By John Ruberry

“When I came into office I took an oath, alright,” the mayor of Portland (Kyle MacLachlan) proclaims in Portlandia. “The oath was to keep Portland weird.”

And so he did.

The final episode of Portlandia, a sketch comedy series focusing on the hipsters who have taken over Portland, Oregon, aired on Thursday. The IFC show stars Saturday Night Live alumnus Fred Armisen and former Sleater-Kinney singer and guitarist Carrie Brownstein.

Over the last couple of decades Portland has become one of America’s most liberal cities. Do you remember the left-wing talk radio network from the 2000s, Air America? Its strongest market was Portland.

Most of the skits center on Armisen and Brownstein, including their Fred and Carrie characters, easily the least quirky of their Portlandia personas, who are also the best friends–“my favorite Portlanders”–of MacLachlan’s “Mr. Mayor.” Nina and Lance (He plays her she plays him), struggle in their relationship because they have almost nothing in common. Chin-bearded Spyke (more on him later) and Iris look to me to be the archetypal Portland couple. The Weirdos, Vince and Jacqueline, a goth couple, a kind of a Portland version of Fred and Lily Munster, face their own conflict. How do they get noticed in an increasingly freaky Portland? They choose a trip to the beach as their solution to this problem, which is delayed after their hearse breaks down. In another episode, they are falsely accused of a torching a taxidermy store. Their lawyer is another weirdo, Paul Reubens, better known of course as Pee Wee Herman.

But my favorite characters, and the most developed, are the owners of the Women & Women First book store–Toni and Candace, with Armisen playing the latter. The couple seems to have reached “lesbian bed death” years ago. It’s difficult to see what the well-adjusted Toni sees in the caustic Candace, who at a diary reading at the store barks at a late comer, “We’ve already done our journals–hers was abysmal, she refuses to contribute anything, and of ours, of course I think we won.”

Can a conservative enjoy Portlandia? Well, this one did.

Three years ago I briefly visited Portland where I discovered on my own that yes, it is weird, and it is filled with passive-aggressive people, just like these two Subaru drivers in the below clip. That make of car is enormously popular in Portland, by the way. They are afraid to offend but they do just that when they can’t decide who should proceed first at a four-way stop. “You, go,” one says, “No, you go.”

During that Portland sojourn I encountered some goofs, who were probably stoned, reclining inside a van at a gas station–I had to return my rental car with a full tank of gasoline before I dropped it off at the airport and I was in a hurry. They were blocking both sides of a lane of gas pumps. After I asked politely for them to move a couple of times, unlike the characters in the above clip, I quickly threatened to bash them if they didn’t immediately make room for me. They did indeed go.

Portlandia offers viewers a dazzlingly eclectic roster of top tier guest stars and cameos, including some who appear more than once, including Ed Begley Jr., Jeff Goldblum, Steve Buscemi, and Kumail Nanjian.

Others who show up once or twice include Aimee Mann (as herself trying to make ends meet as a housecleaner because of the difficulty of earning money as a musician in the era of streaming music), Matt Groening (a Portland native), Michael Nesmsith, Penny Marshall, the B-52s, Tim Robbins, Heather Graham, Martina Navratilova, k.d. Lang, Jason Sudekis, Paul Simon, Brigitte Nielsen, Greg Louganis, Henry Rollins, Jeff Tweedy, Louis C.K. (eww!), Andy Richter, George Wendt, the Flaming Lips, Andy Samberg, Eddie Vedder, Seth Meyers, Sarah MacLachlan, and Laurie Metcalf.

Special mention needs to be given to Roseanne Barr, who stars in two episodes as Portland’s interim mayor–she is hired from a temp agency. Yes, Barr is an actress, duh, who takes on roles, but Barr’s turn to the right may have been foreshadowed in Portlandia because she attempts to govern Portland pragmatically, in contrast to the loopiness of Mr. Mayor. After all, I believe it was radio talker Dennis Prager who said, “Common sense is conservatism.”  As mayor, Barr suggests having fewer bike lanes, coffee outlets that sell only coffee, movie theaters with more than one screen, not as many stores for dogs, but more big box outlets. In short, she wants Portland to be a practical city.

“I’ve been to a lot of places, but nothing’s like this,” she complains. “Everybody’s just lost in a dream world.”

And finally, I’d like to acknowledge the regular but all but anonymous supporting performers on the program who live in the Portland area, IFC calls them the Citizens of Portlandia. They are the show’s answer to the John Ford Stock Company. These actors, who arrive like old friends, include Henry Cottrell, Kristine Levine, Angel Bouchet, Jedediah Aaker, and Sam Adams, who plays Mr. Mayor’s assistant. He was the real mayor of Portland from 2009-2012.

Season 8 was the only batch of episodes filmed during the Donald Trump presidency and I expected Portlandia to skewer what liberals, and yes, conservatives, see as low-hanging fruit ripe for the plucking. Amazingly, the Portlandia universe remains a Trump-free zone. Although Spyke–remember him?–reforms his old punk band, Riot Spray, fronted by the aforementioned Rollins with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic playing bass, as a protest gesture against unspecified corruption in government. But he does so after first threatening to Iris to move to Canada.

In a jab at those dozens of celebrities who vowed to move north of the border if Trump won the presidency, Iris replies, “Spyke, no one moves to Canada.”

Seasons 1-7 of Portlandia are available on Netlfix, all of the episodes can be found on Comcast’s On Demand. This program is not for the little ones as there is some brief nudity here and there and some foul language.

John Ruberry, who has never had a chin beard, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Needles, California last week

By John Ruberry

While I’m watching snow fall outdoors at Marathon Pundit world headquarters in Morton Grove, Illinois, the rest of my family is vacationing in southern California.

When they drove into California at Needles, just as the Joads did in The Grapes of Wrath, they were also greeted by more desert, as well as this 76 sign, which informs motorists that regular gasoline is selling for $3.79-a-gallon, more than a dollar above the national average.

Taxes are of course the reason and late last year the Tarnished State increased its gas taxes by 12 cents-a-gallon, to pay for road improvements.

California’s problems are vast. When the cost-of-living is figured in California suffers from the nation’s highest poverty rate. Modern day Joads are better off staying in Oklahoma. California’s roads are in bad shape because of onerous financial obligations in other parts of the budget. CalPERs, California’s public worker pension plan, is a sinkhole, so much so that Governor Jerry Brown is suggesting that pension benefits might be lowered–even for state workers currently paying into the program.

Another budget-buster is California’s high-speed rail project. Eight years ago voters approved the $40 billion project because government would pay for construction, which would make it “free.” Cost estimates for it have already climbed to $64 billion. If completed, and right now that might be stretch at best, it will run between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The relatively inexpensive segment where construction has begun, between Madera and Bakersfield, is already beset by delays, so much so that Victor Davis Hanson is musing that what little has been built could end up as nothing more than a modern Stonehenge. While the project is receiving federal funds, an increase of cash from Washington DC is not going to happen during the Trump presidency. So don’t count on a bailout, Californians.

Liberalism is expensive. And liberals love trains because, unlike cars and buses, they only go where there are tracks.

Moving up the Pacific Coast Highway into Oregon we learn that legislators are considering implementing an expensive cap-and-trade scheme that will punish large energy users, who are of course also large employers, in order to fight global warming. California has a cap-and-tax racket going already.  But there is some good news out of Oregon. Earlier this year, a new law took effect that allows drivers to fill up their own gas tanks–without an attendant. Of course some Oregonians freaked out, No, this was not an episode of Portlandia. Now only another coastal blue state, New Jersey, bans self-serve gas stations.

Blogger in Aberdeen, Washington

Heading north over the Columbia River into Washington, legislators in that blue state are debating a $10-a-ton carbon tax, one that a Democratic legislator who opposes it calls a “pretty sizable gas-tax increase.” Washington’s governor, Democrat Jay Inslee, who prefers a $20-a-ton tax, laughingly calls his plan a jobs creator.

The United States has much cheaper energy costs than Japan and most nations in Europe, which is one of the reasons, along with President Trump’s slashing of regulations–many of them involving energy–why the American economy is booming.

Does the West Coast want to be left behind as the rest of our nation enjoys prosperity? California, as it has been for decades for good and for ill, is already ahead of the curve.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Liberal Oregon overwhelmingly voted to deny drivers licenses to illegal immigrants and our liberal friends are not taking this lying down:

A group of Mexican immigrants is suing to reverse a decision by Oregon voters on a 2014 ballot measure that prevents undocumented immigrants from getting Oregon driver cards.

The real comedy here is the basis for this lawsuit (emphasis mine)

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene, the plaintiffs said the outcome of Measure 88 is unconstitutional because it “arbitrarily” denies driving privileges “to Plaintiffs and others based on their membership in a disfavored minority group.”

A “disfavored minority group” That’s an interesting turn of phrase. The question is they don’t specify what disfavored minority group they claim to be a part of.

Is it Mexicans? Well according to the story the plaintiffs are mexicans but the denial of drivers licences are not based on country of origin.

Perhaps they are talking about race, being mexicans one might assume the plaintiffs are latino, but the denial of drivers licences are not based on race.

Perhaps the some of the plaintiffs might be disabled, although there is nothing in the article that suggests it, but the denial of drivers licences are not based on disability.

Maybe the plaintiffs are LGBT, although there is nothing in the article that suggest it, but the denial of drivers licences are not based on sexual preferences.

It could be some of the plaintiffs are Muslim or Atheist or part of some odd religious cult, but the denial of drivers licences are not based on religion.

There is in fact only one thing that the drivers licences are being denied on…having violated federal law, for being criminals.

Well they certainly have a point that criminals are disfavored, depending on their crime we execute them, or lock them up for periods of time, or make them pay heavy fines, or make them report regularly to authorities, restrict their freedom, restrict the jobs they may hold, deny them voting privileges and on occasion deny them driving privileges deport them, and that’s just the state.

It’s also true that criminals are a minority. The vast majority of the population is not violating federal law or state law. Despite their prominence in the news people who violate the law from murders, to thieves to swindlers, to rapists, to dirty cops and pols etc etc etc are not a majority of the population.

But even among this group they are a distinct minority, they are a group of people violating federal law and are not being arrested or punished for it.

So to sum up: A group of people are claiming unconstitutional federal discrimination on the basis of being a group of criminals who are violating federal law without being punished for it.

In a normal age such a suit would be laughed away, in a normal age the people bringing the suit would be arrested and deported.

But because it is considered a political advantage by some to take this seriously this suit will proceed and may even succeed, yet another reminder of the insanity of our current era.

Closing thought: I think that if this suit manages to succeed the precedent will not be lost on other criminals who may use it for other purposes.

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I spoke to the GOP chairman in Oregon during RNC Boston last month:

I think Oregon’s entire vote by mail system is one of the worst idea’s I’ve seen in the history of voting.

Some might think these posts are superfluous as this event was so long ago but remember these are the decision makers for the GOP state by state. What they say matters and it matters for you to know them.