Saturday, March 27, 2010

His Cup of Tea

John McCain had the Queen over for Tea yesterday. If Mr. Boehner wants to talk about Armageddon, he should look no further than this event. The disintegration of everything rational in Mr. McCain, and in the vision of the Republican party, is embodied in Sarah Palin's attempts to convince the gathered throng at the Pima County Fairgrounds outside of Tuscon that her former running mate is a staunch advocate of the Tea Party Movement.

In this frenzied moment in time, Mr. McCain has decided to cast his lot with whatever devil will save his political life. If that means publicly announcing that he will refuse to cooperate with the administration for the rest of the year, if it means abandoning any semblance of balance in his thought and deed, so be it. He has decided, and the party has made a conscious decision, that there is no such thing as being too conservative.

What better person to align himself with than the "I can do more good by leaving office than staying" unofficial head of the movement to take government out of government. It is ironic that this fumbling, bumbling, stumbling parody of a politician is now able to lead, not follow. How strange it must seem for the Senator from Arizona to come hat in hand to the person for whom he clearly had so little regard in the fall of 2008. Ms. Palin most assuredly was one of the reasons the White House eluded McCain's grasp. Now, he is hoping her support allows him to hold onto his career a little while longer. It is a sad commentary for Senator McCain and for the Republican party that this is so.


Thursday, March 25, 2010


"House of Anger" an opinionator piece by Timothy Egan (3/25/10) looks at the outpouring of venom directed at those who had the audacity to pass health care reform. Not only the lunatic fringe participated in this call to arms.but those who should know better showed little control and no remorse for stoking the fires.

In an era where we are inundated with blogs, television programs and radio pundits who have seeming unfettered ability to put forth opinions unchallenged, there is little to stop the course of destruction. Restraint in word, and corresponding restraint in deed, seem like relics of a by-gone era. 24 hours a day there is ample opportunity to be outraged, encouraged to rebel, and directed to the worst part of your being.

For those who are looking for someone to provide a rationale, a cause, a justification, there are many who answer their call. No one, and nothing, stands between them and their rage.

We no longer talk to one another. We talk at one another. We talk over one another. But we no longer listen. We no longer learn. We no longer care what you have to say, because we have heard, we have read, and we have learned in unqualified terms that you are wrong.

Maybe this is the downside of advances in technology. Unlimited access to confirmation of whatever you wish to believe is just a click away. We have become a society divided, from the top to the bottom. It is ugly and unpleasant, and one hopes but a temporary aberration. But I do not see better days on the horizon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thank you, Scott Brown

Thank you Scott Brown. You, it appears, were the catalyst for the historic vote that took place in the House of Representatives yesterday. You sir, are the principal reason that this nation is one signature away from health care reform.

On that day when the seat that formerly was the personal prize of Edward Kennedy fell into the hands of the Republican party, it seemed that a new low point had been established. No longer did the Democrats hold the 60th vote in their pocket. It was at that time, at that very time when the Republican party was most energized, and the Democrats most discouraged, that the dying patient sat up, looked around, clapped his hands together and decided to do what was needed to get healthy.

After Brown's election, we found the President we had been waiting for. For almost exactly one year, from that historic night, when where ever we were in body, we were in spirit cheering on Obama in Chicago, we were in a slow death spiral. We watched as a President who had been so decisive and so compelling before his election, seemed after to be anything but that. Yet, after 60 became 59, our President emerged. He found a toughness that had previously eluded him. He found his voice.

After Brown's victory but even before he was sworn in, the President met with gathered Republican leadership in a televised discussion. He was clear, direct and demanding. The man who seemed so willing to compromise anything and almost everything in an effort to reach his goal, was no longer interested in talking or listening to those who intended only to bring him down.

He instead, turned his focus on his own. He would make this happen, he would make this happen, he would make this happen. He was nearing the finish line, and he was getting stronger, not weaker. Inevitably, as the last days demonstrated, he would will this legislation into existence.

So, to Scott Brown, this nation owes you a debt of gratitude. It is on your shoulders that the new health care legislation rests. You should sleep tight tonight knowing that in the next day or 2, this country will have signed into law a profound bill, helping bring dignity and some hope to millions of Americans who have been cast aside and forgotten by your party. Job well done, Scotty, job well done.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

When winter and summer collide

Climate change or not, the weather has taken some extraordinary twists and turns over the past several weeks. Record snowfalls, followed by record rainfalls, accompanied by tornado-like winds. And then unbelievable heat in the middle of March.

What it means on a global scale is unknown. On a local level, Butternut's slopes, which had accumulated massive amounts of snow through early March, though dramatically impacted were still relatively intact.

Thus, we gathered in stripped down ski attire in the early morning heat for one last day at the mountain. There was no way, with temperatures reaching close to 70, that a full day on the trails was in my future. After a few runs, fighting the firm snow compacted overnight, and then the slush rapidly forming, I was history.

Only 3 or 4 miles away, lay the second part of the adventure. While I thought this would be a solo journey, I was wrong. Jo spoke with one of our ski friends, Ann Mig, who also happened to share my passion for golf. When given the opportunity to test the shoulder that had prevented her from swinging a club last year, she eagerly accepted.

The 2 of us took off our winter garb, changed into clothing appropriate for a summer activity, picked up golf clubs, and headed to the course. It was open, and it was crowded. Most golfers have spent the winter counting the days until spring has sprung. And sprung it has, even in winter.

My excuses were ready, like a 15th club. Bad back, bad shoulder, hadn't played, wasn't ready, still in March. The list was endless. And then I hit the ball well off the first tee. And then I continued to hit it well for all 9 holes.

The course, saturated from the recent storms, was dotted with newly formed pockets of water. Shoes and socks were soaked moments after starting play. The back nine, wet in the driest of times, was closed. Shots landed in the fairway and disappeared, never to be seen again. Yet, though it was wet, it was a joy just to be chasing after that little white ball.

I had never skied and played golf in the same day. That was something people at the big western mountains did. The elevation change, and the resulting temperature variance, would permit winter and summer to exist side by side in those locales. Not the Berkshires, not when the bottom of the mountain and the golf course were eye to eye with each other. But Mother Nature is clearly in a fickle mood these days.

So, like the more famous bucket list of movie lore, I have now checked off one of those items I wanted to do during my lifetime. Next up is throwing out a first pitch at Yankee stadium. If I can ski and play golf minutes apart, I know life is full of endless possibilities. Batter up.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The loss of sympathy

"Once partisan reconciliation is used for this bill, it will be used for everything now and forever". David Brooks ("the Spirit of Sympathy") makes this assertion without historical precedent or logic. It is an implicit warning to the Democrats to be careful where they tread, and it is not an appropriate or warranted denunciation.

The health care impasse is caused by the very problem Mr. Brooks describes in detail in the first part of his piece. The Republican party, moving in inevitable lockstep to try to thwart the actions of the Democrats and the President they love to hate, have lost the spirit of sympathy . Having forgotten, or having cast aside their individual concerns for the plight of others, the Republicans have forced reconciliation as a final means to the just end of health care coverage for all (or at least, most).

While reconciliation has been used in the past to move major measures forward, it has not replaced each Senator's right to think for him or herself and to communicate, negotiate and compromise with each other. Reconciliation is not, as Mr. Brooks would surmise, going to become a practice of first resort. It will remain a practice to be employed only when logic, reason, compassion and the ability for individual thought and decision are lost.

Maybe, instead of signaling the end of the democratic process in the Senate, if this bill passes by way of reconciliation it will serve as a wakeup call to the Republicans. Put aside your present practices, and instead bring a better day, where each in this hallowed chamber 'feels a tinge of pain when (he or she) observes another in pain' and votes based on the dictates of conscience, not politics.


Friday, March 12, 2010

For Better or Worse

It must be my personality. I can think of no other earthly reason why my poor wife still puts up with me.

I just returned from the latest episode in the ever expanding story of 'as the body dissolves'. This time, my old and dear friend, and gastroenterologist, Dr. Steve Fink, spent part of the morning probing inside of me (literally) to see what was causing the recent significant stomach distress I have been experiencing. Fortunately, it appears he found mostly empty space and nothing to write home about (or, I guess in my case, something to write to you about).

Over the past 2 years, I feel like I have been a walking encyclopedia of medical issues. First, the elevated prostate scare. Then, the partially torn rotator cuff from my attempt to fly great lengths through the air with skis attached. This was followed shortly thereafter by the incision in my back to address the removal of the disc that had taken up permanent residence on my nerve endings. Now, after months of painkillers to handle some continuing discomfort, it seems I have caused my intestinal tract to rebel. Through it all, Joanne moves forward, head down, shoulders bowed from carrying the weight of me around each and every day. She can't find this very romantic.

While I am usually helpless around the house, these series of maladies, large and small, have only exacerbated my do-nothingness to new heights, or more accurately, to new depths. Thus, my physical limitations have been matched only by my inertia.

When Jo signed up for this assignment over 32 years ago, I don't think this was quite what she envisioned. She often relates to me the words of her brother, who has gone through more than his own share of physical issues. He told her that the warranty runs out at 40. For me, it seems I lasted until 55 in pretty decent shape. But, since then, whew boy.

Jo is left these days mostly with my sense of humor (which she often finds to be senseless), my good disposition (which is good only when it is not bad), and my constant companionship. We speak of having actually been married 64 years, since we spend so many hours together, working in the same office during the days, and then heading home to spend the nights with one another. She gets no breaks from the joy of me.

For better or worse, til death do us part. I am looking forward to the golden years with my bride, when the 2 of us walk hand in hand (she will probably be holding me up) into the sunset, spending endless days and nights with each other.Unfortunately, if I don't shape up soon, endless may have a different meaning for Jo than me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

On My Recent Dry Spell in the Letters Section of the New York Times

Dear New York Times,

When did we stop being friends? I thought you loved me (or my words at least). However, you have recently turned a cold shoulder and a deaf ear. You appear to have soured on me and I believe I am owed an explanation.

I have been writing you constantly over the past few weeks, a witty phrase here, a whimsical turn there, a somber and impressive discussion of matters weighty and timely. The wicked right, the troubled left, the health of health care, the problem with Palin. In return I have been met with a cold and stony silence. That is no way to treat an old acquaintance.

Am I bothering you? Am I losing my touch? Am I repeating myself too often (I know)? Have I stopped spinning tales that amuse or inform and now only give you a headache?

What can I do to win you back? Flowers and wine? Candy and caviar? Can I whisper those sweet nothings that you once thought were endearing? The pain of rejection is only increased by your indifference.

It may well be time for me to move on. You may have others who now strike your fancy. I know you don't lack for suitors. I may have been the flavor of the week and the week is past. Oh, the agony and the uncertainty.

I have thought of turning my gaze towards the Wall Street Journal but she holds no interest for me. There are no others in town who hold a candle to you, and so I have no burning desire to reach out to anyone else. I only have eyes for you, yet you now seem blind to my advances.

I will step back and calm down. I will take a deep breath and try to get a good night of sleep. I will attempt to gain control of my mind and my emotions. And then I will reach out to you again. Please promise me one last chance. Give me a topic and show me a sign. I can be your man once more. Maybe in the Sunday letters section. That would be nice.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Great Divide (Part 2)

I want to advise the New York Times of a grievous printing error in today's paper: the column of Paul Krugman should appear on the left and that of David Brooks should be on the right. On second thought, Mr. Krugman's column should be on the first page of the paper and that of Mr. Brooks should disappear completely.

Mr. Brooks (Wal Mart Hippies) attempts to find a parallel between the radical movement of the 1960's and the activities of those in the Tea Party today. He speaks of both of these groups attempting to "take on the Man, return power to the people, upend the elites and lead a revolution". Mr. Brooks, you have been drinking the Kool Aid.

In stark contrast, Mr. Krugman (Bunning's Universe) writes of the Democrat and Republican parties living on different universes, intellectually and morally. He views a world where those on the right are concerned not with the plight of the downtrodden, but with the estate tax liability of the super rich.

Mr. Brooks you fail to see the world as do I, or Mr. Krugman. You try to romanticize a movement built on nothing. It does not stand for progress. It does not stand for caring. It does not stand for anything but making sure it stands on top.

In the real world Mr. Brooks, we see the problems that must be encountered and addressed. We see that there are burdens, not just benefits, that come with being a member of this society. We see that there are obligations, both intellectual and moral, that we must meet. We see that the world of the Tea Party movement has none of these beliefs. Mr. Brooks, the hippies of the 60's would find your attempted glorification of the Tea Baggers, by comparing these two groups, as insulting and demeaning. Today's 'activists' are not radicals, they are just loud, obnoxious and uncaring boors. Mr. Brooks, please read today's piece by Mr. Krugman. Move over into our universe.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reconciliation Because There Is No Reconciliation

Isn't there some wonderful irony here when the Democrats, bone-weary from chasing after non-existent Republican votes, now threaten to side-step the obstruction and move forward towards passage of a health care bill by way of a procedure commonly known as reconciliation?

It is reported that this procedure has been attempted on 22 occasions, 19 of them ultimately successful. From the George Bush tax cuts, to the tax cuts of Ronald Reagan, and welfare reform pushed by Newt Gingrich, this method of moving forward has been embraced by the Republican party as a legitimate way of getting things done in Washington. That is of course, unless it is used against them, when it suddenly becomes "the nuclear option". Government not of the people, or so it would be suggested.

Who knows where this will lead? Maybe it will all dissolve in a cloud of Democratic dust as the in- fighting in the party, and fear of negative repercussions with special interest groups who provide support in an election year, bring this process to a standstill. Maybe this is just a dying cause in its death throes. Or maybe, just maybe, until we figure out how to get around and past the mother of all parliamentary tricks, the filibuster, this will be the new business model for Obama and the Democrats.

All I understand is that having 41 people dictate to 59 people whether legislation will even be addressed and voted on, seems contrary to the concept of majority rule. If the Democrats are not truly a majority, but are splintered and unable to coalesce, let's find out.

Maybe, this will lead nowhere. But nowhere is familiar territory over the last year. Even a hint of somewhere is enticing.