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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A game of chicken

Are we really supposed to believe that Nancy Pelosi's comments on the reasons behind this economic tsunami were the catalyst for the failed vote yesterday? We are all standing on the sidelines, watching the parties continue to try to flex their political muscle while the cost of inaction seems to increase exponentially by the hour. When is enough really enough?

There must be a resolution out there. I refuse to find it plausible that the continued destruction of the global economy is an acceptable option. When stock markets around the world plummet in a day in many multiples of the worst case cost of the bailout, then it is beyond time to stop the partisan rancor and find the answer.

Mr.Paulson on bended knee is a symbol. We are no longer strong, no longer immune from collapse. If resolution is not forthcoming in Congress immediately, the next picture will be of Mr. Paulson flat on his back, with the weight of the world holding him down. There is no more time for gamesmanship. There is only time for solutions.

Political survival cannot be the predicate for this vote. Let those worried about their personal futures be part of the answer. Don't vote against the plan,any plan, because you want to show your constituency some ill perceived notion about having the courage of your convictions. Guess what, you are showing everything but courage. Get down, get dirty and get it done.No more excuses, no more rationalizations. There will be very little America left to govern come November 5 if this downward spiral is not stopped now.

As we wait, stunned and dismayed, we look for real leadership. When that day comes, in the form of a bipartisan agreement, we can begin to have faith again in our system. Until then, we all feel you are playing a game of chicken with our futures. Stop the idiocy, once and for all, please stop the idiocy. We are all on bended knees. Help us up.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

has anybody seen my "too"?

I always like to think that everyone can see my inner cool. In my mind, if you are really looking at me then you can see that I am the fifth Beatle, crossing Abbey Road just out of the picture. I like to believe that those in the younger generation understand how cool I am, notwithstanding my outward appearance. Despite the fact that I can't have any kind of alcoholic beverage without feeling sick, I have only smoked pot once in the last 20 years, and my sense of humor ranges from bad to please don't repeat that, I like to pretend that the world perception of me is in keeping with my own fantasies.

That is why my slip up during a conversation with a family of friends last weekend haunted me. What makes this family so unique for me is the sometime multi-colored hair of their daughter, the goatee of the father, the ear piercings of the son (now a freshman in college) and, most importantly, the multiple tattoos of the mother. For me, they are the type of people, at least in outward appearance, who find me to be very unappealing. Thus, to be embraced by this group only served to reaffirm in my mind that the world can look past my mundane exterior.

Family tattoos, at least for some of their crew, were scheduled for this past summer. Last weekend, as we all gathered together over bagels, I brought up the topic that was of keen interest to me. "What new toos do you have to show me", I asked in my ultra-cool manner. I remembered that tattoo was a word that was shortened among those in the know. Unfortunately, as it turned out, no one knew what I was saying. "What is a too" I was asked? "You know, a tattoo". "Oh, you mean a tat" was the bemused reply.

It was as though I had been struck down. The fifth Beatle disappeared from view and never made it to Abbey Road. The person who throws up at the first hint of liquor stood before the gathered crowd. The long hair and the beard was replaced by a bald head and thick glasses. I was there naked and exposed.

Somehow, the rest of them just passed it off as another in the long history of reasons why I was a somewhat lovable idiot. While they laughed about my failed attempt at being something other than I was, and then they went on to the next topic, I was left behind in my own little world. I knew that never again would I be able to convince myself into thinking that I was fooling those gathered in this room of the fascination of being me.

But, I now realize there is always hope. I recognize that there is still a whole world of unsuspecting people out there. I can still go to the next wedding or bar-mitzvah , sing along with the band at the top of my lungs, and know that those gathered in attendance will be awed by the beauty of my voice. My ultra -coolness continues to reside within me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fathers, sons and daughters

There were only 4 people in Yankee Stadium last night. There was no game. There was no ceremony. The seats were empty. My father, who passed away in 1979, was sitting next to me.Though only two people (my daughter and I) passed through the turnstiles, my son was on my other side, occupying a seat next to his sister.

This was not a night about Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle or Jeter. This was a night about my being 6 years old and having my father under a 'tent', sweating with me throughout the night, as I 'vaporized' away the whooping cough that was making it hard to breathe.

This was not a night about 26 World Series, or George Steinbrenner. This was about having a young son, named after his grandfather whom he would never meet. This was about having a daughter who would share some of her grandfather's finest qualities but would never get to know his smile or feel his warmth.

This was not a night about records that were broken, or would never be broken. This was about walking through the turnstiles, year after year, so glad that you could spend one more day, a few more hours, in the company of those you loved so much. This was about being grateful.

This was not a night to dwell on a season lost. This was not a time to wonder about what could have been. This was a time to understand that this arena gave you the opportunity, for the last 50 years to enjoy the moment. This was a time to reflect on life outside the lines and away from the crowds. This was the moment when the emotions were allowed to wash over you.

I did not say goodbye to Yankee Stadium last night. I did not walk away after the final pitch and the final out and dwell on the good and the bad that I had seen over the last half century. I walked out, 4 astride , arm in arm in arm with the memories of my dad, my son and my daughter. It was a unique moment in my life and one that baseball permitted me to have. For that, it was a game I will never forget.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brother can you spare a dime?

When did I agree to bail out every institution that got caught in this financial crisis? The latest figures mean that each person in this country has now contributed about $3600 (a family of 4 has now 'invested' over $14,000) in trying to stem the tide of the ongoing disaster. Am I to expect a thank you note from all those whom I have just saved from extinction? I don't remember anyone coming up to me with hat in hand, suggesting they had made a mistake or been duped. I don't even remember writing the check.

Am I done now? Can I go to sleep knowing that my Uncle Samuel has now fixed what is wrong with the economy? Can I rest assured that we have put our finger in the last hole in the dike?

Am I now supposed to start doing repair work on what must be several million homes in which I have invested? For a party that has always preached deregulation, and letting the markets correct themselves, can I expect the Republicans to be standing on the roofs,fixing all the holes? Are they going to patch up the damage, or can I expect a complete renovation? Are we all going to get rich in the future on these investments? Have we bought ourselves security, or only put a bandaid on the biggest wound of all time?

Only time will tell.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Great Divide

It is the 21st century version of the civil war. While the population in the country is much larger in area then 150 years ago, and North versus South doesn't quite fit, you get the picture.

There is a philosophical chasm that divides us. It is felt deeply and passionately by almost all citizens of this country who have a pulse. Each side believes the other bereft of common sense. Each talks to their constituents and shakes their collective heads in disbelief that there is really such significant support for the other side. "What universe dropped these ignoramuses into our lap?" each side is thinking. If only they had a shred of intelligence, and were not so susceptible to being swayed by empty rhetoric, then we could have a leader who could take us out of this deep morass and lead us back to the glory days. Each side is convinced that the other is completely, utterly and absolutely without any justification for its support of its candidate. How can we be living side by side and yet be living in such totally different worlds?

I am unable to carry on conversations with those who do not share my beliefs. I am unable to listen to the talking heads on television who espouse a view contrary to mine. There must be many tv sets that never turn on Fox News, while an equal number would rather eat worms then be forced to spend a minute listening to Keith Olbermann and others on MSNBC rail against everything that is wrong with the politics of the party republican.

How is it that we can be wired so differently? Are we really a country of good old boys and intellectual elitists? How did it come to pass that there are entire sections of the country that have such disregard for entire other regions? How is it that red and blue is so black and white?

I go to sleep every night thinking that there must be something we can do as a collective to convince the other side to abandon their ways. I force myself to believe that there is someone smarter than me who must have the vision and the understanding to reach across the great divide and drag the imbeciles out of the darkness into the light. I am equally certain that the other side is convinced that if they can have a mass intervention they can deprogram us and enable us to see the error of our ways.

We have been living through the presidential process for about a year and a half. I thought that the nomination procedures were draining, frustrating and intense. Little did I know that they were merely a prelude to what appears will be a 2 month exercise in hand wringing, primal screaming and obscenity laced thinking. I am afraid that in the end, we will stand toe to toe, ready to do battle with the enemy, and the enemy will be ourselves. As Rodney King once asked, "can't we all just get along"? The unfortunate answer is an emphatic NO.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pain and Suffering

It was riveting, disgusting and horrifying. It was hard to watch and harder not to. It was compelling in the most awful sense of the word. It was unforgettable and yet something that we all wish was not part of our collective memory. We were all there and we all lived it. Yet the only reason we are here was because we were not there.

As I watched the 102 minutes that reshaped our view of ourselves and the world forever, I found myself reacting more intensely than I thought I would 7 years later. Yet, what struck me as I watched the grief pour out in front of me was a thought that repeated itself over and over. The pain and suffering that I was witnessing is not a scene that is uniquely ours. While we would believe that because it happened to us, it was an American tragedy of epic proportion, the sad reality of our world is that this scene, in different scope and context, is repeating itself over and over in other arenas.

As I listened to the anguished voices of those staring out at the grotesque world glowering in front of them; as I listened to those enveloped by the blackness that descended upon them, gasping for breath; as I recoiled at the images that were parading before my eyes as I sat in my remote safe environment, I couldn't help but realize that there were others around the globe who had experienced, and continue to experience these nightmares on a recurring basis. It is unfathomable to try to know the depths of the pain that must live within these people, as they watch and wait for their world to explode at any moment.

How can war and killing be the right answer ? How can we react to our tragedy and not empathize with the tragedies of others? How can we not know what it must feel like to be the family of one who is suddenly gone forever, whether the loss is sustained in New York city or in other parts of the world that we somehow feel removed from emotionally? We have to understand intellectually that they undergo the same range of emotions that we do, that they feel the loss as much as we do, that they grieve like we grieve. We must understand that they feel the same need to lead a civilized and meaningful life that we do.

So as we stand as one and say we will never forget, I have to ask myself exactly what that means. Does it mean that we are justified in inflicting what seems sometimes to be indiscriminate pain based, if the ugly truth be known, on our sense of moral outrage? I know that there is a feeling in many that war is somehow patriotic, but I have a very hard time accepting that as a concept that is appropriate. When I see the pictures of the events of 7 years ago, when I hear the voices crying out, when I touch those covered in remnants of what was, when I smell the melting remains of the great skyscrapers, when I feel the shaking in every part of my being, I know that for everyone, everywhere, there have to be better answers.

I am not a religious person but if I pray for anything, it would be for guidance. As we walk blinded through the rubble, we look for the first hint of light to take us out of the nightmare. 7 years later, I am not that we have seen the light yet.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Everything Palin

In what is arguably one of the strangest circumstances in Bizzaro world, otherwise known as the run for the Presidency of the United States, it appears that one of the Vice Presidential candidates has gone missing. Despite a massive search and rescue mission (now more of a search and recovery mission) there is still no sign of one Joseph Biden. Like mythical tales of old, it appears that this venerable democrat has been swallowed whole in the belly of the beast commonly known as Sarah Palin. He has become an irrelevant part of the discussion.

The legend of Palin (never to be confused with the actual events of her life) has now out-Baracked Barack. In the past we have been subjected to endless whining from the Republican horde about the celebrity status of the Democratic nominee, and the fact that behind the fa├žade was a lot of nothing. You can bet your last dollar (and if the Republicans remain in office, it may well be your last dollar) that there is nothing but glee in the Republican backrooms as the tables have now turned. Everywhere one looks, there is another image of the gun toting, oil drilling, mother loving (I mean loving mother), young and sexy vice Presidential candidate. Step aside, Obama, there is a new kid in town.

The question is whether she is a one hit, one week wonder, or a two month juggernaut. If the latter is true, all us Democrats might as well be packing our bags right now and start looking for other places that will embrace our philosophies. If Palinmania prevails we will all be made as irrelevant as Joe Biden.

This has now clearly turned into a battle of the 40 somethings. It is incomprehensible that McCain is riding the coattails of this out of left field vice presidential candidate. The reality for today is that McCain could easily disappear to the same place where Joe Biden is currently residing and we might not even miss him. How sad and strange to find that after the exhilarating battle between Obama and Clinton, that energized the Democratic base predicated on the substance of the ideas and the intellectual force of their candidates, we are left with this.

If the Republicans have their way, Joe Biden will next be seen on some infomercial for hair transplants sometime in the middle of the next Republican administration. Remember me, Biden will say, I was the Democratic vice Presidential candidate in the beginning of the era of Palin-tology.

When Obama distanced himself from Hillary Clinton as his VP choice, and all the baggage that this would bring, could he ever have envisioned the consequences that such a decision wrought? There is not a word in the language that properly conveys the astonishment the Democrats have felt at one day mocking the choice of Palin as the idiocy of the desperate Republican Party in full view, to the next day watching the Palin phenomena emerge in its ever present, ever growing fully developed form.

It is as though Republicans were rope-a doping the Democrats into this position. Could Obama really be George Foreman, who exhausted himself by trading punches with Clinton, and now has nothing left? Can Palin really be the left-right (or right-right) combination that fells Obama and the Democratic Party?

I am internally apoplectic at the events swirling around. All touch with reality seems to have been abandoned. When white women move in enormous numbers to support Palin merely because she is a woman, irrespective of what may be her position on issues regarding women, I fear that all is lost. There is seemingly almost no point in parading the candidates before the public to ‘debate’ issues when the answers are irrelevant.

I can imagine a scenario where Palin lines up her husband (world champion snow dude), her son (in full uniform, on his way to do battle), her pregnant daughter (practicing her breathing for labor), her future son-in-law (deleting the cell phone numbers of all his other women friends), her ‘standard issue’ middle daughter, her youngest daughter (practicing her cowl-licking techniques on the baby), and her baby son (just being her baby son with attendant problems), has them all take a bow, and then one by one leave the stage, with the Governor the last to go, waving and smiling. It is like a scene from Sound of Music, where the Von Trapp family exits stage left.. When the stage is finally empty, we all know that this family is going off to fight the good fight for all of us.

In a world where fluff replaces substance and fiction replaces fact, Democratic nightmare becomes reality. If the Democrats can’t find a way to derail everything Palin, they will soon wake up to 4 more years of more of the same.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Lessons

We should all be deeply indebted to the Republican party as they continue to give us a primer in how to win friends and influence people. As we go through the next 60 days, we should keep in mind those invaluable pointers that will set the parameters for how this race should be run. In no particular order of importance, these criteria are:

1. Perception is reality- As we watched Senator McCain talk,he reminded us all that he HATED WAR. Will someone please remind us that this is true when he refuses to talk to our 'enemies' and escalates our troop involvement around the globe in the next 4 years.

When we hear the shouts of USA, USA emanating from every corner of the arena, we know that the Republicans are telling us that they are real Americans and we are not. Why then do they abandon so many of us (the poor, the minorities) each and every day?



When Governor Palin talks of having a special needs child and protecting all those with similar problems, will she promise to support stem cell research? When she speaks of replacing Hillary Clinton to break the glass ceiling for all women, will she promote any one of the causes that Senator Clinton so clearly believes in for women's rights?

Policy positions fall in this glazed over Alice in Wonderland universe. There is nothing attached to these people other than their superficiality. I sometimes feel like I am watching a fourth grade election. Whether the Democrats want to believe it or not, this is a popularity contest and the person with the most interesting story, not the most impressive credentials, is the one bound to emerge with hands aloft.

The Democrats must stop talking about their positions and must start talking about about anything but their positions.


2. Negative is positive- John McCain long ago promised that he would not turn this contest into a battle of negatives. Can he please tell his henchmen and Governor Palin of this promise? Can Senator McCain not tell us that the Democrats would increase taxes for everyone when 95% of us would receive a tax cut under Senator Obama's plan.

How is it that Governor Palin can somehow mock Senator Obama who chose not to cash in on his economic opportunities after Harvard Law School but decided to devote his time and energy to community service for the most unfortunate in Chicago? Governor Palin in equating her time as Mayor of Wasilla to Senator Obama's time as a community organizer, except with real responsibilities, minimalized and diminished his accomplishments.


3. There is no past- It was amazing to watch Senator McCain and Governor Palin warn Washington that they should watch out, because change is coming with the Republicans. I could have sworn that McCain has been a member in good standing of this party for 26 years, but I guess that was someone else (his evil twin). This 'maverick' who voted along with the Republican position in over 90% of the votes in the past year, must be different from the person espousing change as the centerpiece of his candidacy. When McCain spoke of understanding that so many of us were hurting and distressed, but that he would come to our rescue, he must have been speaking in tongues. He and Palin have managed to 'third party' the Republican party and separate themselves from the disasters the party has created.

4.We can amend our statement at any time- Can the Republicans do any better a job of 'recreationism' than what they have done with the war, as we followed a journey from attacking the ones who took down our buildings, to destroying those with weapons of mass destruction, to preserving democracy? They take the message of the moment and shape it and twist it and mold it and it becomes anything they want it to be.

Obama was not ready to lead, he was not a person with enough experience. When Palin surfaced, and when the experience issue did not create the momentum building that Republicans hoped for, they now shift the message to tell us that the maverick and the hockey mom are the only ones who will bring us change. Obama's change is an intellectual exercise. The change that McCain and Palin will bring is rooted in the 5 years of captivity of McCain and the hockey mom toughness of Palin. Forget that they are part of the establishment. Forget experience, remember change (and forget that the Democrats brought this concept to us , and believe this is a Republican idea).


5. Stupid is the new smart- While the Democrats are the party of Al Gore, the Clintons and Obama, their intellectual accomplishments only mean that they are elitist. It is much more comfortable for us to believe in people who are more like us, lousy students, with not a great deal of smarts (would we all agree that McCain graduating 5th from the bottom of his class,and Palin running through more colleges than anyone you or I know ever did, does not demonstrate a great deal of intellectual industriousness?) . Smart is bad, dumb is good. Smart is out of touch, dumb is being one of the people. It is a world turned upside down, and the Republicans stand on top of this universe.

6. Where's Waldo?- My family and I spent several nights looking at a sea of white and whiter faces. Could one imagine a party any more segregated? The good ol' boys and girls of the Republican convention barely try to hide their disregard for those who are not one of them. It is an us against you mentality and a call to gather together to protect us against those who are different. The Democrats, and their all inclusiveness, have an identity crisis.

7. Different playing fields- When Obama and Clinton squared off, the party was energized, the candidates were energized and there was a debate in which each person was addressing similar questions. The Republicans do not answer the questions the Democrats raise on policy issues. The Republicans set their own agenda on personality issues. If the Democrats insist on talking to the people about what they will do, instead of who they are, they may be talking right past those people who they must bring into the fold. Obama seems unsure of where his message should take him. The drive and enthusiasm seem strangely lacking. With Clinton, he could do battle . With McCain, he is likely to find someone who will not engage him, but will deflect and redirect. Unless Obama can chase McCain down, he may be in serious trouble.


It is time for the Democrats to take stock of what the Republicans are teaching. If, in all their intellectual capacity, they cannot learn these lessons quickly and well, they may find themselves on the outside looking in to Wonderland for another 4 years.