and gay rights were considered good things, and anybody who opposed them was strange.  But when I lived in the American desert, I learned that abortion and homosexuality were sins, and anybody who supported them was immoral.  Now I live by the Pacific Ocean, and once again it’s those who are too religious and too traditional that are suspect.  I’m having a hard time keeping track of all this.  Maybe it would be easier for me to tell the good guys and the bad guys apart if I had stayed in one place and didn’t move around so much.

What makes it even harder is that so many people wear magical disguises and are not what they seem.  For instance, those who aren’t Christian aren’t really American, even though they pretend to be.  Just like those who aren’t Catholic aren’t really Polish.  Ah, but hold on–it’s not enough to know that someone is wearing the Christian label.  If they are liberal, they aren’t really Christian.  You see how tricky this gets.

Now I feel as if I’m living in a cursed time, because everyone is starting to look like an enemy.  The conservatives aren’t true patriots and neither are the progressives.  I’m supposed to be on the watch for thieves who will steal my money through taxes and robbers who will steal my work by paying me too little for it.  There are hawks who want to attack everyone and doves who want us to get attacked.  Gun nuts want to shoot me, but then again I hear that those who favor gun restrictions want to see me defenseless and shot.

So how do I move forward on my way when I’m surrounded by dragons?  Could it be?  Is it possible that I’m the only one who’s right and everybody else is wrong?  After all, many wise men and women around me are making this claim–that they are the only ones who hold the key to true knowledge.

Believing that those who think differently from you are monsters to be fought is one way to journey through this world.  I find the travelling lighter and easier when I don’t carry all that heavy weaponry with me, though.  The dragons are imaginary anyway–they’re just imperfect human beings, a lot like me–and our battles are unnecessary.

At the same time that some American states such as Texas and North Dakota are taking gradual small steps to make abortion more restricted and difficult to get, the very Catholic country of Ireland is taking a tiny step in the direction of expanding abortion rights.  The Irish parliament has voted to allow abortions in certain “life-saving” situations, including when the woman is threatening to commit suicide because of her pregnancy, or if her life is endangered by continuing the pregnancy.

Here is what one of Ireland’s Catholic bishops has said about his opposition to the bill:

The Bill is not necessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatments they need during pregnancy.  The medical treatment of mothers whose lives are in danger is always morally permissible even if this results in the unintended death of a child in the womb.  The Catholic Church has never taught that the life in the womb should be preferred to that of the mother.”

Unfortunately, it hasn’t always worked out that way.  The abortion controversy in Ireland was stoked in 2012 by the case of Savita Halappanavar, an Indian dentist who was admitted to an Irish hospital while miscarrying.  She requested an abortion for health reasons, was denied one, and died of septicemia a week later.

So either the Bishop doesn’t really mean what he’s saying—which wouldn’t be surprising for a representative of the Church, and I say that with sadness—or what he’s saying has not been communicated clearly to employees of Catholic hospitals in Ireland.

Even if you are looking at this from the pro-life perspective, I would think the bill is a good idea.  Wouldn’t you be happy not to lose two lives instead of one?