Thursday, December 31, 2009

Republican Hypocrisy

I generally take the position that most people consider themselves good and well-motivated.  When people do or say things with which I disagree, I try to understand what they are saying to themselves to justify their misguided ways.  Often, I will conclude that they are either deluding themselves or they believe some higher cause is achieved by maybe shading the truth or ignoring evidence that may contradict their view or action.

So, I mostly attribute Republican lies and deceit with willful ignorance or an "ends justifies the means" approach to politics.  And their end to to obtain power.

But the Republican response to the Detroit underwear bomber blows my theory.  In this instance, they are just evil.  Their relentless attacks on Obama are now completely divorced from any credibility and are shameless, hypocritical efforts to destroy our President without any regard to what it does to our country.  When Democrats criticized Bush, they were said to be unpatriotic.  Republicans, like Dick Cheney, now show no qualms about aggressively politicizing every move Obama makes.  It is truly sickening.

Think Progress has a good account of Cheney's latest outrage.  As does Eugene Robinson in today's Washington Post. 

Sadly, the American public doesn't punish this kind of behavior.  It think the only think that we save our country in the next few years is for the voters to smack the Republicans for the third time in a row.  Right now, they feel politically vindicated because they have succeeded tainting the healthcare reform legislation by making the process of its enactment as ugly as possible.  Eventually, the bill will pass and we will move on to the slow process of implementation.  It is unclear what it's short term political impact will be.  They key in November will be the economy.  If the economy improves and Obama's policies are vindicated, they are dead meat.  And we might see a new Republican party that believes it has some responsibility to govern.  If unemployment remains high and they make political gains, the trench warfare will continue to the detriment of the country.  Our steady decline will continue.

God help us.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Iran and New Media

Here's a quote from an expert on developments in Iran that says it all for me:
Current chatter of an imminent national strike being planned – an enormous development if it proves to be true – is just one example of how such a structure allows the opposition movement to organize through a decentralized communication network rather than a rigid hierarchy.

Iran on the Brink?

This morning on CNN Robin Wright, the great journalist on the Middle East, speculated on whether events in Iran represented a "Berlin Wall" moment.  While she wasn't sure, she said it could be.  What a monumental prospect.  I find events in Iran exhilarating.  I'm not deluded into thinking the outcome might turn Iran into a western secular  democracy.  What it does represent to me is the extend to which justice can prevail, that oppression can be resisted, that,  ultimately, the people can rule.  I am also hopeful that part of the reason the people of Iran can resist is because information can no longer be permanently suppressed.  In an earlier era, the resisters would not have been able to coordinate the way they have, nor could  they inform the rest of the world what was happening there.  For instance, few would have known that the nephew of Mousavi was killed by the regime.  That event appears to have thrown gasoline on a raging fire. 

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan, I've come across a great web site with a very sophisticated analysis of events in Iran, called "the newest deal."  Here's a sample:

So when word of yesterday’s bloodshed reaches the country’s religious centers – and it surely will in the midst of the chaos that has erupted during the last forty-eight hours – outrage can be expected in Qom. This may soon put Iran’s clerics, both conservative and moderate, in an unenviable position: sacrificing their coveted theocracy in order to salvage their religion’s sanctity. For if it was unclear up until this point, there is surely no way that any clerical scholar of Islam can any longer defend the actions of the Islamic Republic – especially when such actions are committed in Islam’s name, for that matter.

What is happening in Iran seems truly historic. Yet, American media seems strangely oblivious. While they appear late to this realization, at least CNN is devoting the appropriate attention. Meanwhile, on the Today Show, the news at the top of the hour devoted maybe 10 seconds to Iran.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Krugman on the Team

Paul Krugman is making it his business to prove to the left that the healthcare reform bill will be a major progressive win.  In his blog, he displays a very impressive graph from the Kaiser Family Foundation that shows how much the average family will be subsidized, based on family income.

But, best of all is this opening paragraph:
A couple of notes to address complaints about the Senate bill from the left and the center. (There’s no use addressing complaints from the right; in general, the safest thing when dealing with crazy people is to avoid eye contact.) Emphasis added.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Celebrating Healthcare Reform

I have to admit, my admiration for Paul Krugman varies proportional to his support for President Obama.  Since he supported Hillary during the primaries, he's not particularly invested in Obama as an individual.  So, generally, when he's critical, he comes at Obama from the Left and I get conflicted.  But, when he lines up with Obama, all is right with the world.

Today, he comes out in strong support of the Senate healthcare reform bill.  Yes, it is a compromise, but a compromise that represents and massive change in direction in American politics.  Of course, he does take a gentle shot at Obama by pointing out that the bill is closer to Hillary Clinton campaign proposal than to Obama's.  But his conclusion is strong:

And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.
While I am pretty far to the Left ideologically, I am also a pragmatist when it comes to policymaking.  As I've noted in a previous post, the bill will be seen as one of the great legislative achievements of the past fifty years.  I'm glad Krugman agrees with me.

Christmas 2009

There's an interesting Christmas tradeoff as you move through life. When Santa rules the day (i.e. the kids are young), the stress is high leading up to the big day. Are there enough gifts? Have we visited enough Santa's? Have all the rituals, I mean traditions, been served? By the time Christmas arrives, you're exhausted....and then you have to get up at 5 am to start opening presents. But the delight the kinds exhibit is precious and almost makes it all worthwhile.

When your kids are 19 and 15, the stress is much lower. There's no "magic" to be preserved, although there are traditions. It remains a special time of year, but in a more authentic way.

And you get to sleep in.

Our day has been relaxed and very pleasant. We attended midnight Mass at St. Anselm's Abbey, stayed briefly for cookies and to wish the monks a Merry Christmas. We didn't get to bed until 2 am and I was up at 7. The kids got up at 11. We opened gifts and everyone came away happy. Now, we're just gliding through the day.

Notwithstanding all the pleasantness, it is a very different Christmas, the first without my mother and without Rita's Aunt Gen. We won't feel the full brunt of their absence until with get up to Boston tomorrow. My mother and Gen were true lovers of Christmas and there will be a big empty place in this holiday season.

Also, this is the first Christmas in which we won't be staying in the attic room in Rita's mother's house in Brookline. Year after year, I would chafe at the confined quarters and wish we could stay in a hotel. Admittedly less so in recent years as Rita and I have learned to accommodate each other's needs during this annual pilgrimage. But I have to say, I will miss the old house and will chafe at new inconveniences at the Dedham Hilton.

So, all in all, a nice, but somewhat bittersweet, holiday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Healthcare Reform

Lots of commentary on healthcare reform today. Suffice it to say that opinion is mixed on Obama's accomplishment in this area. Looking back, I predict this legislation will be considered a stunning achievement. Yes, it is much less that most liberals want. It's less than Obama wants. But it is what it is. And what it is is the most significant piece of social welfare legislation since Medicare.

Obama suffers from the size of his original ambition. As we begin to focus on what's in this bill, you realize that, two years ago, anyone who would have predicted legislation of this kind be enacted into law would have been considered delusional. The Patient Bill of Rights, 30 million more people covered by health insurance, free preventive care, thousands of new community health center, etc., etc. While the left criticizes Obama as to timid, as his change incremental, he's changing America.

For a more articulate account of Obama's brilliant first year, check out Jacob Weisberg's piece in Slate Magazine. It declares Obama's first year on par with FDR and LBJ. I think he's right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baucus Calls Out Republicans

Max Baucus, who's been hammered by the left for diddling with the Republicans for months, now must listen to the Republicans lie about how they were excluded from healthcare reform process. Understandably, he erupts. What took him so long?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Year in Google Wave

Google Wave could be the next big thing, if only I could figure out how to use it:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Christmas Blizzard of 2009

It's the big one. A huge snowstorm has arrived. Our long wait is over. It's 10:30 in the morning with the heavy snow just starting and there's already more than 8 inches on the ground. Weathermen are predicting up to 2 feet. Bliss!!

I've got the fire going, the Christmas music playing. We've got nowhere to go. So, we have a very cozy day ahead of us. It's like God hit the "pause button." My son Danny was scheduled to come home from college today, but, instead, he's going sledding on the Gettysburg Battlefield. I'm envious, but so glad he will have that experience. I told him to take pictures.

This almost the perfect storm. It's only flaw is that it occurred on the weekend.

And, in case you're saying, "Right, wait until you have to shovel!" Not to worry. My neighbor has already come by with the first pass with his snowblower.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Friday, December 18, 2009


I love this post of a comment from Talking Points Memo comparing our current situation on healthcare reform.  Sounds very right to me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Looking Back on China Trade Policy

I consider myself a free trader, but I'm not sure why.  It just seems to me that open markets around the world represents a desirable global economic system.  And protectionist policies are a slippery slope.  Still, it gets difficult when everyone doesn't play along.  In today's Washington Post, Harold Meyerson looks back on the debate in the U.S. around normalizing trade relations with China.  He points out that, during the debate:
Advocates' central contention was that the deal would eventually lead to a political liberalization of China -- which it hasn't -- and would enable the United States to so increase exports to China that our Chinese trade imbalance would end -- precisely the opposite of the effect that normalizing trade relations has actually had.

Economists often distinguish between the short term effects of policy change versus the long term.  Yes, free trade does create some short term pain, but the long term effects are positive.  We are now ten years later and things have only gotten worse for the U.S. 

How long is "long term?"  I'm reminded of the comment by the legendary economist John Maynard Keynes, "In the long term, we'll all be dead."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quote of the Day

Obama is clearly walking a fine line in his visit to China.  It is in the interests of the whole world that the U.S. and China find ways to cooperate.  Still, the Chinese government can be pretty brutal in terms of human rights.  Obama has to touch both bases.  You can imagine the exchange with President Hu where Obama says, "I'll talk about all the good things we're doing together and how well we're getting along, but I'm going to have to whack you on some human rights issues, OK?"  And Hu says, "Sure, and I'll whack you about your outrageous deficits that are going to kill us in terms of the debt we hold for you.  Deal?"  Obama says, "Deal."  And off they go to the press conference.

Still, I have to say that Obama's response on the Internet did take the obsequiousness a step too far.  No wanting to say that he opposes the Chinese government's censorship of web sites because that would, in effect, accuse them of same, he said:

"I'm a big supporter of non-censorship."

C'mon Barack.  Though I strongly support engagement with China, even I think that was weak.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

British Duck House

During the recent scandal in Great Britain about the abuse of expense allowances by British Members of Parliament, it was revealed that one MP used his expense allowance to pay for a duck house on his estate. This video is a spoof far beyond the capacity of most American humorists.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Using New Media for State Legislators

Here's my post mortem video after my presentation to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Just preaching the gospel of new media.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom Describes Her District

As part of my presentation to the National Conference of State Legislatures, I demonstrated how to upload a video on a blog. Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom graciously agreed to describe her district for purposes of this exercise. Her most amazing point is the fact that 10,000 of her constituents are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Wow.

Yankees Lose!

With a blast to the left field wall in the bottom of the 11th inning, the Angels interrupted the Yankees march to the World Series.
“They’ve been waiting for a postseason homer from Vlady for a long
time, and they got one that put them back in the game,” Damon said. “It
just seemed like they had some momentum after that.”
One down, three to go for the Angels.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Richard Stoltzman at Strathmore

When I was in grammar school, I played the clarinet. When I was old enough to join the band, about the 4th or 5th grade, the priest that led the band at Sacred Heart School, Father Johnson, came to my house to discuss what instrument I should play, pointing out the differences between the brass instruments and the woodwinds. I remember thinking how hard it sounded to play a trumpet. I also remember saying that I wanted to play the clarinet, like Benny Goodman. Sadly, I only played through eighth grade, one of the enduring regrets of my life.

Tonight, I watched a clarinet player described as the greatest of our time, Richard Stoltzman. I have to admit, I hadn't heard of him until I learned of this concert. My interest in going was based more on the opportunity to see a live performance of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, than who would be playing it. It is one my favorite pieces of classical music and I've listened to it hundreds of times. It is the first classical CD I ever bought. The performance did not disappoint.

That said, it is interesting listening to a piece of music in which every note is familiar. Frankly, Stoltzman took a while to warm up. He missed a few notes in the first up tempo movement. But he found his stride in the second slow, movement, which is heartbreakingly lyrical. And in the third movement, which is very quick, complex and challenging, he was flawless.

But he really let it rip after the intermission. The second set was a collection of Gershwin pieces, including Pomenade from a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, as well as Bess and Summertime from Porgy and Bess. It was clear that he enjoyed playing this music over the Mozart, which probably does in his sleep. The finale was Copland's Clarinet Concerto, which the conductor said was the only clarinet concerto in two hundred years that even approaches the quality of the Mozart. Interestingly, this piece was actually commissioned by Benny Goodman, himself. It was a much more modern piece and not quite as accessible as everything that went before. Still, it offered an amazing display of Stoltzman's virtuosity.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, made particularly entertaining Stoltzman's impish behavior on stage. It was unclear whether his funny faces and many mysterious side conversations with the players and conductor were designed to amuse us or were merely self-indulgent artistic antics. We chose to believe the former.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Barney Frank Biography

There is a new biography out on my old boss, Barney Frank, written by Stuart Weissberg. I was flattered to be a source for the book. The following is the short review I wrote on

"First, a disclaimer. I was a source for this book. That said, the book is an extraordinary political biography that describes the life of an amazing politician, but also of an era. While the term, "the spirit of the sixties" has been trivialized over time, this book highlights the best of that decade by showing the genuine idealism at its heart. Moreover, this "spirit" is transcended to the degree that Barney Frank combined - and combines - the idealism of that era with a practical approach to politics. His goal was to have a measurable effect on the lives of poor people, who were then and are today, neglected by the political elites at all levels of government. This book shows how he did this and is a very valuable primer for those driven by results in public policy rather than scoring political points. Even to this day, in his very powerful position as Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Frank remains true both to those ideals and to the practical approach to politics. Of course, the book is also peppered with endless examples of Rep. Franks wicked wit, which provides chuckles throughout.

"Having proudly worked for Barney Frank, I can't claim to be objective about the book. But I can report on its accuracy, which is scrupulous. I was deeply involved with a particularly period in Rep. Frank's career and I could not find a single error of fact or even interpretation on things on which I had personal knowledge. I have to say, I was surprised by the candor I found in this authorized biography. This is a "warts and all" account that is very honest about some of Rep. Frank's personal struggles and, shall we say, challenging personality traits.

"In the end, however, this is a story of a political leader who remains uncorrupted by the power he currently wields. He entered politics to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." Unlike many, he has stayed true to his original ideals and I believe the country is fortunate to have him at the center of our current economic travails."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Carly Fiorina on Sarah Palin

I was at a business meeting last night where Carly Fiorina spoke. First, let there be no doubt, she's running for Senate. That's clear.

Her prepared remarks were somewhat flat. She gave a detailed description on leadership that was fairly pedestrian. She presented herself as someone who knows leadership from personal experience and finds it sorely lacking in Washington. No surprise for a Republican running for statewide office. I have to say she was better in the Q&A session....mostly.

What was a surprise was her inability, or unwillingness, to evaluate our best known political leaders on their leadership qualities. She was asked whether she thought Barack Obama was a leader. She said it was too soon to tell.

But most interestingly, she was asked whether Sarah Palin displayed leadership qualities. The question was asked in apparent sincerity, but her physical reaction seemed to suggest that she considered it a hostile question.

Here's her response, word for word, in its entirety:

"I've never met Sarah Palin. Next question."

This from the General Chairwoman of the McCain Campaign. There was an audible buzz around the room and then she added:

"As Winston Churchill said, 'there are not inappropriate questions, only inappropriate answers.'"

Very telling.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Daughter Bridget at the Book Festival on the Mall

This is a collage of pictures of authors that my daughter Bridget and I met on the Mall today. Clockwise from around the top they are: Ricky Minor, Music Director for American Idol, Food Network star, Paula Deen, Nicholas Spark, author of The Notebook and Tim O'Brien, who wrote The Things They Carried. Each of them was delightful, friendly and seemingly thrilled to meet Bridget. A great day!

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ted Kennedy and Airplanes

I've been reading Ted Kennedy's memoir and enjoying it immensely. One thing recently struck me, though. If I was Ted Kennedy, or any Kennedy, I wouldn't set foot in an airplane.

I'm a nervous flyer to begin with. But, think of what Ted Kennedy has experienced. First, his brother Joe dies in an airplane accident. Granted, flying a plane loaded with explosives does tempt fate, but it's still a tragedy. Then, Ted's sister Kathleen dies in a crash with her fiance'. The one I didn't know about was his roommate a Harvard, a budding Olympic skater, who died in a plane crash going to a Olympic preliminary trial. Then, of course, Ted himself almost died in a crash in western Massachusetts with Senator Birch Bayh. Finally, John, Jr.

Yes, if I was a Kennedy, I'd stay away from planes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My 25th Wedding Anniversary

Today is my 25th wedding anniversary. Wow. I could never have imagined - dreamed - hoped - that the adventure on which I embarked 25 years ago today would turn out so well. That day remains a blur to me. Starting with my first - and only - barbershop shave at Lords and Lady's Hair Salon in West Roxbury, MA to the end of the night with my sister confronting a bully towering over her in the Hammond Bar in Brookline at 1 am, I only remember moments, but not the day as a whole. In between those two "moments," I committed myself eternally to my wife, Rita, and she to me. Twenty-five years later that commitment is strong and, in fact, growing. The love endures, the cause lives on and the dream will never die.....(sorry, I think I just channeled Ted Kennedy).

In the past twenty five years, we built a family. Danny (19) and Bridget (15) make us proud every day. They are both smart and reasonably well-behaved kids. But what makes us most proud is their hearts. They both have caring and compassionate hearts. I'd like to think we had something to do with that, but we've all seen excellent parents produce troublesome kids, so there must a bit of good fortune or God's will in it, as well. Suffice it to say, it's a blessing we both treasure.

In my observation, there are two kinds of successful marriages. One is when two people, who are similar, bond in their similarities. They have a joint mission and they accomplish it together. Because they see themselves in each other, they form a mutual admiration society. It's sickening.

Then there are the marriages where couples are different, but complement each other, which produces a somewhat more tumultuous relationship. But, probably a more honest one. That's Rita and me. We are different. I am lazy. Rita works very hard. I am undisciplined and disorderly. Rita is neat and organized. I am self absorbed. Rita is utterly unselfish. I think we've changed a bit over the years. I've tried to make Rita more lazy, without much success. I have made inroads in terms of disorderliness. She has come to tolerate the smallest bit of clutter in the house.

My one regret is that I have not adopted Rita's thoughtfulness and unselfishness. I remain pretty self absorbed. This blog is evidence of that. But Rita is the most "other" directed person I've ever known. She is constantly thinking of others and trying to help in whatever problems, large or small, that they confront.

Of course, I am the beneficiary of this quality of hers in two ways. She's very thoughtful toward me, which is only occasionally reciprocated. But more importantly, her nurturing approach to friends and family has built a community around our family that would simply not exist without her. The older I get, the more I appreciate the relationships I have with other people. And thanks to Rita, we are blessed with a wide circle.

So, happy anniversary, Rita. I love you. And see how thoughtful I am? When somebody asks you what I gave you for our anniversary, you can say...

"A blog post."

How many wives of 25 years can say that?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Grave Site

I visited Ted Kennedy's grave this morning. It was very moving. While there were a few people milling around JFK's memorial, when I first arrived at Ted's, I was alone. It is a simple memorial, just like brother Robert's, a small flat gravestone and a white cross. As you can see from the picture, the outlines of the dug grave are still visible. All three brothers are directly beneath Robert E. Lee's home. It is said that Arlington Cemetery is where it is so that Robert E. Lee could observe the full consequences of his treasonous rebellion against the U.S. Government.

On a more peaceful note, I overheard a tour guide talking about the location of the Kennedy gravesite. Apparently, Kennedy visited the Lee mansion, which has a spectacular view (passed the thousands of graves) of Washington monuments, the Lincoln, Washington and the Capitol. Kennedy observed that it was so impressive that one could spend eternity there.

So, he will, with his brothers.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Public Option

Josh Marshall has a great post setting out where we are on the public option in healthcare.

For me, the situation is bizarre.  It reminds me of the old Yogi Berra quote in talking about a popular nightspot, "Nobody goes there anymore.  It's too crowded."

The Republican position is that "Nobody wants the public option, because everyone will buy it if it's offered."  Then, of course, we'd be at single-payer, God forbid.

Makes sense, right?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Memorial Service at the Capitol

I had the honor of standing on the Capitol steps for the short memorial for Ted Kennedy on his way to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery. Here's the video:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ted's Funeral - Post Mortem

I watched every minute of Ted Kennedy's funeral. For me, it was a validation of everything I hold dear. As I've explained below, I was personally gratified that he chose Mission Church for the ceremony, given that it was my mother's childhood church and the place I prayed for her when she was sick.

But what struck me most was the humility of the memorial. To the untrained eye, it might sound odd to call a memorial, held in a "Basilica," and attended by four presidents, vast numbers of luminaries and Boston's Cardinal humble. Not to mention having Yo Yo Ma and Placido Domingo provide the music.

But on those elements of the service which contained the most meaning, Ted chose the humble option in almost every case. First, consider the church. Setting aside my personal connection, it is important to understand where Mission Church sits. It is in Roxbury, the poorest section of Boston. And while Mission Hill is coming back economically, it remains, at best, a working class neighborhood, which it was when my mother, the daughter of Irish immigrants, grew up there.

Then there was the Mass. Again, it may have looked majestic, but it was not a "High Mass." The music was awe-inspiring, but, significantly, none of the prayers during the ceremony were sung. That makes it a low Mass. And, while the Cardinal was in attendance, he did not say the Mass. In fact, Kennedy's local parish priest in Hyannis was the celebrant, with a number of concelebrants, none of whom were high in the Church hierarchy. One of them, Fr. Percy DaSilva, is a former priest in my church of Blessed Sacrament. Sen. Kennedy was a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament some years ago and I would see him occasionally at Mass, usually at the children's Mass. Fr. DaSilva is a diminutive priest from India with the heart of a lion who was beloved by all in the parish, particularly the children. He loved my daughter Bridget and she him. He made national news when he indignantly called from the pulpit for Cardinal Law's resignation during the abuse scandal at a time when the Church hierarchy was still standing behind the Cardinal. In addition to his love for my daughter, the other thing I most appreciated about him is that while he preached the Church's doctrine condemning abortion with conviction, he never, ever mentioned abortion in a sermon without also denouncing the death penalty. His presence on the altar spoke volumes about Ted's priorities.

Of course, within the constraints of a low Mass, you can still reach the heights. Most people would love to have the President of the United States do the eulogy at their funeral. But it was the music that made the ceremony transcendent. I have never heard Ave Maria sung so beautifully as by Susan Graham. It literally took my breath away. And Placido Domingo singing during the Communion, well, what can you say? At the Capitol memorial later in the day, I spoke about the service to Congressman Jim McGovern from Worcester who said, "Receiving Communion with Placido Domingo singing, I felt like this must be what heaven is like."

Fundamentally, as I've noted below, it was the Irishness of it all that so moved me. Forgive my paean to Irish culture, but I do believe that the Irish have a special awareness of human frailty. It brings out both the best and worst in us. On the downside, it makes us somewhat mordant, fatalistic and even reckless. I'll never forget hearing one of my uncles say at a family gathering, "I believe that life is a vale of tears, with a few bright spots thrown in." I was about eight years old and that comment has stuck with me all my life. That view, I believe, contributes to the kind of behavior that Ted exhibited in his younger days, the drinking and womanizing. You figure you don't have much time, so make the most of it while you can. For those that survive long enough to gain some wisdom, the Irish mystical traditions kick in. These have been with the Irish from pagan times. Since St. Patrick, it inspires a deep devotion to the Catholic Church, which provides hope in this "vale of tears."

Of course, it's more than physical frailty, though, God knows, Ted saw the consequences of that with all the tragedy in his family. We all knew about the tragedies of his own generation. But I never fully knew about those in his immediate family. Three of his kids faced life-threatening disease at some point in their lives. There is no greater emotional trauma one can face than the risk of losing a child and he faced it three times.

But human frailty involves moral frailty, as well. And that's where the humility comes in. It makes you less judgmental of the failings of others when you see the moral frailty that is within yourself. I have no doubt that Mary Jo Kopechne's memory haunted Ted to his dying day. Recognizing that - and others of his moral failings, made him, I believe, a more humble man, which is hard to be when you are a U.S. Senator, particularly a Kennedy. This moral humility was reflected in his letter to the Pope where he writes, "I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path."

Clearly, we should take the advice he offered in his eulogy of his brother, Bobby, and "not enlarge him in death beyond what he was in life." But I have to say, more than any other other event of its kind, I do feel changed a bit by these memorials to Teddy. He does provide a model for living a good life and the hope that it's never too late. When he was my age, he was still "Wild Teddy," drinking and carousing with Chris Dodd. And yet he changed in a very deep way and died at some peace. It's a story of redemption that offers hope for us all.

And, finally, he vindicated another quality of being Irish in which I believe strongly. No culture puts on a better funeral than the Irish. I think it comes with that fatalism mentioned above. I recently bade farewell to my mother and I have to say that we touched, in her memorial, many of the same themes that were explored in Ted's memorial, the music, the laughter, the melancholy. We didn't have Placido Domingo, but we did have the singer from a local parish church sing Our Lady of Knock at the same place during the Mass, which generated a lot of tears. And there was singing and laughter at the post-funeral celebration.

So, goodbye Ted. You didn't know me. But you made me proud to be a Boston Irish Catholic Liberal Democrat. And, excuse me while I check on my kids.

Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted's Funeral

I am shocked and gratified that Ted Kennedy's funeral will be at Mission Church in Boston. My mother and her seven siblings grew up on Mission Hill and that was their church. It is the church in which my mother was baptized and married. I've spent a lot of time at Mission Church over the past year.

When my mother, who died four months ago, was sick last year and being treated at the Brigham and Womens Hospital only blocks away, I went to Mass every day at Mission Church before going up to the hospital to stay with her. On her darkest day, I and my siblings went to Mission Church to light a candle. We prayed that she be given more time - that we be given more time. Not that she be cured. We were simply not ready to say goodbye. That day she turned around and we had another year. And it was a very special year. My sister calls it "the miracle of Mission Church." I so wish she was around to see this.

Ted Kennedy

Senator Kennedy died today.  There will obviously be a torrent of words memorializing him.  I met him a couple of times at political events.  There is a picture of me meeting him in my office.  It is prominently displayed and draped in black today.  But I had no personal connection, whatsoever.  Still, I considered myself part of the extended "Kennedy clan."  As a liberal Boston Irish Catholic Democrat, I identified with him.  Of course, he was a whole different kind of Irish Catholic than I was, but I felt like he knew me. 

My fondest memory was attending one of his St. Patrick's Day fundraisers here in Washington.  His guest of honor was John Hume, the Irish politician who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Irish peace process.  He sang "The Town I Love So Well" and there was not a dry eye in the room, including Ted's.  He really wore his Irishness on his sleeve, which was one of the many reasons I loved him. 

I never knew the days of NINA (No Irish Need Apply) that my parents and grandparents experienced.  John Kennedy was sworn in as senator from Massachusetts 5 months before I was born and, outside of the flunky seat warmer who held the office before Ted was old enough to claim it, Massachusetts has been represented by a Kennedy in the Senate my entire life and I'm 56 years old.  I've never been anything but proud, even boastful, of my Boston Irish heritage.  And I think I have the Kennedys to thank for that, even with all their flaws.  Their commitment to causes beyond themselves is a proud family legacy, epitomized by Ted. 

I feel like a massive hole has opened up at the center of American politics that may not be filled in my lifetime, which makes me very sad.  I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Have to be Crazy to be Wrong

The New York Times has a story today about an opponent of healthcare reform from Georgia.  He's a very calm man who traveled an hour to attend a town meeting held by Congressman Sanford Bishop, (D-GA), described as a moderate who's undecided on the legislation.

Mr. Collier waited until the end of the 3 hour meeting to pose a comment to the Congressman urging him to oppose the legislation because it would lead to "rationing" and would, essentially, destroy our way of life.  The story depicts Mr. Collier as a sincere and honest man with genuine concerns about the reform proposals before Congress.  Presumably, this was an effort to balance against the loonies and to show there are real people with real concerns.  It, thereby, increases the credibility of the opponents.

However, the story goes on to say that it was Mr. Collier's personal experience with the healthcare system that moved him to attend the town meeting.  His wife contracted breast cancer and was treated apparently successfully.  But here's her story:
When Ms. Collier’s breast cancer was diagnosed three years ago, Mr. Collier’s employer-provided insurance paid for her office visits, a biopsy and three surgeries. But the insurer covered only a small fraction of her radiation treatments, which it considered experimental, leaving the Colliers with a $63,000 bill. To their great relief, the charge was later written off by Emory Healthcare, whose doctors had recommended the regimen.
So, the insurance company rationed her care.  It denied coverage for life saving treatment.  Yet this is the system that Mr. Collier is seeking to preserve.  Why?  How could he be so misguided?

Here's how:
The Colliers are committed conservatives who have voted Republican in presidential elections since 1980. They receive much of their information from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh’s radio program and Matt Drudge’s Web site.
That's the battle Obama faces. Ignorance, pure and simple, fomented by interests who's real agenda is to "break" this president.

Makes me sad.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Arms Race

So, now we have a pro-healthcare reformer coming to a demonstration with a sidearm.  Frankly, that saddens me.  I'd rather maintain the moral high ground in which only the conservative loonies bring guns.  It was a nice contrast.  Here's a picture of the guy, posted in TalkingPointsMemo.

Wouldn't you know it would be a Yankee fan?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Harvard beats Yale

I watched a great movie with my 19 year old son yesterday. It was a documentary on the Harvard Yale game of 1968. Fascinating sports movie. I'm embarrassed to say I was unaware of this game. But Harvard was supposed to lose badly and ended up tying, which was considered a major upset. In addition, they scored 16 points in the final 2 minutes to get the tie. Very exciting game. But the movie goes beyond the game to discuss the war in Vietnam and other issues of the sixties.

The Yale team included many of the characters who live on today in Doonesbury as Gary Trudeau was in that class. Tommy Lee Jones played on the Harvard team and has a lot to say in the movie. He's still bitter about a missed point after early on the game which would have given Harvard the win.

Good movie. Rent the DVD. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


There, I've said it. I am so proud of him for skewering a right wing nutcase at a town meeting.

I hope this gives some backbone to other Democrats.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I had a dream last night

Actually, it was more like a nightmare.  It was likely inspired by the rabid criticism Obama is enduring over the healthcare proposal.  I also wrote an email yesterday to my "teabagger" cousin exposing his hypocrisy in attacking Obama, but remaining silent over the crimes of George Bush.

In any event, I dreamed that there was a presidential election and George Bush beat Barack Obama.  Thinking of the Obama administration, I wailed "It was too short!"  In the dream, I wept bitterly and even woke myself up.

What a relief to realize it was only a dream.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crank it Up!

I am so sick of the mealy-mouthed response of the official Democratic spokespeople as they respond to the knowing lies that the conservative zealots are fomenting regarding healthcare reform. 

Yesterday, on Meet the Press, David Gregory asked Tom Daschle for a reaction to the accusation that the Democratic plans have "death panels" that would "pull the plug on Grandma."  He called the charges "hyperbole."  Hyperbole??!!  How about "boldfaced lie!"?  That's the problem.  On the one side, we have these wild charges that are treated as legitimate topics for debate.  And, on the other side, we have reasoned discussion and the media treats them as equivalent.

Yesterday's Post had a great column by Rick Perlstein entitled "Crazy is a Pre-existing Condition" that explores this issue with far more eloquence than I could.

And, today, we have good guidance from the Democrats from a TPM Reader.

It is more evidence that ignorance drives out intelligence in today's media.Technorati

Tags: ,

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

On the deck in Falmouth

Here's the view from the deck where I'm staying on Cape Cod.

Weather is overcast and muggie. Just narrowly avoided disaster when I almost put my eye out with a screwdriver trying to get the bike off the van. Lotta blood, but I can still see.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Stop Long Voice Mail Greetings

Here's a campaign I can believe it.  I had no idea that those long voicemail greetings that come after the user's greeting were a money-making scheme by the cell phone companies.

David Pogue at the New York Times is starting a campaign to get the companies to stop.  I strongly endorse this campaign and encourage you to do so, as well.

Here's Pogue:

These messages are outrageous for two reasons. First, they waste
your time. Good heavens: it's 2009. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO AT THE BEEP.

we really need to be told to hang up when we're finished!? Would
anyone, ever, want to "send a numeric page?" Who still carries a pager,
for heaven's sake? Or what about "leave a callback number?" We can SEE
the callback number right on our phones!

Second, we're PAYING for
these messages. These little 15-second waits add up--bigtime. If
Verizon's 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday,
Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year. That's your money. And your
time: three hours of your time a year, just sitting there listening to
the same message over and over again every year.

In 2007, I spoke
at an international cellular conference in Italy. The big buzzword was
ARPU--Average Revenue Per User. The seminars all had titles like,
"Maximizing ARPU In a Digital Age." And yes, several attendees (cell
executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail
instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime, thereby
maximizing ARPU.
This must be stopped!  Join the cause!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shatner as Palin

This is an absolute classic. Up there with Jesse Jackson reciting Green Eggs and Ham.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bye bye Barcode

Researchers have come up with another replacement for the barcode, called "bokodes."  It's the little circle at the center of the attached picture surrounded by the current suite of barcodes.  It can be read by mobile phones, leading to a whole range of new ways to shop.  By the coolest new thing is how it could be used with Google maps:

Dr Mohan said they could also be used to augment the information incorporated into Google Streetview, a service which allows users to browse a selection of pictures taken along city streets.

At the moment the images for Streetview - accessible through Google Maps - are collected by trucks and cars fitted with several cameras.

"Shop and restaurant owners can put these Bokodes outside their stores and as the Google truck is driving down the street it will capture the information in that."

For example, a restaurant could put menu information inside the tag.

When the data is uploaded to Google Maps, it would automatically be displayed next to the image of the restaurant, said Dr Mohan.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bill Gates Predicts the Future

In a speech in New Delhi, Bill Gates talked about some of the next breakthroughs in technology.

Mr. Gates spoke of cellphones that would recognize people around them or be used to test for diseases, computers equipped with voice recognition and an Internet that was used for much more than Web pages.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gates v. Crowley

Here's my view of the incident in Cambridge. Whichever of the protagonists I was, I would respond the same way.

If I was Professor Gates, I'd be royally pissed that a cop was hassling me in my own home. If I was the cop, I'd be pissed that this elitist jerk was hassling me for doing my job.

I could play both parts and it would end up the same way. In fact, it probably would have been worse because there would have been violence.


Here's the headline on the afternoon notice I get from CQ everyday:

House Leaders Say They've Met Concerns of Dissident Democrats

My spirits lifted.

Here's the headline you get when you click through:

House Dissidents Still Not Satisfied on Health Bill

It's going to be a long, ugly debate.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In the Loop - Movie Review

I saw a screening last night of the movie, In the Loop, in advance of its U.S. opening on Friday. It has already opened in the UK. I loved it! It is smart, very funny, cynical and very, very profane.

Set in Washington and London, it's a behind the scenes look that the bureaucratic machinations when two governments are scheming to go to war. It is clearly inspired by the run up to the war in Iraq and some of the incidents depicted will be very familiar to those paying attention to the maneuvers that were engaged to build the case for war in 2002 and 2003.

It is a dark comedy and the characters are larger than life. Peter Capaldi, apparently Scottish by his accent, is one of the great political characters I've ever seen in a movie. I've never heard of him before this movie, but I'll never forget him now. He is belligerent and arrogant and utters the most colorful curses you will ever have heard. James Gandolfini makes you forget, to some degree, about Tony Soprano, playing a tough general trying to avoid war. And, finally, there is Tom Hollender, playing the wimpy, cowardly British minister at the center of the action.

The script is brilliant and look for collections of the best quotes from the movie. It reminded me a bit of Yes, Prime Minister on steroids. And it moves so fast, I'm already anxious to see it again to catch some of the lines I might have missed.

Sadly, I don't expect the movie to be a massive hit. It doesn't seem to have the ingredients for wide popular appeal. For instance, there are no heroes. Everyone is either clueless or corrupt or both. But I do expect it to become a cult classic, particularly among political junkies.

Next year, at this time, I imagine there will be packed midnight shows in London and Washington.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Jean Gaetjens on Sailing

My friend, Jean Gaetjens, talks about sailing on a Hobie Cat in Montego Bay, Jamaica, July 3rd, 2009.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Benny Goodman's Centennial - May 30, 2009

I don't remember what got me into big band music. I think it was seeing the movie The Glenn Miller Story as a kid. While the movie was full of fiction, the music was a revelation to me. I rediscovered it in my twenties listening to it on an eight track tape while delivering groceries for Roche Bros. supermarket in Boston.

I do remember, however, when I became obsessed with with this musical genre. I took a ride on the "Dream Boat," which was a party boat that cruised in Boston Harbor in the evening with the Bo Winniker Swing Orchestra providing the entertainment. I went by myself, since I didn't know anybody else who enjoyed this style of music.

It was a delightful night. The music was great. They played all the hits. In the Mood, Take the A Train, Begin the Beguine, etc., etc. But I have to say that one of the greatest musical experiences of my life was when the struck up Sing, Sing, Sing, a thrilling 8 minute song with a drum solo made famous by Gene Krupa. It was the last song of the night and they timed it perfectly as the cruise made its way to dock. The boat was rockin' and I saw God.

Many years later, I saw Benny Goodman's last performance at Wolftrap in June of 1986. He died a few days after the concert on June 13th. I remember thinking during a couple of the hot numbers that he was risking his health his playing was so vigorous for a 77 year old man. Apparently, he was a pretty grumpy guy in person, but he must have gone out happy that he was playing to the end.

He was an incredible musician and his music never, never gets old.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I attended a lecture at the National Cathedral on Darwin and God.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wise Move

So, Obama gets panned for his decision to sign the final 2009 appropriations bill.  This is that rare situation lately where I know for a fact that he absolutely right and every single media critic is wrong.  The idea that he should get into a big fight with Congress over earmarks at this particular moment is totally crazy.  I'm old enough to remember when Jimmy Carter picked a fight over water projects early in his administration.  It was a disaster and he never recovered.  His relations with Congress sucked and he couldn't get anything done.  People who say Obama should have vetoed that bill are either ignorant of how Congress works or cynical.  Sadly, none of the coverage gives any coverage to Obama's legitimate explanation along these very lines.

The man is disciplined.  He picks his battles.  And can take the heat when he knows he's right.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I am so sick about the way this stimulus passage is being covered in the media.  It is so maddening.  The theme seems to be:  Obama has been given everything he asked for from Congress by passing an $800 billion bill two weeks after his inaugural.  How did he screw up??

Give me a break!!!  An unprecedented political accomplishment.  That's the story.

Josh Marshall, as usual, gets it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Maybe They're Starting to Get It

Talking Points Memo has this video, which suggests that maybe the pundits are starting to get it. As per my post below, it shows that Obama's winning.

Obama's Game

I like Josh Marshall's take on the press conference. He notes that, if you listen to Washington chatter, you'd think that Obama's position was unpopular or controversial. In fact, the public is behind him and stands in opposition to the Republican approach. This happened during the campaign, as well. The "pundits" would act as though Obama was in deep doo doo as a result of some perceived gaff. And the polls wouldn't move. He continues to surprise everyone with his command of the situation, every situation.

Here's Marshall's take:
What's most striking about these numbers is the continuing disconnect between the mood of the capital and that of the country. For me, a lot of that is a product of how Washington continues to be wired for Republican control. A president, and particularly one like Obama, is the one person who is in a position to cut through that.
As to the pundits' demand for bipartisanship and their indictment of Obama for failing to achieve it, again, I think he's a few steps ahead. He meets with Republicans on the Hill, invites them to the White House, makes seemingly grand gestures of conciliation and still they stiff him. And, even while he makes "nice," he slams them for leaving him the mess he has to deal with. I think he has the discipline to continue the outreach even while they stiff him. Over time, whether or not he concedes anything in terms of policy, he will continue to gain public support for his efforts. So, while the Republicans congratulate themselves for standing strong against him and receive their kudos from the Washington pundits, Obama lays in wait. At the appropriate time, like September of 2010, he will declare the Republicans hopelessly obstructionist and ask for more Demcrats and the public will give them to him.

Just watch.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Science ahd Religion

John Polkinghorne appeared at the National Cathedral today as part of the Sunday Forum to discuss science and religion. This is a topic that is dear to me and I've long admired Polkinghorne, an internationally renowned physicists, who became an Anglican priest at age 49. He is very British, very articulate and very persuasive in reconciling the worlds of science and religion.

Among his many provocative comments was his discussion of the nature of light being both particle and wave and comparing that mysterious understanding to the nature of Jesus Christ being both divine and human.

He also talked about "unseen realities" in both science and religtion, using quarks as an example from the physical world. No one has ever seen a quark, yet scientist believe firmly in their existence. Again, analogized to religious belief, which is "belief driven by experience."
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Agree with Reich

Robert Reich has an very interesting post on the strategic choice that Obama faces with his stimulus package. It has actually changed my thinking.

Here's the choice. Does he make it as big as possible for economic effect and roll the Republicans to get it enacted? Or does he work with Republicans, which will inevitably mean a smaller package that may not work? Paul Krugman comes down firmly on option one. Surprisingly, Reich goes for the second path saying:

Why would he ever choose the second strategy? Because his goal is not just to get the biggest stimulus package he can squeeze through Congress. It’s to get a Congress that’s mostly united behind whatever stimulus package emerges. This would ensure that Republicans and blue-dog Democrats take some ownership of the package, and therefore responsibility for making it work.

As partisan as I am, I agree with him. Clinton rammed through his economic plan, which led to 8 years of prosperity and he was rewarded with a loss of a Democratic majority in both houses. Bush rammed his through leading to vicious partisan divisions for his entire term.

Obama has got a long term strategy for making fundamental change in Washington. I agree with Reich that, while working with the Republicans might mean a short term loss in economic effectiveness, it could work to bring about the fundamental change that Obama has promised for the whole campaign.

Maybe he meant it?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Goodbye, Mr. Bush

In typical British fashion, the Financial Times gives the best requiem on the Bush Administration I have seen. Here's just one killer quote:
With his preternatural ebullience, fathomless lack of curiosity and disdain for empirical reality, Mr Bush compromised America’s reputation as a power that stands by the rule of law – giving real succour to an enemy he helped multiply.
But you have to read the whole thing to get the full effect.


I went down to my office today to pre-position my minivan for our getaway from the Presidential Swearing In ceremony. After dropping off the car, I walked over to the White House, which is only three blocks away. There were lots of people milling around and I could get surprisingly close to the reviewing stand for the parade. I checked my watch. It was 12:30 pm. Less than one day left in the catastrophic Bush Administration.

I have to say that this is the most consequential positive historical event in my lifetime. Words fail me. I find myself suddenly welling up at the strangest times. I ran into a colleague in front of the White House who was there with friends. She exulted, like everyone does, at how amazing it all is. When I began to talk, I choked up and had to cut the conversation short so as not to embarrass myself.

The picture is of the Corcoran Gallery where there is an exhibit entitled