Friday, July 31, 2009

Who Is Driving This Bus?

What is going on, exactly? Can you tell me?

I voted for our president and I like him. It's nice to have a Nerd-In-Chief for a change. But this latest government stimulus is illustrating a disturbing trend that I have to admit has me baffled.

The Cash for Clunkers program ran out of money - two months ahead of expectations. It left my best friend high and dry - she turned in her car, was given a loaner while "inspections" were done on her new federally subsidized purchase, then was told that the program was out of money and all sales were "suspended". She, understandably, flipped out. Later in the day, after I helped her get some reporters calling on her behalf, she was assured that she'd get her car delivered to her driveway as soon as the program was refunded. It appears that's happening.

But nobody knows where the money went. No one knows how much went where. Reports indicate that the incentive aimed at helping US automakers was spent more with foreign car dealers.

So we've injected two billion dollars into another corporate bailout, we've created an artificial consumer spending spree, and now we've got to pump more money in without monitoring how it's spent.

Sound familiar?

Taxpayers have been propping up business for months now with no system in place to trace where it went or how it was used. My mortgage servicer, IndyMac, was bailed out and was, for a short time, IndyMac Federal Bank. Then it was bought by West One. My mortgage lender, Fannie Mae, is up to its ears in bad loans. It's still functioning, thanks to me and my fellow taxpayers.

But I've been trying to get IndyMac and Fannie Mae to consider me for a loan modification for eight months. I haven't missed a payment but my payment is almost 70% of my monthly income. I'm struggling to keep up, applying for programs only to find they've been revised, that I no longer qualify, or that I have to apply all over again. I'm on my last attempt...this time, going straight for the presidential program. If they turn me down again, my bank and my lender, both of which were saved by me, will continue on with hardly a stutter step while I either sell or give up my house.

I'm working with a local non-profit that's got a staff devoted to averting foreclosures. Their advice? Call every week. Find out the status of your application. I have my doubts that it matters whether I call or not, but I can tell you it's not easy to even figure out what number I should call. IndyMac/IndyMacFederal/WestOne really doesn't want to hear from me.

Yet I've gotten four letters from them, asking if it's getting harder to pay for my house and wouldn't I like to refinance?

You bet I would. Except with my current income level, I wouldn't qualify for a loan anymore.

Is this just all so complicated that no one can figure out how to fix it?

Then there's the health care reform debate. I'm for reform. I'll make that clear up front. But when I see the president having to reassure seniors that they're not going to, as they've heard they will, ward off federal reps who come up to the door asking them "how they'd like to die", it just seems completely hopeless. Seniors think the reform plan is to euthanize them all? Is this country that lost?

I've heard this administration isn't small business friendly - that they're adding taxes and fees on small business to maintain big business. If that's true, it's a mistake. Or maybe it's a scare tactic that's tacked on to the "Let's kill all the old folks" whopper.

The Great Big Bus of the United States of America is still way off course and it's picking up speed. And I begin to think there's still nobody at the wheel. Or maybe the problem is there are too many hands on that wheel.

Fasten your seatbelts.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Enough With the Conspiracy Theories!

It has a name now. The people who are absolutely certain that our president is some kind of a foreign-born 'plant' from left wing revolutionaries or an international 'one government' cartel are now known as "Birthers." Please give me a break.

The questions about Obama's birth certificate have been answered. Several times. But if you want to buy into hysteria, you don't care. You continue to demand to hear the answers again. And again.

Knock it off. There are more important problems to deal with.

We have a health care system that leaves out millions of Americans. We have children, adults and seniors who are forced to wait until a symptom is an emergency because they have no insurance. Then they flood emergency rooms; the only place where the government insists citizens get health care regardless of insurance coverage.

We take jobs based on benefits, not on whether the job is a good one. We narrow our choices to work that provides coverage for us and our families. If we're not married but are in a committed relationship, we turn down work that doesn't cover our domestic partners. Our college graduates choose a career path based on security and benefits, not the work they dream of doing.

Let's talk about our college graduates. They start college needing remedial writing classes. They spent twelve years in schools that are underfunded, poorly managed, teach to tests and reward mediocrity with teachers who are underpaid or unmotivated. Their parents mortgage everything they have to help with college tuition or the students assume backbreaking loans which they will spend at least a decade paying off.

We work in jobs that pay far less than the cost of living. We buy homes with loans loaded with fees. We pay taxes that, in many states, are as high as the principal and interest on the home loan. Then we pay income tax, too.

If you are creative, prepare to starve. The one percent of the artistic population that manages to live well on earnings from what they do are just that - one percent. The rest either work multiple jobs and create in their limited free time or they give up. Our culture pretends to value talent. We don't.

We watch people on TV scream about what's wrong with this country. We hear people on the radio act as though they've got a divine line to the truth. And we sit on our increasingly wide butts and echo the hysterical drivel we hear.

We elect people we believe may be the least bad option to our legislatures. Everyday people are less and less able to participate as government has become a career. Try to run for office without the support of either major political party. Good luck.

Our career politicians are courted by the organizations interested in whatever they're voting on. They cannot afford to run for office without their financial support. Once elected, they can't help but consider that when votes are cast.
They run again and again - it's a great job. It pays well, it's got prestige, it's got power. The benefits are great. And the list of people they owe grows longer and longer.

Don't tell me this president is the problem. Don't tell me his election is the result of some conspiracy. He is the latest in a long line of politicians who have successfully navigated an increasingly corrupt system. No matter his intentions, he comes carrying the baggage every modern politician carries. Don't tell me the president is responsible for problems that have taken decades of bad policy to create.

I had an interesting conversation with a filmmaker from Germany recently. She told me that health care isn't even a concern for people in her country. Everyone's got health care and they're okay with it. I heard the same thing from a family from Belgium.

"Americans," they observed, "have a reluctance to take care of each other. You have this 'every man for himself' philosophy that makes you resent giving up anything to help other people unless you choose to do it. In Belgium, we know we're all in it together. If we all give up a little to help everyone, we all benefit."

Lou Dobbs would disagree. So would Rush Limbaugh. So would Sarah Palin. And if you look at them, I rest my case. My idea of a strong, growing, healthy and admirable America doesn't include the narrow minded hate they spew. Neither does the Christianity I was taught by my very religious parents.

So I am officially putting in my two cents. I am tired of conspiracy theories. I guarantee you there are conspiracies out there and they come from all sides of the philosophical spectrum. It doesn't matter. What matters is what we do now.

I do not believe anyone, including our new president, has the corner on good ideas or answers but I'm willing to listen. And I am convinced that the hysterical hate that comes from any ideology is a dangerous distraction to the real issue, which is that this country is in need of a major reform. And only smart, thoughtful, clear-thinking people who LISTEN and then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT are going to make a difference.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stephan and Patrick Are Getting Married

Stephan Hengst and Patrick Decker are in love and they're committed to each other, but they're not allowed to get married in New York. Lots of gay couples are in the same boat. Some of them go to other states to get married because New York, ironically, recognizes same sex marriages from other states but still doesn't allow it within its borders.

They promised each other they wouldn't get married until it was legal in New York and it looked like it might happen this year. Then the steering wheel fell off the Senate and legislators spent the month of June staring at each other from opposite sides of the road. Marriage equality became a political hot potato: "I'll give you this if you'll give me that." So despite the fact that the governor says he's in favor of legalizing gay marriage, despite the fact that the Assembly has twice voted for marriage equality, it's still illegal. Which should give Senators pause, as the gay voting block is a very active and well funded one and trust me, Senators, they're angry.

Stephan and Patrick went to dinner at a local restaurant and the conversation somehow came around to I Do I Amsterdam. It's a contest sponsored by the city of Amsterdam - yes, THAT Amsterdam - to show support for equal marriage rights in New York. Why are they getting involved? Henry Hudson, a fine Dutch boy, sailed up the Hudson River for the first time 400 years ago and New York's making a big hullabaloo about it this year. So Amsterdam thought it might be appropriate to nudge the grandkids and remind them that being tolerant doesn't bring on the end of civilization. Amsterdam's still there.

So the contest is this: five couples who meet the incredibly strict criteria will be invited to be married on a wedding barge on a canal in Amstersdam on August first. Four of those couples live in Holland. The fifth couple is Stephan and Patrick.

The rules were that one partner had to be Dutch and the other had to be a New Yorker. And, of course, they had to be gay. Stephan was born in Holland, though he's live in the US all of his life. Patrick was born in New York. Patrick said their friends laughed when they heard they'd won.

"Who else could win? Who?"

So they're pulling together everything necessary for a whirlwind, last minute European trip and they're getting married on August first. The ceremony will be streamed live on the Internet so their friends in the US can see it.

Why did they change their minds about waiting for it to be legal in New York? Stephan says he sees this as an opportunity to bring the issue back to the public's attention and show it for what it is; not an attempt to undermine marriage, but an effort to give an entire segment of the population the same rights as the rest. Marriage offers benefits that are far different from civil unions, including health benefits, the right to file taxes jointly, an unquestioned right to be involved in legal decisions regarding your spouse. Rules regarding gay marriage right now are a hodge one state you can do this, in another you can't. In one state your civil union is considered a marriage, in another it means nothing.

Stephan and Patrick are sweet guys. They love each other. They're going to make it a legal commitment. They'll be married when they come home from Europe. And if New York ever makes it legal, they say they'll renew their vows in a state that finally welcomes them.

Hear the story on Northeast Public Radio

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

LA: It Is More Important To Look Good Than To Feel Good

I like LA. I really do. I just went there for the first time in thirty years and saw just a very small area - West LA, Culver City, Santa Monica, Malibu. I think I expected a state full of Stepford People; perfect tans, perfect bodies, perfect smiles. What I saw were people who looked a lot like people in New York. They just dress better in California.

But let me tell you about my experience in Culver City. We stayed at the Culver Hotel. It's a vintage hotel with a great history and some ghosts, which I experienced firsthand. It sits next to a main thoroughfare and in front of a lovely pedestrian mall that includes a movie theater, restaurants and bars. It's hopping. All the time.

And as I sat there in the evening, listening to the raucous merriment of dozens of very well dressed people jammed into the lobby, all of them yelling above the sound of a live band, I was missing something. The crisis. Where's that economic crisis we're told California is facing?

I strolled down the mall past the movie theater - people were lined up down the block to get in. The restaurants were packed solid. The bars were full. Crossing the street to the other side, no less than five more restaurants, some of them quite pricey, were jammed.

Culver City is not glamor central. It's nice, but it's not where Paris Hilton goes to hang out with her BFFs. This crowd was a pretty fair mix of Escalades, Priuses and used Fords (in California, it seems correct to identify someone by their car. They love their cars).

The only signs I saw of any economic trouble were a small tent city outside of Culver City, which looked like it might have been there forever, and a sign in Topanga Canyon. Topanga Canyon, I'm told by KB, is the hip artists' enclave that was, on the day we visited, hotter than the seventh circle of hell. It looked like a good argument could start a brush fire. And a sign on a fence pleaded for support for efforts to save the local state park. Perhaps the governorator is planning to sell off state parks to put a tourniquet on a state budget that we're told is hemorrhaging to death.

But the crowds were still buying lattes at the Urth Cafe, the Culver Hotel lobby was a loud party every night and across the street at Ugo there was a line of people waiting for a cafe table where they could eat dessert and watch the world walk by.

If California is going down, LA sure has a great attitude about it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dignitas - Death For a Price

Here's a story from across the pond that's a bit chilling. I found this on BBC's website today:

Renowned British conductor Sir Edward Thomas Downes, CBE, has died at the age of 85, after travelling to the assisted suicide clinic Dignitas with his wife.

He and his 74-year-old wife Joan, who was terminally ill, chose to end their lives at the Swiss clinic, their family said in a statement.

Downes was in failing health and his ballerina wife was going to die. They chose to go to Dignitas in Switzerland where they died.

Assisted suicide in the US is synonymous with Dr. Jack Kevorkian. But he's not the only one on a mission to give people a way to end a painful life or avoid an excruciatingly painful or slow death.

Dignitas bills itself as a humane and professional alternative for people with serious physical or mental illnesses. They claim to have an extensive screening process and, right up until the last moment, continue to offer the client the option of changing his or her mind.

A nurse who has since left tells another story - a horrifying saga of attempted suicides gone wrong, lingering deaths, offers to kill family members as well if they'd take the death of a loved one too hard, squalid, sordid conditions and a bottom line profit motivation.

Assisted suicide frightens me. Whenever you take a decision to die out of the direct control of a person and hand it to a 'professional', you've made dying a money maker. Anything done for profit is likely to become corrupt. And it's such a very short step from assisted suicide to murder, isn't it?

I am conflicted about suicide. My Catholic parents were completely against it; they didn't want to spend eternity in Hell. Yet my mother's final six weeks of agony made me seriously wish she (or I) could end it for her. I was shocked at myself, but how can you watch someone you love suffer the equivalent of torture and not want to make it stop?

My uncle has been a Hemlock Society member from way back. I don't know if he'd truly do it or if he's a theoretical supporter of the right to die. I know his view appalled his brother, my dad. It actually made sense to me.

It must take tremendous courage to decide to end your life in a calm, rational state. I think Richard Farnsworth did it right. The actor was in great pain with bone cancer. He knew he faced an increasingly painful life and slow death. He went outside and shot himself. That final choice, that final moment, had him entirely in control. He wasn't in a setting where anyone else could influence him, even unconsciously. He was free at any moment to change his mind.

How do I feel about suicide, assisted or otherwise? I still have ingrained in me the words "selfish", "cowardly", "wrong" when I think about it. But there's a rational part of me that can understand that sometimes death is the more attractive choice. I've seen suffering. I can understand.

But Dignitas is incorporated death. That, I believe, is very, very dangerous. And worthy of discussion, because this is reality and we must, as a human community, decide whether this is what we want in our world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Go Katherine! Go Debbie! (Sorta)

Katherine Jackson rocks! I am absolutely delighted yet slightly concerned to hear to hear that Michael Jackson's mom and the biological mother of two of his three children have worked out a deal - the existing agreement which calls for the children not to be informed that family friend "Miss Debbie" is actually their mother, will continue and Debbie will drop her challenge to Katherine's guardianship of the kids in exchange for Joe Jackson staying away from them.

My concern is that a lie is being perpetuated - the kids don't know who "Miss Debbie" is and that's a strange choice when right now they're undoubtedly feeling adrift and lost without the one constant parent in their lives.

But that's overshadowed by my elation that Joe Jackson won't be allowed to continue the cycle of abuse that made Michael Jackson the tragic figure that he was.

Katherine and Joe have apparently been separated for years.

Michael always maintained his mother was a wonderful woman. I now heartily agree. She may not have been able to protect Michael, but she's protecting his children. She'll allow the existing relationship between the kids and their secret mother to continue. (Though how secret can it stay since the rest of the world knows it?)

And "Miss Debbie" may not be a mother in the way we define the term, but she's acting like one. She's put the children's best interests first. Bravo to both of them.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Glamorous Life

Bet you think those rock and rollers have it made, don't you? Traveling from city to city, roadies unloading your gear, setting it up, nothing to do but soundchecks, hang out, then go onstage and rock out, right? Oh, then lap up the applause and accept the adulation of fans who want your autograph, want to tell you how much your music means to them, just want you to actually SEE them.

I am an outsider to this world, but thanks to KB the veil's been lifted a bit. Last night was a real eye opener.

Do you remember the Australian band the church? If not, do you remember "Under the Milky Way" from the film Donnie Darko? That's them. They've been around since the eighties but now and again they surprise themselves with a hit as they pursue their unique vision of art rock.

They're wrapping up their 2009 tour and we went to see them in New York. It wasn't a big venue, but it was a nice one. They didn't fill the place but there was a respectable crowd and they were true fans. There was much dancing in front of the stage, roaring ovations after the wild, ear splitting, orgasmic guitar bridge and a few faithfuls singing along with every song. They're not the Rolling Stones, but they've got a solid fan base.

Backstage after the show, they were a bunch of tired Australian guys who badly needed some sleep and were dealing with the million and one headaches that result when you can't supervise every single person on the tour. A piece of equipment is missing - the venue staff doesn't have access to the rooms you need to search.

They were grateful for the fan response, grateful for an abundance of food backstage that they pronounced "the best they'd had yet". They were both sad and happy to be wrapping up the tour and going home. Back to their lives. Back to putting the kids to bed at night. Back to the classroom to teach other people how to play guitar.

The battered guitar that's covered with duct tape only comes out in your family room or when you rehearse in some intimate space with the band. Back at home, you're a space walker suddenly thrust back into the gravitational field. And much of your time will be spent figuring out how to get back out to space again.

A musician on tour is a gypsy - but unless that musician is an icon, he's an incredibly hard working gypsy. With luck, someone else sets up the gear, someone else checks the guitars, someone else makes sure the venues are confirmed, the tickets are selling, the backstage passes and press contacts are organized. But even with luck, there are the all night bus rides, the bleary late mornings wondering what town you're in today, the strange disconnection from the world because you're just dropping by. There's a moment of hyper-reality that is the show, when you connect with the music and it connects with the audience and an energy loop is established that leaves you frizzing with energy for hours afterwards. But then it's back to the bus, back to the road, off to the next location, the next show, the next audience.

It's a strange life. And apparently as addictive as any drug.

the church finishes its tour in Canada this week.

I'd link to their original music video, but the record company pulled the audio. Ah well, live will have to do.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Really World? Palin is What Fascinates You?

Greetings to all of you reading this. I have a question for you. Why are you so fascinated with Sarah Palin?

This little spot where I vent on a regular basis usually has a few faithful readers. I'm not at all sure why they check in but I appreciate it.

Sarah Palin changed that this week. Suddenly my readership has gone through the relative roof and it's all because I had an opinion about why she doesn't want to be Alaska's governor anymore. Or maybe I didn't - it's certainly confusing.

Is it schadenfreude...pleasure from the misfortunes of others? That doesn't really fit, unless you're reading this sitting comfortably somewhere other than the United States, in which case I'm betting that's it. Funny stuff, no? I can't say I blame you.

But Americans - what's up with you? Are we so desperate for a distraction from the recession that we'll spend two weeks mourning Michael Jackson and heap on a dose of mind boggling confusion as Look At Me Sarah grabs the headlines yet again?

I watched cable news tonight and heard many Republicans still think she's presidential material. That's pretty interesting, I guess. A politician whose celebrity far outweighs her abilities quits the post she wanted and is still considered a viable candidate?

I think our celebrity worship has finally gone too far. Sarah Palin is being turned into the American Conservative Lady Di (wait, hear me out) - she's attractive, glamorous and seen as an everyday person who has made good. (That's where the comparisons end, Britain - I've seen nothing Look At Me Sarah has done that attempts to make the world a better place. So far it's all about increasing her own importance.)

What is going on with us?

America has vilified Michael Jackson for years, now we're acting like Albert Schweitzer just died. Are we feeling guilty or do we just need a huge national venting of sadness?

A pretty and ambitious woman with few credentials and some serious weaknesses gets the glamor treatment, taps into Conservative America's innate insecurity and anger and suddenly can do no wrong? She should be a blip on history's radar. Why are we even paying attention to her anymore?

I'll be even handed here. The world went crazy for Barack Obama and is still crazy for his wife. He's a politician. I do not believe he is the be-all and the end-all. I do think he's a vast improvement over what we had for the eight years prior to his election. But I'm not a member of the fan club and I'm not going to worship anyone unreservedly, most especially not anyone who's succeeded in our political system. Success in a corrupt, old-boy system to me means you were way too good at it.

Michelle Obama? I like her. She seems like a good person. I'm not going to go nuts over her either.

These are human beings. They will, if you decide to worship them, disappoint you. Human beings are immensely fallible. They should be seen as humans and given credit for the good work they attempt to do without turning them into superheroes.

Our demands for perfection in our leaders has led us to be disappointed in all of them. Thanks to a 24 hour news cycle and the Internet, there is no way to avoid discovering the missteps and foibles of our public figures. Everything comes out eventually. That means we must grow up.

Our heroes, every single one of them, are humans. They have flaws. Some have massive flaws. Instead of blind worship, let's assess their strengths, support them when they are accomplishing good things and when they inevitably fall from grace, let's not react like shocked children. Let's rationally weigh the mistake and ask if it now interferes with their ability to continue to accomplish good things.

For South Carolina's governor, the answer in my mind is yes - he's compromised. He was AOL. His priorities are now suspect. For Sarah Palin, my answer would be yes - she's compromised. She's displayed poor leadership, petty behavior and a lack of intellect that makes her unsuitable for politics. She's a natural for Fox News.
And honestly, when I wrote that I didn't mean to be nasty - but I guess it is and I'll stand by it.

President Obama, so far, is doing an exemplary job as a leader. I do not expect everyone to agree with where he's leading us and it's fair game to debate it. But he is a strong, confident, intelligent leader whose aim appears to be the good of this country. I cannot ask for more from my president. If I disagree with the direction he chooses, it's my responsibility to speak up and attempt to change that direction. But finally, at long last, we have a president I am not ashamed of.

The First Lady gets a free pass forever in my opinion, so long as she continues to uphold the dignity of her position. I didn't elect her, she didn't ask me to and I appreciate the efforts she and every First Lady before her have made. These women give up years of their lives and though it may be a thrilling opportunity, I'm certain there are many nights when they fall into bed and wonder what happened to them. I'm not going to make a rock star out of her.

So thank you for reading, but again - why are you so interested in Sarah Palin? Or any other celebrity for that matter. Wouldn't it be far better to be concentrating on doing something great yourself?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ah, That Scamp Sarah Palin

So what's she up to now?

Listen to people who love her and they'll tell you she's brilliant - she's selfless - she's stepping down to save her state needless expense and distraction, she's putting her now-mighty media presence to work for the causes she believes in. This won't derail her White House hopes, they say. It's a master stroke.

Listen to the people who aren't fans (in varying degrees) and they'll tell you she just skewered her political ambitions (tough to convince people you're for real when you didn't even finish your term as governor), that there's a backstory we haven't heard yet and when the shoe drops it's going to be a big one. They'll tell you it was getting too hot for her in Alaska. They'll shake their heads at what they say was a pretty unfocused explanation of her resignation.

Listen to Manisha Thakor, my professional buddy and financial analyst who can always be counted on to have a different slant, and she'll tell you that Sarah Palin may just have made a great choice - big bucks and more privacy while she works on her book, versus constant battles and mounting legal bills as governor. Maybe it was just a lifestyle choice.

I don't know. I have heard that Palin's gunning for Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore. I've interviewed Shannyn. She doesn't sound like a conspiracy theorist and she's not, as soon to be ex-Governor Palin has labelled her, an "enemy of the state". She's a watchdog and a whistleblower. Those are time-honored jobs that only the bravest and thickest skinned among us take on. She has questions about how Palin has run Alaskan government and about what she believes are serious ethical violations.

Sarah Palin, as we know, doesn't like criticism. And the angrier she gets, the more I think she must have something to hide.

I don't take Sarah Palin seriously, to be honest. She's cute. She's perky. She's may have the ambition of a lioness, but she comes across like the kid who accidentally wandered into the physics class. She'd like to be there, but she just doesn't get it.

She shoots stuff and she speaks a dumbed down version of political rhetoric, both of which I find offensive.

But I know lots of people adore her folksy, "I'm one of you" delivery. She's so non-threatening (unless you disagree with her about something).

I hope she writes her book, makes a lot of money and has a comfortable life. I don't wish her ill, though I do hope she becomes more open minded. And I sincerely hope she stays out of politics.

I don't want my politicians to be like me. I want them to be smarter.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Americans - We Love Our Excess

I concluded last night that we truly are an excessive people, we Americans. I don't say that critically, although it is also one of our worst faults. Last night I loved us for it.

KB took me to Albany, New York, last night to witness the annual fourth of July fireworks. I've seen them before - one year from the fire escape outside my downtown apartment, once from the off-ramp near the epicenter at the Empire State Plaza, once from a distant hillside with my then-baby son.

I've never seen them from right on the Plaza.

In recent years, we've restricted ourselves to the local fireworks, which I think are pretty impressive. But this year KB's son and his young family were visiting and it seemed a perfect place to meet.

We arrived around six. The place wasn't too crowded and we wandered, bought something to eat and waited while we watched the crowds grow. It was a gathering of babies and young children and the arrival of KB's two young grandchildren instantly inserted us into that set - grownups with kids. As the sun set, we found a spot in the center of it all and little K2 was hoisted on his dad's shoulders. They live in a small town down south and neither mom nor K2 had ever seen a big city fireworks display. The baby just doesn't care - nor did she change her mind as the show began.

The whole display, sponsored by the local supermarket chain, takes place across the street from the capitol, where our senators have been refusing to work for almost a month. I looked to see if any of them were there with their noses pressed against the window. The governor hasn't been able to do much, but he has demanded they keep coming to chambers.

So it began - a carefully choreographed show combining music, ground lights and massive, sky-splitting displays. It really was amazing. I found myself grinning and looked over to see K2 doing the same. They even timed it so when The Who sang, "Love...rain on me..." a heart appeared in the sky followed by a shower of silver sparkles. Pretty impressive.

It went on forever and got progressively louder...and then we heard the opening notes of "The Stars and Stripes Forever."

"This," I yelled into KB's ear, "is going to be manic."

It was. I think it is not only possible but likely that they used as many fireworks during that finale as they did in the entire rest of the very generously lighted display. A series of fireworks were all exploded at once, creating a massive cloud of smoke, light and noise that seemed to swell out toward the crowd and cover us all. I covered my ears and yelled. KB was grinning like a kid. K2's eyes were blue saucers. The baby sucked on her bottle. Then they did it all over again.

When it was over, there was a collective exhale from the crowd and loud applause. And I had to love Americans in that moment.

Where else in the world do crowds of people all over the nation gather once a year to watch pretty lights and hear loud noises? We are kind of silly that way but it may be the thing I like best about us. I'm sure all nations have their own brand of foolishness.

I think if we could all meet on that ground, that place where we're all just big, goofy kids, we'd find our common humanity is a lot bigger than our cultural differences.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Give Joe Lieberman A Call

Joe Lieberman. The man makes my blood boil. I am a big fan of independent thinking. Joe likes to tell us that's what he's all about.

But actions, Mr. Senator, speak a lot louder. His actions label him an opportunist. He likes being important. He blows with the prevailing winds and he's doing it again on the health care issue. It's not about what's best for the people who elected him. It's about what's best for Joe.

Thanks to Andrew T. and his fine blog for this:

Why Joe doesn't support the public option.

and here's more from the Daily Kos.

Give Joe a call. Tell him how much you appreciate what he's doing for his country.