Christmas Commentary Uncategorized

Hillsboro’s War on Christmas

A demonstrator dressed as a Santa Claus is arrested by riot policemen during clashes with students in Santiago

Two things burrow their way under my skin every year at Christmas, two sides of an ugly coin. The first and generally loudest are the inevitable cries about “a war on Christmas” that, at some point each year, generally when ratings are ebbing, are spewed by right wing trolls and other despicable human beings gleefully exploiting the fears of the waning evangelicals. Bill O’Reilly, the particularly cynical and slimy Fox provocateur, is one of the worst of the breed, but he is by no means alone; any right wing loudmouth looking to grab a ratings point or two can play the game.

Just as bad, and sometimes worse, are the hyper-sensitive knee-jerk liberals determined to protect the huddling masses from the onslaught of what they perceive as sectarian propaganda—the loudly mewing left who, if they could, would prove the spastic fears of the overwrought right to be absolutely on target—the delicate flowers who would indeed wage war against Christmas, if they could.

All those bastards, left and right, drive me crazy—worse than Donner went when he saw Rudolph’s Vegas-strip nose. We don’t have a War on Christmas. We don’t need a War on Christmas. Stop pretending there is one. Stop plotting to begin one. I mean, it’s Christmas, for chrissakes! Lighten up.

Santa under arrestAnd that brings us to the most ludicrous story from last week: officials in the Hillsboro, Oregon (a suburb of Portland, which should explain a lot) issued a memo instructing teachers and staff not to include Santa Claus in their seasonal decorations. Specifically:

“You may still decorate your door or office if you like, but we ask that you be respectful and sensitive to the diverse perspectives and beliefs of our community and refrain from using religious-themed decorations or images like Santa Claus,” the Hillsboro School District said in a letter to staff, television station KATU reported.

Full disclosure, lest you think me a stealth Christmas Warrior—I’m actually a fire-breathing atheist, deeply resentful of the intrusions of Christianity into my life, my children’s education, every level of our government, and so forth. I understand the compulsion to liberate children from the perpetuation of bronze-age superstition as a guiding force in our culture, but I’m also as deeply concerned with power structures that would force blind secularism on our day to day life. Christianity is deeply embedded in our culture and our children should not be shielded from it. Indeed, I believe that we are doing a great disservice to those children when we shroud them from one of the dominant streams of our culture by not preparing them to function in a reality that is filled with people who identify as Christian. This is not the place to be ostrich-heading.

But, but, but…I hear a dozen of my friends sputtering over being “forced” to face Christianity when they shouldn’t have to, if they don’t want to, and I’m truly sorry about that. I even understand: I had to spend a few days in Baltimore several years ago, something no good western Pennsylvanian wishes upon even the worst of enemies. I saw Ravens jerseys and ball caps everywhere, and I survived. My children did not become Ravens fans because of the exposure. We may even have developed a grudging sort of respect for them and their strange beliefs—we understand them a little bit better. Nothing leads to anger, resentment, and conflict faster than ignorance.

It is utter madness to ban Santa—Santa!—who ceased to be a primarily religious icon decades ago. If anything, Santa represents generosity, kindness, fair play and morality—values I believe to be universal. He also stands for marketing and commercialism, but not ever icon is perfect. Still, I’m okay with being a little more sensitive to overtly religious icons—crosses, angels, manger scenes—but I’m stuck on this idea that maybe instead of all this fear of offending we reach further for some real understanding. Instead of throwing Rudolph and Santa and all that stuff out of school, instead of banning stuff we—drum roll—practice inclusion. Give me Santa. Hell, give me shepherds guarding their flocks by night but let’s hear about the Maccabees, let’s hear about Ramadan.

I know there is an adamant mass of folks who stridently cling to the conviction that America is about white people sitting around and sternly respecting our Hebrew god, but the America I see—even in my corner of northern Appalachia—is generously populated with Hindis, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and others in mind-bending subsects, diversity within diversity, and I don’t think it is overly idealistic to believe that a lot of our domestic problems—and eventually our international problems—could be mitigated if we actually knew who the people we’re always so eager to dislike actually are.

In the meantime, let’s skip the war on Christmas, both the perceived and the proposed.

Funny and/or Strange sheer awesomeness Uncategorized

Why “Spank The Monkey” When You Get The Monkey For…


In Oregon, a man was recently arrested for paying a hooker with money from a stolen Girl Scouts fundraising jar in his pet store, then tipping the industrious Professional Intimacy Facilitator with a exotic primate. Because nothing says “lets do it again sometime” like a creepy little exotic mammal.If I were the girl, I would have held out for some contraband Thin Mints.

God bless America.

Commentary Uncategorized

Bundy, Militia Extremists At It Again


*This is an initial response to a continuing and evolving situation. Bundy & his comrades are now demanding that the Hammonds’ sentences be cancelled and that the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge be surrendered by the federal government and handed over to ranchers, drillers, and timber operators.

Armed protesters take over federal wildlife refuge in Oregon

Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher, scofflaw, and cheat Clivon Bundy (where do these people get these names?), is in the news again, chasing the media spotlight to rural Oregon, where he is attempting to re-create the hoopla and hysteria that arose back when Clivon Bundy and his family rallied up their bug-eyed militia brethren in response to the federal Bureau of Land Management’s astounding insistence that the Bundys pay the fees that they had incurred over decades of grazing their cattle on public lands.

I’ve written about the elder Bundy here and here before.

Now, the younger Bundy is throwing his influence with the militia and conspiracy set to rally wackos and misanthropes to another exaggerated cause, protesting sentences imposed upon an Oregon father and son ranching duo, Dwight and Steven Hammond, after they admittedly set a series of fires on public lands over the course of nearly a decade.

“This will become a base place for patriots from all over the country to come and be housed here,” self-aggrandizing, self-appointed spokesperson Ammon Bundy said. “And we’re planning on staying here for several years.”

Bundy said they will be “bringing the lands up and getting the ranchers back to ranching and the miners back to mining, putting the loggers back to logging, where they could do it under the protection of the people, and not be afraid of this tyranny that has been upon them.”

The Hammonds, Bundys, and their supporters would have us believe that this is all a government set-up calculated to somehow wrest control of the Hammonds’ considerable acreage. Their main defense is that setting fires is a legitimate land management strategy (which it is) and that the Hammonds, in setting these fires without permits, are nevertheless innocent because they don’t agree with the law. In short, they’re saying that because they know better than the BLM staff who denied them permission, their breaking the law should be permitted.

*Update: Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son, Steven, 46, the Oregon ranchers at the center of the protest, rejected the Bundy federal building takeover, according to CBS News.

They are expected to report to prison Monday to begin serving their sentences. “Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond Family,” their attorney, W. Alan Schroder, told KOIN

This is like getting a speeding ticket for going 84 in Kansas and, despite having seen the 75 mph speed limit sign, contending that the ticket–and the law that determines the speed limit–is invalid because we know that we could have safely driven 90 or more. For most of us, this is an absurdity. We may still break the law, but we understand that we’re doing just that and while we may bitch and moan up a storm about it, when we’re caught we take our medicine.

The subset of anti-government extremists who flock to these “causes” fail to recognize–or refuse to admit–that use of public land is a privilege, not a right. The great irony is that the ranchers who enjoy heavily subsidized access–gaining exclusive access to vast parcels of taxpayer-owned lands at a fraction of the price commanded by private landowners– to commonly held land are often the first to decry the “entitlements” others receive. Some, like the Bundys, simply refuse to pay at all, daring the government to try and collect, tangling those collections up in litigation, and ultimately throwing a world-class hissy fit that ends up with pseudo-solider redneck snipers peering through their scopes and public employees sent to uphold the law.

Men like Bundy and his seditious, criminal father wrap themselves in the flag and brandish the constitution at one momentthen turn and say they refuse to acknowledge the authority of the same when it suits their rhetorical purposes. They have this twisted idea that, somehow, because they fatten themselves at the public teat, for pennies on the dollar (again, which men like the Bundys often refuse to pay), and wear a goofy hat, they are somehow greater and better Americans than those of us who respect the rule of law and pay our own way.

Journal video

Todd Snider Show Tonight

todd 1 todd 2






We’re headed down to Pittsburgh tonight to see Todd Snider, the soon-to-be-legendary singer/songwriter/storyteller, and one of my creative heroes.  I’ll post about the show tomorrow, but I’ll tease you now.



An American, Too

I found this interesting sign during a recent google adventure, and it led to some interesting research.

Frank Tanaka immigrated to the USA in 1903, when he was 16 years old.  Twenty-nine years of hard work later he opened a popular Japanese restaurant in Salem, Oregon and became a respected businessman.  His story, told on the sign he placed in the window of his restaurant after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, is not an uncommon one.


Not long after this sign went up, Mr Tanaka and his family were forcibly relocated to the Tule Lake concentration camp, along with most ethnic Japanese living in the western United States, regardless of citizenship status.  Like all internees, Mr. Tanaka and his family were allowed to take only what they could carry.  In some cases, non-Japanese friends were able to protect some of the internees valuables, but many more saw all of their property looted, or sold off illegally–or simply claimed by others.  After the war, many of them came home to find other people living in their homes, often still using their furniture, and they had no legal recourse for reclaiming their property.

Most Japanese-Americans lost everything they owned during World War 2, but despite this, despite losing their rights, special volunteer units drawn from the husbands and sons of the 10 concentration camps set up to punish the Japanese for their ancestry, fought tenaciously in some of the fiercest battles in the war.

Over 122,000 people of Japanese extraction were interred during the war–nearly 70,000 of whom were American citizens. Many others had been in this country between 20 and 40 years.  No person of Japanese heritage was convicted of  sabotage or espionage during the war.  None.

As the war progressed, small numbers of German and Italian prisoners of war were incarcerated at Tule Lake.  Though segregated from the Japanese Americans, these confirmed enemy combatants were often given much greater freedoms.

Mr. Tanaka’s restaurant did not reopen after the war.
Tule Lake Relocation Center

Photo I Like Photo I Took Uncategorized

A world of contrasts

I was surprised–not that surprised, mind you–to find a familiar image in a blog post I visited, that took me back a decade and a half, and over 3000 miles, to the Finley National Wildlife Preserve, just north of the town of Monroe, Oregon where my wife and I lived for several years in the mid 1990′s. We spent many sweet mornings and afternoons strolling the nature center and admiring the sometimes tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl. Hawks and Bald Eagles were common, too, but the best sight we ever saw was a beautiful white owl, in late 2007. I took many of my own pictures of this particular barn, none as subtle as this.

Here’s a couple of mine, scanned from 35mm, circa 1997:




The ancient eavesdropper

A world of contrasts

Cabell Barn at Finley National Wildlife Refuge near Corvallis, Oregon

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Commentary Journal Photo I Like

Alsea Falls, Oregon

just click the link, and the pretty picture will make you smile.

Alsea Falls, Oregon.

Found this nice photo–very near where I used to live.  Thanks!

Photo I Took

Chim Chiminey chim Chim Cheeree

Florence, Oregon 1997

Chim Chiminey chim Chim Cheeree

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