Monday, March 31, 2008


What makes me different from the 28 million Americans receiving food stamps or from the mother wondering whether to feed OR clothe her children?How am I different from the 1 in 10 African American males in our jails, or from their families that worry each night what the next day will bring? Why am I different from the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance and fear that injury or illness will wipe them out completely?

Am I any different from the woman in Darfur who has somehow survived this long and wonders why the world hasn't come to her rescue, or from the Tibetan monk who fears the ultimate reprisal for having questioned the authority of the Chinese to repress him, or from the villager in Africa who has seen his whole village systematically wiped out by the AIDS virus and who feels the loss in the deepest recesses of his soul? Am I any different?

Because I am able to sit here and write this essay on a clean sheet of paper, under bright lights, feeling warm and sitting in a comfortable chair, does that make me any different? Because I drive the right car, to the right places, does that make me any different? Because I have and they do not, does that make me any different?

If they are cut, why shouldn't I bleed? If they are hit, why shouldn't I fall? If they are scared, why shouldn't I tremble? If they are hungry, why shouldn't I be too? If they suffer, why shouldn't I know it and feel it?

If these questions aren't asked, then where is the future? If we remain in isolation in our own little world, where is the progress? If we don't have one mind and one heartbeat, then where will this lead us? If we never think as one, then what have we done?

Sunday, March 30, 2008


He wore a dashiki, a traditional African tribal shirt. It was bold, bright and beautiful. He was a bear of a man, with shock of blond hair. Well over 6 feet tall and weighing close to 250 pounds, he was an imposing figure. His voice was big. His laugh was bigger. He was hard to miss.

I wore a dark turtleneck and an even darker sweater. I stood at least 8 inches smaller and weighed a 100 pounds less than he did. I was bald, with barely any eyebrows, hardly any upper lip, and glasses that helped compensate for amazingly bad eyesight. We were in stark contrast.

We sat across the table from one another. We had come together as a group to celebrate the end of the ski season. We were old and older. The colors of our clothing, and the size of our personalities, were for the most part subdued. With one very large exception, it was a quiet gathering.

Then the oddest thing happened. For really no good reason, I asked the large man across from me to take off his shirt. Knowing he had a white turtleneck underneath, I did not concern myself that there would be the sight of a topless hulk parading around the room . With no question, and no hesitation, the dashiki was removed and handed over . I reached for it, and began to put it on. Like a rock star about to emerge, I saw the crowd get to its feet as one . A startling amount of interest seemed to engulf the room in what was about to transpire. As I put the shirt on, it soon enveloped my body. Feeling for something in the breast pocket, I found a pair of sunglasses that were large enough to fit over my glasses with room to spare. The sunglasses were very dark, and gave me the appearance, so I later heard, of Jack Nicholson.

I suddenly felt like Jim Carrey in the Mask. I became Danny Devito to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins. I began to have an out of body experience. My voice suddenly boomed. My laugh filled the room. The crowd , buoyed by the sight before it., became alive. Cameras started to click. People started to move towards me. I was someone, and something, entirely different.

But, as quickly as it occurred, it ended. Having been the center of attention for too long, I slid the shirt over my head, took the sunglasses off, and became Clark Kent again. My moment in the spotllight having faded, I sat back in my seat and resumed my old persona.

Yet , I know that somewhere deep inside of me is a big man, with a big voice and a big laugh. It may be hiding , but, having seen it for at least a moment, I believe it is with me forever. Next year there is talk of everyone coming to the gathering in dashiki and sunglasses. There is a part of us that rarely if ever sees the light of day that is asking for its time to shine. Move over big guy, you may soon have a lot of company.

The Two of Us

Dialogue. Discourse. Discussion. Interaction. Give and take. Yin and Yang. Pitcher and catcher. This is not supposed to be Penn and Teller.

Unfortunately and unquestionably, I am writing to you, in part, to stroke my ego. There can be no doubt that I am hoping to elicit tributes. A hidden talent, a burgeoning star, a part of you that lay dormant but is now in full bloom. I will accept any and all of these comments with much thanks and great glee. But, that is not really the purpose of this exercise. It is not really what this is intended to accomplish. What I hope these pieces bring forth are thoughts, good and bad , about the content of what is being said. To get you thinking, and reacting, to be part of an interactive experience, that is where this should be taking all of us.

So far, I would say it has been an abysmal failure. Apart from my lovely daughter, who is taking it upon herself to read and respond, the silence has been overwhelming. There have been a few e-mails of one or two sentences, giving cryptic praise and not much else. While all donations to my sense of value as a writer are gratefully accepted, tell me what it is that you think about the pieces you read. More importantly, tell everyone else who might find themselves drawn to these essays. Not everyone is going to agree with my beliefs. It is a given that I do not have the copyright on what the world is, or should be like. My opinions are my opinions, and nothing else. I am naive and unschooled in almost every topic I have discussed. The political essays are full of sound and fury, but I need to learn if they signify anything to all of you.

The personal recollections are the experiences we all have shared in one form or another. I have heard from my one avid fan ( it is good to have groupies) who has been particularly affected by one of the pieces, recalling a similar moment in his life. It is those feelings that I would ask that you put forth on the page. Don't be afraid to write . I am not, for better or for worse. If we can all join in this exercise together, it can become a collective activity. You can wake up in the morning, and become a writer. You can help make this something more than my rants and raves. This can become a living, breathing ,growing being. You can make this come alive.

If this doesn't happen, so be it. Everyone is busy, has their own agenda, and may have neither the time or energy to get involved in my fantasy. I may have unreasonable expectations. I may bring forth nothing from my ramblings. You may not get to this until late at night, or maybe this is sensory overload. Much is happening in everyone's day. What is critical to my life is not in yours. But , if you are at all drawn to what I say, and what I am trying to accomplish, stop reading this and start writing. Your comments, in the area provided for below, are worth more than gold to me. That is actually a hyperbole, and if you would rather just give me gold, screw the comments.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Going, going, gone

Dust to dust. I am not ready to say goodbye but what I think is of little moment. There are greater forces at work, that demand this occur. Everything has a beginning and an end. I know there will be millions who shed a tear when the time arrives. Millions of us will be forever left to share our memories and commiserate. There is an inevitability to this which seems so wrong. Yet there is nothing we can do to stop it. Yankee Stadium will soon be coming down.

There will be no funeral procession. There will be no coffin. And yes, there will be a newer, sleeker version of itself right next door. While Yankee Stadium is in its death march, it will stare at its replacement every day. It will know that when the new monolith is ready, it will push the old aside. The stadium must face its own mortality . There will be speeches to thank it, like the old guy being ushered out the door , handed a gold watch and remembered for years of exemplary service. There will be tales of its greatness spoken. They will show us pictures of Ruth and Gehrig, Maris and Mantle, Jeter and A-Rod and hope that will help it go gently into the night. But, it will not ever make us ready to accept what is about to occur. Yankee Stadium will soon be coming down.

It is more than just the House that Ruth built. It is the house that stores a half century of my memories. From the ball that Yogi Berra hit that was clutched in my Dad's hands, to the pandemonium on the field when Chris Chambliss hit the American league championship series winning home run, to watching the majesty that was Reggie that glorious day against the Dodgers, to seeing Jeter dive headfirst in the stands as my daughter and I turned to each in disbelief, to Clemens directing his fury towards Piazza with a bat, those moments deserve better than this. I want to retain forever the days of my son pouring water over his head to try to keep the heat from melting him, of my Dad ushering me through the turnstiles and of my tiny daughter knowing the confines of the ballpark like the insides of her own home. I don't want to let go, but I will have to for Yankee Stadium will soon be coming down.

We all live in a world where progress is a given. We all live in a time when the desire for the dollar drives us all. We understand that nothing and no one is greater than the demands of tomorrow. But Yankee Stadium is something more than that. It is something greater than that. It is more than a thing. It is not just another replaceable part. It has a glory and a meaning that transcends dollars and cents. It has a greatness that cannot be measured in revenue and luxury boxes. It is more than the sum of its parts. It is Yankee Stadium. And yet, Yankee Stadium will soon be coming down.

I stare out my window at the Stadium every day. At night, when the team is playing a home game, the lights from the Stadium illuminate the sky. While the lights will not grow dim in the coming months, they will one day suddenly be extinguished. The glow will be no more. It will give way to newer, and most certainly, brighter lights. But the warmth it radiates cannot be replaced. The feelings it generates will never be duplicated. The intensity it evokes will not be matched, no matter the wattage of its replacement. The new stadium may shine like a bright star, but it can never shine like the brightest star. And the world will be forever dimmer, because Yankee Stadium will soon be coming down.

I have secured tickets for the final home game of the regular season. This could be the last moment for its greatness to be seen. The images of the past 50 years will be carried with me as I walk inside for one last time. I want to bid my friend a fond farewell. I want to say thanks for everything it has given me and countless millions through the years. I know there will be a collective grief that we all will be experiencing as we sit in our seats that day. I am not comfortable attending funerals, as I have a hard time thinking of anything but the moments of glory. I will forever be grateful, and I will forever retain, within me, everything that is Yankee Stadium. So long, old friend. I will cherish your memories. Yankee Stadium will soon be coming down.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


It was the lightbulb going off in my head. I was listening to the conversation and was struck by the simplicity of the concept. While the facts were being shrouded by the numbers, there was one unmistakable issue that I had failed to consider. What if all the young supporters of Obama just stayed home on election day if Clinton was the candidate for the Democrats?

There is an electricity surrounding the candidacy of Senator Obama. We hear talk of comparisons to President Kennedy. We know that there is a powerful charisma that attaches to him with every step he takes. He is a person who can fill up arenas. He radiates enthusiasm. He brings out an interest in many that has until now been nonexistent. Nowhere is this new found focus more evident than in our youth.

For many who have up to now avoided anything remotely political, they have always seen the system as cold and remote. For them, politicians were interchangeable parts. It did not matter for whom you voted. The train ran itself, and the conductor played little part in where it was headed.

But now there was something new and exciting. Finally, there was a fresh face, a new voice full of hope. There was someone speaking to the youth of America. There was someone speaking for the youth of America. It was a time and place to commit. For those drawn to the message, it was the beginning of their time. It was their voice that was to be heard.

So now, every day we face the drumbeat of number crunchers. Does Clinton beat McCain? Does Obama beat Clinton? Who abandons ship if X plus Y equals something other than Z. It is a math lesson that makes your head spin.

Yet one fundamental question is who stays home. For all the fervor that Senator Obama generates in the youth, there must be a palpable fear that this may dissipate and disappear if Senator Clinton emerges as the Democratic nominee. These are first time voters who are not committed to the electoral process but to a man. If Senator Obama goes, then maybe they go with him.

So , like the tree falling in the forest, if Senator Clinton is the Democratic nominee and the young stay home, the sound that we may all hear is the Democratic party falling flat on its face.

Across the River

I stare across the Hudson from the comfort of the living room in my apartment. At this time of the morning, everything is still. There is little activity on the West Side highway as most sane people are still sound asleep. The lights along the roadways, and those coming from the buildings are mesmerizing. . It is a time before that world has awakened It is a time of serenity.

In short order, the sun will come up and the world in front of me will alter dramatically. The activity from across the river has a palpable feel for me. You can touch it and sense it from where I sit. It is a large and glorious being, ready to explode with energy. As it now rests, it is just gaining strength for the travails of the day ahead.

I am not part of that world. My days don't go there. I head in the other direction when I leave the shelter of my shelter. If you think that I feel some sense of loss for not being a part of that being , you may be right.

There are always going to be people on both sides of every river. I don't want this to sound bitter or to suggest that those on the other side are luckier than I am. It is just that they are daily part of something that has an energy that is missing here. I just heard the familiar sound of a newspaper being dropped outside my door, and here that is an occurrence of note .

The sunrises over the city are often spectacular. It is as if the gathering force of the day across the river illuminates the sky in bold and dramatic colors. Another opportunity for something unique is about to unfold.

I will soon finish writing this piece and head to the door to pick up the morning newspaper. I will read , as I do every day, of things large and small that are happening across the river. Then , I will get in my car and head to my office, leaving the sounds and smells of that place to others. Some morning, I may find myself making a wrong turn and ending up on the other side of the river, just for a moment. Someday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

TV Time Out

The dumbing of America is complete. When Wheel of Fortune becomes an intellectual pursuit, then I know it is time to rethink the system. We are stupider than a Fifth grader. We do spend hour after hour and night after night hoping he picks case #2 instead of #3. We vote people off islands. We watch them ingest almost everything imaginable. We see reality in almost every reality. We, in the final tally, are the biggest losers.

We are entertained by everything Britney. We care more about what she drives than what drives our economy . Most nights it is impossible to find news on the local news broadcast. For the great majority of the time our television is on, our brains would have more stimulation if the screens went blank and we just tried to remember what we ate for dinner. We have flat lined along with our televisions.

We don't move from our seats because we have remotes. In this context , remote means far away and distant, as in its relationship to anything of substance. We have taken fluff to a new level. We have given meaningless new meaning. We have created nothing out of nothing. We have stopped trying.

We understand that we need to escape from whatever harsh truths we face in our daily lives. It is just that we don't need to find ourselves on another planet to be removed from the rigors of the day. There has to be someone out there somewhere who is , at this moment, calling up the ghosts of Network and saying "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore". There has to be some writer out in Hollywood who is pleading with the executives to give him his brain back. We have gone into the deep freeze .

There has to be a tipping moment, a time when the pendulum will swing back in favor of creating . There has to be a day when we will no longer be satiated by finding out whose dad can jump through hoops better than all other dads. There has to be a time when we will look back in wonder that we permitted the industry to sink to this level. There has to be because I refuse to believe that this is what we think we want and deserve.


To paraphrase the immortal words of Roger Clemens, Hillary Clinton misremembered. If she recalled incorrectly that she had been under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996, there was little doubt that she would soon find herself under attack at home in 2008. It is not the season to be having senior moments. Yet, as we know, every politician is guilty sometime, someplace of misspeaking. Senator Clinton quickly pointed out that Barack Obama, clearly not old enough to blame his forgetfulness on his age, had portrayed certain past events in his life inaccurately. John McCain, for his part, had recently confused facts concerning Al Qaeda and Iran.. For,Senator McCain, over 70,a momentary lapse can be expected.

Every candidate is under an incredibly powerful microscope. There is not a moment that goes by in which each person running for the highest office in the land does not have to be careful in regard to verbiage. What one thinks may be off the record is not. What one believes is in private is not. The scrutiny is unrelenting. The pressure must be unbearable . Yet, it is they who choose to be in this forum. Each one of them has decided that the millions of words stated, and the thousands of action taken, are subject to dissection and discussion. It is not a place for the faint of heart .

What was somewhat jarring about this misremembrance was that it was repeated on various occasions over a period of months. The image of Ms. Clinton running for cover while in service of her country presented a particularly powerful picture This was a woman who was risking life and limb in pursuit of the greater good. In truth, she was , with great certainty, willing to take such a risk. I doubt anyone would suggest that this was not someone who would put herself in harm's way in pursuit of her dreams for the country. In the sad reality of our times, all the candidates should have a legitimate concern that they run a daily risk of sniper fire on the campaign trail. Yet a willingness to allow oneself to be a moving target, does not make it so. To fabricate for the sake of a good sound bite, only makes Ms. Clinton a type of moving target different from the one intended.

We all expect exaggeration from those running for office. What is a candidate if not the king or queen of puffery. Creating an image is something we accept as a given in our politicians. Each one must be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound to be able to lead a nation so in need of assistance. Yet we find ourselves asking everyday if some of the statements made are truth or fiction. We are naturally suspicious of everything we hear when a candidate speaks. We tend to clutch an honest statement to our chests and hold onto it as a prize. One only has to look to David Patterson's recent mea culpas to understand our love affair with a politician revealing the truth. It was almost like he had a free pass to tell us anything inappropriate that he had done if he did so honestly. Frankly, I don't want to hear or read of any more of his dirty laundry. But, Mr. Paterson appears to be almost heroic for being forthright about being less than heroic.

It is always so refreshing when we believe a politician is speaking from the heart and not the head. It is what often times makes Senator Obama seem so engrossing. While some would chide him for speaking of his visions for a better tomorrow, for me his words seems to resonate with belief and commitment. It is why the abstract seems to be so much more compelling than the concrete. Senator Clinton, try as she might, does not offer the verbal images that soar free from analysis and dissection. She is much more grounded in her rhetoric. Thus, for her, she may have to be creative in her remembrances to capture our hearts. While one can't blame her for trying to elevate herself and her candidacy, there are limits that must be in place. For a moment, Ms. Clinton stepped across that boundary For her sake, she has to hope the public doesn't misremember this at the ballot boxes in the remaining primaries.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Numbers. Figures on a page. Just a concept. Nothing you can touch or feel . What is the reality of a number? It has no sense that there was something more. It has no attachments, and if it is erased, it doesn't realize what has occurred. 4000.

4000 is not a number. It is a statement. It is an unending commitment. It is a willingness to allow a larger number to replace it tomorrow, and still a larger number the day after. It tells us that we are taking away future possibilities. It is saying that there will be no doctor, no lawyer and no leader coming from it. There will be no more children or grandchildren produced by it. No longer will any laughter or any tears flow from it. 4000 is much more than a number. It is a declaration.

How much higher does this number become before it attaches to our souls? How many more lives will be forever removed before the abstract becomes concrete? When will we find the number is no longer one we can accept?

We know that for each number we produce, the number on the other side is staggeringly larger. People who have no part in our number have long ceased to be only because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.Their only crime was living where they shouldn't. And yet, for them, for no reason at all, they have become just a number.

Countless more are alive, but barely. Their world is forever altered. Their abilities forever diminished. Their time to demonstrate all that they have to offer forever gone. And yet, their number almost never is heard. It is almost as if they should be grateful. Why?

0. The absence of something. The ability to start at the beginning. The capacity to say I am here and ready to show you what I can do, what I can be. 0 is a number of endless possibilities. It is a number that lets us dream. It is a number with no past, only a future. It is the only number we should tolerate. Without it, we continue to lose each and every day. Let the losses and the number counting stop.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Where did we go wrong? Every day destruction and murder are prevalent around the globe. People in all parts of the world are decimated, desecrated, destroyed,repressed, suppressed, depressed, left out, left behind, dominated, subjugated, sublimated, rejected, neglected, abused, confused and refused the basic qualities of life that each and every one of us wants and deserves. How are so many of us so morally bankrupt?

We want too much. We care too little. We criticize. We judge . We expect. We confront. We chastise. We accuse. We berate. We hate. We conquer and control. We dictate and demand. We take away and give nothing in return. We are the masters of your destiny. How can we act like this towards our fellow man? We are so much more than this. We are so much better than this. Is this the way it is supposed to be? Is this the way it has to be?

We feel we have the answers. We believe we know the truth. We are convinced we can impose our will on others and not have to reflect upon our actions. We are right. We are might. We are. You are not. Is this anyway to help improve our collective being?

With each revelation of trouble in yet another area, with each day we hear of the endless atrocities of man upon man, with each day that the body counts add up and the misery and suffering continues, we must ask ourselves what ends we are seeking. Can the only way to reach our ends be to disregard the means? We are being led to the end , and the bottom of our being , and for that there is a collective shame.

Where is our vision? Where is our perspective? Why can we not see beyond the world of our desires? Why don't we ever put ourselves in their shoes, see everything looking up instead of looking down? Who put us in charge and told us that we were the chosen ones? When is it our time to understand and to listen instead of to direct and dissect? How much longer do we, as a collective, let this go on?

So, as another day overtakes the night, we awaken to find the world has not improved. We are where we were yesterday, only one day further into the abyss. Someday we will open our eyes and see, far in the distance, a glimmer of light. It is the best part of each us , waiting to be discovered. If for just one moment, we can decide collectively to bring this part of us forward, to put away, for just an instance, all that darkness that overwhelms us, then the worst in us may start to fade, and we can stop and see a vision of a world , our world, in peace. I wait impatiently for that day.

Friday, March 21, 2008


It's 5AM and i sneak out of bed. I know my wife does not approve of what I am about to do, but I do it anyway. She would rather I roll over, get another 2 hours of sleep and start my day at a civilized time. But, I am unable to help myself. It is my newfound addiction and I am hooked. I walk down the hallway into the next room. I turn on the light.I sit down in the chair and then start doing what I have been thinking about most of the night. I begin to write.

It is as though a part of my brain has awakened after being dormant my entire life. One day I was minding my own business, going about my day as I always have, when suddenly I realized I heard the whisper. It was like in A Field of Dreams where Kevin Costner was told to build it and they will come. Sit down at the typewriter and it will flow out. How could this be?

We often hear of how little of our brain we actually use. If we could tap into those segments that are not performing then the possibilities would be endless. For me, I feel like the possibilities are just beginning. With each day, I see a new story unfolding in my head. With each event that occurs, I now look at it a little differently, like it is an opportunity for me to begin a conversation, with myself of course, about its meaning and import. I find myself watching my environment with a slightly keener and more critical eye. If it can give me pause to think, then it can serve as fodder for my next essay.

It is a fun and exciting experience for me. . Finding a new best friend at the computer is, for me, a wonderful gift. Life does settle into routines. What we did yesterday, we do today and tomorrow. Certainly there are variations. But when something comes up and surprises you, and does so in a positive way, then it can really start your juices flowing.

I find myself often addressing political issues of the moment. I shake my head and wonder who it is that is expressing an interest in these events. I have spent my life studiously avoiding an involvement in, or a commitment to, anything remotely political. I say this not with pride, but merely as an immutable fact of my existence up to now. Yet my new friend has removed the lock that was preventing me from expanding my horizons. I now hear myself talking to other people about issues in which I previously demonstrated no concern. I wonder what I might have had to say about matters in the past if I had been awakened earlier.

So, I devote the first part of almost every day in exploration. I begin the adventure with the first word on the screen and I go where the words take me. I am certain that the journey will be exciting and will lead me to a place of interest . I don't know where my new friend may take me tomorrow , but I hope he has a special treat for me. I understand that I am giving up some sleep while I undertake this daily trek. Yet I am sure the trade off is worth it. Someday, maybe my wife will get up at 5AM when I awaken and ask where I am going. When I tell her I am going down the hall to take a little trip, if she asks to come along, I will eagerly invite her to join me.. That would be the best gift of all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Barack Obama is not a ventriloquist. He does not project his voice into the mouths of dummies. He is not a puppeteer. He does not pull strings from behind the curtain while his creation dances in front of the audience. While Reverend Wright is wrong, we must not confuse his words for those of Obama. We must not see his actions as those of Obama. If we do then it is we who in the final analysis are the real dummies.

This is not to excuse the words of the Reverend. Any rhetoric that divides, any sentiment that brings up old wounds and tries to make them new, is counterproductive and destructive. It is not that we don't recognize that a chasm still exists, that there is much work to be done. It is only that we hope that our actions of today and tomorrow are such that the wounds can begin to close, that the gap that still separates us can be lessened with each passing day.

If we listen to the words of Barack Obama, that is the message that he is delivering to his audience. When he speaks of the hopes for the future, when he speaks of a change in our approach tomorrow, he is speaking not only to ending the war abroad, but to ending the war at home. His is not a message of hatred and bigotry. His is not a lifetime spent in dividing to conquer. His thoughts and his actions are not those of Reverend Wright. His world is not the world of Reverend Wright.

That does not mean that his silence in the face of the rhetoric he must have listened to from his pew in the church was entirely appropriate. I do not suggest that if there are messages being espoused to the public that Barack Obama could have addressed, that he is wholly without blame. I merely suggest that the attempt to blur the line between his words and deeds, and the words and deeds of others, is a very slippery slope and one that is wrong to travel.

This is not to ignore the reality that there are henchmen out there who do in fact do the dirty work for candidates and elected officials. The 'swift boating' of John Kerry by his opponent and his 'allies' left Kerry's candidacy in ruins. The imprint of the hands of a 'higher up' is often all over the actions of their hired guns. But Reverend Wright is not an example off this. His is the language of his pulpit, not of one member of his church. His rhetoric, his fire and brimstone, are not the expression of a member of his congregation, no matter how important that congregant may be.

It would be wrong for us to derail what might be the brightest and the best we have to offer based on speculation and innuendo. Listen to the words of Barack Obama. Analyze his speech in response to the message of Reverend Wright, and then judge. Look at the history of the actions of Barack Obama and then judge. Let us not fall for the easy answers. Let us be critical in our thinking. This is a critical moment in our history, and the times warrant and demand contemplative decisions. If we respond in this manner, no one can ever accuse us of being dummies.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holding Back

Rounding third base and heading home, you look ahead to see the catcher blocking home plate. The ball has already arrived in his glove. You can go gently into the night, by sliding and being tagged out. Instead, you lower your shoulder and go full speed ahead. The immovable object moves, and you wait for the dust to clear to see if you have arrived home safely. Untangling the mess, the catcher clutches his wrist. It is broken, and it is due solely to your aggressive play. You are a minor leaguer, trying to impress the manager and make the major league squad. It is an exhibition game and the results have no meaning .

You are Pete Rose. You have built your career on your unwillingness to do anything less than full throttle. You run to first base even after a walk. You are Charley Hustle. You were born to scratch and claw for everything. You are now one of the elite. You are convinced it is because of your commitment to excel from the moment you wake until you sleep. You don't believe in compromise. You see the catcher, Ray Fosse holding the ball and you decide that you are Pete Rose, yesterday , today and tomorrow. Like a fullback trying to get the extra yard, you hurtle forward . As Fosse prepares for the collision, you know that both of you will feel the effects of this for days to come. It is an All Star game, and whether you win or lose is without meaning.

It is the year 2000. The Presidential elections loom ahead. You are disenchanted with the politics of both the Democrats and the Republicans. You feel like your voice is no longer heard, no longer relevant. You decide that you will run for President on the Green Party ticket. You know you cannot win, but it is important that your views are acknowledged and debated. Maybe you can force some changes through your candidacy. However, as election day nears, it is clear that it will be a very close vote. If you decide that your voice has been heard, your point has been made, and you drop out, it can be the difference for one party. If you would only align yourself with the Democrats , then it appears that the race can be won by them. You are Ralph Nader and you have devoted your life to fighting for your causes. You won't be deterred now. You may have cost the democrats the election and been a principal cause in hurtling this country into 8 years of a Republican presidency and all it has wrought.

When are we not supposed to give it our best? Is there never a shade of gray, is it only black and white? Can we not understand that circumstances can dictate different approaches? Is it a sign of weakness for us to be less than all we can be, for one moment? Is it ever wrong to give less than your all?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Motion Sickness

Why do I have to take 2 dramamine every morning? I am not planning on a trip across the ocean. I am definitely not getting on a roller coaster. I know that everyday life is full of ups and downs, but the experience I embark on to start each day is one that my system is just not equipped to handle. I am about to read the dow jones results from yesterday.

I am not a person who takes the vicissitudes of the stock market easily. I have twice pulled all of my investments out, only to plunge back in when it looked like the waters were calming. I know that my mom has remained steadfast in the market from the time the Dow was under 1000 but why do I feel like such an idiot every time there is a dip and I have not sold?

They tell us every day we are in a recession, the words of the president notwithstanding. I see oil prices jump, the dollar fall, mortgage foreclosures ever expanding while lending tightens, and yet I sit with my hands behind my back. Ride it out I tell myself. It is only a matter of time before the ship rights itself and then you will applaud yourself for your strength and patience. While gold soars over $1000 an ounce, my retirement date seems to recede further into the distance with every passing day.

When Bear Stearns performs a free fall the likes of which can only be attributed to the best sky diver, and investment bankers look nervously lest they be the next one tapped on their shoulder,I know where my money should not be. But where should it be? Whenever I speak with my son, he reminds me not be fiscally responsible at the expense of being socially irresponsible. The lure to invest in many commodities suggests a willingness to overlook human exploitation for the sake of personal gain.If I was to get in bed with the devil to increase the size of my net worth, at what cost to my own value?

I am the tortoise, not the hare. I am not a risk taker. Let me put my money in conservative positions. Let me instruct my financial analyst to split my investments between fixed income bonds, and a prudent portfolio of stocks which have traditional history of solid performance. One would think that this would be the formula for success. If that is so, then why am I so drained after reading the paper?

The market climbed over 400 points one day this week and even that did not make me happy. I am not a person of great highs and lows. I knew that this rise was but a blip on the radar screen. Given the fragile state of our psyches, and the pessimism that pervades the economy, it was only a matter of time until that upswing was merely a footnote. It took less than a few days for us to have a hard time even remembering that there was a good moment for the Dow.

We have all lived through these times before. Have a sense of perspective I am told. Don't just look at the moment. Yet, why does it always feel when we are in the middle of these experiences like it is different than before? How do we know this is not the tsunami? Before the great depression was similar advice being espoused by those in the know? Why is the situation now not what it was then?

I am not an economist. I am not a soothsayer. I don't have vision. All I see is what is in front of my eyes. The picture is not pretty. It is a jigsaw puzzle of a thousand pieces, none of which seem to fit. I listen to a president in whom I , and most of the nation, have no confidence, flounder to try to say anything to keep us calm, in the face of this storm.

Yet I will, in all probability, continue to restock my medicine chest with the strongest motion sickness pills I can find. I will go along for the ride, hoping and believing in the ability of this country to extricate itself from the dark moments. While I have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I am willing to gamble that those in the know can see at least the faintest light flickering in the distance. One day soon, I tell myself, the stock market will be at an all time high and I will congratulate myself on my fortitude. Until that day comes, I will just have to limit my reading to the comic strips and sport pages.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Slow Boat to China

'I think the car needs a tuneup'. Ya think? I was sitting in the back seat of the taxi, passing sideway glances at my wife, and not saying anything to the driver. As we were reaching top speeds of 40 miles an hour on a somewhat deserted Van Wyck Expressway at 6 AM, I was pretty certain the problem was something greater than the cab driver was suggesting.

We were just returning from a 'red eye' flight from visiting our daughter in Utah. Having experienced some back pain while we were away, and having just tried to sleep in uniquely uncomfortable positions during the plane ride home, I was not overly thrilled at the prospects that lay before me in this vehicle. Would we end up stuck on the highway, imprisoned in the back seat, awaiting a rescue? Was there one driver of another car, paying less than complete attention, who would not notice that the vehicle in front of him , IN THE FAST LANE, was doing his best impression of the tortoise and the hare? I envisioned all types of events unfolding, and none of them were particularly attractive.

Then matters got worse. As we got to the first incline in the road ( and , in most circumstances, it would be impossible to call this an incline) the car began to slow down. We began our ascent of this 'hill' as if we were climbers on a trek, going up the last 100 feet , trying to reach the summit of a snow covered mountain. Each step forward was labored. I am sure we were going no more than 10 miles an hour. As cars whizzed by, I again turned towards my wife. Words were not necessary to express what each of us was thinking. I certainly was not about to engage in light banter with the driver. So , I sat and watched, waiting for the disaster to continue to unfold.

Finally, we reached the 'apex' of the climb, and the car began to find renewed life. Soon we were once again 'speeding' forward at well over 30 miles per hour. This process of slow, slower and almost a complete stop, repeated itself several more times over the ensuing minutes. I began to look diligently ahead , to try to determine where the next incline lay, and how steep it would be. I also tried to envision the rest of our trip home, turn by turn , to think where each insurmountable task lay in front of us. It was, to say the least, not the most relaxing trip I could recall.

Then, the monster began to loom in the distance. We were approaching the king of beasts. As we came closer to the ramp that was to lead us off the Harlem River Drive , to the entrance to Route 95 and the George Washington Bridge, I saw no way that this trip was going to have a happy ending. It seemed to me that all the efforts expended by the car up to this point had been child's play. Now it was to face a real test, and given its recent efforts, I did not think it was up to the task. We began the tortorously slow ascent. We have all said at one time or another that our car was performing so badly that we had to push it up the hill. This was the moment where I was sure there would be more truth than fiction to that statement.

I couldn't understand why the driver had not put on the car's flashing lights, to warn other vehicles. Did he not think that this was an unusual experience? How long had this car been driven while performing in this way? It was incomprehensible to me that this car was on the road. But, it was, and we were being taken for a ride of a lifetime.

As the summit came into sight, and then was attained, the car once again 'sped 'up. Exhausted by its efforts, it reached a cruising speed of about 15 miles an hour as it crossed the George Washington Bridge. Soon we passed into New Jersey and were deposited in front of our apartment. I got out of the car, thanked the driver, kissed the ground like I was Columbus upon reaching America, and headed inside.

After taking a deep breath, I called the cab company to tell them of my experience. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the owner of the company, informing me that the car had been mistakenly sent out and apologizing profusely for their mistake. Further, he said there would be no charge for the ride home. I got off the phone after thanking him for his action and his good business judgment. While I realized I had gotten home safely, and at no expense, I have decided that walking , not riding, is the wave of the future, at least for me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Long and Short of It

Eliot Spitzer never imagined this was how he would be exposed to the public. When he thought of something big being shown to the nation, this was not what he had in mind. Governor Spitzer has now subjected himself to a public flogging. While it is unquestionably a product of his own hubris and stupidity, the larger question is whether what we are now about to do to him is appropriate.

Of all politicians, Governor Spitzer has established a very definite black and white in the way we are to conduct ourselves. Follow the law , and if you fail to do so there will be severe consequences to pay. There is right and wrong, and in the world he has fashioned through his career, never the twain shall meet. So how, given the groundwork that he himself has laid out, can we feel any compassion for his predicament? Is there any way , given the course that Governor Spitzer himself laid out, to give him a slap on the wrist, tell him he was naughty, and let him move forward with his career?

Certainly there are members of Congress who still retain their seats after wrongdoing was alleged , and sometimes proven. There are, we can be certain, many more who have committed transgressions, large or small , which remain secret. 'Let he who is without sin' is certainly a thought that should be considered when the rhetoric reaches a crescendo.

Further, is there never a time when private wrong does not equate to public wrong? Is there never a moment , not only for Governor Spitzer, but for all those in the public spotlight, where the errors they make in their own lives do no translate to the errors which preclude them from being effective, or appropriate leaders in their public lives? Can there not be a time when we don't have the right to look behind the mask? Is there ever a time when enough is too much?

From what I can tell, Governor Spitzer has made many enemies along the way. Given his holier than thou pronouncements, and his willingness to strike down any foe, large or small, who dares to question his judgment or position, I am certain there are legions of people now calling for his head. For them, Governor Spitzer has made his bed and must now sleep in it. Yet, for me, I have a hard time lowering the guillotine.

Maybe I am naive. Maybe I want to think that whatever bad Governor Spitzer has now done might be outweighed by the good he can do in the future. Maybe, with a dose of reality and a touch of humility, Governor Spitzer will be a better man and a better leader tomorrow than he was yesterday. Maybe I am a bleeding heart. I just think that for this Governor, and for the multitude of leaders who are sure to commit similar transgressions in the future, there must a weighing process that goes on. It is too simple to say that one wrong cancels out all the rights. It may be an error in our own judgment to be so quick to pull the trigger.

I am in no way attempting to excuse the conduct of which we are learning. Once all the facts come forth, the scope of the problem may be insurmountably large. There may be consequences to these actions that find the Governor facing divorce and criminal charges, as well as removal from office. I do not know where this will lead us. I only know that the feeding frenzy that surrounds events like these feels wrong. It is like we wait to pounce at the first opportunity. We smell blood and attack. When there is only carcas remaining, then we reflect on the wisdom of our actions.

I am just asking that we , at the very least, step back and take a deep breath, before making our move. Governor Spitzer will still be hanging in the wind when we decide what is the right thing to do. He is not going anywhere. Let us be circumspect and not find the black and white in this situation. I know this a lesson that Governor Spitzer may not have yet learned himself, but maybe we can be the ones to learn from his mistakes.

Uncomfortable Moments

I have known Frank for over 40 years. He is one of the nicest, most caring persons I have ever met. He takes a genuine interest in my well being and that of my family. However, as he now attempts to engage me in conversation, I find his banter to be unbelievably annoying. I am having an incredibly difficult time paying any attention to what he is saying. I know he is trying to distract me from the events which are transpiring, but his efforts are an abysmal failure. Frank is my doctor and is in the midst of performing a biopsy on me to determine whether I have a serious problem with my prostate.

Have you ever tried to make small talk when somebody is doing something to some part of you that violates ever principle of human decency? Could you ever imagine in 7th grade that years later you would be opening yourself up to your friend in ways that are even hard to put down on paper? Was there ever a moment where you envisioned discarding every shred of privacy and exposing your inner most secrets to someone with whom the most important conversation you once shared was about the French homework for the next day? Me neither.

So, as Frank discussed what was happening with his sons, when he was going on vacation, and talked of another upcoming season of Yankee baseball, all I really heard was "this will only hurt for a few seconds". While Frank was in his world, I was in another place, much starker and, every 30 seconds or so, much colder. I found myself in a holding pattern, counting the number of times Frank had taken little parts of me, never to be returned. I was told there were to be 12 of these moments, and I never so badly wanted to be able to perform a fast count. It was like in touch football where you were supposed to count slowly to 5 Mississippi before rushing the passer, but somehow 1 through 5 were combined in a blur. I was trying to get to the quarterback as quickly as possible, but I was stuck at the line of scrimmage.

As Frank droned on, I tried my best to be responsive, and even cheerful. I did not want him to think that I was a baby, and that I needed my wife , who was in the next room, to provide me with any support. In fact, Frank had asked if I wanted my wife to be there during the procedure to hold my hand. I had told him that this would not be necessary, and made as though the mere suggestion was laughable. Inside though I was secretly thinking I could use all the reinforcements possible.

Even while I was sure that time had slowed down in the room, I knew that the reality was that someday Frank would release me from his clutches and I would be free. As I finally counted the 12th snip, I discovered that I was once again able to take a deep breath. After telling Frank that it was not as bad as I thought, and that on a scale of 1 to 10 ( 10 being the worst) that the discomfort was a 1 or, at most, a 2, I got up from the examining table. I cleaned myself up, tried to locate my dignity that I had put on a shelf for the past half hour, and got dressed. I walked out into the waiting room and greeted my wife, who was most glad to see that I had survived the procedure and appeared to be intact.

Frank came out shortly thereafter to tell me that everything looked good , but that we would have to wait about a week to be sure. He was going on vacation but would have the results on his return. However, Frank could see behind the feeble macho charade that I had attempted to exhibit . Thus, in the middle of his vacation, Frank called in to his office to get my results as soon as possible. I received a call from Frank, from out of the country, notifying me that I was fine. I told him I had not been worried about it at all. I then uncrossed my fingers, and let out a big sigh of relief. I am supposed to go back for a follow up with Frank in about a month. I think I just lost his phone number and address.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dreams of Greatness

Finally, I am alone. I have been waiting all day for this moment. I know that the criticism of what I am about to do would be flowing if anyone else was around. For years, each time that I have done this in the presence of loved ones, I have subjected to gentle ridicule. I don't think there is anything wrong with my behavior but I am clearly in the minority in my family. After double checking to make sure I cannot be seen or heard, I begin to perform the offending act. I start to sing.

I know all about American Idol. I am not one of the millions taken in by this show. But I know that almost every participant is imbued with the belief that his or her voice is the one that the world has been waiting to hear. The sounds that emanate are better, purer than those coming from others. I am sure of this myself. I just wonder why no one around me shares the same thoughts.

When I was in fifth grade, I formed a group and we performed "Under the Boardwalk" for some elementary school talent show. I was, of course, the lead singer. I thought our sound was perfect. While we were not asked to do any encores, and while the offers to take our music to the next level did not come pouring in, I thought it was only a matter of time before I would be discovered.

That was sadly, to be my last night before an audience. After that sterling beginning, my career failed to climb. I continued my training by singing in the shower, singing to the music on the radio, or singing at strange and inappropriate times around my friends. Yet, through it all, I knew that what my mother always said about my having a beautiful voice was totally accurate.

I have been married for 30 years. I have been blessed with a wonderful family. My wife and 2 children find me to have many good qualities. They are supportive of me and give me a sense of worth in ALMOST all my undertakings. There is, however, one area in which they all seem to share the same shortcoming. They are all tone deaf and thus can't hear the greatness in my voice.

To this day, I tend to sing over the voices coming from the CD player or the radio.I drown out the sounds of the Beatles, of James Taylor, or the score of artists who have the audacity to think that their sounds are better than mine, merely because millions of people find them to be appealing. I know that if it were me, and not Paul McCartney singing Yesterday, that the hit would be even greater than possibly imagined.

Yet , while I hear greatness in my voice, while my pitch is exquisite, and my timbre incredible, somehow my family only hears nasally grating tones coming from my lips. It is as if they are in an alternate universe and have been deprived of the opportunity to share in the pure joy of the moment. To them, the only sounds that should be coming from me are the sounds of silence.

Sometimes I am deterred by their persistence in asking me to be quiet. Sometimes I even accede for short periods of time. I sulk, left alone with my thoughts, wondering why they are depriving the world of the pleasures that await them. If only they would give me the proper encouragement, the keys to the kingdom would await all of us.

But, as sure as the day follows the night, there a comes a tune in my head, or on the CD player, that forces the sounds to come rushing out. I am, once again, in full voice, hoping that someone, anyone, will hear me sing and praise me for the beauty they are hearing. Someday, if I sing long enough and loud enough ,that may happen. For now, I just lock the doors, turn off all the lights to make it seem like I am not home, and let go. The greatness is still there.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I could see that this was trouble. I was being warned repeatedly that my day was going to get worse. I had been advised before from the same source that there was a problem that needed immediate attention. However, I continued to try to ignore it, thinking that would make it disappear. I had made minimal attempts in the past to straighten things out, but my band-aids had failed to fix what was wrong. Now, as I sat in my car, staring at the blinking light on the dashboard telling me that my coolant had to be replaced, yet again, my heart sank.

We have all experienced the nightmare , at one time or another, of an issue with a car that just can't seem to be fixed. It is frustrating, and leaves one in an increasingly foul mood. With every effort gone bad, with every time we hear the rattle reappear, or see the slow leak in the tire return, for every day that we trudge back to the repair shop and leave the offending beast behind, for every secret joke it decides to play on us, we are made increasingly unhappy.

I was living through a recurring bad dream with my car. Months before, the light had gone on warning me that something was wrong with my car's engine. Reading the manufacturer's recommendation made it sound like the car might disintegrate before I could escape from its clutches. I was instructed to take the car immediately for service. I was not to pass go, not to collect $200, while driving this car. I understood and obeyed.

The dealer from whom I had purchased the car attempted to remediate the problem . Over the next months, I repeated my slow dance with my car, my dealer and myself, as the problem was fixed, fixed again, fixed once more, and finally not fixed. The offending light would be off when I left the dealership, only to return within days and sometimes hours. Ultimately, it was determined that there was something wrong with the internal workings of the car that could not be repaired without the body of the beast being pulled apart and then put back together. Finally, I said thank you to them for their efforts, decided it was machine over man and drove away in my car. I was tired of the efforts, and disgusted with the results.

Like one who revels in playing bad jokes, my car decided this was not to be the end of the story. Several weeks after the last failed attempt to make the blinking light disappear, it went away on its own. It has been a few months since it has reared its ugly head. Then, very recently, the manufacturer sent a notice to every single owner of my year and model car. The letter from the higher ups told all of us that there was a problem with the check engine warning on our cars. It advised that if any of us had experienced this problem and been compelled to expend monies to try to get it repaired, that the company would, with proper proofs, reimburse us any costs so incurred. Well, speak of too little, too late. I wondered why there was no pain and suffering component of their recompense. For all of us who have fought a losing battle with our cars, return of capital is not a return of principal. We want to be made whole, and there is no way the check from the company does that.

If that was the end of the story, it would be bad enough. But, as I stated at the beginning of this tale, I was now staring at a coolant warning for the third time in recent weeks. The manufacturer's suggestions now instructed me to get out of the car quickly, before the car and I made matters worse. I had done what the repair people had told me to do the last two times, replacing the coolant and keeping an eye on it as there may well be a leak that had to be addressed. I was now hearing about it taking 2 days of labor to rectify matters and was learning of the possibility of expending amounts that made me want to abandon the car by the side of the road. It was clear to me that the beast had arisen and was telling all of us that it was ready to do more battle.

Finally, I took the car over to our old service station. For $12, our reliable service repairman replaced the coolant fluid and put in some extra sealant to try to keep the beast quiet. So far, knock on wood, the beast sleeps. However, I know that one day soon it may wake up and decide that this bandaid is not enough to satisfy its needs. Let us all tip toe quietly in its presence so that it may rest in peace. Sleep tight.

Friday, March 7, 2008


I swear my wife and son are talking in tongues. I know they are attempting to communicate with me because I see their lips moving. However, they might as well be speaking to a plant. It is not that I am ignoring them or that I don't want to comprehend their statements. It is not that I find their words uninteresting or without merit. It is only that I am totally and utterly unable to understand the most rudimentary instructions when it comes to being able to doing something, anything, relating to work around the house.

As they blabber on with ever increasing amounts of frustration and bewilderment, I stare at them and wonder why they even bother. They know, and I know they know, that their efforts are pointless. Yet day after day and year after year they try to converse with me as if this is the moment that their instructions will be met with comprehension. I have a secret for them: it is not happening today, tomorrow or for as many tomorrows as there are in all our futures. I am, for whatever reason, a repair illiterate.

When I am asked to get a phillips screwdriver if, by some stroke of luck, I happen to retrieve it, my wife and son treat it as an occasion for celebration. Like the dog who has performed a trick that is a matter of repetition and not of intellect, I get a congratulatory pat on the head and a compliment for a job well done.

I have seen my wife climb up on a step ladder on numerous occasions with a potato in her hand. Why, you might ask, would she have reason to do this? The simple truth is that 'lefty loosy, righty tighty' is often a concept that is beyond my grasp. I have, as a result of making a foolhardy attempt to change a lightbulb, left smaller or larger fragments of it still intact in the socket. With my frantic cry to my wife or son that the darn lightbulb 'broke' in my hand, there is a curse, or a sigh, or both , that emanates from their lips.

Next, my son goes to the panel box for the electricity ( where ever that may be hiding) and shuts it down. My wife then cuts up a potato, takes a large chunk of it, gets up on the step ladder and begins what appears to be the impossible task of removing the offending part of the bulb from the socket. With my wife accomplishing a feat of dexterity I always find amazing, in short order the potato serves its purpose and the light bulb has been removed.

Like a dentist after a difficult extraction, my wife stands aloft, triumphant, staring at the tiny pieces imbedded in the potato. With a small look of disgust directed at me, and the job complete, she puts away the ladder, puts in a new bulb, and continues on with her day. I am left cowering in the corner, afraid to be seen lest there are any other household chores I will be asked to undertake.

I don't consider myself a stupid person. Yet I wonder why part of my brain is clearly missing. Was it stolen at birth or did I just misplace it? I have friends who believe if I am given continual encouragement that I can someday perform the most basic tasks. I hate to discourage their faith in me, but I must tell them that their sentiment is based on emotion, not logic.

I know, as sure as I understand that tomorrow is the day after today, that a mountain of tomorrows will not lead to my enlightenment.

Now you'll have to excuse me while I try to figure out how to turn on the stove.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thank You, George Bush

I believe George Bush is a wonderful teacher. What, might one ask, does he teach? President Bush has demonstrated to us, with clarity and certainty, the qualities we must look for in our leader. George Bush, regrettably, does not possess those qualities, but his shortcomings serve as a primer for future generations.

He is an intransigent person. A man of conviction, he will not alter his course or his perceptions no matter the mountain of evidence to the contrary. He has a vision for the destiny of this country and he is unwilling, or unable, to alter or amend that vision when the times demand adjustment.

It is not enough to be strong willed. It is required that one mix stubbornness with intelligence, judgment with clarity.

We are mired in a time in which we as a nation seem to have lost our direction. We are, by all objective standards, failing most, if not all the tests we have faced in recent years. The approval rating of the President is abysmal because he has not had the ability to adjust to the ever changing events that confront him on a daily basis.

Is it lack of experience that has led the President, and our country, into this debacle? If one were to list the most important criteria in making critical decisions, I don't think I would rate experience over intelligence. I don't want a person of average intellect in charge of my future of the future of our country, no matter how long he has been involved in the process.

What I do want is someone who has a facile mind, can understand the nuances and complexities of the most difficult problems;someone who has a strong belief in his or her position, is a person of conviction, but who understands that those convictions are not correct without limitations. I want a person who can and will listen to the sounds of the world and will respond suitably. It is not always enough to be willing to move mountains to get what you want. It is being able to reflect quietly whether what you want is ultimately what we need, and what best serves our interests.

I don't criticize President Bush for being a regular guy. Most of us are regular guys. I don't criticize him for caring deeply about issues of import.I hope all our leaders believe in their positions with such passion. It's just that I don't want a regular guy who can't ever see the forest for the trees put in position to shape history.

I want a president who is ready, intellectually and psychologically, from day one. Our leader can talk to terrorist nations, or not talk to them, shape universal health care in one manner or in another. While these stances are critical, they are not ultimately controlling. Reacting to the moment, as it takes shape, understanding that inflexibility is not always an asset, those are the qualities that the president must possess and exhibit.

I thank George Bush for his service to our country. However, I believe that one of the most important lessons he has taught us comes not from his strengths but from his weaknesses. Let us all hope that the next president doesn't teach us the same lessons.


The phrases are like an assault on the brain: weapons of mass destruction, reign of terror, safe for democracy . The rhetoric goes on and on in a never ending drum beat in our heads. By now , it feels as if there is a new slogan every month.

Like David Copperfield, the genius of this government has been in perfecting the art of misdirection. While our country has now fallen to the brink of recession, while the efforts of this government to exact meaningful social reforms has been sorely lacking, while our attempts to move forward with effective measures to combat global warming appear to be moving slower than the glaciers are disappearing, when it seems like almost every child has been left behind, we are placed in a situation where we continue relentlessly to proceed with the war in Iraq. This has cost us thousands of lives, trillions of dollars and countless opportunities to focus our gaze on what is in front of our eyes. The Democrats speak of the government having made a crucial error in judgment by taking its eye off the country where the stronghold of the terrorist regime exists. I agree in concept, but disagree with where we should have been looking. Our mistake was in not forcing the government to give up its illusions, to stop its war of terror on its own citizens, and to be compelled to spend its time and energy by directing its attention internally, as it should have all along.

Instead, we find ourselves in a world in which our country is perceived in a lesser and lesser light as the months and years of the war drag on. We have seemingly created an entire generation of US haters throughout the middle East. We have watched as the world grows around us, while we appear to shrink both in stature and economic viability. Through it all, we continue to place our loved ones in harms way. We continue to allow our children to come home broken, battered and beaten. Others don't come home at all.

What is the end game that has prompted us to take this course? What greater good have we accomplished? Why do we continue to march on relentlessly and ignore the consequences at home and abroad of our folly? Why can't we see that the person pulling the strings behind the curtain has made a monumental error in judgment? Why must there be talk of continuing to foster this policy for 100 years if necessary?

We, as a society, act and react to catch phrases. The government has maintained its ability to pursue its middle East obsession based on its genius in producing catch phrases of fear. We need protection. While there is no 'axis of evil', there is a terrorist around the corner, waiting for the right moment to pounce.

There must be a way of strengthening our country , of making our lives better, without sacrificing our loved ones on a daily basis. In a conflict without end or purpose, let the catch phrases stop, let the misdirection end, and let the work of making our country great again commence.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


My head is pounding. I feel quite nauseated. Everything seems to be spinning out of control. Then, in a moment of clarity, I understand the root cause for my illness: the democratic party nominee is going to be selected by the party's Superdelegates.

After endless primaries and caucuses, after learning that somehow a candidate could end up with more votes but less delegates, we are now left with the inevitable conclusion that our collective voices are being sublimated. We are all being subsumed by what is perceived to be back room politics. Secret meetings, vague promises and thoughts of personal gain is the scenario we all envision will now be played out .It appears certain that votes in the remaining primaries will have little or no effect on the determination of whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton eventually stands toe to toe against John McCain. How can this be?

It makes the entire process seem so imperfect and so meaningless. When we have cast our ballots in the primaries we did so with the belief that we would have a say in determining our party's candidate. What could be more democratic then permitting us to tell the politicians who they were going to be cheering at the party's convention? Now, that illusion has vanished

While John McCain and the Republican machine fill their coffers for the next 3 months, while they focus their party's attention on bringing the conservatives and evangelicals into the fold, while they create a national strategy to make sure the presidency remains with the Republican party, the Democrats are left to continue to battle among themselves. Millions and millions of dollars will be expended by the Obama and Clinton camps in an effort to find the one talking point that will give their candidate the edge in the remaining primaries. However, ultimately , the one truly remaining battle is to sway a sufficient number of Superdelegates to pledge allegiance to him or her.

I watched the political experts speak with glee in anticipation that the process of electing the democratic nominee is far from over. I, on the other hand, recoiled in horror and disgust. To know that it is a possibility that we may have to revisit Florida and Michigan to run the primaries over ,and thus give everyone an opportunity to have a voice in the process, is absurd. It is like putting a cherry on top of a piece of cake that has already been almost fully eaten. In reality, there is nothing left but to await the verdict of the Superdelegates. I , for one, don't want the party's nominee chosen by them. I don't want the voice taken out of my mouth or the vote taken out of my hands.

If one is to be rewarded for years of loyal service to a party, let it be with a gold watch or an invitation to the White House after that party's candidate is elected President. Let the reward not be a designation as a Superdelegate and an invitation to 'protect' the party from the populace making an error in the choice of nominee.

For now, I suggest a radical solution: let each vote in the primary count equally, count all the votes and the one with the most votes is the chosen candidate. I know this is almost impossible to conceive, but if this were to occur, I am positive my head and stomach would be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Health Care Reform

My mom is 90 years old. At a time in her life when we are told our citizens are protected from exposure to abuses in the health care system, she finds herself with a 'donut', the size and cost of a mini-cooper, in uncovered prescription drug charges. Her doctor of over 40 years declined to accept payment for his services through Medicare. As a result, every penny of his bills, unencumbered by any restrictions, are paid directly by my mother. And yet, we are the lucky ones.

My son is 27 years old. He has spent years trying to overcome a still undiagnosed problem that has sapped him of much of his strength and has kept him from moving forward with his life. We have tried many avenues in search of answers. Among these was a week long trip to the Mayo Clinic. Prior to my son undergoing any tests, we had a series of phone calls with his health insurance carrier which resulted in their assurance that these tests were covered under the policy. The carrier subsequently reversed its position on virtually every valid, medically necessary procedure undertaken. It would only be through the unwavering persistence of my son over a period of 6 months that the carrier finally relented and covered a large portion of the costs incurred. And we are the lucky ones.

It is incomprehensible to me that this is the best we have been able to do as a nation. When the cost of health care premiums soars every year, when we are forced to take larger and larger deductibles so we are not compelled to drop or in other ways limit our coverage, when we look at health care as a protection against a catastrophe, then the system is a catastrophe. And we are the lucky ones.

I hear Senators Clinton and Obama debating relentlessly over which of their proposals will be more inclusive of the 47 million Americans who are not as fortunate as my family and are unable to afford health insurance. I shudder to think that this is a necessary conversation. We have always been told that we are the lucky ones for living in this country. Why doesn't it always feel that way?

I know there are reasons attached to the failures of the health care system and its reform. I believe there are well intentioned people who devote much of their lives trying to improve the system. But it can't be that the best we have to offer our citizens is to feel like Sisyphus, always pushing a rock up what appears to be an endless hill. Are we supposed to believe that because the rock hasn't crushed us as it escapes our clutches and careens out of control that we are the lucky ones?

So I sit, listen and contemplate. I know that we hear that this time will be different, that this time we will fix what is wrong. I can only imagine that this conversation has been carried on between politicians and the public since the first politician ran for office. I know that , as a nation, we are sadly and obscenely unprotected. I trust that there will come a day in the not too distant future when the rhetoric ends and the real work begins fixing a system that is clearly broken. Only when that day comes, do I believe we will truly be the lucky ones.

Monday, March 3, 2008


We are clearly a nation of excess. We are too heavy. We have too many toys. We have an unending choice of television channels. Undeniably, we have an interminably long election process

Why is it necessary for the candidates to declare their intentions to run for President seemingly the moment after the President's hand leaves the bible when being sworn in? Is there a reason we have to be subjected to virtually the identical speech hundreds and hundreds of times? Day after day, we see and hear clips of a candidate espousing the same position, or the identical vision on the critical issues of our time. Hour after hour, we are subjected to minute analysis of every conceivable way to dissect each syllable set forth. Moment after moment, we are given the most up to date data on how we feel, or how they think we feel, on every nuance relating to every theoretical matter affecting our decision.

Isn't there a time to say we don't want to hear another syllable from anyone related to the Presidential race? Isn't there a moment when we are not going to have to be told AGAIN that he is not experienced enough, or she is not going to be ready and right , or he is too old and not really as conservative as he would like the conservatives to believe?

Can we not envision a scenario in which we have a finite time, not stretching into years, to obtain sufficient information to make a reasoned decision on the candidate of our choice? Cannot we reach a moment where our political campaigns don't require an infusion of money that could seemingly solve many of our country's financial woes? How about the radical thought of letting us all decide on the same day who is to be the candidate for our party? We are apparently able to all cast votes on one day to determine the President, so how hard could this be as a method to determine who is going to run for the Democratic and Republican parties?

I don't know if ever there is a way to convince us to become thinner and more fit, to discard our Hummers or to decide that television shows on every conceivable topic are not an absolute necessity. I don't know if ever there is a way that we can think smaller. However, I for one, vote for the condensed version of political mania. Let us stop with Super Tuesday, super delegates ( whatever they are) and super sizing everything in our lives. Let's just take a deep breath and simplify.