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.