Writings and observations


July 2011

Before long, I found myself overcome with nervousness.

I called to follow up about the temporary position at Oregon Capitol News, and was told I would find out about it by the end of the day. Much to my relief, I heard back later that I did, indeed, get that job. This meant we would have some money coming in and I would have something to do for a couple of weeks.

A few days later, I headed off to Salem to have lunch with Wally. I decided to bring Maddie, and thought it would be nice to show her around the state capitol. We walked with Wally to a nearby café. He was happy with how the session had gone, but said it was getting harder and harder to leave his family every weekend to come back to Salem.

A couple of days later, I got together with Justin and Ian. Justin had apparently found a drummer, named Chad, for us to play with. I took Annaka’s van over to Justin’s place to load up his bass stack. We then made our way over to Chad’s house.

Because I had parked on the other side of the very busy 60th Street, we had to dart across it with our instruments and equipment. Luckily, Justin’s stack had wheels, so he could just roll it through traffic. We headed up to the attic, where Chad’s drum set was located. He said he liked our songs, and seemed like a cool guy who understood where we were coming from.

Chad had a microphone and a guitar amp we could attempt to use for PA, but we couldn’t quite get it to work. That was all right, though, because the lyrics for most of the songs weren’t fully figured out yet. I started to suggest to Ian that we go over the lyrics during our usual chess/coffee/anger management sessions. But it dawned on me that I would actually be working the next few weeks, for the first time in over eight months.

Our jam session was very productive, and all indications were that Evil Homers had a complete lineup. We scheduled a follow-up for the Fourth of July, which fell on a Monday.

After dropping Justin and Ian off, I headed home to pack for our trip to Grants Pass. We woke up early the next morning and hit the road.
Along the way to Grants Pass, we passed by Golden, the old, abandoned mining town where Annaka and I had gotten married nearly four years prior.

A historic reenactment was taking place back then, complete with people renewing their wedding vows. Annaka and I had just gotten our marriage certificate and rings a couple of days before that, and were able to get married in a spontaneous ceremony held inside a church.

Wally was already at the Powderhorn by the time we arrived. I called Simon at the courthouse and urged him to come and meet us. Simon ordered a slice of strawberry pie, which inspired me to do the same. The biggest perk of working at the Powderhorn was that I would often end up with whatever slices of pies they couldn’t sell during the day.

Our meeting was taking place approximately six months after Wally and Simon had taken office. Both had learned a lot since being sworn in, and were determined to continue doing right by their constituents.

During our discussion, I asked Simon if any aspects of his job were different than what he had expected. He replied that the county’s financial situation was deteriorating much faster than he’d thought. A couple of the departments he was charged with overseeing were also in worse shape than most people realized.

In many ways, Simon’s job as county commissioner had proven difficult. He had taken part in replacing different department heads who had resigned or retired, had taken on the task of being the interim fairgrounds manager, and was even having to choose a replacement commissioner. But he was still optimistic after half a year on the job.

Having made my rounds, I headed off to Riverside Park to play disc golf. Jimmy ran to the playground before Annaka and my mother-in-law came to join us. As soon as they arrived, I grabbed my Frisbees and walked over to the disc golf course. It had been moved around in the time since I had left town. Undeterred, I proceeded to get a couple of birdies in the best game I had played in a very long time. After nine holes, I was still two strokes under par.

Triumphant, I rounded up Jimmy and Annaka and drove to my dad’s place in Jacksonville. Along the way, I passed by some of the towns where I had cut my teeth reporting in my early twenties, like Rogue River and Gold Hill.
It was great to see my dad again after so long. I had felt bad for moving his grandson nearly 300 miles away.

Our financial situation was not great, and the high cost of gas had made the trip more expensive. My in-laws had sent us some money ahead of time to help defer some of those costs, and my dad helped out by giving us $100 in cash. He also offered to babysit Jimmy the next day so Annaka and I could go on our first date in months.

On our way back to Vancouver a few days later, we stopped in Grants Pass to meet a friend. The location was the same Elmer’s restaurant where I had made my speech before the Josephine County Republican Women in late October.

By this point, I had been in Vancouver for so long that I was used to not knowing anybody when I went out in public. That changed literally as soon as we got to Elmer’s, where I ran into several people I knew.

We got in the car and headed back to Vancouver. I did, after all, have a temporary job and band practice to get to.

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carlson CHRIS


There’s a gun fight on the road ahead forming between predominantly “common sense conservative” Republicans and the zealots further to the right loosely lumped under the Tea Party label.

The stakes are high, for it is a battle for the soul of the Grand Old Party, and if the Tea Party elements prevail, the Republican Party will begin the slow fade into oblivion.

If the recent shut-down of the federal government and the showdown over raising the debt ceiling did nothing else it should have demonstrated to the public in graphic detail that the Tea Party Republicans and weak-kneed “fellow travelers” (Like Idaho’s two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch) are willing to place partisan positioning and interest ahead of the national interest. None of these folks subscribe to the historic notion of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Their votes and conduct only serve to hasten the day when Idaho’s GOP morphs into a new ultra-conservative party made up of only true believers who adhere to radical notions like returning the election of U.S. Senators to the state legislature, returning to the gold standard, abandoning the United Nations, defaulting on paying bills due and owing for already incurred expenses, punishing illegal immigrants already here, and the list goes on.

Already having seized control of several key counties, such as Bonneville, these fanatics are blind to the fact that they are narrowing their party’s base, a sure prescription for eventual consignment to the ash heap of history. In Idaho, not satisfied with a closed primary system, they are pushing for a closed caucus system, virtually guaranteeing that only the pure zealots can carry the party label into a general election.

Therein may be an opportunity for Idaho’s Democrats, however, especially in the state’s Second Congressional District. The Tea Party and its financial backers such as the Club for Growth and the Koch brothers are backing Idaho Falls attorney Bryan Smith’s primary challenge to eight-term “common sense conservative” incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson.

The May primary is restricted only to registered true blue Republicans and some observers believe Smith has a real shot at taking out Simpson given the expected dampening effect of the new rules on voter participation. Reports out of the Second District say the prospect of Smith defeating Simpson is causing former Democratic Second District Congressman Richard Stallings (1985-1993) to consider making a bid for his old seat.

A former history professor at BYU-Idaho, Stallings is a true pro-life conservative Democrat with proven appeal to the voters of the Second District. Were he to run his strategy would be to build a coalition of Democrats, independents and disgruntled supporters of Mike Simpson.

Two other items also are working for the demise of the Republican party as we know it; or, finally, a rejection of the Tea Party. One is the wrong-headed stance of both the GOP and the Tea Party on the issue of illegal immigration. Rather than working constructively to view those already here, whether legal or not, as potentially good, hard-working taxpayers, Republicans seem hell-bent on being punitive.

Hispanics already constitute 12% of Idaho’s electorate and are a growing force throughout the west. Quite frankly, they are more and more seeing the Democratic party as working for their best interests, not the Republicans.

Thus, one can conclude that “demographics” are also against the Tea Party R’s.

The final item that will ensure the Republican demise is the probability that the moderates will continue to pander to the zealots and embrace the politics of hate.

Some folks, this writer included, have a hard time reconciling the claim of the Tea Party to love their country, but hate their government. Instead of seeing their federal government as the Forest Service supervisor down the street, or the Idaho Nuclear Lab clerk climbing on a bus out to the site at 5 a.m., or the Marine captain home on leave, they see faceless bureaucrats who get more special privileges.

Rather than convey respect for public servants, they convey disrespect.

These folks motivated more by hate, invoke the Constitution and claim the right of a state to secede from the union, or to nullify federal laws they don’t agree with.

Yet they will stand at attention and recite the Pledge of Allegiance not recognizing their hypocrisy when repeating the words “One nation, Under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for all.”

Here’s hoping the GOP wakes up and eliminates the life-threatening cancer in its midst.

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