Friday, January 27, 2012

Quiet Please

("Symphony of Shrieks and Powerful Strokes")

I can understand a piercing, blood curdling scream in the proper context, say snakes on a plane, or even the shower scene in "Psycho". I just find the noise emanating from those playing a game of tennis unsettling and wholly out of place.

The contrast between the quiet that is demanded from the crowd and the sounds that are permitted on the court are startling. As fans, even if sitting slightly below heaven, we return to our seats only during changeovers. A whistle, a voice above a whisper, a sneeze all are catalysts for public condemnation as potential distractions. Yet the competitor punctuating each shot, game and game and set after set, with the most ear piercing cry, is deemed reasonable and wholly appropriate. Could this not be construed as even a touch disconcerting and distracting to an opponent?

Can it be that this screech is nothing but an involuntary action that results from maximum effort? If so, how come this doesn't happen in every conceivable scenario in life where we apply our physical being to our limits? Like my trying to get out of bed some mornings.

Or is this what is needed to prod oneself to greatness? Why then isn't each Mariano Rivera fastball accompanied with a 95 mile per hour yelp?

If I want to hear the sound of endless shrieking I merely have to listen to the noise I generate as I subject myself to one of those mind numbing shows on television testing the limits of human idiocy . At a tennis match however, the "quiet please" sign should have equal application to fans and performers. My ears and my head will be most grateful

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Class(less) Participation

("With Audiences Encouraged to React, Primary Debates Seem More Made for TV")

It has been a particularly distasteful audience display throughout this Republican nomination process. In their responses, the crowd has demonstrated, time and again, the most distressing disregard for homosexuals, for the poor, for the unemployed, for blacks. Most recently, the "elite" media has come under audience attack.

Would I rather have an antiseptic arena, in which we are not "distracted" by forces other than those upon whom focus is intended? In a perfect world, maybe. But this world is very far from perfect, and gauging the temperature of our nation, or at least a part of it, by the boos, the cheers and by the respect or contempt shown to the moderators or the candidates is a very real and compelling part of this drama. In seeing how the Republican candidates feed off these prompts, and often exacerbate rather than moderate the worst instincts in those in attendance,  and when they play to the prejudice and the fear, I believe we gain invaluable insight of those on stage..

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Newt's Not

("The Gusts of Gingrich")

He is not a young Cassius Clay, filled with poetry, humor and a twinkle in his eye. He is not "The Greatest", willing to stand up for his beliefs and fight the system, no matter the personal  cost.

He is not anti-establishment but only an aging bureaucrat, an insider cast aside by his own long ago for his bad temper and bad vision.

He is not a butterfly.  He is not the mouth who roared. He struts and frets like the king of beasts but in the end he  is nothing more than a newt.

Friday, January 20, 2012

What's Money Got to Do With It?

("The Wealth Issue")

Yes there is travail and persistence in the Romney family legacy, but there is also polygamy and an ancestor who fathered 21 children. The history of our country is filled with tales of enormous hardship. It is best for Mr. Brooks to leave the psychological underpinnings of the perpetual candidacy of Mr. Romney to others more qualified. My own guess is that the failed efforts of his father to reach the Presidency might be considered a more relevant impetus (I recall a recent Republican President when considering how acts of a father may have greatly influenced a son's decisions and our lives).

Despite the suggestion of Mr. Brooks that the focus on the wealth of Mr. Romney is misplaced, it is not. Wealth, and its accumulation, is a central concern these days as the divide between those who have and those who don't becomes ever more enormous. We have a right to care how our candidates got where they are, not as a response to how their great grandfathers might have suffered, but rather, more immediately, in relation to their own deeds.

Mr. Romney has opened himself up to intense scrutiny by portraying the President as one unable to understand or correct the economic woes of this country, in stark contrast to Mr. Romney's career as a job creator. It is this theme that his candidacy revolves around. If history reveals that this career was not as he conveys, but rather one only of creation of enormous wealth for himself and those around him, then the underpinnings of Mr. Romney's position would collapse, whether or not there are stories of bread, beans and gravy in the family lore.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Occupy Mitt Romney

("Pressed, Romney Shares Tax Data; A Rate Near 15%")

He is the 15%. Or just about. When a reluctant Mitt Romney reveals even a little about his income taxes, after significant prodding from fellow Republicans, this is a stunning development. Not so much in that he is being attacked, but from where that attack emanates.

Wasn't it this group that declared the problem was that we were not doing enough to protect the job creators? Wasn't it this group that has lobbied so hard to reduce the tax rate even further for the most well to do?

Occupy Wall Street has been criticized by many for its failure of focus, for its failure of leadership. But one unmistakable result of the protests was to change the dialogue in this country. No longer are we only discussing the size of the debt of this nation. Now, even in the Republican ranks, the actions of the 1% are subject to scrutiny and criticism. When the far right finds something wrong with the wealthy utilizing tax laws to permit vast income to go relatively untouched, then it is time not only to damn the evasive Mr. Romney but to praise a movement that has forced the issue to the surface. When Newt Gingrich sounds like a spokesman for the 99%,  something significant has transpired.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Tough Get Going

I arrived at the house of Roosevelt Brown in full gear, helmet on,  shoulder pads in place, the number 79 written across the back of my jersey. In the 1950's, a father could just pick up the phone and call an all-pro offensive lineman to ask if he and his young son could come by for a visit.

From 1976 to 1996,  I attended virtually every New York Giant home game. In January of 1986, I was in the stands in California the day the team captured the Super Bowl.

So you see, we have a history.

Last Sunday was cold in Massachusetts, with the temperatures hovering around 0 degrees for parts of the day. In a winter of unusual warmth, this was startling different. As night descended, the chill was even more piercing.

The Giant playoff game began at 4:30. A team that had looked listless and lost through the middle of the season, was suddenly focused and energized. Having won its first round playoff game in convincing fashion,  it was now beginning to manhandle the great and mighty Packers. I had been convinced before the season began that this team was destined for nothing but the bottom of its own division. Now, I was being shown the error of my ways. And the hail-mary that worked at the end of the first half made me start to believe.

There is a moment at the inception of a power blackout when there is a fleeting hope that maybe only a fuse blew (not that I would know where to find the fuse box). Now, as the voices of my son and wife confirmed our predicament , and everything everywhere was without light, reality took hold.

This apartment was going to get chilly in short order as the difference from inside- out was close to 70 degrees. But in that moment, when I should have been concerned for the welfare of those closest to my heart, my thoughts were not of protection. Rather, I wondered,  how could I get to see the rest of the Giant's game.

We have friends who live almost 30 minutes away. I say that to get their residence, you go to the end of the world and then make a left hand turn. Surely, I thought, they would be out of  harm's way and able to receive the transmission. When my wife said that there was no need to abandon our home, that we could gather up candles for light and lay under heavy blankets for warmth, that there was no reason to rush into the wilderness when the power could be restored in short order, when the cold would not envelop us for many hours and by then we would be asleep, I was disconsolate. None of that mattered.

After listening to several minutes of my droning on about the need for us to get to safety at once, my all-knowing wife said to me that I should just get in the car and go downtown. Hopefully the lights would be on at the local restaurant/bar and I could go watch the remainder of the game. Embarrassed by my tirade but grateful for the understanding of my spouse, I picked up the keys and headed out the door.

And so, I watched the end of the 3rd quarter and all the 4th with my new friends. I regaled them with stories of my days at earlier games, impressed them with my knowledge of football strategy, and existed in that universe without a care in the world. My apartment might still be in darkness, my wife and son huddling under their respective blankets, dressed with layers to supplement layers, but all was right as long as the Giants continued to pummel the Packers.

Once the game ended,  I parted, happy and content, warm and secure in the knowledge that there was another game to be played next week.

And, by the way, during that Super Bowl weekend in 1987, while I reveled in everything Big Blue in sunny California, I missed my son's sixth birthday party back in the frigid northeast.

 I know that many might judge me harshly for my actions. But I hope that Roosevelt Brown would understand and forgive me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Interpreting Dreams

("How Fares the Dream?")

It is in many ways more insidious and more troubling than overt racism. We are a society that imposes de facto, if not de jure, inequality almost 50 years after Dr. King's famous speech. We fail to place the necessary emphasis and focus on education and thus perpetuate the plight of the underclass. We take steps to deprive access to nutritional needs and care and talk of diminishing social welfare programs. We seek in our words and our deeds to do harm to those we should protect from the worst of all possible outcomes,.

We may consider ourselves a more enlightened and inclusive society, but I am certain that Dr. King would find the situation unrelentingly distressing, notwithstanding the remarkable ascension of President Obama. Dr. King would only need to survey the landscape of blighted communities and see the unemployment numbers where young blacks suffer so greatly. He would be appalled at the legislation recently passed in many states clearly and unequivocally aimed at suppressing the black vote.

No, Dr. King would not look out today to find a land where his dream has been fulfilled, nor a mountaintop reached. And he would surely demand from each of us that we do more to  make that dream a reality.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mitt and the Seven Dwarfs

It is a Disney classic over 70 years old, now in revival. A show booked only until this summer, when all but its star will disappear into the night. And its lead has just been called the "whitest white man to run for president in years" ("What's Race Got to Do With It?" New York Times, January 15, 2012). Now playing for your entertainment pleasure the one, the only "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

The other candidates who wanted to play the part of "anyone but Mitt",  have taken on secondary roles. Governor Perry as Doc, like his original counterpart, often mixes up his words, forgets his lines and makes statements that end up sounding more like questions.  Grumpy, is a part seemingly written for former speaker Gingrich, professing a strong and abiding dislike for our central figure. Bashful is being portrayed by former Governor Huntsman who has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. Ron Paul as Sneezy, directs powerful noises at all who stand with him on stage. "Sleepy" Citizen Cain speaks of a lack of rest being the predicate for why he is unable to remember even the simplest of facts. Dopey, that great actress Congresswoman Bachmann, who though not mute, is so clumsy and awkward in her monotonous and relentless attack upon one term Obama as to be without intellect. And the last of the Dwarfs, Happy is none other than former Senator Santorum, who while neither fat nor always laughing, must be forever smiling to think that he could actually be considered as a viable candidate for President after losing an election in his home state by 18 points.

As for former Governor Romney, while he attempts to portray himself as untarnished as the driven snow, he does not stack up favorably with the original. Snow White was forced from the palace at an early age and compelled to serve menial roles to survive, Romney has, despite his protests, always lived in the world of the 1%. And while he has spoken of being worried about that terrible pink slip, he was not required to cook and clean to avoid an uncertain fate. And nowhere in the resume of Snow White, do we see a hint that she performed a role as a sometimes ruthless venture capitalist.

While he may be good looking, with perfect hair and even more perfect looking family, it is too early to tell whether Romney is indeed the fairest of them all. This fall, the whitest white man to run for President will likely be the one chosen to play that part for his party. And then we will see whether the fairy tale of Mitt Romney will play for 4 years, or end its run on that first Tuesday in November.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lessons Learned

("The Value of Teachers")

In 1945, at the age of 27, my mother retired from teaching high school English. The war had ended, and on November 11th of that year, she and my father married.

35 years later, an article appeared in our local county newspaper. It was written by a staff member who had been a one time student of my mother's. She did not know where my mother was, or whether she even would see the words that were written. But she felt compelled to thank her for changing her life, and doubtless the lives of many others.

We don't require facts and figures to know that Mr. Kristof is correct in his contention that teachers are our most critical weapon in the battle to improve the outlook for the future of our citizens. We just need to ask Wilma Supik to recount the story of Dorothy Smith.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Of Myths and Men

("Please Hold the Cheese")

It should have been called "Of Myths and Men". It is the attempt of the Republican candidates to fit very square pegs into extremely round holes. And the worst offender has to be the Myth of Mitt. As the man who was born with a whole truckload of silver spoons speaks of his early personal fears of being laid off , as he distances himself from his own health care agenda, as he tries to paint himself as private citizen and accidental politician while he has been chasing the big prize probably since his father's failed effort in the 1960's, as he fantasizes of being the great and wonderful job creator while his years at Bain  were consumed with extracting riches and often creating nothing but a wasteland, as all this "cheese" is served to us on a platter, it does not make me hungry for more Mitt but only gives me a case of severe indigestion. We are after all, men not mice.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Wrong Ticket

 ("Just the Ticket") There are several reasons why the concept of Hillary Clinton as  Vice Presidential candidate in 2012 is so wrong for both her and her party.

Initially, it sends a message that the Democrats are in panic mode. This is totally contrary to the collected and reasoned demeanor that the President so assiduously attempts to convey.

Further, it would do a great disservice to Joe Biden who has been a loyal and surprisingly adept advocate for the policies of this White House. It would also diminish Hillary and brand her as willing to do whatever she must, and step over whatever bodies she has to, in her desire to occupy the Oval office.

In addition,  2016 remains a viable option for Hillary no matter what the next 4 years bring. If the President is re-elected, it is not a certainty that Mr. Biden will  choose to run for President. However, even if he does, Ms. Clinton's pedigree as First Lady, United States Senator and very able Secretary of State, combined with her history of going toe to toe with President Obama in 2007 and 2008 will certainly make her a very formidable foe.

Finally, the notion that she, as Vice President, will have a significant impact on the election is contrary to historical precedence. This year, as in so many other elections, the President's running mate will be the economy.

The fear, in the final analysis, is not that Hillary Clinton won't be the Democratic choice  for Vice President this year, but that she will.

Friday, January 6, 2012

You Can't Have One Wlthout the Other

("After Santorum Left Senate, Familiar Hands Reached Out")

Citizen Cain with the National Restaurant Association, Gingrich with Freddie Mac and Santorum with United Health Care. When the Republican pretenders are scrutinized under the bright lights we find their hands deep in the pockets of  the big corporations. They are lobbyists masquerading as politicians while in office, stuffing their political coffers with contributions in exchange for favorable legislation. They are well paid front men for these same enterprises when out of office. It is not merely their associations that are so distressing. It is their pretending that they are champions of small government and small business. Nothing could be further from the truth, a commodity in very short supply with these Republican candidates.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Comings and Goings

The boxes are everywhere throughout the suite. Outside the entrance to my office, they are stacked in 2 columns, each standing as tall as I do. In the conference room, one corner is filled. My room has smaller piles, scattered all over. Each box has specific information as to its contents. There is an unmistakable message here. After nearly a quarter of a century, I am moving out.

This is not a story about where I am going, but where I have been and with whom I have shared this time. I am leaving with sadness, and with a small knot in the pit of my stomach.  And with a deep sense of gratitude to my suite-mate who took me in so many years ago, and made life here so easy and pleasant .

Bob had long ago been in partnership with another attorney who had the good sense to abandon the practice of law and open up a bar and restaurant at the Jersey shore. The space formerly occupied by the restauranteur was vacant when I placed my call.

Bob and I  had several mutual acquaintances, not the least of whom was my uncle, a tennis player who shared one of those 6 or 8 to a group time slots with Bob. Soon after my call I was occupying the larger office, with all the furniture left behind during what I perceived was a hasty exit by prior counsel from the clients and the headaches.

I came with my own set of eccentricities, and ,oh-by-the-way, my wife.For almost the entire time since I started my solo practice in 1984,  Jo has been compelled to deal with me on virtually a 24 hour per day basis. I can only imagine that it was with some trepidation that Bob greeted a married couple working together.And sometimes, though rarely, Jo and I have acted more like spouses then we should in this setting. Yet, Bob never once  made us feel that maybe we had stepped over some boundary.

Shortly after we arrived, Jo and I came to work one morning to find several arrangements of flowers. When I asked Bob what it was all about, he said he was getting married in this suite later in the day. Jo had sweat-clothes on but it mattered not. And sure enough, that afternoon, a judge appeared and performed the wedding ceremony.  And then, I am quite certain,  the next morning Bob went back to work.

Our interaction, outside the confines of these walls has been limited. He has gone out to lunch with his crowd through the years (although I have always been invited to join them) while Jo and I have done our own, often much more truncated version of a mid-day break.  We have spent several weekends together either at the beach or in the Berkshires. On one particularly memorable occasion, poor Bob and his bad knees were forced into a Nussbaum marathon of exercise from which I am certain he took weeks to recover. But our friendship was never forced or contrived to conform to any notion of what should be.

If you asked Bob, I am sure the most unfortunate aspect of our relationship has occurred in the last several years. During that time, I have perceived myself as an undiscovered writer and have alienated almost all my friends, and certainly my family, with my constant and unrelenting need to share my writing with them, and to elicit their unqualified praise. One by one, they have managed to shake free from my grasp. But not Bob.  Upon his arrival in the morning, if I have created what I perceive to be my latest masterpiece, and I always believe that to be so, Bob is instantaneously accosted. Often, his coat is not even hung up and I am directing him to read, or even worse, to listen to what I have set forth. With no hint of disdain, nor ever a questionable comment, he has read and listened. And even to this day, when I know that he would dearly like to ask me to find another victim, he soldiers on.

He is, in one word, a gentleman. In over 23 years,  neither Jo nor I have had even one disagreement with him. No arguments, no raised voices, no hints of trouble. I have not once heard him in heated discussions with anyone in his office, or on the phone. Unfortunately, he would not be able to say the same for me. He is as relentlessly nice as a person could be. And he has made this office a comfortable home for me and Joanne.

So, when the last box is removed and the key handed back, it will be hard for me. Hard to say goodbye to everything that happened within these walls. Hard to believe I will ever be able to duplicate the quiet and calm that permeated the office next to me. Hard to find someone else who is willing to put up with everything that is me, with such grace and dignity.  And impossible to believe I will give proper thanks to  the man who remains behind.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

They Are The 75%

Their slogan might well be,"We are the 75%". They proved last night, that no matter how far right a conservative Mormon masquerading as a tea partier tried to go, it was not far enough. The 75% anti-Mitt crowd in Iowa settled on Rick Santorum  and Ron Paul who just days ago both seemed to have expended all their time and energy in fruitless pursuit of the minds and votes of the caucus goers. The main attraction of these "I am not Romney" candidates was only in having the good fortune of being the last men standing. The rest of the contenders had already self destructed. Never has so much money been wasted, and so much said, on so little. Campaigns predicated on pandering to the 75%. And now on to New Hampshire, and more (or less) of the same.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My New Year's Wish

We have made our way to distant planets, seen quantum leaps in telecommunication and demonstrated the capacity to clone. We have automobiles that park themselves, and tell us when we have lost our way. We can (almost always) control unmanned planes from thousands of miles away, and we continue to make wondrous medical breakthroughs. But somehow it remains beyond our comprehension how to create man-made snow if the temperature rises above approximately 28 degrees. For a skier living in the northeast, this is an unfathomable oversight.

As we try to absorb the realities of global climate change, and understand the complexities of el nino and la nina, I struggle with one quintessential question: am I going to be able to ski on Lucifer's Leap or Downspout this weekend?

For those who don't share my passion for skiing, I must appear frivolous, self indulgent and somewhat ridiculous. What kind of person spends almost every day between the end of November and the beginning of spring in obsessive review of the weather forecast? I care about the plight of my fellow man. I love pets and cry at sad movies. I am a Democrat. So, I am not without my redeeming features. Yet, my mood rises or falls predicated on the percentage chance that Christmas will be white or New Year nasty.

Is it too much for me to ask that we spend some of our vast intelligence, and just a penny or two of our accumulated wealth to cure my plight? Can we please come up with some simplistic invention that would allow me,  who asks for nothing more than a good pair of skis and a place to use them, for such a spot, day or night, warm or cold?

My wish as the New Year begins is for peace on earth, good will toward men, and bountiful snow on Lucifer's Leap and Downspout throughout the year. Not necessarily in that order.