Tuesday's tidbits

Can you tell where this is going? Yes, a roundup of unrelated items, all stuffed into a virtual suitcase of tidbits. In no particular order...

-- Holiday whiplash. Turned on the car radio this morning and was startled -- not in a good way -- to hear Christmas music streaming out of the speakers. Come on, man. It was bad enough to go to a coffee shop two weekends ago and see Christmas cookies for sale at the cash register. Do we really need to get into "Deck The Halls" this far out from the holiday?

Ironically, when I got back home and picked up Monday's newspaper, my Grinchiness was validated by a feature story on the very same topic: "Nonstop Yuletide Tunes." For weeks, the story noted, two Portland radio stations have been playing Christmas songs 24/7. Why hadn't I heard these premature sounds of the season before today? Easy. Because I'm listening to my own CD mixes instead of the radio when I get in the car.

-- Old-school diner. Got  together with my friend Tom for another one of our intermittent Monday breakfasts, made possible by the fact he's retired and my days off are Sunday-Monday. This time we headed to Fat Albert's Breakfast Cafe in the Sellwood neighborhood of Southeast Portland. It's a place I started going to years ago, following games of Sunday morning basketball at the Boys and Girls Club gym down the street. I've continued to go from time to time, usually after a lengthy run at the nearby Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.

As the name suggests, Fat Albert's is a throwback place with psychedelic lettering on the business sign and a sandwich board sign on the sidewalk proclaiming "A Waist Is A Terrible Thing to Mind." Gives you an idea of the size of the omelettes and other menu items. I passed on the homemade biscuits and gravy and opted for the daily special -- a tasty scramble of chorizo sausage, onions, tomatoes and grated cheese, accompanied by potatoes, toast and coffee. Breakfast: my favorite meal of the day.

-- Congressional superfailure.  Lately, I've become so disgusted and discouraged with the political gridlock on Capitol Hill that I haven't bothered venting here. But now it's official. On Monday, as the clock ticked toward a Wednesday deadline, the 12-member supercommittee charged with coming up with a $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan for the federal budget -- surprise! -- gave up in failure.

This panel of six senators and six representatives -- equally divided between Republicans and Democrats -- was given the task of proposing a 10-year plan to reduce the red ink after Congress as a whole punted on the issue during the summer. Is anyone surprised that the effort went nowhere? GOP members steadfastly refused to consider a tax increase of any kind to bring in more revenues, leaving budget cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare as the only option for  closing the deficit -- and that's something the Democrats weren't going to stand for.

On Sunday, with a wonderful bit of timing, "60 Minutes" led off its broadcast with a profile of Grover Norquist, head of the nonprofit but very partisan group called Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist is the instigator of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases. In the current Congress, 238 House members and 41 senators have signed the pledge -- a declaration of "no compromise" that goes a long way toward explaining why the supercommittee talks were doomed to failure.

Now we'll see if the other shoe drops -- if the supercommittee's failure really does trigger an automatic $1 trillion in across-the-board cuts, designed to fall evenly on the military and domestic government programs beginning in 2013.

Tweet me @georgerede



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