Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

It snowed two days ago in the Skagit Valley. The roads are still ice-covered because we have no snowplows or trucks to spread sand on the slippery stretches. It's very cold at night and the snow will not melt until next week. We've been starting the fire in the wood stove first thing in the morning, to keep the frost out. It's not like real winter back in the Midwest, but it's cold enough for me.

BUNKY THE BALD EAGLE. I call him Bunky. He perches at the top of the cottonwood in back of our house on Fir Island. He only recently got kicked out of his mama's nest -- has those mottled juvenile feathers. The adult bald eagles look like they own the country, with a commanding predator's glare. But Bunky looks lost, "Mom?.... Mom?.... Where's the food?....What am I supposed to do?" Bunky is perched up there in the cottonwood, all alone in the world now, looking into a lean winter before he figures out that he has to get his own dinner.

HE'S SERBIAN. Illinois Governor Blagojevitch is neither corrupt nor insane, he's Serbian. Chicago has a large Eastern European contingent -- Poles, Ukrainians, Croats, Slovaks, etc., and they are aware of the ethnic distinctions. Serbia was that country that Pres. Clinton bombed back to Bejesus after they invaded Kosovo. They also started World War I at Sarajevo, in Serbia, and now we have this Governor, the most famous Serbian-American in the country. But his name will be forgotten by next week. As they say, in Chicago, to the rest of the country "What's it to you?... It's not your state and it's not your tax money."

Of course it does reflect a bit on our new President, as the nation slowly realizes that Obama is the brains and the style, but Mayor Dailey is the muscle. It took muscle to kick that cowboy out of the White House -- just being right and asking nicely won't get you anything.

TAKE IT BACK. But another event in Chicago will become an important date in American history, December 5, the day when the workers at the window factory in Chicago decided to take it back. They were laid off with only three days notice, more than 200 workers, many with more than ten years experience -- no severance pay, no accrued vacation pay, just "get out."

But they didn't just clean out their lockers and go home -- they refused to leave the premises until they got paid. They began a six-day occupation of the window factory, until all the politicians, and reporters, and bankers, and owners came by to hear their story. Their calm determination prevailed, and they got their back pay.

And did those workers win because they deserved it? Because they were right? No, they prevailed because they seized the premises -- an illustration of muscle effectively deployed on behalf of labor.

I am just astounded by this act of labor militancy, because it marks a turning point. Labor has been meek and subnmissive since another famous date in American history, August 3, 1981, when President Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers for going on strike. Eleven thousand he fired, with a stroke of his pen, and ever since that date 27 years ago American workers have cowered while Reagan spoke about a city shining on a hill. Reagan's shining city exists, but most of us don't get to live there. Instead we bought his promise, "If we all work for less money, the nation will prosper" .... ? .... Reagan said it with such a nice smile, that many of us believed him, and many of us got confused. "Okay, I get it, I'll get rich if I just work harder for less money" ..... but that doesn't actually make sense.....

UNLESS you live in Alabama. Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, was the leading voice in oppostion to the Detroit bailout. Alabama is the home of cheap labor. Their state motto is "Dirt Poor and Proud of it."

Alabama gave America slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, sharecropping, mule plowing, George Wallace, the Klu Klux Klan, corn pone, fat back, pellagra and tuberculosis, and six different flavors of chewing tobacco.

That's all I need to know about the bailout. Think what you will about Mayor Dailey and the Big Three automakers -- but people got paid well. I don't want to live in Senator Shelby's cheap labor world, do you?

So, I will close with a wonderful, moving song, sung by Mahalia Jackson, often considered the finest gospel singer who ever lived. Her voice, with its infinite power and grace, represents that best of life of Chicago. Even her life story illustrates the story. Mahalia was born and raised in New Orleans, but she came north, as so many other Southerners did, black and white, to escape grinding poverty, because they could get factory jobs in Chicago, and the jobs paid so much better than picking cotton. Mahalia Jackson came north to freedom. Listen to her music. Listen to "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We're Not Like That

I was reading about the scandal in Illinois and how Governor Blogo was arrested for selling favors. Like many Washingtonians I was shocked at the depth of corruption coming out of Chicago. I am so glad that we're not like that here.

Take our Governor, Christian Gregoire -- she is an angel of the highest ethical standards. It's true that the tribal casinos made substantial contributions to her campaign fund, but does that grant them any special access? Of course not, Gregoire doesn't even return their phone calls.

Bud Norris, the mayor of Mount Vernon, is so careful not to do any favors for his friends that he doesn't even HAVE friends.

Our Skagit County Commissioners are utterly beyond any attempt at influence. It's true that they sometimes play golf with local business leaders. And it's true that those same business leaders might benefit from zoning changes, but of course those subjects are not discussed. Our commissioners simply cannot be bought.

No, we're not like those crooks in Chicago and thank goodness for that. We can trust our local leaders. In Skagit County, we pay our property taxes with the complete assurance that every penny will be honestly allocated.

CHOLERA IN ZIMBABWE. Go to Google, type in "cholera AND Zimbabwe" then select Images -- you will see some very disturbing photos. They are still able to bury the bodies, but if it gets worse, you will soon see photos of dead families lying in the road.

THE NAKED NEWS. The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times have gone bankrupt. I report the demise of the Mainstream Media with some glee. I have never made a penny from those idiots. There are a number of prominent editors and publishers who enjoy reading Frog Hospital and occasionally I ask them for paying work. They always reply in the negative and say they can't use my kind of writing -- although it's my independent spirit that causes the biggest problem.

What you see in this blog is not news writing, and I don't claim it to be -- but I can write the news as good as anybody in America. So, yes, I watch the big papers go down with grim satisfaction -- knowing that I could help them if they asked, knowing that if they hired more people like me they would not be in such a jam.

EMPTY STOREFRONTS IN LACONNER. Business is way down in LaConner, in part because of the national economic slowdown, but also because LaConner has become one of the most boring towns on the West Coast. Visitors get a huge dose of "Been There, Done That," and they stop coming back.

HEALTH CARE IN CANADA. National health care in Canada is a good thing, and we need to have something like that here in the US, except the part about waiting in line. It's a matter of national character. I lived in Canada for five years as a young man, and I discovered that Canadians are simply more polite and patient than Americans. Therefore, in devising a better health care plan for America, we need to take into account our rambunctious, ornery nature and design the system accordingly. Waiting in line? Can't do that here.

FROG HOSPITAL HEADQUARTERS. We've had computer problems at Frog Hospital, my ancient ( 4-years-old ! ) laptop is wheezing and giving off ozone odors plus I had some problems with the mailing list, plus the hospital work is exhausting me -- all that slowed things down. But we're still here.