Unlike a root canal, midterm elections are a treat for all the senses.  You get the party who is currently out of power scrambling to regain a majority, and the party who is in power scrambling to retain their tenuous and largely imaginary dominance.

This time around it’s the Republicans, the Party of No, who want us to forget what the years 2001-2008 looked like. The Democrats, many of whom should have been ousted in 2002 for crimes against humanity, have been trying their best to remember that they are the party for the 99.99% of us who aren’t Ted Turner.  Actually, I take that back.  Ted Turner is not that bad a guy.  The Democrats stand, in their best form, for the endangered species that is the middle class, the diversity of races and cultures that make up this nation, and for the idea that you don’t have to be rich to be happy, but you do have to at least earn a living wage.

President Obama is one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.  (Keep in mind that this statement is coming from the guy who brought you Carter/Obama ’08.)  He made a lot of promises when he was running for office, and in the two years since he has been diligently keeping those promises.  Financial reform, money for science and the environment, money for jobs, and, oh, let’s not forget the health care bill. 

My liberal friends complain that it was not a good bill, even before the Republicans hacked away at it, but I must remind them that health care has long been the proverbial “third rail” in politics.  Touch it and you’re dead.  Not only did Obama pass one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation for the good of the populace of this country, he did what no other president in recent history could do.  This is by no means an end.  We must work to amend the bill and make it even better.  A public option, for starters.  But the hardest part is done.

The problem is, nobody likes to talk about domestic issues.  They aren’t popular, politics-wise.  We don’t like to talk about homeless people, or sick people, or kids who can’t go to school because they have to work three jobs.  But those are the kind of problems we have to deal with now, way too late, because President Bush and his gang of thugs told us there are terrorists everywhere and we need to fight them everywhere (but mostly in Iraq).

Nobody likes to balance their budget, least of all state and federal governments.  Ronald Reagan could attest to that, at least before his mind started “resting.”  Why balance the budget when you can buy all kinds of shiny new planes and ships for the military?  Why balance the budget when you can drive over to Best Buy and get a HDTV? 

Fox News, which I watch for kicks but also to see how the other half lives, wants us to believe that President Obama and the Democrat majority have created the highest deficit ever.  What they gloss over is the simple fact that Bush ran that deficit up, and kept running it up, like it was the credit card his daddy gave him.  He’s probably still running it up right now.  No no no.  I won’t stoop to wild accusations.  But you get my point: the Republicans only get fiscally responsible when a Democrat is President, or when they’re talking about domestic issues, or both.  Right now, we have both.

President Obama came to Portland recently to stump for our Democrat candidate for governor, Kris Kristofferson.  In his speech, he said the Republicans are running a campaign of amnesia.  That is, they want us to forget what happened a mere two years ago and vote for them.  What happened two years ago, you ask?  Massive unemployment, the biggest financial disaster since the Great Depression, our car companies begging for change on the side of the road, Florida selling itself on craigslist for 35 bucks.  In 2008 I was laid off.  Two years later, the country is turning around.  The car companies have promised to pay back their debt to the government, Florida is still standing, and I have a new job.  Nothing’s perfect, but we’re on the right track.

Thanks for listening to one cartoonist’s rant about politics.  I write this blog in part to touch on issues that will never appear in Falling Rock.  Hopefully I’ve only alienated a small number of you, dear readers, and that you will forgive me my Scotch-fueled verbosity.

autobiography Blog

no more golden age

airplane-graveyardThere are few things in this world that anger me more than air travel. We pay for the privilege of being abused for a day, all for what? Arriving a little bit sooner? Personally, I prefer to drive or take a train. If I have the time, that’s what I do. But more often than not, the “easier” way to go is by plane. I endure stoically, but boiling beneath the surface is a volcano of rage. Rage at the airlines, for their lack of accountability. Rage at airports, for their incompetence. Rage at the government for not solving an easy problem.

When a person goes bankrupt, his life becomes very difficult. When an airline goes bankrupt, as almost all of them have in the last decade, the people who suffer are not the ones who stupidly drove their company to ruin. The employees suffer and the passengers suffer. I would say we suffer together, but circumstances prove that we are pitted against each other, like dogs in the same cage. The FAA and the airlines and the airport authorities trap us all in an enclosed space and watch us fight, when we really want them.

Instead of making this post all rage and no substance, I will now lay out my master plan for airline travel. This post can be printed out very easily and submitted to your Congressperson, if you so desire.

1) Invest in a new computer system. Control towers use an incomprehensibly outdated computer system for tracking take-offs and landings. An overhaul of this system will save everyone time and do wonders for morale.

2) Abolish airport security. What kind of a world do we live in where we have to take off our shoes to sit on an airplane? Would you like me to take off my pants, too? This only serves to belittle paying customers. Instead of baggage inspectors, hire two or three military-trained guards to ride on every plane. Have them stand on either side of the gate as the passengers enter the plane. The only checkpoint you need in an airport is a simple metal detector. Oh, and let everybody wait at the gates. It’s always nice to see a friendly face when you step off the plane.

3) Rip out seats in airplanes. We’re crammed in there so tightly you can hear the heartbeat of the person sitting next to you. Take out every other row, or take out a column so there are two seats across instead of three. Airlines have already proven they can’t make money by packing people into planes; why don’t they try something different? Make more flights in smaller planes. They might even see people flying more often, if it is a pleasant experience and not something to be endured.
4) Don’t make passengers sit in an airplane that is not going to take off. Have you ever sat on the runway for an hour or more? It makes you want to strangle somebody.

These suggestions are not revelatory. They are so simple. Airlines have proven they cannot handle the business of flying people around, yet they are still allowed to do so. The Wright brothers (and their physics-minded sister, Katharine) invented a great thing. What we need today is a different kind of invention. We made air travel; we now need to make air travel pleasant.newport-birds