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hitting the fanI don’t think there was any doubt going in that it was going to be a grilling session during Tuesday’s Senate Hearings on the alleged fraud perpetrated by Goldman Sachs, but could it have gone any worse for them than getting confronted right out of the gate by an internal email describing one of the products they were peddling as “one sh*tty deal?”  Yes, it actually went there, and that tasty morsel became the de facto description of Wall Street’s dealings that would be repeated with vigor all day long.  Too bad it will live on mostly as the bleep heard ’round Wall Street, but you know it must’ve felt kind of good for some of these Senators to finally get a chance to call a duck a duck, without having to toe the politically correct line, instead toeing the “your words, not mine” line.
 
Sen. Claire McCaskill got in on the fun too, she conjured up bookies and enforcers in a fashion that would have made Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci proud, almost putting a forearm to their collective throat wanting to know about the “VIG” aka the “Juice.”  The casino and betting analogies would also haunt the rest of the day, much to the chagrin of Daniel Sparks, a Goldman Sachs Mortgages Department Head from ’06 to ’08.  He tried to get out of that scrum repeatedly, but finally succumbed in the end, under protest of course.
 
So what did we really learn?  We learned that there are ways to talk for hours and say very little of consequence.  We learned that Sen. Levin succinctly summed up the day when he said, “You’ve not answered the question as best you can, so let’s move on.” 
 
But a few nuggets did of course shine through.  We learned that the words blame and fault were on the never-ever-accept list handed out by their defense attorneys.  We learned that a bonus structure that rewards people extravagantly when they do a poor job is not considered unethical in the world of Wall Street.  We learned that “Market Makers” can burn the candle from both ends and have no moral problem with leaving everyone else holding the middle when the flames meet - if they can get away with it. We learned that the art of moving and transforming money itself is our biggest American business, while making actual products and realizing revolutionary innovations are quickly becoming a smaller and smaller piece of the American pie. We learned that going forward, Computer Forensics in Manhattan may be a very good business to be involved in, judging by the chaos and accountability all of those “discovered” emails brought to light.  We learned that Wall Street definitely needs a new sheriff in town because they are only wrong if they get caught, and we learned that we better get over this self-defeating political showmanship going on in Congress right now and get some new rules of the road in place for the new sheriff to enforce…NOW!
 
Daniel Sparks did cough up one hard truth though when he was backed into a corner to offer his thoughts about what went so terribly wrong and almost sent our nation and likely much of the world spiraling into a full fledged depression, after several attempts to not answer yet another direct question, he finally yielded “credit standards got too loose.”  That’s it in a nutshell folks, and the way out is going to be a lot more painful than any of us really want to accept. 
 
We all know how disproportionately the monetary wealth in America is distributed, very few have most of it and the many are fighting over what’s left.  Unfortunately, what’s left is far too often not enough to go around and so, the credit beast was born.  This particular beast is insatiable and it is as sinister as anything a nation can ever face. It is when times are bleakest and at their worst that this beast is fed the most, growing larger and more uncontrollable, gaining in strength and ferocity with every scrap thrown its way. But, eventually, and by design, there will always come a point when the beast’s appetite is larger than the meal you are able to provide to placate it.  This reality applies to everyone, individuals, small businesses, large corporations and governments. And once a scent trail leads to you, this beast will always return, wrecking more and more of your life until it gets its meal, or your soul, in full. 
 
Containing and controlling this beast and the inherent mind-set that provides its sustenance, more than any other aspect of our economy, is going to be the Herculean task that needs to be undertaken.  And yes, it will take some real modern-day heroes to lead the charge, armed with new, stricter regulations on the free-for-all Wall Street has become for starters.  It will take heroes leading by the example of deeds and actions, not empty posturing and talk.   Taking responsibility will have to start with the hero in our own mirror and wind all the way up the chain to all of our legislators and not stop until it reaches President Obama himself. 
 
In my view, the vicious cycle the credit beast preys on must be finally addressed. Credit can be wrecked in a day and it can take years to repair, magnifying exponentially even the smallest infractions and turning them into the very impediments that keep people from being able to climb out of the hole on their own.  If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you normally start out by draining your own savings nest egg, but this time it wasn’t enough.  So you may turn to a credit card to bridge the troubled times, but if those troubled times go on longer than your credit could afford, say because of a global financial meltdown or an event like 9/11 that reaches far and wide, you miss a payment.  Now crazy fees start to pile up and  the minimum payments quickly get even more out of control, compounding the problem, and more payments become late or missed completely.  You’ve tried to find a smaller place to tighten your budget, but the renter asks for a credit report and your report now says you are a bad risk, so you have to cross another place off the list and continue getting swallowed by the mounting debt you simply can’t afford right now.  This whole time you are looking for a job, but your potential employers also ask for a credit report.  Well, guess what, you are too big of a risk to employ now.  
 
Is it really any wonder so many people just finally give up and give in and end up relying on tax payer dollars to survive? If you’re treated like some kind of common criminal often enough, eventually you start to believe that of yourself and your pride and character have taken such a hit, with no path to redeem yourself visible to you, that you just don’t care any more.  But, let’s say you managed to get back on your feet through some kind of divine intervention and pay off your debt, does the social stigma and limitations  caused by bad credit vanish as fast as they appeared, not by a long-shot. So how about some kind of Wipe-the-Slate-Clean act that would allow for some type of fast-track path to credit redemption.  You want to invigorate the credit markets? You want to help whittle down unemployment? Give people a fair shake at getting back in the game, even if life has thrown things like unavoidable illness or joblessness their way. Give them a reason to hope, a reason to try, and a reason to wake up and take on life again with zeal and enthusiasm.  This is not meant for the people that live to game the system, but for the honest, decent, hard working folks that just got caught up in an unavoidable circumstance that could really use some kind of break to get on back on their feet and regain their shattered dignity. 
 
But now that I’ve gone off on a personal tangent, let’s get back to the battle at hand.  Since a recent Wall Street journal poll showed almost two thirds of Americans unified in anger that Wall Street needs reform, and we couple that with the fact that we have a bill waiting to be debated in Congress that is 80% to 90% percent agreed upon by both parties, what in the world is the hold up? How can anyone dare to stall just having a real debate about Wall Street Reform in the light of day?  That is the only way we can all weigh in with our voices to our legislators if we think the solutions they come up with are off track. The beasts we are facing should have been confronted yesterday, but weren’t, so enough with blind political obstruction already, it’s time some real work finally gets done.  After all, isn’t that why we elected them?
 
Whether you personally like him or not, this much is fact, our democracy chose Barack Obama to lead our nation, and barring some unforeseen calamity, he will be in the driver’s seat until at least January 20th 2013. He sold his vision of the future America should strive for on the campaign trail for almost three years and a majority elected him into power to accomplish it.  But he can’t do it alone. 
 
 If you think we can wait to address anything of real consequence until 2013, be it the monumental tasks of job creation, Wall Street Reform, Climate Change, Renewable Energy, or Immigration Reform, go back and hide under the rock you call home because you must be crazy or ignorant and you certainly aren’t going to be much help to anyone that thinks the future should be met with progress, not stagnation. Just please quit being an obstacle if you are not willing to be part of a solution and let the wheels of progress turn, hopefully with both parties giving it their all to seize the moment and make tomorrow better for everyone, even for those of you wracked by fear of the unknown that need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
 
The truth is, the sh*tty deals will all hit the fan eventually, and we’ve seen some whoppers already. It’s time to decide if you want to be in front of it, or behind it, when the sh*t hits again. But, if we can all stand together and not bow to the petty personal things that divide us like race, gender and party affiliations, maybe we can finally put an end to the fan-fodder once and for all.
 
How good would a day like that feel?  As pleasing as a cool breeze delivered by a clean fan on a hot day.  Much better than the alternative, don’t you think?
 
 
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scalesI’ve recently found myself having second thoughts about the Tea Party Movement. They are not the threat tof the Democratic Party like I first imagined, they are its savior.  Not only are they destined to fail by design, they are going to drag the GOP right into the black hole with them, until the GOP throws them under the bus that is.  But, if the tone-deaf strategy the Republicans have embraced going forward after getting shown the back of Obama’s hand on Health Care Reform is any indication, not only will they not see the bus coming, they won’t even know there was a bus until they read about it in their government-paid-for intensive care suite.
 
Now I must first admit, I hadn’t taken the time to look into the Official Site of the American Tea Party Movement  because the vile behavior I’ve seen on display at some of their rallies already made my mind up that I am not even remotely cut from the same cloth.  The fact that they tried, and are still trying, to adopt the wayward Sarah Palin as their matriarch was also a distress flare so bright that a welders mask should be required to look directly at it.  But, I finally succumbed to the same primal urges that somehow compel me to peek at the carnage of a car accident as I’m slowly being waved by.
 
 
When I arrived at the site, the first thing I noticed was post after post of user submitted content, with topics about things like Global Warming alarmists, Castro-Care, American ignorance, Satanic Obama defying God in Christian America and a slew of others topics that are just so bang-zoom-to-the-moon out there to me, I actually found myself feeling pity above all else. But maybe that was just the luck of the draw, maybe I happened to make my first visit when the lunatics were rioting for control of the asylum.  So I went straight to the horses mouth, the mission statement. 
 
Clocking it at just over 500 riveting words, the breadth of this glorious proclamation intended to define a movement can be further condensed to these three phrases, Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets. In the name of fairness, you can read the whole thing yourself here .  It should take you all of three minutes to peruse the whole thing.  Personally I was hoping for more from a movement that claims to find its roots in the mold of our founding fathers, because those guys could really lay on the eloquence whenever their pen hit parchment. 
 
Here is the problem though.  Where do they stand collectively on the society-defining major issues? Will they paint over their Pro-Life posters when it’s time to discuss the death penalty?  Will they be able to put a straglehold on the White Supremacists and Anti-Semite groups  that are using their rallies as a recruitment smorgasbord when the time comes to air their views on immigration and civil liberties? Will they successfully toe the line between the “tyrants” of our freely elected democratic government and their contradictory position that it is not actually a government of the people, by the people and for the people?  Will they embrace the fringe of their movement that are forming militias and contemplating acts of domestic terrorism?
 
They don’t know, they don’t have an answer.  They don’t have a leader and therefore no singular place to direct these kinds of questions, no one voice we can be directed to that can stand up and say THIS is what we are all about on any given issue.  They are of course against such hideous and violent idealism when called to the mat, yet they are powerless to control its spread within even their own ranks without a hierarchy in place to condemn or support such actions. 
 
At this moment in time they are an exercise in irony.  Their biggest mouth-pieces right now are the bottom dwellers that are the poster children of hypocrisy.  People like Mike Vanderboegh, the guy who started the window breaking business at Democrat offices in the aftermath of the Health Care Reform vote, a guy that is living on the very government entitlements that he was forced to “fall back” on after a congenital heart problem made it impossible for him to work, all the while sticking the concept itself with a pitchfork every chance he gets, a guy whose brother is a US Army Lieutenant Colonel that calls the US government the enemy!   
 
And don’t even get me started on these fools painting Hitler moustaches on posters of President Obama and calling his an agenda of Nazism, standing and walking shoulder to shoulder with some of the same pathetic hate-peddlers that emblazon themselves with swastika tattoos from toes to forehead and consider Hitler’s birthday some kind of solemn holiday, talk about hypocrisy.  In a logical world, shouldn’t they instead be bowing before Obama if they idolize and bear the mark of the guy they are so desperately trying to make him out to be?   These are the nuts falling from the nut tree right now and the gathering nets are filling up fast, all the while suffocating any struggling saplings that may have had at least some kind of reasonable hope to grow into a stout, respected tree on the American political landscape.
 
 
The GOP knows it too, they see in vivid color the backlash winding up.  They are very worried about the Tea Party fracturing the purity of their far-right-from-center conservative base as they watch them lock horns with the same, albeit loosely defined at the moment, conservative idealism of the Tea Party Movement.  To even loosen that once immovable cornerstone of the Republican party would be a harbinger of disaster.  But, at the same time, they are attracted to the fiery activism of a somewhat-allied grassroots movement like a moth is to a flame.  They saw firsthand the awesome force of the grassroots movement Obama started during his historic election and he’s been kicking their collective backsides with it ever since, and they are now desperately seeking their own foil to his power.  In the back of their minds though, they keep seeing what happened to the curious moth, so they have mostly kept the Tea Party at arms distance as best as they could so far, but the day is quickly coming when they are going to have to finally squeeze, or get off the pot. 
 
If the Tea Party movement doesn’t swallow its own tail and finish the meal itself before November arrives, the Republican party is going to have to swallow whatever portion is left, and that will spell heart burn and upset stomach.  It will also cause those moderate and independent voters of a more delicate palate to be forced to find sustenance elsewhere. After all, it wasn’t spicy or novelty foods that made McDonalds number one in the world, it was the food that goes down easy, standard menu items that a great majority can bring themselves to swallow.  Our democracy bends to the same rule.
 
When Sean Hannity calls those at a Tea Party rally ”a bunch of Tim McVeigh wannabes,” and they CHEER?!!?, most of the center lane starts reaching for the left blinker, the images of dead and anguished Americans doesn’t sit very well with true patriots and they don’t want anything to do with it, no matter how much they may have embraced some of the Tea Party’s basic principles and idealism concerning what the role of government should be in our lives.
 
Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party’s infatuation with her, is another wild card that I don’t think bodes well for the GOP.  If there is one thing time has testified to when it comes to Sarah Palin, she loves to follow the spotlight around and the almighty dollar has no truer servant.  When the flame of fame starts to dim, and by extension the money quits rolling in, she will more than likely reach for the kerosene bottle to get things going again, Palin-style. 
 
I think that time will come when she inevitably finds it aligns with her best hopes for staying nationally relevant to finally step up and wholly take the reins of the Tea Party, and she will be taking a good portion of that conflicted conservative Republican base right along with her.  If they make her an actual candidate next year to run for the presidency on a third-party ticket, I assure you the scales of Demos vs the GOP stand no chance of tipping in the GOP’s favor. Even though the plurality of Americans from both parties think Captain Crunch is more than on par with Sarah Palin when it comes to taking the wheel of our nation to navigate the swirling, reef-laden waters of Washington, she will still tug at the heartstrings of the Tea Party faithful and siphon votes from the GOP. 
 
So, to tie everything together, if the Tea Party can keep themselves relevant, and that will require naming some kind of leader eventually, the GOP is going to lose a good chunk of their most stalwart conservative supporters, and that’s bad news in political contests that are often won and lost by a razor’s edge. 
 
If, on the other hand, the Tea Party consumes itself, most of the now vocal and FOX recognized “Tim McVeigh wannabes” are going to be forced to pick sides, and they are going to naturally gravitate to the same place they have always been, locked and loaded for the GOP, which means no net gain at all.  They will simply have managed to take the long scenic route, paying high tolls for using the road in the process, only to end this journey at the same starting line they have always just walked up to for free in the past. 
 
But, do you think the worst and loudest elements of the Tea Party are going to ever magically close their mouths now that they’ve tasted the national spotlight of recognition? I don’t think so. And this will end up costing the GOP, in a guilt by association scenario,  the centrists needed to win big elections, a crucial group that they’ve had moderate-to-good success wooing in the past.
 
So what do you think?  Is the Tea Party movement really a threat to President Obama and the Democratic Party? To borrow a line from the queen bee Sarah Palin herself, I’m now thinking, “Hell No!” But it is one heck of a torpedo aimed at the USS Republican and it looks like sink or swim time is quickly approaching.  If they choose to swim, it is going to have to come in the form of participating in actual governing for progress instead of blind, status-quo obstructionism, it will be the only way they can hope to stay afloat, and that in itself would be good news for all of us looking to move forever forward.
 
I never thought I’d say it, especially without wincing, but here goes … ”Gooo Tea Party!” 
 
 
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trenchesRep. John Boehner may just get his Armageddon after all, but the only thing he had right, is that the horseman delivering it is indeed President Barack Obama.  I’m not talking about an extinction-event kind of Armageddon, I’m talking about a bruising round of defeats that are going to leave his Grand Obstructionist Party of the last year pummeled.
 
The worst news for the GOP?  It will come in the form of an army of their own making, an army whose essence is sustained from the negative poles of “No.”  Note here to Sarah Palin, you better get some nail polish remover because you’re about to have to change the notes on your hand, “Hell No!” is going to get you nothing more than one big headache from here on out.  
 
This move on drilling was held close to the vest in Obamaland, because timing is everything, and I think it is slowly coming to light that Barack Obama has the timing of a trapeze artist. He is fresh off of a victory of historic proportions.  He did what everyone said couldn’t be done, and he did it in spite of Scott Brown and the odds, cementing himself as a reformative President no matter what happens from here.
 
What better time to shake some trees, gather some low lying fruit, and move the property line a bit, so that at the end of the day you’ve got more bushels of fruit to take to market than your neighbor does come November.  You know the neighbor I’m talking about, he’s the one that is standing around perplexed, “didn’t those trees used to be on my side of the line?”
 
This stance on drilling should not have come as a surprise to anyone.  All the way back in August 2008, Barack Obama said during the campaign that he would be open to expanding “some” drilling in an effort to pass comprehensive, bipartisan energy reform.  He sold the greater good of it then, and he will again.  But just like clockwork, the second this was announced, letters started flying in from incensed environmentalists and the far left of the democratic base.  How could he?  How dare he?  My, what difference a week can make.
 
The strategy though, is as simple as it is brilliant.  Look at this like an old fight in the trenches during WWI.  You’ve got two sides slugging it out in close quarters, looking to gain mere inches at a time.  That’s where we’ve been since the Health Care Reform battle wound down, dug in deep.  Even before their fruitless efforts to stop Health Care Reform at every turn, the Republicans had already devised their battle plan for the next great war, the war of November 2010.  The standing order is something along the lines of surrender nothing, give no victory to this opposing general that has already tasted more glory than they ever imagined, and stand united, no matter the cost.  Anyone not following these simple orders will be sacrificed by the RNC come campaign time. Then it is simply battle of wills, something the Democrats have flinched on too many times in the past.  They have had trouble when they were relentlessly worn down by an entrenched opposition and have far too often been defeated in the inevitable bayonet fight, a form of combat the GOP have proven much more proficient in, until just recently.  It also happens to be their only real  alternative because their supply of munitions has been running dangerously low for awhile now. 
 
But now, Obama gives a seemingly out-of-the-blue  order to abandon a forward trench, relieving the tension on that line, changing the complexion of the fight, leaving no enemy for them to target.  As presumed, Rep. Boehner takes the bait straight away and instantly let’s loose the same ol’ battle-cry …  No Way!, Not Enough!  Take that land!  No Mercy! 
 
Funny thing about trench warfare though, the trench itself is your only protection if you’re outnumbered.  But as expected, one by one curious heads start popping up over the fire line to take a look, if for no other reason than sheer curiosity.  Their position has been getting shelled forever and the quiet now is eerily unnerving.  
 
Slowly the cheers start. They’ve retreated! They’ve ceded precious ground!  When the news makes it to the Dems at home, they are livid. Why in the world would the general that proved himself so resolute, fearless and successful in the last historic battle cede such precious ground now?. What could he possibly be thinking? And so, the aforementioned letters start pouring in.  They’ve started to doubt the general on the field, giving even more courage to the enemy, fracturing the support at home. 
 
This is where the fight stands today.
 
Well Dems, environmentalists and anyone else that found themselves screaming at their computer or TV upon hearing the drilling news from Obama himself, let me to try talk you in from the ledge.  The troops that disappeared from that forward trench didn’t simply vanish, they have quietly been repositioned on both flanks.  They are hiding there in the fog of war, barely detectable, waiting to see the whites of the enemy’s eyes. And because of your vocal unease and fever pitch, the now emboldened opposing force is going to do what comes naturally, they are going to be tempted to crawl out from the cover of their trench and move forward to take that abandoned ground, and they will suffer heavy casualties in the open space between.
 
Hopefully they will be smart enough not to deploy Mustard Gas in the ensuing panic, because you just never know which way the wind will be blowing from one moment to the next and that could spell big trouble for every single one of us.
 
Now, I may not be an all-knowing dinosaur of the political scene like some of the other talking heads out there, but I have followed every single step of Barack Obama since 2004 and this is what I believe to be true.  On his watch, not one single drop of oil will be extracted from anyplace in America that is not producing oil right now, but a comprehensive energy reform bill focused on a sustainable, renewable future will be realized.  I also believe the GOP is going to have some big image problems in the foreseeable future that is going to change the political landscape from complete partisan gridlock into something more conducive to actual governing and progress. 
 
So beware of all the doomsayers and media spin of today, there is a method to the madness, I’m sure of it.  Remember, those same dinosaurs told me Barack Obama had no chance in Iowa, no chance against Hillary Clinton, no chance to weather Reverend Wright, no chance against the republican war machine during the general election, no chance to pass Health Care Reform. 
 
Yet, here I stand, with our defiant President, right on all counts.  So, have a little faith, what you see may not be what you get, it may just turn out to be another masterfully designed distraction in our struggle to move ever forward against all odds.
 
 
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Eric CantorMr. Cantor, you owe me a watch.  At first I thought I would be able to hold it high enough to spare it from its eventual fate, but today you had a little help from your party cohorts to fill the room with just too much of the brown stuff for me to save it, a chair to stand on wasn’t enough and I couldn’t get to the ladder in time.  Feel free to divide the bill among yourselves, because you are not alone in causing the damage, but you sir decided to be the mouthpiece of this new,  ludicrous Republican spin, so I guess that puts you front and center.

 
I listened in amazement to your address on Thursday, March 25th  as you filled the airwaves with the same ridiculous Republican hypocrisy that has nearly brought any hope of real progress for our nation to a grinding halt.   So let me take this opportunity to say…”ENOUGH!”
 
Let’s forget for a moment that you got on your belly and decided to slither beneath even the lowest lying branches of decency, as you tried to cleverly wrap yourself around the Pandora’s Box of religious fear-mongering that so conveniently can always be found in the low-lying places you like to inhabit of late. 
 
Let’s forget for now that you gingerly tried to constrict it just enough to crack the lid, so you could release a much needed distraction from the very real, hateful behavior we can all plainly see inching along to a destination of unthinkable atrocities. 
 
Let’s also forget that the Richmond Police told you before you spoke that the fearsome imagery you invoked of a bullet targeted at you because you are a Jewish-American, was actually from a random act of gunfire into the air that may just as easily have come from one of the nut-jobs that Sarah Palin so thoughtfully implored to “reload.” 
 
Let’s even try to forget the juvenile behavior your “distinguished” colleagues shamefully displayed on a day all eyes were closely watching American history unfold.
 
And finally, let’s throw every shred of dignity under the bus and forget the lessons of good sportsmanship we’ve all been taught in America as far back as our fist days on a recess field playing a game of kickball.
 
But, we can only forget and forgive so much!  A mere 48 hours after you took the podium to direct harsh critisism at the victims of such vile hatred, the very same two individuals that were chosen to carry the Republican banner to the highest office in the land during the last presidential election, spoke volumes about the wretched, instigating behavior you and your party either can’t, or won’t see.  A voice of dissent exercised his right to speak up while the enigma that is Sarah Palin was speaking at a rally for John McCain.  Instead of rationally addressing his concerns, she told him to “stick around…and learn somethin’.” 
 
Now I’ll concede that Sarah Palin is not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to discussing actual policy, and that droppin’ a “g” here and there is the way she weaves her connective tissue to “Joe Sixpack,” but that’s not the problem I’m admonishing you and your party for Mr. Cantor, it’s the 90 seconds that followed that threw the coal into my now stoked fireplace.  I have no idea where security was at an event of that size, but the crowd decided to take matters into their own hands.  The Wrestle-Mania matinee went from the very top of the bleachers all the way down to the exit door, with spectators, not security, putting their hands all over this young man like self-declared bouncers.  See the video yourself here.
 
What did the woman that almost got within a heartbeat from the presidency do from the podium while this unacceptable episode played out right in front of her?  Absolutely nothing.
 
What did the man that almost became our President do from his perch right behind her? Absolutely nothing.
 
It was a sickening display of leadership.  It was another couple of nails added to the coffin of Republican dignity and earned respect you seem so determined to bury.  It is this very kind of spinelessness that I would call fanning the flames of reprehensible behavior Mr. Cantor.  It is high time you and yours quit kicking the can down the road and stand up to the problem instead of making excuses for it. It is time you start setting an example by deed and word that your countrymen should aspire to follow, instead of constantly acquiescing to the lowest common denominator.  It is time you quit the misdirection game of playing spin-doctor and start exemplifying honor instead.
 
President Obama had his own heckler in Iowa recently.  A young man was vocally angry about a component he felt was missing from the Health Care Reform bill that just became law in America. What did the President do?  He acted like a statesman.  He told that young man that there’s no need to shout, then he addressed his concerns, not once, but multiple times throughout the rest of his speech, not with vitriol and a snarky attitude, but with decency and respect for his opinion.  That is how you lead Mr. Cantor, that is how you capture the hearts and minds of those listening and put them right beside you on the high ground we should all try to inhabit.
 
While I am certainly not a Republican, I don’t wish for your party to implode, my America would only suffer if that happened. I know you’ve all been doing your best lately to keep America lashed to a 19th century steam-powered locomotive, but most of us are ready to board a Maglev-bullet-train into the future.  So what I do wish for, is an end to the ridiculous game-playing, an end to the daily finger-pointing, and an end to the utter hypocrisy you seem to have embraced. Only then can the real work of governing, the work you were all privileged enough to be chosen by your constituents to do, finally become realized.  Only then will you be helping move our nation forward.
 
Just in case my effort to get through to you is on a frequency you just can’t hear, let me put it in self-serving language you may understand.   Who do you honestly think America will gravitate to in November?  The party of “No?”  The party of “Hell No?” Or the party of “Yes We Can,” more recently know as the party of “Yes We Did!”   We can do great things working together for common causes Mr. Cantor, and the day I see that finally sink in, I’ll start addressing you by your full and proper title, but not one day before.
 
 
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Enterprise damagedThis week, Health Care Reform was, at long last, signed into to law in America.  While this particular episode of tomorrow’s History Channel took over a year to film, the final cut is going to play like a great Star Trek episode.  
 
Fan or not, we all know the characters and we all know the situation will eventually be desperately grim, and the chances of survival will be infinitesimal at best.  This moment comes when a Klingon Bird of Prey suddenly de-cloaks and sends a Scott Brown proton torpedo, along with some well placed laser fire, right into the unshielded hull of a caught-off-guard Enterprise. 
 
Federation President Obama himself happens to be on board and as a Commander-in-Chief that had proven himself worthy of battle in the past, he takes charge from the Captain.  He immediately calls for “shields up” but the damage is already done and it is immense. With the red alert now blaring on all decks, panic breaks out among some of the crew.  But the President remains unfazed, he has his Vulcan half to thank for his temperament, and his logic. The damage report reveals breaches on many decks. 
 
They had started this mission with a skeleton crew and already had barely enough bodies to man the 216 stations it would take to arrive at their planned destination.  The first crew count was sketchy, roughly 200, it was impossible to tell how many were lost for good and how many simply lost their way in the smoke-filled chaos.  Warp drive was lost and there was heavy damage to the weapons stations.  The crew was losing hope, they started to give up.  But with his uncanny ability to feel their pulse , President Obama’s very human core takes over and he opens the comm channel to all decks. He talks with passion, his words bring about a calm amidst the turmoil, he reminds every soul on board of their mission, he reminds them all why they signed up and how each of them promised themselves they would act in the face of insurmountable odds, he reminds them of pride, honor, dignity … and sacrifice. Always a student of history, he invokes Lincoln to paint the strongest stroke,  ”we are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.” 
 
The comm starts crackling with chatter, the voices of the crew thought lost to the carnage start checking in. Engineering reports they will have warp drive up shortly, the weapons systems start coming online, and all stations are now manned, with three souls to spare.  The Enterprise is back in the fight! 
 
You know the rest, President Barack Obama makes his rendezvous with history.  He and his crew are granted a brief reprieve to reconstitute themselves in a fragile sanctuary. He and his crew boldly go where no president has gone before… 
 
But just as the climactic ending starts to wear off and our pulse returns to normal, we hear that oh-so-familiar refrain, “Stay tuned for clips from next week’s episode.”  And I must say, it looks like one heck of a scary ride.
 
The Klingons are mad as hell, turmoil and dissent are spreading on the home-world. The escape of the Enterprise from their clutches has damaged the very essence of the Klingon empire, their pride. They have broken into family factions, and while they have all been part of the Federation of Planets for some time now, they have always loathed the weakness of the Federation’s current leadership and their constant strive to pursue social justice and equality.  In a Klingon mind, war is always the right answer, sheer brawn triumphs all, compromise is forbidden, and the weakness exemplified by mercy and compassion is a plague that must be contained at all costs. 
 
From the hallowed high council floor, a bellicose Brigadier Boehner incites his home-world, vowing to fight the Federation’s agenda tooth and nail in the halls of power, every step of the way.  He calls them liars, he calls them corrupters, he calls them thieves of Klingon treasure, he admonishes them on every front imaginable. 
 
But one of the families that make up the empire, a family that has been slowly growing in strength, doesn’t think words are enough.  This family had tried to organize around a matriarch in the beginning, a simpleton from the northern lands named Commander Palin, she was launched to prominence when Admiral McCain surprised everyone by announcing her as his second-in-command during his failed bid to become President of the Federation, but she had thus far refused to completely take the reins, although she did leave the door open in case future events would dictate such a move could serve her own self interests.  So instead of a tight knit family with purpose and direction, it was more like a headless monster, wobbling along, with family members of lower standing and recognition trying their best to seize control through tactics of fear and terror.  
 
Fanatical nobodies start crawling out of the woodwork in the vacuum of power, riling up the mob mentality with talk of militia, revolution and weaponry.  The sting of defeat started to allow the tone of defiance to evolve into the actions of treachery. The division of idealism saw the chasm grow wider. 
 
How will things turn out?   Will the President and his crew be able to withstand the confrontations they are sure to face on their perilous trek back home though hostile territory?  Will their precious cargo survive the trip?  Will the Federation stand?  Will the Klingons acknowledge the possibility of an alternate path to a better mutual future?
 
Stay tuned to find out!
 
Now that I’ve had some fun taking creative license to blur the lines of fiction and fact, and I got to have a little chuckle inside from the images in my mind of Rep. John Boehner with tussled hair and crooked teeth, launching spittle as he rants , or Sen. McCain with long flowing hair and a moustache, or Sarah Palin (sorry,  I don’t know what title to give her these days, adventurer, author, huntress, commentator, wilderness girl, almost-full-term-governor, Tea Partier?) with protruding skeletal features on her forehead, and of course the hint of those points on our President’s formidable ears,  I do want to make sure that the message itself  is not taken lightly.
 
The sad truth is, there really are misguided fanatics out there like Mike Vanderboegh, a self-proclaimed revolutionary militia leader, part of a small group of lunatics that seem to be gathering on the fringe of the Tea Party movement.  It’s not a rumor mind you, I heard his words myself in this interview
 
Somewhere along the line, these geniuses jumped the tracks from the righteous fight of our Revolution for Independence from a real tyrant, and landed on another track of our history, the Civil War.  You know, only one of the darkest pages of our past that saw American brothers dying at the hands of one another.  
 
He actually said their ranks comprise of 3% of America’s gun owners, 3 million muzzles that can be pointed at the hearts of tyrants, and he actually advocates getting good and prepared to do just that! 
 
Well, I’ve got news for Mr. Vanderboegh, 3% is not a very mighty number when your talking about a slice of pie.  When a person threatens to take aim at the heart of another citizen because they failed to have the majority voice in a civilized democracy, it is not tyrant-hunting, it’s treason, and I know how America will respond.  I just hope they skip a few chapters to the back of the book on the Civil War and see how it ends before they go and do something stupid. 
 
Just to help them along, America has fought on this ground before.  The Union, the banner under which the federal government fought, was led by a noble man by the name of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican I might add, and they fought for the ideals of equality and social justice that still define our nation today.  The Confederacy, a band of 11 Southern states that declared secession from the Union, was the enemy of that government, but their undoing proved to be numbers, Southern “Unionist” armies formed in every Confederate state, sapping the strength of the Confederacy from within.  So if you and your cohorts really want to tread this dangerous ground Mr. Vanderboegh, I advise you to take a good look at the size of the piece of pie in your hand, because I assure you, I’m not the only one that would stand in opposition with the ability to  snuff out a candle at 100 yards. 
 
But let’s be wise enough not to repeat that dark chapter of history, shall we?  Today’s America is better than that.
 
  
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Fiery Obama“The character of our country.”  With those words the final line on the health care debate was drawn in the sand by President Barack Obama at a raucous, campaign-style rally on the Friday before history would be decided.  
 
After over a year of heated debate, after over a year of enduring every dirty trick in the book thrown his way by a desperate opposition trying to frame health care reform as a vehicle to socialism, bankruptcy, or worse, Barack Obama rekindled the fire that launched him to the highest office in the land and captivated the entire globe in the process.  Yes, the Barack Obama that made millions of disillusioned Americans stand up and believe in “Yes We Can” again was back, front and center!
 
For a man with a slight frame and narrow shoulders, he proved without a doubt that what you see can be quite deceiving. On this day he heaved the Democratic party, and a nation spiraling to disaster, right up onto his back and proved that his sinewy limbs may very well be able to tote the load right across the finish line to a victory of historic proportions.
 
The character of our country, that is what is being decided Sunday for the world to see.  I’m reminded of a powerful scene in the movie A Few Good Men.  Two Marines were on trial for following a “Code Red” hazing order from a superior officer that left one of their fellow, weaker Marines dead.  When all was said and done and it was proven that the two were following a direct order, a basic principle they were trained to adhere to without hesitation or question, they were still charged with conduct unbecoming and discharged from their service.  Baffled, one of the Marines turned to the other and asked why they were still being discharged, it had just been proven that they were simply following orders, just as they were supposed to.  The other Marine thought about it and said, “we didn’t do what a Marine is supposed to do, we didn’t stand up for the little guy.” 
 
That is, and always must be, the character of our nation.  That is the code our selfless men and women in uniform embody.  That is the code of our American character, the character that leads us to fight tyranny and oppression wherever it is found, be it on our own home soil or far away lands.  That is the character of our American ideals and it is what makes us the beacon of hope the world turns to for guidance and support in trying times and the example by deed we hope they will follow.  That is the character that every legislator granted the privilege to carry our voice to the halls of power must always strive to adhere to.
 
The opposition to health care reform is a formidable force.  They use their constitutional right of free speech to give an amplified voice to despicable vermin like Rush Limbaugh, a man so pitiful he used his pulpit to denigrate an eleven year old boy that chose to take up the banner of his now-dead-mother and carry her voice to the battle at hand. 
 
Or another blight on humanity like Glenn Beck, a disgusting man that uses his soap box to preach the same kind of wretched fundamentalism that culminated in four ghastly fireballs exploding into our collective consciousness on September 11th 2001.  What noble purpose can he possibly hope to serve by waving around the swastika of Nazism, or the hammer and sickle of Communism, symbols that still instill nothing more than fear and hatred? What kind of person uses the imagery of tyranny and oppression as the tools of progress other than those our collective American character has always chosen to fight against, and defeated, time and time again?
 
That is not the imagery we need to paint, it does not speak to our character and it certainly doesn’t speak to the very real suffering that millions of hard working American families are enduring each and every day, with their legions growing by the minute .  If you want imagery to encapsulate the true magnitude of the choice before us, imagine the coffins of those that could have been saved, imagine their grieving families putting those coffins in the ground, torn apart by the anguish of losing a loved one. Imagine the family that’s living in their car because they chose to save their child instead of keeping their home. Now imagine if it was your own family bearing that cross. Now that would be more appropriate imagery.
 
So today I ask every legislator with our future in their hands to ask themselves the real underlying question and look past the theatrics and chicanery meant to befuddle and confuse, to look past the flawed logic that is being trumpeted from the mountaintops to cause paralyzing fear.  I ask them and every American to look at this vote and choose if they are willing to strengthen the character of our great land, or unravel it.  I ask every legislator not to look at the future though the lens of their own career, but through the lens of little guy that needs their help.  I ask them to show the strength and courage it takes to fight for what’s right, and the fortitude and resolve to see it through to the finish.
 
The character of our county is at stake right now. There are not many alive today that were around when this fight started.  Will our children and theirs perish before we show the true colors of our character and do what’s right?  Or will we help our President tote this mighty load across the finish line as early as tomorrow and start a new chapter in the history books?
 
Yes, the character of our country, that is the question at hand.
asteroid impactMy wife asked me the other day why I like to watch disaster movies so much.  No one in the world knows me better than she does, no one knows better the time and energy I’ve sacrificed to give my best effort to make at least some kind of small difference for the betterment of our collective future without the luxury of material compensation.  So she was baffled that I could possibly take pleasure in the catastrophe and mayhem that would follow an asteroid pulverizing a good portion of our planet, or the unbridled chaos of an alien invasion bent on the extermination of our species, or the upheaval and anarchy that would ensue if a virulent plague would indiscriminately ravage the globe and rob us of society as we know it today.  I would like to share my answer with all of you, with the hope that you may look at today with a slightly altered perspective, and that tomorrow, for all of us, will see brighter days to come. 
 
Hollywood is masterful in the way it brings vivid imagery to our most primal fears, no one does it better.  We’ve all had thoughts of “what if?” We’ve all wondered how humanity could possibly endure terrors of biblical proportions. We’ve all wondered if mankind would find a way to survive and how our civilization would look once we weathered the worst of the storm only to find that everything we know, everything we trust, everything we believe, has been turned inside out.  We’ve all wondered how the human spirit would endure,  how we would rebuild a new tomorrow when the comfort of yesterday was ripped from our grasp, how our most basic faith would survive.
 
It is the answers to those questions that magnetizes me to the genre.  It is my unshakeable trust that goodness and decency would see their finest hour if we were left with nothing to depend on but each other,  that’s what  wills me to watch.  It is my unwavering belief that collectively our moral compass doesn’t really need an arrow to point the way, that even without one we would all find ourselves instinctively stepping on the same path forward, that’s what keeps me coming back.  It is my desire to see the superficial dividing lines of race, national origin, or religious beliefs get wiped away by the powerful tide of the oldest human condition, the basic need to survive, that’s what  makes me gravitate to such tales. 
 
History has tested us all before, and no nation, or empire, has ever been spared.  We’ve seen hatred manifest in holocaust, we’ve seen tyranny evolve to genocide, we’ve seen arrogance unleash racism and sexism, we’ve seen heinous carnage in the name of the one thing that is supposed embody the best qualities of our character, religion, and somehow it continues to this day. Yes, we’ve seen the darkest sides of mankind. 
 
But, when Hollywood decides to torment our psyche with visions of an apocalypse at our doorstep, we all know deep down inside what it will take to ensure the continuity of our very existence, a unified stand that coalesces around our better angels, finally free of the deeply etched lines that divide us from one another.  To see that brought to glorious life on the sliver screen, that’s why I watch.
 
Lady Destiny knows our history too, but she gives us an opportunity every day to change our stars, she unrelentingly offers us her greatest treasure, the freedom of choice, and all of the magnificent possibilities that those choices could afford us if we choose to embrace the wisdom learned from past mistakes.  The question today, and every day to follow,  is what will we do with her gift?
 
America, today we find ourselves at just such a crossroad.  While the ramifications of the calamities we all see heading our way daily may not be as instantaneous and awesome as a gargantuan piece of the heavens on a collision course with the blue planet we all call home, they could prove just as potent and lethal for far too many of us that find ourselves inching our way toward the edge of the abyss.  If we choose to turn a blind eye once again, no soul will be left un-ravished, no individual will be untouched, and no dream will remain unscathed.  
 
In 2008 we found ourselves gripped in the life and treasure-draining torment of two far-away wars, the materializing specter of another great depression, and the indignity of joblessness claiming more and more of our fellow Americans by the day.  In 2008 I, and most of you, heard a man vocalize those fears, we saw a man with vision put his finger on the problems and fill us with the possibilities of hope for a better tomorrow. In 2008 we chose that man to lead our great nation, not unanimously of course, but with a strong democratic majority.  In 2008 we reached for Lady Destiny’s gift and chose a new course, a course that was breathtakingly simple, a course that was achievable, a course that we knew was right. 
 
When President Obama took the helm, our great American sailing vessel was already in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle and all of our navigation equipment was spinning out of control.  But instead of giving our new captain the authority to chart the direction we chose him for, we got panicked by the rough seas and decided to turn on the emergency radio for assistance. For some reason we chose to tune in to the very same station that had landed us in that foul harbor to begin with, and the minority of doom-sayers started to feel empowered.  All of a sudden, a crippling mutiny was, and still is, afoot. 
 
To make matters worse, Main-Stream-Media decided to open that sinister channel on all decks with unparalleled volume, giving pure repetition the ability to masquerade as truth, no matter how much farther off course it would send us.  I can only hope this deficiency of real truth won’t prove to be the 21st century version of scurvy that robs us of the strong-minded and able-bodied souls that we will need to man all the ropes and sails.   After all, we are all in this boat together, and like it, or not, we will all be voyaging as one until we find a new port to shelter us from the storm, as long as we can avoid finding the bottom of the ocean together first.
 
When we voted Barack Obama into office, we knew he wanted to reform our health care system and make it work for every American, we knew he wanted to create a new future by creating millions of green jobs and breaking our dependence on foreign oil, we knew he wanted to make a world-class education accessible to every American without regard to their financial station in life, we knew he wanted to end the misguided war in Iraq and bring the fight to those that brought the fight to our soil instead, the ones hiding like cowards in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we knew he wanted to lessen the influence of special interest money in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to the workings of government, and we knew it was the right thing to do, we knew it was the right choice.  Why are we so busy now making the journey all the more difficult?
 
So I ask you America, what’s it going to be? Is our tale going to end in blackness and oblivion?  Or are we going to follow the lead of the great patriots of our past that bled for us and gave everything they had to make this an epic tale about what’s best in each of us, a tale about compassion and spirit, a tale about courage and honor, a tale about self-sacrifice and perseverance that deserves to be called an American epic? 
 
Scene one is about health care and it’s being written right now.  What’s it going to be America?  Will we fail under the self-imposed burdens of partisanship, or rise to the grander challenge together? Will we be blinded into tilting at windmills, or will we see clearly and overcome the real obstacles in our path?
 
Lady Destiny is waiting for our answer, for better or for worse. So, what’s it going to be?
The Road ForwardIt seems that many Americans tune right out when they see another story about health care these days, so I’m not going to make this a story about health care.  Instead,  I’m going tell you a tale about a dream and two buses.  I hope it delivers the point I feel compelled to make.
 
It’s like I’m trapped in a dream, a dream so vivid and real I find myself questioning if I’m awake or asleep. It starts with me finding myself crammed in a crowded bus terminal with scores of other Americans waiting for a bus, any bus, to arrive at last.  We’ve been huddled together for the last fifty years, watching one bus after another just pass the terminal right on by, but now, finally,  after the eternal wait, two buses pull in together, but neither is marked. 
 
Desperate to leave the station, I spring to my feet to go ask the bus drivers what their destinations are.  I’m filled with hope that this miserable way station will soon be behind me once and for all. 
 
So I approach the first bus. It’s old, dusty and dented and has obviously seen a lot of hard miles.
 
I climb on and pose my question to the driver, “What’s your destination?”  The driver sets his beaten cap back on his head and says, “This bus is on the road to a new beginning. You should know before deciding on which bus to take that on this bus there are going to be many stops along the way, there will be bumps and potholes, curves and traffic.  This bus is always crowded, we’ve got nurses and mechanics, teachers and plumbers.  We’ve got hard working couples and single parents,  we’ve got seniors and students, and a whole bunch in between, all of them doing what they can to make ends meet. Since there are so many that need to ride this bus, the fare will be what you can afford and no one will be turned away. I should also tell you that we will be stopping for anyone broken down on the side of the road and offer them assistance or even a lift.  If we happen to break down along the way ourselves, we’ve got all the tools with us we could possibly need to fix any problem that arises, but we will be asking everyone on board to work together to get us back on the road and you may have to get your hands dirty. Our destination is the journey itself – we’re going that way my friend.”  He points his calloused finger through the grit covered windshield and adds with a smile, “forward.”  Not knowing what to think, I thank him and climb off for the other bus.
 
This bus is different, this bus is shiny and clean.  This bus looks sleek and fast. This bus not only has a driver, but a tour guide with a microphone sitting right behind him.  This bus has air conditioning and little plasma TVs on the back of every wide, comfortable seat. This bus is really, really nice. 
 
So I pose the same question to the driver, “What’s your destination?”  This driver doesn’t answer the question, he just shrugs and points over his shoulder to the tour guide holding the microphone and says, “don’t ask me, I’m just the driver, the guy with the mic tells me where to go.” 
 
Mr. Microphone takes his cue and starts his well polished pitch, “Welcome friend, you’ve come to the right bus.  I heard you ask where this bus goes, well, that’s the beauty of it, this is an express-liner that is going exactly where we know you want it to go.  There will be no stops along the way, no delays, no traffic and you will feel like you are driving on air. We mainly cater to captains of industry, CEOs and leaders of business, so there is plenty of elbow room and we have spared no tax dollar to guarantee a comfortable and enjoyable ride for our select clientele. Our fare is simple and affordable, only one crisp, new, three dollar bill.  If you don’t happen to have one, have no fear, we will gladly sell you one for five dollars. Should we experience any unexpected trouble on our journey, you will be comforted to know help is just a cell call away, I have the best cell phone money can buy right here.  We will have a highly skilled team on the spot in no time and be right on our way. If you want to arrive in style, this is really the only choice.”
 
That’s all I needed to hear.  After 50 years in a crowded room with stale air, only one word popped in my head and just as quickly escaped from my lips, “Sold!”  I reached into my pocket and found four singles and enough change to make five because I certainly didn’t have a three dollar bill. It’s all I had left, but this was going to be well worth it.  It was a meager price to pay for such comfort and luxury.
 
As I made my way to my window seat, I was pleased that no one had sat down next to me when I heard the hiss of the doors closing.  I looked around and counted six other people, well dressed professional types, all sitting relaxed and in comfort.  From my seat I had a view of the other bus and had spent the last few minutes mesmerized by the chaos.  So many people were trying to squeeze in, there were kids running around, and they had a devil of a time trying to get an older gentleman in a wheelchair up and onto the bus.  But the driver I spoke to was on the case and had a few husky men from the bus get out and help lift him in.
 
Their bus got on the road before ours.  We were still getting a speech from Mr. Microphone detailing all the frills available to us, champagne, sparkling water, roasted duck, filet mignon, and 4 spacious bathrooms for the seven of us.  Our seats could fold open into beds and there was even a Swedish masseuse available at no charge.  Ahh, this was the life.
 
I was so comfortable and relaxed, I must have dozed off, but I was awakened by Mr. Microphone and felt the bus starting to slow down.  “If you were wondering if you made the right choice choosing our line, let me draw your attention to the roadside just up ahead.” 
 
There was the other bus, broken down on the side of the road. They had blown a tire and caused some damage to the underside.  We had slowed to a crawl so everyone was sure to have a good look at what they were missing.  I noticed a few passengers getting the spare, another working the jack and the mechanic I had met at the terminal sliding under to see what he could do.  The teacher was leading the children in a game to occupy them and the nurse was caring for the elderly gentleman in the wheelchair that seemed to be having difficulty in the desert heat. 
 
“Shouldn’t we stop to help?”, I asked. 
 
Mr. Microphone took on an arrogant tone and said,”This is an express, remember?  We don’t stop for anything or anyone.  They made their choice and picked that bus, and now they are just going to have to live with it.  I consider it a lesson well learned for the next time they face the choice.”
 
I felt dirty and cheap, but there was nothing I could do.  I couldn’t go back to sleep after that.  I just found myself thinking about those people stuck in the hot sun and I started connecting some dots about what Mr. Microphone had said earlier.  I hadn’t spent one second applying any kind of thought when he was originally making his pitch to me about this wonderful bus, I was too blinded by all the bells and whistles, and I was too eager to get the hell out of that terminal at along last. I began to feel genuine fear wash over me. How do they know where I want to go without ever asking?  How could the seven of us be trying to get to the same place if we are from such obviously different stations in life? 
 
Just then came a loud bang, quickly followed by the familiar rat-tat-tat of a blown tire.  Our bus veered out of control and went off the road, nose first into a ditch and came to a jarring halt.  Everyone seemed to be physically OK, but very angry none the less.  These passengers were not used to inconvenience and it showed.
 
“Don’t worry people, we’ll be out of this in no time, I’m just going to make a call,” bellowed Mr. Microphone with his amplified voice.  He dialed and held the phone to his ear.  A frustrated look flashed on his face and he hung up and tapped the keys again, only to have the same look on his face with a tinge of panic creeping in this time.  He held the phone higher, nothing. He went outside and tried again, same routine and the same look, anger added this time.
 
When Mr. Microphone re boarded the bus, he tried to put on the calmest look he could, “I don’t seem to be able to get a signal out here in the middle of the desert.”  This was bad – this was really bad, and we all knew it.
 
After a few tumultuous hours, panic and anger had a solid grip on all of us.  There was not enough food or water for this delay.  There was no help in sight and all other emotions were quickly turning to rage.  My fellow passengers, new to calamity and desperation,  were coming apart at the seams. 
 
Just when all hope was almost extinguished, there was a faint sound getting louder.  The steady, rhythmic beat of an old engine was heading our way.  It was the other bus and they were coming to a stop right behind us.  The driver stepped out and came tapping on the glass doors.  “You seem to be in quite a pickle, what can we do to help?”
 
“Do you have  a cell phone I could use to call for some help?”, Mr. Microphone asked, somewhat humbled by what he had been through for the better part of a miserable day. 
 
“Don’t carry one, everyone knows there is not a reliable signal out here,” chuckled the driver,  “we’ve picked up quite a few troubled souls stuck out here in the desert already, so I don’t have enough room for all of you, but let me see what I can do to help.”  
 
With that he disappeared back to his bus.  I could barely hear him trying to get his passengers to settle down so he could explain the situation. After a few minutes that were inaudible to me, the doors to his bus swung open again and he stepped off  onto the parched earth below.  But this time he was not alone.  One by one, every able-bodied passenger on board filed out behind him, and there were a lot of them.
 
The mechanic had a look and determined that the stranded bus could still drive if they changed the tire and got it out of the ditch.  The other bus driver started forming groups and telling them what to do.  As the mob circled us, you could sense nervousness from the pampered elite that I had shared my journey with so far, but not one uttered even a single peep of protest.  The way the bus was perched in the ditch, the mechanic didn’t even need a jack to change the tire and did so in a flash.  Then I heard the bus driver in a loud baritone voice, “One…two…three…LIFT !” It felt like the earth started moving. One back breaking inch by back breaking inch, the bus leveled out and when he finally called for everyone to drop it, you could tell we were back on even ground.
 
The driver came back to the door dripping with sweat and said, “There you are, all ready to go, enjoy your trip folks, make it a safe one.”  With that he waved his hand and called for his passengers to get back on their bus.
 
When Mr. Microphone said, “See folks, nothing to worry about, I told you I would get us out of here,” I almost threw up, what arrogance, what gall. I knew I had to get off this bus, I knew I didn’t belong here.  So, I snatched up my things and bolted for the door, not even saying goodbye.
 
I ran to the bus behind us and pounded on the door, just as the the driver started it up.  “I want to ride with you, can you take me with you?”  He cracked the door and said smiling, “I think we can make room for one more, how much of a fare can you afford to pay?”  An electric shock pummeled my system when I heard those words, I had given everything I had left in my pocket for the other ride.  “I gave the other driver everything I had left,” I said with a quivering voice. 
 
“I told you back at the station, no one will ever be turned away, climb on and find a seat.” the driver said with a knowing nod.
 
With that I started a new journey.  Maybe it wasn’t going to be a journey of comfort and convenience, but I did have peace of mind and I knew that on this bus I would never have the sick feeling in my stomach as we drove by troubled souls without bothering ourselves to stop and assist.  I also knew that I would never find myself stuck in a desert all alone with no one there to hear a cry for help.  Everything we could possibly need to make the journey forward is already on our bus and if we work together, there is no problem we will not be able to fix along the way.
 
I’m awake now, and I hope you are too, because today is not a dream.  Those two buses are arriving at the station right now. 
 
So keep this in the front of your mind.  It’s not about the divisive rhetoric you’ll hear spewed from a microphone, or the zeal and practiced polish with which it is repetitively delivered, it’s about knowing which driver is content to leave you stranded in the desert and which one won’t be.  It’s about choosing substance over flash and style.  It’s about realizing that it’s the crowded bus filled with fellow Americans from all walks of life that will always allow us to overcome any and all adversity we may face on the twisting, bumpy road that stretches ever forward to the glowing horizon we all instinctively seek.  It’s about which driver will incompetently trust your fate to a missing signal in the desert, and which one will have you trust in each other instead.
 
I hope this will help you choose wisely … but if you don’t, make sure you have a three dollar bill handy, or the ride to nowhere is going to cost you almost double the advertised price.
 
And yes, I lied.  I guess this story is about health care after all. Fifty years of waiting is long enough. 
 
All aboard!
speed limit infinityThere are moments in each our lives that we just know are going to be the snapshots our minds will use to remember important events that must never be forgotten.  Sometimes they are snapshots that are uniquely our own, like watching a child’s first steps, or the first moment you laid eyes on your spouse-to-be and felt the invisible lighting wrack your senses. But sometimes they are snapshots that we all share, like Armstrong’s boot hitting the surface of the moon, the last moments of Kennedy’s life as a sniper’s bullets found their mark, or the still vivid horror of September 11th 2001. 
 
Thursday’s health care summit may very well turn out to be the snapshot of the Obama presidency and a seven hour highlight reel of how the 21st century will see to it that Lincoln’s words remain immortal, that a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
 
I originally envisioned writing a different piece  to recap Thursday’s historic health summit. I thought I would be doing what every pundit does, giving you my own blow-by-blow account of who the winners and losers were in this free-to-view, televised, bipartisan match up that was intended to be a political game of Bridge, not only as a metaphor about closing a divide, but as a game intended to see if opposing parties could be thrust upon each other from across a table, check out the cards they were dealt, and try to work as a team to actually win a hand for the American people.  But, I changed my mind. This turned out to be too important and it deserves to be more than that. I can only hope I can rise to the challenge and find a way to articulate the history that I saw unfold Thursday.
 
I’ll admit it.  When President Obama got in front of the cameras during the most viewed television event in history, this year’s Super Bowl, and presented the challenge to Congress to come together and try to move forward on Health Care Reform legislation, something  that has been held just out of our reach for the last five decades, I thought to myself, finally, here will be a forum to separate the posers from the players.  This will be the chance to for the American people to see if their wishes are truly being represented by those they charged with the task to be their voice.  What I was privileged enough to witness instead was a mechanism of transparency that I hope will be repeated with every major piece of legislation that proves to be so philosophically contentious that our legislators simply can not find a way to build bridge long enough to span an ocean’s divide and put the American people back into the conversation.
 
It was amazing to hear from so many old-time career congressmen and congresswomen that they have never been part of anything like this summit in all their years and that they have never seen this body act so civilly with each other for so long when meeting over a piece of legislation that has such deep party lines drawn in the sand.  Why not?  If they don’t normally behave like the quasi-nobles they want us to think they are, why do they insist on calling each other distinguished?  Now we know they can all walk the walk when the cameras are on, let’s hope they can take this obviously new lesson to budget meetings and the endless hours of debate that are required to build a meaningful consensus and hammer out the details on the things that Americans want and deserve.
 
When President Obama made his opening remarks, he tried to set the tone that would be needed for progress.  He didn’t want it to be another day of focusing on the details that divide, he wanted to focus on the details that both parties seem to embrace, things like the unacceptable practice of allowing pre-existing conditions to be used as a device to deny or drop someone’s coverage, bringing down premiums for everyone, and getting decent, accessible health care for the frustrated legions of hard working Americans and small businesses that have nowhere else to turn for help.
 
But the moment I saw the Republican Whip, Eric Cantor, and Republican Minority Leader, John Boehner, walk into the room risking a hernia by lugging in the 2400 page House and Senate Bill, I knew where this was meeting was going to go.  What I didn’t know is that they would be getting my thanks today.  Thank you for sticking steadfast to your guns and personifying the word “unyielding” from a minority position, thank you for having such an obtuse opinion of the American people that you thought courtroom theatrics would provide the smoke and mirrors needed to misdirect the viewing public from the big white elephant in the room.  Thank you for showing us all your true colors.  Thank you for helping America see the light.  And most of all, thank you for lighting the torches for us on the once dark path to a reconciliation vote that will see the simplest and most ancient tenet of democracy find its bloom, the majority rules.
 
Barack Obama did what great Presidents do, he engaged the American public in the process.  But at the same time, he showed us once again what kind of truly unique enigma he is.  Every time he faces an opponent, they think it’s going to be a cake walk.  Ask Hillary Clinton, or even better, ask John McCain what it is exactly that he is reminded of every day. They all seem to make the mistake of thinking that because he doesn’t engage in the customary chest-pounding we’ve grown accustomed to, they will be able to lead him around like a puppy on leash and have their way.
 
Time and time again he proves to be something else, something I can best describe as a shy matador. I know it’s an oxymoron, after all, there is nothing normally shy about a matador, but it sums up what I see in this man.  Before he get’s into the ring the spectacle has already started, the crowd is already electric with anticipation and it is the matador’s job to take charge of the bull’s final passes.  He has to be on his toes and posses the agility of a feline, he has to use brains before brawn, he has to know when to flash red and instigate a charge, and he has to know when to move and allow the bull’s momentum to offer him a clear shot with his blade that will make the beast’s vulnerable spot his undoing. 
 
After a day of the same tired talking points, his closing statement did exactly that, and more. The look on John Cantor’s face when President Obama, Mr. Hope himself, actually mouthed the words that a compromise may not be able to be reached, you finally saw the dumbfounding realization wash over him that they had blown a perfect opportunity to affect the change they want by choosing theatrics over substance, by distancing themselves from opportunity instead of embracing it.  It was almost as priceless as watching Obama completely baffle John McCain by agreeing with him flat out on the point he was trying to make and turning him into a stuttering mess.
 
In 21st century America, forums like this have got to be made common practice. As everyday Americans rehash Thursday’s events with conversations around the water cooler and kitchen tables, as people ask themselves if they want to put their boat in a ”pool” or a lake, as they grapple with the logic presented by both sides and make an educated determination about what is truly best for themselves, I would be stupefied if there is not substantial movement in the polls, now that a lot of the shadowy mystery has been dragged into the light.  If I’m wrong, I’ll grin and bear it, but if I’m right, I will be delighted and filled with a newfound confidence that we really can take our government back if the doors and windows are wide open for all of us to peer in on the proceedings that decide our future. 
 
If these legislators want to keep saying that America rejects this, or embraces that, at least have the common decency to let us see what’s actually behind door number one and door number two.  I think America is quickly getting sick and tired of making every decision based on whether it is stamped with an R or a D.
 
Everyone agreed that health care must be reformed.  Everyone agreed that our current trajectory is unsustainable.  Now that America finally had a chance to hear everyone’s positions loud and clear, I am confident that we will have a law in place by April and I really do hope that Republicans in Congress can look past their own nose and work across the aisle to represent their constituencies and do their very best to get more of their ideas implemented before they are simply left out of the discussion altogether as Democrats have been 16 out of the 22 times a reconciliation vote has been used in our recent history. 
 
If the majority was really against the bill on the table, as every Republican on Thursday professed, wouldn’t it be President John McCain calling the shots? Obama wasn’t miming his intentions to overhaul the system when stadiums were filled with the hopeful and the entire world tuned in for 2 years of tire kicking and checking under the hood.  And I hope that everyone agrees with the mathematical truth that 51% still constitutes a majority.
 
President Obama will not wait to bring desperately needed relief to struggling Americans because time will not stop for anyone. This moment is too important, this moment decides the future, this moment is in our hands.  It’s time to do the right thing.

Joust

Will tomorrow’s health care summit get the historic attention it deserves?  Will the problems of attainable health care and skyrocketing costs finally be solved?
 
This is going to be an opportunity for more than just Congress to get on the same page, but Main Stream Media (MSM) as well.  It will also be a first look at what real Washington transparency should look like when our fate is decided by a chosen few.
 
Sensationalism and saturation were the guiding principles during the election campaigns, but will this important gathering get the same unbridled attention?  Will MSM be taking names and breaking heads, making anyone that is not at least trying to legitimately move our country forward pay for it the way they crush anyone else that lands on their target list?  Will FOX stay true to form and be against everything uttered from Obama’s mouth, will MSNBC or CNN play their own favorites? Time will soon tell if the word unbiased is the golden rule of news that it should be.
 
If MSM can make Joe the Plumber a household name, I would hope that when our opposing parties converge in Washington to grind out a solution to a problem that has plagued administrations for decades, they will be stepping up to the plate as well.
 
The theatrics have already started.  Some prominent Republicans have already made up their minds that this whole thing is an exercise in futility.  Words like “trap” and “non-starter” have been flying around since President Obama threw down the gauntlet of bipartisanship during the Super Bowl.  Ridiculous issues like whether or not the President can stand at a podium, or must be seated at eye level with the rest of the attendees so as not to have a perceived position of strength (this is our President, right?) are actually topics of battle right now and I find that kind of small minded thinking distressing. I don’t care if they get together at a Denny’s and hash it out over some hash browns and eggs.  I don’t care if it’s done in a big circle around a campfire with everyone sitting Indian style, just get it done and put America first for once.
 
If anyone thinks this is a trap, they don’t have any ideas.  If anyone thinks this is a non-starter unless it starts with a blank page, they are an obstructionist.  Seems pretty simple to me.  Both sides should get over themselves and finally put the American people first instead of any silly partisan point scoring or career maneuvering.  Democrats better go into this thing with an open mind as well, or the repercussions they could suffer in November from the fallout could be severe.  America is tired of the playground antics and if good, tangible ideas to finally end the stalemate come from the Republican corner, Democrats better embrace them.  By the same token, if good, tangible ideas come from the Democratic corner to bridge the divide, the same holds true of the Republicans.  No party can ever be allowed to trump the will of the people and Obama’s election crystallized where the majority of Americans want to go at this moment in time.
 
Any one foolish enough to say America has already spoken and resoundingly rejected health care reform must be living in an alternate plane of  existence where John McCain is their president.  For the rest of us, Thursday is going to be a grand test to see who deserves to be called a legislator and who the imposters are. 
 
I’ll be watching the whole thing tomorrow and I’ll be back on Friday with my own take on who the winners and losers from both factions were.  As long as America isn’t on the loser’s list again, I’ll be one happy clam.
 
See you Friday!