proactive empathy

Ok, I’ll say it since other people are thinking it and no one wants to sound like a heartless asshole:

Those two people who died on the streets: They could have, should have been in shelters.

I know there's a lot of complicated reasons for people refusing to go to a shelter even in dire conditions, and even when they are in desperate need. That's not something I know much about and will leave to others to explain.

But those in need should never have the ultimate responsibility to act when they are under duress. “Just get your ass to a shelter, man.” No. That's how the extreme conservatives, the heartless Ryan/Trumps would have it: You either take care of yourself or too bad.

Empathy and compassion demand that progressives act proactively. Opening a shelter is great; acting proactively to get everyone possible into those shelters, in a respectful and humane way, is essential. Not "open the doors & wait". Hell, no business would do that; they advertise their asses off.

I know people were doing all they could to reach those in need, but the need is bigger than the resources right now. How much better if there'd been enough people to comb the parking garages, to walk the streets, to search all night if necessary? I didn't do that, so I’m not affixing blame – except on myself.

Because as a good Portland progressive with the best of intentions, I’m not doing my part. That’s on me and no one else. Except –

No one asked me to be part of that effort. I don’t if I would have said yes, but, after this past week, if asked to do an all-night patrol looking for those in need, I’d say...

salvation is no hope

I spent ten years of my life believing in salvation. That promise was a lie, and I paid dearly for my belief. Rather than moving forward with my life, my depression and my inability to be a responsible adult became the truth the truth of my life.

I am still paying for believing in salvation outside of my own being. But at least I no longer look for others to save me or save the world.

The Electoral College was never going to save us from the results of November 8th.

Bernie Sanders will not save us, nor will Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker or any other politician, thinker, artist, or religionist.

Getting rid of Citizens United won’t save us. Ending dark money won’t save us.

Bill Moyers won’t save us. Molly Ivins will not be rising from the dead to save us.

Give it up. There is no salvation waiting for us, and we waste our lives, our resources, our hope in waiting for that salvation to appear.

Politics is about what is possible. Politics is about what we can accomplish today – and, if we’re smart about that, and a bit lucky, that can lead to accomplishing other things in the future. But since we can’t do a damn thing about either the past or future, we are stuck with the present. That’s where politics happens.

Salvation happens in a magical future that never will never exist. For over two thousand years, Christians have believed that Jesus was going to return and set up an eternal kingdom for the “saved”. Two thousand years and counting.

(Also counting: the number of times Christians have believed that special day was right around the corner.)

Other religions have similar beliefs. In my opinion, they...

Jenn Lynch, OR Alliance for Gun Safety

My guest is Jenn Lynch, President of the Board of the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety and one our state’s most outspoken and valuable leaders for common sense gun legislation and gun safety. We talked about the work of the Oregon Alliance, the 2016 election, what ordinary citizens can do, and the need for action on the number gun violence issue: suicide.

A quick note: this podcast was recorded before the November election, which is why some portions are dated.

base thoughts

Perhaps, he thought, Mormons don’t care if their kids get hurt in a car accident.

It was the early 1990s, and I was in grad school at the University of Oregon. I was in the Public Affairs program taking an economics class, and our professor was giving an example of how baseline data matters.

Some years earlier, he’d lived in Salt Lake City, and he started noticing something as he drove around town: He was seeing a noticeable number of cars with the kids not in carseats. So many, in fact, that he began to question if people there were concerned for their children’s safety.

He knew this thought was wrong. Family is precious to Mormons, literally sacred in fact. There had to be something else involved, and, being an economics professor with a strong grounding in statistics, he finally figured it out: Baseline.

Simply put, there were so many young families in SLC, so many people driving with kids in their cars, that of course he was seeing more cars without carseats than he was used to. He had not accounted for the change in baseline: the fact that he was also seeing more cars-with-kids than he was used to.

The baseline for “families with small kids in cars” is pretty big in Salt Lake City. So if they have the same ratio of cars not using safety seats as, say, Portland, the gross number is going to be larger. Those cars will stand out because there are more of them.

When we look around us and make an observation about public behavior – eg, the number of rude, inconsiderate, scofflaw bicyclists – we have to understand the baseline data. In Portland, we have a relatively huge number of people riding bicycles,...

positively moving forward

One day in the fall of 1972, my mom took me to Logan International Airport in Billings, Montana, to see the arrival of George McGovern. This was the day my life in politics began.

He was late, of course; they always are. I don’t recall how late, probably an hour or two. I now know this is standard practice. But it wasn’t that bad. The small concourse was packed with people; it wasn’t often someone as exciting as the Democratic nominee for president came to town. Hell, the first “rock” concert I saw in Billings was Kenny Rogers and the First Edition along with the Cowsills.

The electric life in a small inland city in the early Seventies.

Eventually McGovern arrived, worksed his way up the concourse, shaking hands, acting far more happy than I bet he felt. When he got to me, I handed him a piece of paper and a pen; he signed his autograph, handed it back to me, and then – asked if I wanted the pen back! He did so with a twinkle in his eye, and I can verify that, to this very day, it’s the only time I’ve been teased by a presidential candidate of any party.

All Obama did in 2007 was promise to take are of my son when Alex deployed to Iraq.

McGovern got creamed that year, of course, and the Democratic Party roiled with breast-beating and blame-throwing. They tossed in some reforms that promptly got rejiggered when Carter won utilizing the “Iowa Strategy”. The party again roiled after the 1980 theft, I mean, election (a big Thanks? to the Ayotollah and Reagan for teaming up to keep those hostages long enough to defeat Carter), and then in 1988, and 1992….

We Dems...

Ted Wheeler: Mayor is the People's Office

“People take the office of Mayor very personally.”

I spoke with Portland Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler about how he'll maintain connection with Portlanders once he takes office. It's a goal he's already working hard on, and it includes his commitment to East Portland and economic opportunity for the entire city.

(Apologies for the sound quality for the first few minutes. Technical issues, you know. I suspect Russian hackers.)

the opportunity for Dems

There is no sugar-coating how awful a Trump-Ryan administration is going to be. There is also no doubt that this presents American progressives with their greatest opportunity to not merely form a “loyal opposition” but to overturn the grab of power by the uber-conservatives and put the country on a firm forward course based on core American values.

I’m not talking silver linings or lemons-from-lemonade. I believe that 2017 will be a fantastic political opportunity to change the nation for the rest of the century – and it’s an opportunity we cannot let slip, or those who are going to suffer and die under the new regime will do so in vain.

Where we are now

Let’s start with the reality of the 2016 election. Democrats won the popular vote for president by at least 2.5 million. They gained seats in the House and Senate, garnering more of the votes cast as well. America voted for Democrats more than they did for Republicans, and this is a Democratic Party that has been half-hearted in its commitment to progressive goals, principles, and practices.

Imagine if we had been the progressive party we needed to be.

But we have to also remember why the GOP seems to be dominant: Gerrymandering. Voter suppression. Dark money. Citizens United. Gutting the Voting Rights Act. And horrible voter turnout numbers in off-year elections.

The United States is not turning to the Republicans in vast numbers. Between corruption, cheating, and the inability of the Democrats to get their voters to the polls, they are winning elections that do not reflect majority values.
It’s only a few years since Barack Obama won two elections with over fifty percent of the vote. The potential for more of the same, and in...

Michael Anderson: transit, zoning, livability

Michael Anderson is my favorite local journalist. He's covered everything and done so with professionalism, smarts, and the enthusiasm of someone trying to make his community a better place for all of us.

Currently, he reports on affordable housing for Portland for Everyone and bicycle infrastructure around the country for PeopleForBikes. He previously worked as the news editor for


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