Thursday, December 25, 2008

If the Shoe Fits

What do you mean George Bush lost jobs? George Bush has created jobs! That's an indisputable fact.

A couple of weeks ago a courageous Iraqi journalist threw not one but two "size 10" shoes at President Bush while he was appearing in Baghdad with President Nouri al-Maliki.

Courageous because now he is recovering from an alleged police beating while in custody.
Who knows what else will happen to him.

But his act, understood in parts of the Muslim world as a sign of profound disrespect, has garnered him enthusiastic praise from much of that same Muslim world. I guess a lot of Muslims are not too happy with President Bush and are not showing him the respect he almost got in St. Paul.

The journalist, Muntader al-Zeidi, has become somewhat of a folk hero and there is talk of reducing his sentence or releasing him uncharged or pardoning him (for hopefully more than one day...)

But there is other activity going on as a result of his actions. Apparently Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., the Turkish company that manufactures the style of shoe that Shoeful Muntader threw has had so many orders for the now famous shoes, that they were forced to hire a slew (about 100, but in this economy, let's not quibble...) of new workers to help fill the orders.

So who says President Bush hasn't created jobs during his tenure in The White House?

Imagine what would happen if someone threw a Chevy at the President. Now that would really help Detroit now wouldn't it...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scott Free

It seems as though there will be no justice. No one will be held accountable. They'll get away with murder. Literally.

Here we are almost 6 years after the beginning of the War in Iraq. More years if you count the pre-war planning. Almost 8 years of this administration.

What galls is the idea that there will be no hearings. No investigation. No trials. No one will go to prison.

Now, don't misunderstand. I recently wrote that one is, under our constitution, presumed to be innocent. I believe that regardless. But when there are allegations of wrongdoing, our system of justice also allows for a full investigation and then, if there is enough evidence, people get indicted.

It seems that there have been plenty of allegations recently. From Rumsfeld's alleged sanctioning of torture, to Cheney's alleged fiddling with the energy industry to Gonzales' alleged involvement with Prosecutorgate.

Plenty of allegations. No real investigations. A few reports. Some tepid news coverage and an overall "who cares" from the public consumed with fear about foreclosures and pink slips and plant closings and Christmas.

But c'mon! How about paying a little attention to the alleged transgressions of the past 8 years. How about a little discussion about the alleged degradation of the constitution. How about a little dialogue about the devolved stature of the US around the world.

Here comes Obama. There goes Bush. Gail Collins has a countdown calendar awaiting January 20th when she will probably pop a cork and sing "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead" followed by "Here Comes the Sun."

But will Eric Holder, provided he's approved (Marc Rich and all...), appoint a special prosecutor to dig into these allegations? Will he finally compel Karl Rove and Harriet Myers to testify before congress about their knowledge of Prosecutorgate? Will Henry Waxman hold hearings into the alleged wrongdoing during the Bush administration? And don't get me started about the Wall Street bailout and the investment bankers bonuses...

Don't hold your breath. Just hold your nose. We'll cheer Obama and obsess about our problems, large and small, but we'll lose sight of the big picture. We are "free" because of the constitution and without it we'd be Russia. Or China. Or Somalia.

Which we may become anyway. So enjoy the snow (if you're in the Northern US) and Merry Christmas unless your Jewish in which case Happy Channukah, or African-American in which case Happy Kwanzaa, or...

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Part of Snow Don't You Understand?

I hate winter.

I'm unashamed. It's cold. It's bleak and gray. The car starts with difficulty. It's harder to move in all these "layers"
The wood stove is a pain in the neck.

I hate winter.

By contrast I love spring. It's warm. The daffodils are abloom. The garden is whining for attention. Summer's on deck.

I love spring.

I know, I know. Skiing and skating and the holidays, including my birthday (which I also hate)

We need winter to give nature a chance to renew itself. That argument never made sense to me. There doesn't seem to be any need for renewal in Miami or Cancun or Rio.

What's the deal with that?

But we also need winter to provide the contrast.

Without winter we would be bored with a perpetual state of spring/summer. We need the winter to make us appreciate the warmth and beauty of spring/summer.

Baloney. I could live in spring/summer forever. Let's just refer to it as Spummer.

Spummer's in the air. Doesn't quite have the same poetic ring to it but I'll suffer through that detail.

I hate winter.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

45 Years

Over the years I've searched (until today) in vain for an old friend from junior high school.

I found out today that he died in 1998. I was shocked. I always thought I'd find him somewhere. He would be happily married doing something he liked with kids and a dog and a picket fence.

But now I know that none of that was true.

We were friends in 1964. We were 13 and at boarding school in New England. We were always in trouble together. Always.

Then he left school and I never saw him again. I knew nothing of what had become of my best friend.

Then came the Internet. I started to Google him from time to time. I tracked him down to Houston. But, alas, he was not the same guy. Too young.

Time passed and I tried again. This time I put in his father's name and I had remembered that he had worked in the overseas division of General Motors. And bang, there he was, in the New York Times Obituary section. And as I read the piece, there in black and white was my friend's name, not following "survived by" as I had expected, but following the word "late"

My friend was the "late" son of the deceased.


And so I Googled his mother and found her obituary. A dead end (no pun intended)

But I saw his uncle's name so I Googled him and found him with a web site. So I emailed him and he wrote back with a phone number and I called him.

My friend had served honorably on the USS Coral Sea in Vietnam. He had been injured. He then went to work for General Motors. He had a stroke in the 90's and while trying to recover had an aneurism and died. On December 15, 1998. No wife. No kids. No picket fence.

He was a funny, genteel, smart and charismatic guy. He was bound for greatness. His family was rich (I remember visiting their Park Avenue apartment) and gracious. He was cosmopolitan and had lived around the world. We would have been great lifelong friends had we stayed in touch.

But we didn't and now he's dead. I looked for him on and off for over 40 years and now I've found him.

He will always live in my heart and memory as that co-conspirator and best friend of 8th grade in the Litchfield Hills.

I miss you. And I love you. Rest in peace my old friend...Mark Alexander Rhea.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's in a Name?

Think of this...your're one of two children, the eldest. Your parents are a very attractive couple.
Your little brother is too cute.

One day, when you're about 6, your father is tragically killed by a man who hates him. You and your family gradually recover. Your mother, who is very beautiful, remarries and your lives go on.

You grow up and eventually go to, and graduate from, law school. You settle in New York City where you eventually marry Fred Schwartzman and have three children.

Let's give you a name...Christine Kennerly Schwartzman.

One day, when you're about 50, you decide you want to be a senator. You really aren't particularly qualified. It's true you're a good lawyer and you've done charity work in the community. You've also devoted time and energy helping to improve the school system where you live so your three kids will get a better education.

But aside from that, you have never been involved in politics and you have never really been in public, except for the occasional school board speech or charity auction presentation.

The reality is that you would probably be laughed out of the room. No one would take you seriously. No one would contribute to your campaign and no one of any stature would endorse your candidacy.

People would say that you were nuts. No chance in hell. No right to run. "No way, no how...!"

Now, just for fun, let's change your name. How about Caroline. How about Caroline Kennedy.
How about Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.

Now that's the ticket. Senator Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. But since you have decided not to use the Schlossberg part we'll just call you Senator Kennedy. Senator Caroline Kennedy.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't know the woman. She is probably very nice. And intelligent. And she has, no doubt, done good work in the community from her "bully pulpit."

But Senator? Maybe someday, just like Sarah Palin. Maybe someday. But now? With all of the problems facing this country, at home and abroad? Now?

I don't think so.

But she'll probably get the job because of her name. After all she descends from Camelot. Her brother was handsome and died too soon. Her uncle was murdered. She had a pony.

I guess we'll have to wait and see. After all they said much the same about Ted when he started and he turned out allright.

We can only hope...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's The Thought That Counts (Not!)

What is it with the holidays? Whether it's Father's Day or Christmas or a's so full of the pressure to get the right gift.

I was having coffee with my neighbor and she was suggesting that we all make something as a gift for Christmas. You know, like a box made out of popsicle sticks or a batch of fudge.

Something from the heart.

Yeah, right!

Scenario: Christmas morning. Beautiful (too big, too expensive) tree with Grandma's childhood ornament. Tinsel (gotta have tinsel...) Presents under the tree and the smell of bacon and pancakes and fresh coffee waiting in your mind for the presents to be opened before it actually wafts in from the kitchen. Waking up Daddy. up the little box with the cute ribbon that has got to be the watch you have been coveting. But NOOO! It's a seashell from the beach that Morris found and then, in the spirit of "let's make gifts for Christmas", decided to put in a box...just for you!

"Oh, Morris it's so lovely...just what I wanted. Thank you so much."

"You're welcome Dad. Do you really like it?"

"Are you kidding? I love it!"

Are you kidding? A seashell? After all of the stuff I bought him over the years. Bikes and guitars and movie money and clothes (ok, he hated the clothes but he needed socks) he gives me a lousy seashell? Jeez!

But it is the thought that counts. I'll get over it. I'll look at it years from now and think of his generosity of spirit. But it'll take years. Right now I would much rather have that book David Brooks wrote about by Malcolm Gladwell. How successful people are affected by the luck of their circumstance more than by their talents.

Or, as Dennis Leary would say, "Merry @#$%ing Christmas...!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weather or Not

Ahhh spring!

This morning it smelled like early spring. The ground was wet and the air was misty.
No leaves on the trees, brown grass...otherwise gloomy. But the smell. Just like late March or early April when the winter is finally over and spring/summer is just around the corner.

Nothing like spring. The trees are about to burst with bloom. The flowers are thinking about beginning to appear. And the thought of planting summer tomatoes is almost too much to bear. Let alone the boat and the beach and shorts and sandals.

So many problems. So much to fix. So few inspirations. Afghanistan. Iraq. Wall Street. Blagojevich. Brittney Spears. Branjolina. Detroit...

On and on...

But thoughts of spring. It helps.

Everything that we face, collectively as a society and individually...everything needs a new beginning. That's what Obama seems to bring. A new beginning. Wall Street needed a new beginning. Bernie Madoff's investors need a new beginning. The Illinois state government needs a new beginning. Detroit needs an ending and then a beginning. We all need it.

Obama will certainly disappoint. Some godawful scandal will derail his presidency. He'll be caught with another woman (or man). Michele will be found to be gay, or worse, a closet Republican. They'll chose the wrong dog.

But until then we can smile and hope for the best and when all else fails, and history says failure will come, we can, at least dream of spring.

Bring on the daffodils...!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Chicken in Every Pot

Yak, Yak, Yak...

All we are hearing these days is about this bailout or that rescue package. This industry will fail or the entire country will fold if we don't save such and such a company.

Probably true but how about an alternative.

Say, for example, that Moe at Ford puts fenders on some car on some assembly line in some plant somewhere in Michigan. And say that Moe can't do anything else. He doesn't do something on the side; roofing or veterinarian's helper or gardening. Nothing but fenders.

And for this Moe makes $50,000 a year.

Say that if Ford goes under Moe will be out of work and fall on very hard times.

Now think about the billions being proposed by Congress to give to the automakers to help salvage their companies.

Why not give the money to Moe directly. But instead of very few strings how about one simple string, or lifeline if you want.

The string is education.

Moe will have his year's salary, paid monthly, so his family and his house won't go under.

But Moe has to go to school. Moe has to learn a new skill. Moe has to transition from the 20th century into the 21st. Moe has to become competitive in the global economy. Moe has to become a part of the solution.

I don't know how much labor costs are at Ford. But if you divide the amount of Ford's share of the bailout money by the number of employees that will be affected by a closure across all of the companies that will be affected and you give them that amount of money directly we just might improve our chances internationally and get the economy back on track.

Just thinking...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pontification #1

So, I'm thinking that, in the case of Gov. Blagojevich, under the Constitution, as Frank Costello (Jack in The Departed...) would say, "in THIS country...", one is innocent until proven guilty. No?

He's recorded shopping Obama's Senate seat...allegedly...for a lot of benefits to himself and his wife.

But who knows? Maybe a confection of the FBI or Fitzgerald. Maybe a hoax by a political enemy. Rovian tactics maybe...?

It's way too easy, with modern digital recording techniques, to create anything.

Sounds, at first hearing, very bad indeed. And all of the rats are abandoning his sinking ship.
And, certainly, if it's true, it's terrible.

But what if...?

Wag the Rod?

Just thinkin"...hmmmmmmmm...?