The Dust Settles

In my somewhat long hiatus from blogging (I even took two weeks off from FDL…), I have been anything but idle.  Three weeks ago yesterday, I set upon this condo, ripping out the shag carpets, knocking out the wall and closet between the kitchen and living room, getting rid of the dozen-odd louvered doors, removing the foil and grasscloth wallpaper, taking the smoked mirrors off the walls, painting the walls and ceilings (after the historic 15% asbestos popcorn ceilings were removed…), and installing bamboo floors with a cork underlayment.

Although paint is still thin here and there, and new doors are still a distant aspiration, the place is livable enough that I thought I’d share some photos. The building lies at what might delicately be called the ass end of Lawrence Halprin’s famed pedestrian malls, where the magnificent and popular fountains peter out into a bland courtyard with a somewhat half-hearted piece of 1970′s sculpture looking like an afterthought.

The tallest and central tower of three, Grant Tower sits atop a gigantic, four floor underground parking garage that connects all three buildings and their common recreation center; there are two gyms, an indoor and outdoor pool and uniquely in all of downtown, ample free guest parking, even on weekdays.  The hallways aren’t really hallways, but outdoor balconies, which looks a little strange and forbidding from the outside, as you can see, but are quite pleasant when waiting for the elevator or opening the front door to the fresh air and natural light. The architecture, like most of the 60-block urban renewal district it inhabits, is of the doctrinaire International Style so popular during that era, but it is mercifully understated and finely detailed in this case, so it has aged better stylistically than some of its more garish neighbors, like the infamous cheese grater, below.  The sort of boring, quasi-suburban buildings at the extreme south end of the redevelopment are now gradually being redeveloped themselves, as Portland State University has acquired large tracts and the new MAX light rail runs right by.  Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I think that a decade from now, this complex will be the last oasis of le Corbusier’s “towers in a park”concept, since current zoning code requires ground floor retail, built to the sidewalk.

I must admit that being just a half dozen blocks further south has forced changes in all my habits; although transit access is only a bit less convenient and the downtown core is about the same distance, I’ve had to find different urban services or forgo them.  Home-brewed coffee and a home-delivered paper are now necessities, and there’s no convenient place to get breakfast, so I have to make it myself, but on the bright side, there’s one of the more gigantic food cart pods for which Portland is so famous, right around the corner, for lunch and dinner.

Although the unit faces west, my view is to the south, with Marquam Hill, the aerial tram, and the bubble-hobbled South Waterfront development; even empty buildings are pretty at night…  And although my view was better at the old place, what with Mt. Hood and the skyline, my desk didn’t face it and I only had sun in the mornings.  Though nearly as small, the bedroom is a thousand times better than my old one, and will make a wonderful World Headquarters.  Although most people familiar with this complex think that the noise from the nearby I-405 is obnoxious, I’ve found it to be the opposite, particularly at night.  There was virtually no vehicular traffic near my old building, which made everything from garbage trucks and drunken college kids right below, or train whistles miles distant, a jarring disturbance.  Now I barely hear fire trucks, and certainly am never awakened by them.

One of the nicest things about the place is the deck; at 7′ deep by 14′ wide, cantilevered into space nine floors up, it is the largest non-penthouse outside space available in downtown, and one of the things that attracted me to this complex; even the smallest and cheapest units all have it, and it’s priceless.  After a container upgrade or two and some trimming of our farming ambitions from earlier years, Annice and I really didn’t sacrifice any of the garden we started for her much larger space, although humans now have to squeeze a bit closer together to enjoy it.

Now I’m back at work, and getting back to blogging, too, so further projects won’t proceed at quite the breakneck pace they’ve been going, but neither of us are complaining.


The Stage Is Set For The Duration

Recent items in the news:

The commandant of the marine corps said a few days ago U.S. forces will likely be at the “war on terror,” or whatever it’s called now, for a bit longer, maybe another decade.  Or more.

The marine leader’s remarks echo those by an obscure defense official overseeing undercover doo doo.  This Obama defense spokesman, appearing before a congressional committee, said U.S. forces, set in preemptive mode by George W. Bush, are likely to keep operating hither and yon in pretty much the same way for another 10 to 20 years.

And retired general Stanley McChrystal, fired from his post as commander of American troops in Afghanistan, has been hanging out at Yale, acquiring swell elite connections while training perhaps in even more rarified levels of leadership.  The general is now pushing for a broad national service program.  But McChrystal seems aware that such a call cannot laud military service itself as a reason to serve, despite current security concerns.  He seems to be calling for national service lite, even at a time when the military is exhausted and personnel issues may not be easily solved by waiting for platoons of new heroes to show up at recruiters’ doors, with decent educational credentials and blank criminal rap sheets in hand.

Meanwhile, international (or “foreign”) reporting suggests Syria is getting out of control in such a way that the “great powers” will be drawn in even more than is apparent now, on a level which will make us dust off our history books on World War I, and prompt calls to sing bouncy George M. Cohan tunes every night, before and after dinner.

As for Bush, he just finished a faux, frantic bike ride on his Texas spread with selected veterans and other handlers and shapers of his post-presidential image.  It’s said he’s reflected on his time in office and has come to terms with it (at least within his psyche, and maybe his mother’s).  Bush’s amazing clarity is captured in this quote, offered just after a “hairy” ride around Crawford, as he hosing down his two-wheeler:

“I enjoyed being president.  And when you’re president, you’re famous.  Now whether I enjoyed fame itself, I just, you know, you’d have to get the psychologist on me.

— snip —

“I don’t long for fame.  Nor do I long for power.  I’ve come to realize that power can be corrosive if you’ve had it for too long.  It can dim your vision (video cue:  roll George H.W. Bush’s protestations from back in the day about the “vision thing”).  And so I came to the conclusion that, you know, I don’t long for fame.  And really, gonna shy away from it.  I’m not very shy.  Avoid it.”

Thank you!

As for Dick Cheney, he seems basically not to want new friends.  Forget about mea culpas, to say nothing about a possible guest shot on Two and a Half Men.  He was quoted recently in the Telegraph UK, in a series of articles questioning why the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war is gathering dust somewhere in London instead of being released in a “timely manner.”  Cheney, dead-ender to the end on the torture question, refuses to reflect.  Can’t have that; and, wanting people to think of him as a human being, with normal emotions of, say, regret, or remorse, is a total non-starter (there are thorny legal issues of course, which can’t be acknowledged).   No respect for the decent opinions of mankind though from the Dick.  Not even a willingness to drink from the loving cup:

“If you want to be loved, go be a movie star, ” he said.  No word on whether the Dick would want or be able to sweat it out with W. on the dirt track in Crawford, unless he had his duck gun on his shoulder.

As it has been and forever shall be, these are my male role models.  Don’t ask me to recant.

My dirt bike awaits, and I see ducks in the air.

~     ~     ~

“Alas, poor country!  – where violent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy.”

- Ross

- Macbeth, 4.3


Four-Door Beige Ones


The main reason I have been so distracted from blogging, aside from the imminent move to CHNN’s new World headquarters, is that I was busy painting the 1905 bungalow equivalent of a stripped 1972 Chevrolet Impala.  I often attempt to recreate in my mind how a house came into being, and this time, I have a pretty plausible scenario.  Some guy bought two lots in the soon-to-be quite wealthy, but as yet sparsely developed, neighborhood of Irvington in Northeast Portland.

The program was quite ambitious: six bedrooms, three fireplaces, 7000 square feet over four floors, two staircases, double garage, three bathrooms, and a spacious butler’s pantry connecting the entry, living room, and kitchen.  Then the estimate came in, and the guy said, “What can I get for half that?”

Well, you get gigantic, minimally adorned rooms with the thinnest, sloppiest plaster I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying something.  “Three hundred bucks for plaster?  My brother-in-law can do it for $85.”   You get plain brick fireplaces and hearths with just a wooden lid on them, you get a dining room with five windows, spanning eighteen by twenty four feet, and although it does have a lovely, weighty box beam ceiling, has nary a built-in, and even what looks like a plate rail is too thin to, well, hold plates.

What you also get is exercise.  It takes most people a day or so to stop getting lost, personally, but even once you know the lay of the land, you will inevitably spend an inordinate amount of time looking for things, because you simply never run out of places they could be hiding, two or even three floors away.

Worse, the dump was roughly in the condition of the Sigma Nu house.  One family that lived there had 15 (!) kids (they belonged to my own Catholic Parish, natch, St. Mary Magdalene, two blocks away; the hooker church), and in the white flight era of the late 1960′s, it even served as some sort of hippie co-op.  This joint knows tough love, and worse.  The tiny flourish of half-timber over the front porch had even been painted over in white, and the porch a dark green, making the top step not match those below, and needlessly suppressing bounced light into the interior.  I fixed both of those things.

The current owner, an architect and family friend, bought it about twenty years ago for a relative song and made a master bath and dressing room out of one surplus bedroom, which was sensible enough because he only had two kids and the “master” was the 20 x 20 box with nothing but two windows near the top of the post.  He also remodeled all the bathrooms, and added a powder room on the main floor.  I was particularly impressed with a bunch of really cool things he did to brighten the house; opening a closet off the entry to the stairwell below to let light in through a frosted french door, and changing all the bedroom doors to frosted glass in fir frames to match the stairway as well.

Best of all, he tore out the ceiling on the third (above ground) floor, and  added structural support to do so, so if you wanted, you could have a basketball court up there.  He also remodeled the basement, which has a fireplace and (why not?) another kitchen and bath.  A Mormon could have three wives and families in the joint, and keep them conveniently separate.

At the outset, we both decided that I would only work on the two main floors, since I did have to paint (and before that, brutally sand and lavishly putty), every surface in an area with about fifty windows, six french doors,  four doors leading outside, and gigantic crown moulding and box beams with eight or so pieces each.  Except for the high stuff, all this woodwork looked as though it had been beaten with chains.  The bad plaster here and there also had layers of wallpaper over it, and I ended up skim coating it to fool people; I hope it works.  They are asking a million dollars.

The colors, as well as the tile and marble on this fireplace, were all chosen by the owner’s Real Estate Lady, who inadvertently supplied endless entertainment for us all, since right down to the costumes, she was a character straight out of The Simpsons.  As I finished up today, I kissed the ground that I would, heaven help me, never lay eyes on one of her fabulous outfits, nor her bitchy, pretentious, and occasionally racist text messages ever again.

Although we clashed on many things and I generally just did what she wanted to make her leave sooner, one thing I stood firm on was the stairway, where she wanted the treads to be light but I insisted that they be darkened to match the railings, the last remaining dark woodwork in the house.  This wasn’t really a color preference; it was based on the fact that the stairs were not only cheap fir to begin with, but they had been thoroughly perforated with nail holes from carpets long gone, and needed to be glued, nailed, and whatever else was available get rid of their haunted house creakiness.  We cut out a wall in the entry closet so my floor guy could crawl under them and bind them together with nails, glue and even pieces of plywood for the split ones.  They still make a noise here and there, but it no longer drowns out airplanes flying above.

Those stairs seem to be about the only fancy detail that (barely) survived the original owner’s, well, thriftiness, and they are something else, as you can see.  Besides the flashy lights, the paneled newel posts are small at the bottom and subtly bigger at the top, giving them a neat Bugs Bunny quality, and the owner quite cleverly copied them to make a better mantel in the living room.

Throughout the project, I’ve been keeping myself sane, as usual, by listening to Madison, Wisconsin’s progressive talk radio station on I Heart Radio, which endlessly replays a catchy commercial about “choice” in health care.  It pretends to be an ad for a used car lot that only has beige, four-door 1972 sedans.   “We’ve got beige ones!  We’ve got four-door ones!  We’ve got FOUR DOOR Beige ones!  What color are you looking for?  Maybe BEIGE?”  My nephew Henry and I, who have spent a lot of not always quality time slaving over this biggest of all four-door beige ones, laugh at it every time it comes on.

Today I all but  bade farewell to this project, leaving me a luxurious two weeks to completely remodel my new place, which, thankfully, is about about an eighth the size. I will post pictures of that as they come.




“NO MORE BUSHES,” said Barbara Bush

Brings to mind a lyric by B.B. King:

“Nobody loves me but my mother; and she could be jivin’ too.”

~ ~ ~

More blues from W, the imaginary blues man:

“If you see my mama

Tell her good-bye for me

If you see my mama

Tell her good-bye for me

I’m tired of livin’

Livin’ in misery

- Going To The River

- Fats Domino

Boston Boys

Hag and I were communing off to the side about posting something on Boston.  He’s moving, and working on an FDL piece I presume.  I’m a tad busy, but also in shock about the atrocity in my hometown, which is, truly, our great historical mecca.  Yet, dumbstruck or not, scribblers must scribble.

History is real in Boston.  As I’ve said here:  there is a Witch House in Salem, but also lots of the history of original thought and debate that formed the nation.  This event, sadly, is one more chapter in the record of the city and region.  Yes, Red Sox star David Ortiz did utter a cuss word before the Sox-Royals game the other day, and, despite the quick clean-up of his remarks for mass media consumption, Ortiz’s expletive is on record too.  It’s okay, Dave.  We forgive you.  Play ball.

People were blown up on the streets of Boston on Patriot’s Day – Marathon Day – at the finish line of the race.

The history of the Boston Marathon is real too.  The first race was held in 1897, inspired by the 1896 Summer Olympics.  Today, the race is the oldest of its kind in the world, the crown jewel of the world marathon circuit.  It’s Boston’s rite of spring.

As for the bad guys – these little boys - let’s get one thing straight.  We can size them up on our own terms – on our Western terms.  And we should, more than ever, even as the investigation continues, while taking into account the sensibilities of their families, ethnic ties, religious leanings, what Vladimir Putin thinks, or the failures of security services or intel.

I would have shot the fuckers dead on the sidewalk on Boylston Street that day had I any inkling of what they were about.  They deserved to be taken out, whatever their problems were, and I’d bet a lot of Bostonians feel the same.  Some locals might say about such an attitude:  Tough toenails.

Anyway, as for sizing them up on our terms, the following take satisfies me.

This is about the personification of evil:

“To ‘plume up the will,’ to heighten the sense of power or superiority – this seems to be the unconscious motive of many acts of cruelty which evidently do not spring chiefly from ill will, and which therefore puzzle and sometimes horrify us most.  It is often this that makes a man bully the wife or children of whom he is fond.  The boy who torments another boy, as we say, ‘for no reason,’ or who without any hatred for frogs tortures a frog, is pleased with his victim’s pain, not from any disinterested love of evil or pleasure in pain, but mainly because this pain is the unmistakable proof of his own power over his victim.  So it is with Iago.  His thwarted sense of superiority wants satisfaction.”

– … from “Othello”

– Shakespearean Tragedy, 1904

– A.C. Bradley

Iago is Shakespeare’s greatest villain, and while Shakespeare remains the greatest dead white male author of them all, his stuff, or criticism about his stuff, still informs.

In the story, Iago, passed over for promotion by Othello, a Moor who serves as a commander in the Venetian army, decides to drive Othello into a jealous, killing rage.  Iago creates in Othello enough anger and confusion about his newly married wife, Desdemona, that he does kill her.  But Iago is also destroyed.  His plot collapses on him at the end of the play as other characters finally realize what he’s been up to.

Iago thoroughly believes he’s been wronged, and he feeds on his need to destroy.  Shakespeare created a character who “plumbs” his worst impulses and eventually acts on them.  As with the boy-men who set off bombs in Boston the other day, Iago may be affected by various exotic externalities, by people near him or far away.  But he decides his course.

Mike Barnicle, a Boston native and long time reporter with deep knowledge of the city, said the other day the real issue is about murderers.  Barnicle was sending a shot across the bow of Sen. Graham, who has called for the accused to be tried as an “enemy combatant.”  Barnicle, and others, have provided some clarity in that they’re arguing that what happened in Boston should stay in Boston, in so far as this is a crime more than a terrorist attack, and that it should be dealt with by the quite capable civilian criminal justice system in that jurisdiction.

This is an argument that might turn us away from the great cloud about the war on terrorism, even while the Bush library is opened in Texas and the rehabilitation of that former president gets underway in earnest.  Honest.

The case should be presented to a Boston grand jury, because the people of Boston should determine what justice means in this case.

By the way, it’s not known what happens to Iago.  As the play ends he is taken alive, arrested and removed from the scene.

Things That Go Boom

What a frightening place America has become in the past decade or two, and I’m going to go ahead, risking the sterling credibility of CHNN, and blame the bombings at the Boston Marathon (as well as nearly all the other such mass casualty events) on the righties.  From guns to bombs, Republicans have an inordinate and unseemly fondness for death-dealing loud noises, and they all know it.

No, I’m not going to come right out and predict that the bombs were made by a Glenn Beck fan or Ted Nugent admirer, but given the target, that’s hardly impossible to imagine.  Moreover, it seemed evident the righties themselves are afraid that will turn out to be the case, since they besieged lefty talk radio today, shouting about 40-year-old hippie bombings with an even more than usually lockstep repetitiveness.  Their fervent if desperate hope is that it will, in fact, turn out to be the swarthy mooslim they instantly fingered, because if it isn’t…..  uh, oh.

But even if it turns out to be a murderous A-rab who perpetrated this act, just like Sept. 11, ultimate responsibility can still be squarely laid at the door of the same murderous, imperialist right and its policies that have made us anathema in the Middle East since the end of WWII, but most especially these days.  Iraq experienced more than twenty times the casualties in the same few days, and Bill O’Reilly isn’t the only American who doesn’t give a damn about that.

What’s happened since Sept. 11 is that a culture of violence and retribution once largely conducted abroad has now, as these things always do, come home, and the massive police state apparatus built up to fight “terror” seems to be much better at crushing dissent than it is at protecting innocents.  Who, I ask you, woulda thunk?  Worse, because this continual ratcheting down of civil liberties continues with every attack even after Americans attempted to toss out the party that got the ball rolling, we watch the carnage fully aware that we are increasingly helpless as citizens to try to stop it.

I expect yet another  whack-a-mole humiliation for ordinary people; just as we glumly take off our shoes at airports, we’ll forgo knapsacks at marathons, presumably carrying the water, snacks, extra clothes, camera gear, etc. required by both participants and spectators at such an event in baskets on our heads or something.

But one thing I don’t expect is for this to stop.  As Jeremiah Wright put it, obviously slicing a little too close to the bone for delicate Republican sensibilities, “the chickens have come home to roost.”  And whether that means a righty setting a bomb personally, or a pretty predictable reaction from one of the right’s feverishly persecuted enemies, doesn’t much matter.

But if this was a left-wing terrorist, the only possibility that would truly relieve the right from deserved opprobrium at the moment, I’ll eat a KFC Double Down.  Two of them.


The Surely Routine

When I was growing up, my mother had a particularly diplomatic form of reprimand, probably learned as a first grade teacher, that was very effective, so much so that we gave it a name in later years:  The Surely Routine.

When Joan would come home from work in the afternoon and find that, contrary to what was expected, no one had cleaned up the breakfast dishes and run the dishwasher, she would turn to whichever layabout was handy and say, in a hopeful tone, “Surely you cleaned up the kitchen so I can make dinner.”  Although it was plainly obvious to all concerned that in fact, the kitchen was a disaster of cereal bowls, strewn newspapers, and banana peels, one or more of us would hustle to correct the problem before Joan officially “noticed” and blew a gasket.

When the problem wasn’t so easily fixed, say, when she said “Surely you didn’t wreck my car” or “Surely you didn’t flunk that class,” it then doubled as a Catholic-grade guilt trip for the miscreant in question.  We made fun of her for it, as we did about most everything, but as I’ve gotten older I realized what a brilliant tactic it was for dealing with unruly children; it cloaks any anger in fretful disappointment, and emphasizes (quite educationally) the effect one’s errant behavior has on others.

Imagine my delight, five years after Joan’s death, to see the Surely Routine pulled out, with Joan-like repetitiveness, by none other than Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and be reminded that it still works like a charm.  Watching the laughable excuses for “regulators” like the ones in this video shift their eyes and hunch their shoulders,  just like I did when I was ten, under her  volleys of “Let me get this straight,” and worse….  Well it warms my heart.

Of course, such motherly subtlety seems to skip a generation; were I to be in a position to question these corrupt bank fellators, I would undoubtedly handle things differently, but let’s just say not in a way that would broaden my appeal with swing voters.  That’s the beauty of the Surely Routine; it’s a form of acting designed, unlike most acting, to create good ends without ruffling too many feathers, whether you’re a working single mother saddled with four brats or a newly elected Senator facing a federal government run amok.

In her position on the Senate Banking Committee, Warren will have many more chances, too many, to haul out the Surely Routine, and I hope she continues to do so.   Because unlike Joan, whose children eventually developed an immunity for it, Sen. Warren has a virtually endless supply of scalawags who have yet to wither under the Surely Routine even once.   As was plainly evident in this and several previous hearings, a whole lot of them need it.


Prostitution in the old Massachusetts Bay Colony (1628-92), which then ran north into southern Maine and included the seaside town of Kennebunk (“So Close, Yet Worlds Away”), was a hanging offense.

Times have changed however.  And so on Friday a state judge in Portland accepted a plea deal from alleged Zumba dance madam Alexis Wright on 20 of 106 prostitution charges against her.  Wright will pay a fine of $57,000 for falsely accepting state welfare payments and for failing to pay back taxes on her dance business in the “quaint” community known for vacationing Bushes.  Wright is also facing a 10 month jail sentence.

Unlike accused witches, whores and johns from the time of the Salem witch trials, Wright will not be hanged or have a giant boulder lowered onto her heaving breasts to extract a confession about the men from Boston, Portland and wherever who dallied with her in her dance studio on a quiet Kennebunk side street from roughly October 2010 to February 2012.

It’s possible most if not all of the alleged johns involved will move on unscathed, legally at least, even if some scolding from family members who knew what they were up to lingers like a cloud of clucking Fox News commentary.

Harlan Harrington, crack CHNN international reporter, landed the CHNN Flying Boat on picturesque Casco Bay earlier this week to cover Wright’s plea.

“The thing here is, while locals yawn a lot now and claim they’re bored with the whole thing with Alexis, the larger benefit of the court agreement is that not only will none of the estimated 150 johns in the case be executed, they’ll probably just get about their spring cleaning and fret about important stuff, like the Red Sox’ chances this year,” Harrington said.

Harrington referred to dire punishments handed out to settlers back in the day, when yeoman farmers and their yeowoman wives (or yeowomen partners) tilled the rocky New England soil, trying to get some corn out of the ground while beating the varied seasons – either planting in the spring or storing harvested grains before bitter winters, ever on the alert for blight, rampaging Indians and hungry moose.

“Those were tough times,” said Harrington, who agreed to a special assignment to cover the Wright plea as he prepares for yet another trip to cover the Italian political scene in which two de facto professional clowns may try to form a coalition government in the land of bunga bunga.

“Those Puritan leaders and judges didn’t mess with dilly-dalliers and freelance fornicators then,” Harrington said of the Massachusetts Bay Colony hierarchy.  “Don’t forget, it was only at the turn of the millennium that the remaining dozen or so accused Salem witches were finally pardoned by the commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Jane Swift, serving briefly as the state’s acting governor (and the state’s only female governor in history) signed off on the pardons, which must have gotten lost over the years, possibly in some old, dusty binders.  Swift served as governor from 2001-3 after Paul Cellucci resigned to take a cushy Bush appointment as ambassador to Canada, and before Mitt Romney’s term as governor from 2003-07.

When the Zumba madam story broke in October last year, the international press invaded bucolic Kennebunk.  There were mass sea landings of paparazzi.

At the time a wicked high number of area men – executives, general contractors, a high school hockey coach, a lawyer, a firefighter, a minister, a former elected official or two, a local TV personality, and the head of a Boston-based investment company - were linked to Wright as johns, customers who got it on with the Maine-born madam in her second floor retail space off Main Street.

The names of 64 of the 150 were released by police last year, with furious court negotiations prior to Wright’s plea last week yielding some charges which prosecutors say will be pursued.

Still, one man has actually faced the music.  Thomaston businessman Mark Strong, 54, was convicted last month on 13 misdemeanor counts (out of a total of 59 filed) of promoting prostitution and invasion of privacy as Wright’s pimp.  Strong was sentenced to 20 days in jail.

Wright, who was raised in nearby Topsham, home of the Topsham Fair, set up her dance studio in 2010.  Wright studied “natural sciences” at a state college for a time, and after a while became active in Kennebunk as a Zumba dance master (and madam), eventually advertising (a bit casually it turns out) online, with slogans and come-ons like:  “You put a constant smile on my face, giggles, and other noises I won’t mention here” while cautioning potential customers that “fantasy role-playing and fetish may be extra.”  Wright and Strong videoed most of her encounters with area johns (as many as 100 hours’ worth), and many of the recordings have appeared on porn websites.

“Every class feels like a party,” Wright also gushed on her site, which locals agreed was a long way from Wright’s Topsham days where the big entertainments at the fair were sheep herding and shearing, saltwater taffy, pie eating contests, and oxen pulls.

“These guys have got to pay the price,” Kennebunk resident Alison Ackley said when the news of Wright’s real business became known.  Ackley was a regular dance client, one of many local women who would Zumba an afternoon away with Wright, apparently oblivious to offerings on the second floor of the High Street rental space, which was a lot more than polka lessons.

More normal days have returned to Kennebunk.  Fresh caught lobsters are selling at the docks for little more than $4 a pound; native clam rolls are readily available; and dancers seen in another vacant storefront on Main Street last week were practicing tight-lipped, beginners tango – a sign to some of a return to regular rhythms and such along the southern Maine coast.

Those Who Would Nazi

Back in 2004, a blog commenter at Daily Kos made a video that compared Bush to Hitler, and there was a immediate run on smelling salts that lasted for weeks.  At the time I was working for a couple who were regular Fox News watchers, and they were naturally horrified.  “Really?” I responded.  “Aggressive wars, deceptive propaganda, illegal searches and seizures, indefinite detention without trial, attacks on academics, the press, and artists, torture and war crimes….”  as I rattled off these things, I realized that all that was missing was (overt) racism.  What a horrid time to be an American, I thought to myself.

Well, if CPAC 2013 is any indication, things are considerably worse today; now that the right is (nominally, anyway) out of power, the goose-stepping has come well and truly out of the closet.  In the 52 clown car pileup that event has become, nothing, and I do mean nothing, is out of bounds for these people.  After making news by whining about how white people suffer so, at a minority outreach forum, no less, one avowed white supremacist summed it up best when he said, “After a few drinks, most everybody here agrees with me.”  Ah, yes, a chicken-fried beer hall putsch, right here in the dreary Maryland suburbs, where white people go to eat at Olive Garden.

Although I’m deeply chagrined to say so, I give Jonah Goldberg some credit for his prescience on this subject.  He saw the rather glaring Nazi tendencies of the political movement that had forever freed him from honest labor, and busily set to typing a laughable “book” called Liberal Fascism, which attempted to squirt octopus ink all around this issue by saying that liberals were the real fascists, because Hitler favored healthy foods, or something.  He correctly perceived that the Fox audience had been sufficiently dumbed down to the point where a nutty, black-is-white idea like that could take root, which it has to a point beyond his wildest imagination.

And although the political right of the 1950′s was able to use the excesses of Mao and Stalin to tar the American left, since they were on the same side of the political spectrum, the left never responded by likening, say, Joe McCarthy to Hitler, although they wouldn’t have been out of bounds to do so, since many American Republicans, including one Prescott Bush, thought Fascists, Hitler included, were the best thing since cucumber canapes.  Thus, simple facts of history and economics, including but not limited to the fact totalitarianism occupies both ends of the political spectrum, were elided to the point that fifty years later, nearly half Americans would believe that a bland, centrist Democratic president was like Hitler and Mao.  Put together.

Well played, Jonah, but as with most endeavors you undertake, this one is backfiring, big time.  When Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy, and all subsequent Republicans duly followed, they were all too often quite successful.  They used coded language, of course, because at the time the media frowned on open racism, and were therefore able to get away with it.  But the rise of Rush Limbaugh, Hate Radio, and Fox created a resurgent, open, racism that is now as necessary for any Republican political success as it is repulsive to normal, sane humans.

To be a Republican today requires one to dehumanize, denigrate, and most importantly, defund, all except the whitest among us, and this means that outside the deep south and rural midwest, even barely legal gerrymandering and voter suppression isn’t enough to put the party over the top.  And, if you’ll pardon the pun, whitewashing racist attitudes with clever language, which was never designed to gain minority votes, but only to assuage white moderates, simply doesn’t work anymore because the base they systematically radicalized won’t tolerate it.  They want their racism sunny side up.

Now, when America sees Republicans, they see Rand Paul (CPAC’s hero du jour) saying segregation wasn’t all that bad, they see Supreme Court Justice (!) Antonin Scalia dismiss the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement,” Ann Coulter asserting that liberal women shouldn’t be allowed to hold office, and they see cracker yahoos retroactively praising slavery, even while (occasionally) acknowledging, gingerly, that such displays might make for poor optics.

Ya think?  They don’t need Frank Luntz anymore; they need Leni Riefenstahl.



Rest in Peace, Hugo

Like most politicians, Hugo Chavez certainly had his flaws. Cowardice, however, was not among them. When he delivered that speech, it was acknowledging something that throughout the world, only the American public didn’t grasp, so it made waves for the right reasons.
I hope the anti-Imperialist movement he helped start continues after his death; let the right-wing grave dancing begin, but Chavez and what he stood for has been mostly vindicated. The right? Not so much. That isn’t the worst epitaph.