Friday, December 30, 2005
Today at a mall restaurant, it became absolutely clear to me just why.
I watched a teenage girl at the World Wrapps restaurant in the mall. She wore latex gloves, of course. She was responsible for making the smoothies and serving them, so her work mainly dealth with using the blender and handing the cups of icy-fruit blends to customers. But she was also responsible for helping at the cash register and wiping up the counter and picking up the trash left by people unwrapping their straws.
I watched her, as I waited for my teriyaki chicken wrap, as she dropped ingredients into the blender, hit the button to liquify the mixture and poured the smoothie into a cup. As she called the name of the person she owed a smoothie, she picked up some trash. Then she took some money at the register. A minute later, she used a rag to wipe down the counter. Made a smoothie. Wiped the counter again.
For someone so concerned about the cleanliness of the service area, one would have thought she switched gloves several times. Nope. All the germs and dirt were just collected on her gloved hands. In fact, the only things kept clean in the entire process were her hands! That seems exactly backward to me. By wearing the gloves, the germs and dirt are just held on the gloves, waiting to be transferred to the food. I have even seen people brush their nose or mouth with their latex-clad fingers, something that would probably not happen with bare hands -- at least not without a sanitized wipedown afterward.
The food industry should lose the latex gloves and re-emphasize actual cleaning and safety procedures. Wipe or wash your hands after handling money or performing a cleaning task. Keep food clean and separate from contaminated areas (like your dirty hands, gloved or not).
I don;t expect a sterile environment. I do expect that workers follow the basic cleanliness procedures required by the food handler's certification exam. It's simple, really, and common sense.
But I won't be ordering a smoothie anytime soon.
-- Issaquah, Wash.
Read "If America Left Iraq" and arm yourself with some facts about what might happen in the next year or more.
We're pulling out eventually. What happens when we do is a matter of when we pull out and how long we have overstayed our welcome. Even if, after reading the article fully, one doesn't come to the same conclusions as the author, it is worth it for the background and history. I was intrigued by the projected future for the Kurds and the political bargaining that will keep Turkey in check.
-- Issaquah, Wash.
"Syriana" -- I enjoyed this film about oil politics in the United States and the Middle East. A lot of reviews said it was a thinking person's drama, and I think that is right. There is some great stuff in the film.
I have to admit I approached it as a movie first and a commentary second. The film is well made with excellent perfoemances and a wonderful convergence of plots that had me surprised a couple of times. It also gave good screen time to some new actors, people to watch. As a commentary I tried not to think of the larger implications outside the theater. Certainly there is a lot to ponder in the United States' deadlings with the oil emirs of the Persian Gulf region. The interests of the United States are often the interests of the Gulf states. Fortunaltely, "Syriana" steered clear of an outright indictment of certain nations, religions or even our own country. This was a work of fiction. However, its plot events were all-too-likely. Think "Manchurian Candidate" with oil.
"The Producers" -- This was the most over-the-top romp I have seen in a long time. I have not seen the original film or the stage musical, but I knew the basic plot. This version was delightful. A woman sitting further down in front than me laughed at every line and gag with a squeal that writer Mel Brooks would love.
Movies just aren't this cleverly funny anymore. Either they are funny because of stupid antics and cheap lines or they are funny because of their serious portrayal of the human foibles, but "The Producers" has targets on so many levels that one can't help but laugh. No one is safe from the satire. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are simply perfect. More Mel Brooks, please!
In looking for other movies, I am amazed by the number of strong films out right now that are also very long. I am not sure if I can handle a three-hour show without a "bio break," so some ("King Kong," "Munich") may need to wait for the home-viewing pleasure that is DVD.
-- Issaquah, Wash.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
The last year has brought a couple hundred posts to this Weblog, and dozens more comments from my handful of loyal readers.
When I started this a year ago, I did not know where it would take me. My mission was to record my thoughts about things that happen to me or people I know and also about things that interest me. I think I have succeeded on that mission over the past 52 weeks. It has been an interesting journey and a great creative outlet. I've enjoyed posting my thoughts, and I have really enjoyed reading the comments. Yes, I read them all.
I have worked hard to, at times, bite my tongue (figuratively at least) and to not post a snarky reply to every ludicrous comment posted to one of my ruminations. And I don't always agree with the people who post, even those who take my side.
So, hat's off to a successful first year. I have my fingers crossed for another year of keyboard success. I only hope Dino Rossi, George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress can provide as many great opportunities for me to sound off as they did in 2005.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The story of singer Johnny Cash was well-portrayed by Phoexix, and June Carter never looked better with Witherspoon's perky and upbeat characterization. At times, with the camera angle just so, Phoenix looked the spitting image of Cash. Add in the fact that he sang the songs himself, and you've got a performance that is both entertaining and awe-inspiring.
The only downside was the chattering of patrons near me. I don't know what I do to always sit by the talkies, but it is annoying. Behind me and to the right were two older women, who shared the occasional remark with each other, usually followed by a chortle. To the left was a family of two parents and two children, both under the 13-year-old suggested age for admission. It would not have been so bad, but the family acted as if the theater were its own personal living room, and talked throughout the film. The quartet also whooped and hollered as if at an outdoor concert. Sadly, the children were better behaved than the parents.
I still have a couple more holiday features to view, and the Wenatchee theaters seem to have most of what I want to see. A trip to Seattle should fill in the rest.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
One of the concepts I studied this semester in my Human Learning class was motivation -- intrinsic and extrinstic. Atthis point in my studies, I am intrinsically motivated to do well in my classes. There is no other incentive aside from my own desire to perpetuate the grade perfection. I get a salary bump based on completion of the degree, not how well I did (that is an argument for another day).
So, as I head into my final semester, I am looking forward to maintaining my high marks -- solid grades based on hard work and achieving beyond what is expected. My biggest competitor is myself. And I compete to win.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Check out the Web site. Enjoy. Cast your votes.
Then, check back and see who is leading and who will be the A.H.O.Y. '05!
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
The paper reports:
Making wishes come trueAt a time when teens are maligned for being shallow, for being selfish, these kids show they have something more to offer. They just want to get something done for their friends. Whether it was a fun "snowfall" or a new bed or a letterman's jacket, it was a small gesture -- usually a request from a friend, sibling or teacher -- that made someone else happy. It all culminated in an assembly where the wishes were granted.
With no budget, Bethel students fulfill requests for others
By Tara M. Manthey
Let 1,510 teens make a wish for someone else and you can expect 64 requests for a yearbook.
At Bethel High School, you’ll see yearnings for 14 iPods, seven letterman’s jackets, six cars and three months of unlimited tanning.
But you can also expect a plea for a surgery, clothing for babies, a bigger house for a needy family.
Sean Warner wants his brother to survive a fight with cancer. David Harbison wants money to help his grandmother in Korea. Kayla Yuill wants classmate Michelle Swails to visit her father’s grave in Florida.
Every year the 30 students of Bethel High’s leadership class have a month to fulfill as many requests as possible for the Winter Wishes assembly. It started five years ago with kids making wishes for themselves that were answered with mostly gag gifts and small favors.
As more wishes were granted, students took the task more seriously. The wishes became more earnest, and many were pleas for help.
This year, the Spanaway kids had to make a wish for someone else. With no budget and hundreds of requests, the leadership class sorted out the possible from the impossible. Then they picked a few of the latter and tried their hardest.
In Wenatchee, teens spent an hour Tuesday attending an assembly -- the "Christmas Basket" Assembly. Apparently organized around the need to have a representative from the local PUD employees' union thank the students for organizing donations for Christmas Baskets for needy families (the union donates the turkeys for baskets), the assembly droned on for about 50 minutes with inanities.
Sure, the assembly went off mostly without problems. It was nice to listen to the kids sing or to see them dance. Even the framing sequence was decently portrayed. But the point where I started questioning the purpose was the long dance number with three very tall teachers sancing to the "Sugarplum Fairies" song and a smaller teacher looking even more diminutive. This lasted several minutes. And I thought to myself, "Why, exactly, are we here?"
When I read the story above, reprinted in the local paper today, I thought the efforts of the students at Bethel High were closer to what student leaders could be doing with their time and abilities. The hour would be a lot better spent. And the PUD employee representative could still come on to say how the donations had helped grant some other winter wishesn for needy people in the community.
I'm amazed at the willingness of people to give to others. I also know how much a small gift means to people -- sometimes just a little boost can be all someone needs to make it.
It would be great to see the local effort revamped based on the Bethel model. That would be my wish.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Friday, December 23, 2005
The recent jail stint of a New York Times reporter might help spur passage of legislation to protect reporters in Washington state from having to disclose confidential sources.
But even some lawyers, prosecutors and others who support the concept of "shield" laws -- which exist in 31 other states and the District of Columbia -- have concerns about the details in legislation proposed by state Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Two Democratic and two Republican state senators are sponsoring McKenna's bill. It would provide an absolute protection to news media from court-ordered disclosure of confidential sources and a qualified protection for a reporter's notes, photographs, audio- or videotapes and other work products.
It also would protect third parties who could reveal a journalist's sources, such as a cellular phone company with records of calls to the sources.
The law would codify into law what has apprently existed in court rulings based on common law and on the federal First Amendment. It would also define a the news media as:
It would define "news media" as "any person or entity ... in the regular business of disseminating news or information to the public by any means," and who earns "a substantial portion of his or her livelihood" by such means. It would include journalists, their work associates, researchers and scholars.
This proposed law is not only important, it is necessary for a healthy democracy. When the news media have protection from prosecution, they will be more likely to continue the historical tradition of government watchdog. Roughly two-thirds of the states have this protection, and Washington should follow soon.
However, a source close to the proposal told me in November that student journalists were initially to be included in the definition of the news media, while bloggers would be excluded. The definition reported above would seem to exclude student journalists because they would not earn a substantial portion of their livelihood from their work as a student journalist. Furthermore, hobby bloggers would also be excluded apparently.
Hopefully, legislators in the short session set to begin in January will modify the language to include as news media all people associated with the dissemination of news. Such a broad definition would include scholastic and collegiate journalists as well as part-time bloggers.
Nonetheless, this is an important bill with bipartisan support, and it is one that should be enacted by the representatives in Olympia and signed by the governor.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Novak will be joining FOX News as a contributor.
Novak had also become known in the last couple years for being the newspaper columnist who printed in his column the name of the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the covert CIA agent that has led to a special investigation and an indictment of the vice president's chief of staff.
While Novak has maintained a near silence on the matter over the last two years, he said recently that the president should break his silence on the matter -- he believes the president knows who the source is who told Novak about Wilson's wife being a CIA agent.
CNN showed Wolf Blitzer this afternoon reminiscing with Novak, plying Novak for some details about the still unnamed sources involving the CIA agent, and generally feeling upbeat. There was just an allusion to the August incident with Carville. There was no mention of Novak's new job at FOX.
FOX is really a better place for Novak, anyway. He just ruffled the feathers of all the CNN folks, people who are generally reasonable and who try to see both sides of an issue whether they themselves are conservative or liberal. Novak could be relied on to recite the Righty political talking points and to carry plenty of water for the Bush Administration. I'm sure the Rightys will take care of Novak -- and it starts with finding him a nice spot at their media outlet, FOX News.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
And, as I watch the episodes for a second, third, even fourth time because of reruns, I notice a bit more about the magic that is this special show. Its actors are the best anywhere week after week. Among the notable actors on the show was John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry and who died Dec. 16 of a heart attack at age 58.
Spencer's ability was in his expressions, the lines in his face, a look, a tone, a gesture. He conveyed important bits about the office of chief of staff and about the White House just through his simple and subtle acts. For example, Spencer as Leo always buttoned his jacket when entering the Oval Office. He often communicated an entire page's worth of script in just one pause with a look, a purse of his lips or a movement of his eyes.
Television, and some movies, is devoid of the kind of actor like Spencer, all too rarely seen today. I am not sure what is next for "The West Wing" now -- Spencer's character was the Democratic nominee for vice president in the ongoing campaign that in TV time is still six weeks away from Election Day. I imagine several episodes had already been written, let alone filmed, before Spencere's untimely death. The most startling irony is that Leo had suffered a major heart attack that left him sidelined for much of the sixth season last year. I do expect the show will acknowledge the death and will write it into the show. How they do and still manage to pay homage to a fantastic actor will be difficult, but the show should be able to pull it off.
I'll be watching.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Then I followed a SUV for a bit on the road on the outskirts of town. I always like to read the many bumper stickers I see while driving, which probably explains my tendency to follow too closely. So this vehicle had a sticker with the phrase "Re-Elect Rossi" -- no kidding. There is actually a bumper sticker for the lost cause of Dino Rossi, a candidate that did not win an election the first time around but whose pathetic supporters keep spouting off about how the election was "stolen" by the liberals and incompetent election workers in King County.
News flash: HE LOST. There is no "re-electing" him. He wasn't elected in the first place. For a time, he had more votes, but subsequent recounts and a court case showed he actually had fewer.
You don't see any stickers for "Re-Elect Gore-Lieberman" do you? There was an election that actually was stolen because not all votes were counted. But we have moved on.
The clincher here: The sticker was on a vehicle being driven by a conservative Republican county commissioner, one of the most pompous and self-serving politicians in the area. He's never won an election either -- he was appointed and then ran unopposed.
-- Ellensburg, Wash.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Hillary Clinton Co-Sponsors Anti-Flag Burning Bill
December 05, 2005
Senator Hillary Clinton is supporting a bill that would ban flag burning, but she is opposed to a constitutional ban on the act.
Clinton is co-sponsoring a bill that would make it a crime to destroy a flag on federal property, intimidate anyone by burning a flag or burning someone else's flag.
A spokesperson for the Senator says Clinton supports making flag burning a crime, but is hesitant to amend the Constitution.
Clinton's move to co-sponsor the bill is seen by many observers as an apparent attempt to win over conservative voters as she preps for a possible run for the White House in 2008.
Sen. Clinton is trying to butter her bread on both sides. While she says she opposes a Constitutional amendment banning the burning of the flag, she says it should be a crime to burn it on federal property or to use it to intimidate someone or to burn their flag. This is horrible politics, and her move to gain more voters by moving to the right where she is more comfortable will likely backfire.
The last two are already illegal. Threats are not protected speech. Destruction of someone's property is illegal. But burning a flag on federal property? That absolutely should be protected. Federal property includes national parks, monuments and memorials. In fact, it would include most of Washington, D.C.!
I have long claimed Hillary Clinton was a moderate and even zagged into conservative terratory at times. Her reputation as a leftie is greatly eggagerated by her affiliation wil nationalized health care. She is responsible for some of the tugging to the right Bill Clinton endured in the mid-1990s. She is no leftie. She even used to be a "Goldwater Girl."
Sen. Clinton makes this move at a time when she knows the right to dissent should be protected and affirmed. Now, more than ever, the freedom to speak out and protest -- even while repulsive to some -- must be guarded. Sen. Clinton would trade temporary political gain with a sliver of the electorate for the trust placed in her by not only her constituents but millions of Americans who have seen her as a leader and thoughtful voice from the left. What will most likely happen is that the people she hopes to gain favor with will see this for what it is -- a sop -- and those who helped her get where she is will start looking for someone who does not smack of tracking-poll politics as much as her husband did.
This stings, Hillary. I thought you were better than this. You lost my respect and you probably lost my vote.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
In Iraq, the trial of Saddam Hussein continued, and the former ruler of Iraq let out a bolt of opposition to his trial. His United States attorney, former attorney general Ramsey Clark, led a protest in which the defense team walked out of the courtroom because the judge would not allow the team to read a statement declaring the trial inappropriate and asking for more protection as two defense attorneys have already been killed and other slain. Today also brought dramatic testimony from a man who claimed Saddam had killed his family. Saddam stood and shouted that the witness was a liar.
The trial continues to polarize both supporting and opposing groups. It remains to be seen how long the trial will take, on what counts Saddam will be convicted and if he will be executed.
On the home front, a Texas judge threw out one charge against Tom DeLay, the former majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives -- the election conspiracy charge. The judge allowed a trial to proceed against DeLay for the charge of money laundering. This sets the stage for a new leadership election in the House, since the Congress will reconvene Jan. 30 for the presiden't State of the Union address.
Oddsmakers have their eye on Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the former whip and acting leader, who is likely lining up votes for leader.
Finally, the Supreme Court said today it would hear a case involving military recruiting on college campuses. The case pits the armed forces recruiters -- combing law schools for recruits to the Judge Advocate General Corps -- against those who say that the military's ban on homosexuals serving openly violates the anti-discrimination policies in place at many universities -- most employers must sign a declaration that affirms they do not discriminate on the basis of several protected classes, including sexual orientation.
This case has the potential to undo the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy enacted in 1993 by the Clinton Administration.
All in all, a dynamic day in the courts.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
I'm pretty sure things have turned for the Republicans now, too, and that the so-called revolution in 1994, which swept Republicans into power in both houses of Congress as well as statehouses and legislatures across the country, is over. One key to their advances was billing themselves as good and responsible stewards of government and the taxpayers' money. More than a decade later, I doubt the GOP could make the same claim with a straight face.
Instead, the Republicans have become the party of flag-waving, defecit spending and war-mongering. With a new indictment of a Republican seemingly every week, the party is hardly a model of good government.
Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's admission this week that he accepted bribes and other gifts from defense contractors hoping to gain influence with Cunningham as chair of the defense appropriations sub-committee. He is the latest example of how Republican "values" have proven to be corrupt and bad for America.
So what are the Republicans to do? They better look inward to some of the less-polarizing leaders if they hope to have any chance at saving a majority in the Congress in 2006 elections and in the presidential election in 2008. Names we're likely to hear: Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, George Voinovich and, yes, Newt Gingrich. Gingrich can be the one to save the party again, and he is in the catbird seat to do so.
If more Republicans get indicted, we'll see a shift in attention.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
So winter begins.
Finally I shoveled the driveway tonight. I usually don't do much to clean off the driveway (there are no sidewalks on my cul de sac) for a few reasons. One, I have studded tires, so the snow is not really a problem to get through when coming in and out of the garage. Two, since I had already driven out of the garage Tuesday morning, compressing ruts, there was no way to clear the drive of the snow; the pebbly surface also makes it difficult. Finally, the direction of the sun's rays during winter -- blocked by the mountain and other homes -- means the driveway gets very little chance to have the snow or frost melt; pretty much it's shady till February.
But today, I had to do it. Enough snow had piled up that it needed to be done. And, I had to brush the snow off the car so it would not melt in the garage and leave a big puddle. Plus, I felt bad that the paper boy had to trudge through the drifts of powder just to deliver my paper to the porch.
So now, the driveway is mostly clean. Just in time for another dumping of snow. The good news tonight is that school is delayed two hours tomorrow, so I can sleep well.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
I work with a lot of seniors, and because of the nature of my job, I work with many of these students for several years. In some cases, I may have had a student for all four years of high school. I would not be doing this job if I did not enjoy it, and the longevity of my work with some students is one of the really rewarding aspects.
However, because of the nature of the students I work with, I have a pile of letters to write each year. These students frequently apply to selective universities and colleges, consistent with their demonstrated excellence at school. And each of those colleges requires a letter of recommendation, a completed form or some other type of evaluation.
I pride myself on doing a good job in everything I attempt, so I take my letter-writing seriously. I spend a few weeks mulling the anecdotes and adjectives I will use to characterize each student. Sure, I use some boilerplate language and swap out the indivdual's name, but the bulk of the letter is original. It takes 30 to 45 minutes to prepare each. If there is a separate form, those are five to 10 minutes each, too, depending if I choose to use the typewriter.
But let me make one thing clear: I receive no additional compensation for this letter-writing, and it is not a requirement. Furthermore, I don't write one for every student; in fact, I have declined on several occasions. Still, I counted today, and I have written 107 letters in my nine years as a teacher, including eight already this year. That does not include the shorter forms used by some scholarship applications that just require a few boxes be checked and a couple short statements on this quality or that academic ability.
I have contemplated the idea of asking for a donation to a scholarship fund for those who seek my recommendation or even limiting my letters to a certain group or number of students. But I have enacted no limites other than asking for three to four weeks of lead time to guarantee a letter. For the most part, I write a good letter, and I like to think I have been part of my students' acceptance at some of the nation's and Northwest's top universities.
Perhaps something can be done through the school or bargaining agreement with the union. Perhaps I should just suck it up and accept it -- or else just draw a boundary line. Regardless, one thing that is always nice is when the students ask politely and write a nice nmote of thanks afterward.
It's the least I can expect.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
So are "Drive safely," "Steer into the turn" and "Brake steadily."
And, finally, "Slow down."
Those are the words I learned to pay closer attention to after my trip over Interstate 90 and Snoqualmie Pass Friday morning. I spun out in the middle of the freeway, a full 180-degree turn.
In the far left lane, strangely all alone on this stretch of roadway, I caught a bit of slushy snow and began to fishtail. As I slid into the center lane, I began to turn around. I hit the brakes -- thankful for the antilock system. I spun further around, actually travelling backward, and I absolutely expected to hit the Jersey barrier rapidly approaching on the passenger side. I braced for impact.
But I didn't hit it.
I came to a complete stop just inches -- inches -- from the concrete barricade, completely astonished that I had avoided a collision. No other cars approached, and two breaths later, I decided I better turn my car around and get back on my way.
Less than a mile later, I exited to the summit and took just a few minutes to collect myself and stop shaking. I am pretty danged lucky.
The rest of the trip was, and my return trip to Wenatchee will be, filled with safe driving techniques and more caution.
So, heed some words and be careful, slow down and don't pump those brakes.
Friday, November 25, 2005
As I sat in a nearly empty theater on Thanksgiving afternoon, I was thankful that few others had come to see the film. I like a quiet theater. But I was also disappointed because the film deserves wider viewing than will likely result outside America's cities and urban sophisticates.
Despite the fact that I enjoyed the movie, the critics were pretty harsh -- and there are some good reasons for a thumbs down. Putting those reasons aside, I could still recommend the film for entertainment.
The film takes place at the end of the 1980s, a transition year in so many ways -- from the end of the cold war to the end of the millennium. The fin de siecle attitude is well expressed among the ensemble -- they are beat up after the '80s and ambivalent about the future. This is one reason the film does not resonate very strongly in 2005: The '90s turned out pretty good for a lot of people, and the first part of the century is what has come to be the dark decade.
The Associated Press review I read said "Rent" was "of its time" -- meaning that it took place in 1989 and played in the mid-'90s. It captured a segment of the culture and society that was of the moment: a pre-9/11, pre-Giuliani New York instead of the neo-romantic version we have today. It was a gritty New York, a filthy New York, a smutty New York-y Bohemia that we all thought of as New York. It would kick your ass. That doesn't jive with today's impression of New York as the greatest city in the world. It seems as if the show would have been better in a decade, when enough time has passed that we have romanticized the bygone days instead of remembering them too clearly.
The cast is mostly the original Broadway cast. While this is helpful in the fact that they own their parts, they hardly can play angst-filled 20-somethings with much credibility.
The score resonates, and the larger theme of live for the now because there might not be a tomorrow can easily be applied to the post-9/11 world. Those characters have some heart, and the music conveys a mood. This show brought back Broadway at a time when people in the Heartland weren't paying much attention.
See "Rent" for the entertainment, and view it as a snapshot of its time. I suspect it will only improve with age.
My Thanksgiving started at about 9 a.m. when I awoke without benefit of an alarm. I lazed for a while then began to cook my dinner. Yes, I prepare a holiday feast from Safeway. And I eat it all (not in one sitting, though). Some of my friends and coworkers and students have questioned my Thanksgiving plans. They wonder aloud whether I would not prefer to be with friends or family. I reply simply that I like to do my own thing.
For me, Thanksgiving is a day even more special than my birthday (when I don't do much of anything extra special). It is a day off from work when I need it, a day of eating which I love, and a day full of no expectations. On Thanksgiving, people don't expect you to work or return e-mail messages or pay your bills or meet them for coffee or anything. They just expect you to eat.
The meal and wine were followed by a movie waiting for several weeks from Netflix ("The Hudsucker Proxy") and later a trip to the cinema to see "Rent." All in all, a festive day.
So those of you who got stuck with your families and into arguments or endured whiny kids or a boring football game when you wanted to watch something else, I encourage you to consider the Loganite Thanksgiving next year. I certainly had plenty of offers (some genuine and others prompted out of pity, I am sure), but I was happy to decline them all. Undoubtedly, some will think I am weird. I prefer the term "quirky."
Not eating turkey on Thanksgiving, now that's weird!
Monday, November 21, 2005
This article appeared in The Wenatchee World on Monday, Nov. 21, as a column by the managing editor of the community newspaper. His son is one of my newspaper students. It was a special treat. (I'd send just a link, but the Web site requires a paid subscription.)
This article is about my school and my students and me, but it just as easily could describe dozens -- hundreds -- of situations across the nation. It's pretty rare to have such prominent acknowledgement of an academic activity.
I don't send this to toot a horn or pat a back. I share it as a Thanksgiving wish, a wish that everyone could attain the professional situation we desire and that others would recognize in public your talents and the success of your work. I'm thankful to have an opportunity every day to do good things, to work with good students and to know good people here and around the country.
A high school legacy, in print
By Gary Jasinek, World managing editor
The staff of Wenatchee High School’s student newspaper, The Apple Leaf, was gathering Thursday morning in Room 262 for its daily class in advanced journalism.
Their teacher and adviser, Logan Aimone, got their attention at the front of the room. He held up a proof of the coming edition’s opinion section, where several staffers had contributed columns.
“This just drips with voice,” he told the staff. “Anybody who reads this will know that these are teenagers with something to say.”
That they are.
These teenagers with something to say at Wenatchee High School received the highest honor in high school journalism the week before last, when they won their second-consecutive Pacemaker award at a national high school journalism convention in Chicago. Only a couple of dozen student papers in the country received that honor this year.
More impressive: The Apple Leaf is one of only five papers to have won the award — considered the high school journalism equivalent of a Pulitzer — each of the past two years.
Two national titles in a row? If this were a sports team, people would be talking dynasty.
Actually, the team concept is more than an analogy here. With Aimone’s guidance for the past eight years, the Apple Leaf staff has developed a culture that would be the envy of any ambitious squad seeking glory on a court or field instead of on pages of newsprint.
It begins with the expectation of excellence, it’s extended by recruiting talent, and it’s nourished by a school administration wise enough to not meddle with success.
Junior Nick Feldman, The Apple Leaf’s editor in chief, said high expectations are set from Day 1. “Aimone always begins the year reminding us that we have a legacy,” he said, sitting at a classroom table with Managing Editor Kelly MacDonald, a senior.
(Full-disclosure interruption: I know several of these kids through my son, Adam, who’s the Apple Leaf’s photo editor.)
MacDonald agreed about the tone Aimone sets. “The Apple Leaf is very important to him,” she said. “He expects us to do the best we can.”
More powerful than a coach’s expectations are teammates’ sense of obligation to each other. Aimone says that’s a powerful force on The Leaf’s staff.
“Nobody wants to be the kid who lets the team down,” he said, recalling the edition last year in which the centerpiece feature was, in his words and in the opinion of the staff, “a real dog. The kids just beat themselves up over it.”
To engage in that sort of discerning self-critique, the kids themselves need to be accomplished and wise enough to recognize quality, and its opposite.
That starts with recruiting and developing talent. Aimone identifies promising next-year players primarily through his beginning journalism class — where “I have the chance to teach journalism without the pressure of publication” — and through an honors English class he teaches, as well as referrals from other teachers.
With a circulation of 1,900, The Apple Leaf has the ability to inform and engage and, at times, stir things up. That’s when the independence of a student paper becomes crucial.
Aimone recalled the edition in 2002 that dealt frankly with sexual issues and included a graphic that was instructional in the use of condoms. A controversy ensued.
The principal at that time asked to see six subsequent editions before publication under a policy that says the administration “can review,” not that it “must review.” Currently, the administration chooses not to.
“Without someone looking over our shoulder, we have thrived,” Aimone said. When the administration becomes the editor, “students lose interest and the publication loses respect. Plus, it’s an insult to the classroom teacher. No other teachers are asked to submit students’ work or lesson plans for approval.”
Then again, few other teachers have the opportunity to impart the lessons that can come from the challenges of creating a real newspaper.
Aimone seems driven to make the most of that opportunity.
His students sense that drive. They appreciate it.
“He’s passionate,” said MacDonald, “and his passion inspires us.”
Gary Jasinek’s column appears on Mondays. Reach him at email@example.com or at 665-1176.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
"No one is above the law."
"Support schools, not criminals."
"Ask Nicaragua about family values."
"North is the wrong direction."
About 35 people gathered on Wenatchee Avenue in front of the Performing Arts Center to demonstrate against a speech to be given by Olver North. North is the former Marine Corps colonel who organized several military operations in Central America during the Reagan Administration and who played a central role in the arms-for hostages sale known as the Iran-Contra Scandal.
Today, North is a conservative commentator on radio and television, and he writes books to promote his so-called family values. On Saturday night, though, he was the featured speaker in a fund-raiser for St. Paul's Lutheran School.
Apparently a small group of benefactors put up the $30,000 it took to bring North to Wenatchee. Tickets for the event were $100 to $1,000. I suspect the more expensive tickets allowed a person to meet North and have a photo taken or something similar. A friend walked in to see how the room was set and counted 258 seats.
So it was an enthusiastic group of people of conscience that gathered at the PAC and then down below at the parking lot-level entrance to the convention center. My cohorts down there held their signs aloft for people to read and walk past as they entered, dressed in their finery. The best slogan that emerged was "Good cause, wrong choice of speaker."
On the street level, as I held my placard to be seen by passing motorists, a few of them honked in support or gave a thumbs up sign. Others, more frequent, gave a middle finger, swore out their window or shook their head in mock disgust.
One interesting moment came when the man chosen to introduce North walked by. The person selected was my former school principal, a man known for his Christian fundamentalist values and mixing public roles with private religious interests. I held my placard in front of me, looked him in the eye, and he said hello and we shook hands. No one was there for a confrontation.
Well, one man was there for a confrontation. He walked along down at the parking lot level and shouted at the demonstrators, his crudely made cardboard sign saying something about it being hard to love thy neighbor. It was confusing. He engaged a few other people and quickly disappeared.
St. Paul's School certainly has the right to bring anyone to speak, and people have a right to go listen if they want, even if it is expensive. Heck, I paid $75 to hear Michael Moore in Seattle a couple years ago. But the larger issue here is that a man convicted of accepting a bribe, destroying evidence and obstructing a Congressional investigation was being asked to speak about family values. That his convictions were overturned on a legal technicality does not make them less serious or offensive.
Perhaps the real offense was that people would pay to hear anything he had to say. Oliver North is certainly no role model. Some good did come from the event -- progressives, liberals and other people of conscience are increasingly active and willing to step up and say, "Not in our town, not in our name." And that is a good cause.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Despite my best effort (my vote) and my strong feeling that the county should not favor all-mail balloting despite the popularity and its lower cost, I can't go to the poll anymore. It's gone.
So for future elections, I'll look forward with glee to the random day when I will receive a ballot in the mail. Perhaps I'll set it aside from my catalogs, magazines and credit-card preapprovals. Perhaps I'll remember to find a special time to mark my ballot, but more likely I will just do it between a fast-food dinner and watching some TV.
Maybe I will get together with some friends and we can all mark our ballots at the same time, so it actually feels like voting. Maybe I'll go to the senior center so I can get the experience of saying hello to the elderly women who usually work the polls and whose cheerful greetings always made me feel good to vote.
But I will keep voting. Whether in person or by mail, there is no more important role for a citizen. I plan to continue doing it.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Monday, November 14, 2005
In every way possible, this was my best convention experience ever. We had such good convention karma! The flights left on time, the elevators at the Swissotel were never delayed, we arrived at the awards ceremony just in time for a student to hear his name as a superior winner, and we had glorious weather as we walked around Millennium Park and to a fantastic delicatessen called Ada's.
Sunday morning brought three individual awards: a superior in newspaper sports photography and honorable mentions in review writing and news writing.
More than the awards (which were very nice), my students have never left a convention as excited and energized about their publications. I don't expect that every session will be a life-changer; I do expect students to find a few nuggets of inspiration here and there. Some highlights: sports columns, reader surveys and enterprise reporting.
To be in a student hotel room at midnight Saturday and witness all my students hanging out and talking about enterprise and diversity was especially rewarding. So much about the convention experience is goes beyond the sessions. It is about a shared experience and learning. It's also about making new friends and seeing old ones. I am glad I had a chance to connect with so many of my j-pals in Chicago (you probably know who you are!).
Finally, it is about making lasting memories, such as walking through sideways rain, cheering about a Pacemaker award and eating something called a "francheesie" (a beef frank wrapped in cheese and bacon is quite possibly the world's best food idea).
I bought a great piece of original editorial cartoon artwork for a large chunk of change, but it all goes to support the Student Press Law Center, so I feel fine about raising my credit card balance. And, I even got a bonus when checking out of the hotel when the clerk waived my Internet fees -- $10 per day. What a deal!
So, thanks Chicago and all the local committee folks. We came curious and left with questions answered and newer, more important ones raised.
We'll do it all again in San Francisco in April.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The Apple Leaf newspaper has earned a second consecutive National Pacemaker award, one of just a couple dozen in the nation to receive the honor. The Pacemaker is sometimes referred to as the Pulitzer Prize of scholastic journalism.
The Apple Leaf also earned 10th place in the Best of Show contest -- but in the newsmagazine category. Interestingly, I forgot to check the category box when I submitted the form on Thursday, and when I went back to do so on Friday, apparently it never was done properly (the paper had already been moved from the desk area). So someone must have classified it as a newsmagazine. It's an honest mistake -- the paper has a large feature photo on Page 1, but there is also a news story. The students feel strongly this is a newspaper. While 10th place is nothing to be disappointed with, I wonder how the paper would have farfed against the other newspapers, especially since this was a 24-page edition. I have spun this as "We can win in two categories" and "We defy classification." I sense a t-shirt in the future.
The Wa Wa yearbook earned fifth place in the yearbook Best of Show contest for 2005 books with 225-324 pages. This is the first placement in Best of Show for the yearbook in the eight editions I have advised, and I am confident in saying it is the highest placing ever for our book. It was also a featured book at our publishing company's booth, and I saw several people looking it over.
Earlier, at the advisers' luncheon, I was recognized as one of four advisers receiving the Distinguished Adviser Award from the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund as part of its teacher recognition program. As part of another award, where excerpts from my nomination letter were read, the reader mispronouned my last name (again). The coup de grace was when I received my DJNF plaque -- a nice molded one, not engraved -- that I noticed my name was misspelled. Still, neither incident could tarnish the great honor of the award.
After the awards ceremonies, the students and I celebrated with a trip to a very Chicago destination: Navy Pier. Only problem was the few drops of rain during the walk that turned into a downpour and severe winds within about a half mile. It was not pleasant. Undoubtedly, the students will remember the wet and blustery walk for many years. We arrived at the pier and had some authentic hot dogs, shopped for a bit at the souvenier shops and took cabs back to the hotel.
Earlier, a colleague of mine from another school and I waled around the downtown area, and did some sightseeing at Marshall Fields, which is one big department store. Today was the unveiling of the Christmas decorations, the display windows in a Cinderella theme and a huge tree that was three stories tall. It was all very nice. I bought a neck tie.
All in all, a memorable day.
Friday, November 11, 2005
The media coverage basically tells what I just reported. It does not show just how two articulate and talented young women editors have championed free speech and said "Hands off!" to school administration -- administration that has never enforced this policy at one of the oldest scholastic newspapers in Washington state.
Additionally, a colleague at nearby Mountlake Terrace High School wrote a guest column for The Herald, Everett's community daily newspaper. It was picked up by the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn., and is available here. It's a compelling piece of persuasion.
That the student editors have acted with conviction, passion and intelligence is testament to the strong education they have received in the Everett School District, north of Seattle. It is ironic that the administration that is demanding more from student learning seeks to risk precisely what is working in its schools. Prior review is not educationally sound, and administrators should abandon their effort to stifle student expression.
It's another thing that is wrong with education.
It;s a glorious morning in Chicago, the Windy City. The Swissotel is a fantastic property. My students are pleasant, enthusiastic and good representatives of their school. Today should kick off a great convention experience. As I write this, I overlook the Chicago River, with a view of some amazing architecture downtown as the rising sun glints its pink streaks off the shiny windows and light bricks.
Today I will attend some convention sessions and luncheon, and later a benefit auction with what promises to have amazing offers, all to benefit the Student Press Law Center. And, I plan to get out and see just a bit of the city.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
And, I love to vote.
Really, I do. I proudly claim that I have voted in every election for which I have been eligible since turning 18 -- presidential, gubernatorial, Congress, county, city, hospital district, public utility district and school board. I've always voted on public initiatives and referenda questions, too. Like I said, I love it.
More than marking my ballot with the black marker or pencil, I like going to the polls. I enjoy stopping by the poll on my way to work, saying hello to whichever elderly lady is staffing the table for my precinct, going to the stall and then inserting my ballot into the box. I like knowing it got delivered on time and as promised. I like the experience and the red-white-and-blue bunting festooning the place.
So it was with a special sense of pride that I cast a vote today at the performing arts center in downtown Wenatchee, the centralized polling location for this area of the county. Most voters here, and increasingly around the state, are permanent absentee voters. They like to get a ballot and mail it in by Election Day. Clearly, they value convenience over civic engagement with neighbors all sharing the experience of casting a ballot at a polling place.
In fact, on the ballot in Chelan County today was an advisory vote to county commissioners about whether the county should remain one of 13 in the state to allow in-person voting or join the majority as a mail-voting only county. I voted no, of course. I recognize the budgetary savings and convenience, even the increased security. None trump the tradition and social benefit of a polling place, in my book. Nonetheless, the vote will probably show that most voters prefer voting by mail -- the numbers already indicate that -- but I can hope people say no like I did.
In fact, today was a day of voting no all the way down the ballot. I did mark to approve a small constitutional amendment to allow municipal judges on a judicial oversight committee. That made sense to me.
I voted no for changing the law regarding medical malpractice to benefit doctors. I voted no for changing the law regarding medical malpractice to benefit lawyers. I voted no to ban smoking in all public places. I voted no to repeal the gas tax enacted this year. I voted no to add a duplicitous government auditing system.
Talking about the election today with some of the Joint Chiefs, I explained my rationale for each vote. And I surprised myself in being so Libertarian about the smoking ban initiative, shocking my associates with the departure from my usual liberal stance. I believe I actually used the phrase "let the marketplace decide" when it comes to people wanting a smoke-free environment. I almost could not believe what I was saying. But initiatives are notoriously poorly written; their overreaching (as in the smoking ban) ultimately prove their undoing.
So today might have been my last day of going to the polling place, greeting the nice ladies, going to the booth and putting my own ballot in the counting machine. And possibly no more "I voted" stickers. Yes, I love voting. I hope I still will even if I have to do it from my dining room table.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Monday, November 07, 2005
So I provide the message here with my commentary in italics:
Dear Teacher:-- Wenatchee, Wash.
It's that time of year again! Don't forget to request a refund from the Washington Education Association (WEA) for the percentage of your dues it spends on politics and other activities not representing you on your job.
(Actually, the WEA does represent me and my interests.)
While the WEA provides workplace representation services many teachers value, it admits to spending approximately 25 percent of your dues dollars influencing the outcome of elections and political controversies. Some of these activities are consistent with your views. Others are not.
(Most are, though. And because I believe in the democratic system of representation on which our nation was founded and not the my-way-or-leave mentality of the "entitlement generation," I accept that not every decision will be one with which I agree. If I disagree, I can also voice my disagreement or work to change the status quo through involvement.)
WEA and NEA officials admit they overcharge for "workplace representation" by about $200 per teacher each year.
(Perhaps "overcharge" is not the best term to use. That amount is what is not spent on direct representation. The remiander is advocacy on behalf of members' interests.)
If you disagree with the way the WEA spends this part of your dues, there are two options available.
1. Become an "Agency Fee Payer."
2. Become a "Religious Objector."
Agency fee payers are entitled to a refund of union dues. Apply for the refund by filing out the union resignation letter at the bottom of this e-mail. Send it to the WEA and a copy to your local union. For more information, please visit www.myrefund.com.
Alternatively, if you object to supporting union activities based on a personal religious belief, you may become a religious objector. Unions must accommodate your religious beliefs and allow you to redirect 100 percent of your dues to a charity. To learn more about this option and the controversial activities the union supports with your money, go to: www.ichoosecharity.org.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Have a great holiday season!
(The only question I have is: Why don't you all spend your time on something more valuable? Each WEA member has a chance to become involved in all areas of the union. Those who are dissatisfied should work to change the association, not just take their dues and go home, leaving the rest of us to fight for them but without their funds. What kind of values does the EFF really advocate?)
Evergreen Freedom Foundation
P.O. Box 552 | Olympia, WA 98507
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Longtime Loganite fans will note that I am a devotee of Mr. Brown, the always courteous and appropriately humble and restrained anchor who asked the questions I wanted asked and whose firm control of a news interview evoked the likes of David Brinkley and Mike Wallace and even Walter Cronkite. I looked forward to each installment of "NewsNight" and to the substance of an hourlong national news show that could provide context and analysis -- and the occasional offbeat "brite." That damned rooster for the "Morning Papers" segment long ago uttered its last cock-a-doodle-doo.
Oh sure, I watched a few episodes of "Anderson Cooper: 360" in the afternoon -- the Eastern prime time being our pre-supper. Cooper was my sarcastic afternoon snack. But Brown was my meat and potatoes. I dropped in on Cooper, but I made an appointment with Brown.
There will be another project for Brown -- perhaps he will return to ABC and the house that his mentor, Peter Jennings, built, or maybe even replacing Bob Schieffer at CBS. Perhaps Aaron Brown will go to PBS. He is a newsman's newsman, and I just don't see him fitting in at FOX or MSNBC. Whatever is next for him, I wish Aaron Brown luck. I hope to be seeing him broadcasting soon.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
It will be some time before "Capote" makes thr rounds to wide release, but when it does, be sure to catch a screening as soon as possible. Hoffman's portrayal is exact, and the cinematography and direction help sell this film's tone. The piece is about the life of Truman Capote, mainly the years after he wrote "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and decided to write his signature work, "In Cold Blood."
That piece changed American literature forever by introducing the genre or literary journalism, the nonfiction novel. In it, Capote writes about the brutal murder of a family of four in their West Kansas farmhouse by two men on the prowl for money. It is clear through the book -- and especially in the film -- that Capote holds a special place for one of the killers, Perry Smith, and simultaneously shows affection and attachment as he gathers information as well as using the men to further his own literary ambitions. The film demonstrates this relationship well, walking the fine line so as not to play up one angle or another.
The angle of Truman Capote's childhood friend Nelle Harper Lee, and her support of Truman, is also well done. Just as her star begins to rise with the publication of the masterpiece "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the follow-up film version, Capote seems to have a subtle and unstated need to be the brightest light in the room. It's beautiful.
The fact that this film is based on a true story, on real people, makes the performances all the more astonishing. It would have been a fine film if it had been fiction, just as "In Cold Blood" would have been a fine book if it were fiction. But, as Capote showed America and the world, the real world can be just as compelling.
-- Issaquah, Wash.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Simply put, I have been busy -- not the kind of busy that means stayinglate at school or spending every minute in front of a computer screen researching. Instead it has been the kind of busy that leaves a person drained mentally. Over the past two weeks, I have had a lot going on in my mind, so when I get home after a pretty long day, I don't have the mental energy to focus on crafting writing for this Weblog. That has been disappointing as I had gained a certain pride from the fact that in August, September and most of October, I had posts for the number of days in the months. That's a lot for me since my posts are original usually and not just a "check this out" kind of link.
I have ideas aplenty -- I mean, the Bush Administration alone shluld be able to give a half dozen or more morsels for my skewer. But I won't try to go back and recap prior events. Instead, I'll just refocus and move on. This blog is pretty good cryptotherapy for me, so I need to carve out time for it often.
Movies, plays, politics, school and travel -- look for it all in coming days.
-- Issaquah, Wash.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Read The New York Times' coverage.
As the history of American movements is written -- not from just a few years' perspective but from decades or generations of perspective -- there will be a benchmark from the winter of 1955, a benchmark that sparked a revolution and symbolized a movement. Rosa Parks and her act of bravery, of defiance, of initiative have come to be the epitome of standing up for what is right.
When she sat on the bus in an area reserved for whites, she showed that the actions of one person can make a difference. A small act created a rallying point, and people acted.
Who has picked up the torch created by the spark from Rosa Parks? What is the segregated bus of today? What is the movement that people will join? Those are tough questions with no easy answers. Tomorrow is the time for answering. Today is the day to honor Rosa Parks, whose simple act of defiance sparked a movement.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
That makes what happened Thursday night all the more bizarre. I fell out of bed. Rolled, actually. I think.
All I know is the bit I remember and what I pieced together when I arose later. I was jolted from slumber with a sharp pain in my left shoulder and clutching some clothes that lay on the floor. I stumbled around in shock and then plopped back into bed, still groggy.
When I got up at my usual time a few hours later, I noticed a large scrape on my deltoid muscle with a straight edge where I had apparently hit the nightstand on the way down. As I went to the closet, I noticed that I must have knocked over the iron from its perch atop the ironing board. Water had spilled onto the clothes and floor. I then noticed the blood on my sheets where I had bled after the fall.
Weird, huh? I am not sure what I ate or dreamed about or did that resulted in this fall, but I sure hope I don't get a repeat of the situation.
Three days later, I still have a bit of stiffness, a sizable scrape and a burly bruise. Neosporin has helped heal the cut a bit. However, I have had no trouble sleeping since then. Back to normal.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
When she entered the banquet hall, I heard a thunderous applause rise up, and I saw the governor barely made it a few feet before she was surrounded by loyal Democrats and well-wishers. I made my way to the cluster of people surrounding the governor, and I patiently waited just a few minutes while she spoke with and listened to each person who approached. She is polite and genial and personable. After I introduced myself, she asked me a few questions about my job, about my school and such. She maintained eye contact and made me feel she was genuinely interested in me as a citizen first and a Democrat second. And I did not get the feeling that it was at all an act; in fact, I felt that she wanted to talk just with me for a minute or two before I moved along so someone else could have a chance.
During her talk, which lasted about 25 minutes, she only made a passing reference to being a Democrat and the fact that she was at an all-Democrat dinner celebrating the party. She spoke in the city where the trial that settled her election took place, yet she did not criticize the candidate she beat by 133 votes. Instead, she focused on what it was like to be the chief executive of the Great State of Washington as she visited other nations such as China and France. She explained that she asked these foreigners what they thought of when someone said they were from Washington. The reply was that first, they knew Washington state, and, second, Washington meant quality. The governor's mastery of the issues and values of those of us in Central and Eastern Washington demonstrated she knows this state and all its 39 counties -- not just the counties where more voters voted for her.
One of the best anecdotes she shared was from a voter in 2004. The governor explained that this voter had approached her -- just a few months after she had been in office and had helped guide a very successful legislative session -- and said that he had been wrong. He voted for someone else last year. He told her to run again and that he would vote for her.
That experience shows that if people can get past the idea that all Democrats mean big government and loose purse strings and all Republicans mean tax cuts and favors for Big Business that there are good people in elected positions. Christine Gregoire is a smart, modern Democrat. She knows this state, having been elected Attorney General three times and serving as director of the Department of Ecology before that, and she works hard to do what is best for the citizens of Washington.
I hope she runs again in 2008, and I am optimistic about her re-election. If people who voted for her 2004 opponent can get past petty and false grudges to look at who she is as a person and a leader, I think they would be impressed.
She is our governor.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Bob Herbert writes about the need for the Deomcrats to stop standing idly by and to present a viable alternative to the Republicans. They're on the ropes, but why should voters make a switch? Read on. Then, read further. I have added my comments below.
The New York Times • October 17, 2005Herbert is dead-on correct. It's like when you are flopped on the couch on a lazy afternoon, an afternoon that started with a good movie on TV but where you drifted off to sleep in a haze of blissful laziness. Everything is wonderful. Then, you groggily awaken, drool puddled on the pillow, and realize the good movie is over, replaced by a cooking show. You'll never make a rack of lamb, but you decide it's worth listening to as you wipe the drool off and roll over to continue that nap. A while later, you awaken again, but this time it's dark, the clock says 6:30 and you don't know if it is a.m. or p.m. and the TV is showing some news program. You suddenly sit bolt upright. But the thing is you are still in the nappy haze and wonder if it is worth getting off the couch to check a clock or even to change the channel.
Get It Together, Democrats • By BOB HERBERT
A word of caution: Democrats should think twice before getting all giddy about the problems caving in on the Republicans and the prospects of regaining control of Congress in next year's elections.
For one thing, the Democrats' own house is hardly in order. While recent polls have shown growing disenchantment with President Bush and the G.O.P., there's no evidence that voters have suddenly become thrilled with the Democrats.
A survey taken by the Pew Research Center showed an abysmal 32 percent approval rating for Democratic leaders in Congress.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Congressional redistricting (anti-democratic in every sense of the word) has made it more difficult to oust incumbents. It would take a landslide of shocking proportions for the Democrats to win control of both houses of Congress next fall.
This is not to minimize the troubles facing the G.O.P. The party is in free fall. The war in Iraq has been a disaster and despite the vote on the constitution over the weekend there is no end in sight. The cronyism and incompetence of the Bush administration ("Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job") have become a national joke, a given.
Tom DeLay has been indicted. Bill Frist and his lawyers are answering subpoenas and preparing a defense for possible insider-trading charges. The White House is in a state of highest anxiety over the very real possibility that criminal charges will be brought against one or more of the most important people in the Bush administration. And conservatives have formed a circular firing squad over the Harriet Miers flap.
It's no wonder the Democrats are gleeful.
They should get over it, and get on with the very difficult business of convincing the public that Democrats would do a better job of governing a country that is already in deep trouble, and sinking deeper by the day.
It's not enough to tell voters how terrible the Republicans are. (Leave that to the left-leaning columnists.) What Democrats have to do is get over their timidity, look deep into their own souls, discover what they truly believe and then tell it like it is.
Give us something to latch onto. Where do we go from here?
A friend reminded me recently of the old political adage that all campaigns are a battle between hope and fear. Ever since Sept. 11 President Bush and the G.O.P. have been pushing the nation's fear buttons for all they're worth. The public is frightened, all right - about terror, about the consequences of the war in Iraq, about economic insecurity here at home, about the future of the United States. But there is no longer much confidence that President Bush and the Republicans are competent to deal with these tough issues.
What the Democrats have to do is get off their schadenfreude cloud and start the hard work of crafting a message of hope that they can deliver convincingly to the electorate - not just in the Congressional elections next year, but in local elections all over the country and the presidential election of 2008.
That is not happening at the moment. While Americans are turning increasingly against the war in Iraq, for example, the support for the war among major Democratic leaders seems nearly as staunch and as mindless as among Republicans. On that and other issues, Democrats are still agonizing over whether to say what they truly believe or try to present themselves as a somewhat lighter version of the G.O.P.
I wonder what Harry Truman would think about today's Democratic Party?
Democrats need to put together a serious proposal for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq over a reasonable (which means reasonably short) period of time, and couple that with a broader national security plan that focuses on Al Qaeda-type terrorism and domestic security.
Democrats need to tell the country the truth about taxes, about the benefits of investing in the nation's physical infrastructure, about the essential need to bolster public education from kindergarten through college, and about the shared sacrifices that will be necessary if anything approaching energy independence is to be achieved.
They need to be optimistic and hopeful as they deliver their message to the country, explaining that all of these things are doable, that they will strengthen the U.S. in the short term and create a better future for the next generation and the one after that.
Competence is essential, but it's not enough. The great voices of history have always been the voices of optimism and hope.
And that's the case now with the voters. They're sitting on the couch -- paying attention but a bit groggy -- and they can't decide if the news program is so bad they should get up and change the channel (or even fumble around for the remote). Heck, the other channels could be just as bad or worse. They need to see something that makes them change the channel -- something that motivates them to get off the couch.
Attention Democrat leaders (and not just Howard Dean, John Kerry, Al Gore, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and other Congressional leaders): People are paying attention. Yes, we want to watch the GOP twist slowly in the wind while their fellow Republicans circle like vultures, waiting pick apart the dying. But after the implosion of the Republicans -- and a fall is coming soon -- there simply must be an alternative. Right now, I don't think it is there.
What would Harry think? President Truman would probably be shocked at what the party has become. He could certainly give today's Democrats a lesson in giving people Hell. They need it.
There is an opportunity for attracting voters to the traditional ideals of the Democrat Party. These ideals built and strengthened this nation -- clean air and water, collective bargaining rights, rural electrification, farm home loans, hydroelectric dams, minimum wage, Social Security, OSHA and unemployment insurance. The so-called "red states" of the West and South used to be solidly "blue," populated by yellow-dog Democrats. Die hards. The faithful. Religion was not the defining characteristic of a political affiliation. Instead, the belief of what was best for the country defined that.
I grew up in the rural Kittitas Valley with a family heritage of homesteaders who worked hard to build a life on the frontier. They built small farms, raising their crops and livestock, eking out a living and getting by with the help of a government that believed in building infrastructure and helping its citizens to have a better life. My grandmother lived 77 years on a farm in Ellensburg, Wash., working the land and making her land work. She voted for candidates with a "D" next to their name, knowing who shared her ideals, who supported family farmers, who looked out for her.
Today it would be easy to assume that people like my grandmother would be solidly Republican because farmers, of course, vote for values. We need to get back to helping farmers remember that Democrats have values, too, and that farmers should also be voting to keep their livelihood.
When the Ds figure out how to get those voters back, the "red states" will be "blue" again and the halls of Congress and the White House will be back in the hands of people who can be responsible with power: Democrats.
-- Wenatchee, Wash.