Al is a crusty New Yorker who moved to our very waspy Republican stronghold here in Central Florida about 10 years ago to open a small cabinetry and carpentry shop.
My wife and I own a small cafe here that we opened one month after President Obama was elected. Our very risky venture---on opening day I think we had $100 to our name---was fueled in part by our enthusiasm for what we saw as a turning point in American history.
Now it's five years later and we're still open, we're crowded almost every day and everyone in the county knows about us. We can't claim to any profits yet---in fact, if I didn't have a day job we would have closed already. The cafe business---in a poor working class community---is a tough row to hoe.
But this is about my buddy Al and how he thinks 'Obamacare' saved his life.
Three years ago my wife quit her job and we forked over half our savings---and a promise to pay way more than we should---to buy a run-down roadside diner with 18 seats and a greasy counter. Neither one of us slept that night.
It was seventeen days after Barack Obama was elected President. The first American flag either of us ever owned was still planted on the front lawn of our first house, next to the first campaign yard sign we ever considered posting.
That sign read, “Hope.” We were thoroughly inspired. I wrote a couple embarrassingly exuberant diaries about it then, but not much since.
I’ve been very busy. Hope is hard work. And today we employ eight workers, each of whom earns $10 per hour or better. Half of them are part-time. Next month, we hope to start paying my wife her first wages in three years---she works 14 hour days, five days a week, and she’s acquired some mad skills.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far about job creating: it’s not what millionaires do. The wealthy study ways to slash their payrolls, liquidate pension plans and demand that their workers pee in cups.
Those of us who work to earn a living---so we can one day contribute the sort of taxes million-dollar income families should pay, and that would be almost all the rest of us---we’re the ones who create jobs.
For me, liberal democracy is less a cause than a product of civilization, inevitable as plate tectonics. That makes me an optimist, and that makes me a Democrat. Tyrants and demagogues who interfere are detritus.
Blackbeard The Pirate is a more memorable character. On November 22, 1718, he was assassinated by a covert gang of Blackwater-style contractors in the secret employ of the Royal Governor of Virginia Plantation’s ambitious majordomo.
Blackbeard’s legend is about to take an interesting turn. He wasn't a founding father of liberal democracy, but his initials are carved deep in the trunk of our family tree.
Three weeks ago I posted Doing Something About the Economy, a diary about our personal effort to resurrect the U.S. economy: my wife and I acquired a small blue collar café in Fruitland Park, Florida, three miles south of The Villages, the community of 70,000+ retirees where Sarah Palin made 30,000 fans swoon in her first post-convention campaign debut.
We are serving healthy, nutritious, tasty food at the lowest possible prices to blue collar families who are steadily losing their jobs as the Bush economy crumbles. I was an idealistic social worker 30 years ago, my wife lives to cook ‘green,’ we both feel like missionaries in Zambia.
I meant to post weekly updates detailing our progress converting the heathens. So far, we’ve logged 392 hours of darn hard labor, and today is our first day off since Dec. 1. I have about an hour before we go back to re-wax floors and bake brownies we can sell for 50¢. So here goes...
I’ve posted pix below, and the story of the Battle of Biscuits and Gravy. If you’re into Zen, you might find it entertaining.
The first job I ever had was working in a diner. I was 13---in 1964 the rules were different---and I learned how to wash dishes and cook on a flattop.
Yesterday my wife and I closed a deal to buy a diner. Its absentee owner thought he could run it as an investment, visiting once a week, and despite an excellent location it's only doing about $400 a day in sales.
My wife has been doing restaurant/diner work for 10 years, so she knows operations, and my best friend---the guy who turned us on to this deal---has owned more than a dozen restaurants, bars, etc.
Before we closed my wife and I spent five whole days in the diner (on 12 different occasions) watching customers and talking with them. The place is located about a mile south of The Villages---remember Sarah Palin's first post-convention appearance, 30,000 old people?
We're about to show them a little Obama-style economic miracle.
I first became aware of presidential politics when John Kennedy won the Democratic nomination in 1960. I was a serious Catholic school fourth-grader who read the newspaper every day and dreamed of becoming a priest.
Kennedy’s Catholicism and my prepubescent, priest-worshiping fervor made politics personal and spiritual for me. I’ve never been able to break that connection.
That makes me an idealist, an optimist, a Marxist and a moralist all at the same time. It’s a curse. I try not to burden my friends with it. So if you want to avoid half a dozen paragraphs of pretentious treacle, go on to another diary with my blessing.
In 2000 and again in 2004, my wife and I traveled to San Cristobal de las Casas, a beautiful mountain town of about 20,000 people in Chiapas, next to the Guatemalan border in southern Mexico and the last bus stop before the great Mayan ruins at Palenque.
The town was named for Bartolomé de las Casas, its first bishop.
de las Casas was a complex man. His father, a common soldier on Columbus’ first voyage, amassed enough fortune to send Bartolomé to law school at the University of Salamanca. After graduation, de las Casas set sail for the New World in the largest armada Spain had ever launched.
What he found stunned him. Today the bishop is better known---and revered in many quarters---for his humanitarian works, among them a book, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies, written half a century after the first Columbus Day.
In honor of that momentous triumph, a few excised excerpts:
Last Saturday, my wife and I attended the Founders Day Festival in Winter Garden, a small, turn-of-the-century town just west of Orlando that was once the capital of Central Florida's citrus industry.
I grew up here and I hate the place. Until the 1980's, Winter Garden was also the capital of the local KKK. Now it's surrounded by 30,000 corporate builder houses ($300,000 median, lots of foreclosure signs), and struggling to gentrify---the sort of place Sarah Palin would call "real America." The evening was a family obligation thing, in-laws, so I went.
I wore my Obama t-shirt.
I'm a big guy, just turned 57, big Moses beard and hair. My wife is half my age, 6'2" tall, with blond hair down to her waist. So we're used to being stared at when we go anywhere.
Last week the White House Writers Group of former Reagan/Bush speechwriters and West Wing Writers, who flacked for Bill Clinton, staged a conference in Orlando with 230 health care professionals, corporate execs and members of congress: "America’s Health Care at Risk: Finding a Cure."
Karl Rove, James Carville, Tom Daschle, former Mich. Gov. John Engler, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg and Fla. Gov. Charlie Crist were the stars. Rep. Tom Coburn, R-TX, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, beamed in by satellite.
If health reform doesn’t come soon, they said, the $2.3-trillion sector could collapse of its own weight. They say health-system spending is as inflated as the real-estate market of three years ago, and some say it needs regulation as much as today’s banking industry.
What would it take to buy out the terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney?
If we offered them blanket immunity for all their past crimes plus $100 billion---wrinkled bills, small denominations, mixed serial numbers and in a respectable currency like Euros, or Dubai Dirhams---might they retire to Paraguay and let us get on with the Free World?
What would convince the Norquists, Gingriches, Delays and Hannitys and their Tom Foleys, Larry Craigs, Haley Barbours and Sun Myung Moons to ooze on down and join them?
Sanctions would suffice for their middle managers, shills and concubines. But given their constitutional powers, Bush and Cheney require some negotiation.
A big pile of greenbacks---turquoise-backs---might be cheaper than rebuilding our economy after they grind up the foundations and sell it for road fill in Beijing, not that Beijing doesn't deserve the road fill.
Disclaimer: I’m for putting them in prison, but I could see paying the bastards off.
In view of the discussion of military compensation, kicked off by Secretary Hagel and Kos' front pager the other day, I thought it would be helpful to lay out what they pay me to get an idea of how ...