Thursday, December 13, 2012


            It’s been a long couple of weeks working on the streets and debris piles in Seaside Heights.  Sadness, pain, and loss cut through every minute of the day, no matter what you do or where you go.  The level and depth of destruction in this beach community is staggering.  You can be moved to tears throughout the day when you see the tattered remains of peoples’ lives and memories in piles along the curb or loaded into the backs of trucks on their way to dump sites.  People put down roots here and raised families and built lives that had value and meaning, and now it’s all gone.  That sadness hangs on everything.
            You see and hear about tragedies and natural disasters on the news, and for many people it hurts about as long as it takes to change the channel to “Dancing With The Stars”, “Storage Wars”, or some other idiotic reality show.  Life takes over for most of us and returns to normal, even with the best of intentions.  But for people up and down the Jersey coast (as well as in the Rockaways and Staten Island), life can’t just “go on”.  Not when everything you spent a lifetime building is gone like it never happened or was never there.
             But what comes back at me day after day, no matter who you meet, is the unwavering belief and conviction that we will rebuild.  That nothing will stand in our way – tough odds and hard work are no match for the kind of strength, resiliency, and toughness the people in this state own. Through the pain comes hope, strength, and courage.  Like a boxer in the late rounds of a fight, we took everything Hurricane Sandy had to give and we’re still on our feet, throwing jabs and punching our way out of trouble.  We may be down, but it’s only a temporary thing.
              Nothing can keep us down.
  That’s the real lesson from the debris piles.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Restore The Shore

If anybody needs me for the next couple of weeks, I'll be in a hard hat and safety vest- clearing debris in Ortley Beach, Seaside Park, and whatever parts of New Jersey need help.

More updates (and random angst and anger) when I return.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My City In Ruins

             Nestled between New York and Philadelphia, New Jersey and the people who live here, are the Rodney Dangerfield of the 50 states.  It’s been that way ever since the 13 Colonies broke away from England.  Mocked for everything from our accents to our attitudes, viewed with disdain and condescension by neighbors across both the Hudson and Delaware, this state is often the butt of late night TV show jokes.  People who don’t know anything about New Jersey think we speak like characters out of the Sopranos and only understand geography when we can attach a highway exit to the map.  Like the caricatures on a dumbass show on MTV or Real Housewives capture the essence of who we are.
            But New Jersey is more than oil refineries on the Turnpike and gridlocked highways filled with rush hour commuters.
            For those of us who were born here, who grew up here, or who live here, this state is much more than that.  We are 127 miles of coastline and sandy beaches, the untouched beauty of the Pine Barrens, acres of farms, and rolling hills.  We are generations of families who have built lives here and raised children and made a difference in the world, in big ways and small.  We are tough and resilient, filled with hard-assed attitude, and we know what it takes to roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty, and get the job done.  We are the best of all people. 
            We are a state filled with courage – brave, spirited, caring people who love our families, friends, and neighbors with a fierceness nobody else can match.  Our identity is forged in the strength we find in each other.  We are the gritty toughness of a Springsteen song and the beautifully written words of a Toni Morrison novel.  We are a state of farmers, fishermen, truck drivers, blue collar laborers, doctors, lawyers, and executives – sons and daughters of immigrants from all over the world.  We identify with the underdog, and cheer on those facing the longest odds and toughest journey.
             We are everyman.
            So much of what I learned in life, I learned growing up in New Jersey.  This state is a part of me and who I am.  I am proud to be from New Jersey – full of that unique blend of edginess, attitude, energy, and strength, and filled with a love for the people around me.
            New Jersey will rebuild and restore what this storm tried to take away.  The spirit we own can never be broken.  Don’t tell us how hard it will be and don’t try to stop us from doing what needs to be done.  We are about overcoming odds and taking on all challenges.
We are more than a punch line in somebody’s joke.
            We are what this country is all about.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But -

  • There are whole generations of people from across all demographic groups who have never taken the time to learn how to say, “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.

  • I haven’t always agreed with him politically, but there’s nobody at handling a crisis – at least one caused by Mother Nature – than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  Hands down, he’s the “lead from the front and get things done” kind of guy you want in charge

  • After riding out Hurricane Sandy, I’m not traumatized by the storm.  I’m traumatized by the indifference of so many people about the devastation it caused (substitute Katrina, Irene, tornadoes in the Midwest, the earthquake in Haiti, etc. for Sandy).  Too many people don’t care until it impacts their own comfort and convenience.

  • The randomness of fate and the power of Mother Nature are two of the biggest equalizers in life.

  • Writers write.  Plain and simple – if putting words on paper for others to read is your chosen profession (or dream – desire – passion), then suck it up, tough it out, and stop bitching about editing and rewrites and word counts.  It’s petty and small to hear somebody whining about the “rigors” of writing….go pour concrete, pound nails, or sweat on a highway work crew for a couple of months and change your perspective.  Shut up and write.

  • Anybody who knows something about football knows that Tim Tebow isn’t a serious answer to anything related to the sport.

  •  If the urban oasis by the sea that I live in is a microcosm of small town politics, it’s often the people from the “wrong side of the tracks” who show up at town council meetings to address problems like gang violence, drugs in the neighborhood, schools, and education for their kids.  They’re the ones who are taking steps to make things better.  The people who should do more because they have more are the ones who get involved only when it concerns dog parks and inappropriate bathing attire on the boardwalk.

  •  Cory Booker has future President written all over his resume (if not the Oval Office, then make room for him in the Senate)

  • There’s a kind of coolness to the music of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and Carl Perkins that never goes out of style – something that feels like the innocence of high school, fast cars, and the open road.

  • I believe that the worst of times can bring out the best in people, and that we can put aside our differences to work together and make things better.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  I’ll keep believing that until they carry me out of the room and turn off the lights.

My thoughts and prayers to my friends, neighbors, and everyone affected by the hurricane and its aftermath.  Stay strong.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Holding Back The Years

        It’s been said that you can’t go home again- that attempts to relive youthful memories always fail because time changes everything.  I used to think that too, but I was wrong.  Last weekend I returned home for my high school reunion, having missed every single one since graduation.  It was never intentional – life just got in the way.  A lot of years have slipped by and time has eroded memories, and I’m guilty of letting too many miles pass between hello’s, phone calls, texts, and emails, especially to many people who mattered 30+ years ago. 
In an instant the years fell away. 
For two days it was all about seeing old friends and missing those who couldn’t be there, catching up on the paths each of us had taken, sharing memories, and laughing about stories I’d forgotten (especially the ones that were horribly embarrassing).  As my friend Butch put it, we stopped being jocks, nerds, rah-rahs, and beauty queens and kings – instead we were just a group of old friends getting together again after too much time apart.  People say that you shouldn’t live your life looking in the rear view mirror and I’ve always believed that all that matters in life is what’s ahead.  But something has always pulled me back to high school, the friendships that were made there a long time ago, and the memories that still endure years later. 
I believe the friendships you make early in life are the ones you hold close – the same ones that can bring you home again.
            Those four years were a bittersweet period that few of us truly appreciated back then – a time of transition and change you could never wrap your hands around.  There were tears, fears, laughter, worries, heartache, and heartbreak twisted around classes, homework, and tests about subjects most of us had already forgotten by graduation.  Crushes, phone calls, and late night conversations with girls who saw you as a “friend” when you wanted desperately to be something more than that.  Football keg parties on Saturday nights, long classes spent watching the minutes fall slowly off the clock, and too many stupid, immature things that were said and done – the kind of things that still make you cringe years later (while hoping that God has a sense of humor about stuff like that).  Some of us even grew up a little.  Or grew up a lot.  You learned to love and you learned about hurt, and many of us forged relationships that remain strong years later.
            Over the past few months as the reunion took shape and many of us reconnected again, I loved how easily we all slipped back into comfortable grooves.  You spend so much time trying to get out of high school that you miss what you have beyond the classrooms and how special each friendship can be.  When we graduated we talked about the future as well as where we were going and how we would change the world, but last weekend it was nice to be reminded of where we started.  Age, or maybe maturity, has a way of making things clearer – at least the things that are still meaningful.
            When I drove home, I felt a familiar hurt – I wasn’t sure if it was nostalgia kicking my ass or the kind of sadness that comes from genuine, heartfelt good byes. 
Or maybe it was the realization that no matter how far you go or what you try to do, you can’t do any of it if you don’t remember where you came from.  And that no matter where you’re going, it’s the friends you have who make it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Day In The Life

It feels like only yesterday, but it’s been eleven years since over 3,000 people died in the September 11th attacks after terrorists hijacked and crashed four planes into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.  For many of us here in America, it was our generation’s Pearl Harbor.  A day none of us will ever forget.  A day that will remain burned in our memories forever.  A day when we lost more than loved ones, family members, friends, and neighbors – it was the day when we lost our innocence about terrorism.

Most Americans can vividly recall where they were when they heard or saw the news, and none of us will ever forget those images in the weeks and months that followed.   With the anniversary upon us, the news will again filled with stories detailing the horrors of that day.  Pictures and videos and news footage of the planes crashing into the Towers, fire fighters rushing into the buildings while others ran out, and the tireless work of First Responders from all walks of life digging through the rubble.

While my city was in ruins I was stranded 3471 miles across the Atlantic, concluding a relatively successful business trip in London.  For the life of me I can’t recall a single meaningful detail about the in's and out's of those meetings or what I did there – whatever importance and meaning any of it had disappeared that Tuesday.

But what I remember so vividly was that I wasn’t alone, even though I was by myself in a country that wasn’t my own.  From Grosvenor Square, where I signed a memorial book in the shadows of the US Embassy and wrapped myself in an American flag, to the streets of Kensington and Notting Hill where I wandered for hours, lost in thought and fears, Londoners embraced me as one of their own.  When people learned I was an American (I am from New Jersey after all, and although I don’t necessarily believe it, it has been said that in addition to our tough, edgy attitudes we own a distinctive accent when we speak), the outpouring of emotion from everyone I met was overwhelming.  I have never felt more welcomed by complete strangers, nor experienced that kind of friendship anywhere.  Strangers invited me into their homes.  Diners at adjoining tables in restaurants shared my pain.  People cried with me.  Londoners went out of their way to comfort me, grieve with me, laugh with me, and share stories over a few too many late night pints with me.  

In a city of strangers I was held with a ferocity of love I had never before experienced.

Over the past few years I’ve written stories about 9/11 and its impact on those of us who lost friends and people we knew.  Hardly a day passes that I don’t think about that day, friends who are no longer here, and what so many have sacrificed and lost since then.  That pain will last a lifetime.  But what I am always grateful for is the love from a city that embraced and loved me as one of its own.  For me, the healing began that week in London. 

London and its people will always own a piece of my heart.

Friday, August 31, 2012

By The Numbers

            The last few weeks have been filled with headlines about the Republican Convention, party platforms, women’s rights, and “forcible” and “legitimate” rape (What?  Seriously?).  One of the poster boys for some of these stories has been Missouri Rep. Todd Akin.  For anyone who has followed him with regularity, his comments should come as no surprise.  The man lacks humanity, compassion, and understanding….this is the same elected politician who has continually pushed an agenda that includes getting the Federal government to stop financing the National School Lunch Program altogether.  Forget the fact that according to Share Our Strength, a majority of teachers surveyed said that students come to school hungry because they are not getting enough to eat at home – this program and others like it have tremendous benefits for kids.  But to guys like Akin, it’s all about a bottom line based on numbers and nothing else.
A few facts for Akin and his budget buddies to consider:
·         ¼ of US children have chronic health conditions related to diet
·         22% of US children lived in poverty in 2010
·         ½ of US children get no early childhood education
·         14% of US adults can’t read

Since June 2009, the US economy has lost 300,000 local education jobs, and food assistance programs related to school lunches have seen huge cuts to their budgets.  Here in New Jersey, our governor has been at war with the teachers union since his election while claiming he believes in teachers.  Of course, increasing class size, freezing or cutting salaries, and refusing to fund educational programs while stating that money doesn’t matter, doesn’t demonstrate much of that “belief” in those same teachers.

It’s easy and sadly simplistic to point a finger at teachers and say, “they make too much money.”  That they “need to do more with less”  That’s a common theme guys like Christie and Akin and Paul Ryan like to champion, but it fails to recognize the value of teachers and the impact each teacher can make in a kid’s life.  Almost anyone can find it in themselves to teach a class once.  Doing that day after day, week after week in ways that consistently engage kids is the tough part.  And one of the most valuable things teachers do every day.  We can all remember that teacher who made a difference in our lives – the one who encouraged, supported, believed, and even kicked our ass because they saw potential.  I don’t remember parents when I was in school saying that those teachers were overpaid the same way nobody ever says doctors and nurses are overpaid when you’re laying on a table in the ER.  If you listen to the budget droids in Washington and our state capitols – the same guys who see numbers like the kid in The Sixth Sense saw dead people – teachers are overpaid and over valued.  Guess we value business hucksters and corporate shills who outsource products and jobs more than the people who hold our children and our future in their hands.

As a country, we need to make tough choices to balance the budget and reduce the deficit, but cutting investments in education and programs that provide related assistance for low income families isn’t one of those choices.

In a nation that can’t even agree on the necessity of providing healthcare for all its people, agreeing on some kind of policy for education is a lot to ask.

But no strategy for education isn’t really a plan.

And while I’m at it, special thanks to: Agnes Armao, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Feder, Mr. Rouse, and Miss Rittenberg (who kicked my ass repeatedly throughout grade school).  You guys made a difference, even if I didn’t know it back then.

Friday, July 27, 2012

This Might Get Loud

“I hope that…we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country.”
President Barack Obama – 7/22/2012

“The White House has made clear they’re not going to use this horrific event to push for new legislation.  I agree with them.”
House Speaker John Boehner – 7/24/2012

“This is not the appropriate time to be grandstanding about gun laws.”
NJ Governor Chris Christie – 7/24/2012

It has been a week since the shooting in Aurora – a week filled with mourning, sadness, outrage, and sound bytes.  Last Friday morning we learned about the shooting and experienced a few long, hard, uncomfortable hours while waiting to hear from our daughter who lives in Denver.  She’s the one who would think nothing of going to a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, even on a Thursday night.  Our concern and worry gave way to fear and anxiety as the hours passed, until she finally called to let us know she hadn’t gone to the movies and that she was okay. 

Sadly, the parents and families of other kids didn’t get that same phone call and are now left with emptiness, devastation, and memories - incomplete lives snuffed out too early by a lunatic with an assault rifle.  You never think it will happen to you and your family, but then it does and your world gets ripped apart in ways that can’t be fixed.

The reality of life in this country is that none of us are safe any longer.  Not at school.  Not walking on the streets.  Not in a parking lot.  Not at home.  And not in the comfort of a suburban multiplex.  Each year almost 12,000 people lose their lives to gun violence – over 30 people each day.  Although the right to bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment and has been upheld by the Supreme Court, our Founding Fathers never could have imagined the need for assault weapons when they carved out the Bill of Rights.  We can argue and debate the practicality and semantics of the Second Amendment, but there is no reason for anyone outside of the military to own an assault weapon. 

Governor Christie said that we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  That we need to wait and mourn and reflect.  Let more time pass.  But if now is not the time to push for stronger gun laws, especially those that outlaw assault weapons, when exactly is the right time?  Nothing happened after Columbine.  Or the shootings at Virginia Tech.  Or Fort Hood.  Or when Gabby Giffords was shot.  Did anyone complain that we rushed to judgment after 9/11 when lawmakers acted quickly with new legislation and took actions that eroded privacy, eliminated due process in some cases, allowed racial profiling, and took intrusive steps that limited our freedoms?  I cannot even walk through airport security with taking off my shoes or emptying coins and keys from my pockets, but I can buy an AR-15 assault weapon and all the ammo I need without more than a cursory background check.
Just in case I want an AR-15.  And thousands of rounds of ammo.  Because somebody’s interpretation of the Constitution says I can have one…..what if I want a bazooka?

The President said, “My daughters go to the movies.  What if Malia and Sasha had been at that theater?”  But he doesn’t get it – each one of those victims at the theater was somebody’s child.  Somebody who had a life worth living.  Those were our daughters.  Those were our sons. 

All of them were our children.

Obama could have fought to support a Democratic bill that would have reinstated a ban on assault weapons that the Bush Administration let expire, but instead he chose to turn the other way.  He’s choosing to do nothing now.

He’s my guy and I support his presidency, but some times he pisses me off like every other politician does.  We don’t need politicians who understand our pain.  We need leaders who can take action and fix things.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President-

It’s been a while since you heard from me – in case you forgot, I’m one of the 69,456,897 who voted for you 3+ years ago.  Like many others, I bought into “Change You Can Believe In” hook, line, and sinker.  But that change thing isn’t working out the way we thought it would.  There’s a serious problem going on in this country and you may not even be aware of how bad it is or how many people are affected.  We need jobs.  People are out of work.  Families are hurting.  Children are hungry.  Joblessness has created homelessness.  The economy is in a crash and burn mode, and none of us see anybody inside the Beltway offering real, tangible solutions that will make things better.
So here’s a little advice:
You need to define your presidency by putting people back to work.  Don’t wait until after November when you’ve had your one on one with the gun-slinging capitalist out of Massachusetts.  Do something about creating real jobs now.

Bush the 1st once spoke about “that vision thing” and we all know how his re-election worked out, but you need to get to work on “that job thing” right away.  There’s a lot of talk from Washington about putting people back to work – a lot of back slapping at your own campaign site about tax incentives for small businesses and tax breaks for clean energy.  Investments in manufacturing technologies and patent reform that will bring inventions to market faster.  Seriously?  That’s it?  That’s the sum total of our economic solutions and remedies?  Show that to the guy who just ran out of unemployment benefits after 99 weeks – the same guy who is over-qualified for most jobs he applies to and is unsure which way to turn next.  The guy who is looking at food stamps and welfare because he’s out of options and out of luck and out of work.  I don’t think he really cares about tax breaks – all he wants is a job and a steady paycheck.

That guy can’t take tax incentives to A & P for groceries.

FDR had his New Deal, and from my perspective, things aren’t much different now than they were back in the 1930’s.  The New Deal faced vocal conservative opposition.  So will anything you choose to do.  So what?  Do it anyway.  Get over to Capital Hill and do some lawmaking on jobs and the economy, and if you have to go all LBJ on the opposition to makes things happen, do it.  FDR’s Public Works Administration worked with private companies to build over 30,000 projects like bridges, buildings, tunnels, airports, and roads – we have the same kind of infrastructure and mass transit needs now that we did back then.  Give that same out of work guy a hammer, nails, and a paycheck and let him get busy.

We all wanted to believe in the American Dream with the house, lawn, two kid family, and upwardly mobile status.  We all want to believe that things are getting better.  We all wanted to believe in hope and change.  Hope is a good thing but the guy who is out of work and out of benefits can’t take hope down to Chase or Wells Fargo and use it to pay his mortgage. 

That bright and shiny future we once believed in is a myth. 

It all comes down to jobs.  That’s the only solution we can believe in.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trampled Under Foot

The Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) is due any day now.  No matter which way the Court goes (and from my POV it’s not about how many people like it or hate it – it’s about the constitutionality of the legislation which has already been ruled on by the US Court of Appeals), the Court has already lost much of its public trust.  There’s no surprise in that.  No surprise either that many people believe the justices decide according to partisan politics rather than legal precedents.   We continue to be a country divided in many ways.

We are polarized – each side is entrenched in political “rightness” that says to the other: “I’m right – you’re wrong, and nothing you have to say has any value.”  In our not too distant past people could disagree yet still respect each other AND the opinions others had to offer – in Congress some foes occasionally crossed the aisle to offer non-partisan support on key issues and laws.  Those days are gone.  Imagine important legislation like the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 coming up for a vote today…..back then it passed both the House and Senate with almost 70% of the vote, even though the Congress was split 59/41.  The days of cooperation and shared common goals are so far behind us in the rearview mirror that they feel like they never really happened.

We as a country have lost many of the intangible things that at one time made our country great.  Our history is one written with stories about diverse cultures blending together and shared sacrifices that solved problems, won wars, cured diseases, and achieved greatness – now too many of us spend our time looking over our shoulders in fear, worrying about boogey men hiding in the shadows while we tweat about the Kardashians and J Lo.  Instead of caring about our neighbors we judge them by their ethnicity or religion or political views or sexual orientation.  We define ourselves by our political views and wrap ourselves in those beliefs, and those who don’t fit within that framework because of differences in skin color or ideology or hundreds of other reasons become our enemies.

In many ways we are a morally bankrupt society, and the hope I once had for fixing those problems continues to slide away…..

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.  The first step in solving problems is recognizing that they even exist. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tears, Sadness, and Grace

Most of the time I use this space to rage against something that has me on edge.  Usually there’s nothing I can do to change anything, and although “getting it off your chest” is supposed to be therapeutic, I’ve learned it doesn’t work so well for me.  But writing has always helped call attention to problems or issues, and that creates dialogue and steps, which can lead to solutions.  Anger has its place.
This time it’s different.
This time there are no conversations.  No solutions.  Nothing to do to make things “better”.  Just emptiness and hurt.
I heard from friends today that someone I grew up with had passed away.  We grew up in the same small town where everybody knew everyone else, and we became friends through the randomness of the alphabet and classroom seating charts.  In grade school you were assigned seats based on your last name, and most times your closest friends were the kids who sat around you – depending on class size, someone with a last name beginning with “D” could have D’s, E’s, and F’s in front and back, and L’s, M’s, and N’s alongside.  Dawn and I were together in almost every class from first grade into high school.  We shared milk cartons and snacks.  Laughed at stupid jokes.  Copied off each others' test papers.  Passed notes when the teacher’s back was turned.  Dawn was a good student.  A cheerleader.  An athlete.  Popular.
She was the kindest, friendliest, sweetest person I knew, and for the life of me, I cannot remember a time when she wasn’t smiling.  Her smile lit up a room and made everything better.
Most of all, she was a friend.
People say that death – especially when it’s a friend or loved one – has a way of making each of us face our own mortality.  That's supposed to be scary but it doesn’t scare me.  What scares me is the realization that the world becomes a lesser place – a truly good person has left, and her death creates a huge void that cannot be filled.  When that happens a flood of emotions and memories come at you, and you try to hold on to as many as you can and hope they don’t fade away as the years pass.  You remember smiles and laughter.  The kind words you shared.  The depth and warmness of her heart.  But it makes the hurt harder and the loss more painful.
 If I could wish for anything, it would be to always remember the kind of person Dawn was and become that person.  But I know I am not that good.
I thought this post would be different but it’s not – like always, I am still angry.  I’m pissed off at God and the arbitrariness of loss and the painful memories of things that are gone – things we can’t get back.  Pissed off because I don’t understand why people like Dawn, who are good and beautiful and kind, die and we’re left with a bunch of reality show pretenders in a culture that worships excess and bad habits.  Mostly I am pissed off and sad because I will miss her, even after all the years and through the miles that have passed between us.  I will miss the warmth of her smile and the beauty of her character and the kindness she had for everyone she met.  I will miss the way she made me feel better when I didn’t even know I wasn’t as okay as I pretended to be.  I will miss her friendship.
R.I.P. Dawnie – you will always be a bright and shining light for all of us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Box of Dreams

The number of things I believe is often exceeded only by the list of things that piss me off.  High on that list is our nationwide obsession with turning every holiday into some kind of unforgettable consumer shopping experience while distorting its meaning (see earlier rants/posts about Christmas, Easter, and Father’s Day).  Another day to buy things we don’t need, don’t want, and can’t afford…….

It’s Memorial Day weekend.  For most of us that means sand, sun, surf, picnics, and nightmarish traffic on all roads leading to the beach, mountains, or resorts.  War movie marathons on cable TV.  The Top One Thousand Greatest Song lists on the radio.  Maybe a parade or two with high school bands and town officials marching down Main Street, then a little flag waving before piling into the four door big body and hitting the barbeque.  Between bites of hot dogs and hamburgers and smearing Coppertone on skin that hasn’t seen sun since September, you might read a story or two about the meaning behind Memorial Day.  Might even pause for a moment of reflection before popping the cap off another cold, frosty Bud before trying to figure out how to beat the traffic and get home earlier than everybody else.

But before you hit the Parkway, consider the costs of Bush/Cheney’s War of Adventure:
  • Over 4500 US military dead
  • Over 32,000 wounded in action
  • Nearly 1/3 of all troops returning from military service in Iraq or Afghanistan have experienced a traumatic brain injury, OR meet criteria for major depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Only half of those troops seek treatment.
  • Only half of that number receive care that is minimally adequate.
  • Every 80 minutes another US veteran kills himself.

Memorial Day is more than the start of summer (and if you’re Mitt Romney, more than the opportunity to put on those white pants he's so partial to at weekend photo ops).  It’s a day of remembrance for those who died in military service to our country.  It’s a day to remember that some times the injuries you can’t see are just as deadly as the ones inflicted on the battlefields.  A day to remember that the sacrifices and service of so many have given each of us the freedoms we enjoy today.

And it's a day to say "thanks," even though "thanks" isn't nearly enough.

And while you're at it, check out: Wounded Warrior Project and Restore Warriors.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Won't Get Fooled Again

So JP Morgan Chase takes a $2 Billion hit after playing fast and loose with shareholders’ assets, then misrepresents those same losses to investors, and all Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon can offer is a half-assed “oops?”  For years Dimon has been one of the Wall Street elite who rails against increased Federal regulations like the Volcker Rule, arguing that the same regulations his bank seems to routinely skirt are what’s preventing Wall Street from fueling our country’s economic recovery.  People are struggling to pay their mortgages, feed their families, and make ends meet, and guys like Dimon act like fat kids locked in the candy store overnight.  Now we’re to believe that if elected, Mitt Romney will ride into the White House like some kind of modern day Jedi Knight, cutting away even more of those nasty regulations that have supposedly impeded Wall Street’s role in saving America.  Another big business cowboy waving an American flag and talking patriotism while championing that sacred strategy favored by big money guys – the one that involves companies running up debt, cutting jobs, streamlining operations, and then selling off the assets at obscene profits.  Except that Romney and Bain Capital’s legacy was never about creating jobs, unless it’s the jobs Bain created after Romney left.  Even after Wall Street drove our country into the belly of a recession we hadn’t experienced in 75+ years, guys like Dimon, Romney, and Bloomberg in New York act like Wall Street has all the answers to our problems.  Business as usual.

We’ve been told that things are getting better but we know that’s not true.  After three years in the White House, the growth that President Obama and his economists say is occurring is hard to see.  Not with 8% unemployment and gas prices hovering close to $4.00 gallon across the country.  Or with increased homelessness and poverty all around us.  Not when another Iraq or Afghanistan veteran kills himself every 80 minutes – the same soldiers who were sent to fight a war that has drained our country of money that might have been better put to use re-building our infrastructure.  And not when the income gap between the “have’s” and “have not’s” has widened to epic proportions, and so many more people are closer to the bottom than the top.

We were all raised with the belief that if we worked hard we could each live the “American Dream”, but we know that is not true.  Not now.  Not anymore.

And we’re getting very pissed off.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Be The Difference

Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Highest on the list of things that piss me off this week (beyond the Tayvon Martin case, the Supreme Court debating and deciding health care, the usual political ineptitude in Washington and points elsewhere, and Dick Cheney getting a new heart) is the new film: BULLY.  This is the movie that is part of the Bully Project which is being distributed as an unrated film by the Weinstein Company because the MPAA decided it deserved an R rating due to its strong language and violence.  Specifically – the word “FUCK”.  The Hunger Games (which is no doubt a good movie and made $155 million at the box office last weekend) gets a PG-13 rating even though the premise has to do with kids killing kids in a futuristic sci-fi world.  Bully gets an R because the film’s content deals with real violence between real kids in the real world.  And because of several instances of bad language - specifically that world “FUCK”.  Seriously?  What the fuck?  Walk through any high school or hang out at the mall for thirty minutes and listen to kids – the word is so over-used so often that it has lost its shock value.

This is a film every kid over 13 should see.  As well as every parent who has a kid over thirteen or might some day have a kid who will be over thirteen.  This is a film meant to inspire advocacy, engage conversation and solutions, and empower people who are bullied (AND their families AND people who too often stand by and do nothing).  Hunger Games will inspire sequels and rip-offs and knock-offs.

On a completely different note, I believe that friendships are one of the most important things we carry with us.  Having spent the past few days re-connecting with old friends and high school classmates, I believe that although time might erode memories, the strength of those friendships endures no matter how many years pass. Even though the fast cars have given way to sedans and mini-vans, and running around all night has evolved into watching our kids and grand kids running around soccer fields, it doesn’t take much to flash back to the familiar joys and pains of high school.  And know that inside there’s still a part of each of us that misses those days….at least sometimes….